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Triple Championships: The Weekend In Sports


And now it's time for B.J. Leiderman's theme music.


SIMON: Oh, that always gets my heart racing. What a weekend - the Cleveland Cavaliers rocked by an injury to Kyrie Irving's knee, while Riley Curry's father is free to rain in the threes. The Chicago Blackhawks skate a game closer to the Stanley Cup, and American Pharoah is a long shot, but a betting favorite to win the Triple Crown. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us from Northern California, where he's covering the NBA Finals. Tom, thanks for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Always a pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: Pretty happy fans out there, huh.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) There's some final schadenfreude going on out here in the bay, Scott.

SIMON: You wouldn't say that if you were in Cleveland. That's such a Northern California word, schadenfrabla (ph), but go ahead, yes.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Yeah, and I'm sipping Chardonnay while I say that.

SIMON: (Laughter) Yes.

GOLDMAN: Although the decent Warriors fans won't publicly say they're happy that Cleveland all-star guard Kyrie Irving is out for good with a fractured kneecap, of course, confirmed, sadly, by an MRI yesterday, the indecent fans are openly licking their chops. With a healthy Irving to complement LeBron James, the Cavs could win this thing, Scott. Now, the odds are really stacked against them.

SIMON: Thanks to your intrepid reporting, I understand you have an insight as to how Golden State is going to handle Cleveland's - Cleveland having to rely on LeBron James more than ever.

GOLDMAN: Not so sure it was intrepid; I was just hanging out in the Golden State locker room before Thursday's game. But I did notice the Warriors hadn't yet covered up their whiteboard, listing keys to the game - number one, make LeBron a shooter. Now, Scott, that's not rocket science. He's been pretty bad shooting from outside during these playoffs. In fact, the Warriors made him shoot from outside and he burned them several times, but his last-second shot in regulation that would have won it and ended the game before Irving got hurt - oh, the possibilities - that shot, of course, missed. Going forward, he'll have to score a bunch, especially with Irving out. But he's also going to have to facilitate, which he does so well, as you know. He gets others involved offensively. He's got to do that because he needs help. He's the best, but one great player doesn't beat one great team like the Warriors, right? Right?

SIMON: You know, Cleveland rocks.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

SIMON: The WNBA has just begun their season and just in time for another potential scandal. Isaiah Thomas has been named the team's president. He's got a legal history that is - it's kind of unusual for a women's sports executive, doesn't he?

GOLDMAN: He was accused of sexual harassment when he was president and head coach of the New York Knicks in 2000...

SIMON: And, what, $11.5 million he settled in that suit?

GOLDMAN: There was a settlement, yeah, with Madison Square Garden for that. He's always denied the allegations. Now, as you say, he's back in New York as the president of a WNBA team. You know, the Liberties started the season well last night with a win over Atlanta, but the media were focused on Thomas. Protesters showed up, too, saying he's not qualified, quote, "to lead a community he has victimized."

SIMON: Here come the Hawks. What does Tampa Bay have to do to slow them down on their way to the Stanley Cup?

GOLDMAN: Speed up, which Tampa Bay does so well, normally. The Lightning are a fast, relentless team, and they were the first two periods of game one, but then Tampa Bay slowed. They really got passive and let Chicago possess the puck too much and the Hawks took full advantage, with two quick goals and a win. Tampa Bay wants to get back to its strength and play for three full periods, but, of course, the Blackhawks are very good, Scott, and might not let Tampa Bay play the way it wants.

SIMON: I'd count on that. American Pharoah runs for the Belmont Stakes later today, of course, he'd win the Triple Crown - been 37 years. Is he in a good position to win today?

GOLDMAN: You know, it's so hard winning three races in five weeks, especially when the last one today is so long - a mile and a half. None of these horses has raced that far. Plus you've got a Belmont field that includes fresher horses, ones that haven't raced the Preakness or the Derby. So when you combine all this, the odds are stacked against American Pharoah. But his veteran trainer, Bob Baffert, and others in the sport say this horse truly is special and that he can be the one. Many of us - those of us who have not bet on his competitors - will be rooting for him.

SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: My pleasure, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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