New York's playoff 'block party'; tennis teen to watch
Sports fans in the New York metropolitan area are enjoying some very special playoffs these days. Special because it's not everyday that teams sharing the same turf get to go at one another in post-season play. Yet in hockey the New York Rangers and Islanders are locked in a best-of-seven quarterfinal series, and in basketball, the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets are battling in a best-of-three, first-round NBA shootout.
Actually, the Islanders and Rangers have dated rather steadily in the playoffs, this being the fifth renewal of their Expressway Series. The Islanders, who are seeking to win a fourth straight Stanley Cup, took early control of the present series, winning the first two games by a combined 9-1 count. The Rangers fought back on their home, Madison Square Garden ice, however, tying things up before Game 5 Wednesday night.
The basketball counterpart to all this has been labeled the Tunnel Series, since the Lincoln and Holland tunnels form the connecting link between the Knicks' Manhattan home and Net country in the New Jersey Meadowlands. The series not only pits two up-and-coming young teams, but the first brothers to ever meet in NBA playoff action. Bernard King suits up for the Knicks, Albert King for the Nets. And what do they call home? Why Brooklyn, of course. H-e-r-e's Carling
First there was Chris Evert, then came Tracy Austin, Andrea Jaeger, and Kathy Rinaldi. Now comes Carling Bassett, the newest in the line of tennis's teen-age whiz kids. Carling, a 15-year-old rookie on the pro circuit, hails from Toronto and stars in ''Spring Fever,'' a recently released movie about a girl's quest to become a junior tennis champion. If that sounds like type casting, blame her father, John Bassett, the movie's producer and a former ranking Canadian player who owns the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits.
Carling's has already beaten quite a few established pro players, but her best match may actually be last Sunday's loss to Chris Evert Lloyd in the WTA Championships at Amelia Island, Fla. Bassett became the first opponent to take a set from Evert Lloyd on her home court in 49 matches, and led 4-2 in the final set before bowing 6-3, 2-6, 7-5. It was a game and heady effort that portends a very bright future. Stealing from Bandits
Six interceptions in a game? That's a lot for one team, and until now, an unheard-of feat for any pro player. Luther Bradley, however, changed all that when the Chicago Blitz defensive back picked off six passes in a recent United States Football League contest. Tampa Bay, it almost goes without saying, got blitzed, 42-3, as starter John Reaves was intercepted four times, Jimmy Jordan twice.
The Bandits couldn't easily throw away from Bradley, since he roamed the field from his free safety spot. Chicago Coach George Allen calls him ''a natural center fielder,'' and claims Bradley was playing out of position during four years as an NFL cornerback with the Detroit Lions.
Luther's six thefts, the fifth of which was returned 93 yards for a touchdown , broke the NFL mark of four interceptions in a game, shared by 15 players. In college ball, the only players to ever intercept six passes are Eddie Ray Watson of Arkansas-Pine Bluff in 1965 and Perry Bourn of Mt. Union (Ohio) College in 1968. Basketball normalization
College basketball, which was criticized for allowing too much experimentation with shot clocks and three-point baskets this past season, will keep things to a bare minimum next year. The NCAA rules committee plans to permit only two or three geographically separate conferences to experiment.
This retreat should not be interpreted as a failure for the various trial balloons.The idea is really to cut down on the confusing array of rules. Both the shot clock and three-point basket are actually gaining acceptance among coaches. In a survey of 700 coaches, 49 percent favored some type of shot clock and 45 percent supported the three-pointer. Ed Steitz, editor of the rules committee, says he sees ''the shot clock coming in.'' As for the three-pointer, the catch may be to find the magic distance.
The most significant across-the-board changes for next season will involve fouls and timeouts. To cut down on all the strategic fouling in a game's last two minutes, players fouled in the bonus situation will get two free throws instead of one-and-one. And to prevent long delays near the end of televised games, each team will have three, rather than five, timeouts. Touching other bases
* Now that hockey's St. Louis Blues have been sold to a group of Canadian businessmen, who plan to move the team to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, should the team be called the Saska Tunes?
* The National Basketball Association would like to see the post-season establish some sort of clear identity, a la the Super Bowl or World Series. Consequently the league is pushing hard to have the current playoffs known as Showdown '83. Yet it's hard to imagine the press or public latching on to this title, which seems little more than promotional window dressing.
* Soccer's international governing body hesitates to award the 1986 World Cup to the United States or Canada. One reason why may be the North American Soccer League, which is still rather shaky on the eve of its 17th season.The NASL actually had to back off and regroup after overexpanding to 24 teams in 1978. Team America, a squad of US players expected to form the nucleus of the national team, is a new entry which may pump interest into the league. Even so, the NASL now only has 12 franchises.