SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
When I'm feeling low, I say time for sports.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SIMON: The Portland Trail Blazers closed out the LA Clippers last night. Are they a more talented team, or do they just have fewer injuries? Wounded superstars are a storyline in these NBA playoffs. Our Tom Goldman joins us now from Portland. Good morning, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hello, Scott.
SIMON: And did the fact that LA didn't have Chris Paul and Blake Griffin on the floor make the difference?
GOLDMAN: Well, you know, it certainly contributed to the outcome. A basketball team feels the loss of a star player more acutely than in other team sports. Obviously, fewer people on the court, the star's presence is more significant. Losing two All-Stars? Yeah, that changed the story of the series. The Blazers went from being underdogs to being the team expected to win. And they did, but the depleted Clippers fought hard, especially last night. The Blazers acknowledged they were playing a shorthanded team, but feel as if they could have beaten LA at full strength.
SIMON: Half of your job, Tom, is to keep people on the East Coast up to watch West Coast basketball games because the games (unintelligible) go to 10:30.
GOLDMAN: Here to serve, Scott, here to serve.
SIMON: Something coming up that people won't want to miss.
GOLDMAN: Well, yeah, Portland's next series. So the conference semifinals against a team called the Golden State Warriors. The defending champs, the Warriors are dealing with their own superstar injury, the most significant one in the playoff, of course, reigning MVP Steph Curry. He's out probably another week to 10 days at least with a sprained knee. Golden State's favored over Portland without Curry. But the Blazers are a confident team playing good defense. And frankly, Scott, they are enjoying the hell out of being one of the last four teams competing in the powerful West after losing four starters from last season and being projected to finish at the bottom of the standings this season.
SIMON: Let's move to the NFL draft. A young man named Laremy Tunsil, offensive lineman from Ole Miss, was about to be the No. 1 draft pick when little video appeared on Twitter and Facebook, right?
GOLDMAN: Holy moly - a bizarre real-time moment as the draft was unfolding, yes. Twitter and Instagram were hacked by someone apparently with revenge on their mind. His Instagram included a text message where he appears to be asking an Ole Miss athletic official about money for rent and his mom's electric bill. Twitter showed a little video of him smoking marijuana.
SIMON: Yeah, inhaling in a gas mask, which, by the way, I think it was probably just barbecue smoke from The Shed Barbecue.
GOLDMAN: Well, he was laughing too much for that, I think. But, you know, it's good barbecue, but it doesn't make you giggle, I don't think.
SIMON: I've got to tell you. Scholarship athletes are millions of dollars for their schools, nothing for themselves. They can't, by the way, if they had the time, hold a part-time job. I think a lot of people might be sympathetic to a young student from a poor family who just wants a little help so his mother can pay her electric bill. I mean, is there clearly a good or a bad guy in this story?
GOLDMAN: Yeah. You know, you should say first, if the fact is the true story about the bills - I mean, a lot of facts still have to come out. But yeah, in answer to your question, it's harder today to figure out a good guy and a bad guy than, say, 10 years ago when an infraction was an infraction and the NCAA enforced its rules against rule-breaking athletes and schools. A lot has happened since then. Courts have ruled that some NCAA rules barring payments to athletes are illegal. And there's a more widespread belief that, as you say, football players and men's basketball players in the top conferences generate bushels of money and don't get much of anything for their efforts. So yeah, not as easy today to define exactly what a scandal is or who's at fault.
SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much. Talk to you in a couple weeks, my friend.
GOLDMAN: OK. Thanks, Scott.
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