Jorge Sedano of the MIAMI HERALD reports today that, according to a source, LeBron James has spoken to Boston Celtics free agent Ray Allen in a bid to land the shooting guard for the Miami Heat in the event James, Raptors forward Chris Bosh and Miami Heat free agent Dwyane Wade agree to join the Heat together.
After sweeping the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals at Orlando, Paul Pierce addressed Boston fans during a live postgame interview as part of the Game 2 telecast on May 18. Pierce said, “we’re coming home to close it out.”
(Video via ABC/ESPN television)
Moments later Pierce could be heard on the same telecast telling Magic fans as he walked back to the locker room, “see ya’ll next year.”
Pierce’s comments were less than prophetic, as the Magic managed to force the series back to Florida with a Game 4 victory in Boston. Orlando then defeated Pierce’s Celtics in Game 5 before the C’s took the series 4-2 with a Game 6 victory in Boston.
Pierce blessed us with similar histrionics Sunday night in the waning moments of the Celtics’ Game 2 win against the Lakers in Los Angeles. Read more…
The day after the Lakers got a-bombed in Boston in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals, I was driving through the Florida panhandle on my way home to Los Angeles. Thankfully, there were no Boston Celtics fans stationed that day along Interstate 10 at Mobile Bay.
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo reports that immediately subsequent to the Lakers getting their NBA Title hopes asploded by the C’s that season, “chaos quickly broke out around the Lakers.”
Boston Celtics fans had filled the streets to celebrate the franchise’s 17th championship, not far from a statue of longtime patriarch Red Auerbach smoking a victory cigar.
The “digital branding agency” for Paul Pierce claims this morning that four recent Tweets taunting the Orlando Magic from Pierce’s verified Twitter account did not come from the Celtics player.
Athlete Interactive, which coordinates Pierce’s Twitter account, Tweeted Wednesday:
Tweets on May 18, 2010 from @paulpierce34 are not Paul Pierce. The account was hacked. Twitter has been notified and is investigating.
Orlando-based WFTV producer Tara Manis added on Twitter, “I saw him talking to other reporters when these were sent… no cell in hand.”
Pierce also addressed the matter himself on his Twitter account Wednesday morning, Tweeting, “Hacked in game and post game while on podium. Disregard chatter.”
After the Celtics defeated the Magic in Orlando to take a 2-0 lead in the playoff series, Dwight Howard was asked by a reporter about an alleged Pierce Tweet that said, “Anyone have a BROOM?” Read more…
Paul Pierce blogs this suggestion to the NBA today in the BOSTON GLOBE:
Raise the rim three inches: The athletes today are crazy. You see the way guys are jumping these days. I would raise the rim three inches. Then, you have to learn the art of the jump shot. You’ll have to know how to play this game a little bit better then. Raising the rim, you’ll see improved play. You’ll see increasing fundamentals. I’m telling you.
He’s right on all counts, but I think Pierce’s post may have a perhaps unwitting, alternate motivation.
Remember how contentious that first-round series was between Atlanta and Boston in the 2008 playoffs? Yapping, thugging, mean-mugging all over the place, and eighth-seeded Atlanta taking the eventual champs to seven games before Boston casually dispatched the underdog with a roughly 40,000-point beating in the pivotal game.
We mention this, of course, because we always like dragging up 18-month old news. No no, we kid. That’s not true. No, the real issue is that apparently, that trash talk between Al Horford and Paul Pierce at the end of Game Three might have been over a cool $10,000 - a bet that, according to Henry Abbott, is outstanding to this day.
So the NBA is kind of touchy when it comes to their players referencing gangs — remember when the Celtics’ Paul Pierce was fined $25,000 for flashing a Piru Blood gang sign at the Hawks’ Al Horford in 2008? The Nuggets’ J.R. Smith may also be skating on fragile frozen water if anyone in the league office examines his Twitter account.
According to the DENVER POST, Smith’s Twitter is creating controversy due to the way he’s presenting some of his posts — spelling words with a “k” in place of a “c,” or removing the “c” altogether, which is commonly associated with the Bloods street gang. Because Smith has more than 15,000 followers, it’s creating some noise.
Even with the Orlando Magic leading the Boston Celtics by 17 midway through the fourth quarter in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal, you may have had an uneasy feeling in your stomach that it was a big set-up to a massive, heartbreaking, Stan Van Gundy-firing collapse. Of course Boston was going to make a run - especially with Dwight Howard sitting with five fouls. The only question was how badly would the Magic collapse.
After all, they had blown a 14-point lead in Game 5 of the series, and almost let a 28-point cushion slip away in Game 1, so why not save the “best” for last? And sure enough, after Ray Allen hit a three-pointer with 4:12 to play, the Celtics had cut the lead to 12 and were poised to make something happen. So, of course, there was only one man the Magic could turn to in their hour of need.
That’s right, Mr. Pizza Man himself, Hedo Turkoglu. Maybe the grease on his fingers from his pregame meal of pizza put extra spin on the ball, but he was out of his mind in Game 7, especially when the Magic needed him most. He responded to Allen’s three-pointer with one of his own, and then hit a fallaway jumper on the next possession to get the lead back to 17. Maybe he’s a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and pizza is his spinach?
After that, it was time for the Celtics to pull Allen and Paul Pierce for a final round of applause, and bring in the scrubs. (Otherwise known as “Gabe Pruitt Time!”) As for the Magic, they haven’t been this far since the Shaq and Penny days, so you can excuse the people of Orlando if they don’t exactly act like they’ve been there before.
So the NBA didn’t get the Cavaliers vs. Celtics match-up they were craving, but their consolation prize is nice: the most dominant big man in the game (Dwight Howard) vs. the most dominant anything in the game (LeBron James). As for Bron-Bron and the Cavaliers, you can see that they were clearly concerned about who they would play:
Let’s see Van Gundy draw up a defense for that.
As the NBA’s reigning champs were dethroned, the current NFL champs get ready to enjoy one of their spoils on Thursday: the traditional meeting with the President in front of the White House. But NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison won’t be joining them. No, he doesn’t have a pressing personal emergency, and it’s not a political protest. His reason is a little more complex than that:
“This is how I feel — if you want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers, invite us when we don’t win the Super Bowl. As far as I’m concerned, he [Obama] would’ve invited Arizona if they had won,” said Harrison.
So let me get this straight: Harrison is upset because he thinks that Barack Obama is playing favorites and only inviting the Steelers because they won the Super Bowl and not because he’s their biggest fan? Apparently he didn’t see the bitchin’ helmet tattoo that the President got before the playoffs, or the new paint modifications he made to Air Force One once he took office:
Finally, the Stanley Cup playoffs started their conference finals on Sunday, and the Detroit Red Wings gave the upstart Chicago Blackhawks a welcome to big time hockey with a 5-2 thumping in Game 1 of their series. But the big story was almost something far darker, as the Blackhawks’ Adam Burish narrowly escaped a Richard Zednik/Clint Malarchuk moment when his neck was clipped by the skate of teammate Ben Eager.
Unlike the other two players, Burish only received a minor nick that didn’t require stitches. Still, he knows how lucky he was:
“I don’t know how my head was still connected there,” Burish said. “I saw his skate. It was like he did a figure skating move. He lifted his skate up and I just watched it go over my neck.”
If only they made some sort of device that could protect hockey players in case a blade happens to catch them in the neck. A “neck protector,” if you will. But I guess that’s just crazy talk.
- THE STATE says South Carolina baseball player Casey Rihn allegedly learned the hard way why you don’t keep hitting the back of a police car with your hands when you are walking around drunk at 2 a.m.: you can wind up arrested after the cop in your car turns your face into Hamburger Helper on the ground.
- I guess that Usain Bolt’s OK after the foot surgery following his car crash: The AP says that in his first meet back in Manchester, England, he set the world record in the 150 meters at 14.35. Yeah, he even has the world record for a race no one runs now.
- Walls? After you’ve been through the kind of hell Josh Hamilton has, walls are nothing. Actually, the DALLAS MORNING NEWS says that the wall was a pretty decent adversary for the Rangers’ outfielder, as he suffered a mild groin strain while making a game-saving catch against the Angels.
- Dear Bruno Junqueira: Thanks for qualifying our car for the Indianapolis 500 - we really appreciate it. But we hope you don’t mind that we’re pulling you from the ride and replacing you with Alex Tagliani. It’s nothing personal - it’s just that he’s our main driver and all, and he failed to qualify. Best, Conquest Racing. P.S. Please return your driving suit to us by 5 p.m. or you lose the deposit.
- Manchester United wrapped up the English Premier League crown this weekend, but the biggest story might be the plight of former soccer heavyweights Newcastle United. As the TELEGRAPH reports, their 1-0 loss to Fulham puts them on the edge of relegation to soccer’s minor leagues, as they need a win in their final game to stay in the EPL.
- NFL fans who don’t get the NFL Network might finally be in luck: SI’s Peter King says that the league is closing in on a deal with Comcast to make the network available on the regular digital cable package. Finally, I won’t have to pay a premium for my daily dose of Rich Eisen.
- TROY NUNES IS AN ABSOLUTE MAGICIAN sat down with new Syracuse football coach Doug Marrone for an interview, but not during breakfast if their arteries know what’s good for them. After all, Marrone claims that he once ate “42 pancakes with two sticks of butter…or a stick and half of butter…no, two sticks of butter and a thing and a half of maple syrup. I take pride in what I can eat.”
- As if the Colorado Rockies didn’t have enough problems with the Pittsburgh Pirates taking two of three against them over the weekend, BUGS & CRANKS says that they even had to dodge bats kicked at them by the umps.
- It was apparently “Dress Like A Banana Day” in San Francisco for the Giants’ game against the Mets, but THE SPORTS HERNIA says that Jon Miller was the only person in the ESPN broadcast booth to get the memo:
- What’s more American than baseball? The CHARLOTTE OBSERVER has an answer: beer and baseball. Since a local ordinance was changed allowing them to sell beer on Sundays, the minor league Charlotte Knights have seen attendance for Sunday home games go up by 30 percent.
April is the best month to be a sports fan, and last night was a classic example of why. It was a virtual buffet of scrumptious viewing options. And a really good buffet, too, like the ones you find in downtown Vegas where all the locals eat, not one of those lousy chain buffets where everything from the decor to the food is a monochrome tan color palette and seems to be from the 1970s. (I’m looking at you, Hometown Buffet.)
Case in point: Game 5 between the Celtics and the Bulls, which took an already great series into uncharted territory. With their backs to the wall and missing two of their Big Three (Kevin Garnett to injury and Ray Allen after fouling out with 5:27 left in the fourth quarter), Boston found a way to get past Chicago 106-104 in overtime. And that way was Paul Pierce, who made three straight jumpers in the final 77 seconds of OT to carry the Celtics to a 3-2 series lead.
Just how historic is this series? The two teams have set a record with three overtime games in one series - and there’s still as many as two games left to go. (And let’s be honest: anyone who isn’t a Boston fan has to want this to go to seven games.) Bob Ryan of the BOSTON GLOBE believes it’s the best No. 2 vs. No. 7 match-up in league history, and it’s pretty hard to argue the point.
Of course, there were other heroes who made the win possible for the Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins and Brad Miller. Yeah, that Brad Miller, the big, vaguely stiffish center who plays for the Bulls. Miller had a chance to send the game into a second OT when Rondo was called for a foul on Miller’s missed layup with two seconds left. But Miller clanked the first one and then failed to hit the rim while trying to miss the second one.
Meanwhile, Dwight Howard is just destroying things. Mainly the 76ers, as evidenced by his 24 point, 24 rebound performance in the Magic’s 91-78 victory to get their own 3-2 series lead. And more specifically, he destroyed the 76ers Samuel Dalembert with an elbow to the head which earned him a technical foul. Philadelphia coach Tony DiLeo has said the team has already informed the league about Howard’s foul (in hopes of getting him suspended for Game 6), but since David Stern was actually at the game, the phone call was probably unnecessary.
But like any weapon of mass destruction, Howard can be as dangerous to his allies as his enemies (think of him as the basketball version of Doctor Manhattan, except with less giant blue wang), as proven when he KO’ed Orlando starting point guard Courtney Lee, sending him out of the game and to the hospital with a likely concussion. Which means that Orlando could be very short-handed when heading back to Philadelphia for Game 6. This series is far from over.
Meanwhile, let’s turn our attention to something slightly less violent: the NHL playoffs. Unless you consider death by choking to be too graphic for your tastes. Because that’s exactly what the New Jersey Devils did in their Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes, finding a way to lose in regulation despite having a 3-2 lead … with 80 seconds left.
No OT needed here, just a total and complete collapse started by Jussi Jokinen’s game-tying goal at 18:40 in the 3rd period and completed with Eric Staal’s game and series-winner with 37 seconds left. And keep in mind that this all happened in New Jersey: If you want to know just how quiet a sellout crowd can be, just watch this video of the Hurricanes’ furious rally:
Finally, I guess that Major League Soccer has finally reached the big time. Sure, their attendance is lagging and their TV ratings are at XFL levels, but now they can claim to be on par with a big time league like the NBA in one capacity: a referee game-fixing scandal. The COLUMBUS DISPATCH says that MLS referee Jair Marrufo is under investigation for allegedly accepting an autographed jersey from Chicago Fire star Cuauhtemoc Blanco in the referee’s room after their 2-2 draw against the Columbus Crew on Saturday. (And a hat tip to SOCCER BY IVES for finding the original story.)
Accepting a gift from a player is a pretty awful idea if you’re an official of any sport, much less a professional official at the highest level. But when you add to this the fact that Marrufo called a controversial red card on the Crew’s Gino Padula for a foul on Blanco in the second half, and that the Fire rallied for two late goals against the man-down Columbus side for a 2-2 draw, and things get downright shady.
As someone who has covered the MLS in recent years, I don’t think Marrufo purposefully threw the match; Given the lousy quality of MLS referees (including Marrufo), I don’t think the majority of them have the wherewithal to fix a bowl of cereal, much less a match. It’s more likely the whole incident was a mix of horrible on the field and post-game judgment by an MLS referee, a shockingly common occurrence.
Some more sports news you might have missed while trying to hack that small tree out of your lungs last night:
- You’ve probably heard by now that as a publicity stunt, the Albany Firebirds of arenafootball2 had offered Michael Vick a contract with a base salary of $200 a week and a $50 bonus for a win. Now here comes the twist: the ALBANY TIMES-UNION says that Firebirds owner Walter Robb is ticked off, because he says the offer was made without his knowledge, and that as a dog lover he “doesn’t want anything to do” with Vick.
- Speaking of people I wish would go away but haven’t quite yet: Please get ready to head to your fallout shelters until the start of the regular season. PRO FOOTBALL TALK says that the Jets have given Brett Favre his release, meaning he’s now a free agent. And Favre’s response to the news (“at this time, I am retired and have no intention of returning to football”) has me feeling very nauseous and woozy.
- Derek Bell’s World Series ring fails to meet the minimum reserve price on eBay. Everyone assumed it was a fraud, since no one remembers him actually winning the World Series.
- Some good news, Phillies fans: your team won 7-1 and Cole Hamels only gave up four hits while lowering his ERA. The bad news: he only went 4-1/3 innings before shutting it down after spraining his ankle fielding a bunt. And that new “lower” ERA is still at 7.27.
- In case you missed it on Monday night, James Jones of the Miami Heat scored eight points in 11 seconds against the Hawks, thanks to back-to-back four point plays. And Miami still lost by about a billion points - imagine how much worse it could have been (OK, eight points worse, but still). BALL DON’T LIE has the video proof of the Reggie Miller-esque scoring outburst:
- The CHATTANOOGA TIMES FREE PRESS says former Tennessee OL Cameron Mayo was arrested on charges of sexual assault. The former Volunteer was working at Dalton High in Tennessee as a substitute teacher at the time of his arrest.
- JOE SPORTS FAN wants you to fondly look back at the wonderful world of obviously posed shots from the 1987 Topps card collection.
- COLLEGE FOOTBALL TALK says that former Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman has fired back in his war of words with Texas Tech boss Mike Leach. Wait, Mike Sherman is still coaching the Aggies? Next you’re going to tell me that Charlie Weis hasn’t been fired yet. HUH?!?
- In other Red Raiders news, Texas Tech’s baseball team recently had a “Turn Back The Clock” night, so UNI WATCH says their video department decided to make a retro style highlight package. Someone had a lot of fun making this, so please watch:
- More fallout from the swine flu epidemic: the AP says that CONCACAF has canceled its regional beach soccer tournament scheduled to begin tomorrow in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The good news: if you’re going to be stranded somewhere because of a horrible flu outbreak, at least it’s the beach.
After the first two games in Boston resulted in a 1-1 series tie, the Celtics-Bulls series felt like a truly 50-50 proposition. That’s definitely no longer the case, thanks to a 107-86 Celtics blowout that often wasn’t even that close. If there were any questions whether the reigning NBA champions would mount a credible defense after they lost game one, those concerns were answered last night, starting with a handful of Paul Pierce connections as the game tipped off, and continuing with another monstrous playoff performance from point guard Rajon Rondo.
Look, there’s no debating that rookie of the year Derrick Rose is going to be one of the league’s great players. And while he’s shown flashes of an ability to control the series at times, he’s never really been able to keep up with Rondo, who is taking the “third-year leap” concept to new heights. If Denver star Chauncey Billups is the MVP of the playoffs’ first two games, Rondo has the early lead after Game 3. Playing on a sprained ankle that was bad enough to need help from two teammates to get back to the lockerroom, Rondo still scored 20 points, hitting 8 of 15 shots and dishing out six assists while corralling 11 rebounds and finishing with five steals.
It was an impressive performance, one that was only truly outdone by Pierce, who finally decided to stamp his authority on the series as a whole. The Celtics captain scored 24 points, hitting his first six shots as Boston took firm control of a series that truly seemed to be slipping away from them. Now, instead of doubts about whether they should have trailed 2-0 heading back to Chicago, the only question is why they weren’t up 2-0 themselves, considering the fact that Pierce had a chance to win Game 1 at the free throw line himself.
Things were far different for 2007’s champion in Dallas, where the Mavericks thoroughly trounded intra-state division rival San Antonio to take a commanding 2-1 lead in the teams’ first round series. The final score was 88-67, but San Antonio trailed by nearly 40 points in the first half of a game that was practically decided by the intermission report.
Dallas may not be known for defense, but the Mavs held a San Antonio team that looked positively incapable of creating its own offense to 32 percent shooting after it hit half of its shots in the first two games. The Spurs look old, they look tired and they look as if Manu Ginobili really may have been the key to all the team’s past playoff success. Without the slashing Argentine, San Antonio looks headed for an early exit, which isn’t the kind of thing that anyone is used to in South Texas, or anywhere else for that matter.
An early exit is more than Tony Gonzalez has been able to get in Kansas City in recent years, which is precisely why he wanted to be done with the Chiefs. After months of lobbying behind the scenes, the All-Pro tight end finally got his wish yesterday afternoon, landing with the Atlanta Falcons on an offense that may be evolving into one of the league’s most dynamic.
Rather than draft Oklahoma State’s Brandon Pettigrew, the Falcons somehow found a way to land one of the greatest tight ends of all time. The real story is how they landed him for only a second round pick in next year’s draft. Yes, the 2010 draft class should be significantly deeper than this year’s, but conventional wisdom still holds that a second round draft pick in the hand is worth a third round draft pick in next year’s bush. So, the Falcons essentially just landed Tony freaking Gonzalez for a third round pick.
How could Atlanta have pulled off something no one else in the league could? It’s not hard to come up with conspiracy theories, particualrly since Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff worked for Kansas City’s Scott Pioli in New England. Sure, familiarity doesn’t necessarily breed bargain basement deals, but if Pioli felt he had to trade Gonzalez — and if he insisted on sending him to the NFC (which he surely did) — then why not cut a little slack on a former protege?
The Kansas City Star, among others, is reporting that the Chiefs may have received a better deal from Cleveland and other teams closer to the draft, so there’s ammunition for conspiracy theorists (not that they need much). Others claim the Chiefs were offloading Gonzalez to set the stage for a big draft day move that will involve the No. 3 pick, an intriguing scenario that’s right out of the Patriots playbook for former Pats personnel chief Pioli.
It’s not the first time that former New England colleagues have been accused of being in cahoots with one another, and given the spread of front office talent from the league’s most successful franchise, it almost certainly won’t be the last either. The real question is whether there were actual shennanigans involved … and whether anyone can find enough proof to make those accusations stick.
- It was a hell of a lot closer than the other two NBA playoff games, but the Jazz got back in the series by beating the Lake Show at the buzzer with a Deron Williams buzzer beater.
- The Red Wings took a big step toward defending the Stanley Cup — particularly since the Sharks moved within a game of extinction again — by finishing off a sweep of first time playoff entrant Columbus. Next up? Another “Western Conference” foe you probably don’t care about … and that the Red Wings will roll over.
- Speaking of hockey, you saw how Martin Brodeur lost his head as soon as he let a shot slip past him with just 0.2 seconds left? Well, he had it back, firmly in place for Game 5, notching an amazing 23rd career playoff shutout with 44 saves in helping the Devils take control of their series with Carolina.
- Wait a minute, someone taught Kurt Warner how to Walk it Out? Does his pastor know about this?
- Jason Campbell has heard enough of this “The Redskins are really interested in (enter quarterback’s name here)!” business, and if they go after Mark Sanchez, he wants out.
- No sooner did the Wizards officially hire Flip Saunders than the Kings made their coaching position available, too. Really, how long should we have expected a guy named Kenny Natt to last. So, who wants to coach a really awful team? Possibly former Wizards head man Eddie Jordan. After all, he’s got that crappy team experience.
- Should we be brave enough to praise Kevin Blackistone for being brave enough to praise Jeremy Tyler’s decision to drop out of high school to chase overseas basketball? Nah, we’re going to wuss out, thanks. Can’t buy that no high school degree would be a good call in any scenario, thanks. Writing always helps so you can sign your name with more than an “x”, you know.
- Eric Byrnes is jumping on the Pure Performance Mouthguard bandwagon, following Manny Ramirez’s lead. Add in another 100 athletes, and the designer orthodontic prostheses will be like the new Under Armour.
- Maybe you’ve noticed that there have been empty seats at both of New York’s brand-spanking new ballparks, Citi Field and the new Yankee Stadium. Commissioner Bud Selig has noticed, too, and he may try to gently force the teams to drop ticket prices. It’s about time, isn’t it?
- Your requisite feel good baseball story of the day: Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt is trying to fight human trafficking.
- Your requisite depressing baseball story of the day: Brett Pedroia, the older brother of AL MVP Dustin Pedroia, pleaded guilty to having sex with a minor.