The Week In Sports: Ramirez, NBA Blowouts

Bad week in Beantown: The Celtics got blown out and the Bruins may be about to be blown away — by Hurricanes, appropriately. But at least the Red Sox are spared the Manny Ramirez scandal. Host Scott Simon talks with ESPN.com's Howard Bryant about the week in sports.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Time now for sports.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: Bad week in Beantown. The Celtics got blown out. The Bruins may be about to be blown away by Hurricanes, appropriately enough, but at least the Red Sox don't have to worry about the latest Manny Ramirez scandal.

We're joined now by our own Boston Brahman - well, Massachusetts Brahman anyway - Howard Bryant. Good morning, Howard. How are you?

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. I have been called many things, but a Brahman is not one of them.

SIMON: Yeah, well, I'm sorry. They just put this stuff in front of me, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Let's do begin this morning with the sad news - Chuck Daly, former coach of the Detroit Pistons, won two world titles with them and the '92 Olympic Dream Team…

BRYANT: And a very classy individual as well. I never had the pleasure of meeting Chuck. However, the way that people in the game spoke about him was with an incredible amount of respect, and especially in that sport too. Professional sports is such a fraternity that when you lose one of your own people, it really does, it really does resonate. And I'm sorry I never got a chance to meet him.

SIMON: You know, he was like the only guy - he and Phil Jackson - the only two people on Earth who could get Dennis Rodman not only to listen but to laugh.

BRYANT: And you know, that's the thing too, is that there's - the coach in any professional sport that can get the respect of the players, because the players make so much money and the players have way much more power than the coaches, it really does say a lot about that individual's ability not just to do the job professionally but of possessing a certain personal touch.

SIMON: Of course, big sports news of the week: Manny Ramirez, now with the Los Angeles Dodgers, has been suspended for 50 games for using performance-enhancing drugs. You know all these drugs. It was something that pregnant use sometimes?

BRYANT: Fertility drug for women, very close to the fertility drug Clomid.

SIMON: Maybe he's just trying to have a family, Howard.

BRYANT: To have quintuplets, who knows?

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRYANT: After a while you just get numb to the whole thing. But there were certain players that you believed were doing it the right way, and I think Manny was always one of those guys because people had always discussed him as the hitting savant.

And I remember specifically watching him one day. I think David Ortiz and I were watching him in the batting cage and his mechanics were so perfect and his timing was so perfect and everything about him - here's a person who was born to do this, he's got a gift.

And I think the lesson that we're all learning and that we should've been learning over the last 15 years has been the gift is not enough, the workout is not enough, the talent is not enough, because these players are caught up in a culture where they feel, or most of them feel, that I'm not going to be the one not using, I'm not going to be the one at the disadvantage.

And so you can ask yourself the questions, well, what's this guy doing it for because he's got so much ability or he doesn't need it or he was a Hall of Famer before he'd taken the stuff. That's not the point. The point is, it's part of the culture and if there's a day when you don't hit a home run and the other guy that you think is using is, it does something to you psychologically.

SIMON: Let me move on quickly. The NBA playoffs. Orlando…

BRYANT: Do we have to go here?

SIMON: Well, defeated - I almost said slammed - the Celtics 117-96 last night. Is that seven-game series against the Bulls taking a toll?

BRYANT: Well, I feel - I kind of feel like all of this is just mere sensation, and it's one of those years, it's one of those depressing years - for me, at least - when you know that the champions are not going to be champions this year. They're playing gallantly. They do not have Kevin Garnett, they do not have Leon Poe. So therefore they're trying to get along and they're trying to get there.

I thought they were going to win that game last night because I thought Orlando blew a chance by not showing up in Game 2. But here's the bottom line: the Lakers and Cleveland are so much better than everybody else that you just, it's just like let's get it on with those two. And everything else - Houston lost last night at home in a game that they really needed to win. And so it all comes back to the same thing. You've got the two best players on the two best teams - Kobe and Lebron - and when they need to elevate their games, they're better than everybody else.

Last year, the Celtics were able to overcome that because they had three of the bets players in the game. But this year is kind of a tease because you're just - the only thing you can watch for is the upset, because Cleveland and Los Angeles, they're on a collision course, they're the best - the two teams and everything else is very much secondary.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN, thanks so much.

BRYANT: My pleasure.

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