Brandon Roy Walking Out On The Anthem: Cool?

The PORTLAND OREGONIAN’s John Canzano, the designated s-stirrer in the Portland media, had a recent piece on Brandon Roy not being present on the floor for the Blazers when the national anthem goes off.

Mo Cheeks helps girl with anthem. Brandon Roy not around for Blazers anthem

(Ironic that Mo’s anthem save happened on Roy’s home court)

For two seasons now, Roy leaves the court before “The Star Spangled Banner” is performed. He waits out of sight, in the arena tunnel, and has a quiet moment of prayer while his teammates stand and honor America together.

Something about that feels troubling. And this is only partly about patriotism.

Roy is the Blazers captain, and leader, and two-time All Star. And the Blazers are busy preaching unity, and trying to find one vision right up until the moment Roy detaches and leaves his team standing on the court without him. And while I understand his desire to have a personal moment to gather his thoughts, I think there is ample time for a meditative moment in the hours leading to the game and I worry that the statement he’s making is one of individualism.

What would the fallout be if Roy’s teammates decided to join their leader in the tunnel? What if Roy weren’t from Seattle, but rather, from Spain, like Rudy Fernandez? What of respect, and heritage, and ceremony? What of team unity and leadership when the ball isn’t in your hands?

With the local reputation Canzano brings to the piece, Portlanders may be more likely to dismiss his argument out of hand. But I think he’s got a valid point, especially considering Canzano’s crafting of the column.

Should Brandon Roy be on the floor for the national anthem?

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Speed Read: NL Weaker Than Obama’s First Pitch

If MLB and Fox executives are wondering why no one watches the All-Star Game anymore, here’s Exhibit A: the winning run for the AL in their 4-3 victory over the NL was driven in by an eighth-inning sacrifice fly from Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles, a name that resonates with a thud among all but the most die-hard baseball fans. And the person he scored was the Tigers’ Curtis Granderson, who can be politely called “slightly more well-known than Adam Jones.”

Adam Jones

To put it mildly, if the All-Star Game was a weekly series, it would be on the verge of cancellation by now. Especially after TV critics would have inevitably slammed it for its lack of imagination and formulaic structure. Yes, we get it - the AL is always going to win. Can’t we just have a twist on that every once in a while? (And not the shoddy “Who’s Going to Pitch?” cliffhanger that Bud Selig and company cooked up a few years ago.)

Barack Obama

After 13 years of not seeing the National League win, it’s not surprising that people just aren’t that interested anymore. But there was an attempt to spice things up this year by bringing in a big-game star for a special guest appearance: President Barack Obama. After warming up with Albert Pujols in the batting cages before the game, Obama took the mound and delivered a pitch that was about as effective as his pitch for the bank bailout.

I’ll leave it to WIDE WHITE to give a breakdown of Obama’s pitch as it relates to his policies, but suffice it to say that it was neither great nor awful. He should just be thankful that Pujols was there to make a great pick to keep the ball from hitting the dirt. (And that was Pujols’ best play of the night, since he went 0-for-3 before the hometown crowd.)

The game MVP was Tampa Bay’s Carl Crawford, not so much for what he did at the plate but for his actions in the field, most notably his catch that robbed Brad Hawpe of what would have been a go-ahead home run in the seventh. And the NL can’t blame the loss on the AL being fired up because of Ichiro Suzuki’s notoriously profanity-laden pregame pep talks - President Obama’s visit to the clubhouses took up so much time that he didn’t get to give one.

Speaking of Ichiro, he took some time out of his schedule on Monday to visit the grave of George Sisler, whose record for hits in a season he broke in 2004. It was a nice touch, except for the fact that instead of bringing flowers or a wreath, Ichiro just swore at Sisler’s grave for 15 minutes straight until being escorted away by cemetary workers. Oh well, I guess it’s the thought that counts.

While MLB was playing a game that no one really cares about, the NBA is knee-deep in something arguably more exciting and definitely more important: free-agency. The main story right now is what will happen to Lamar Odom, and the saga took another turn last night as the Lakers have pulled their three-year deal worth $9 million off the table. The reason? Owner Jerry Buss is upset that Odom’s people haven’t responded to the offer while continuing to negotiate with the Mavericks and Heat.

Lamar Odom

But there’s another free-agency drama going on that is a little more below the radar screen, but just as fascinating. The Portland Trailblazers have made a four-year, $32 million offer sheet to promising young Utah forward Paul Millsap, who is a restricted free agent. That means that the Jazz have until the end of the week to match the offer and keep Millsap on the team.

The problem is that Millsap’s offer from the Trailblazers includes an immediate cash payout of $10.3 million, which Utah would also have to do if they match the offer sheet. And apparently, the cash isn’t flowing through the streets of Salt Lake as readily as Mormon children, since the Jazz ownership would likely have to take out a short-term bank loan to get the deal approved. (Portland doesn’t have that problem, since $10.6 million is vending machine money to billionaire owner Paul Allen.)

Not only does this make me question the solvency of the Utah ownership group, but it also makes me wonder how the whole loan process would go down. Would they have to wait in line at the bank before getting seated at one of those tables out in the lobby. What would they have to put up as collateral - Jerry Sloan? It simply boggles the mind.

Other sports news:

  • It turns out that with 22 points, WNBA star Diana Taurasi outscored her blood alcohol level the night she was arrested for a DUI - barely, as the AP reports that she’s been charged with an “Extreme DUI” after her blood alcohol level was shown to be 0.17 percent - twice the legal limit in Arizona.
  • Speaking of the WNBA, they announced their All-Star Game starters yesterday. No word on if Michelle Obama will be there for the traditional “First Fundamentally Sound Screen” of the game, or if they’ll get “stuck” with Hillary Clinton.
  • One thing you might not have seen at the All-Star Game (other than the National League hitting the ball) was a lot of black players. The PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER floats one reason why: the lack of strong black male role models in the inner cities makes it tough to find coaches for organized games.
  • The WALL STREET JOURNAL gives us an “Unofficial Guide to Life as a Ref” while wondering why NFL refs make so much for working one game a week.
  • With all the talk about Tiger Woods taking on Turnberry this week, there’s one thing that should be noted: Padraig Harrington is going after his third freakin’ straight British Open title. USA TODAY says it might be difficult since he’s completely changed his swing from last year.
  • The World Series of Poker Main Event is down to the final three tables, and poker celebrity/Norman Chad man crush Phil Ivey is still very much in the hunt, standing at fourth place with more than 11 million chips. Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari is also alive as they play down to the final table tomorrow.
  • Bud Selig calls claims of collusion to drive down the price of free agentssome make-believe scenario that doesn’t exist.” Right, because MLB would never get involved in collusion.
  • ESPN goes a different route and hires former NBC President Don Ohlmeyer as their new ombudsman. His first call: hiring his good friend O.J. Simpson to replace Bill Simmons as “The Sports Guy.”
  • Anthony Randolph notched his name in Las Vegas NBA Summer League history by tying the single-game scoring record by putting up 42 in the Warriors’ victory over the Bulls. Something tells me you won’t find any pictures of him posing with a basketball with “42″ written on it.
  • While sports talk radio is struggling elsewhere, it seems to be alive and well in Boston, where legendary rock station WBCN in being pulled off the air and replaced by the city’s third all-sports station.

Which remaining free agent is worth the most money?

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Speed Read: Yawn, Another Bulls/Celtics Classic

A few days ago, I thought that nothing could in the Celtics vs. Bulls series could top Boston’s wild OT victory over Chicago in Game 5, featuring Paul Pierce playing out of his mind to carry Boston to the win, Kirk Hinrich getting tripped by Rajon Rondo and smashing his face on the floor, or Brad Miller almost getting his faced ripped off (again by Rondo) before missing potential game-tying free throws with two seconds left to seal the victory for the Celtics.

Joakim Noah

But after last night’s Game 6 in Chicago,  I was clearly very, very wrong, as the Bulls’ 128-127 win in triple OT has not only pushed the series back to Boston on Friday for a deciding seventh game, but pushed the series from “epic” to “best ever” territory. And we can forget the qualifiers like “best ever first round series” or “best ever non-Finals series” - based on the series so far and what we can expect on Friday, this might be as good as an NBA series can possibly get.

Kirk Hinrich and Rajon Rondo square off

Just to recap some of the highlights, the fun started when Rondo and Hinrich got into it again early in the first quarter, with Rondo basically slinging Heinrich into the scorer’s table, with Heinrich immediately popping up looking for blood. Cooler heads prevailed and no one was ejected, but it sure served warning about what was to come.

Keep in mind that this game - and the series - should have all rights been over midway through the fourth quarter as the Celtics used a 25-2 run - 25-2! - to turn a 12-point deficit into a 99-91 lead with just under four minutes to go. In most series - hell, in any other series - a 25-2 fourth quarter run by the defending champs is enough to put an end to things.

But there were the Bulls, seemingly unable to grasp just how screwed they were, using their own 10-2 run to take the game to overtime. And from there, it was on. Taking the role of one-man team for the Celtics last night was Ray Allen, who scored 51 points including a game-tying three at the end of the second OT.

Even Allen wouldn’t be enough to fend off a wave of Bulls, all looking to be part of the heroics. One minute, it was John Salmons suddenly becoming unstoppable while scoring 35 points. The next it was Joakim Noah screaming down court after a steal for a ferocious dunk that led to a three-point play and Pierce fouling out with 35 seconds left in the third OT. And finally, Derrick Rose turning in the defensive ply of the season by blocking Rondo’s potential game-winner with three seconds left.

The series has been exhilarating, frustrating, ridiculous and incredible. But as Jalen Rose wisely pointed out on ESPN after the game, the Bulls will have people over the next two days congratulating them on their win, while the Celtics will be stewing on the anger of dropping it, which could be all the motivation they need. Remember what happened last season when the Celtics were pushed to a first-round Game 7 by an upstart team? For the good of sports, I hope history doesn’t repeat itself - sports fans deserve a classic game to end a classic series.

Meanwhile, Bill Simmons’Ewing Theory” - where a team inexplicably plays better without their star player - seemed to be alive and well elsewhere in the NBA playoffs last night. Despite having Superman grounded with a suspension after his hard foul on Samuel Dalembert, the Dwight Howard-less Magic were able to drill the 76ers 114-89 to close out their series.

Howard spent his time Twittering during the game, and I can tell you that I understand absolutely nothing he wrote. (Except for something about the Polish Hammer, which makes me wonder why he’s writing about former WWF wrestler Ivan Putski.) Not Twittering was Howard’s teammate Courtney Lee, who was too busy recovering from surgery on his sinus cavity which could cause him to miss the first few games of the Magic’s second round series to “tweet”.

The other example of the Ewing Theory came from out West, where the Rockets’ 92-76 victory over the Trailblazers clinched their first playoff series win since 1997. This was all done, of course, with Houston star Tracy McGrady on the shelf for the season since late February recovering from microfracture surgery on his knee. Coupling the Rockets’ success with Denver’s closing out of New Orleans - giving Carmelo Anthony his first playoff series victory - and there’s now no question who is going to be known as the Best Player Never To Have Won A Playoff Series.

Meanwhile, I’m sure you’ve taken the time this week to butter up your friend with the illegal cable box, since there is a big-time boxing match coming up this weekend as giant killer Manny Pacquiao takes on Ricky Hatton. Since there’s only two days to go until the fight, the fighters have shut up as the hype machine ramps up to sell PPV buys and tickets, meaning that everyone has to get their two cents in about the fight.

That includes the trainers, who seem to be threatening to become the bigger story than their charges. Hatton’s new trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. has been defending claims that his combative presence has created problems in the Hatton camp - tough to do when you remember what a jerk Hatton’s father/trainer could be. Meanwhile, Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach is telling people that Mayweather was a “poor choice” to train Hatton and that he would have been better served making a different choice of trainer - like himself.

And with any big fight, the media has to track down some brain-damaged, washed-up former champion to give their bleary opinion on who is going to win the fight. God knows where they find these poor sods, but I hope they at least bought them breakfast. People like this sad case named Oscar De La Hoya, who drooled out an opinion for the DAILY TELEGRAPH:

“Hatton can confuse you, offset you, and especially with the Mayweather factor in the corner in this fight,” he told Telegraph Sport. “I know Mayweather, what he is capable of, what he plants – those little details he plants in your head.

“I’m crossing my fingers that Mayweather and Hatton can go undefeated for many years to come. There will be a chess match going on mentally and physically between both camps but, with all due respect to Freddie Roach’s training ability and his team, Mayweather is the better trainer.”

“I’m speaking from experience. He is more technically sound. He teaches you the craft, the art of boxing. He’s old school – an amazing trainer – yes, he’s one crazy son of a gun, but mentally he plants those little details in your head for you to become King Kong inside the ring.”

It sounds to me like De La Hoya’s fight against Pacquiao should have been stopped about eight rounds earlier than it was; clearly the 200 straight blows to the head he took during the fight have rattled his brain to the point of no return. And think about this: if De La Hoya thinks Mayweather Sr. is a better trainer than Roach, what would have happened to him if Mayweather Sr. had trained Pacquiao instead of Roach? Yikes!

Hinrich vs. Rondo was pattycakes compared to some NBA playoff incidents. Which one is your favorite?

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Speed Read: It’s The Academy Awards! … Or Not.

So they handed out a bunch of awards last night, and frankly, we don’t care. Until the “Academy” lifts their de facto ban on nominating sports movies with animals as the lead, we’re boycotting the Oscars and we think you ought to as well.

Air Bud 2
(Sweeping the Oscars in our hearts.)

And as if you needed further proof, The Wrestler, which was probably the best sports movie since Air Bud 2: Golden Receiver Rudy, was snubbed entirely by the Academy last night, as traditional Oscar-bait roles like “impoverished underexposed foreign minority” and “socially stigmatized overachiever” took center stage for the 90 millionth year in a row. But for Mickey Rourke and us, we’ll always have his exuberant speech from the Spirit Awards, which features insanely NSFW speech.

Oh yeah, he definitely did roids.

And there was one other nice sports moment at the Academy Awards: Will Smith, tripping over some pedestrian-at-best lines from the teleprompter, goes boom:

(Click here if, lord forbid, you don’t get it.)

Wade jogging
(”Nope, I see nothing wrong with 30 shots and 5 assists.”)

But back in the real world, we had another big individual performance: Dwyane Wade dropping 50 on the Magic. One problem–none of the rest of the Heat decided to show up, and Orlando ended up blowing Miami out, 122-99. Dwight Howard was the man for the Magic once again with 32 and 17… and this 75-foot shot, which didn’t count but makes me feel like it somehow should have. If you needed more evidence that going Berzerker like this was actually a bad idea on Wade’s part, the Heat are now 0-4 when Wade scores at least 44 points. The Eastern Conference is dutifully taking notes on giving D-Wade the long jumper all night long.

Delonte West returns
(Welcome back, man! But about those cornrows…)

And speaking of notes for the Eastern Conference, Delonte West is back for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and that is bad, bad news for everyone else. The Cavs dispatched the Pistons, 99-78, in a game that wasn’t really that close at all; the Cavs led 67-34 at the break (!!!) and coasted to a jarringly easy win. West led all scorers with 25 points, including a 5-5 performance behind the arc.

Some more quick links to peruse while you face full life consequences

Did you watch the Oscars?

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Speed Read: Your MRI Machine Is Ready, Mr. Oden

Yup, Greg Oden hurt his foot less than three minutes into his first regular season game against the Lakers. That’s not a punchline to a joke, but the sad truth. He played through the first half before throwing in the towel. ESPN.COM reports that Oden suffered a mid-foot sprain, which sounds like a made up injury you would use to get out of work, but apparently you can get if you are made out of peanut brittle.

Greg Oden

Not that Oden was tearing the joint up. His stat line for the game: 0-4 from the field and five rebounds in 13 minutes.  Which puts him about on par with the rest of the Blazers, as they were thumped by Los Angeles 96-76. As for Oden…he has a trip to the MRI machine scheduled for later today, or as he calls it, “The Mother Ship.”

Derrick Rose

Having a much better NBA debut was Derrick Rose, who scored 11 points and had nine assists as the Bulls stuck it to their ex-coach Scott Skiles by beating the Bucks 108-95. Meanwhile, that clanging you heard in Boston was LeBron James rattling free throws all over the place against the Celtics. He missed four of eight free throws, all in the fourth quarter, and Cleveland fell 90-85.

Here’s some more of last night’s news, but be forewarned: Bud Selig says that he has the power to suspend this after six links.

Gary Danielson and Colt McCoy

  • CBS analyst Gary Danielson thinks that Texas runs a “junk offense” and that Georgia’s Matthew Stafford would be putting up Colt McCoy-type numbers in that offense, says the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. No SEC homerism there at all.
  • The man who saved the NBA during the lockout in 1999, according to the DETROIT NEWS? Not David Stern. Not Billy Hunter? Nope, it was Michael Curry.
  • Relax, says the DENTON RECORD-CHRONICLE: it turns out that those 15 North Texas football players tested positive for recreational drugs, not steroids. Which is great, because we wouldn’t want their run at an 0-12 season to be tainted.
  • The AP has a tip for Eli Manning - don’t let the defense read your lips when you call a play on fourth down. It kind of helps them know what to do.
  • The SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS estimates that only 20,000 people will be on hand to see Stanford take on Washington State this Saturday, even though the Cardinal are 3-0 at home this year and fighting for a bowl berth.
  • Even after having beaten the Chargers in a thriller on Sunday, the NEW ORLEANS TIMES-PICAYUNE says that Saints coach Sean Payton was less than thrilled with the experience of playing in London.
  • The BOSTON GLOBE reports that Patriots’ nose tackle Vince Wilfork is going to be getting called to the Principal’s office - in this case NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell - for his blow to the head of Broncos’ QB Jay Cutler. Wait, I thought the Patriots were perfect schoolboys who never, ever committed any penalties?
  • Will the expansion Seattle Sounders get more from signing Swedish star Freddie Ljungberg than the LA Galaxy did from David Beckham? Arash Markashi of SI.COM thinks so.
  • Why would Isiah Thomas apparently continue to lie about his alleged sleeping pill overdose? The local police chief speculates to NEWSDAY it might be because of his contract. “If he takes drugs or whatever they may not owe him the $18 million. I have no idea.”
  • Remember when Joe Tiller said that Rich Rodriguez was a “snake oil salesman” after Purdue lost a big recruit to Michigan? The DETROIT FREE-PRESS says that there’s really no bad blood there. Really.

What will be Greg Oden’s next injury to knock him out of action?

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Iowa Football Charged w/ 22 Crimes Since April ‘07

If you were asked to name a football team that frequently gets into trouble with the law, your first response would most likely be the Cincinnati Bengals.

Iowa Football Helemt

Yes, the Bengals have put together quite the rap sheet but the Iowa Hawkeyes are quietly putting together a resume of crime that rivals the organization that has employed the likes of Chris Henry, Frostee Rucker, Odell Thurman and Chris Henry for a second time.

Since the season started yesterday (Hawkeyes beat Maine 46-3) or because it’s Iowa and there isn’t much else to do, the DES MOINES REGISTER did some research and some math to tally up the total number of crimes their local football team has been charged with. “The Register found U of I football players have been charged with at least 22 crimes since April 2007, some racking up multiple charges.”

Read more…

Message Board Shuts Down Oden’s *Comeback*

Recovering from serious knee surgery and with his Portland Trailblazers out of the race for the playoffs, Greg Oden did the sensible thing, and played pickup basketball earlier this week at a Portland gym.

Greg Oden Pickup Game

How do we know this? From a post on BaseketballForum.com. Lest you think it’s isn’t true, the Blazers apparently were alerted to the internet rumor, and it turned out to be correct.

Nate McMillan Bust Greg Oden Playing Hoops

Now Greg Oden is, as you might expect, in some hot water with the team. Read more…

Darius Miles, Dennis Dixon Love The Strip Clubs

PORTLAND OREGONIAN badass (we mean that in a complimentary way) John Canzano has a piece today on why he wants Portland Trailblazer Darius … Miles Out Of Town.

Dennis Dixon Darius Miles Strip Club

Canzano makes a fine case on why dead weight-Darius should retire. But more interesting is Canzano detailing Miles’ recent visit to a local strip club - with Oregon QB Dennis Dixon. Read more…

Injured Oden Pining To Be Part Of Portland’s Wins

Greg Oden is glad the Portland Blazers are doing so well this season. He just wishes he was in on the fun.

Greg Oden sitting behind bench

(Where’s Waldo?: The Greg Oden Edition)

(Hint: He’s not suited up.)

The ASSOCIATED PRESS reports that the NBA’s #1 pick is disappointed he’s not taking part in his team’s blazing play, as they’ve won 18 of their last 21 games.

I would just like to be out there to be able to say, ‘You know what, I’m out here, I’m working hard and I’m helping these guys win.’

Despite sitting out his rookie season with a knee injury, Oden says he’s already learned a lot just by being on the NBA sidelines:

It’s really helping me with my confidence. Just being able to watch these guys play, see them play and see them miss shots. When you watch them on TV, you’d think they never miss. Just being around the guys night in and night out, you just feel more comfortable that when I come in next year, I’m going to be ready to play against them.”

The Blazers could have used his confidence - and the rest of him - on Wednesday night, as Portland lost to the Celtics, 100-90.