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Checking In With The NBA

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Checking In With The NBA

Sports

Checking In With The NBA

Checking In With The NBA

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David Zirin, of the weekly online sports column "Edge of Sports," discusses the latest developments in the basketball world, including the firing of Mike Brown, head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Eastern and Western Conference series going on now.

ALLISON KEYES, host:

I'm Allison Keyes, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Michel Martin is away.

Coming up, in this Asian-American Heritage Month, new research on sharp health disparities between Asian-Americans and the rest of the country.

But first, a touch of sports - basketball, that is. There are four times still alive, vying for the right to be called this year's world champions, and not one of them is a Cleveland Cavaliers, even though the Cavs won the most games in the regular season and have arguably the best player in the league, LeBron James. That may be why the organization fired its head coach, Mike Brown, this morning.

Dave Zirin, a sportswriter for The Nation and at EdgeofSports.com, is here in the studios. Welcome, Dave.

Mr. DAVE ZIRIN (Sportswriter, The Nation and EdgeofSports.com): Great to be here, Ms. Keyes.

KEYES: So, okay, I know the Cavs are way out of it, but why is the firing of Mike Brown such a big deal?

Mr. ZIRIN: Well, it's a big deal because he's the most successful coach in the history of the franchise. It's a big deal because he was the coach of the year last year and very respected by his peers. But for two straight years, the Cavaliers were the favorites to win the championship. Two straight years, it didn't get done. And if they hadn't have fired Mike Brown by this morning, they would've owed him a cool $4.5 million.

KEYES: Wow.

Mr. ZIRIN: So it had to get done now. Those are the facts. Now, the rumors are that they're doing...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ZIRIN: I know we don't do rumors on NPR.

KEYES: No, no, never rumors.

Mr. ZIRIN: But the rumors are that they're doing this because they want to be able to go to LeBron James, who is a free agent, and say: Choose your coach.

KEYES: But President Obama has been campaigning for LeBron James to move to my hometown, Chicago, the home of the once-and-future world champions, Chicago Bulls. Any chance King James is going to be, you know, in Chi-town?

Mr. ZIRIN: Well, Obama was also campaigning for Arlen Specter, so let's not go too far with that poll.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: Wow. Tough room here.

Mr. ZIRIN: I think that LeBron James, it'll be one of two places. Either he's going to stay in Cleveland, because, let's face it, his legacy, even at age 25, has taken a hit by his inability to push this team over the hump, despite having the best record. And the other option is New York City, because I know that's painful to hear, I know it is, but let's face it: The Nicks - or possibly even the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets - hold the opportunity for LeBron James to be able to become what he's always said he wants to be. He's always said his dream is not to be a champion, not to be the best basketball player ever, but to be a global icon. And there's no greater springboard for that than in the world's media capital.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: How about the teams that are actually still playing? Boston taking on the Magic tonight, and the Celtics are up three games to nothing. Are they going to lock it out?

Mr. ZIRIN: I have to disagree with something you just said, that they're taking on the Magic, 'cause I'm not sure the Magic have showed up yet in this series. I mean, they're in the witness protection program...

KEYES: Okay, well, there's that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ZIRIN: ...of teams. So Boston, playing the artists formerly known as the Magic, are up three games to nothing. In the history of the NBA, teams that are up three games to nothing are 93 and 0, all times. So you might as well just write it down: The Boston Celtics are going to be in the final round.

KEYES: Yeah, but the Magic are heavily favored. Come on, you can't take them out like that.

Mr. ZIRIN: Down three nothing, I'm going to. In the last game, the Celtics point guard, Rajon Rondo, had more assists than the entire Magic team. Not good.

KEYES: There is that. What about the Lakers? The L.A. Lakers? Two games to one.

Mr. ZIRIN: Very exciting. Very exciting. The Suns coming back to make this a series, down just two games to one. Amare Stoudemire, 42 points and 11 rebounds, a brilliant game.

KEYES: Big rebounds.

Mr. ZIRIN: But I got to say, I think these Suns are tough because they're mentally tough. I mean, May 5th, Cinco de Mayo was just a few, short weeks ago, but let's remember, they, as a team - from the owner to the general manager to the players - came out as one against the Arizona's Senate bill 1070, wore the Los Suns jerseys on the court, even though that law at the time has overwhelming majority support in their own state.

They are mentally tough. They are as one. They are going to rage, rage against the fire of the light and that - what some people think is an inevitable Lakers/Celtics finals.

KEYES: Really briefly, who do you think is going to take it all this year?

Mr. ZIRIN: I'm going to say the Phoenix Suns - not because I think it's going to happen, but because I want to give...

KEYES: I would have to bet you a beer on that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ZIRIN: I want to - yeah, I will lose that beer. But I want to put every last morsel of karma I have into the idea of Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire holding up the trophy and speaking out for immigrant rights simultaneously.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: Dave Zirin, for the Suns, is a sportswriter for The Nation and at EdgeofSports.com. He's also author of the forthcoming book "Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games We Love." Dave joined us right here in our Washington studios, and we are so making that bet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ZIRIN: Yes, we will.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: Thanks for coming.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ZIRIN: I'm going to lose.

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