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Sports Watch & Wondering

If you are a basketball fan, your cup is completely full. As far as March Madness is concerned, we

John Randolph Rogers

 are at the beginning of the beginning. If you are a fan of the NBA, then you will note that they are getting serious about the playoff possibilities. How sweet it is!

The Pacific-10 Tournament will start this Wednesday at the Staples Center. The opening-round games will be between Oregon State & Stanford, and Washington State & Oregon. Not too much excitement there, but on Thursday things ramp up with a game between California and USC. This game may be a career check for Trojan coach, Tim Floyd. Last year, Cal was just another weak sister in the conference. Then they hired Mike Montgomery who has helped them bypass the Trojans to become one of the leaders. It does make some of us wonder what would have happened if USC had hired Mike Montgomery, or someone like him?

Later on Thursday, UCLA will have to deal with Washington State. This may not be an easy task for the Bruins. The Cougars run a ball controlled offense which means that they try to keep the ball most of the time. They generally try to keep it for 40 seconds before they take a shot. This drives their opponents absolutely crazy. The Bruins will be favored, but they hate to play the Cougars.

Things will sort themselves out, and there is an expectation that either the Washington Huskies or the UCLA Bruins will win this Tournament. However, the winds of upsets swirl around us, so we have learned to expect the unexpected. Let the games begin!

Meanwhile, back in the NBA, the Lakers have the best won-loss record in the league. They are currently 50-13, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are in hot pursuit with their record of 49-13. The Lakers don't appear to be as confident as they were earlier in the season. Andrew Bynum suffered a serious injury, and Walton, Odom, Vujacic and Powell are not dependable performers.

In addition, there always seem to be a conflict between Bryant and Jackson as to which one of them is actually in charge of the team. It is apparent to even the most casual observer that the talented, driven Bryant wants every play to be perfect and that he wants to win every game. No one on the team, or in the state of California is allowed to criticize him when he makes a mistake. He does make many. However, he appears to have carte blanche to yell at any other player, at any time. So, some of the players try to pursue a course of action that pleases both of their bosses. If you have ever tried to do that then you can empathize with them. The Lakers think that they are running the Triangle Offense, but schizophrenic would be a better description.

Except for Wall Street Bankers, I generally don't like to see anyone go to jail. However, Charles Barkley is an exception. Over the past weekend, he spent three days in an Arizona jail. He was arrested for driving while intoxicated. I hope that his dose of reality will prevent him from getting into more serious trouble. He has been in denial with his drinking, gambling and fighting. In his own mind, he seems to have felt that he could talk his way out of any problem. However, I feel certain that he found those three days to be among the most boring and humiliating in his life. It was if he had to take some Castor Oil. It might have been good for him, but he would not want to take it more than once.

In the Lakers game against the Trail Blazers, Trevor Ariza delivered a hard foul to Rudy Fernandez. The referees called it a flagrant foul and then they ejected Ariza from the game. Make no doubt about it, Fernandez took a very hard fall, and for several minutes, it appeared that he might be seriously injured. Fernandez had been in front, streaking for the basket, when Ariza collided with him. It seemed to me that Ariza was making a desperate attempt to block the ball, rather than just concede the two points. However, when there was the real possibility that Fernandez might be seriously and permanently injured on his home court, the safest course for the referees was to call a flagrant foul. There was no downside for them in deciding to make that call. On the other hand, if they had not called it that way, and Fernandez was seriously injured, then they might either be suspended or fired. So, in some sense, they might have been playing to the hometown crowd. Be that as it may, I am convinced that Ariza was just trying to block the ball. So there!

Tiger Woods will be playing in the golf tournament at DORAL this weekend. The public will be curious to find out how well his recovery is going. In addition to playing against the usual suspects, he will find a 19-year-old Rory Mcllroy waiting for him. Rory looks like he could be one of the Jonas Brothers, but he is already a big-time player. I hope that they will both play up to their expectations. Bring it on!

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