I chatted Thursday with ESPN sportscaster Mike Golic for a “Collected Wisdom” profile of him I am writing for The Oklahoman on Sunday. Golic is a former Notre Dame defensive lineman, who has two sons on this year’s team: Mike Jr., a fifth-year senior offensive guard, and Jake, a senior tight end. I also asked for his thoughts about the OU-Notre Dame game Saturday night on ABC.
“Well listen, Notre Dame’s defense has been playing as good as any defense in the country. So whenever you have that, you’re going to be in every game. Oklahoma is the normal team that is always in the thick of it, strong on offense, strong on defense. Notre Dame has a young quarterback that they are still working through and they have Tommy Rees, the veteran, if they want to go to the bullpen. Notre Dame is going to have to get a running game going, that’s going to have to help and maybe get a few big plays here or there. But I think it will be a good, close game. A lot of that is because of the defense, and
the offense is starting to get their running game going. Hopefully, they can control the ball some.”
I had a chance to question new ESPN “NBA Countdown” analysts Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose about the Oklahoma City Thunder’s prospects during a conference call Thursday. Here’s a transcript of my questions:
Q. I wanted to get Bill and Jalen’s take on the Thunder’s chances of getting back to the NBA Finals this season.
SIMMONS: I’ll go first. I actually think people are sleeping on them a little bit. They came very close in the first four games. Probably decided on a total of six plays. They got their feet wet. Everybody’s attention is on the Lakers, and rightly so.
I don’t know, I think those guys are going to be motivated. The one thing I have is with James Harden, the contract thing, whether that ends up submarining them if that’s not settled. I don’t think it will, but I’m also not a hundred percent it’s going to be the Good Ship Lollypop.
ROSE: I’m not a huge fan of predictions, but if I had to make one, the toughest one so far is who is going to win the West. If I had to give an edge to a team, everyone was playing healthy at a high level, right now the reason I would probably give the Lakers the advantage, they not only have two all-star bigs in Gasol and Dwight Howard, they also are threats on the offensive end that consistently gets you 15 to 20 points on a nightly basis where you can’t double-team off them.
Obviously we know Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook — on the perimeter with James Harden — and with the contract provisions that Bill just talked about, are going to have an exciting season.
The key is going to be home-court advantage. If Dwight is not going to be able to go early in Game 7 inOklahoma City, we know the numbers dictate the team that hosts Game 7 normally wins. So that’s the caveat I’m trying to hang out and see how long Dwight Howard is going to be out recovering from his back injury.
Q. Speaking of Harden, if you had to choose between keeping Harden or Serge Ibaka, who would you pick?
ROSE: Kerry Hilson. Over a few people’s head. That’s who Ibaka is dating right now (laughter).
SIMMONS: I just wrote about this whole situation. I think it’s a little disingenuous on Oklahoma City’s part to pretend they can’t afford everybody. The bottom line is, yeah, eventually they’re going to have to take a luxury tax and face a situation where they’re not going to turn a profit, or so they say. They just spent the last five years raking in profits.
Sports is a business. At some point you have to realize, yeah, we’re going to have ebbs and flows. Over a five-year stretch, we might make $75 million, over the next three we might lose $20 million. You can’t let that affect your chances to win a championship.
I looked this up. No team has ever made the decision to choose the financial bottom line over the championships by trading as big of a guy as Harden. I guess the closest was Phoenixwith Joe Johnson in 2005, he left. Part of the reason he left was they didn’t take care of him with an extension in time. The bottom line is they were still ready to pay him. He got fed up and left. You look at the ramifications that had on the Suns games, how close they came in ’06, ’07, even ’08, toe to toe with the Spurs, that was a catastrophic turn of events for them.
You can’t tell me Oklahoma City is going to have a better chance to win the title over the next five years if they lose one of their best three guys. In my opinion, Ibaka would be more expendable, but I would not get rid of the other three.
ROSE: My answer to that question is 30 teams, 15 roster spots, 450 jobs, there’s always going to be a competitive space, and you have to follow the tea leaves. Who did OKC draft? Perry Jones III. If he can play, be a sixth man on a rookie contract but play at a high level, that gives them leverage to moves James Harden.
That’s what they’re going to be looking to try to do if he’s playing at a high level and not necessarily give James Harden $10 million, $15 million a year, but try to trade him while his value is high.