Traffic picked up a bit in the second week of my new Mailbag. There were questions about all four of the major sports – the NBA, baseball, the Bills and Sabres. I’m saving the Sabres question for later.
Several respondents had a little sport with yours truly. I was asked why I was so negative, how it felt to be the worst sports writer in the country, plus the usual flurry of lame attempts at comedy. I’ll spare you those.
But I appreciate anyone who takes the time to give me an honest rip on social media. As the Glenn Close character says after boiling the rabbit on the stove in the film “Fatal Attraction,” I will not be ignored.
Direct your trenchant questions and comments to my Twitter account (@TBNSully) or my Buffalo News email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barry Sullivan (@SinisterSully) asks: Do the Spurs have what it takes to make it to the NBA Finals or does their age finally catch up to them?
Sully: I’m not related to this person, who could be my evil twin. He clearly understands my affinity for the Spurs. I do worry about the defending NBA champions, though it was a relief when they held off the Clippers, 111-107, in overtime Wednesday to square the first-round series at a game apiece.
It’s troubling to know that Tony Parker left Game Two with five minutes left in regulation with a tight right Achilles. Parker tweaked his ankle in Game One and was slowed by a bruised quadriceps.
The Spurs are a deep, resilient team. Tim Duncan, who turns 39 on Saturday, had 28 points and 11 rebounds in Game Two against D’Andre Jordan, who was third in voting for Defensive Player of the Year. Duncan reminds me of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when he was MVP of the Finals at 38 in 1985.
Duncan said he’s worried about Parker, too. The Spurs aren’t the same team without their veteran point guard, a former NBA Finals MVP. But Parker has struggled to stay healthy in recent years. He scored only one point in Game Two and wasn’t getting elevation on his shot.
Patty Mills was spectacular in relief of Parker, scoring 18 points in 19 minutes, including eight in overtime. But Parker is better at breaking down defenses and creating in the half-court offense. They’re vulnerable if he’s hobbled.
This is a tough matchup for San Antonio. The Clippers have two superstars, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Griffin has been the best player in the series. He had 29 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in Game Two, though he committed a big turnover late in regulation.
Despite Parker’s injury, I still like the Spurs. They have a much better bench and will improve from three-point range after shooting 31 percent in the first two games. Jordan’s poor free-throw shooting (he missed 11 in Game Two) is a big problem for L.A.
People have been writing off the Spurs for years. I’ve learned not to underestimate them. They’re still the team to beat, but only if the geezers stay healthy for the next two months.
Bob asks: Do the Bills go after Philip Rivers?
Sully: In a word, Bob, “No.” It’s understandable if Bills fans are desperate for help at the game’s most important position, but come on. Terry Pegula can’t solve every problem by simply waving his wallet or drilling a well.
Rivers is in the last year of his contract and won’t sign an extension because he’s worried about the Chargers relocating to L.A. There are rumors that San Diego will trade him to the Titans for the second pick in the draft and use it on quarterback Marcus Mariota.
That’s the sort of deal the Bills might have considered if they hadn’t traded this year’s No. 1 pick for Sammy Watkins – trading up for a quarterback, that is. As Doug Whaley said at the draft luncheon, they don’t have a proven franchise QB, which didn’t reflect well on EJ Manuel.
It would be nice to have an elite QB while the defense is still at its peak. But they can’t afford it. Rivers will command $20 million or more this season. They would need to restructure Mario Williams’ contract, among other things, to fit him in.
What would it take to get him? Whaley admitted they’re running out of ammunition for trades and becoming top-heavy on their salary structure. It could be a one-year rental if Rivers doesn’t agree to an extension. So it makes no sense.
Thefoolfromhere asks: Now that Terry Pegula is the owner of the Bills, could you please ask him if he has any plans to remove O.J. Simpson’s name from the Wall of Fame at Ralph Wilson Stadium?
And are there any plans to rename it “Ralph Wilson Memorial Stadium?” Instead of naming it to memorialize a millionaire, how about raising awareness for a worthy cause? Why not “Hunter Kelly Memorial Stadium?”
Sully: Fair questions. I called for Wilson to take Simpson’s name off the wall about eight years ago, around the time O.J. wrote a book about how he “might have” killed Nicole. I’ll bring it up to Terry (or how about Kim?) the next time they grant me an audience.
The Hunter Kelly thought is a noble one. But I don’t see changing the name again. Wilson brought the team to Buffalo and kept it here for 50 years. He did what it took to ensure the team’s long-term existence here. So Ralph Wilson Stadium is fine with me.
Kevin asks: Now that you’ve seen the NFL schedules, have your thoughts about possible number of wins changed? There is a really tough, mostly road stretch there, late October through November.
Sully: Kevin sounds like an objective reader, rather than a diehard Bills fan. I picked the Bills 9-7 when the schedule came out. Judging by the response, you would have thought I picked them to go 2-14.
Generally, I don’t put much stock in when the games are played. But the early games could be troublesome. Marcell Dareus might be suspended for his off-field antics. The Bills could be without their Pro Bowl defensive tackle for the first two games against the Pats and Colts – who met in the AFC title game last season.
No Big Deal (@jimgfe2009) asks: Can the Bills run at least one play from scrimmage before you write the season off? #relax.
Sully: As I was saying … I am relaxed, Jim. It’s “writing them off” to predict a team without a proven quarterback will win nine games? The Bills haven’t won more than nine games since the 1999 season. As I said, it’s kind of silly to pick games in April. I might amend my prediction later. It’s only sports. You fans are the ones who should lighten up.
Jack asks: How many TD passes did Brady throw in the two Super Bowl losses? Brady is the best quarterback playing today, but is not a Montana.
Sully: Jack, Brady is the best ever. I don’t have enough space to give you a full and persuasive argument. But if it’s a crime to get to six Super Bowls and win only four in the salary cap era, then Brady is guilty. If you think Montana would have done the same, that’s your right. Now, name five of Brady’s wide receivers in Super Bowls.
Oh, Brady threw three TDs in the two Super Bowl losses and averaged 271 yards passing in those games.
Kevin Lafferty asks: So, with the additions of Joe Maddon, Jon Lester and two of the top prospects in the game, are the Cubs contenders or are we still a few years away?
Sully: I picked them to win the wild card and Joe Maddon for manager of the year. So yes, I believe this is the year. They got off to an 8-6 start, despite Lester going 0-2 with a 6.89 ERA. He’ll come around. Kris Bryant is up and hitting his stride. And they have one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball in Jake Arrieta, who is 12-6 with a 2.44 ERA since the start of last season.