Lance Stephenson blew in LeBron James' ear during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. So what? It was hilarious.
Lance Stephenson blew in LeBron James' ear during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. So what? It was hilarious.

Sports needs its clown princes

The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers are playing in Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals tonight, and all eyes are on Pacers guard Lance Stephenson, and it has little to do with basketball.

Hall of Famer and Pacers president Larry Bird told Stephenson to stop pestering LeBron James with his extracurricular antics – which reached its pinnacle in Game 5 with "The Blow."

Here’s the thing: it’s harmless, and it’s definitely funny. And, even if James turned around and cold-cocked Stephenson, it’s still a harmless act, and frankly it would make it even funnier.

I tend to lean more "old school" when it comes to the things players do on the court or field nowadays, but I also realize it’s a game, and it’s meant to be fun. And, in that fun, characters develop.

If Stephenson is a goofball who wants to do goofy things, who cares?

I mean, his flop against the Heat was hilarious. And he knew it was hilarious.

Call Stephenson a clown if you want, but every sport needs its clown princes.

Well done, Bucks fans
I was at the meet and greet between fans and new Milwaukee Bucks owners Wes Edens (left, black vest) and Marc Lasry (right, black hoodie) Thursday night at McGillycuddys on Water Street, and I have to give those guys credit – when they said they were going to shake hands and mingle, they meant it.

I’ve been to plenty of these things where the "guest of honor" shakes hands on the beeline right to the VIP deck, and there they sit and wave or maybe lean over a guardrail to offer a pound, but that’s it. No, these guys cracked some cold ones and pressed the flesh.

The Bucks fans in attendance deserve some credit here, too. Some of them, no doubt, had been there since work let out and the owners didn’t arrive until 8 p.m. But there were no heckles, or inappropriate comments shouted out (that I heard or witnessed, at least). It seems like a small thing to ask for, but nowadays, when one knucklehead can ruin the reputation of many, it was nice to …

The annual NBA Draft Combine was held on Chicago's west side at Quest Multisport.
The annual NBA Draft Combine was held on Chicago's west side at Quest Multisport. (Photo: Jim Owczarski)

NBA Draft Combine proves a unique experience

CHICAGO – Shouts and claps of encouragement, along with the clang of steel on steel, echoed over a black, curtained partition into the media workroom at the Quest Multisport as NBA draft hopefuls pushed weights in an effort to impress front office personnel at the NBA Draft Combine.

Out in the gym, on a side court, players shuffled and sprinted through lasers, their times quadruple-checked by hand as well. On the main court, players worked through drills with NBA assistant coaches, working on one-on-one skills and in two-on-two and three-on-three settings with players of similar height, build and skill set.

This NBA Draft Combine, a staple of the off-season evaluation process, was severely damaged by the decision of the likely top three picks – Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid – to skip the event altogether. Other potential top picks Julius Randle, Dante Exum and Marcus Smart eschewed the group work, but did interview with teams and participated in the agility tests.

That said, nearly 60 others worked out in front of hundreds of people who will determine their professional future in late June, and it was an interesting experience to take in.

The players themselves didn’t find the process too odd – it looked like any kind of workout or camp they would had participated in their entire lives.

Some things were different, of course.

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay center Alec Brown said he’s worked with a mental coach leading up to the combine and his individual workouts, to steel himself against showing any sort of dissatisfaction with himself for a poor shot. Exum said he’s learned to mind the little details – like if he chews gum during a game, to chew gum during his workouts. Smart relished the entirety of it, saying it was an opportunity to sell himself to anyone who wanted to be sold on him.

Coaches were looking closely, too. They looked at footwork defending a ball screen, and how did they shoulder into that screener. Converse…

Snoop Dogg performed at the 2014 Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis. (Photo: Jim Owczarski)

Walking in Memphis, appreciating Summerfest

Over the weekend, I spent four great days in Memphis, Tenn., in part to take in the 2014 Beale Street Music Festival. I had a great time in the city, but it reinforced just how special Summerfest is as a music event.

On a cultural level, Milwaukee can't match Memphis in a few ways. We can't match the history of the blues, soul and rock and roll that Sun City and Stax Records have. The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered, is moving. There is nothing like Graceland.

And of course, there isn't anything like Memphis barbecue here.

But when it comes to festivals, the Beale Street event made me (once again) realize how good we have it here in Milwaukee at Summerfest.

General admission tickets are three to four times cheaper at the Big Gig. While there are no secondary stages that require special ticketing, like the BMO Harris Pavilion and the Marcus Amphitheater, the grounds were small and contained three "big" stages with only one additional "blues" stage.

Like Summerfest, the organizers at Beale Street booked a diverse lineup, ranging from Snoop Lion to Kid Rock to Patti LaBelle to Pretty Lights to Anthrax and a group called The String Cheese Incident.

But, the event was contained to the evening and into the late night (though I did appreciate the ability to stay real late with some acts opening up after midnight on Friday and Saturday). A friend we traveled with remembered her first trip to Beale Street when it rained for three days, which got messy on the grass-covered grounds. So, having a paved surface to walk around here is an underrated amenity.

While the food was good (and there were several vegetarian options), someone who's been to Summerfest for eight years gets kind of spoiled with all of the food stands on the grounds, not to mention bathrooms that aren't portable.

One thing that did stand out was the lack of violence in the crowd. Not a year goes by that I haven't seen at least one nasty fis…