5/27/2011 at 1:30pm
Based on impressive TV ratings in the playoffs, both on ESPN and TNT, we gather that the NBA is becoming relevant again, and it is even beginning to matter in the neighborhood.
Beyond a handful of fans and a few others who venture over to the FedEx Forum when the Lakers or Celtics play in Memphis, Little Rock hasn't embraced the Memphis Grizzlies quite the way the Grizzles management might have hoped six years ago. but the Grizzlies hadn't won even one home playoff game in their history until this year, and their elimination of Western Conference favorite San Antonio and the seven-game series with Oklahoma City suddenly made Grizzlies basketball matter around here.
Plus, you have Oklahoma City's surge to the Western Conference finals against Dallas.
Within six hours driving time from Little Rock, you have three NBA teams that captured the nation's attention this spring with their performance in the playoffs. Now, we remember who Zach Randolph was and know he's a the cornerstone of bigger and better things in Memphis, and U.S.A. basketball team members Kevin Durant and Russell Westbook are the future face of the Western Conference.
In the Eastern Conference, Arkansans came to love and regularly follow the Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan thanks to Hamburg's Scottie Pippen being his running mate. Now, top Bulls reserve Ronnie Brewer Jr. gives Arkansans a local connection to Chi-town.
NBA All-Star Joe Johnson led Atlanta's upset of Orlando and the Hawks strong play early in the series against Chicago.
Derek Fisher's career is beginning to wind down with the Lakers, who are suddenly old and needing some new parts to pair with Kobe Bryant to contend again. Phil Jackson has surrendered his coaching chair to Mike Brown, who couldn't win a championship in Cleveland with LeBron James but managed to win 61 and 66 games WITHOUT Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh helping James along. The Lakers will be fine.
The Boston Celtics, though, might need a complete overall with so many key parts in their mid- to late 30s.
We're seeing the NBA changing of the guard, and Little Rock these days is smack dab in the middle of it.
Perhaps Verizon Arena will land an October exhibition game involving some of these NBA upstarts, now that the game matters again to the fans.
PRESIDENT BUSH'S APPEARANCE: only an invited group could attend President George W. Bush's visit to the first Tee of Central Arkansas on Friday, celebrating the facility's 10 years of existence, but the appearance is noteworthy for the state.
President Eisenhower was the first Commander in Chief to have a significant link to the game, and he was a member of Augusta National Golf Club, where the onetime chairman was Jack Stephens Sr. President Kennedy got the sticks out, though not as regularly as Ike, but was not until George H.W. Bush that a president was so linked to the game.
The senior Bush embraced the game, and the President's Cup was created with him in mind. He's brought the fighting spirit to the U.S. team in those matches.
Arkansas' bill Clinton made the mulligan popular as he too enjoyed the company of friends on the golf course.
Now, we welcome Bush the younger to Little Rock for his first look at what is easily one of the top five first Tee facilities in the nation. The practice facility, open to all, has been ranked in Golf Digest's leading practice sites in the U.S.
PRO BASKETBALL IN CONWAY: we told you a few week back about the fledgling Little Rock Lightning franchise in the American Basketball Association and its plans to begin play this fall. Games are planned for Little Rock Hall's Cirks Arena. Most of the 70 or so franchises in the ABA now steer clear of large arenas with large rent payments in favor of smaller high school or college gyms.
Conway, we learn, will also have a team in the ABA this fall, with tryouts soon to be announced. The Conway franchise will play 15 home games at Hendrix College.
HOG ELIGIBILITY: By now, you've read Otis Kirk on this site or heard that four of Arkansas' signees from the last John Pelphrey signing class are reportedly eligible for the fall.
The fifth signee, Little Rock Parkview's Aaron Ross, needs a higher ACT score. He's being allowed to take the test administered orally and untimed.
Arkansas will surrender a scholarship due to the recent NCAA ruling on the university's APR figures, but that won't come until the next season. The Razorbacks will have 14 players on scholarship, if Ross gains his entrance score, but scholarship spots for only 13 (and only 12 in 2012-13).
Of the incoming freshmen, guards B.J. Young and Rashad Madden and forward Hunter Mickelson are on campus now. forward Devonta Abron of Seagoville, Texas, plans to arrive on campus in July.
Tagged: Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies, NBA, Derek Fisher, Scottie Pippen, Joe Johnson, Ronnie Brewer, B.J. Young, Aaron Ross, Hunter Mickelson, Rashad Ky Madden, Devonta Abron, Little Rock Lightning, ABA
<a href="http://www.arkansassports360.com/25052/jims-notebook-on-the-nba-presidents-and-golf-and-more-basketballtag:news.google.com,2005:cluster=http://www.arkansassports360.com/25052/jims-notebook-on-the-nba-presidents-and-golf-and-more-basketballFri, 27 May 2011 18:34:06 GMT 00:00">Jim's Notebook: On the NBA, Presidents and Golf, and More Basketball - ArkansasSports360.com