SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And now it's time for sports.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SIMON: The Packs man is back. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns from an injury this weekend. Can he bring back the Packers season? In basketball, the Houston Rockets are telling the Warriors, Golden State, Houston is your problem in the West. And NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us. Tom, thanks for being with us.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: My pleasure. And great intro.
SIMON: Thanks very much. Well, I - that's the one small contribution I can make.
GOLDMAN: You worked all night on that.
SIMON: Yeah, exactly. Aaron Rodgers has been out seven games - broken collarbone. He says he's not coming back to save the Packers. But isn't that exactly what you want superheroes to say? He comes back in a season that's been afflicted with injuries to major stars
GOLDMAN: He may not be coming back to save Green Bay, but he can help the league at least a bit, Scott. You know, a bunch of star players have had major injuries. And it's been at least part of the reason for the reported 9 percent drop in TV ratings from last year. The very long list includes wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., two great young quarterbacks Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, Richard Sherman and Eric Berry, two of the NFL's best defensive backs - all had season ending injuries. And Scott, these are playmakers. Even in the total team game that football is, these players - they can change games with individual performances. And without them, the games just aren't as much fun to watch.
SIMON: And we have some games coming up with real playoff ramifications, including - I can't believe this - Jay Cutler and the Dolphins have a chance to make the playoffs. Maybe they just had to have someone else play quarterback. But has the NFL caused a lot of its own problems this year?
GOLDMAN: I think it has. Especially this season, it seemed something always was pulling fans' attention away from the games. You know, this week several high-profile figures at the NFL Network suspended for alleged sexual harassment. And the league's concussion protocol again is under scrutiny after the image of Houston quarterback Tom Savage taking a big hit and then appearing to have a seizure on the field, only to return to play when he should've been taken out. Now, the NFL's doing better with its concussion management but when mistakes like this happen, they generate a lot of attention, as they probably should.
SIMON: So let's move to the NBA.
SIMON: I'd like - love to talk about how well the Rockets are playing and the Cavaliers for that matter. But I got to ask about, I mean, LaVar Ball. Oh, mercy.
GOLDMAN: Oh, God. Oh, God. Well, OK. But just quickly, Scott. Houston beat San Antonio last night for its 12th straight win. It's the fourth-longest win streak in Rocket's history. But yes, LaVar...
SIMON: The Cavs won 13 in a row. But go ahead. Yes.
GOLDMAN: Who's counting? LaVar, Scott - he's like potato chips. Not good for you. But you just can't stop eating them. So we know that LaVar, carnival barker, hyper-involved sports parent and human potato chip, has struck again. He pulled his two youngest sons out of school, 19-year-old LiAngelo out of UCLA, 16-year-old LaMelo out of high school and, this week, got them signed up with a pro-basketball team in Lithuania. And LaVar defended the moves, saying you can take your boys out of school when you've got a brand. When you've got a brand, you can do what you want. And that's us. We can leave anytime we want. My boys are going to be fine. Let's hope so.
SIMON: Yeah. Playing basketball in Lithuania is a great way to grow up. LaVar's eldest son Lonzo Ball is a rookie with the Lakers. He's doing pretty well. He had a nice encounter with LeBron the other day.
GOLDMAN: Yeah. And, you know, he's on a young and talented team with a lot of potential. He's going to be a big part of that. And what LeBron apparently said to him was, you know, be aggressive every day.
GOLDMAN: Stay locked in. Don't listen to all the white noise from the media about your father all around you. And I guess that includes our white noise.
SIMON: (Laughter) A couple of white guys making noise, Scott and Tom Goldman. Thanks very much for being with us.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
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