OFF THE TOP OF MY BALD HEAD

Barry Warner: Enough with the prelims; it's time for Rockets-Warriors

Clint Capela is going to get paid. Jason Miller

By 9:30 tonight, the heavily favored Rockets will put the JV team from Utah out of their misery. Even with a healthy Ricky Rubio, the Jazz simply cannot score with the Rockets.

Clint Capela has turned Rudy Gobert into a bench player during crunch time. The Swiss born center will become a very rich man this summer as a free agent. It would not shock me if he got between $16-18 million per year.  With his ability to set pick and rolls for the guards, plus defend the rim and get double digit rebounds, he will be highly sought after.

Golden State and the long awaited Western Conference Finals are next.  When it starts is anyone’s guess, since it’s up to the TV networks.

Save the debate

There is no sense getting into a Michael vs LeBron debate as to who is the greatest.

Different times and conditions for each new generation in all of sports makes these arguments far more difficult.

Then there was Kareem, who like LeBron a high school All American. But James did not go the collegiate route, where Mr. Sky Hook was three-time Player of the Year and an 18-time all-star.

The greatest winner of all-time, with 11 rings, was Celtic legend Bill Russell.  And it’s certainly understandable if most do not even remember this shot blocker and rebounder. He starred in the late 50’s and 60’s, when Boston dominated the NBA.

Be careful what you wish for

David Fizdale latest in the long line of Knicks coaches to work for James Dolan, who is a member of the lucky sperm club. The controversial owner of the Knicks, Rangers, Madison Square Garden and cable network inherited these assets from his late father.

Dolan rarely meets with the media, as he spends more time jetting across the country with his rock and roll band. For those keeping score, Fiz is the 11th coach in the last 14 seasons for the once proud Knicks.

His rift with Marc Gasol was the big reason Memphis fired the former Heat assistant.

"I get it, you want Gregg Popovich, and I want LeBron James," the coach told his star player, according to a source.

Astros struggles

Gerrit Cole’s 77 strikeouts in the first seven starts with a new club are the most by a player in Major League history. This year’s Astro team is getting phenomenal pitching, but the hitting sucks.

Every starter except 2-5 Dallas Kuchel has been tremendous. But the bullpen leaves so much to be desired.  What has happened to normally reliable Will Harris? Joe Smith has been a big disappointment, while Brad Peacock’s slider is flat.

Besides Chris Devenski, the most reliable reliever has been former starter Colin Mc Hugh

Leadoff hitter and last year’s World Series MVP, George Springer seems to be addicted to swinging from his heels, while last year’s MVP, Jose Altuve would not be among the top 10 in the MVP voting, based upon the sample size of 2018.

The popular second baseman looks like a wanna be home run hitter with every swing.

Through 35 games thus far, Carlos Correa appears to be leaving too many pitches in the zone.  

Evan Gattis has now struck out 29 times in 95 at bats, has one homer and just 8 RBI’s.

Marwin Gonzales is a mere shadow of himself, while Alex Bregman has failed to take the next step.

Clutch hitting is simply not there and the bottom third of the order is a joke.  It is both too early to panic and way too early to bring up minor league star Kyle Tucker who is still trying to figure out Triple A pitchers.

JD Davis, who made the opening day roster, would be brought up first.

I’m not panicking, just merely concerned about a pattern that does not look like the way they were winning in last season’s magical moments.

Pujols joins 3000 hit club

One of the truly great people, as well as a major league star, 18-year veteran Albert Pujols got his 3000th hit in Seattle.  In the process, he joins Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and A-Rod the cheater as the only men to have 600 career home runs in addition to the cherished 3000 hits.

How many years has Albert Pujols struck out 100 times in a season? Yep. Zero. You won’t find a single 100-whiff season on his baseball-reference page. And how many other members of the 3,000-Hit/600-Homer Club (or even the 3,000/500 Club) can say that? Only one: Mr. Henry Aaron, the elegant Hall of Famer.

Around the NFL

Safety first? The kickoff rule reccomendation is yet another example of where the NFL hides behind “player safety.”   It is a violent sport, played by semi violet men, making millions for themselves and the owners, who do not want any more lawsuits.

It is part of the wussification of the game.  From the last collective bargaining agreement about two-a-days, the number of practices where contact was allowed, the longer off season away from coaches...the game is not the same.  

Faded star: Colorful former Dallas star Dez Bryant turned down a three year $27-million-dollar deal from the Ravens, figuring he was worth more.

The diva is still waiting by his phone for a deal.

Still out of work: The Raiders singed former UT and Kansas City star linebacker Derrick Johnson.  That was bad news for ex-Texans star Brian “The Cheater” Cushing. It was Cushing’s first reported meeting with a team since he visited with the Seahawks in early March.

Big deal: Matt Ryan sets the bar for quarterbacks, signing a five year $150 million-dollar deal with Atlanta.  Gee, I can hardly wait to see a bunch of guys running around in t-shirts and shorts.

Chirp!

 

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Watson's accusers appeared on Real Sports on Tuesday night. Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images.

HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’s heavily promoted and much anticipated examination of Deshaun Watson’s legal mess involving alleged sexual misconduct shed little new light and merely presented a summary of well worn he said/she (x22) said accusations and denials.

The episode debuted Tuesday night on the premium cable service and will be repeated dozens of times throughout the week on HBO’s platforms. Check your local listings for times and channel.

The segment was hosted by Soledad O’Brien who presented compelling face-to-face interviews with two of the quarterback’s accusers: massage therapists Ashley Solis and Kyla Hayes. Their stories were detailed and graphic. Both cried during the interviews.

Solis: “As I’m working, he deliberately grabs himself and put his penis on my hand. I pulled my hand away instantly and I started crying. I told that I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Solis said she felt threatened when Watson, before leaving the session, allegedly told her: “I know you have a career to protect, and I know that you don’t want anyone messing with it, just like I don’t want anyone messing with mine.”

Solis added, “That’s when I got really scared because that sounded like a threat to me.”

Hayes: “He wanted me to kind of make a V motion in his pelvic area. I just kept massaging and did what he asked, until his penis kept touching me repeatedly as I did it.”

Hayes said that Watson had an orgasm, which she said was “mortifying, embarrassing and disgusting.”

O’Brien asked Hayes why she continued to have contact via email with Watson after their encounter.

Hayes: "I wasn't sure what he was capable of. He could've physically assaulted me. He could've bashed my business, so I had to protect myself and my business the best way I saw fit. Did I ever see him again after that? No. Did I give him the runaround? Yes."

O’Brien pointed out that two separate grand juries in Texas heard criminal accusations against Watson and neither found enough evidence to indict him.

Solis and Hayes, and 20 other massage therapists have filed civil suits against Watson. The cases aren’t expected to reach a courtroom until next March. Both sides could reach a settlement before then which would effectively shut down any legal action against Watson. However, both sides say they aren’t interested in any pretrial settlements. That’s what they say now, anyway.

After being banished to the sidelines for the 2021 season by the Houston Texans, Watson signed a historic, 5-year fully guaranteed $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns.

Hayes said she feels Watson “is being rewarded for bad behavior." Solis said, "It's just like a big screw you. That's what it feels like. That we (the Browns) don't care. He can run and throw, and that's what we care about.”

Watson currently is participating in preseason workouts with the Browns and, at the moment, is cleared to play the upcoming NFL season.

That is unless the NFL suspends Watson for some, most or all of the 2022 season. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league is nearing completion of its independent investigation into Watson’s case and will reach a decision “shortly,” probably this summer. The NFL and NFL Players Association mutually agreed to have former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson decide whether or not Watson violated the league’s Personal Conduct Policy and what discipline should be handed down if he did.

The Browns are scheduled to play the Texans on Dec. 4 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

O’Brien said, while producing the Real Sports piece, she tried to interview Watson, his attorneys and the Cleveland Browns for their side of the story. All declined.

During a press conference in March to announce his joining the Browns, Watson denied any inappropriate behavior with the massage therapists.

Watson: “I never assaulted any woman. I’ve never disrespected any woman. I was raised to be genuine and respect everyone around me. I’ve never done the thing that these people are alleging. My mom and my aunties didn’t raise me that way.”

Leah Graham, a member of Watson’s legal team, sat for an interview after O’Brien’s segment was complete.

Graham: "It's 22 women. It's one lawyer. There's only one lawyer who was willing to take these cases. And as we know from Ashley Solis’ deposition, Mr. (Houston attorney Tony) Buzbee was not the first, probably not the second or third lawyer she went to, but he was the only one to take her case. Why? Not because it had merit, but because he would use these cases to increase his social media following and quite frankly to get on shows like this one.”

My reaction after watching the Real Sports segment? We weren’t in the room when the massage therapists worked on Watson. We weren’t in the grand jury room when evidence against Watson was presented. We don’t know what happened. We don’t know what will happen if these cases go to trial.

Until then all we have is one big, lurid, embarrassing mess. In American courtrooms, defendants are presumed innocent. That’s often the opposite in the court of public opinion. We’ll just have to wait while the wheels of justice grind painfully slow.

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