OFF THE TOP OF MY BALD HEAD

Barry Warner: Thanks to a poor showing by the Rockets and an amazing effort from Lebron James, it's Warriors vs. Cavs again

Barry Warner: Thanks to a poor showing by the Rockets and an amazing effort from Lebron James, it's Warriors vs. Cavs again
Lebron James was amazing for the Cavs. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

An hour before Game Seven Mike D’Antoni stated the dreadful words for Rocket fans. Chris Paul would not play because of his hamstring injury. D'Antoni said they made the decision because: "He couldn't explode. He couldn't push off of it."

Paul’s scoring, defense, toughness and leadership were keys to all three Rockets wins.

His teammates looked like bricklayers, making 7 of 44 from 3-point range, missing 27 straight.

Even CP3 haters and curmudgeons can empathize with the tough and respected Rockets star being unavailable.

It sucks big time when a player who has worked so hard to get to the Finals, then gets injured in the closing minutes of Game 5 win.  But the reality is some guys just have bad luck.

There is no sense overanalyzing Monday night’s loss.  When you suck doing what you have done successfully all season, and it backfires, there is zero chance of miracles.  

James Harden finished with 32 points, six rebounds and six assists but was only 12-of-29 from the floor and 2-of-13 on 3s.  

In three playoff series since becoming a Rocket, the Beard has delivered a stinko performance his last game of the season.

It will be a summer of what-could-have-been for the Rockets, who couldn't finish off the Warriors without Paul after putting them on the ropes.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey, the architect of the team built to knock off Golden State, has a busy summer ahead. The signing of center Clint Capela to a long-term deal, along with the structure of Paul’s contract, are top priorities.  He must get rid of Ryan Anderson and his bloated contract. You can say goodbye to Joe Johnson, Nene, Aaron Jackson

Once Paul and Capela are signed to long-term contracts, the focus will turn to Ariza, Luc Mbah a Moute and Gerald Green.

All three players will be free agents this summer and could be salary-cap casualties because of the high cost of the roster.

For Houston fans, once again its wait until next year. For the fourth straight June, it’s the Warrior’s against LeBron and the worst talent he has ever been surrounded with in the Finals.

I have been fortunate to witness some of the greatest individual performances in sports over my career.  None tops what LeBron James did over the weekend

There are not enough superlatives to describe the once in a generation brilliance of LeBron James.  Superstar seems so passé, defining his Game Seven performance against the Boston Celtics.

Wasting time and energy debating James’s place in the history of the game has become a debate for fans and media. However, there’s no debating LeBron dragging a group of average players to the Eastern Conference championship by coming back from a 3-2 deficit and winning a decisive Game 7.  Doing it without fellow All-Star Kevin Love is one of the defining accomplishments of his storied career.

It’s a greater pure basketball achievement than any of his three championships won with super teams put together by Pat Riley in Miami and later when LeBron returned to Cleveland.

It is difficult to compare his performance, through sheer force of will and force-of-nature ability, taking down a better, deeper, younger, more athletic Celtics team. After his 46-point tour de force in Game 6, James had 35 points, 15 rebounds, and 9 assists in Game 7, while playing all 48 minutes. 

Perhaps, more impressive than James’s domination in the final two games of this series was his stamina. He played all but 114 seconds of the final two games. He outlasted a young Celtics team.

James’ teams have now won six straight Game 7s, and he is 6-2 all-time in seventh games.

This is what LeBron does. He's capable of the seemingly impossible, like a modern-day Superman. It is LeBron's eighth straight Finals appearance.

 This season was unlike any other this decade for LeBron. Kyrie Irving forced a trade in August and the Cavs revamped their roster in February by moving Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose.

James is prone to saying that the two best words in sports are “Game  7.” It is an occasion when the lines dividing success from failure are at their thinnest.

The reality is that’s when the weight and pressure help create unforgettable moments. That’s when the stakes help define legacies. It's when the greatest of stars, like James, don't even look at the bench, when they pour every ounce into one game with the clearest possible outcomes.  The passion, emotion, heart and refusal to lose put the King in a special place in sports history.

But he will be on vacation soon.

Golden State wins in five.

Regardless of where LeBron ends up next year, the Cavs run in the East is done.  In defeat, Brad Stephens’ young Celtics, without stars Gordon Hayward and Irving, should dominate for several seasons.

Verlander dominant

Justin Verlander put on a clinic at Yankee Stadium, beating the Yankees again, slowing down the highest-scoring team in the majors and pitching the Houston Astros past New York 5-1 Monday.  

 Verlander exited in the seventh inning with a major league-best 1.11 ERA., tipping his cap to the thousands of Yankee fans booing him.

 J.D. Davis hit an early three-run homer and Jose Altuve had a solo drive, helping Houston win for the sixth time in eight games.  Altuve broke out of a horrible slump with 10 straight hits, raising his batting average from near .300 to .329.

 In 12 starts this year, Verlander has permitted only 10 earned runs. It seems to have rubbed off on some of his teammates. The AL ERA leaders:

1.

Verlander • HOU

1.08

2.

Morton • HOU

2.04

3.

Cole • HOU

2.05

The Astros have three of the top six leaders in strikeouts, led by former Pirate Gerrit Cole with 13 per game, Verlander is fourth with 11.2 and Charlie Morton is sixth in the American League with 10.9.

Chirp!


 

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These uniforms have to go. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

Major League Baseball will consider going back to having players wear their team uniforms for the All-Star Game.

Club uniforms were used by the American League from 1933-2019 and by the National League from 1934-2019. When the game resumed in 2021 following the pandemic-related cancellation in 2020, MLB had started a uniform contract with Nike and Fanatics, and All-Stars were outfitted in specially designed league uniforms that drew criticism from traditionalists.

Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

This year's AL uniforms had a sandy base with red sleeves and lettering and the NL had a navy base with light blue sleeves and lettering.

“I’m aware of the sentiment on this issue,” Manfred told the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday. "I think where my head is on it, it’s something we’re going to have a conversation about coming out of the All-Star Game. We've got a lot of uniform things going on. And, obviously, the conversations have to involve the players first and foremost but Nike, some of our partners. But I am aware of the sentiment, and I do know why people kind of like that tradition."

MLB and Nike were criticized for club uniforms this year and said in May that 2025 club outfits will have larger lettering on the back of jerseys and individual pant customization. Players complained this year that white pants worn by some teams are see-through enough to show tucked-in jersey tops.

Regional sports networks

Manfred said a national steaming package of local television broadcasts is a future possibility.

“I could see a situation where we grow into a 30-club model. It might start on the digital side, where you have 14 or 15 clubs, and, you start with a digital product there as your first alternative,” he said.

“I was in Sun Valley last week and I did the whole speed-dating thing with everybody who’s ever streamed anything. When you talk to people in the streaming business, they’re not really interested in buying the state of Wisconsin and two counties in Michigan," Manfred added. "They want to be able to stream quite frankly, all over the U.S. and Canada but more broadly internationally. So I think those conversations are a product of owners saying, holy cow, the RSN business is really deteriorating. We know the future’s going to be streaming. What we’re hearing from the streamers is they want a more national product, and we need to be responsive to what people want to buy.”

MLB took over production of Arizona and San Diego local television broadcasts last year following the bankruptcy of Diamond Sports’ Bally networks and said MLB will be available as an option for teams looking for new deals. He said Padres game are approaching 40,000 subscribers, which he called a good figure.

“Having said that, from a revenue perspective it is not generating what the RSNs did," Manfred said. "The RSNs were a great business. Lots of people paid for programing they didn’t necessarily want. And it’s hard to replicate that kind of revenue absent that kind of bundling concept.”

Offense

While offense is near half-century lows, it has picked up from early in the season.

“The decline in offense is something that we’re paying a lot of attention to and we’ll continue to monitor to make a decision as to whether we think we need to do something. You do hear a lot of chatter about the dominance of pitching in the game. That’s absolutely true.”

Birmingham

After the success of the June 20 game between San Francisco and St. Louis at Rickwood Field, Manfred said MLB will return to the ballpark in Birmingham, Alabama, but the “exact form” had not been determined.

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