Speed Read: Dwyane Wade Pecks at Your Entrails

The Atlanta Hawks’ animal mascot (as opposed to its mall & car dealership mascot) couldn’t get settled for Wednesday night’s Game 2 against the Miami Heat. Before each home game, Spirit the Hawk usually swoops across the arena and land with its handler.

Instead, the (Del?) Harris hawk became confused last night and wandered Philips Arena, landing in the stands, above center court, and on a stanchion.

Spirit the Hawk of the Atlanta Hawks

For reasons unclear, they started the game while Spirit stayed loose. However, the game came to a screeching halt a few minutes in when Spirit landed on the backboard camera and Josh Smith excused himself due to winged predators in the field of play. Eventually, Spirit returned to his handler and play continued.

The rest of the Hawks followed suit in avoiding airborne objects for the remainder of the game, allowing Dwyane Wade to divebomb them with 33 points (including six three-pointers) in a 108-93 win to pull even with the Hawks at a game apiece in the seven-game series.

After the game, Hawks management offered Spirit the scorekeeper job; at least he knows where to look for the ball.

In other NBA games last night, Philadelphia lost to Orlando 96-87, New Orleans lost to Denver 108-93, and the Detroit Pistons lost their ability to care.

A flyby of the NBA may be all that underclassmen college basketball players will get next season when they wish to dip their toe in the NBA Draft. The NCAA has taken steps to limit the time non-seniors can even bat an eyelash in the NBA’s direction by declaring for the draft to the length of an eye blink.

A pensive Stephen Curry

Instead of getting approximately six weeks to consult with NBA teams, speak to trusted advisors, and draw out the decision into key segments of the news cycle, players would get around a week’s time, usually during finals. The NCAA wants to protect their franchisees by encouraging the players to stick around longer to increase their marketing value.

Therefore, no one should show surprise when a young man chooses to skip the NCAA for Europe as Brandon Jennings did. Perhaps we should also not feign indignance when the best high school junior in the country, Jeremy Tyler, packs his extra-long jammies (for his 6′11″ frame) and heads to Europe before his senior year of high school.

Jeremy Tyler

Long-time watchers of tall young men will recognize the puppeteer behind this latest stress test on the basketball pipeline. Sonny Vaccaro has his hand in this year’s Atlantic leap, just as he did for Jennings last year. Tyler turns 18 in June and will be eligible for the 2011 NBA draft.

We have a suggestion for Tyler to consider when he selects an NBA agent:

David Falk

The Bird of Prey himself, of course.

And now the hail of bullet points that you successfully survive thanks to your bra

Who’s now the most likely to be upset in round one?

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Rihanna On The Rebound With Andrew Bynum?

• Singer Rihanna was seen sharing a Friday night meal in Beverly Hills with the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum.

Rihanna Andrew Bynum Playboy Bunny

Ray Allen saves the Celtics from an embarrassing 2-0 hole vs. the Bulls.

• The Nationals fine Elijah Dukes for running late due to a charity event? No problem - the Little League will take care of that bill, dog.

• Florida high school pitching phenom Patrick Schuster does it again, hurling his 4th straight no-hitter.

• The Orlando Magic can’t escape hecklers even from just outside their own locker room.

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Little Leaguers To Pick Up Dukes’ Lateness Fine

Elijah Dukes was the first to run afoul of the Nationals’ new No Tolerance rules. When he was five minutes late to warmups because he spent too much time speaking with Little Leaguers, that meant a fine and a benching. That’s lead to him being the cause célèbre of unjustly persecuted people the world over. Maybe I’m guilty of not paying enough attention to the Nationals, but when exactly did Elijah Dukes, pregnant-woman-assaulter, become Jesus?

Elijah Dukes

And just like Jesus, some well-meaning groups are raising money for him that he probably doesn’t really need. The Little League that monopolized his precious time Saturday is collecting donations to help Dukes pay off his tardiness fine. Guys, Dukes makes six figures. Save the money and buy yourselves a pizza party.

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Dukes Fined by Nats for Charity-Related Lateness

Elijah Dukes, he of the life-threatening anger management issues, has been relatively harmless since he joined the Washington Nationals unless you’re an opposing pitcher.   His .323 average and two home runs in nine games have been a bright spot in another dim year-to-come for D.C. baseball.

Elijah Dukes

(Sorry; hugging is a fineable offense)

However, Dukes can’t seem to get any recognition of his newfound focus on the field.  First, he was told that he would have to come off the bench to make room for the immortal Austin Kearns. Once Lastings Milledge found his way back to the minors (to again keep room for the immortal Austin F. Kearns), he finally got to play more.

Now he’s back in the dead dawg house, though, for showing up five minutes late on game day yesterday.  He was benched, fined, threatened with demotion, and generally demeaned for setting a poor tone for the new and improved lousy Nationals.   So where was the malcontent?  He was signing autographs for Little Leaguers.

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Lastings Milledge Prefers Nats Apathy To Attitude

At one time, Lastings Milledge was one of the hottest prospects in all of baseball. At 21, he was the youngest player in all of baseball when the Mets brought him up in 2006, and he was a player with seemingly limitless tools. But one year later, the Mets had washed their hands of him, tired of his lackluster attitude, lack of respecPreview »t for the veterans and the “traditions of the game” and having to apologize for his X-rated rap songs.

Lastings Milledge Myspace Page Photo

So he was shipped off to the Washington Nationals, who have since made him and fellow problem child Elijah Dukes the centerpiece of their rebuilding plans. And Milledge, for one, would rather be with the Nationals than the Mets, despite the 29.5 game gap in the standings between the two teams last season. Why? Because, as he told the WASHINGTON POST, the Nationals let young players approach the game the right way - their way.

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Speed Read: Buzzer Beaters Punch NCAA Tickets

If you are only going to hit one basket in a game, hitting the shot that sends your team to the NCAA Tournament is good time to do it. And that’s just what Robert Morris University guard Dallas Green did (not the former big league manager), picking up a loose ball and draining a baseline jumper with 2.5 seconds left to give the Colonials a dramatic 48-46 victory over Mount St. Mary’s to win the Northeast Conference Championship.

Dallas Green

But as exciting as the final three seconds or so were, the first 39 minutes and 57 seconds were just as ugly. As in, “hey, look, ‘Sports Soup’ is on!” bad. The second half was pretty rough to watch, and that was a huge upgrade over the first half: the halftime score was 19-19, and the leading scorer for the game was RMU’s Jeremy Chappell (seen below celebrating) with 15 points.

Jeremy Chapell

But in the end, it was Green who provided the heroics. Which rubbed his opponents the wrong way:

Mount St. Mary’s guard Jeremy Goode was particularly stung that Green — a player who even Robert Morris coach Mike Rice admitted was the fifth option on the play — was the player who hit the decisive shot.

“It hurts more,” Goode said. “You’d rather see a guy who makes shots the whole time he has been here make the game-winner. Not [Green] though.”

I’m sure that Green is going to be very upset about those comments…as he and his teammates prepare for the NCAA Tournament, while the Mount St. Mary’s team prepares for a long off-season. But based on the game last night, I doubt that Green or that rest of the Robert Morris team should be game planning for more than one game.

(And in case you were curious, Robert Morris guard Mezie Nwigwe played despite being arrested on assault charges after a fight this past weekend, scoring a whopping three points in 18 minutes.)

Portland State clinches Big Sky

There was another ticket punched to the Big Dance last night which also ended in dramatic fashion. Portland State squeaked past huge underdog Montana State team (who finished the season 14-17) to win the Big Sky Championship. The Vikings also used a last-second shot to clinch their spot, as Julius Thomas dunked with 3.5 seconds left for the winning points in their 79-77 victory. Hopefully they can avoid being a No. 16 seed again, like they were last year before getting thumped by Kansas.

Quinton Rampage Jackson pickup truck

Meanwhile, coming on the heels of the death of TapouT clothing co-founder Charles “Mask” Lewis being killed in a gruesome car crash, there was more bad news from the MMA world. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson broke his jaw in his UFC 98 victory over Keith Jardine on Saturday, which will force him out of his light heavyweight title match against Rashad Evans. Unbeaten Lyoto Machida is taking his place. Let’s hope that Rampage finds a healthier way to deal with his disappointment than before.

(And about the crash that killed “Mask” Lewis: the police are now looking into street racing as a cause of the accident, and it turns out that Lewis had at least eight traffic violations since 2001, including a DUI.)

Other sports stories floating around as you pondered who will make Bristol Palin an honest woman:

Which of these four bubble teams has the best case for an NCAA bid?

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Speed Read: Bonds Steroid Case Suddenly Unclear

The Clear. It sounds like the name of a rock band with a vaguely Christian background, but we all know what it really is: the steroid concoction that Barry Bonds and other elite athletes took as part of their training regiments through BALCO labs as a way to cheat the system and produce jaw-dropping, chemically-enhanced performances. Technically, the drug is called tetrahydrogestrinone, otherwise known as THG, but The Clear is clean name for it when used by dirty players.

Barry Bonds fights the power

But YAHOO! SPORTS did some poking around some recently unsealed grand jury testimony from expert witnesses, and found some very interesting facts. Like that THG wasn’t classified as an illegal steroid until 2005, well after the BALCO case broke and Bonds had admitted to using The Clear. Or that that lead BALCO investigator Jeff Novitzky testified in 2004 that ”there’s never been any studies to show whether or not THG does, in fact, enhance muscle growth.

So yeah, the drug that has become a code word for a designer steroid at the heart of the government’s perjury case against Bonds? It wasn’t actually illegal when he was allegedly taking it. That’s more than a monkey wrench being thrown into the government’s case - that an entire 48 piece Craftsman tool set.

The government is expected to claim that regardless of the legality of THG, they have proof that Bonds took other banned substances. But if that’s the case, why is it that the only thing we heard about was The Clear for the past five years?

So it’s time to be honest with ourselves: Barry Bonds is not going to jail. This case is teetering close to a total meltdown, and at some point the government either has to cut its losses or risk a series of headaches in court. There will be no Schadenfreude moment of him doing a “perp walk” to a federal prison somewhere in Kansas, no teary interviews from jail with ESPN. It’s not happening.

But now what? It’s an amazing coincidence that this news comes out the same week that Hall of Fame voting results were released, which showed that voters are apparently willing to make at least Mark McGwire a scapegoat for the “Steroid Era” in baseball even if he’s been convicted (or charged) with no crimes, a fact that didn’t bode well at all for Bonds.

So do voters do with Barry Bonds? It’s easy to keep him out if he’s convicted, or has the cloud of the BALCO case hanging over his head. But if it turns out that The Clear - the drug that people thought might doom his chances - wasn’t illegal when he was taking it, and perhaps didn’t give him any edge, how do you justify keeping him out?

Meanwhile, back in the world where we actually talk about sports - as in what happened on the field - the LOS ANGELES TIMES reports that the Lakers had themselves a little bit of a Texas Train Wreck against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night. First, with the Lakers clinging to a 111-109 lead with 10 seconds to go, the Spurs’ Roger Mason was fouled by Derek Fisher while scoring, setting up a three-point play to give San Antonio a one point lead.

Roger Mason

That’s ugly, but what happened next was worse. With a chance to win the game, Kobe Bryant (who had drained a three pointer the previous possession to give the Lakers their lead) took the ball and confidently … passed off to Trevor Ariza, who got all tangled up with Manu Ginobili and was called for travelling with 0.8 seconds to go to end the game.

What? No offense to Ariza, who is a good role player. But why in the hell is Kobe Bryant passing up a game-winning shot? If you ask him, it’s because he wanted to motivate Ariza and the team:

“I could have rose up and shot it myself, but I felt like if one of my teammates, particularly Trevor, to get that opportunity just to drain a shot or something like that, he just takes his game to a whole ‘nother level,” Bryant said. “It just didn’t work out.”

Which is great if he makes it, Kobe. But since he blundered the chance, you’ve probably crushed the kid’s confidence. Way to go.

  • Crime doesn’t pay, especially if you’re photographed doing it in a major national magazine. MMA fighter and avowed anarchist Jeff Monson has learned this the hard way, as THE OLYMPIAN has details of his arrest on vandalism charges after being photographed spraying anarchy signs and other graffiti on the Washington state Capitol building for an ESPN THE MAGAZINE story.
  • Jeff Monson

  • USC Trojan fans, get ready for the Mitch Mustain era to begin. Or maybe Aaron Corp. Or possibly Matt Barkley. Somebody is likely going to need to step in and replace Mark Sanchez at QB next season, as the LOS ANGELES TIMES reports that the junior will likely enter the NFL Draft.
  • Speaking of Kobe…he has a new viral video for Nike that involves him riding a horse and selling “ankle insurance.” NESW SPORTS has the video, but I can promise you this: I’ve seen fake commercials for insurance, and this is no Old Glory Robot Insurance.
  • Yet another installment from The Classy World of Elijah Dukes: the TAMPA BAY TRIBUNE says that the Nationals slugger has been ordered to pay more than $40,000 in child support and alimony to his ex-wife or face 90 days in jail.This is the same ex-wife he once reportedly texted a picture of a gun to with the words “You dead, dawg.”
  • Newly-elected Baseball Hall of Fame members Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson appeared on David Letterman’s show last night to deliver the “Top Ten Highlights of My Hall of Fame Baseball Career.” My personal favorite is hearing Rickey utter the line “I invented the first vibrating jockstrap.” I think he believes he actually did.
  • Two Sydney FC soccer fans wanted to show longtime player Robbie Middleby just how upset they were he was leaving for a rival team. So the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD says they attacked him in the stadium parking lot. Well I guess he’ll stay now!
  • MASN SPORTS catches up with Kris Benson, who is trying to make a comeback from a torn rotator cuff. Sadly, no update on his wife Anna, but we can assume that she’s still pretty hot.
  • Anna Benson

  • The VICTORIA TIMES COLONIST has the sad story of former major league pitcher Frank Williams, whose career was ended by a car crash in 1989 that sent him into a spiral of homelessness and alcoholism that led to his death last Friday at the age of 50.
  • TV10 NEWS in Columbus reports that Matt Sylvester, a former Ohio State basketball player who hit a late three-pointer to beat then-No. 1 Illinois in 2005, was arrested on Wednesday after he almost ran over a cop while leaving a Buckeyes game last week. Maurice Clarett thinks he could have done much, much better.
  • And in case you missed it…the Orlando Magic set an NBA record by hitting 23 three-pointers in their 139-107 win over the Sacramento Kings. Something tells me the zone defense wasn’t working on them.

You have a Hall of Fame vote. What do you do about Barry Bonds?

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Ladies … To Host Live Draft Blog; New Porras Pics

The Ladies… will be on SbB all weekend to live blog the NFL Draft. They’ll be here for eight hours each day beginning Saturday at 2pm ET. See you then!

• Bolivian basketball babe Claudia Porras still proves she’s a model player.

Claudia Porras

• Today’s the day Rick Monday cemented himself as a real American hero for rescuing Old Glory.

Jim Gray is still stalking the press areas - if only he was doing it for an actual sports network.

• Meanwhile, Kelvin Sampson is having no trouble entertaining job offers from the NBA.

• Dallas sportscaster Dale Hansen compares Pacman’s trade to Big D with the Cowboys signing Osama bin Laden.

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Dukes Gets Into More Crap, Cleans Out Zoo Cages

Elijah Dukes has been a bad boy in the past. But the former Devil Ray & current Washington National is confronting some of the messes made in his life.

Elijah Dukes mandrill baboon

The ST. PETERSBURG TIMES wipes up news that Dukes was able to reduce his current probation by completing some community service - namely, cleaning up cages at the local Tampa zoo.

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Rays Debate Devilish Idea To Bring In Barry Bonds

Not too long after dropping the “Devil” name, the Tampa Bay Rays may be getting back a devilish character - Barry Bonds.

Barry Bonds Tampa Bay Rays

The ST. PETERSBURG TIMES reports that Rays officials have had “internal discussions” about acquiring the available hitter. Bonds has been teamless since the San Francisco Giants bid the slugger sayonara last season, while the Rays have been powerless since … well, forever.

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