One Man’s Inspirational Quest To Meet Larry Bird

You might not think it worth your time to read a very long blog post about meeting an NBA executive, but before you judge the story linked below, there’s a couple of things you should know. First, the executive in question is Larry Bird, President of Basketball Operations for the Pacers. Second, it’s a pretty touching account of a son’s gift to his father.

When you look up ***hole in the dictionary, many times the entry will be accompanied by the picture of a pro athlete. And the bigger they are, often the more unsavory than can become. But one man had a dream: To get his father, who is suffering from a heart ailment, a meet-n-greet with Basketball Jesus. This is the story of that unlikely quest.

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Athlete Twitter Fail #362: Celtic Makes Vick Joke

Our story so far: Pro athletes are out of control with Twitter, embarrassing themselves and their organizations at an unprecedented rate. We’re going to need a Presidential decree to stop it at this point, I fear. Mr. Obama, you need to act now. Health reform can wait. The latest to enter the SbB Social Networking Hall of Fail: Marquis Daniels of the Boston Celtics.

Marquis Daniels

CELTIC HUB happened to notice on Wednesday that Daniels had tweeted a rather discomforting message to one of his readers. Unfortunately, as Twitter is available to read by everyone (you knew that, but pro athletes apparently do not), what was apparently a crude joke is now out there for everyone to enjoy. Dog lovers and Michael Vick fans may not be amused: Read more…

Cream Cheese Causes Coach To Cancel Twittering

• Who would have though cream cheese on bagels would be the downfall of George Mason coach Jim Larranaga’s Twittering career?

Jim Larranaga George Mason cream cheese bagel

(”Go away! You’ve caused me enough trouble!”)

• Broncos fans boo Jay Culter on his return to Denver. And the way Kyle Orton has been playing, expect a lot more booing from Mile High this year.

• But there’s plenty of cheering at NBC, where Sunday’s Broncos-Bears matchup netted the highest ratings for a preseason game in five years.

• Holy subterranean living! Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger is building himself a batcave down in New Mexico.

• A Louisville-area high school football coach is facing homicide charges after one of his players collapsed & died during practice.

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Danny Granger Building A Batcave In New Mexico

When I was a kid (read: last year), I used to create elaborate forts in my parents’ living room out of blankets, pillows, bookcases, and chairs. Once, I somehow managed to create a two-story, multi-roomed palace with a cardboard front gate that consumed the entire living room and connected with the kitchen door. It was the pinnacle, and the end, of my career in structural engineering. I mean, when you’ve got YOUR OWN CARDBOARD FRONT GATE for crying out loud, what more can you do to top it? So I retired from the fort-building business forever.

Danny Granger Batcave

Little did I know then, as I folded up the blankets and reassembled the dining room table, that it didn’t have to end that way. I could have persevered and gone on to accomplish ever more ludicrous fort-like structures. If only I had devoted myself to basketball, gone to the University of New Mexico, and gotten drafted by the Indiana Pacers, my love of fantastical forts and secret passages could have been indulged. Danny Granger did persevere and did choose that path, and that’s why he’s now got a Batcave. Yes, we’ll repeat that: Danny Granger has a Batcave in New Mexico.

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Ron Artest Re-Enacts Brawl For Chinese Pop Star

There are only a handful of events in sports that can be unmistakably described in two short words. The Shot. The Play. And, of course, The Brawl. Ron Artest could retire from the NBA today, devote his life to spreading democracy in the Middle East or saving endangered baby butterflies in Tibet, and he’d still be best remembered for the events of November 19, 2004 (NEVAR FORGET).  David Stern would never admit it, but The Brawl has gone down in history as one of the NBA’s most unforgettable moments.

Ron Artest Shin Shin Hong Kong

(Pic courtesy Ron Artest’s Twitter)

And while it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that The Brawl’s notoriety has spread worldwide, it was still amusing to see Hong Kong pop singer Shin Shin asking Artest about it. What was very surprising, however, was Artest suddenly deciding to re-enact the whole damn thing, on camera, in front of an amusement park…in Hong Kong. Take it away, Tru Warier.

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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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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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Speed Read: Rumor Mill Heats Up Valley Of Sun

We last left the never-ending stand-up comedy routine that is Shaquille O’Neal’s life as he was engaging in a prank battle with Suns rookie Louis Admunson. But then came word that he might soon be taking his show on the road, as the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS reported that the big man expected to be heading to New Orleans in the off-season in a trade for Tyson Chandler.

Shaquille O'Neal

While the prospect of O’Neal - who had something resembling a career resurgance this past season - joining Chris Paul and David West might make Hornets fans (hello, anyone?)  scream like a teenage girl bumping into Joe Jonas at an am/pm, the TIMES-PICAYUNE says that they can save their voices. They looked at the trade and said that the numbers just don’t work - basically, the Hornets would have to trade $8 million more in player salaries in addition to Chandler’s, which doesn’t help their goal of trimming salary to stay under the cap.

Anquan Boldin

So while the Suns’ trade of Shaq might have stalled, the same isn’t true of Arizona Cardinals’ wide receiver Anquan Boldin. First, the DALLAS MORNING NEWS said that Boldin appeared as a guest on Michael Irvin’s radio show and pretty much pleaded to be traded:

As for getting traded Boldin said, “I just want to get it resolved, it’s been going on way too long.” Later he said, “it would hurt but at the same time, change is necessary. My only problem has been management, always has been.”

While this was happening, the ARIZONA REPUBLIC was reporting that the Cardinals have changed their course and are now open” to listening to trade offers for Boldin, who has two years left on his contract, but still prefer to resign him. Boldin mentioned in his interview that he’d love to play in the NFC East. With basically every team in the division needing a go-to wide receiver, it certainly is an attractive option.

And while this all was happening, on the other side of the country former Delaware football player Julian James was hungry - really hungry.  The DELAWARE NEWS-JOURNAL says that a video surveillance camera at an off-campus apartment complex allegedly shows James entering an unlocked apartment and leaving with loot, while unsuccessfully trying to get into six other apartment. His haul?

Julian James

“100 frozen chicken wings, a pound of frozen salmon, 18 frozen Hot Pockets and 20 hamburger patties worth a total value of $82.”

Or as John Kruk would call that, “lunch.” I hope they recovered the stolen food before James had a chance to eat it; Otherwise, I’d think the state’s Exhibit A in the trial is going to be pretty smelly and disgusting.

  • What’s hotter than Miss America in a basketball jersey? How about Miss America in a basketball jersey draining an NBA 3-pointer. INDY CORN ROWS says current Miss America Katie Stam did just that before a Pacers game last night.
  • Miss America with the Pacers

  • What happens when a stick from an opposing team’s player gets stuck halfway through the glass in Boston? As PUCK DADDY says, it turned into a tug-of-war between Montreal’s Alexei Kovalev and a Bruins fan during the Canadiens’ 4-2 loss, with the stick breaking in half. If this were the 1970s and the Bruins were playing the Rangers, Mike Milbury would have made sure someone ate some leather.
  • Congratulations to Ichiro, who the SEATTLE TIMES reports set the record for most hits by a Japanese baseball player with a fourth inning single, giving him 3,086 for his career in Japan and the U.S. So that’s what was causing his bleeding ulcer.
  • As if the Flyers needed an obstacle in trying to take down the Penguins in their NHL first-round playoff series: the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS says that Philadelphia enforcer Daniel Carcillo has been suspended for Game 2 after giving a “message” hit to the back of the head of Pittsburgh’s Max Talbot at the end of the Flyers’ Game 1 loss.
  • In the wake of Nick Adenhart’s tragic death and with the Angels’ nearly tragic bus crash from 1992 still on longtime team fans’ minds, HALOS HEAVEN looks at MLB’s contingency plans in case of a catastrophic accident that wipes out a team. George Costanza can rest easy tonight.
  • The ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH says that Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter left the team’s game against the Cubs in the fourth inning with a strained oblique. How did he get the injury? Taking a swing during an earlier at-bat. THIS IS WHY WE HAVE THE DH, PEOPLE!
  • Remember when the Cavs fans got on LeBron James’ case when he dribbled out the ball with the team needing one more point to ensure fans a free Taco Bell item? The CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER says King James was still ticked about Chalupagate as he addressed the fans before the team’s home finale.
  • If I am Kurt Busch and my NASCAR career has stalled, the one person I wouldn’t be yelling at during a race is his car owner, racing legend Roger Penske. FROM THE MARBLES agrees, and has the audio and video proof (about 55 seconds in):

  • Kenyon Martin on Sacramento Kings co-owner Joe Maloof to SI.COM after Maloof demanded an apology after Martin gave a hard foul to the Kings’ Spencer Hawes: “Apologize to him? I’m not apologizing to him. I apologized to Spencer after the game, but before he opens his mouth he needs to know what’s going on.” Guess someone just got uninvited to the Palms VIP suites this off-season.
  • Congratulations to former Arizona basketball star Eugene Edgerson, who the ARIZONA DAILY STAR says was arrested for his second domestic abuse charge within the past two months. Edgerson currently plays for the Harlem Globetrotters, leading me to wonder if his wife is the Washington Generals of marriage.

With Stephen A. Smith out the door, which ESPN talking head should be the next to get the ax?

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Speed Read: Is Big Ben Lying About Broken Ribs?

So, what’s the deal with Ben Roethlisberger? We all know now that he told Peter King that he played in the Super Bowl with two broken ribs, but it wasn’t anywhere to be found on the official injury report in the lead up to the game, and there hasn’t been any independent confirmation that this is true. Would Big Ben lie about broken ribs just to seem like a bigger man? ESPN.COM notes that he has “previously exaggerated or misstated injuries he supposedly suffered during his five-season career.”

Ben Roethlisberger

PRO FOOTBALL TALK seems to have the biggest problem with all of this because, if it’s true that he had bad ribs and had in fact had an x-ray prior to the Super Bowl, it should have been on the injury report because NFL rules require teams to disclose injuries (for gamblers, of course). All Ben admitted to was having an x-ray “somewhere”, and Mike Tomlin said he “hadn’t heard” anything about an x-ray. This all was probably concocted to keep the Cardinals from going right after his ribs and forcing Byron Leftwich into the game. But the point of the injury disclosure rules are to identify which players are injured. If the Steelers deliberately misled the media and the league about Roethlisberger’s injury — even if he 100% intended to play in the game — doesn’t that break league rules?

PFT’s Mike Florio has a lot to say about the matter, and here’s a summary:

The reality, however, is that the individual teams are more concerned about competitive advantage or, more importantly, disadvantage.  If, as it appears, the Steelers took pains to conceal the fact that Roethlisberger received an X-ray on his ribs and that, as Roethsliberger said, “I knew all along there was something wrong,” they did so in order to prevent the Cardinals from targeting his midsection early and often, in the hopes of knocking him out of the game.

It appears, then, that the NFL is striking the delicate balance between the integrity of the game and notions of competitive disadvantage by making the injury report an issue of availability only, not of effectiveness and/or potential for aggravation.

Thus, there’s a loophole in the injury report.  A player can be injured, and his team can avoid reporting it.

And, consequently, there’s an incentive for folks inclined to place and/or accept wagers, legal or otherwise, to attempt to develop relationships aimed at getting to the truth.

The way the Steelers are reacting to this news, it’s hard to figure out if they’re trying to avoid embarrassing their QB by not calling him a liar or if they really were covering up a possibly serious injury. It begs the question, though: if the public knew that Big Ben had fractured ribs, what would the line have been? Might it have been less than, say, four? The decision to keep it under wraps may have cost Steeler bettors a bunch of cash.

Ben Roethlisberger Lombardi Trophy

In Indiana, the Pacers stunned the Cavs 96-95 in one of the more bizarre endings you’ll see. It was so contentious that it caused Cleveland coach Mike Brown to say this afterward:

“I went back and I watched the last two plays and that last call on LeBron was the worst call I’ve ever been a part of… We didn’t play particularly well. But that was a bad call that was predetermined that determined the outcome of the game. Simple as that. They can fine me for this crap. I don’t care. That was the worst call I’ve ever been part of. I’m talking from little league on up.”

Mike Brown

The call? LeBron James was called for a phantom foul on an alley-oop pass to Danny Granger with 0.1 seconds remaining in a tie game. Granger made a free throw and the Pacers won the game. But with 0.8 remaining and the Cavs trailing by two, Granger was called for a nearly identical foul on James that enraged the Pacers and the Conseco Fieldhouse crowd. Brown implied that referee Joey Crawford deliberately called the foul on James to compensate for what he felt to be a bad call by Bernie Adams on the other end.  Here’s the video:

Antonio Margarito isn’t going to be fighting Shane Mosley again anytime soon. In fact, he isn’t going to be fighting anyone anytime soon as he’s been banned for a year by the California State Athletic Commission for using illegal hand wraps in his fight with Mosley last month.

• The final round of World Cup qualifying starts tonight, and the U.S. is attempting to resume its recent dominance of Mexico on American soil. Luckily, tonight’s game is in Ohio, so only about half the crowd should be rooting for Mexico, as opposed to the 99.7% if the game were played in California.

• Another brutal hockey attack has made its way to the internet. PUCK DADDY has this video of Oshawa Generals captain and Florida Panthers prospect James Delory slashing and attacking Nathan Moon of Kingston. Although, it should be noted that Moon gave Delory a shot first:

• Remember that Bud Light ad from the Super Bowl where a guy is thrown out of the window of a conference room because he suggests that his office give up drinking Bud Light during the work day? Well, it turns out that the creative director of the agency that created the ad actually did jump out of a window and kill himself last year, according to BNET. So maybe that wasn’t very funny after all.

Sean Avery is now one step closer to starting a sloppy second stint with the Rangers. He’s joined the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford, but still remains under contract with the Stars.

• Hey, remember how everybody ridiculed Jose Canseco for saying that he introduced A-Rod to a steroids dealer? Uh, oops. Now Jose is saying he wants to help MLB move beyond the steroids era. And, oddly, he might actually be one of the only people who can make it happen.

• Does Danica Patrick still race cars, or does she just do this for a living now?:

Danica Patrick

• Oklahoma State basketball coach Travis Ford is sorry that he called one of his players a f***ing idiot on Saturday, says the AP.  Ford might want to consult Cowboy football coach Mike Gundy about how to deal with any lingering criticism.

• GRANEY & THE PIG (whoever they are) would like everyone to boycott Kellogg’s for dropping Michael Phelps. Yeah, I’m sure a stoner boycott of cereal will go really well.

• BASEBALL PROSPECTUS has come up with its projections for the 2009 season. Oddly, the Pirates are not projected to do well. Even more oddly, the Yankees are not picked to win the AL East.

• Thankfully, all in the cricket world is well after India battered Sri Lanka by three wickets in Colombo. The hosts posted a formidable 171/4 after Tillakaratne Dilshan put up 61 runs on just 47 balls. But the partnership of Yusuf and Irfan Pathan rescued India with 59 late runs, after the visitors had limped to 115/7 and looked to be a little on the ropes. I have no idea what I just wrote.

Do you think Ben Roethlisberger is lying about playing with broken ribs in the Super Bowl?

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Utah Paper Searches For the Mythical White NBAer

The white, non-European NBA player: Perhaps the rarest of all sports figures, this creature is considered by some to be mythical, by others to be extinct. But the SALT LAKE TRIBUNE did some research and found that they are neither fictional beings nor have they been wiped off the face of the Earth. They just tend to reside in Middle Earth Indianapolis.

JJ Reddick drives on Kevin Love

After crunching the numbers, the paper found that there are 46 white Americans out of 432 players on current NBA rosters, about 1.5 per team. Which makes sense - anyone who watches the Lakers would could Chris Mihm as half a player.

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