Diamonds Gems by Sid Diamond | I’d like to start this week with a respectful tip of the hat to Terry Lanni, the head honcho of the MGM enterprises, as his corporation decided to pay all the Monte Carlo employees while they were out of work for a few weeks because of the unfortunate fire at the hotel. Not only did they get their base salaries, but they even got their lost toke money.
This action reminds me of the late great Bill Bennett, owner of the Circus Corp. Now Mr. Lanni belongs in that very select group of superstar leaders with total understanding, respect and compassion for their employees, regardless of their positions in their company. Mr. Bennett, as some of you may remember, sent free lunch wagons to the striking employees of the Frontier Hotel as they walked with picket signs on the sidewalks of the Strip. It presented a dark cloud in our feelings between the little guys and administrators of all hotels in our town. When discussing absolute "class" in Las Vegas, these two men have to be acknowledged first and foremost.
A few weeks ago I wrote a column on the leading contenders for the NBA championship. Several unbelievable trades have occurred since then and taking a second look becomes necessary.
The overall factor that comes to mind is the West, which was dominant, has now gotten stronger and the lowly East has gotten weaker. At this time it’s too early to evaluate who has got enough to win it all, but with all due respect to the San Antonio Spurs, I now believe the Los Angeles Lakers are the team to beat.
It hurts me to admit this fact, but with the addition of Gasol, an all pro from Memphis, and the anticipated return of budding superstar Bynum, I see no weakness in the team. Given that Kobe with a large chip on his shoulder is the best player in the league, and Fisher the point guard is having a super year, along with power forward Odom, I can’t see any team that can match up with them man for man. Additionally, their bench will become the strongest in the league by far with a few names I can’t pronounce or spell but I know they can hit 3’s.
With Shaq going to the Suns he’ll help with rebounding and toughness, but his day has come and gone as the most dominating big man in basketball. The addition of Jason Kidd to the Mavericks is not the answer for that team, as they had as good a point guard in Harris and didn’t solve their weakness of a big man who can rebound so Nowitzki is freed up to play around the foul line.
Now if they would have gotten Gasol I’d make them the favorite to win the championship. The one unknown is how much help Kurt Thomas will give Tim Duncan and the Spurs to have them repeat as champs. He’s a good player, but just like the rest of us he’s passed his prime and his playing time will be restricted. In summary, I’m going to hate myself in the morning, but I’ve got to bet the Lakers at 5-1 to win it all.
Before we get into the selections for this week I highly recommend two long shot teams to win the NCAA tournament. Take a shot with Tennessee at 15-1 as they perhaps can outscore anybody if they get in a groove. Louisville at 25-1 is a definite overlay as they are as good as anybody in their conference and most importantly play superior defense. If either of these teams make the "Elite 8" you’ll show a profit and I believe either has a chance.
This week’s picks:
Suns at Memphis – Suns big as Memphis is playing for the No. 1 pick in the draft; Suns are playing for the No. 1 record.
Ohio State at Indiana – Indiana not only has a better team but also the latest updated cell phones.
Tennessee at Vandy – How high can they go? Over.
Minnesota at Toronto – Timberwolves have the same incentive as Memphis. Raptors big.
So. Miss at Houston – All offense, no defense. Over.
St. Johns at Georgetown – Under: St. Johns won’t break 20 at the half.
Wash. St. at Cal - Which team will get out of the 60s? Under.
Knicks at Hawks – "Get real" … Hawks by a mile.
St. Bonnie at St. Louis – Neither Saint’s can score. Under.
North Carolina at Boston College – B.C. will run with them. Over.
Memphis at So. Miss – good parlay, visitor and over.
TCU at UNLV – Home team by double digits: UNLV.
Dallas at Lakers – Kobe makes Kidd look like a kid; bet LA.
Duquesne at NC Charlotte – Up and down all over town … over.
(Go visit Payday Loan to obtain more bullets!)
Golden State at Atlanta – Fire a few rounds on the over.
Go back to Payday Loan. You’ll need it for the conference tourneys are coming up this week.
Have a great week!