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Saturday sports: MLB lockout ends; NFL makes big trades; Spurs' Popovich sets record


And now it's time for sports.


FOLKENFLIK: It took a while, but baseball is back, a massive trade shakes up the NFL, and a huge record broken last night in the NBA. Joining us now is Howard Bryant from Meadowlark Media. Good morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: David, how are you?

FOLKENFLIK: Great. Great now. I mean...

BRYANT: (Laughter).

FOLKENFLIK: After 99 days, MLB's lockout came to an end on Thursday. For a while, it looked like there was going to be no end in sight. What can you tell us about the deal between the league and baseball's players?

BRYANT: Well, I think for the things that fans care about, which is what the game is actually going to look like on the field, I think - so when the - you're finally not going to be playing under four different sets of rules anymore, which we've been doing for the last several years obviously. The designated hitter is no more in the National League. It's had - it had survived for 150 years without it. The American League had had it since 1973. And now, both teams - your pitchers are no longer hitting, which is music to the ears of some fans and a loss of strategy for others. And I think that that's a - that's probably one of the biggest things on the field.

Also, there is the discussion to legislate shifts where you're going to essentially have a legal defense in baseball, but that's not until next season.


BRYANT: Normally, baseball fans would say, hey, hit the other way. There's nobody standing over there.


BRYANT: But it has changed how people watch the game. You're going up to 12 teams in the playoffs, up from 10. And that's a big deal considering that this is not the NBA. This is not the National Hockey League where virtually, you know, half the league...

FOLKENFLIK: Everybody wins.

BRYANT: ...Makes the playoffs.


BRYANT: And it - so it really does make you wonder what the value of a 162-game season is going to be when so many teams make the playoffs, so that's going to switch the balance as well. The last couple of years where we've seen seven-inning doubleheaders, that is no more. And so is - say goodbye to the short-lived invisible man on second base in extra innings. So if you really, really crave those 15, 18-inning marathon games, they're back. So...


BRYANT: All in all, it's good that the sport is coming back, and these two sides had to show some diplomacy to get this game back on the field.

FOLKENFLIK: A lot of shifts in how players will be assigned on the field. Speaking of shifts, there's some big news in the NFL this week as well. Tell us about those.

BRYANT: I mean, only if you think that Aaron Rodgers getting a (laughter) $200 million contract is big news. Absolutely. It was very unclear whether or not Aaron Rodgers was - you know, what he - what was he going to do? Was he going to retire? Was he going to move? So the Packers said, how about 50 million a year to still be our quarterback? And also, the great Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson over in Seattle traded to the Denver Broncos.

These are big deals in football because anyone who watches that sport, which is everyone, since it's the - America's religion - you need your quarterback. And so Russell Wilson leaving - end of an era for the Legion of Boom already, and now coming into Denver, that is a big deal for all the football fans out there in the Pacific Northwest and also over in Denver.

FOLKENFLIK: Little more than a minute left to - want to touch on two quick things. The NBA first - Pop, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, broke an all-time record. How big is his legacy in becoming the leader in wins for coaches?

BRYANT: Well, it's a big deal because Gregg Popovich is one of the best coaches to ever do this, and 1,335 wins is a staggering number, five NBA titles - going to go down, you know, as one of the greatest. And I think what we love about Pop as well is that the - his style of play. You know a Gregg Popovich team. They pass the ball. I always refer to it as basketball for grown-ups. Good for him. It's been great to see. Also, if you're an old ABA fan, to have an ABA in a franchise.

FOLKENFLIK: Right, all San Antonio, right?

BRYANT: In San Antonio, absolutely.

FOLKENFLIK: All right. So in - 30 seconds we have left. Last month of the NBA season, how things shaping up?

BRYANT: Well, you don't want to play the Brooklyn Nets at full speed because you just can't tell what - you've got Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. They're great. Watch out for the Boston Celtics. All bets are off in the West. A lot of great teams over there. And will LeBron actually make the playoffs this year? (Laughter) It - that hasn't happened in a very, very long time.

FOLKENFLIK: That's Meadowlark Media's Howard Bryant. Howard, thanks.

BRYANT: My pleasure, David. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.