Week In Sports: Spurs Take First Game Of NBA Finals

Weekend Edition Saturday Scott Simon talks to NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman about NBA star Tony Parker's spectacular performances of late, and the latest on the French Open Tennis championships.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Now strike up the band. Time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: From the red clay courts of Roland Garros to the hardwood courts of Miami and San Antonio. They're playing for championships this weekend. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: How are you, Scott?

SIMON: I'm just fine thank you. And let's begin with tennis and Les French Open. Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are playing at the very moment, as we're speaking, at the women's singles finals.

Thank you. And let's begin with tennis and Les French Open. Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are playing at the very moment, as we're speaking, in the women's singles finals. Of course Sharapova won the French Open last year. Can anyone beat Serena now?

SCOTT GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Well, we'll see over the next couple of hours. Right now...

SIMON: Time will tell?

GOLDMAN: No, I'm not going to say that.

SIMON: All right, okay.

GOLDMAN: Right now Sharipova is making an early move. She has already broken Serena's serves. She leads 2-0 in the first set, but the odds are in William's favor. She's won 30 matches in a row, unbeaten on play this year. She's beaten Sharipova the last 12 times they've played. Maria wants to change that.

SIMON: Men's singles, we've got a couple of guys from Spain, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer. Long hard battle here? What do you see?

GOLDMAN: Well, Ferrer is a scrappy little guy and he'll fight hard, but my God Scott, there are death taxes and Nadal winning on clay. He's 58 and won at Roland Garras. He's won seven singles titles in Paris, trying to become the first player to win eight championships in any of the grand slam tournaments. Especially after his epic nine-set win in the semis over Novak Djokovic. It will be shocking if Nadal doesn't win again.

SIMON: And I've just been restraining myself to talk about the NBA finals. San Antonia Spurs versus the Miami Heat, their marquee trio, but in that first game it was Tony Parker of the Spurs who was on fire.

GOLDMAN: Oh. Devastatingly good at dismantling an opponents' defense with his drives to the basket, his drives and kick outs to open three-point shooters. The way he's now developed the deadly outside shot. Considering he's playing the best basketball ever that he's played and he's already won three titles, I heard one commentator say he may be the second best point guard in post-season history after Magic Johnson.

Certainly the best French point guard ever, Scott.

SIMON: Absolutely. The greatest French basketball player ever, so far, okay?

GOLDMAN: That's right.

SIMON: LeBron James scored a lot of points.

GOLDMAN: Who?

SIMON: Yes, exactly. He scored a lot of points, hold in a lot of rebounds, but he was criticized for being just a little tepid and uninvolved. Now, from the safety of our studio chairs, is that the kind of observation we ever heard about Michael Jordan or Bill Russell?

GOLDMAN: No, but we didn't have Twitter in those days either. You know Scott, this passive thing with James, it's complicated. He trumps Michael Jordan when it comes to passing the ball. It's one of the great parts of LeBron's game. When he passes to an open teammate, which is how you're taught to play basketball, that means he's not bullying his way to the basket himself or pulling up for one of those now effortless three-pointers.

When the players he passes to score, all is wonderful and LeBron gets credit for facilitating. When they don't score, like Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade haven't been consistently, it's a wasted offensive set and James is said to be passive. He probably passed it a few too many times during Game 1 rather than taking shots himself. Still, he had a triple double and he's still the best player on the planet, although at the end of this series we'll have to amend that to best player on the planet excluding France.

SIMON: Yes. Okay. Let's note, by the way, Boston Bruins won over the Pittsburgh Penguins last night. Series was four games to none, but felt closer. They'll be in the finals. But let me talk about, I hope I can pronounce this: Yasiel Puig.

GOLDMAN: You got it.

SIMON: The greatest ball player going at the moment, right? He's played just five games, 10 RBIs, 4 homers; he's with the Dodgers, just defected from Cuba. Most exciting player so far this year.

GOLDMAN: Absolutely and making things a lot brighter in normally sunny L.A. You know, they've won four out of the five since calling up Puig from the minors on Monday. It's certainly put them in the right direction after a disappointing season so far. And Dodger fans are on the edge of their seats every time he comes to the plate. It's a great story.

SIMON: Yeah, he is. Well, I hope he stays healthy. It's been great to watch him. NPR's sports correspondent, Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: It's a pleasure.

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