SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And now it's time for sports.
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SIMON: The Boston Celtics are on a 14-game winning streak. They even beat the gold standard Golden State Warriors this week. And they're doing it without one of their best players. Joined now by Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN the Magazine.
Howard, thanks so much for being with us.
HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. How are you?
SIMON: I'm fine. Thank you. And of course...
SIMON: ...It's still early in the - how should a Cavs fan be now?
SIMON: This is my question. It's still early in the season. But does this feel like there's a changing of the guard in the NBA Eastern Conference?
BRYANT: Well, it was a lot of fun this offseason when you had the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors play for the third straight time in the NBA finals. And then after Golden State wins the championship, you have Kyrie Irving - who hit the big shot the year before to give Cleveland their championship that they hadn't had since 1964 in any sport - say, I don't want to be here anymore. I want out. And so massive trade to Boston. And yeah, I think you see what happens when you have one of the best players in the league change teams.
And the guard has - I don't think it's changed yet because they still have to play head to head for a full season. Cleveland won the first game between them. But if you're the Boston Celtics right now, you got so much better. And you've been knocking on the door for the last couple of years in terms of building your team the way Golden State builds their team. So to have that game Thursday night be as exciting as it was - to be down by 17 points twice, to come back and win that game - gives - it didn't mean nearly as much to Golden State, but it meant a lot to the Boston Celtics.
SIMON: I mean, when Gordon Hayward comes back from that grisly injury - I mean, will the Celtics say - sorry, we don't have a place for you in this lineup right now.
SIMON: We're doing too well.
BRYANT: No, I don't think so. I think this is a talent league. And when you look at basketball - and that's why it's different from any other sport - it's a best-player-wins league. If you have the best players, you win. It's not baseball where, if you have the best pitcher, that player pitches every five days and you may not be the best team in the league. Basketball, because it's a two-way game, if you've got the talent, chances are you're going to be one of the top teams.
And I think that you've got a dual effect this year in the Eastern Conference. You've got Boston getting much, much better, and you have Cleveland not quite being as good as they were. We'll see what happens when Isaiah Thomas comes back. And obviously, they've got the best player in the world. They've got LeBron James. So who would ever count them out?
SIMON: Yeah. Not me, let me tell you.
BRYANT: Not you. Certainly not you.
SIMON: Let's go to football now. For the first time in franchise history, I gather, the team of football players from Washington, D.C. - whose mascot name I will not utter - is hosting a Thanksgiving Day game. Now, the team already gets a lot of heat for its name. To play a home game with this team name on Thanksgiving somehow seems especially insensitive.
BRYANT: Well, it's insensitive and a lot of people feel that it sort of spits in the eye of the city because one of the negotiations - of course, the city of Washington wants their football team back - because they play in Maryland. But one of the negotiating points is they've got to change the name. And of course, Daniel Snyder - the owner of the team - is not going to change the name. So that's a battle right there.
But I think one of the big things is that you've got the World Series earlier this year with Yuli Gurriel being suspended for making that racial gesture at Yu Darvish during the World Series. And you have people say in sports constantly - there's no room for racism in sports. And yet, you have these Native American mascots throughout all sports - whether it's college, pro, whatever. There's plenty of room for racism in sports. You see it with the Cleveland Indians. You see it with the Chicago Blackhawks. You see it with Washington. You see it with all of these different teams. And you wonder why is...
SIMON: But the Blackhawks say they're named after Chief Black Hawk.
BRYANT: (Laughter) And the Indians say that their name is for Chief Sockalexis and it's a sign of respect. But in any event, we know that in 2017, these mascot names have to go. The logos have to go at the very least. Enough is enough, really.
SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN, thanks so much, my friend. Talk to you later.
BRYANT: My pleasure. Happy Thanksgiving. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.