TheSTN – NBA Finals Schedule

Game 1
Tues., June 12
at Oklahoma City 9 p.m.
ABC

Game 2
Thurs., June 14
at Oklahoma City 9 p.m.
ABC

Game 3
Sun., June 17
at Miami 8 p.m.
ABC

Game 4
Tues., June 19
at Miami 9 p.m.
ABC

Game 5*
Thurs., June 21
at Miami 9 p.m.
ABC

Game 6*
Sun., June 24
at Oklahoma City 8 p.m.
ABC

Game 7*
Tues., June 26
at Oklahoma City 9 p.m.
ABC

All Times EST
* If Necessary

Brad Kurtzberg (TheSTN) – Pro Bowl Problems Not Going Away

The NFL Pro Bowl - thought soon to go away - will be back next season.I have to admit I have mixed feelings about the NFL’s announcement that they are going to hold the Pro Bowl this January. Once again, it will be held in Hawaii the week between the NFC and AFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl.

On the one hand, there is something traditional and familiar about the Pro Bowl. It serves as a reward for the game’s top players who don’t qualify to play in the Super Bowl and for many fans, it is a last chance to see the best players on our favorite teams before the long, off-season without football officially gets underway. The players get an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii and get to spend the time with their peers and families.

But there are still some problems associated with the Pro Bowl and it doesn’t seem like they are going away any time soon.

The biggest question still surrounds the quality of the game. The rules themselves limit strategy with no blitzes allowed and defenses only permitted to play certain formations. The fact that the players are not all that familiar with each other limits offenses to fairly basic formations and plays.

With NFL players now making large salaries, clearly, nobody wants to get hurt in what amounts to an exhibition game and the amount of money the winning team receives as compared to the losing team is not enough to truly motivate modern day NFL players to truly give an all out effort.

In addition, it’s tough to get passionate about the outcome of the game. I mean, does the average Patriots, Browns or Raiders ran care that much if the AFC wins the game? Ditto for Giants, Cowboys or Packers fans if the NFC wins.

Finally, let’s face it, it’s not that big a deal to see this group of NFL players together. Sure, in the 60s or 70s, at most we would see three games a week and a few minutes of highlights on the local news or the halftime show of Monday Night Football. But now, every NFL game is available as part of the NFL Sunday Ticket package and highlights are shown over and over and broken down in great depth between games. Heck, the NFL now has it’s own TV network dedicated to football coverage 24/7. Further analysis and highlight coverage is available on the Internet. Seeing all these talented players on the field together is still nice, but it’s not special like it was 30 or 40 years ago.

If there is minimal strategy, indifferent players who aren’t looking to get hurt and no passionate rooting interest, then watching the game becomes difficult. I have been a football fanatic since the age of five but I can’t remember the last time I watched more than 15 minutes of a Pro Bowl.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said he was embarrassed by last year’s Pro Bowl and the obvious lack of effort put forth by the players. While right now it’s nice the game will be played for at least one more season, the problems associated with the game remain.

Steve Kallas (TheSTN) – Prosecution Makes A Strong Case Against Clemens

Roger Clemens Case Is Slowly Wrapping Up

On Tuesday, May 29, the prosecution in the perjury trial of Roger Clemens rested after presenting its case-in-chief.  Despite great efforts by the Clemens defense team, it says here that the government scored plenty of points with the jury; enough to get Roger Clemens convicted of one or more counts and enough, given Judge Reggie Walton’s statements at the abbreviated first trial, to send Roger Clemens to jail.

Of course, there still may be some room for some bombshells as the defense started presenting its case on Tuesday afternoon.  However, it is unlikely that Roger Clemens will take the stand and, often times, despite the fact that the defendant has every right not to take the stand, that is held against the defendant by jurors (consciously or not).

If Clemens does take the stand, it will be a gigantic news story, both in the legal world and the sports world.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PROSECUTION

Well, by all means not complete, some of the highlights included (all in-court references come from tweets from either Jim Baumbach of Newsday or the Daily News I-Team):

1)      THE TESTIMONY OF BRIAN McNAMEE.  Despite talk from the defense about the withering cross-examination that was to come of McNamee, the trainer of Clemens who graphically testified about injecting Clemens numerous times with HGH and steroids, McNamee held up very well and, essentially, made for a very good witness.  In the crazy world of the steroids era, it turns out that the people who most told the truth (with possibly a lie here or a lie there) were people like Jose Canseco, Kirk Radomski and Brian McNamee.  Go figure.

2)      THE DNA EVIDENCE.  It was hard to believe that syringes and needles and cotton balls, stuck in a beer can in a garage or basement for a number of years, could lead to a conviction of anyone on perjury charges, etc.  But the government did a good job with expert testimony tying Roger Clemens to the stuff that McNamee had saved.  When Rusty Hardin tried hard to show that McNamee simply made this stuff up after the fact, the prosecution was allowed to bring in two convincing witnesses (including former major leaguer David Segui), who testified that McNamee had told them about keeping the evidence many years before the whole Congressional investigation/Clemens testimony.  This final prosecution evidence totally countered one false theory of the defense (that McNamee made it up after the fact).

3)      THE TESTIMONY OF KIRK RADOMSKI.  Radomski (who has written his own scary, frank book on his involvement of selling steroids to professional athletes) testified about sending HGH to Clemens house and providing steroids that were allegedly used by Clemens.  Although the defense scored some points on cross, the connect-the-dots approach of the prosecution may have very well positively influenced the jury from a prosecution perspective.

4)      THE JOSE CANSECO PARTY.  On a specific charge against Clemens (who said he was not at a party at Canseco’s house in June of 1998), the government produced witnesses and even pictures that clearly showed that Clemens was at the party (where an alleged discussion on steroids and steroid use took place among Clemens, Canseco and a third man).  While not a seemingly “big” lie, these pictures, and the accompanying testimony of other witnesses (in addition to McNamee) could very well lead to a felony conviction.

5)      THE TESTIMONY OF RESPECTED TRAINER GENE MONAHAN.  A large part of the Clemens defense is that Clemens received numerous B12 shots as opposed to anything illegal.  Included in that is that Clemens testified before Congress that he was injected with B12 in open areas and that there were multiple needles “already lined up and ready to go” in the trainer’s room for the New York Yankees.  Monahan totally contradicted that testimony, saying he never saw anything like that.  Other trainers for other teams said the same thing.  Thus, even if the government fails on the bigger issues, they have Clemens pretty good on things like B12 shots and the afore-mentioned Canseco party.

While not exhaustive, the above gives you a flavor for what the prosecution has given the jury – a road map on a number of different issues, which can lead to one or more felony convictions on one or more counts.  One final note: while briefly killed by the media for what was viewed to be wishy-washy testimony against his once-best friend, Andy Pettitte actually testified pretty much as he did in that long 2008 deposition before Congressional aides (see Kallas Remarks, 7/5/11).  Pettitte knows, if nothing else, that if Clemens is convicted of anything, it won’t be because of his (Pettitte’s) testimony.

IS ALL LOST FOR ROGER CLEMENS?

Not necessarily, but, to this writer, the defense is trying to crawl out of a big hole.  Having said that, you never know what a jury is going to do.  Will one or more of the jurors be mesmerized by Rusty Hardin and the rest of the defense?  Will one or more of the jurors be mesmerized by Roger Clemens, a Hall of Fame pitcher long before he took anything that Brian McNamee might have injected him with?  Will one or more of the jurors agree with many that this was an enormous waste of the government’s time and the taxpayers’ money and, thus, vote not guilty?

Hey, you never know.

But we will all find out in the next two weeks or so.

 

Brad Kurtzberg (TheSTN) – Clemens And Baseball Both Lose

No matter the verdict, Roger Clemens & MLB are forever damaged.

As the Roger Clemens trial drags on, a few things become clear: there will be no real winners in this case, only losers. The question is how much each party has to lose.

Clemens is clearly a loser in this case. He may indeed be found “not guilty” of perjury, but not guilty does not mean innocent, it just means the government couldn’t prove its case against the former star pitcher in court.

Does anybody really think Roger Clemens never used PEDs (other than MAYBE Roger Clemens)? His excuses that he purchased HGH for his wife and only had his trainer inject him with Vitamin B12 but never steroids or HGH seems more than a little bit farfetched.

Clemens has also come across poorly in the court of public opinion. He appears more than a little bit arrogant, like he believes he can truly do no wrong and how dare anybody investigate him, the “great Roger Clemens” for anything.

The fact remains Clemens easily could have ended this issue years ago much like his friend and former teammate, Andy Pettitte did: admit he made a mistake by taking PEDs, asking for forgiveness and moving forward with his life. Instead, Clemens had spent time clinging to excuses and denials which ring increasingly hollow in the face of the physical evidence and the testimony of Brian McNamee and many other witnesses.

Baseball is also a loser. Once again, the sordid details of the steroid era are being brought to light. Shady characters like McNamee lurked in baseball clubhouses and training rooms. Many players were cheating the game by juicing while the owners were all too happy to look the other way as long as fans were paying to see players hit more home runs.

Essentially, an entire era of baseball history and the records set during that time are tainted and the game has a long and drawn out process of figuring out who cheated and what the consequences of that cheating should be. It is a fact that Barry Bonds hit more home runs than any player in Major League history. It is also a fact that he used artificial and illegal means to hit many of those home runs which is something Hank Aaron certainly never did.

The federal government also comes out of this trial looking badly. The prosecution has looked incompetent over the course of the two Clemens trials. A mistrial has already been declared in the first trial due to misconduct by the prosecution and the second trial has already seen the rare indignity of the judge chastising the lawyers from the bench, telling them to move the case along and stop boring the jurors. One juror was actually dismissed for falling asleep during the trial.

While there is little doubt Clemens lied to Congress about his PED use, the question remains if it was a good use of taxpayers’ money to prosecute him. Even if Clemens is found guilty of perjury, he will likely be sentenced to either a short jail term or receive a similar sentence to Bonds who was placed under house arrest in one of his mansions for a short time. Is it worth it for the government to spend so much money prosecuting Clemens or Bonds when all they are going to get is a slap on the wrist anyway? Probably not.

So everybody loses in the Roger Clemens trial. The only question remaining for all of us is how much.

Brad Kurtzberg (TheSTN) – LeBron Needs a Championship to be One of the All-Time Greats

It seems like a lot of people have been arguing about how good LeBron James truly is. Is he the best player in the NBA today? Where does he stand among the all-time greats in league history?

Love him or hate him (the way he handled his departure from Cleveland was anything but classy), the Heat star is clearly one of the top 2-3 players in the league right now but there is something keeping him from being one of the true all-time top 10 players in league history: he hasn’t won an NBA title.

While one star player cannot win an NBA title alone, one player can make a bigger difference in the NBA than in any other sport. Look, there are only 5 players on the court at one time and the best players are out there for 42-45 minutes of a 48 minute game.

When LeBron abandoned the Cavs and chose the Heat as his new destination, joining Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade in Miami, the entire move was orchestrated to give the league’s best player a chance to win his first championship. Last year, the title eluded James and the Heat and LeBron looked shaky in the final minute of several games in the final series. This year, the Heat look like the favorites to emerge from the Eastern Conference, but LeBron still seems to have problems playing well late in big games.

The standard of measuring great NBA players by titles won is nothing new. In the 60s, Wilt Chamberlain put up incredible individual statistics including averaging 50 points a game over a complete season and scoring 100 points in a game (a record that still stands). But “Wilt the Stilt” on just one NBA title (1972 with the Lakers) while his chief rival for supremacy, Bill Russell, won 11 titles with the Celtics
during his 13-year NBA career.

Julius Erving was hounded by critics who said his teams never won an NBA title until he finally led the 76ers to a league crown in 1983 after so many near misses. Erving won two titles for the New York Nets in the old ABA, but until he won an NBA crown, something was always “missing” from his resume.

Michael Jordan put up some great statistics over the course of his career and many highlight reel moments. But besides being a great showman on the court and pitchman off it, what made Jordan truly great was that he made the players around him better and he was an integral part of six NBA championship winners including an incredible “Three Peat” with the Chicago Bulls.

Compare Jordan to one of his contemporaries, Charles Barkley. While everyone says Barkley was a great player, his place among the NBA’s all-time best players is compromised because “Sir Charles” never won a
title.

While no star player can will a title alone, the truly great players in NBA history all have two things in common: they make the players around them better and they win at least one NBA title. Until LeBron James wins at least one championship, he will remain a second tier all-time great at best.

Steve Kallas (TheSTN) – The Latest On The Roger Clemens Trial

Roger Clemens & his attorney Rusty Hardin prepare enter court for another day of testimony.

In the federal courtroom of Judge Reggie Walton in Washington, D.C., the cross-examination of star witness (against Roger Clemens) Brian McNamee by lawyer Rusty Hardin continued today in a morning-only session.  So far (the very end of trial on Monday and the morning-only session on Tuesday), we certainly have not seen the kind of withering cross-examination that was expected by lead defense counsel Rusty Hardin.

To this writer, Brian McNamee, for the most part, has come across as a believable witness in a tough spot.  Remember, when you look at the history of the whole steroids debacle, people tend to look at it differently now when one of the leading truth-tellers has turned out to be Jose Canseco (book(s) and all).

Initially, hardly anyone believed Canseco (and his name came up today when McNamee testified that Roger Clemens had a steroids conversation with Canseco).  To date, one can argue that Canseco is the greatest truth-teller in a land of half-truths or even outright lies.

WHAT ABOUT THE CROSS-EXAMINATION?

Well, Rusty Hardin has done an interesting thing by setting forth in front of the jury a three-columned board with column headings “Mistake,” “Something Based on Bad Memory” and “Lie” (references to trial testimony are from the tweets of Jim Baumbach of Newsday and/or The Daily News I-Team).  Obviously there to impact the jury (and it says here that might very well work), so far (cross continues on Thursday) there hasn’t been a whole lot on the chart to sway the jury.

Having said that, McNamee has admitted before this jury that he has intentionally lied.  He’s also been forced to admit that Roger Clemens didn’t use the word “steroids,” instead, according to McNamee, he assumed that Clemens’ use of the words “thigh shot” or “booty shot” meant that he wanted to be injected with steroids.

ONE GOOD PIECE OF TESTIMONY FOR THE CLEMENS’ DEFENSE

There was one piece of testimony by McNamee that, it says here, may be very helpful to the Clemens defense.  Earlier in the trial, admitted steroids dealer Kirk Radomski (who has written his own interesting book on the subject) told how he had mailed some HGH to the home of Roger Clemens, the implication clearly being that it was for McNamee to inject Roger Clemens.

But today, apparently for the first time, Brian McNamee testified that he told now-famous federal steroid cop Jeff Novitzky (Balco, Barry Bonds, etc.) that the HGH Radomski sent to McNamee at the house of Roger Clemens was for DEBBIE Clemens, not ROGER Clemens.

This, from the star witness for the prosecution.

Yikes!

McNamee was forced to agree with Rusty Hardin that he (McNamee) had never said that before.

That strikes this writer as all but negating the testimony of Kirk Radomski and the notion that HGH was sent to the home of Roger Clemens for the use of Roger Clemens.

That’s powerful stuff to the benefit of the defense.

The cross-examination of Brian McNamee continues on Thursday morning.