It takes a lot to top Dolphins-Patriots on the local sporting calendar because it’s such an interesting matchup. I don’t mean division rival vs. division rival with playoff stakes. I don’t mean Tom Brady vs. Ryan Tannehill, either. I mean their player indicted for murder vs. our two involved in Bullygate in a battle of NFL off-field distraction leaders.
We can top that, though.
It’s called Heat-Pacers II, and it is this Wednesday night in Miami, just one week after the teams’ first of four regular-season meetings was won 90-84 by host Indiana.
The quick rematch finds Miami desperate to win and stem the tide of consensus belief that Indy has overtaken the two-time champions as the East’s best team. “Desperate” is my word, not theirs. No self-respecting champ admits to desperation, but that is part of the dynamic that makes this rivalry fascinating.
Oops. I said rivalry.
“What is a rivalry these days?” LeBron James pondered this week, denying that Heat-Pacers was one.
It is one. It is the best the Heat has these days, because Indiana is the one team that thinks it is better than Miami, and the one team able to put those thoughts in the Heat’s minds.
The reason is Pacers center Roy Hibbert, who is approximately the size of one of Micky Arison’s cruise ships if you set it on end.
Miami has nobody to match up against Hibbert well, nobody currently playing.
The secret weapon, of course, is the rehabilitating project named Greg Oden, in clandestine development behind curtains like a sneakered Frankenstein.
Would Odenstein make a difference against the Pacers and Hibbert?
“We hope so,” LeBron said, and then he repeated the phrase.
And so here you have a Heat fan’s greatest hope and greatest fear as Heat-Pacers II approaches, and they are one in the same. They both involve the player who has had far more knee surgeries than healthy seasons. The player who has not yet played this season and has no timetable for his debut.
The great hope is being able to count on Greg Oden.
The great fear is having to.• Golden Globe nominations came out, and I thought Urban Meyer’s was well deserved for his challenging portrayal of an Ohio State coach thrilled to be in the Orange Bowl game.
• The Panthers had a bobblehead night Friday honoring former goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck, who improbably led Florida to the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals. The warmth of that memory is exceeded only by the sadness of realizing the Cats have not won a playoff series since.
• That reminds me, the Panthers had 15 standings points in their first 16 games under Peter Horachek, following 10 in 16 games before the coaching change. Around here, we see progress wherever we can!
• If this is the season for being thankful, I’d imagine plenty of Dolfans gave thanks last week that Steelers receiver Antonio Brown wasn’t born with slightly smaller feet.
• Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is red-faced after controversially benching quarterback Robert Griffin III for the rest of the season. I don’t mean embarrassed. I mean Shanahan’s complexion is surreally red.
• Seemed strange that gay former figure skater Johnny Weir, part of NBC’s broadcast team for the Sochi Olympics, criticized those protesting Russia’s anti-LGBT laws. Seems less strange now that I know Weir has been on the payroll of the Russian Consulate in New York City. Hmm.
• Logan Morrison and Justin Ruggiano were traded by the Marlins this week. Morrison’s time here was a disappointment beset by injuries. However, he did consistently lead the team in tweets.
• Pete Carroll just woke from a nightmare in a cold sweat. Dreamed quarterback Russell Wilson abruptly retired from the Seahawks and joined the Texas Rangers’ farm system.
• Detroit receiver Nate Burleson said a homeless man heckled him during a charity appearance. Coincidentally, the Lions and the homeless have won the same number of NFL championships since 1957.
• We’re six days from the four-team men’s Orange Bowl Basketball Classic in Sunrise featuring the Gators and Seminoles. They would have included the Canes, too, but that would have made too much sense.
• The Orange Bowl International junior tennis championships are under way. I didn’t need anybody to tell me. I could hear all of the boorish parents loudly berating the chair umpire and linesmen.
• Tour de France cheater and fraud Lance Armstrong complained in an interview that he was a victim of “selective prosecution.” I’d call Lance a clueless dirtbag, except I know several clueless dirtbags who would be justifiably insulted by the comparison.
• It has come to my attention there is an LPGA player named Sandra Gal. I wonder if she ever met punter Ray Guy?
• Parting thought: NFL legend Jim Brown said on the Arsenio Hall Show that Kobe Bryant is “confused” about black culture. Biggest surprise there? That Arsenio Hall is back on the air.
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