NBA Finals, U.S. Open, Baseball

Scott Simon and Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist Ron Rapoport discuss the NBA finals, golf's U.S. Open, and baseball's surprising Washington Nationals.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Time now for sports.

The NBA finals are all tied up, 2-2 in a best-of-seven-games series. Tomorrow the San Antonio Spurs face the Detroit Pistons in Auburn Hills. The US Open has returned to Pinehurst, North Carolina, and the best story out of Washington, DC, since Dolly Madison saved George Washington's portrait from the redcoats. Ron Rapoport joins us now from Los Angeles today.

Ron, thanks for being with us.

RON RAPOPORT reporting:

Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: Basketball le--there has not been a moment of drama because there has not been a single close game between the Pistons and the Spurs. No one can win on the road. What's going on here?

RAPOPORT: It's--I'll tell you what's going on. It's crazy, Scott. Four games, each team has won two, and none has been closer than 15 points. Scott, I've heard of the home-court advantage, but this is ridiculous.

SIMON: Well, is it as simple as San Antonio gets one more game at home, and therefore they ought to be favored now?

RAPOPORT: Well, who's to say. I mean, you know, they led--I mean, if the home-court advantage--you know, obviously, the home fans screaming in the players' ears means a lot, more than we would have thought. But who's to say the Pistons won't win game five Sunday, and then the Spurs will have them right where they want them...

SIMON: Yeah.

RAPOPORT: ...back home for the last two games, and they'll close it out there.

SIMON: Hey, you know, there--it is often observed that some of the truly great teams win on the road; not only win on the road, some of them actually prefer to play on the road?

RAPOPORT: Well, I mean, remember the Bulls of Michael Jordan's era certainly did. They played very well on the road. But look at this for a minute, Scott. Thirty-five turnovers for the Spurs in two games in Detroit. Now this is one of the smartest and most in-control teams in the league. No wonder they only had 71 points the other night, they never got the ball.

SIMON: I want to ask about the US Open.

RAPOPORT: Yeah.

SIMON: It's back in Pinehurst, North Carolina, for the first time in--since 1999. You know, if I were Dan Rather, which I'm not, I'd look at that leader board and say, `You know, Ron, things are tighter than Willie Nelson's headband.' Only four players are under par. However, Retief Goosen, the South African who's won twice in the past few years, when he's a part of that trio that's atop there, don't you have to put him a little bit in advance of everyone else?

RAPOPORT: Well, I'd have to say so. You know, once again, Scott, the open has shown it's not for the faint of heart or the flashy player. We--it seems like we don't hear from Goosen one June to the next, but the next open there, he--you know, there he is. He's already won two national championships the last four years, and now he's tied for one more. Scott, if he wins this one, it's three in five years, that's Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones territory, you know?

SIMON: Yeah, so therefore, does it become his to lose? Because he's almost got more attention now for--you know, for having this expectation than he has for actually winning...

RAPOPORT: Well...

SIMON: ...two previous US Opens?

RAPOPORT: Well, I don't know whether it's his to win or lose now. Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods who got--What do they call this, a mild breach of etiquette or something, for scraping his club. They're all very close to him and it's very hard to shoot a low score. If one of these players can shoot a decent score it can embarrass the USGA, which loves this stuff, loves it when there's nobody under par, you know.

SIMON: Yeah, of course.

RAPOPORT: They could jump out at it. But, no, Goosen certainly is--captures our attention this time every year.

SIMON: Baseball. Now the Chicago White Sox have the best record in baseball, but, like, almost nobody notices. You know things are bad when The Wall Street Journal runs an article on the front page saying nobody is going to see the first-place team.

RAPOPORT: That is kind of embarrassing, best record in baseball, and people are ragging you about your attendance.

SIMON: So...

RAPOPORT: Actually it's picked up a little bit. But, you know, Scott, they're just--it's just bad when you're in--the Cubs sell out every day, and you--whether winning or losing.

SIMON: But, Ron, doesn't the nicest story in baseball have to be the Frank Robinson and the Washington Nationals ahead in the National League East? Can they last?

RAPOPORT: Oh, I don't know. Why not, Scott? Look, as long as the Braves play terrible in that division and the Mets aren't playing so well, why not? You know, the Expos were a good team.

SIMON: Yes, I do know that, as a matter of fact. And Frank Robinson seems to be having absolutely the time of his life. I mean, he's out there pushing 70 years ol--of age, and he'll take on anyone with the benches empty.

RAPOPORT: Ask Mike Scioscia. Boy, they really got into it in Anaheim the other day.

SIMON: I believe they both have been suspended for a game?

RAPOPORT: How do you like that? Well, seeing--you know, baseball is exerting its disciplinary will there, Scott.

SIMON: Oh, by suspending both of them for a game as a me--but still, you take a look at F. Robi--I'd hand him a bat if they get to the last--if they get to the late innings and need some help.

RAPOPORT: I wouldn't put it past him. He was as tough a ball player as I ever saw. He was always--just, you know, took things very, very seriously. But a lovely guy to be around. I'm happy for him.

SIMON: Ron Rapoport.

And you're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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