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Week In Sports: NBA Season Hits Halfway Point


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. You know what gets me through the week sometimes? The chance to say time for sports.


SIMON: Halftime in the NBA just a week away. The Lakers look like they could use a snooze. Hear about A-Rod's anti-aging clinic in South Florida; doesn't just take care of fine lines and wrinkles, and NPR Sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us now. Morning, Tom.


SIMON: And this first half of the season, my friend, the national media...

GOLDMAN: Including maybe us.

SIMON: We're a little bit in love with the Clippers, the Knicks and the Nets, and they've had awfully good seasons, but at this halfway point there are two unexpected teams turning heads.

GOLDMAN: I will steal the soccer term here. We've got two teams playing the beautiful game, one in the east, one in the west. The Denver Nuggets, and surprise, surprise, the old creaky, injured Boston Celtics are playing flowing, passing, running basketball at its finest.

Now, the Nuggets are on an eight-game win streak. Thursday, they finally got to show the country what they're about with a 128 - 96 stomping of a good Chicago Bulls team - sorry for that, Scott.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: And on TNT, and the Nuggets are loaded with talent. Big men and small men and some great veteran savvy with one of my favorite players, guard Andre Miller. They are unencumbered by a ball-stopping superstar. Don't forget the traded Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks two years ago.

Now actually, Scott, that's the one knock against this team is they don't have the go-to star who can win games at the end, but I'm hoping that proves to be bunk as we get into the playoffs because they're a team where several guys should be able to step up, and it would be really nice to see a team like that succeed in the post season.

SIMON: And, at the same time, the Boston Celtics are kind of thriving with the opposite, because one of their key players is gone. Rajon Rondo got himself all torn up on January 25th, but Boston's 6 - 0 without him.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, a bad knee injury. He's out for the season. Team official Danny Ainge was quoted as saying, "We're running better now because five guys are running. Honestly, I think we rely on Rondo too much." In fact, during the last off-season, the Celtics were devising ways to have the team succeed without being so dependent on Rondo, but let's be clear. He is supremely talented.

All of this beauty might not go for much when the playoffs come, assuming Boston is in the playoffs, because the post season in the NBA is more, you know, grind it out, half-court offense, and you want a guy like Rondo orchestrating that.

But Scott, what's happening now might help the team when he does return. The Celtics will be much more aware of the importance of not just standing around and waiting for Rondo to do something.

SIMON: Up in Pennsylvania, the family of Joe Paterno, the - I think we can fairly say, disgraced Penn State coach - is preparing to formally release a response to the Freeh Report. That's the devastating investigation that was released after the conviction of Jerry Sandusky.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. The Paterno family is doggedly determined to salvage the legacy of the man known as JoPa. As you mentioned, the Freeh Report blasted top officials at Penn State, including Paterno, for doing little or nothing to stand in Jerry Sandusky's way as he preyed on young boys for many years.

Now, Paterno died last January. His famous statue was removed from outside the stadium, his record number of wins vacated. But his wife, Sue Paterno, who calls the Freeh Report an extraordinary attack on her late husband, and she says his true legacy wasn't the statue or the wins, but the great fathers and husbands and citizens his former players have become.

The Paternos say they will present the full record of what happened in the Sandusky scandal tomorrow. Certainly we can expect it'll shine a much more favorable light on JoPa.

SIMON: Sandusky was sentenced last fall. Any emotion regarding the three others charged?

GOLDMAN: Former Penn State president, Graham Spanier; former athletic director, Tim Curley; and retired administrator, Gary Schultz, charged with numerous counts. Their trials have been delayed indefinitely.

SIMON: Major league baseball, again a lot of talk this week about performance-enhancing drugs. News of A-Rod's anti-aging clinic in Florida. Curt Schilling, the Boston great said a couple of people with the team tried to suggest he should take steroids. But also in baseball news this week, two relics from a time before steroids.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. A time when it took nine balls to walk a batter, or striker as they were called, and a time when men had very strange beards, Scott. But yes, cool stories. A nearly 150-year-old baseball card found in a yard sale in Maine was auctioned this week for $92,000. And the other item revealed this week, a baseball picked up from a field in Tennessee where soldiers fighting in the Civil War reportedly used it to play during a lull in the fighting.

SIMON: Oh, my gosh. You mean, this is like the Christmas Eve story, right, where they come out, the two armies play baseball?

GOLDMAN: It's an - yeah, exactly.

SIMON: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.