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Saturday Sports: Baseball gets new uniforms, Messi makes his Miami debut

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: NBA hits mid-season - kerthunk (ph) - MLS, the return of Messi mania, and baseball's new uniforms. Hey, Skip, you signaling me to bunt? Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media joins us. How are you, Howard?

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott Simon. How are you?

SIMON: Fine, thanks. Let's begin with basketball. Halfway through the NPR regular - NPR - NBA regular season. Boston Celtics seem dominant in the East. But in the West, Minnesota, Oklahoma City and, of course, reigning champs Denver Nuggets. What have we learned from the first half?

BRYANT: Well, the first thing we learned is that the Boston Celtics are - they are the best team in the league. And it just adds to the pressure. You've got three things in the East, really, that we're talking about. If you start with the Celtics, they are trying to do something that is very, very difficult to do, and that is to shoot as many threes as possible and still win an NBA championship. It's never happened. And no team has ever led the league in three-point attempts and been last in two-point attempts and actually won the championship. But that's what the Celtics are doing. That's their strategy.

And they're also up against it. They have been very, very good for a very long time. They've been to five - they've been to four conference championships and one NBA finals since 2017 but have not brought home the 18th championship. Then you've got your favorite over there, Milwaukee - the best team, supposedly.

SIMON: Fear the deer.

BRYANT: They go out and they get Damian Lillard.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: Exactly. They go out and they get Damian Lillard. And they've got Giannis Antetokounmpo. And they fired their coach with a 30 and 13 record - Adrian Griffin. He's out. They bring in Doc Rivers. And now they're 6 and 8 since Doc Rivers came back. And then, of course, there's Philadelphia. Joel Embiid injured. If he comes back, back to a title contender. And then, of course, there's the West. I still have the feeling Minnesota's a great team. The Clippers are actually back - very good team. I just still get the feeling that when it's go time, the defending champions, Denver Nuggets, are going to be there. And then, of course, the biggest story in the NBA is the tallest guy in the league...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...Victor Wembanyama, who is amazing. I'm in Los Angeles, saw him against the Lakers last night. And my goodness. He's the future. He's the present. He's the everything.

SIMON: Quick question. NBA All-Star game. Got some complaints. I think the final score is 300 to 275. Is it really a competitive game?

BRYANT: It's not a competitive game. Every sport has their all-star game problem, Scott. But the biggest problem that the NBA is really concerned with right now is that they're not even hiding it right now. They're not even trying. There were three fouls called in the whole game. And you just start to wonder if it's not even going to give the appearance of the best players trying to play, why do we do this? And I think the NBA's got a real issue with what to do with that going forward. And then, of course, the big difference is, Scott, back in the old days when we were growing up, those players had to win. They had to win to earn the big money. Now they've already got the big money. So what's the motivation? What's my motivation, Scott?

SIMON: What's my motivation, Director? Major League Soccer back. Lionel Messi, of course, the overwhelming star. Look, Copa America comes here this summer, World Cup - this is a good time - in two years. Good time to be a U.S. soccer fan, isn't it?

BRYANT: Absolutely. And you've got Messi here. And it is a Pele type of thing, to be honest. You've got maybe the greatest player of all time here, certainly the best player of his era, along with some of the other ones, especially Cristiano Ronaldo and some of the - you know, the greats. But this is Lionel Messi. He's here. He's - in fact, he's here. He's in Los Angeles playing the Galaxy. And if you've got a chance to see him, you know, one of the all-time greats, it sort of reminds me of - I just realized I hadn't seen LeBron James play live in very - a lot of years. So did you get a chance to see that in person, go do it.

SIMON: Just in a few seconds, what do you think of the new MLB uniforms?

BRYANT: I think they're see-through. Can baseball get it right, Scott? Outsourced to fanatics. This is a bit of an embarrassment. You know, it's just baseball being baseball. Get it right. Let's play some ball.

SIMON: Yeah. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media, thanks so much for being with us.

BRYANT: My pleasure, Scott. 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.