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Saturday Sports: Aaron Rodgers' injury; basketball World Cup; NBA rule changes

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Four plays, four plays. That's all Aaron Rodgers got this year for the New York Jets, no medal for basketball's Team USA and no more benching stars in the NBA. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: I'm fine, thanks. Ouch. New York Jets'...

BRYANT: Ouch.

SIMON: ...Super Bowl hopes evaporated four plays into the season. Future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles tendon, his first drive as a Jet, and is out for the season. This is a team that hasn't reached the Super Bowl since 1969. Sports can be capricious and cruel, can't they?

BRYANT: They sure can. And the excitement around the Jets - the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets - and the way that this was supposed to be the year - you get a Hall-of-Fame-level quarterback and you are - you've got a great defense and you haven't been anywhere in a very long time and it appears that everything's lining up for you, and then four plays in...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...Four plays in. He's being carted off. And it's just - it's incredible in so many ways because the - it's such an unpredictable sport. But it's also, in the NFL - that's the other piece of it, is that every player seems to be one play away. But the bad luck on this one is legendary. Of course, Aaron Rodgers comes back, Scott, and says, well, for all the doubters out there, wait and see what I do. So I guess there's a comeback story coming soon.

SIMON: Yeah. But he'll be 40, won't he?

BRYANT: He'll be 40.

SIMON: Yeah. Well, I'm not saying that can't be done. I have a personal interest in that, but, boy. Yeah.

BRYANT: I'm saying this is going to be a tall order. They call it an Achilles for a reason. It's a very difficult injury to come back from, and especially at that age. It's just a bad scene all around. This season started with so much promise. But the Jets are still a good team. See what they do.

SIMON: Yeah. Germany won the basketball World Cup championship. The U.S. wasn't able to get any kind of medal. They loss to Canada in the third-place match. Disappointing. Should we adjust expectations for U.S. teams in the world level?

BRYANT: Well, we have to for a couple of teams. It's really interesting. We have this problem in tennis probably more than any of the other sports because the United States has been reduced, clearly, that the world has shifted in terms of tennis. We have not had that same attitude when it comes to, say, women's soccer, when it comes to basketball, two sports where the Americans are expected to dominate. And if they don't, as we saw in the Women's World Cup...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...And as we see here with FIBA with basketball, if you don't win in the United States in those two sports - you know, the winter sports, no one's expecting a whole lot from the United States luge team or from the, you know, biathlon. But basketball and soccer, the expectation is when - not only win (inaudible) basketball, but win and dominate. You have to win by 30 points every single game every single year. And if you don't, you look at what happened here and the - not just to not only not win, to not make the championship, to not medal at all. And obviously, with the Olympics in Paris next year, there's going to be a lot of scrutiny on the United States.

SIMON: Howard, new rule for the NBA. No team will be able to rest more than one star player for the same game, and they have to make certain that star players are available for games that broadcast on national television. What do you make of these changes? Do you expect some skullduggery?

BRYANT: Yeah. Well, this is what happens. You've got an 82-game league. They say, we want to return the sport to an 82-game league. The season's too damn long, Scott. You play 82 games. Now you've got an in-season tournament, and now you've also got two months' worth of playoffs. And so - but at the same time, people paying their hard earned money to go watch these games and to not see LeBron, to not see Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and Giannis and the rest of them - people want their money back. You've got to give the the people the product. And so hard balance here when you're trying to squeeze everything out of these human beings. They're still just people, remember.

SIMON: Howard Bryant. Thanks so much.

BRYANT: My pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF DAVID BYRNE SONG, "WHO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.