Much like this time last year, a lot of the Los Angeles Lakers’ chances to win an NBA title this season rest on the health of Andrew Bynum’s knee. Bynum has been out since February with a torn MCL that he’s been rehabbing pretty hard in hopes of getting back on a court in time to help the Lakers make a playoff run. And his coach Phil Jackson has said recently that he thinks Bynum is only a few weeks away from returning.
Well, it may be even sooner than that if a recent trip to the Playboy Mansion is any indicator. That’s where Bynum figured out a new way to help test the strength of his knee by picking up Playmate Nicole Narain and carrying her around the mansion on his shoulders. (With more pics of knockout Nicole after the jump.)
It guess it’s not just to the victor that go the spoils: despite his team falling just short in the Super Bowl, Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley was rewarded for the team’s miracle run, as the KANSAS CITY STAR reports that he has reached an agreement with the Kansas City Chiefs to become their new head coach. Now, with the absolutely mess that the Chiefs are right now, it’s debatable how much of a “reward” this job is. But hey: it’s not the Raiders.
Clearly, by resurrecting the career of Kurt Warner and turning the Cardinals into a fearsome offensive machine, Haley’s proven that he can coach an offense. But can he be the leader? After all, this is someone who never played college football (instead playing and later coaching college golf) and only got into football as a scout in 1995. Can he earn the respect of the players with such little experience?
I don’t want to raise any red flags here, but when you think of “head coach with no college playing experience,” who do you think of? Charlie Weis? And if Haley commands the type of respect and admiration from players and fans that Weis does - yikes. It might even have Chiefs fans longing for the halcyon days of Gunther Cunningham. (Note: this will never happen.)
But I had an inkling this was going to happen. A source (a teammate on my kickball team) mentioned earlier this week that his father spotted Chiefs GM Scott Pioli having a lengthy meal with Todd Haley’s representatives at a Ruth’s Chris Steak House in St. Louis, hurriedly shooing away waiters and looking out for spies (apparently not well enough).
Which brings up an interesting point: Ruth’s Chris Steak House? Really? There was no better place in St. Louis to conduct an important, secretive conversation about your next head coach than a chain steak house? Granted, it’s not Sizzler or Golden Corral, but St. Louis has to have dining options with red leather chairs and lots of dark corners - don’t they have Italian restaurants there? And why not have the meeting in Kansas City? Can someone point him to Yelp, please?
In other news: it turns out that corporate sponsors don’t like it when the person they are using to sell breakfast to millions of kids is pictured taking a rip from a bong. Who knew? CNBC details how Kellogg’s has decided not to renew Michael Phelps’ endorsement contract, which is set to expire at the end of the month. Which was probably going to happen anyway - except very quietly versus with a public statement from the company admonishing Phelps for behavior that “is not consistent with the image of Kellogg.”
At least Phelps can always count on USA Swimming to have his back in their usual, clumsy way. The organization decided to crack the whip on their poster child by giving him a three-month ban, during a time when he wasn’t expected to compete in any meets of significance. (He will miss one meet, but let’s be serious here - if it’s not the Olympics or World Championships. does it really matter?) It’s the equivalent of a five-game baseball suspension for a pitcher, which just means that his next start is pushed back a game.
While all this was going on, there were actual games being played last night. And none were more important - or exciting - than the clash between the Lakers and the Celtics in Boston. The last time the Lakers were seen at the Garden, they were dodging green and white confetti as they exited the court to lick their wounds after having the Celtics pound them like a two dollar steak in their Finals-clinching 131-92 victory.
That didn’t happen this time. Despite Kobe Bryant having an off shooting game (10 of 29 from the field), the Lakers found a way to prevail 110-109 in a seesaw overtime thriller. The key for the Lakers was defense - a concept many thought they had abandoned about a month ago - even without injured center Andrew Bynum, and the scoring of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom (a combined 44 points).
But if you want to talk about winning, you have to start with Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt. After missing at her first attempt earlier in the week against Oklahoma, she notched her 1,000th career win on Thursday, with her Lady Volunteers thumping Georgia, 73-43.
Say what you will about women’s basketball, but that’s an incredible feat. Consider this: in all team sports, only Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan has recorded more wins with one team. The difference, of course, is that Summitt actually knows how to win championships (although to be fair to Sloan, she never had to game plan for Michael Jordan.) In other news:
BALL DON’T LIE wants to slap an asterisk on LeBron James’ triple-double the othe night against the Knicks on the basis of his questionable ninth rebound out of 10. Judge for yourself and see if it should have been credited to him or Ben Wallace:
PBA bowler Jason Belmonte bowls like your four-year old son does - except your son probably can’t bowl 300 games. The WALL STREET JOURNAL has the details of one of the weirdest bowling styles you’ll ever see from a pro:
One of the arguments I’ve heard over and over about keeping the current BCS system in college football is that a playoff would make the regular season irrelevant. Why get fired up about USC losing to Oregon State if they are still going to make it into the playoffs? The traditionalists, conference heads and Beano Cook all agree that college football already has a playoff called the regular season, and a postseason playoff would only tarnish it and make it unimportant.
Allow me to offer a counter argument based on last night’s college basketball results. Go tell the Northwestern basketball fans (and yes, they do exist) that the regular season doesn’t matter because it’s all about March Madness. In what might be the greatest day in Northwestern basketball history (and possibly the only great day in Northwestern basketball history), the Wildcats beat No. 7 Michigan State 70-63, their first win at East Lansing since 1984.
But clearly, nobody cares about college basketball until March, which is why ESPN has about 500 games on a night across their vast network of channels. Seriously, this logic is as flawed as the BCS system itself - college basketball is thriving because of March Madness, not in spite of it, and nights like last night serve as a pretty stark reminder why.
The NBA also has a playoff at the end of the regular season, and people seem to be watching that as well (at least the final three minutes or so of games). And it was a pretty fun night there, too, if not as upset-filled. For example, the Lakers beating the Clippers 108-97? Not a surprise.
But Andrew Bynumgoing off for 42 points and 15 rebounds? Big surprise. The Lakers are already among the league’s elite teams. If they get anything resembling that kind of production from Bynum on a regular basis, it’s a scary proposition for the rest of the NBA.
Here’s the other sports news you missed last night as you were still stuck in traffic trying to get back from the Presidential Inauguration:
With all the great basketball finishes last night, the best one was certainly in the SMU vs. Marshall game, where Markel Humphrey made a 75-foot shot as time expired to give the Thundering Herd a 53-50 victory. WSAZ-TV has the story and video.
Ever see the scores of one of those ridiculous high school basketball blowouts and wonder what it feels like to be unceremoniously thrashed? The DALLAS MORNING NEWS talks to the players on the Dallas Academy’s girls basketball team after their 100-0 loss on Tuesday to find out.
OK, I understand that Stanford might be having budget woes, as INSIDE BAY AREA reports. But they have a squash team? What’s next, racquetball? Kickball?
I imagine being a ball boy is a rough job - physically demanding, pressure-filled, and having to deal with your friends’ jokes about your job title. So what you probably don’t need is to take a forehand to the head, like STUFF NEW ZEALAND says this poor kid did at the Australian Open:
After getting ripped by Troy Aikman, who said that he didn’t “fully grasp what being the Cowboys quarterback is all about,” Tony Romo tells the DALLAS MORNING NEWS that he has vowed to change his leadership style in 2009. The first step: personally delivering a Singapore-style caning to anyone who speaks to Ed Werder.
With Charles Barkley having exited the broadcast booth (temporarily or permanently), it’s fallen on Chris Webber and Gary Payton to pick up the slack of slightly insane basketball analysts, and they are doing a fair job of it. NESW SPORTS has video of them slamming Nene for getting married over the All-Star break, which devolves into suggesting that Dwight Howard dunk over him and his bride. Good stuff.
In yet another example of the failing economy intruding into the protective bubble we call sports, the CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER reports that the Browns have laid off 18 employees, including their Director of Media Relations. Perhaps Rod Marinelli could handle a second job?
Hey, readers! Happy Inauguration Day! And what better way to welcome Barack Obama into the White House than with the pomp & circumstance of another SbB Clever Caption Contest!
Today’s snapshot features the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum laying out the Cavs’ Mo Williams, as LeBron James lingers in the background:
Now it’s time for you to make an executive decision: How else would you describe this scene? Submit your suggestions into the comments section linked below. Winner will be announced at the end-of-the-day recap, with a chance to be hailed as The Chief! (Of caption writing, anyway.)
I guess it’s not that surprising that the Los Angeles Lakers have started off the NBA season undefeated - they return all the pieces from the Western Conference champions, with a healthy Andrew Bynum to boot. But the Atlanta Hawks? Really? In its own way, it’s almost as improbable as when the Houston Rockets went on that 22-game winning streak last season.
Clearly, it has to end at some point, and you would think sooner rather than later. But there the Hawks were last night, going into Chicago and taking out the Bulls 113-108 behind a career-high 27 points and 17 rebounds by Al Horford. And their starting PF Josh Smith isn’t even playing!
Of course, tonight is a bit of a litmus test, since they are playing the defending champion Boston Celtics. Win that game, and then we’ll really have something. As for the other undefeated team, the Lakers matched the Hawks (who often do you read that?) by beating the Mavericks 106-99. Meanwhile, Phil Jackson is so thrilled that he’s thinking about not coming back next season.
Other live, local and late-breaking sports news:
The BALTIMORE SUN reports that the Orioles are giving their uniforms and logo a makeover. Michael Kors thinks that they are “fresh and flirty” but Nina Garcia thinks they are “tired and stale.” What will Heidi say?
The LA TIMES says that Lakers fans have more reason to celebrate beyond the team’s success: their local TV affiliate KCAL has decided to stop the practice of tape-delaying East Coast games this season, which was totally pointless and maddeningly infuriating for today’s DVR-taping, instant-score-updating sports fan.
A good story from the golf world: a contingent of PGA Tour players, including Woody Austin, Jason Gore and Bob Tway, are heading to the Gulf Coast to play in a charity pro-am tournament to benefit housing needs for people still impacted by Hurricane Katrina, forgoing their usual appearance fees and other perks.
And speaking of Bay Area scapegoats: PRO FOOTBALL TALK says that head coach Mike Singletary and offensive coordinator Mike Martz have found one for the 49ers’ loss to the Cardinals on Monday night. Not poor clock management or ineffectual play calling - it was getting bad information from officials.
Well, it’s been one whole night since Philadelphia has won a major sports championship. I can’t imagine how Philly sports fans are dealing with the drought - based on Wednesday night, I’d guess getting hammered, overturning and then setting fire to a school bus full of children. If they are getting restless, the ticker tape parade is today, but the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS says mayor Michael Nutter has one simple request: don’t “be a jackass.” Next I guess you want Philly fans to stop rooting for the Phillies, Mr. Mayor?
Also ready to overturn things, but this time in anger - Fox Sports and MLB executives, after the Nielsen ratings showed that the 2008 World Series were the lowest-rated ever. But don’t worry - Fox and Commissioner Bud Selig both want you to know it was all the fault of the weather.
They weren’t necessarily rioting in the streets of Cincinnati last night - although Thanksgiving is coming up, and that does mean the legendary WKRP Turkey Drop is coming back to downtown! But, beating a ranked team does count for something, even if it was only No. 24 South Florida, who played like turkeys again. (Ha! See what I did there? Professional writer, folks.) I like Bulls’ head coach Jim Leavitt well enough, but another collapse in the second half of the season? Going 8-7 in your last 15 games against FBS opponents is not good.
What is good is being 21 and having $57.4 million in your pocket. That’s what Andrew Bynum has after signing a four-year extension with the Lakers on Thursday. All for a player who has started a whopping 80 games in his career and averaged a shade over seven points per game. But he has that infamous “unlimited upside potential” that Jay Bilas drives into your head each draft, even if this probably means the end for Lamar Odom in LA.
The only thing with more comedic potential than Mike Singletary as 49ers head coach? Diego Maradona, new Argentina soccer coach. GOAL.COM reports his first match will be Nov. 19 against Scotland. Given his reputation and history of problems, this is like John Daly being named PGA Tour Commissioner.
Maradona could probably help the East Timor soccer team - even now as a player, since they are the worst team in the world according to FIFA. So as the NEW YORK TIMES says, they have to feel pretty good about tying Cambodia, their first game ever that they didn’t lose. They were dancing in the streets of…East Timor City? I’m too lazy to Wikipedia that.
The 47-year-old man who was found by paramedics at 47-year-old Isiah Thomas’ house was not breathing when they arrived. The NEW YORK TIMES uses its esteemed powers of reporting to find out from police sources who this mystery man was.
Well, I suppose that was all worth it for the folks in Philadelphia. For the first time in 28 years and just the second time ever, the Phillies are World Series champions. And the fact that they defeated their longstanding arch-rivals from Tampa Bay makes it just that much more satisfying.
(Lidge tore his rotator cuff and his out for next season, but who cares? WHOOOOOOO!)
In a game that was called after just three innings, and featuring the Phillies batting first for some reason, the Fightin’s beat Tampa 4-3 to take the series 4-1. Three of the games were decided by one run, and the Rays made just enough mistakes to win none of those games. One wonders what would’ve happened if Evan Longoria had let that chopper go foul at the end of Game 3, or if things would’ve gone better for Andy Sonnanstine if he’d thrown to the right base in the first inning of Game 4. Or, perhaps most of all, if B.J. Upton hadn’t swung at the first freaking pitch with nobody out in the eighth inning last night and at least given Carl Crawford a pitch or two to steal a base.
But give the Phils credit. They were just the better team. Better starting pitching, better bullpen, and a dominant closer in Brad Lidge who more than made up for his struggles in Houston (except to Astros fans, who still hate the guy). To think that he was seen as a “risky move” when the Phillies traded a crappy outfielder for him. A bunch of different guys came through with huge hits. Utley and Howard contributed sporadically (the former with a spectacular defensive play to cut down Jason Bartlett at home in the seventh inning last night), but the heroes of this series for the Phillies will be guys like Carlos Ruiz, Pedro Feliz, and Geoff Jenkins, who I thought was playing for Milwaukee’s AA team until I saw him at the plate last night.
It’s all a bit odd to think the Phillies are actually the champs. At the beginning of last season, Jimmy Rollins made news for predicting that they would win the NL East over the defending Mets. Most laughed, even the Phillies fans. Eighteen months later, they’re on top of the baseball world. The national media, for the most part, covers the Phillies only in relation to what the Mets are doing. They’re just that team that gets to go to the playoffs because the Mets are huge failures, not a real contender, right? And now, as the offseason approaches, we’ll go right back to a billion stories about what’s wrong with the Mets and Yankees, and how they can get fixed. The Phils have never really received a whole lot of respect, but now they have a title with which to taunt their rivals to the north, and isn’t that more important anyway?
Towel girl thinks so:
Blazers fans lived without Greg Oden for all of last season, so living without him for two to four more weeks shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Oden has a sprained foot, but an MRI revealed that there are slight fractures in the foot. Everyone insists it’s minor. The bigger problem for Portland fans is not the inevitable Sam Bowie comparisons, but that Tuesday night’s game displayed just how much better Andrew Bynum is right now than Oden. And Bynum’s only a year older than Oden. So how exactly is Oden supposed to dominate the West for the next decade?
Mike D’Antoni’s Knicks debuted with a 120-115 win over Miami last night. And this is pretty much the same team that routinely struggled to put up 80 points with the same personnel last year. The biggest news of the night was that Stephon Marbury, who actually played pretty well in the preseason, got DNP-CD‘d for the first time in his career, as D’Antoni went with Chris Duhon and Nate Robinson all night. For what it’s worth, Marbury is actually handling it all fairly well. Isiah Thomas didn’t have much to say when reached for comment, as he said he slept through the whole thing.
Here’s some more news to digest while you recover from flipping cars over all night:
• Shaq riled up Gregg Poppovich when he complained about the Spurs going to the hack-a-Shaq strategy in the first half of playoff games last season. So what does Poppovich do in the season opener last night between the two rivals? Have Michael Finley bear-hug O’Neal five seconds into the game, then give him the double-barreled thumbs up with a giant grin:
• Former Colts player and current high school football coach Jeff Burris was caught driving backward through the streets of Indianapolis at 1:00 in the morning. He was drunk, of course. WRTV in Indy has the details.
• THE TWO MINUTE DRILL is having a “best looking college female athlete” contest, that appears to just be combing through the rosters on every university’s athletic website and coming up with the best headshots. Yes, Allison Stokke is involved.
• You know, I just don’t trust those polls. Texas#1? What a bunch of crap. I have them more like #16. No doubt that Tulsa and Ball State are better. Even Minnesota’s better. Don’t believe me? It’s true, just check out the ESPNU Allstate Fan Poll.
• Bernard Berrian has been trying to call the NFL’s steroid hotline (what?) to find out if he’s ingesting anything illegal, but nobody’s been answering, says PRO FOOTBALL TALK. Berrian proceeds to place blame on NFL for recent rash of positive drug tests.