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Thursday, April 24, 2008

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We're moved the Sports Free for All blog to a new location....check us out here!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Of Astros and NBA playoffs

Greetings from Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston, where the 2005 National League champion Houston Astros are playing the 2007 NL champion Colorado Rockies.

More on the Astros in a minute. First, a little on the NBA playoffs.

How 'bout them Hornets? They just won't quit. Chris Paul, Tyson Chandler and David West are too much for the Mavericks to handle.

The Hornets will move on to play the winner of the San Antonio-Phoenix series.

The Rockets had a terrific regular season, but it's a bit much to expect them to beat a Utah Jazz team that beat them WITH Yao AND Rafer Alston last season...

I talked to former Tech star Paul Millsap after last night's game, and he was feeling pretty good after the Jazz took one from the Rockets on the road.

The Suns-Spurs game is an example of what makes the NBA playoffs so exciting. Double overtime. Shaq. Tim Duncan. Steve Nash. It doesn't get much better.

And what about LeBron's performance yesterday? Think he's overrated, DeShawn Stevenson?
James did what superstars do; he put his team on his shoulders and carried them to victory.

Back to the Astros.

They're riding a three-game losing streak, but think about this: they're in the NL Central.
This division won't be decided until the last two or three weeks of the season - I'm talking September. Five months from now!!

Until then, everybody's a contender in the NL Central.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Greetings from NBA playoffs

Greetings from Toyota Center in downtown Houston, where the Rockets will host the Utah Jazz tonight in Game 1 of their best-of-seven first-round matchup.

Rockets star Tracy McGrady has been to the playoffs six times and failed to advance to the second round on each occasion.

Former Louisiana Tech star Paul Millsap isn’t shedding any tears for McGrady, however.

Millsap, a forward with the Jazz, will do all within his power to make sure McGrady comes up short again.

Millsap and the Jazz sent McGrady packing in the first round last season.

Friday, April 18, 2008

NBA predictions

OK, I'm not the biggest NBA fan, but in this job, you have to keep up, so here are my first-round picks.

Boston over Atlanta in 4
Detroit over Philly in 6
Orlando over Toronto in 6
Cleveland over Washington 6

Lakers over Denver in 5
New Orleans over Dallas in 6
Phoenix over San Antonio in 7
Houston over Utah in 7

We'll see how I do.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hornets and Mavs oh my

Well, well, well.Looks like the Ark-La-Tex will have an NBA playoff series to watch.

Since we don't have a team on the radio here anymore (thanks Hornets) and Shreveport gets the Mavs on TV and Bossier City gets the Hornets, this should be a rather interesting series.

No, it's not Saints-Cowboys or Cowboys-Saints. But it's better than, say, Warriors-Mavs a year ago.

You have the same people who equate geographical boundaries with loyalty. (Although considering state dollars go to the Hornets maybe that should be a factor.) You have the same people who go with the team they loved first.

Should be interesting.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Great meals at prep games

I don't have to tell you that I likes me some ball park groceries. You can tell that by looking at me.

Centenary's Glenn Evans makes a pretty mean hotdog at the concession stand for home softball and baseball games. If you want a great ball park hamburger, check out the grilled delicacy at the Byrd softball field.

I found another great one at Evangel on Tuesday. I sauntered up to the concession stand and ordered a hamburger. "We don't have hamburgers," the matron'd said. "We have barbecue sandwiches."

After telling them I'd had a great burger the day before at the Byrd playoff game, the Evangelistas scoffed, saying their barbecue sandwich was better. I decided to give it a try. I downed the first one in about four bites so I went back for a second.

"How does it matchup with those Byrd hamburgers?" the concessionaire asked.

"I'd have to call it a draw," I said, while considering a third.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Little League goes big league

Improv Everywhere is a comedy troupe out of New York that performs skits and stunts in public, letting bystanders become part of the joke.

For one of its latest bits, Improv Everywhere turned an afternoon at a Little League game into a big-league experience.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

On the Gents' hire

It may not have been the smoothest hire in college basketball history, but I think Centenary may have gotten the best candidate for the job when naming Greg Gary as the head coach.

Gary has experience in Louisiana (Tulane) both coaching and playing. He has coached with Perry Clark at Miami and Ron Everhart at Duquesne. He understands coaching at a private school, yet he also has some experience at a higher level.

Nothing against any of the other candidates, but Gary seems to be the best fit for a program in dire need of some enthusiasm and confidence.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Astros on a roll

Lance Berkman just uncorked a two-run homer to put the Astros up 5-0 in the second inning. He provided a perfect example of what this offense can do.

Beware, National League Central. These guys mean business.

Cheer up, Astros fans

Greetings from Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston, where the Astros tonight will take on the Florida Marlins.

It's a gorgeous evening and fans are streaming in.

The Astros are off to a 3-8 start, their worst in 25 years, but I see a LOT of reasons for fans to be optimistic about this season.

The Astros' offense, off to its typical slow start, is going to explode sooner rather than later. The team's 3-4-5 hitters (Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Miguel Tejada) are All-Stars capable of doing bad things to opposing pitchers.

Hunter Pence is off to a slow start, but he has excelled at every level and there's no reason to think he won't have another outstanding season. Remember, he hit .322, smacked 17 homers and drove in 69 runs last season - as a rookie.

Center fielder Michael Bourn, who's tied for the Major League lead in steals (6), closer Jose Valverde and a starting rotation that has collected five quality starts should also give Astros fans reason to smile this season.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Spring flings

Louisiana Tech and Northwestern State football fans will get to see their teams play in their annual spring games on Saturday.

Tech coach Derek Dooley is correct when saying fans should take these games with a grain of salt.

Here's why: A lot of starters don't always play because of injuries. And some of the players who will star on Saturday won't get on the field in the fall.

Still, the weather should be great and optimism reigns supreme for next season. So if you're going to the games, enjoy and it's OK to dream about next season.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Centenary's McCann steps up to the plate

Centenary's Ed McCann isn't just a big time Division I baseball coach -- he's also willing to pitch in as a part of the community.

Dining in Strawn's original restaurant for lunch on Wednesday after his Gents defeated Northwestern 8-7 on Tuesday night, McCann and two of his players, Matt Clark and Justin Kraft, spotted an elderly gentleman getting ready to load his wife's electronic wheelchair into the back of a pickup.

Despite a deluge that hit the area about 11:15 a.m., the trio of Gents helped get the chair into the truck. The 50 or so diners in the restaurant were impressed with the unselfish efforts of the men who returned to the eatery soaking wet.

McCann may take some hits for not always producing quality outings on the diamond, but he deserves kudos for being a man of action for someone in need.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Centenary needs to stop the bleeding

Centenary needs to find a men's basketball coach -- and fast.

Players are bailing out of the coachless program fast, according to various sources at the school. Already, starting point guard Chase Adams has asked for and received his release from the school. Freshmen Justin Glenn and Jemere King are reportedly headed back to their hometown of Tulsa.

Then on Wednesday came word that two of The Summit League's best players and seniors-to-be Tyrone Hamilton and Nick Stallings may be considering a transfer to LSU-Shreveport. If that happens, it will be disastrous for the program and will leave a newcomer starting from scratch.

Job candidate Steve Payne was at Wednesday's Gents baseball game against NSU with his family, while another candidate, Duquesne assistant Greg Gary(pictured in this blog), was being interviewed on campus.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Mavericks' move

Give the Dallas Mavericks credit, just when I'm ready to bury them and give them a lottery pick, there they come.

The Mavericks have finally gotten hot -- and at the right time.

Does that mean they're a legitimate contender in the NBA West when the playoffs start? Who knows?

There are still a lot of people who don't believe in the New Orleans Hornets. And when they throw up a clunker like they did at home against Utah, you start to understand a little.

Still, if seven months of basketball means anything, you have to like the Hornets' chances better than the Mavericsks.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Wrong kind of stealing

In baseball, stealing is a good thing.

In the parking lot of The Times, not so much.

So whoever stole my XM radio today out of my truck, you're a real genius. Guess you didn't know that it won't work without the $13 a month charge, did you big boy?

Now, that being said, XM radio is worth replacing. Heck, they carried the LSU spring game on Saturday not to mention every baseball game all season.

So I'll take this is as a small hurdle.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Can we please get a good game?

When did the NCAA Tournament become the Super Bowl and the Super Bowl become the NCAA Tournament?

I mean the Super Bowl this year was great. It was competitive. It was thrilling. It came down to the very end with the New York Giants upsetting the New England Patriots.

One month later the NCAA Tournament has produced a few upsets, a few competitive games, but mostly blowouts.

About the only thing intriguing today was whether Kansas was capable of blowing a 28-point lead. The Jayhawks weren't. They won by 18.

Memphis won its game by 15 points.

Can we please have a competitive title game on Monday. The tournament certainly doesn't suggest that happening.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Life is just a fantasy

OK, so the fantasy basketball league season is winding down here at The Times. It got so confusing I quite playing and made it to the semifinals of the playoffs before getting knocked out.

Now we have baseball going. It's only been a week and already I've had to buy Baseball Prospectus to scout for upgrades on players.

It's not that I think you can judge players on a week. It's just that I have some holes I need to fill -- soon.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Kudos to Josh Porter

LSUS senior guard Josh Porter will be at the Final Four this weekend. He is set to receiver the United States Basketball Writers' Association's Most Courageos Award.

Porter's story is well-documented in these parts. But it is good to see him get some national attention. His story is nothing short of miraculous and is one that should be told.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A first at GSU?

I've been in the sports writing business for 24 years now and I think today is something of a first.

Grambling fired its men's and women's basketball coaches on the same day.

I don't think I'v ever seen that before in my 24 years in the business. Such symmetry is rare.

In all seriousness, it's hard to argue against Grambling making the changes. The Tigers have a new facility and little excuse for being as disappointing as they were on both the men's and women's sides this year.

Still, when you're firing longtime coaches, there is a bit of sadness for those particular coaches. Rusty Ponton and Larry Wright certainly were stable figures for GSU basketball.