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Saturday Sports: MLB's new rules; NBA star player moves; Bruins set a new NHL record


And now it's time for sports.


SIMON: New baseball rules speed things up. Kevin Durant debuts for Phoenix, and the Boston Bruins set a record, a good one. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media, another good one, joins us. Good morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott, from one of your favorite places, the Tucson Festival of Books.

SIMON: The Tucson Festival of Books is...

BRYANT: You were on the big board last night at the author dinner.

SIMON: Was I really?

BRYANT: You were.

SIMON: And did people throw dinner rolls at my image? It's a great place. I'm so glad you're there. Listen, a few games into baseball spring training season, what do the new rules look like to you? What's caught your eye?

BRYANT: Is it baseball season, Scott, or is it speed dating? We have been hearing for forever that baseball is taking too long, that the games are interminably long, that the hour - the average game is now three hours and four, three hours and six minutes, something like that. And so baseball has decided to go radical. We have a clock in baseball. The game that has no time limit now has a pitch clock. Either, you know, get in the batter's box and swing or it's a strike, or throw the ball or it's a ball. And so the games have been cut down by almost 20 minutes in spring so far. And it is weird, I got to tell you. But it also is sort of necessary, I think. One of the interesting things about sports, about baseball is that work expands to time allotted. If you have five hours to do 20 minutes worth of work, it's going to take five hours, right?

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: That's our nature of procrastination. The games have just gotten longer and longer and longer. And baseball has decided that in an age of screen swipers, that enough is enough. And so now they are enforcing this rule. This is the biggest rule. Obviously, we have the other rules as well, Scott. We've got the no more shifting. So you can't put a defender out in the outfield anymore. All the infielders must be on the dirt. We have that. We have the bigger bases, which we talked about a few weeks ago...

SIMON: Right.

BRYANT: ...To try to encourage...

SIMON: Bases big as aircraft carriers now.

BRYANT: Exactly, to try to encourage more stolen bases. But what we're really seeing is, hey, let's get on with it. No more futzing around with your - you know, with your batting gloves and no more listening to your walk-up music and the rest of that. It's time for baseball, and let's get on with it. We'll see how it works. But so far, it's a little jarring to see everybody rushing into the box and swinging to get out of there.

SIMON: NBA - Kyrie Irving went to Dallas, Kevin Durant to Phoenix. How are they doing with their new teams and vice versa?

BRYANT: Well, the Mavericks have been struggling until the other night when both Kyrie and Luka Doncic both hit for 40. And Kevin Durant is suddenly - wherever Kevin Durant goes, he's going to be in a championship-level team because he's one of the greatest players of all time. And now he is in Phoenix, and suddenly the balance of power has shifted. And so it is going to be, once again, everybody is good. You saw the Boston Celtics last night blow a 28-point lead to Durant's former team and Kyrie's former team, the Nets. Everybody is good. Nobody is great. But my goodness, if you look in the Western Conference now, you've got Phoenix. You've got Dallas. You've got Memphis. You've got Denver. And even the Lakers and the world champion Warriors are still in there. So everybody - it's going to be stacked this postseason.

SIMON: Yeah. Boston Bruins are smoking the hockey ice, if you please, aren't they?

BRYANT: They are unbelievable, winning every game. And you have to enjoy this. I'm - obviously we look in the postseason, and we say, OK, well, what's going to happen? Who knows? But what you're watching right now is stunning. They're winning every single game. They...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: Now, obviously, there are more points on the board now than there were back in the 1970s when the Montreal Canadiens were dominating. But when - we haven't seen this level of domination in almost 50 years - incredible hockey up in Boston.

SIMON: Yeah. Well, I must say, it's fun to watch, whatever you - you know, whatever you think about the game. The Bruins have just been terrific fun to watch. They - you know, they're artists on ice. It's really...

BRYANT: And we will - and we'll see in the postseason if it translates into Stanley Cup success - haven't won it since 2011.

SIMON: Yeah. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media, thanks so much. Talk to you soon.

BRYANT: Thank you, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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.