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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
- I never had a reason to want to live in Atlanta instead of Los Angeles, but thanks to BUSTED COVERAGE I do now: according to her Twitter, NBA TV hottie Melanie Collins goes to the same gym as ESPN goddess Erin Andrews. Good God. Does anyone know someone who specializes in surveillance cameras in the Atlanta area who is very discreet and good at their job?
- Want to mail a love letter to Casey Blake? Still trying to send HGH shipments to Eric Gagne in LA? MLB.COM says it’s time to update your address book, as Dodger Stadium gets its own ZIP code.
- In case you missed it, the DALLAS MORNING NEWS says the A’s Ryan Sweeney had the catch of the (very short) season yesterday, robbing Texas’ Ian Kinsler of a three-run homer and preserving Oakland’s 4-2 victory.
- The College Football Hall of Fame has announced this year’s inductees, and the AP has the list. I guess he has to get in there because he won the Heisman Trophy, but seriously…Gino Torretta is in, but Deion Sanders isn’t?
- Finding new and exciting ways to screw up, the WASHINGTON POST says the Nationals gave up five runs in the ninth to the St. Louis Cardinals to turn a 4-4 tie into a 9-4 loss. But at least they got their uniforms right this time.
- Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks for rallying from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series. Now about those last two they gave up to lose 5-3, as the CHICAGO TRIBUNE reports.
- Meanwhile, Rangers head coach John Tortorella tells the NEW YORK TIMES that he is really, really sorry that
he got suspended whenhe dumped water on a fan and brandished a stick at him during Game 5 of their series against Washington.
- The WASHINGTON TIMES reports that former All-American turned NFL bust Mike Williams is trying to get down from 450 pounds to 370 and make a comeback with the Washington Redskins. We’re talking about the ex-Texas tackle, not the roly-poly former USC wide receiver.
- PRO FOOTBALL TALK says that the San Francisco 49ers have signed former Ohio State OT Alex Boone to a free-agent deal, despite that whole “running from the cops while drunk and pounding on garage doors” deal.
- Joe Paterno tells ESPN.COM that he wants to see the Big Ten expand from its current roster of 11 teams to 12. He’d then like the see them change their name to the Bigger 12, just to get under the skin of those damned Okies from the Dust Bowl.
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.
• Singer Rihanna was seen sharing a Friday night meal in Beverly Hills with the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum.
• 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.
With three minutes left in last night’s Bulls-Celtics tilt, it looked like Ben Gordon was going to will the Bulls to an astounding 2-0 series lead. But then, as Paul Pierce wilted down the stretch, Ray Allen finally woke up and saved Boston’s season with two huge threes, including the game-winner with two seconds left as Boston won 118-115. Rajon Rondo bounced back from a sprained knee/ankle/hip he suffered just before halftime to finish with a triple double: 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 16 assists.
Gordon scored 42 for Chicago, but the Bulls couldn’t keep the Celtics off the offensive boards all night, and it cost the Bulls dearly in the fourth quarter. With about 30 seconds left and holding a one-point lead, Chicago was unable to corral a loose ball that eventually ended up in Allen’s hand — and he nailed a three to give the Celtics the lead. Gordon answered to tie it, but never got another chance as Allen hit a tough shot over the outstretched arms and hair of Joakim Noah to end it.
Well, there were two seconds left, but Vinny Del Negro plowed through all of his timeouts too soon (and at least one of them seemed completely unnecessary, considering the Bulls’ only play in the final three minutes was “give it Ben Gordon and get out of his way”), meaning the Bulls got a 70-footer from Tyrus Thomas at the buzzer. Still, a split in Boston is all the Bulls could reasonably ask for, and knowing that they can compete when the series comes back to Boston is going to be key.
In the other playoff game, the Spurs got 38 points from Tony Parker and beat the Mavs 105-84. Still, it seems like Dallas is winning this series, doesn’t it?
In the NHL, the Bruins moved within one game of their first playoff series win in 10 years with a 4-2 victory at Montreal, taking a 3-0 lead. Meanwhile, the Caps scored a huge 4-0 road win over the Rangers at MSG after dropping the first two games at home. And in Calgary, the Flames got back within 2-1 in the series by beating Chicago 4-2. It was Calgary’s first win in seven games against the Blackhawks this season.
• If you’re a Cubs fan and you’re dead, there’s still a way for you to support the team that probably hastened your death in the first place. That’s right, a Cubs-themed cemetery called Beyond the Vines opens for business on Wednesday.
Billed as “eternal luxury suites for Cubs fans,” the cemetery features an ivy-covered brick wall and will have some other Wrigley touches, such as a stained-glass replica of the ballpark’s scoreboard. CNBC’s Darren Rovell says that if this works, the guy who came up with it is going to take it to Yankee fans.
• You might have noticed that Chien-Ming Wang sucks now. Even worse is that he’s out of options so the Yanks can’t send him down to the minors without sending him through waivers, and someone would surely claim him (the Orioles can always use a guy with a 34.50 ERA). Worse for Wang is the fact that he’s signed to a one-year deal, which means he’s this close to pitching for the Newark Bears next year. Or, you know, Wang could throw 45 consecutive scoreless innings and get his ERA under 4. RIVER AVE BLUES is searching for answers.
• Yeah, the Marlins were 11-1, but you don’t just go into Ross Ohlendorf’s house and expect to win ball games. The Pirates now have four shutouts this year after beating Florida 8-0. They had two all of last year.
• American running hottie Kara Goucher almost won the Boston Marathon yesterday. She actually had the lead in the final stretch, but was passed up by a Kenyan and an Ethiopian and finished third, just nine seconds off the winning time. The BOSTON HERALD says she would’ve been the first American to win the race since 1985.
• A record-low crowd of 12,473 paying customers saw Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmerman make his major-league debut last night. Actually, it was a lot less than that because a pre-game rain delay chased all but a few hundred fans from the park. By the time Joel Hanrahan saved a 3-2 win over the Braves, the WASHINGTON POST estimates there were 70 people there. I know it was a crappy night, but isn’t it great that D.C. spent millions on that new ballpark?
• The Detroit Lions have a new logo. Actually, it’s not really a new logo at all. It’s just the same logo, with some fierce teeth. It’s all part of a new attitude. This year, Dan Orlovsky’s going to get really angry when he takes a safety.
• The Arena Football League is off this season (which I’m sure you’ve noticed), but when the league comes back next year, the L.A. Avengers won’t be a part of it, according to ESPN. This is bad news for, uh, Todd Marinovich?
• DRAFTEXPRESS says Stephen Curry is going to skip his senior year and declare for the NBA Draft, where he should be picked somewhere in the late-lottery range.
• WFAN’s Mike Francesa says the Yankees need to somehow fix their new stadium as soon as the team leaves for its road trip this week to try and cut down on what he calls an “amusement park” atmosphere with balls flying out of the yard to right field at an alarming rate. But how? Even if it was physically possible to change the dimensions of the park in-season, that’s against MLB rules. So the only solutions are either changing how the wind blows through the park (a little unlikely) or getting rid of Chien-Ming Wang (see a few paragraphs above).
The Cleveland Cavaliers were certainly in a good mood during their 107-76 blowout of the Boston Celtics on Sunday. (Why, Anderson Varejao was in such high spirits, he didn’t even notice Ray Allen giving him an elbow to his groinal region.) And it was such a fun time at the Quicken Loans Arena for the Cavs that some players decided to do a little dancing before the final horn sounded.
(Mo & LeBron wave their fists in the air, wave ‘em like they just don’t care)
LeBron James, Delonte West and Mo Williams got their groove on while the clock ticked down toward Cleveland’s 39th home win of the season. And the busting of such moves rubbed at least one member of the Boston media the wrong way - enough so that he asked David Stern if he was going to do something about it.
(Video of one of the offensive dance routines is after the jump.)
The meltdown of the American newspaper industry is in full effect. The past six weeks have seen the closures of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Rocky Mountain News, marking two of the largest newspaper closures in recent memory. And yesterday came news that might be a sign of disaster for one of the nation’s leading newspapers: the SAN FRANCISCO BUSINESS TIMES reports that roughly 120 employees of the San Francisco Chronicle have accepted voluntary buyouts as the paper struggles to avoid sale or shutdown.
According to a list from the SAN FRANCISCO PENINSULA PRESS CLUB, those leaving the paper include NFL writer Nancy Gay, college sports writer Jake Curtis, deputy sports editor Larry Yant and a host of other writers, editors and photographers. This should be taken as a giant red flag if these people are getting out now, especially someone as respected as Gay; trust me, people just don’t leave NFL reporting positions at major newspapers unless something is going terribly, horribly wrong.
But even the voluntary exits might not be enough - parent company Hearst Corporation (which also owns the now-online only Post-Intelligencer) has said that it needed to cut “at least” 150 jobs to avoid a shutdown or sale, with the paper currently bleeding money at a rate of $1 million a week. And with the chances of a corporation wanting to buy a failing newspaper next to zero in this climate, it seems as though the only two options are to slash the staff to ribbons or close shop.
As bad as the first option sounds, the alternative is even more daunting. Especially when you consider that the San Jose Mercury News recently announced that it was essentially abandoning the San Francisco market by stopping all weekday deliveries to the city. Which leaves a very real possibility that the nation’s 12th-largest metropolitan area could be without a major daily newspaper (the San Francisco Examiner, currently having been reduced to a free handout resembling The Pennysaver, doesn’t count).
It seems like Mark Cuban might be prescient when he blogged about the slow death of the newspaper sports section; let’s hope that his idea of teams and leagues banding together to provide beat reporters to cover the same teams and leagues doesn’t pan out, but if the San Francisco Chronicle can fold, is any idea that outlandish?
And don’t think that it will just stop with the Chronicle: the paper was only sixth in TIME’s recent list of “The 10 Most Endangered Newspapers in America”. Ahead of it on the list are papers such as the Boston Globe, Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Miami Herald. That’s a lot of major sports teams that are suddenly going to be underserviced by local media, if at all.
Also possibly endangered: the continued success of the USC men’s basketball program. After making the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season for the first time in school history, the Trojans might be going back to square one as ESPN has word that an Arizona radio station is reporting that Tim Floyd has agreed to become the Arizona Wildcats’ new head coach, with an announcement as early as today.
This is all speculation, and as the LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS notes, this radio station has recently also had Rick Pitino and Jeff Capel as taking over at Arizona, so take everything with a grain of salt. But the LOS ANGELES TIMES reports that there may be smoke to this fire: Floyd apparently flew out yesterday to Tucson and was given 24 hours to decide on accepting the position by Arizona AD Jim Livengood.
Which is all very interesting, since Floyd rejected an overture by LSU last year, saying that USC was “his last job.” Then there’s the matter of the “impassioned speech” he gave at the team banquet Wednesday night, imploring players such as Taj Gibson and DeMar DeRozan to not jump to the NBA and come back next season to help the Trojans make a run at a national title. And then he got on a plane the next morning to interview for the Arizona job. That’s venturing into Bobby Petrino level of sleaziness.
Finally, a busy night of World Cup soccer qualifying has also brought us two people to add to the endangered list. The first is Argentine legend Diego Maradona, whose own near-death experiences with drugs and weight made him frequently endangered in the past. But this time, it’s not his life that’s in danger but his managing career, after his Argentina squad was demolished 6-1 by lowly Bolivia.
How embarrassing is this? It’s the first time they’ve given up six goals in a game since the World Cup…in 1958. Bolivia is 50 places behind Argentina in the FIFA world rankings, and their hat trick hero was Joaquin Botero, who plays for a second-division team in Mexico. This is Chaminade beating Virginia type stuff, where you glance at the box score over and over to make sure you didn’t read it wrong, before convincing yourself it’s just a typo.
And speaking of Mexico…if I were embattled manager Sven-Goren Eriksson, I wouldn’t even bother making the team flight back from Honduras, where his team suffered a humiliating 3-1 defeat, unless he wants his severed head to be placed on a pike outside of Atzeca Stadium as a warning to future managers.
The win allowed Honduras to leapfrog Mexico into the third and final guaranteed CONCACAF berth in the 2010 World Cup. Although there’s a lot of games left in both North & Central American and South American qualifying, there’s a chance that Argentina and Mexico could wind up facing each other in a two-game playoff, with the winner getting a World Cup spot and the loser staying home.
Other sports stories you might have missed last night as you were going to the hospital ER in Texas again…and again…and again…
- This is not going to help Wisconsin out in recruiting at all: the DAILY CARDINAL reports that the Badgers have banned ESPN’s Erin Andrews from working as a sideline reporter during games in Madison because she’s too much of a “distraction.” Unless this is a particularly clever April Fool’s joke…which it is.
- Remember when Pete Carroll acted petulant at Mark Sanchez’s press conference announcing he was turning pro? Scouts at USC’s Pro Day tell the LOS ANGELES TIMES that Carroll is now claiming he acted that way to “test” Sanchez’s resolve to turn pro. Because acting like a spoiled child is going to convince him to come back.
- It’s not just American athletes who get into trouble at strip bars late at night: THE MIRROR has word that Sunderland and French international striker Djibril Cissé has been arrested after allegedly grabbing a woman by the throat at a late-night strip club. You might remember him for having the distinction of suffering horrific, Theisman-like leg breaks not once but twice in his career, which you can watch here and here. (Warning: not for the faint of heart.)
- Give Sen. John McCain credit for doing something right: the DALLAS MORNING-NEWS says that the former Presidential candidate is lobbying for a posthumous pardon of old-timey boxing champ Jack Johnson for trumped up, racially-biased charges. It still won’t make me forget that McCain voted against Martin Luther King Day, but it’s a start.
- A word of warning: don’t take a quick paycheck to record canned introductions to videos for a company you know nothing about. Greg Gumbel failed to heed this advice, and he wound up as the spokesperson for a time-share, which ONLINE SPORTS GUYS says has lead to a lawsuit. Here’s one video in question:
- SI.COM says that the Hockey Hall of Fame has changed its rules, opening the door for the first female player to be voted in. Someone in Canada, Don Cherry is burning his plaid Depends adult diapers in protest.
- Hey look, another lacrosse team has been forced to suspend their season because of alleged misconduct. But the story of the Curry College team is far different than Duke, according to the BOSTON HERALD. Team members allegedly hazed new players at a party, although even the freshmen “victims” seem to think it was no big deal. Remind me to bring a lawyer if I ever go to a college lacrosse party.
- WSLS-TV says that Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer prepared for the upcoming season by doing some NASCAR racing. He didn’t do so hot, but his goiter was signed to a developmental deal with Joe Gibbs Racing.
- Somehow former Cleveland Browns QB Bernie Kosar is being dragged into the Rod Blagojevich mess. RUMORS AND RANTS reports that Kosar was on some sort of fundraising “hit list” put together by the then-Illinois Governor with the Steve Garvey haircut just before he was arrested.
- The Boston Celtics barely avoided another humiliating defeat to the Charlotte Bobcats, as the BOSTON GLOBE reports that Ray Allen’s three-pointer at the end of OT gave them a 114-106 victory.
It’s been a few days since the whole Michael Phelps bong-gate exploded onto the scene, and the reaction has been overwhelmingly this: So?
(”Dude, I think I’m seeing robots”)
Well, now some people are wondering why it is exactly that everyone is giving Phelps a pass, especially the sponsors who pay him millions to represent their brands. This is a guy who was arrested for DUI in 2004 and now has been shown in public using an illegal drug (whether or not the drug should be illegal or the level of outrage that pot use should inspire is not the issue here). And it’s not like sponsors were overly harsh about this. If anything, they’ve been downright supportive.
The WASHINGTON POST’S Michael Wilbon isn’t really having it, and wrote a column critical of Phelps’ defenders that, to his credit, wasn’t filled with hyperbolic overreaction to the pot use itself:
There should be zero tolerance for (drinking and driving), and Phelps doesn’t get a pass for that, nor for his bong hit. The latter, in and of itself, certainly isn’t heinous. But it is stupid, given what’s at stake. And everybody excusing it, Sally, doesn’t help Phelps get the message that he’d better be careful and vigilant. Being granted a pass at every turn usually breeds a sense of being bulletproof, as we saw in the much more serious case of Michael Vick, who actually squandered $100 million or more. And Phelps isn’t cast in the role of bad boy or tough guy. His marketing representatives have set him up to be the guy who walks the straight-and-narrow.
The DETROIT FREE-PRESS’ Drew Sharp makes a comparison between Phelps and Santonio Holmes, who was suspended for a game after being arrested for marijuana possession:
According to the police report, Holmes was cooperative and contrite. He wasn’t belligerent. He readily owned up to his mistake.
Holmes admitted to the Miami Herald a few days before the Super Bowl that as a teenager he sold drugs on a street corner near his Florida home. He thought it was time that he publicly acknowledged the poor decisions of his youth.
Maybe it would serve as an example to others at that age doing the same things because they don’t believe there’s a lawful alternative to changing their lives.
Applying the new Phelps standard for decorum when busted, shouldn’t Holmes get a free pass because he has fully acknowledged his sins and appears repentant?
Speaking of Holmes, he thanks all of us for the new $85,000 Escalade he was given by Cadillac for winning the Super Bowl MVP. He got to choose the Cadillac he wanted, and of course he picked the most expensive one…that is being subsidized by tax money.
A couple of months ago, I made the now ridiculous claim that North Carolina might win all of their basketball games this year. And even though I was off there, why have the Heels suddenly fallen off the radar? Sure, they lost two games, but there’s no indication that they are no longer the most talented team in the country. They’ve fought their way back up to the #3 ranking again and blasted Maryland 108-91 last night at the Dean Dome. UNC and Duke play their first of three games (because, let’s be honest, they’re playing each other in the ACC final) a week from tonight.
Manny Ramirez has turned down the Dodgers’ one-year offer of $25 million. Frank McCourt says he still wants Manny back, but concedes that eventually they’ll have to move on (perhaps to Adam Dunn and others). If talks fall through in L.A., who’s left? San Francisco seems to be the only other team willing to enter the discussion, now that Brian Cashman has said that the Yankees are done spending.
What started out as a bad day for Ray Allen ended pretty well for him. Allen buried a 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left to beat the 76ers 100-99 in Philly for the Celtics’ 12th win in a row. The BOSTON GLOBE reports that Allen had flu symptoms during the day, including chills and a nosebleed — but then made a miraculous recovery after a “steamy” shower and a nap. To top it off, Jameer Nelson’s dislocated shoulder opened a spot on the All-Star team — one that may be filled by Allen, who scored 28 points in last year’s game as a replacement.
• The NEW YORK DAILY NEWS is now reporting that the substance Barry Bonds tested positive for in the sample seized by federal agents is in fact “The Clear.” If this is true, then we’ve really learned nothing because Bonds has already admitted to taking the substance. So much for that smoking gun.
• The DAILY MAIL says that David Beckham needs to stay in Europe to have any chance of playing for England in the 2010 World Cup, because coming back to MLS would apparently make him regress as a player so much as to become completely worthless in international competition.
(This Milan fan might be willing to convince Becks to stay in Europe)
• After weeks of searching for someone else (anyone else, really) to coach the team, the Raiders have finally just given up and brought back Tom Cable to get fired in October, according to the PRESS DEMOCRAT.
• Seems that the NBA has been listening to Bill Simmons, as they’ve started up a H-O-R-S-E competition for All-Star weekend. Participants TBA.
• HOME RUN DERBY brings us this video of a guy who made a portrait of Cal Ripken out of thumb tacks. My Lite-Brite Rob Deer suddenly seems so much less impressive.
• Kevin Costner is bringing a big-budget, but ultimately disappointing, minor-league baseball team to Zion, Illinois, according to CBS SPORTSLINE.
• IT’S METS FOR ME congratulates Omar Minaya for bidding against himself to sign Oliver Perez for $36 million when it looked like nobody else was prepared or willing to offer him anywhere near that much. In other news, the Mets are out of the Manny Ramirez sweepstakes.
• FOX NEWS BUSINESS is saying that some in Congress are pressuring Citigroup to pull out of its $400 million naming-rights deal with the Mets for their new stadium. No, it has nothing to do with money. It’s so that we all don’t have to be subjected to this god-awful logo anymore:
At least the Mets still have all that money Bernie Madoff’s been taking care of for them.
• If you’re going to come out of the stands to attack a referee, you probably should make sure the guy isn’t also a state trooper. Patrick Rempala didn’t do his homework, and now is charged with battery and resisting arrest after attacking the trooper/ref at a high school game in Indiana, so says the AP.
• A Manchester United supporter riding a bus home from Man U’s road win over West Bromwich really needed to pee, so he decided to go to the bathroom in the back of the bus. Unfortunately, he didn’t know the lay of the bus very well, because he opened the emergency exit, fell out, and then was hit and killed by a car. The guy was drunk, of course. UPI has the story.
• Ray Allen helps save the life of a friend caught in a hotel during the Mumbai terrorist attacks.
• The UNC b-ball team has a better record at Ford Field than the Lions do.
• What NFL venues are the most vegetarian-friendly? The list may surprise you.
• Andrew Bogut tries to bailout his hometown Aussie hoops team.