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Saturday Sports: NBA playoffs; a delayed Major League Baseball debut

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Star-studded NBA playoffs in the offing. A big star ruminates on success and failure. And a major league debut long delayed. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media joins us. Howard, thanks for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Wow. But first, that talent-laden Golden State Warriors roster - they're on the brink of elimination - game seven tomorrow against Sacramento. What do you look for?

BRYANT: Game seven, what can you do except sit back and just enjoy an incredible series? And it's a great thing. You've got the Warriors, who are the defending champions. They're the dynasty. They're the aging dynasty, against these kids from Sacramento. Light the beam, which goes up in the sky at the arena every time they win. Who would have thought that they would have lost home court advantage and then come back and destroyed the Warriors in San Francisco last night? So we've got a great series, and it's going to come down to one game. It really is, Scott, one of those old cliches where you've got the heart of a champion versus the up-and-coming kids who - they didn't even make the playoffs last year, but De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk and this team has really captured the hearts of that town. And boy, they are very, very good. And I have no prediction, of course, except for the fact that I will be there. That is the one prediction I can make. I'll be there to watch.

SIMON: And rest of the field?

BRYANT: And the rest of the field. Yeah. Well, the rest of the field's moved on. The rest of the field - we've got Miami and the New York Knicks. What is it, 1999 all over again? We've got the great, great rivalry of the Celtics and the Sixers resuming once more. You've got the one seed in the West, Denver, going up against Kevin Durant and the Suns. And then, of course, the Lakers clinched last night. So the Lakers are awaiting whoever is going to win this Golden State-Sacramento game. So it's an unbelievable setup, stars everywhere. And the NBA must be doing cartwheels because they've gotten everything they've wanted this postseason so far.

SIMON: Yeah. I've got to ask you. They sheared the deer.

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: (Laughter).

SIMON: The Milwaukee Bucks didn't make the cut, but their big star, Giannis Antetokounmpo, had this to say postgame when a reporter, who may now regret his question, asked if losing the series meant the season was a failure. Here's his reply.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANTETOKOUNMPO: It's a wrong question. There's no failure in sports. You know, there's good days, bad days. Some days, you are able to be successful. Some days, you're not. Some days, it's your turn. Some days, it's not your turn. And that's what sport's about. You don't always win.

SIMON: Oh, I love that. He also pointed out Michael Jordan won only six championships. Were all those other seasons failures?

BRYANT: Yeah, exactly. Does that make you a nine-time failure? I mean, only Bill Russell can sort of say that, I played 13 years and won 11 championships. I love what Giannis said. But you also have to think about what happened to the Bucks this year. They were the best team in the league. They worked really hard to get the one seed. You know, you're not supposed to lose to the 18. You're not supposed to lose to a team that played in the play-in. I love what Giannis said. Derek Jeter, when I covered the Yankees, used to say this every single season. If we don't win the World Series, then the year is a failure. You hear that all the time in sports. And I love the fact that Giannis brought a little bit of balance to it. But there is also no getting around one thing. Is Giannis Antetokounmpo a failure in life? Absolutely not. But was this season a massive major disappointment to the Milwaukee Bucks also? It really was. It's - there's sort of no way around that. And also, the incredibly sad news that just came out yesterday that the coach Mike Budenholzer's brother was killed in a car crash during that series, and he did not disclose that. And that is very, very sad.

SIMON: NHL playoffs. Let me just ask you, how is it the invincible Boston Bruins are on the brink of elimination by the Florida Panthers?

BRYANT: Incredible. It's stunning. This is one of the reasons, Scott, we talk about these great, great teams and why, you know, how hard it is to win. You go the entire season. You destroy the competition. You win 65 games out of 82 games, and now you're playing a winner-take-all tomorrow in Boston. You got to win one game, but if you don't, an incredibly sad season for the Bruins. And you just can't go down like this. But this is why we watch, and this is why we play the game.

SIMON: Finally, Drew Maggi, Pittsburgh Pirate, made his Major League debut. He's 33 years old, 13 years in the minors. I love this story.

BRYANT: Amazing story. It's the stuff they make movies of. It's just fantastic. Hold on to those dreams, man. It's a cliche, but it's true.

SIMON: Yeah, it's wonderful. And he got an ovation. I think, you know - And I hope he has a career, but it was great that he just made it there. Thanks, Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media.

BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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.