It was billed as the biggest face off between supreme big men we’ll see all season, but it never materialized. Instead, Pittsburgh’s first-ever win over a No. 1 team devolved into a one-man gun show, with DeJuan Blair scoring 22 points and pulling down a career-high 23 rebounds in front of 7-foot-3 UConn center Hasheem Thabeet, proving that you don’t always have to be the tallest player to have the biggest impact.
In fact, Blair proved that you don’t even have to be the strongest, though he probably is. Really, you just need to get the other guy in foul trouble.
Thabeet was never a factor because he was constantly in foul trouble. He picked up a third foul early in the second half, then exited halfway through the latter frame with a cheap fourth foul while tussling with Blair. In fact, he had nearly as many fouls as points; the African export finished with a measly five points. The Pitt power forward, meanwhile, took an elbow straight to the eye, continued to stick his butt out to box out for rebounds and eventually finished with an NBA-Draft making performance and a puffy eye to show for it.
As much as the win may resonate with the NCAA Tournament Committee, it’ll linger longer in imaginations because of one play early on. With the game’s momentum still being fleshed out, Thabeet tried to reach over Blair for a rebound. Instead of getting the ball, he got a WWE-style takedown, complete with an awkward painful landing and amazement that his arm didn’t rip out of its socket. In fact, we’re still stunned that his shoulder is in one piece.
Sam Young also had 25 points for Pitt, proving that the trick to beating UConn, even with Thabeet a clear standard-setter among the country’s blocked shot stars, is to pound the ball inside. Forget that UConn lost perimeter stalwart Jerome Dyson to a season-ending knee injury. Just pump the ball inside.
Well, we can all say goodbye to the “Brett Favre to the Vikings” storyline. According to a pretty reliable source — Vikings owner Zygi Wilf — Favre won’t be playing in Minnesota next season.
“I would have been interested 15 years ago,” Wilf said. “No, I’m not interested. No way. I think he’s done well, he retired, it’s good. He’s a great guy. I’m just happy that we don’t have to keep on facing him.”
Look, we all knew that the Jets thought he was washed up, and clearly the entirety of the knee-jerk New York media did, too. But Zygi Wilf insinuating that Favre is a full 15 years beyond his prime? That’s kind of harsh, don’t you think? Especially for a team that seems like a likely landing spot for recently non-tendered free agent Jeff Garcia. Think about it: Favre is done at age 39 (going on 40) but Garcia can still play a week before his 39th birthday? All quarterbacks are not created equally, and we, for one group, have never been willing to put Garcia in the Favre category.
(Sorry Peter King, no Vikings comeback.)
People keep throwing Alex Rodriguez under the bus after his steroid revelations, with Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer the most recent to call any validity thrown his way into question. More interesting, however, has been the reaction of managers and players alike to call for even harsher penalties for positive tests as the sport moves forward.
(Big Papi: Steroids = missed year.)
That’s exactly what both David Ortiz and Ozzie Guillen did on Monday, which is interesting since both allegedly are friends of A-Rod (can we call them FOARs from now on?). Ortiz offered particularly strong statements when asked about how he would fix the game by ESPN’s roving baseball Larry King figure, Peter Gammons.
“I would suggest everybody get tested, not random, everybody,” he said. “You go team by team. You test everybody three, four times a year and that’s about it.”
And if a player tests positive for steroids?
“Ban ‘em for the whole year,” he said. “I think you clean up the game by the testing. I know that if I test positive by using any kind of substance, I know that I’m going to disrespect my family, the game, the fans and everybody, and I don’t want to be facing that situation. So what would I do? I won’t use it, and I’m pretty sure that everybody is on the same page,” he said.
Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? So will it happen? Not a chance. Even if Bud Selig pushed the absolute limit of his authority (and we’ve seen the limits of that in the past week) to get the change through, there’s little to no chance the MLB Players Association would give in to the demands in the middle of a renegotiated collective bargaining agreement that already includes penalties which are harsher than they want. And all they have to do to ram home the possibility of gross inequity is cite J.C. Romero’s current grievance. Suddenly, an entire year for an accidental GNC purchase makes Major League Baseball look preposterously over-aggressive.
(Hey, he’d have more time for banquets with a year off.)
There’s no safe zone here for baseball, and while that’s sad, it’s also appropriate, considering what the sport got away with in the 90s. Karma can be a bitch, and it’s being one right now for the national pastime. If you need more evidence, tune in to A-Rod’s Yankee press conference this afternoon. It’ll be on just about every frequency at 1:30 p.m. EST. The scrolling coverage ticker on ESPN has already started.
- Somehow this went completely overlooked during the NBA’s All-Star weekend, but the Slam Dunk contest may have been host to outright xenophobia on Saturday night. Not only were the dunks by Trail Blazer Rudy Fernandez impressive, they included a touching tribute that actually had significant sentimental resonance. That’s more than you can say about Gerald Green’s jersey tribute to Dee Brown or Josh Smith’s tribute to Dominique Wilkins, but commentators gushed about those efforts. And the inability to capture what Fernando Martin meant to basketball in general? This piece from THE PAINTED AREA does it a lot more justice.
- Best random thought from the All-Star aftermath: “What will they call Amar’e Stoudemire’s Phoenix restaurant after the trade deadline?”
- It was bound to happen eventually: Right Guard is hosting a hoops fantasy camp for homeless children, in conjunction with the Salvation Army. It sounds crazy, but it’s kind of a touching idea, isn’t it?
- 90 mph in a 35 mph zone, kid without a seatbelt and Jason Richardson’s suspension will last for … one game? Really? Evidently Phoenix is desperate.
- Richardson wasn’t the only hoopster getting booked. Nets center Sean Williams had to scrounge around to post bail outside Boston when he showed up on Boston College’s campus for the B.C.-Duke game on Sunday.
- Danny Granger’s portrait of perseverence: Guns, drugs, a neighborhood called ‘The Dump’ and a Dad who would make Clint Eastwood blush.
- Former L.A. Ram, rap mogul Suge Knight keeps getting the crap kicked out of him. According to TMZ, the weekend festivities in Phoenix were no exception.
- Hawaii cornerback JoPierre Davis has been really busy … breaking every rule possible. Here’s his rap sheet from the past year: one count of sexual assault, one count of burglary, and potentially two more counts of assault and possession.
- Another college football player unlikely to bring in a lot of the free swag Florida hands out for being in the “high character” club: Offensive tackle Carl Johnson, who was arrested for violating a temporary restraining order.
- Memphis really wants to make sure that FedEx feels it’s getting the most out of its sponsorship cash. How? By sporting FedEx colored unis for a game. Bring your sunglasses for the SMU game.
- Don’t write Phillip Fulmer’s NCAA coaching eulogy just yet, says Phil Fulmer.
- Speaking of off the map, former Pitt and Stanford coach Walt Harris is settling for coaching quarterbacks at Akron? Are you serious? And more importantly, will he still be wearing Transitions lenses?
- So much for stopping steroids where they start in high school: Florida is canceling its high school testing program because of a lack of funding.
- Someone stop Noel Gallagher while he’s still ahead — or at least even — and can get a free pint for being in Oasis. He’ll officially be insufferable if he starts a Manchester City theme band.
- Arsenal star Samir Nasri would rather play with his Playstation than with a comely lass.
- One more from soccer: Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be a ref, no matter how much it actually pays. Just check the video from an Italian Serie A game above.