Following his first win since Latrell Sprewell could afford to feed his family, Staff Writer Justin Jez has been slaving over a hot stove all day to cook up some fresh questions for this week’s contestants. Copy Editor and mourning Duke fan James Queally will take on Staff Writer Brandon Lee and WTSR Sports Director Mike Leatherwood as they discuss Andrew Bynum’s rehab habits, the Bronx Bombers’ chances and Tiger Woods’ latest victory.
1. While rehabbing his injured knee, Lakers center Andrew Bynum was photographed partying at the Playboy Mansion, posing with a Playboy bunny on his shoulders. Is this behavior acceptable and should Laker management be concerned?
BL: I don’t agree with this behavior, but it’s not really a big deal, so Laker management shouldn’t be concerned. Yeah, it’d be great to see Bynum with the team and rehabbing 24/7, but that’s just not Bynum. I doubt he would actually get hurt from picking up a Playboy Bunny. PR-wise, it’s not the greatest move, but he’s not going to get hurt. He’s still young and will learn soon enough to avoid those types of situations. You wouldn’t have seen that from any of the old school Laker greats, but times have changed.
JQ: Bynum is living the dream – playing a key role on a championship-contending team, for a franchise as storied as the Lakers. But he’s also 21 years old, financially invincible and living in California. I’m surprised that this is the first party snapshot that popped up anywhere. Let the kid have some fun. He got hurt for a long stretch at the end of last season and rehabbed well enough to have an impressive start to this year before banging up his knee again. If Bynum comes back in the playoffs and starts putting up mediocre stat lines, then I’ll reverse my statement. But in all honesty, the Lakers have bigger problems than worrying about Bynum getting his freak on. If the Cavs keep it up, the Lakers are going to be the stepping stone for King James’ ascension to the throne.
ML: There are times as an athlete where you can have fun and times when you shouldn’t. For Andrew Bynum, now is not the time to be partying it up at the mansion. First of all, he is on the best team in basketball going into the playoffs and he is a big piece of the team when he is healthy. It is extremely important for the Lakers to have Bynum come playoff time, especially with so many talented big men in the Western Conference such as Yao Ming, Tim Duncan and Carlos Boozer. Also, anytime you are rehabbing a major knee injury, you should not be carrying anybody on your shoulders. It’s just risking further injury that could jeopardize your career. Lakers management should teach their young players how to behave correctly and put the team first, especially come playoff time.
JJ: I’m disappointed no one observed that all this came out when the Lakers were taking losses on the road to the Hawks and Bobcats. Otherwise, it may not have been a story. Mike takes the lead for alluding to the fact that now is not the time to be visibly partying with the Hef, especially not while your team is struggling on the road: 3 points. Two points to Queally for putting the whole 21-year-old-millionaire-living-in-Los- Angeles thing into perspective. One point to Brandon for not giving as detailed of an argument.
2. The Yankees went on another offseason shopping spree and acquired $430 million worth of talent. Are they now favored over the Red Sox and Rays?
BL: I still believe the Red Sox are the favorite. Yes, the Yankees spent tons of money, but it’s still uncertain how everything will come together. The Yankees still also have the big off-field distraction that is Alex Rodriguez. The Sox, on the other, hand are more of a proven commodity and have added even more stability to their pitching staff with John Smoltz, Brad Penny and Takashi Saito. They’ve also added solid outfielder depth with the signing of Rocco Baldelli. With no more Manny, this is a team- oriented ball club that is completely focused on winning a championship.
JQ: I don’t know if they are favored, but that division is definitely going to be interesting this year. If all three squads live up to the hype machine, it could be what the NFC East was supposed to be in football this year. But that’s why I’m still leaning with Boston when this whole thing shakes out. They can handle the hype. Playing sports in New York is like trying to do gymnastics in a minefield. Nerve wracking, incredibly frustrating and it usually ends with everything blown to hell. C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett are big name players who come from small-name teams. Milwaukee and Toronto? That media pressure is going to get to them if the “Bankees” are say five or six games back of the Sox come July. And speaking of C.C. and A.J., I think the Sox still have a more complete pitching rotation. Wang is coming off injury, Pettite is old and I don’t buy Joba Chamberlain as a starter. But none of this matters because the Mets are winning the World Series. Ya Gotta Believe!
ML: Even though the Yankees went crazy with the cash this offseason, it doesn’t guarantee them a division championship. They didn’t address the bullpen, which was a major weakness last year and will be again this year. The outfield is still a big question mark since they don’t have a proven center fielder and they lost Bobby Abreu. I still think the Red Sox have to be the favorite in the east. They have seven quality starting pitchers on their roster including new additions John Smoltz and Brad Penny. They also signed Takashi Saito to help bolster their bullpen. With the offense they have plus the best rotation in A.L., you have to say Boston wins the East and are World Series favorites.
JJ: “Playing in NY is like doing gymnastics in a minefield.” Despite this audacious simile, Queally gets 3 points. I too think the scrutiny of the Big Apple might get to these small market players. We’ve seen this happen with other recent high-priced acquisitions. Mike gave me a few more solid reasons than Brandon – 2 points. While the Yanks bolstered the rotation, they do have some other issues. By default Brandon gets 1 point. Good point though about the team-oriented Sox.
3. Winning the tournament for the sixth time, Tiger Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a dramatic putt on the 18th hole. Are you impressed by Tiger’s performance coming off of knee surgery? And, who would you bet on for the Masters, Tiger or the field?
BL: Tiger is the most dominant athlete in his sport. His come back at the Palmer Invitational was great but the guy he played against dropped three shots himself and for a player of Tiger’s caliber, a small error is enough for him to take advantage. He’s been rehabbing his knee and working out, and taking practice swings to shake the early cobwebs out. Tiger is known for making the big shots when he needs it like he lives for the moment. That’s what seperates the champs from the regular players. As far as the Masters, I would bet on Tiger. He has said he hasn’t felt this great in years and after a good show at the Palmer invitational, he should be ready to go.
JQ: Two things are swaying me here. One, you never bet against Tiger, because you never win. And two, you never bet against Tiger in ATD, because Jez has a man-crush on the master of that weird victory uppercut thing and will give you no points. In all seriousness, I am impressed that he won the Palmer Invitational. It was pretty obvious he wasn’t ready when he returned in that match play tournament, but that additional start seems to have put him in pretty good shape to at least contend at the Masters. Do I think we’ll see the best Tiger has ever played between April 9 and 12? No. But even pretty good Tiger is normally good enough to take the field, and with the two tournaments already to shake the cobwebs out, I’ll take Tiger.
ML: Tiger Woods has proven to us again that there is and never will be anyone on his level in the game of golf. After falling five shots behind Sean O’Hair going into Sunday, he showed us that no lead is safe when Tiger is in the field. This also proved to us that the other players tend to crack under pressure when they know that Tiger is creeping up on them. Even though he’s coming off knee surgery, I have almost come to expect this from Tiger. He seems to do it every time he’s within range of winning a tournament and with the Masters coming up, look out for another Tiger Show.
JJ: Everyone had pretty similar answers, but I’m giving the big 3 to Queally for putting a victory uppercut in his answer and noting that even a mediocre Tiger can win the Masters. Brandon and Mike, you both pointed out the pressure Tiger puts on opponents and how no one would be surprised if he won at Augusta – 2 points each.
Queally takes an unconventional yet dominant victory 8-7-4.