Speed Read: Celts’ Davis Makes Magic Cry Uncle

If anyone was going to step up and hit the game-winning shot in a must win game for the Boston Celtics, of course if was going to be Glen “Big Baby” Davis, right? I mean, just look at the guy’s track record. It’s…OK, basically it’s him getting screamed at by Kevin Garnett on the sidelines and crying into his towel. So what I mean to say is that there is no possible way that Glen Davis hits the biggest shot of the season for the Boston Celtics.

Glen Davis

But there he was, with the clock running down on Sunday night against Orlando and the Celtics trailing by one, draining a 21-footer after the Magic had swarmed Paul Pierce to give Boston the 95-94 victory to tie their Eastern Conference semifinal series at 2-2. And there he was charging down the court like he was chasing down the ice cream truck as it took off down the street, taking out some helpless kid on the sidelines in the process. Make sure you keep an eye on the kid’s friend shooting daggers at Davis:

Yeah, kid, I’m sure you could have taken him down if he just wouldn’t have run away so fast. But back to the shot: it’s not that the shot was too uncommon for Davis to hit - he does have that kind of range from the outside. But to hit that shot in that situation is just uncanny. Almost as uncanny as Paul Pierce having the guts to pass to him and let him take the shot with the Celtics’ season basically on the line. Can you imagine Kobe Bryant passing the ball to Andrew Bynum in the same situation?

Meanwhile, remember how the Rockets’ season was supposed to be doomed when Tracy McGrady went out for the season? That didn’t happen, as Houston won a playoff series for the first time in 47 years (approximately) before giving the Lakers all they could handle in their Western Conference semifinal series. But the news that Yao “Bamboo Bone” Ming would miss the rest of the playoffs with a broken foot suffered in Game 3 was surely the end of their run.

Kobe Bryant and Luis Scola

Then what in the world were the Lakers doing trailing by as many as 29 points to a team starting a 6-foot-6 center (Chuck Hayes) before falling 99-87 to have their series evened up at 2-2? For one thing, the Lakers had no answer for Chris Rock Aaron Brooks, as the diminutive guard ripped Los Angeles for 34 points, while the combination of Ron Artest and Luis Scola held Kobe Bryant to just 15 points.

As Phil Jackson predicted, it may have just been a case of a team playing full of emotion after having their backs to the wall; and yes, the Lakers did still regain home court advantage during the two games in Houston. But watching the Lakers and comparing them to the molten hot ball of basketball destruction that is the Denver Nuggets right now, perhaps that Cavaliers vs. Lakers NBA Finals isn’t as much of a sure thing as we previously thought.

Meanwhile, in those “other” playoffs, the Bruins followed the lead of their basketball brethren from Boston, although their prospects are still far more bleak. Despite their 4-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, Boston still trails 3-2 and needs to win at Carolina in Game 6 (where the Hurricanes have lost just once this postseason) in order to extend things to a Game 7. And in the Western Conference, the Red Wings pushed the Ducks to the brink with a decisive 4-1 victory to take a 3-2 series lead.

Other stories you might have missed as you were voting for your mayor to shave his handlebar mustache:

  • While the Celtics and Bruins were in their playoff battle, the Red Sox were simply beating the Rays 4-3. But how could one fan celebrate everything that was going on in the Boston sports world on Sunday? BUGS AND CRANKS found one fan who had the perfect answer: a Celtics jersey pulled over a Bruins jersey, topped with a Red Sox cap:
  • The Ultimate Boston Fan

  • Just to finish our Boston sports orgy: are you ready for a reality show starring Troy O’Leary as the baseball version of Simon Cowell? The BOSTON GLOBE says O’Leary hopes you are, as he’s developing a new TV show called “Play Big or Go Home” that is trying to find baseball diamonds in the rough. My choice for the Paula Abdul spot at the judges’ table? The San Diego Chicken.
  • England national team soccer star Ledley King was arrested over the weekend after allegedly assaulting a bouncer at a London nightclub and insulting his Pakistani heritage. THE SUN says that King got to sleep it off in the drunk tank, literally, as he passed out in the stony lonesome for five hours.
  • While that was happening, the TELEGRAPH says that Manchester United was throttling Manchester City 2-0 to put a stranglehold on the English Premier League title with two games remaining. But mercurial United star Cristiano Ronaldo found something to mope about, throwing a fit after being removed by Sir Alex Ferguson just short of an hour into the match:

  • PRO FOOTBALL TALK says that Drew Rosenhaus is, as usual, stirring up more problems. This time he’s using Twitter to start trades for one of his disgruntled players, saying that he thinks teams would give up a 1st round pick and more for my client Darnell Dockett.” 
  • NASCAR’s head of drug testing isn’t exactly buying Jeremy Mayfield’s claim that a reaction to an allergy medication led to his positive drug test, telling USA TODAY that “in my many years of experience, I have never seen a violation like this due to the combination of over-the-counter or prescription products.” But maybe he was trying to get pregnant?
  • The TERRE HAUTE TRIBUNE STAR reports that Milka Duno was bumped from a spot in the Indianapolis 500 during time trials on Sunday and will have to try again this coming weekend. I wouldn’t mind bumping her either, if you know what I mean…
  • Milka Duno

  • The DALLAS MORNING NEWS passes word that author Edwin “Bud” Shrake, who co-wrote the seminal golf instruction manual “Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book” with the teaching legend, died Friday morning of cancer at the age of 77.
  • With college athletes getting in trouble about Facebook postings on a seemingly daily basis, you would think that universities would avoid social networking sites like the plague. But the IDAHO STATESMAN says that Boise State is embracing the concept in a big way, complete with Facebook pages, YouTube channels and more. (h/t to THE WIZ OF ODDS)
  • Former Vikings and Falcons linebacker Henri Crockett was one of four men arrested in Toronto early Saturday morning after a scuffle with police during a traffic stop when they found Crockett and others with a handgun in their car.

What’s your level of interest in the Indianapolis 500?

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Speed Read: Artest Once Saw a Chair Kill a Dude

Reality used to be a friend of Ron Artest’s. However, it was long before the public met the kid from St. John’s a decade ago. For example, no one would be surprised to find out the new Gatorade/Tiger Woods cartoons seem like mini-documentaries to the Tru Warier because he has secretly considered himself the NBA’s Dr. Doolittle for years.

Ron Artest, Tru Warier

Therefore, we shouldn’t be shocked to find out reality’s been stiffing his calls again. After a questionable ejection in last night’s 111-98 Rockets loss to the Lakers to tie the series at one game apiece, Artest entertained the media with alternating moments of clarity speaking about the ejection and tales about that one time he was in Space Jam II as directed by Quentin Tarantino.

Apparently, this is the first time in Artest’s storied violent past that he remembered a pick-up game where tempers flared and one player snapped the leg off a nearby table and threw it with enough force to pierce the heart of another. By the way, Violet Palmer would only call a flagrant one on that.

One expert on keeping it real is Skip to My Lou himself, Rafer Alston. Eddie House’s yipping dog act (which is only the third-most irritating version on this Celtics squad) wormed its way under the skin of the boy from Queens, causing this rather understandable reaction:

 

The head slap will probably take the Orlando Magic’s only nominal point guard out of an upcoming game, a rather unappealing proposition after the 112-94 posterior-kicking administed by the Celtics last night. Ron Artest would like to know what reality would eject him for chattering with Kobe Bryant about his flailing elbows while a head smack only earns double techs.

He might start by asking the woman found in Dirk Nowitzki’s home Wednesday. Surely, one of the eight aliases she’s used in previous forgery convictions can speak to the matter. Also, maybe one of them is a lawyer that can explain why she was arrested in Nowitzki’s house for theft of service and probation violations.

Dirk Nowitzki

(”No, man… I was just asking if you saw ‘House’ last night.  Why so sensitive?”)

And maybe one of those aliases once killed a man with a table leg from 20 feet. Hey, it’s no stranger than knowing Ron Artest took the Houston Rockets to a plane of existence Tracy McGrady never could: the second round.

Your hail of bullet points today may seem a bit odd, but there’s a reason for that:

Sasha Cohen

Holly McPeak

Philadelphia Union logo

Who will be ejected next in the NBA Playoffs?

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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: Penn St. & Illinois Stink Up The Joint

Basketball: it’s a beautiful game. Or fantastically ugly, depending on which game you watched last night. On one hand, you had the Phoenix Suns putting up 140 points for the second straight game in their 142-119 victory over the depleted Los Angeles Clippers. On the other, there was Penn State and Illinois, who combined scored exactly one-half as many points as the Suns did in the Nittany Lions’ 38-33 upset victory over the Fighting Illini.

Penn State vs Illinois

Let’s talk about the latter game first. It wasn’t the lowest scoring game since the 45-second shot clock was introduced in 1986, but it was close. (That distinction belongs to Monmouth’s 41-21 win over Princeton in 2006.) They also flirted with the record for fewest combined points in a half, with the two team’s output of 32 just eclipsing the record of 28 set by Mississippi and South Carolina back in 2003.

The box score tells you all you need to know about the debacle. Exactly one player scored in double digits: Penn State’s Talor Battle, who put up 11 points on 3-for-11 shooting. Heck, the Nittany Lions as a team shot 28.3 percent from the field, and they won.

At least the two teams didn’t let a little thing like not being able to hit the broadside of a barn stop them from shooting the deep ball: they combined to go 6-for-33 from the three-point line. And Illinois didn’t attempt a free throw. For the game. Way to be aggressive, guys. But I guess a win’s a win, even if it’s the most embarrassing and pathetic kind possible. Congratulations, Penn State, I guess.

Steve Nash and Al Thorton

And then there are the Suns. You’ll excuse me if I don’t get too excited by the sudden return of the high-scoring, fast-paced, exciting Suns with Alvin Gentry as head coach after putting a hurting on the Clippers on back-to-back nights. First off, it’s the Clippers to begin with, but if a team with Amare Stoudemire (for now) can’t murder a team that’s missing Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, Brian Skinner and Zach Randolph, then something is seriously wrong.

Check back with me on Sunday after you guys visit Boston, and we’ll see how you’re doing.

But the Suns have a date with Oklahoma City before then on Friday, which will be without newly-acquired Tyson Chandler. Permanently. That’s because the Thunder rescinded their trade with New Orleans from Tuesday and sent Chandler back to the Hornets after he failed a physical with their team doctor.

Tyson Chandler

As TRUEHOOP notes, it’s probably going to be pretty awkward in New Orleans as Chandler has to return to the team that just unloaded him for Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox. (By the way, is Joe Smith involved with every strange trade or free agent signing in the NBA?) What makes things even more odd is that Chandler didn’t fail the physical because of his sprained left ankle - it was because of a big toe injury he suffered in 2007. And the Thunder’s doctor was the one who performed the surgery.

And speaking of injuries…Ken Griffey Jr. is back with the Mariners! All joking aside, I think most people of my generation will think it’s pretty neat to see Junior back in a Mariners uniform (presumably) for the rest of his career. And the story of his signing with the Mariners is unique; the SEATTLE TIMES says that apparently the No. 1 salesman for Seattle was Harold Reynolds, a close friend of Griffey’s. He had been working on Griffey to sell him on the move to Seattle when he played his trump card: hugging Willie Mays.

Ken Griffey Jr.

Reynolds set up a phone call between Griffey and the Say Hey Kid, who was Griffey’s idol and the reason he wears No. 24. And sure enough, soon after having the phone conversation with Mays, Griffey told the Mariners that he would sign with them. A great story, although I’m not sure I’d take advice from Willie Mays on how to end your career gracefully.

More sports stories to learn about as you ponder if anyone’s life could be stranger than Tracy Morgan’s

Which star athlete’s end of career death spiral was most painful to watch?

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Recap: All-Out Basket Brawl Breaks Out In ‘Bama

• Hot tempers flare at a high school playoff game, as a basketbrawl breaks out in ‘Bama.

Georgia High School Basketball Brawl

Sean Williams learns you can’t go home again - or the Boston College campus police will arrest you for trespassing.

• The rest of Tracy McGrady’s season with the Rockets has been aborted.

• Reason #54,762 the minors are better than the majors: Free food for the kiddies - for all the kids, all year long!

• Another sign of the struggling economy: Tickets for the ACC tournament are going to be sold to the general public for the first time in 42 years.

Read more…

Speed Read: T-Mac Reportedly Out For Season

Last February, the Houston Rockets were crippled - literally - by the season-ending foot injury to center Yao Ming. In what must feel like Groundhog’s Day for the team, this February is also bringing bad news for the team: their other All-Star anchor, Tracy McGrady, told ESPN.COM’s Stephen A. Smith that he needs microfracture surgery on his injured left knee and is done for the season.

Tracy McGrady

Keep mind that this is coming from the mouth of Smith, so take it with a grain of salt (right, Chris Bosh?), and the Rockets aren’t confirming the report. But they sure aren’t denying it either, and with Rockets owner Leslie Alexander telling the HOUSTON CHRONICLE to expect official news on McGrady later this week, it looks highly likely that T-Mac is going on the shelf for a long time.

Tracy McGrady

Alexander also told the paper that McGrady is a “superstar” and that the team has no plans to trade him. Which is probably code for “we really wanted to trade him, but now that he’s damaged goods we’re stuck with him.” How much his absence will impact the Rockets is unclear - he’s either been ineffective or out of the line-up for most of the season to begin with, but losing him can’t help.

The only thing injured on Alex Rodriguez right now is his reputation, which is doing about as well as Jack from Jack in the Box. His press conference at Yankee spring training didn’t help much - I would recommend not using the phrase “I’m here to take my medicine” again any time soon - and might have got his unnamed cousin in trouble.

Alex Rodriguez

Rodriguez claims that his cousin brought something called “boli” from the Dominican Republic, which the USA TODAY says usually refers to the steroids Dianabol or Deca-Durabolin. And now a DEA agent is ominously warning that “those who violate drug laws are always at risk of arrest and prosecution.” We don’t know who this cousin is yet - although BIG LEAGUE STEW has a list of candidates - but I’m guessing we’ll find out soon enough.

In related news, the AP reports that the MLBPA has sent a memo to its players informing them how to respond to questions about the 2003 drug testing. Their recommendation: don’t respond. The memo also goes into detail about little details like why the tests weren’t destroyed, and how the union did not give advance knowledge of tests of players.

Finally, fans who tuned into the Kentucky/Vanderbilt game last night expecting fireworks had to be greatly disappointed. Not in the game itself, but in the lack of a halftime interview between ESPN sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards and the man she spurned, Wildcats head coach Billy Gillispie.

ESPN reporter Jeannine Edwards

Alas, no luck last night. As the TENNESSEAN notes, with the game tied at halftime Edwards chose to interview Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings instead of Gillispie, telling the paper “I cut my losses.” This is, of course, the entirely wrong approach, and there should have been a producer in Edwards’ ear demanding she interview Gillispie. Not having her interview Gillispie would be like if Chuck Wepner replaced Muhammad Ali at the last minute for “The Rumble in the Jungle” - totally unacceptable.

What was the most painful/awesome interview in sports TV history?

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T-Mac’s Baby Mama Wants Her Kid Spoiled Too

Most of us can pretty much guess that if you’re the kid of a star athlete, you’ve got it pretty darn good. Now, we get a bit of a look at just how good it can get, thanks to Tracy McGrady’s baby mama, Pearl Vega, and her aim to get the same lifestyle for their daughter that McGrady’s other kids enjoy.

Tracy McGrady

The SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE informs us that the Houston Rockets star will be paying just over $54K a year to Vega. Not surprisingly, Vega wanted much more per year (in the $200,000+ range) than the amount the judge awarded.

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Guest Fan Pumps Up Rockets To 15th Straight Win

The Houston Rockets just keep rolling along, as they won their 15th in a row Sunday night, downing the Denver Nuggets 103-89.

Houston Rockets Denver Nuggets

The Rockets still seem to be on course despite the loss of Yao Ming, who’s out for the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his left foot. Yao is scheduled to have surgery on Monday - because it wouldn’t look too classy to limp into the Beijing Hooters during the Olympics.

So, how was Houston able to get so pumped up for Sunday’s game? Maybe it was a special guest sitting courtside that gave the Rockets the shot of support they needed. Read more…

Cubs’ Interleague AL East Sched: No Yanks, Sawx

• HOME RUN DERBY wonders what’s the point of interleague play if the Cubs don’t face the Yankees or Red Sox next year.

Cubs Yankees Derek Jeter

• MJD of YAHOO SPORTS thinks about his own version of the Wonderlic Test.

• DEADSPIN wants to know if you go ga-ga or gag over Gus Johnson.

• HALF COURT HEAVE tosses up old video of new teammates Tracy McGrady & Bobby Jackson getting in an on-court scuffle.

Read more…

The Daytona 500, Also Known As ‘Juniorpalooza’

The Daytona 500 is fixin’ to get started right about now (2 Eastern, and, um, 3:30 in Newfoundland), but it appears one of the biggest stories is off the track. Yes, Dale Jr. has a new line of merchandise that has fans all atwitter.

The iPhone of NASCAR?

Well, a shirt can’t tell me where the best adult bookstore in Detroit is, or play my favorite Spice Girls b-sides, but I guess if people want to be excited that’s up to them. Read more…