Mexico Border “15 Feet Away” Frightens NBAer

John Denton of NBA.com reported this week on the NBA staging an exhibition game between the Orlando Magic and the Houston Rockets in American border town Hidalgo, Texas, on Tuesday. Hidalgo’s basketball arena is, “less than a mile from the Rio Grande River and the Mexican border.

Rashard Lewis afraid to leave hotel room in American border town

(Native Texan Lewis afraid to leave Texas city’s best hotel)

Denton noted that the NBA has often scheduled preseason games in the past in nontraditional pro hoops markets to “spread goodwill” to fans before the regular season opens.

The irony of the trip to Hidalgo is that at least one Magic player refused to leave his hotel room because of concerns about his personal safety.

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How Houston Astros, Rockets Helped Save Big 12

The best-kept secret at AOL Fanhouse, Jon Weinbach, has previously unreported details about the television negotiation that prevented the Big 12 from disintegrating.

Calvin Murphy's Houston Rockets Save Big 12

Several outlets have reported that ESPN and Fox, whose Big 12 TV contracts expire in 2016 and 2012, respectively, agreed to significantly higher payments in order to keep Texas in the Big 12 and secure the conference’s future. But a person familiar with the conference’s negotiations said “reports of a new TV deal between Fox and the Big 12 are inaccurate.”

A television network executive with knowledge of the negotiations also confirmed to me today that ESPN did not dump any more money into its existing deal with the Big 12. I was told that the key role played ESPN was that the network agreed not reduce to its financial commitment to the Big 12 despite two schools leaving the league.

ESPN’s financial contribution to the deal merely remained static, which means that a larger amount of revenue from the ESPN deal now goes to each of the 10 remaining Big 12 schools.

Weinbach also has previously unreported details on what motivated Fox to maintain its longterm relationship with the Big 12, effectively killing the proposed Pac-16 TV deal which was - ironically - authored the Fox. Read more…

Ron Artest Can Be a Little Unorthodox On Defense

Nightmare loss for the Lakers last night, as the Rockets took down Kobe & Co. @ Staples thanks to the offense of Aaron Brooks, Chase Buddinger and David Anderson and former Laker Trevor Ariza locking down a injury-plagued Bryant like no one has in recent memory.

Ron Artest Throws Trevor Ariza's Shoe

That doesn’t mean though that former Rocket Ron Artest wasn’t doing his all to slow down his former team. Just ask Ariza’s feet. Read more…

Did Yao Throw Artest Under The Bus To Bucher?

There’s been a palpable euphoria here in Los Angeles since the Lakers locked down free agent Ron Artest last week. Purple (& Gold) Kool-aiders of course love the deal, but Wednesday ESPN NBA reporter Ric Bucher quietly made a serious claim about Artest on middle-of-the-night national radio that might delight the Laker haters among you.

Yao Ming Ric Bucher

(Co-Author of Yao biography says Rockets covered up Artest’s bad behavior)

While talking to late-night, White Castle drive-thru companion and ESPN Radio host Jason Smith, Bucher said that Artest has not cleaned up his act as a person.

So why don’t we all know that Artest hasn’t (apparently) changed his volatile, oft-erratic ways off the court? According to Bucher, the Rockets were exceptional at covering up Artest’s alleged indiscretions.

Hmmm. Now where do you think Bucher would get that kind of information?

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Foot Could Cause Yao’s Career to Kick The Bucket

Ever since Yao Ming broke his left foot in the Rockets’ playoff series against the Lakers, the healing process for the Houston center has been moving very slow. In fact, doctors are worried that his injury is actually getting worse.

Yao Ming Lakers

And concerns are being raised that Yao may miss the entire 2009-10 NBA season. Or worse yet, his basketball career may be coming to an abrupt end.

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Ron Artest Says Bill O’Reilly’s The Real Slim Shady

I hesitate to mention this after yesterday’s mini-storm involving Rush Limbaugh, but another right-wing icon is in the sports news. That would be Bill O’Reilly, who, for whatever reason, would be the perfect rap duet partner, says the one and only Ron Artest.

Ron Artest, Bill O'Reilly

The news broke on Twitter, as you knew it had to. Artest wants to make sweet, killer rhymes with the Fox News pundit. Or was he being sarcastic? After all, there was a LOL at the end of it. Read more…

LA Beats Bejeezus Out Of Rockets, Wins Series

The problem with Game 7s is that they’re under no obligation to be as exciting as the first six games of the series. Like the Super Bowl, the magnitude of importance usually outshadows the actual quality of the game by leaps and bounds.

Pau Gasol block
(A homeless man makes a terrific play on defense for Los Angeles.)

Unfortunately, unlike the Super Bowl, NBA Game 7s aren’t played on neutral courts, so they’re often formulaic. Ask one question: Is the best team playing at home? If so, automatic game over, and fans may as well find something more exciting to do with their two hours, like a marathon tantric sex session with that hot blonde at work video games.

Exhibit 4,523 of this formula: today’s epic stomping delivered by the Lakers against the visiting Rockets. Read more…

Sorry Morganna, Rafer Is The New Kissing Bandit

Amid the drama and excitement of Orlando forcing a Game 7 with Boston was a peculiar sight: Rafer Alston, apparently trying to atone for his Eddie House headslap by, um, kissing a referee’s bald head, as seen below.

Rafer Alston Ref Kiss
(Okay, then.)

But as sharp-minded sports fans like HG at YOU BEEN BLINDED recall, this isn’t a crazy, one-off situation; Rafer kisses dudes on the court all the time. Which is fine, we suppose - it’s the 21st century, this is totally fine among European straight men, and as long as crotches don’t get involved there’s nothing really objectionable. Still, let’s take a look back at Rafer’s exploits through the years. Read more…

Speed Read: Cardiac Canes Will Break Your Heart

As evidenced by Wednesday night’s Pittsburgh Penguins’ romp over the Washington Capitals, not every Game 7 in hockey is something special. But let’s face it - most of them are. And when you throw overtime into the mix? It’s about as good as it gets. It’s drama that you cannot turn away from - at any second, the game and the series could be over with one thunderbolt.

Carolina Hurricanes

So it was that the Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins skated at the end of the first overtime in their Game 7 in Boston, looking for all the world like they were going to a second extra period - or more. And then out of nowhere, a shot was flipped towards the net, Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas was unable to control the rebound, and winger Scott Walker pounced to put the puck in the net for his first career playoff goal to end the game 3-2 and the series.

Boston Bruins

And the fact that it was Walker who scored the series-winner had to hurt Bruins fans doubly, since he was the person who sucker punched Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward near the end of Game 5. According to NHL rules, Ward should have been suspended for Game 6, but the league rescinded the suspension after a hearing on Monday. So he went from almost breaking Ward’s face to definitely breaking the Bruins’ hearts.

(Of course, even though it was a Game 7 overtime winner, it arguably wasn’t as impressive or as cold-blooded as how the Hurricanes scored two late goals to send the New Jersey Devils packing in Game 7 of their first-round series. If I’m the Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals, I’m doing everything I can to close them out early.)

Red Wings versus Ducks

The Detroit Red Wings’ Game 7 victory over the Anaheim Ducks didn’t go to overtime, but it sure had its share of drama. Detroit went up two goals early, only to see Anaheim claw back to level the score at 3-3. But Dan Cleary scored with three minutes to go to give the Red Wings the go-ahead goal and Detroit’s defense was able to make it stick, setting up a Western Conference Finals match-up with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Dwight Howard

Oh, you say that you prefer NBA Game 7s? Well, you’ll have your chance for satisfaction soon enough, as two teams fought off elimination to earn one deciding game. In Orlando, the subtle message that Dwight Howard sent to Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy through the media (i.e. “quit being an idiot and get me the ball”) must have sunk in, as Howard had 23 points and 22 rebounds and the Magic forced a return trip to Boston with an 83-75 victory over the Celtics. None of which apparently excited Orlando fans to show up, as there were “patches of empty seats early in the game.”

Kobe Bryant

No wonder Commissioner David Stern was at the Lakers vs. Rockets game. And speaking of late-arriving - someone might want to tell the Lakers that Houston is in a different time zone, because they clearly aren’t showing up for games there until it’s too late. Much like in Game 4, Los Angeles put themselves in a huge hole they never could get out of, at one point closing an early 16-point deficit to two points but finally running out of steam and falling 95-80 to force a Game 7 at Staples Center. Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets wait and rest.

Here’s some more sports news to digest while I try to figure out how to be part of “Bike To Work Day” when I work from home.

Which postseason is the most exciting?

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Speed Read: Floyd’s Follies Continue to Roil USC

Tim Floyd, USC’s men’s basketball coach for the moment (and this after almost becoming a leader of Wildcats), allegedly paid a handler a thousand dollars in cash to be delivered to O.J. Mayo in a successful attempt to encourage the young point guard to follow through on joining USC for a season after signing his letter of intent.  (No, the handler wasn’t Li’l Romeo.  Good guess, though.)

O.J. Mayo Tim Floyd

Everyone from the handler to Floyd to USC could be in varying levels of trouble if true.  Therefore, absolutely no one except YAHOO! SPORTS’ source will speak on the record.   Their investigative journalism has been hit and miss, though their commitment to providing original reporting has not wavered.

It’s unclear how seriously the reporting from the site with the silly name can be taken, though, as they clearly do not have fake conversations where they hype their stories around a ridiculously small table while being filmed in black-and-white.  It’s not really journalism if it’s colorized.

E60 from ESPN

(Journalism!)

From one stereotypically smoky back room to another, Delaware’s legislature has passed a law permitting sports betting in a desperate attempt to fill a gaping $600 million maw in the state budget.  The governor has promised his signature on the bill once the state Supreme Court has spoken to the state constitutionality of the bill.

Delaware is one of only four states with a legal exemption to a 1992 federal law banning sports gambling and the only one east of the Mississippi.  State lawmakers have high hopes of becoming a gambling mecca for sports enthusiasts; one called the opportunity “an unbelievable cash cow”.  Again, it’s unclear how true this can be if no one will be allowed to gamble on the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

Wilmington Blue Rocks - Rocky Bluewinkle

(The only thing you can tease here is the moose, sir)

Finally, from one set of rocks to another, Boston came back to defeat the Orlando Magic 92-88 last night to take a 3-2 series lead in a highly predictable collapse from the team in blue that has only one mode: jack the three up and cross your fingers.

Magic against Celtics

Houston also got a condescending pat on the head for their Game 4 effort without Yao Ming before being penetrated 118-78 by the Lakers and falling behind 3-2 in their series. The Rockets now only have one reliable position: fetal.

Phil Mickelson and wife

(”… so that’s winning!  Interesting.”)

On the other hand, three fine NHL Game 7s have now been scheduled after wins by Anaheim and Boston last night.  Detroit never found its offense despite approximately 40392109 minutes on the power play while Carolina’s Cam Ward couldn’t quite figure out what all that goalie equipment should be used for. One possibility: handing off $1,000 in cash to the next O.J. Mayo?

Anaheim Ducks

And now a hail of bullet points discovered behind the olive loaf sandwich in the break room fridge; you know, the fridge that sent half your office to the hospital

Do you believe sports betting should be legalized?

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