5-at-10: Double Jokers with NBA Finals preview and ‘shut up and serve’ and more Bud Light news

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic shoots over Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James in the second half of Game 4 of the NBA basketball Western Conference Final series Monday, May 22, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

NBA Finals

Game 1 is tonight. I plan to watch.

At least until Game 1 becomes a blowout, because it will. Denver has had something like six weeks off, or at least it feels like that.

Denver has an extreme home-court edge because of the altitude, and that is real. Especially for a home team that is exceedingly better rested than its opponent.

So Game 1 is already an afterthought for me, and yes, there will be multiple angles in this afternoon's Jay's Plays gambling picks email. You can sign up — it's free people — at the top of this column.

But can the Heat win the series? Personally, I don't see it, but then again, did we think the Heat could be the Bucks? Or the Celtics?

And they handled both of them.

But neither of them had Nikola Jokic, who simply is the best basketball player drawing breath on planet Earth right now.

Think about that transformation in 10 years can you for a second?

Nikola Jokic was a 19-year-old heavy-set and out-of-shape second-round project from Serbia who was picked with the 41st over pick. And yes, 41 overall in the modern NBA draft is every bit as low as Tom Brady's 199 in the NFL draft.

Has anyone made the career transformation from bench player/potential journeyman to the very top of their sport at the professional level before? I'm trying to think of a similar career arc and Brady's the only one I can even come close to comparing, but I'm not sure that's even a proper comp to the rise Joker has made while in the league.

Which brings us to the series, because if the Heat can't slow Jokic, it's truly impossible to see them winning. Because I don't even think the "let Jokic get 50 and try to limit everyone else" tactic works.

Miami will have the edge of putting Jimmy Butler on Jamal Murray, which helps. Getting Tyler Herro back, also helps the Heat.

Bam Adebayo is a great athlete, but the size difference between Bam and Joker is immense.

I hope it's a good series. I'm not betting on it being a good one however — both literally and figuratively.

From one Joker to the next

So Novok Djokovic is on the short list of best dudes to ever swing a tennis racket. He's the heavy favorite to win the French Open, which is being played somewhere in Europe. I think.

If he does win the French Open it would be his 23rd career major title and would complete the career Grand Slam three times over. Yeah, he's got a GOAT-worthy résumé.

But controversy seems to land on The (tennis) Joker more than most in that sport not named Serena Williams.

The Joker was anti-vaccine during the height of COVID-19 craziness. That caused quite the stir, and dare I say his image took some shots from a lot of folks.

Now, the Joker finds himself in a non-tennis discussion, and this one seems potentially even more outlandish.

Djokovic is from Serbia, and unless you've been under a rock or asleep (or both) for the better part of the last 16 months, Serbia is at war with Russia.

The causes, issues and agendas being served in the Russian attacks on Serbia are myriad and complex.

But for the Joker, his homeland is at war, so after his most recent win at the French, Djokovic wrote on a TV camera lens — it's a tennis thing and happens more often than you'd realize — "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence."

OK, first Kosovo is easily one of the most underappreciated Beach Boys songs. That "Cocktail" — what a flick.

But a native of a war-torn country simply asking to stop the violence — not even saying any about Russia mind you — is now out of bounds for the French sports minister, Amelie Oudea-Castera, who warned Djokovic to emphasize "neutrality" on the court.

Say what? His homeland in is at war ma'am. War. Not social unrest or political divide. War.

Man, here's betting Ms. Oudea-Castera has never been to a WNBA game. Egad.

I've never been a "Shut-up and dribble" supporter per se, but can see the importance of making sure your product is appealing, but this version of "Shut up and serve" is way over the top, no?

If Joker protests the decision, what are the odds Oudea-Castera surrenders? She is French after all.

Beer wars

You can't fire up a laptop or social media and not see Bud Light in the headlines.

There was a time when that was almost assuredly a good thing for the lighter side of the King of Beers brand.

Not since the Dylan Mulvaney controversy, however. Sales are plummeting at record levels. Amid the crisis, which has affected the Anheuser-Busch stock, too (down more than 12.5% over the last three months and almost 19% over the last month), Bud Light is continuing its plans to support LGBTQ+ initiatives.

Businesses have to operate how they best see fit, both financially and socially, so on one hand I understand the need and push to remain true to your plans and stated goals.

Heck, I'm more than a little perplexed that Chick-fil-A is getting backlash — and social media threats of protests and boycotts — for hiring a diversity, equity and inclusion director two years ago.

(Side note: First, they could be biting the heads of live bats in the kitchen and my wife would tell the kids to look the other way until we get out of the drive-through, because that's how much the rest of the Greesons love them some CFA.)

It takes courage to stand up to protests — from each side — and we have had multiple conversations about the executive's reaction to the controversy at Bud Light with comments saying they no longer wanted to be the "frat boy" beer made the Mulvaney incident much worse.

But at what point do the leaders of Anheuser Busch start making decisions for their stockholders and employees because this is how much they have alienated their customer base:

Heading into Memorial Day, with Bud Light sales down more than 26% since this started, and the rise of a chief competitor of almost 10% to fill that void — because frat boy beer drinkers are still drinking at heavy clips — want to guess what could be the King of American beers by the end of the year at those trends?

Yep, at this rate, when you think "U-S-A and hot dogs and cold beer," the most popular brand in America in 2023 will be Modelo Especial.

This and that

— Wow, the largest cash pot in TV poker history went down last night at an L.A. casino. There was more than $3 million in the middle.

— OK, the headline got me to click on this story that Shannon Sharpe is leaving Fox Sports and his "Second Take" sports yelling contest with Skip Bayless. But the lead was buried. Near the bottom we learn that Skip Bleepin' Bayless signed a four-year, $32 million contract in March 2021. Holy Buckets of wasted bucks.

— Braves played. Braves won. Man, who would have guessed Atlanta was going to need a Jared Shuster gem to salvage a single game from those less-than-ferocious Oakland A's, huh?

— College basketball players who have declared for the draft had until Wednesday night to change their mind. Among those have elected to return to college are Zach Edey, the national player of the year last season. The 7-foot-4 center will return to Purdue for what I believe is his 13th season with the Boilermakers. Or at least it feels like that.

— Here's Paschall with a couple of items about what's being discussed at the SEC meetings in Destin. First on the league being aware of gambling's growth and also on some UT kickoff times. You know the rules.

— Shohei Ohtani update: In the last seven days at the MLB level, Mr. Ohtani has pitched six innings in which he allowed one earned run with 10Ks. That was last Saturday. At the plate against the White Sox the last three days, Mr. Ohtani was 3-for-11 with three home runs, five RBIs and five runs scored. We are to a point that Ohtani is so much like the best kid in every one of our youth baseball associations, I think Shohei Ohtani Sr. (or whatever Shohei's dad's name is) should be coaching the Angels. Make it happen Manfred.

Today's questions

Anything goes Thursday starts here:

Who was the best player in your 12-year-old youth baseball league?

What's the largest amount you have won/lost in a single bet? The above poker player lost more than $1.5 million on that single hand of cards. And he bluffed.

A bluff for $1.5 million — is that huge marbles or stupidity?

Should Djokovic shut up and serve? Was his message overly political to you?

Fire away and remember the mailbag.

As for today, June 1, let's review.

On this day in 1980, CNN turned on the cameras for the first time.

Wow some heavy-hitting celebs blowing out candles today. Marilyn Monroe would have been 97 today. Morgan Freeman 86. Heidi Klum is 50. Alanis Morissette is 49. Tom Holland is 27.

Tom Holland as Spider-Man may be my favorite MCU actor/role combo.

Personal fav Andy Griffith would also have been 97 today.

Rushmore of sheriffs, and have a little fun will ya?