THE COUCH SLOUCH

NBA has become the league of extraordinary duos

In the NBA, super teams have morphed into super pairings. Taking the lead from the world of entertainment – those folks knew that Simon & Garfunkel & Cher or Laurel and Hardy and Abbott would never work – trios have downsized to duos.

So this season, eight superstars – all certain hall of famers – have formed four superstar twosomes.

Couch Slouch, who knows a thing or two – and only a thing or two – about successful coupling – is here to assess the prospects for these iconic basketball marriages.

(Please note that no successful coupling will ever involve I-got-my-shots-so-I-don't-care-what-happens-elsewhere-on-the-court Carmelo Anthony, who returned last week from his forced NBA sabbatical by recording a minus-20 in 24 minutes of play with the Portland Trail Blazers.)

The duos are ranked here from most likely to win an NBA championship to most likely to end up broken, bickering and Bernie Madoff-like:

1. Kawhi Leonard-Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers: They are in their prime, they are surrounded by wonderful complementary parts and they have a fine coach, Doc Rivers. What could go wrong?

Well, everything.

Both are still somewhat youthful – Leonard is 28, George 29 – but both might have trouble staying on the court. In eight NBA seasons, Leonard has played 66 or fewer games six times; George, meanwhile, fractured his right leg to miss almost all of 2014-15, and he missed the first 11 games this season after shoulder surgery.

Heck, load management issues alone might keep Leonard out of Games 1, 3 and 6 in a seven-game NBA Finals.

2. LeBron James-Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers: These are inarguably two of the best all-around players in the NBA, unless you want to argue the point.

James seems indestructible, except he'll turn 35 next month, he's in his 17th NBA season and he takes more hits than Tom Brady. The Lakers could not survive a prolonged period in which James is sidelined.

Davis, who never has played more than 75 games in a season, just spent seven years in New Orleans in witness protection; he can't wait for the postseason, since he only got there twice with the Pelicans.

3. James Harden-Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets: This feels like a sporting Manhattan Project, except instead of secrecy, this race to make the first atomic bomb is played out in large arenas three nights a week. Harden (uranium) and Westbrook (plutonium), are durable ball hogs and wondrous to watch. But if you told either former MVP to play 48 minutes and take 50 shots, either might reply, "Why not 60 shots?"

4. Kyrie Irving-Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets: Too big to fail? No. Too fanciful to succeed. This is a more guaranteed bust than the next Charlie Sheen sitcom. Irving and Durant keep seeking new homes to show the true measure of their talent. But they are as temperamental as talented, and Durant – out this entire season with a torn ACL – might be a step-too-slow diva when he returns.

Anyhow, ballyhooed pairings are not guaranteed to thrive. For example:

Richard Nixon-Spiro Agnew: This simply did not end well for all parties concerned.

Sears-Kmart: The only thing that would've made this retail merger worse is if Radio Shack were involved.

Julius Caesar and Cleopatra: Frankly, I think they were using each other.

Gilligan and the Skipper: Despite better WiFi and more precise GPS than ever, these bozos are still deserted on that island.

Bonnie and Clyde: I understand getting out of the house on occasion to break the same old same old, but these lovebirds were just a bit too edgy for their own good.

America Online-Time Warner: I have earned a paycheck from both companies, and I am here to tell you – this was a nightmare alliance made in purgatory and destined for hell.

Romeo and Juliet: If they had eloped – and I recommend eloping, particularly on your second or third go-around – I believe a life or two would've been spared.

Thelma & Louise: And they say women are smarter.

On the other hand, kudos to Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner for always understanding their roles.

Ask the Slouch

Q. If even the professionals in Joe Gibbs' pit crew mixed up the left and right front tires in the NASCAR Cup Series championship, then isn't it reasonable to expect my fiancé to forgive me for swiping left on her instead of right on Tinder? (Doug Thompson; Springfield, Ill.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. Will the NFL stop playing games at foreign neutral sites now that Daniel Snyder has created a domestic neutral site just outside of Washington, D.C.? (Terry Golden; Vienna, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. With the accusations against the Houston Astros using video to steal signs in MLB, is that just now called a "belichick"? (Michael Kolb; Spokane, Wash.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. Will recent unrest at Hong Kong Poly U. impact thinking of the College Football Playoff committee on its ranking? (Ken Unzicker; Fairfax, Va.)

A. Pay the man Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!



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College football needs to call a timeout on the 2020 season.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 are set to announce, maybe today, perhaps in a few weeks, whether they will play football this fall.

Already the Ivy League, Mountain West and Mid-American Conference have canceled their fall football season for health and safety reasons amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Power 5 conferences – the Big Ten, Pac-12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference – should get onboard and put their football seasons on hold, too.

While some elected officials without medical degrees say that coronavirus amounts to little more than sniffles for young people, healthcare experts argue that college-age people, while they do recover quickly and may not exhibit symptoms, do contract and spread the virus.

There has been a 90 percent increase of young people testing positive for the virus in the past four weeks. More important, health experts say they can't measure the long-term effects of the virus, which may include brain damage, heart disease and reduced lung capacity.

There is a simple solution to play or not play college football this fall – postpone the season to next spring, when health experts will know more about the disease. There possibly could be a vaccine by then, which would allow fans back in stadiums.

Many high-profile college players and coaches weighed in on the debate Monday, almost unanimously saying that the 2020 football schedule should be played on schedule, starting in a few weeks.

Players, including Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, adopted the hashtag #WeWantToPlay. In a tweet, Lawrence said that players would be more at risk for coronavirus if the fall season doesn't move forward. "We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football."

Lawrence added that, if the football season is canceled or postponed, players "will be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely."

Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN, "Look, players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home."

Two points: University presidents should listen to only one group of people – healthcare professionals – when they decide whether to cancel or postpone the fall football season. Yes, players want to play during this pandemic. But players also want to play when they are injured or their brain was just scrambled by a vicious tackle. We applaud athletes who play with a broken leg. We see players with concussions plead with their coaches to put them back in the game.

As for the argument that players are more likely to catch the virus if they're sent home – who's sending them home? These are student-athletes. Students. Most college campuses will be open with students attending classes this fall. Major college programs like Clemson have 85 full scholarships designated for football. Colleges won't take away players' scholarships if the football season is canceled. Clemson's campus will open Sept. 21 for in-person classes.

ESPN college football analyst Greg McElroy also said the season should be played as scheduled: "If they're (players) OK, then I'm OK." Texas governor Greg Abbott chimed in on the players' side. He said, "It's their careers, it's their health."

What "careers" is he talking about? There are about 775 colleges that play football. Only 1.7 percent of all those players will play in the NFL or another professional league. On Sept. 3, Rice University will play Army. It is unlikely that any of those players will have a career in football. However, given the excellence of academics at those colleges, players will have career opportunities in something other than football. The average NFL career is 2-1/2 years. Rice and Army grads can top that.

The NBA is completing its season in a bubble in Orlando, with players confined to their hotels between games. Only 22 teams are in Orlando for the lockdown. The Rockets organization sent about 35 people, including coaches, players and essential personnel to Orlando.

Baseball is playing its season outside a bubble. So many players are testing positive for coronavirus that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred last week threatened to end the season if teams don't do a better job of enforcing the league's health protocol. What's left is an unbalanced season. For example, the Atlanta Braves and Seattle Mariners have played 18 games, while the St. Louis Cardinals have played only five games. The ironically first-place Miami Marlins, which had 18 players test positive, have played only 10 games.

College football can't be played in a bubble. There are too many teams, with some having more than 100 players and 20 coaches. And no sport thrives on fans' excitement and marching bands like college football. Several colleges, including the University of Texas and Texas A&M, have stadiums that hold more than 100,000 fans. Even if college football could be played in a bubble, it would require isolating players from August to January, when they're supposed to be in class. I know … supposed.

This one is easy. For the health and safety of players, play the fall 2020 season in spring 2021.

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