Picks for the NBA and the Breeders’ Cup
November 2, 2006
Before every season, almighty NBA commissioner David Stern conjures up some way to show the players who’s still the boss. Last year Stern mandated a dress code for players coming into and from arenas, a rule that naturally was hated.
This year with apparently nothing better to think of, Stern decided to change the ball. Naturally, many players hated that idea too.
Players are complaining that the new synthetic ball is too tacky when dry, and too slippery when wet. Shaquille O’Neal has been the most outspoken of the haters, predicting lower shooting percentages and more turnovers.
Commissioner Stern insists that the new Spalding is easier to grip when damp, as if he could actually tell the difference better than a player could. It’s more important to note that the new ball costs Stern 5 percent less to produce, and his name is now etched on both sides. Appealing to groups such as PETA also helps the league’s image, although the NBA maintains that the leather used before came from animals that were already killed.
Of course wacky Dallas owner Mark Cuban got into the act, requesting a study by the Physics Department at the University of Texas-Arlington. Those tests found the new balls to be less absorbent and more slippery, just as the players had said. They also found the new ball’s bounce to be 30 percent more erratic, and 5 to 8 percent lower when dropped from four feet.
None of the players complained about last year’s ball, the same kind that had been used for the past 35 years, and the new ball isn’t any better. This simply looks like another power trip for the cost-cutting and egomaniacal David Stern.
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As for the angry O’Neal, it’s ironic that he would be griping about the league possibly shooting lower percentages. O’Neal never could shoot from beyond eight feet, and his 47 percent free throw percentage is a laughingstock. I suggest that O’Neal just shut up and put his big butt underneath his opponents’ basket, like he usually does. He shoots a high percentage from there, and gets paid way too much for doing it. For his salary I’d play pro basketball with a cactus.
Predictions: Division winners -New Jersey, Miami, Cleveland, San Antonio, Denver and Phoenix.
Other Eastern Conference playoff teams – Chicago, Detroit, Orlando, Washington and Indiana.
Other Western Conference playoff teams – Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and Utah.
Finals – It has become difficult lately for any team to repeat as world champion. But San Antonio won in 2003 and 2005, and if the pattern continues, the Spurs should be focused on another title in 2007. San Antonio defeats Cleveland.
On to more important things, tomorrow most of the best horses, trainers and jockeys in the universe will be at Churchill Downs in Kentucky for the 23rd Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Rain does not appear to be in the forecast for the eight Grade I races with total purses of $20 million.
Predictions – Making winning bets at the Breeders’ Cup is very difficult because every horse is world class. But just playing the law of averages, handicappers can expect two favorites and two longshots to finish first among the eight races.
Here are some horses to watch out for:
Juvenile Fillies – Cash Included, Octave, Her Majesty.
Juvenile – Scat Daddy, Great Hunter, Circular Quay, Street Sense.
Filly & Mare Turf- Ouija Board, Wait A While, Film Maker, Honey Ryder.
Sprint – Bordonaro, Henny Hughes, Siren Lure.
Mile – Aragorn, Aussie Rules, Gorella, Librettist.
Distaff – Balletto, Healthy Addiction, Pine Island, Fleet Indian.
Turf – Cacique, English Channel, Hurricane Run, Go Deputy.
Classic – This one is the granddaddy, as $5 million is up for grabs. The biggest favorite on the entire card is Preakness winner Bernardini, but should a 3-year-old be such a big favorite over older horses?
I’ll be rooting for Lava Man, who began his racing career at the California Fair circuit in Stockton.
The picks here are Lava Man, Bernardini, Invasor, George Washington and Perfect Drift.