Add Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook to the growing list of stars absent from the playoffs. Fans have already had to endure playoff games without Kobe Bryant, Chicago's Derrick Rose and Golden State's David Lee. Westbrook had surgery to repair a torn meniscus and will miss the remainder of season. It's unfortunate because Westbrook brings relentless energy and what seems like an endless number of ways to ditch defenders on his way to the basket. He's a pure joy to watch and is the undisputed leader of the Thunder.
Without Westbrook in Game 3 of the Thunder's playoff matchup against the never-say-die Houston Rockets, Kevin Durant was forced to step out of his comfort zone and take more shots than he prefers--a total of 30 to be exact. Durant finished the game with a stellar 41 points to lead his team to a win. Game 4 without Westbrook will be even tougher and so will getting by any of the remaining teams in the West. But with Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha stepping up, you can't count the Thunder out--even if Coach Brooks continues to keep veteran stand-around specialist Derek Fisher in games for far too long.
UFC fighter Jon "Bones" Jones won his fight Saturday night in less time than it takes to brew a cup of coffee. In UFC 159, Jones took out Chael Sonnen in exactly 4 minutes and 33 seconds. If there was any doubt that Jones is the best, pound-for-pound, that should be settled now. Rumor has it that Anderson Silva, MMA's biggest star, now wants a piece of Jones. If that fight happens, I definitely want a ticket. If you haven't heard of Jones until now, check out this Breakfast Club interview. He's a pretty interesting guy.
The NFL draft is now over and I am so glad. I've never been a fan of the draft, I actually wrote about one of the many reasons why the draft is a turn-off for me, last year. The 2013 draft was fairly uneventful, mostly because there weren't any real "stars" to debate about, especially at the quarterback position. However, it was a deep draft with not much difference between 2nd- and 4th-round talent, which isn't a bad thing. Overall there were few real surprises beyond the NY Jets taking QB Geno Smith (and subsequently releasing media darling Tim Tebow) and the Philadelphia Eagles drafting QB Matt Barkley (who would have been the star of the draft had he entered last year rather than going back to school).
On a more serious note, yesterday, Washington Wizards center Jason Collins became the first active openly gay athlete in a major sport. He wrote a very touching story for Sports Illustrated explaining why he felt it was time to be open about his sexuality. In the piece, Collins talks about how difficult it was to come out to some of his family members like his twin brother, who is straight, and his grandmother, who is from a small town in Louisiana. He also expressed a desire to continue to play basketball--he's a 34-year-old who'll become a free agent on July 1.
It's nice to think that the world of pro sports is becoming an environment where folks can make a choice to come out. But I have to say the reaction for a more well known and more talented player in a major league will be much different, so we shouldn't compare or assume that this opens the door much wider. Also, we must remember that Dennis Rodman was openly bisexual during his basketball career and tennis star Amelie Mauresmo was an openly gay player. Former NBA player John Amaechi came out after his career was over and it didn't really move the dial on this issue. But times may be changing. Collins has already received lots of support from his fellow pros and it's great to see. We're wishing Collins the best.
Jessica Danielle is a professional speechwriter who covers sports with wit and ardor at Playerperspective.com.