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This Week In Sports: NBA's Next Big Star


Now time for sports.


SIMON: A 20-year-old from Slovenia scorching up the boards in the NBA. And Boston's Big Papi calls the Astros whistleblower a snitch. We're joined by ESPN's Howard Bryant. Good morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott. And how are you?

SIMON: I'm just fine, thank you. But let's start with the Dallas Mavericks, who thumped Orlando last night, 122-106. Luka Doncic scored 33 points. He's among the top players in the league right now, isn't he?

BRYANT: Yeah, he's terrific. And I think that's one of the great things about watching the NBA - is that as much as it's a team sport, and the games have been great, and you've got these wonderful teams who play great team ball, as the Warriors did for the past several years, Luka Doncic's an amazing talent. Twenty years old, really took a lot of people by surprise and traded on draft day and the whole thing. And - but you watch him. He's already had two classic battles with LeBron James this season. No matter who you want to put up there, if you're talking about Kawhi Leonard or you want to talk about LeBron or Anthony Davis or James Harden, he's just as good as any of those guys who are playing right now. And I think that he's another one of those guys where if you stop what you're doing when he's playing and then he's also one that you would pay to watch, a really terrific player.

SIMON: I have to ask you, moving to baseball, David Ortiz, Boston's Big Papi, said this week that Mike Fiers - and he's the former Astros pitcher who exposed the sign stealing operation - is, quote, "a snitch" for saying something after he won a World Series ring. Let me read what Big Papi said. He said, (reading) after you get your ring you decided - you decide to talk about it. Why don't you talk about it during the season when it was going on? Even down at spring training, what are your thoughts? There are a range of reactions among players, aren't there?

BRYANT: Well, quite a range of reaction on this one. One, I mean, David Ortiz - I've known David and covered him almost 20 years now. Very surprising, considering that David Ortiz was on the 2017 Red Sox, the team that got busted with the Apple watches against the Yankees. Those two teams were using it, and nobody on that team said a word. David Ortiz also came up through the steroid era when guys weren't saying anything. And so I thought that those were very, very strange and unfortunate comments on his part. And also, I think, too, that there's something wrong with the language if we're going to call players snitches in this type of gangster sort of language, which is, you know, it's just - I don't think there's a real place for it. And I think the other part of it, too, is I agree with what Bob Melvin, the Oakland A's manager said where he said, well, look. This has been going on long enough. It had to stop. What was he supposed to do?

SIMON: 'Cause you've been in spring training, do you have any concern that when Houston Astros get up at the plate, at least for the first few weeks, they're going to be targets?

BRYANT: I think there's a lot to be concerned about. We've already seen a few stories about need - about players needing extra security protection off of the field. There's already been all kinds of conversation about what's going to happen on the field...

SIMON: So it's not just a brushback pitch?

BRYANT: It's not just brushbacks. You had Josh Reddick with the Astros getting death threats. You've had Mike Fiers getting death threats. You've had the public go after these guys, their families, as well. And so it all seems a little bizarre and a little much, but these threats have been credible. I think keeping it on the field, I think that you are - Dusty Baker, the new manager of the Houston Astros, has already went to the commissioner and said, listen. You're going to have to watch this because it's going to be open season on these guys for what they did the last couple of years. But I think that the one thing about this, Scott, that really has surprised me as - have we learned nothing from the steroid era? - is the number of people in the game, especially the number of people in the game who are players who have said that this should have never happened in terms of Mike Fiers keeping this in-house, that he is somebody that shouldn't be celebrated and shouldn't be applauded for what he did.

SIMON: ESPN's Howard Bryant, thanks so much for speaking with us. Talk to you soon.

BRYANT: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ODDISEE'S "AFTER THOUGHTS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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