Happy July 1. Remember the mailbag — it's on July 4th this year — and get ready for a sneaky busy sports day.
And remember that Press Row will be from 1-3:30 p.m. on ESPN 105.1 and here at timesfreepress.com because the US-Belgium match will be on 105.1 starting at 4.
From the "Talks too much" studios, we think the Wheel of Fortune needs a new cheer: "We. Believe. We. Will. Spin."
NBA free agency
And they are off. Off there teams and off to find riches in different locales that could range from Milwaukee to L.A. to South Beach.
NBA free agency is here, and while it's every team for themselves, the players have formed alliances and consortiums that seem predestined to dictate the power structure of the league.
In Miami, the Heat are a team in flux, and whether that is acid reflux or the 1.21 gigawatt flux compacitor depends on what LeBron has cooking.
Follow along: The Heat have exactly one player under contract, and that's Norris Cole. They have the draft rights to LeBron's new BFF Shabbaz Napier. Other than that, it's miles of coastline and cap space in Miami.
LeBron opted out a week ago. Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem (no relation to the Tennessee governor) opted out of deals that were going to pay them way, Way, WAY above market value. Chris Bosh opted out and then left town.
Something is cooking. Reports have LeBron saying he wants to make max money, but for the Heat Big 3 to opt out and then tap out the salary cap without adding quality pieces doesn't compute with the previous moves. If anyone deserves max money, it's LeBron.
But there seems to be some disconnect along the way, and whether you believe in the new players/GM way of the modern NBA or you're against it, this will be interesting to watch, especially with reports out today that James, Wade and Bosh are going to sit back and wait to see what Miami does to add to the supporting cast before deciding whether to rejoin Miami or look around. That means adding several names quickly — and cheaply — before looking to use the team's various exception slots.
Pat Riley to the courtsey phone. Mr. Pat Riley to the courtesy phone please. Whether it's in Miami or on Mars, James now appears to be the league's best player, most visibile GM and clearly the league's most powerful hombre.
And while James has no shortage of suitors, but there are only seven teams — Miami, Dallas, the Lakers, Phoenix, Utah, Philly and Orlando — that currently have cap sapce for a max deal, and three more — Cleveland, Houston and Chicago — that have sounded interested could move pieces to get under the number.
But for all the big names and the potential blockbuster moves, here's saying all of the blue-chip stocks return to their current clubs, even Carmelo Anthony, who really wants to stay in New York.
So if Carmelo does not go to Chicago, the biggest name on the go may be Paul Pierce, who could be eyeing the Lakers.
Heading to the second half
We talked some Monday about closing the first half of 2014.
Wow, where did the year go? Do you know we are less than two weeks from SEC Media Days? Yes, less than two weeks.
The more we have thought about and debated this notion, we are going to kick this into Friday's mailbag to let it simmer.
Here are the official categories, and thanks to Stewwie for playing along yesterday:
Best athlete of first half:
Best team of the first half:
Best moment of the first half:
Best game of the first half:
Best coach of the first half:
MVP of the first half:
Favorite sports event of the first half:
Fans react as the U.S. almost scores a last-minute goal to tie during a screening of the USA vs Germany World Cup match at the Waterhouse Pavilion in Miller Plaza on Thursday in Chattanooga. Fans gathered to watch the match despite a noon EDT start time. Even after a 1-0 loss to Germany the U.S. will advance to the elimination round of the tournament.Photo by Doug Strickland.
And here we are. The Group of Death has passed. The U.S. is four wins from arguably the biggest upset in team sports since the 1985 NCAA title game or the 1980 hockey miracle.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Today is about Belgium and their waffles. The Belgi or Belgiraniums — we forget which — are talented and good.
But it's Belgium for crying out loud. Belgium. The had to break free from The Netherlands for crying out loud.
There are a tad more than 11 million Belgi living in less than 12,000 square miles of Belgiranium. Texas is 22 times bigger than Belgium. There are more people living in Ohio than Belgium.
But this is soccer, the world's great equalizer and one of the few things that gives the U.S. the warm and cozy underdog feeling.
So what will be the final words of encourgement from Jurgen, Jurgen, Jurgen? Will he go all Gipper? Will he go all Norman Dale and say we're way beyond big speech time now? Will he say take a dive in the box so we can get a free goal?
Anything is possible and everything is in the spectrum. And that's cool.
We have had some fun cracking wise on soccer — and for the love of your Tevas, Blaine, will you stop emailing us — but the ride of the U.S. soccer team has been great theater and an awesome trip.
Here's hoping it takes another turn, and we have the ol' national soccer ball to kick around for at least a few more days.
This and that
Atlanta Braves' Christian Bethancourt (25) beats New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (28) to the bag as he advances to second base on a B.J. Upton single in the seventh inning of a baseball game in Atlanta on Monday, June 30, 2014.
— The Braves ended June with a win that magnifies the state of the team. Atlanta scored four runs in the eighth — three of them were unearned mind you — to rally to beat a bad Mets team 5-3. The pitching was good, Freddie Freeman was stout and the Braves won despite going 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and leaving 11 runners on base. Good times.
— Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston reportedly purchased a $10 million insurance policy to cover his NFL future. He would get the $10 million if he gets hurt and can't play again or a chunk of that coin if he falls out of the first round because of injury or illness. Yahoo Sports reported that a policy like that costs about $60,000 a year. We're way beyond crab legs now.
— In other baseball news, 42-year-old Manny Ramirez hit a homer for AAA Iowa last night. In two games Ramirez is 3-for-8 with four RBIs. Here's video of his homer. Dude may be a cartoon character and his antics launched the phrase "Manny being Manny," but he and Miguel Cabrera are the best right-handed hitters of the last 30 years — and quite possibly on the Rushmore of right-handed hitters of all-time.
We're going to give you options on this Tuesday. Enjoy.
There's the Rushmore of right-handed hitters.
There's the first half ballot above.
There's a potential Rushmore of pregame speeches.
And if you still need more, we can discuss the interesting times the NCAA finds itself, considering the O'Bannon case is now being deliberated by the judge and the NCAA is re-opening the UNC academic scandal. And if the issue and the debate of the term student-athlete come under fire when it comes to paying players and or unions, then it is equally vulnerable from the other direction unless the NCAA acts strongly in the UNC case.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...