Saturday, May 19, 2007

Saturday 05/19 A.M. (Very) Quickie:
Spurs, Cavs, Clemens Advance

Spurs close out Suns: You have until tomorrow to get over any lingering "The Suns were robbed in Game 5!" resentment. It's simply not worth the energy or outrage at this point.

The Spurs advancing isn't particularly good for the NBA, but there's no debate: Of the four teams remaining, they are the clear favorite to win (another) NBA title, extending the already-impressive Duncan Dynasty.

(What next for Phoenix: Spend the offseason teaching their star players not to leave the bench in the event of an on-court scuffle. Aside from that, enjoy what will likely be the No. 4 overall pick in the draft. Is there a designated Spur-killer in the bunch? Al Horford is the closest thing to it, plus he fits amazingly in the Suns' offense.)

Cavs close out Nets: Progress is progress for LeBron. Another year, another step closer to the Finals. I don't expect that Cleveland will be able to give the Pistons as tough of a series as they did a year ago.

(What next for New Jersey: What to do about the Big Three. I'd let Vince Carter go, ideally in a sign-and-trade. If they want to make one more run, I'd keep Jason Kidd, given his performance in the playoffs. Then I'd dangle Richard Jefferson for Kevin Garnett, in a win-win for both teams/players. If the Nets want to start over, I'd lose Carter -- sign-n-trade, if possible -- and Kidd -- trade to the Kobe-pressured Lakers for coveted teen C Andrew Bynum -- and rebuild around Jefferson now, freeing cap room for LeBron later.)

Vick Watch: Congress getting involved in the dog-fighting scandal can't be good for anyone, least of all Vick or the NFL.

Clemens Watch: Throws 58 pitches for Yankees A Tampa. T-minus what... like 10 days?

MLB Stud: Lake Elsinore, a Padres affiliate, who routed Red Sox affiliate Lancaster, 30-0 in a minor-league game. Mercy rule!

Preakness: Anyone but Street Sense! (Actually, that's totally anti-Quickie to say that. The only way horse racing has any traction whatsoever is if there is Triple Crown momentum a la Funny Cide.)

-- D.S.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday 05/18 A.M. Quickie:
Suns, Pistons, Preakness, Clemens, More

D'oh! Interleague! How could I neglect to mention it below?! Perhaps because some of the novelty has worn off... and I live in the home of the Subway Series, for god's sake...

The best news for those rooting for the Suns? Phoenix's players aren't whining about the circumstances they are in heading into Game 6. I like that focus: They'll rally around their returning players and an us-against-the-world mentality on the road, and force a Game 7.

Pistons KO Bulls: No matter who wins the Cavs-Nets series, the Pistons have to be the favorite to advance to the NBA Finals.

It's the fifth year in a row that Detroit has reached the East finals, which strikes me as resembling some sort of conference dynasty, not that we keep track of things like that. (Although we certainly pay homage to division-title streaks, like the Braves up until last year.)

As for the Bulls, this can be chalked up to a "growth" experience for a young team. They'll be an even better contender in '08. (One suggestion: Lose the Skiles-style grind philosophy and adopt a little more Nellie-style free-flow.)

Jason Giambi says baseball – owners, players, everyone – should have apologized to fans years ago for the sport's PED problem.

That strikes me as slightly disingenuous from a guy who would never have admitted to cheating if it wasn't forced out of him.

I'm all for 'fessing up and taking responsibility, but any apology would ring hollow if it wasn't coupled with decisive and effective action.

MLB's problem is that PED cheating has been so widespread for so long -- so pervasive – that I'm not quite sure when that apology would have been appropriate... or the depth to which that apology should go.

I'm curious whether Giambi's new teammate thinks he (or baseball) owes anyone an apology. Speaking of which...

MLB Stud: Kyle Farnsworth. The Yankees reliever called out the Roger Clemens "Family Plan" clause in Rocket's contract.

MLB Dud: Josh Beckett. As foreshadowed yesterday, the Red Sox' 7-0 ace was sent to the DL with "Beckettypical" finger problems.

(But the Red Sox get a "stud," too, for sweeping the Tigers in a double-header. Still: How will the absence of Beckett affect the best team in the AL, and does it foreshadow larger problems down the road?)

Hank Aaron wants to attract more black kids to play baseball. Great idea, but I'm waiting for the compelling plan as to HOW.

Preakness: Is it too morbid that when I think of the Preakness, I think of Barbaro's injury last year – and not Street Sense's potential? (My "Anyone But Street Sense" pick: Hard Spun. And if I was picking by "Best Name": Mint Slewlep, followed by Flying First Class.

Floyd Landis Scandal: So Greg LeMond was going to testify against Landis, and apparently the Landis camp was going to use the little-known history of LeMond's sexual abuse as a child to try to intimidate him from talking. As if this story couldn't go further down the rabbit hole.

NCAA LAX quarters: Delaware vs. UMBC ensures that at least one non-traditional party-crasher will make the Final Four. (That said, the regional dominance continues.)

Have a great weekend everyone. I should have typical "Very" Quickie posts on both mornings.

-- D.S.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thursday 05/17 A.M. Quickie:
Suns Short, LeBron Loses, Hamels, Vick, More

Suns fall short in Game 5: There's no question -- Amare and Boris would have been worth at least the few extra points needed for the Suns to beat the Spurs in Phoenix, not lose the game 88-85.

Here's the X-factor for Game 6: Can the same "outrage" that nearly earned Phoenix an upset in Game 5 fuel the Suns on the road when Amare and Boris return to the lineup? I think it can, setting up an epic Game 7.

Meanwhile, Robert Horry -- who will not be playing in Game 6 -- says Steve Nash flopped. One man's flop is another man's "court-savvy."

NBA Must-Read: The Big Picture interviews Henry Abbott. (Zach does the best interviews with sports bloggers that you'll find. Always interesting and illuminating. And Henry is the sports-blog universe's resident "crossover" star.)

Speaking of Henry, he pulled the best quotes from David Stern's radio interview with Dan Patrick, which was the biggest ass-whooping of the playoffs so far. Rhetorically, DP is no match for Stern. Very few people are. Here's the link. Bottom line: Stern's point is very similar to the one I made yesterday -- primary blame goes to Amare and Boris for breaking the rule they should have known would bite them, their team and their playoff chances.

Nets beat Cavs in Cleveland in ugly Game 5: How have the Nets turned their series with the Cavs into a six-game minimum, with a chance to send it to 7 with a totally possible win in New Jersey in Game 6? Last night, they held LeBron in check: 20 points on 5/14 FG shooting and 5 assists. They needed every bit of that D, given Jersey's 6 4th-quarter points. Ugh.

Bulls-Pistons, Game 6: I'm predicting the atmosphere at the United Center in Chicago tonight for Game 6 between the Bulls and Pistons will be as rowdy as it has been since Michael Jordan left town.

MLB Stud, Active: Cole Hamels, who worked a perfect game into the 7th and finished with a 2-hitter in 8 IP. Best young LHP in MLB?

MLB Stud, Retired: Hank Aaron, who will get a bigger role with the Atlanta Braves following their sale from Time Warner to Liberty Media.

MLB Stud, Team: The Devil Rays, who notched another win at Disney World. Novelty = Wins! (Seriously, at this rate, they should consider a full-time relocation.)

MLB Dud: Josh Beckett, who will miss his start tomorrow with a skin issue on his finger. (Is that the same as a blister?)

Is there a videotape of Michael Vick watching dog-fighting at his house? Oh please oh please oh please let this exist. If you happen to have it, please upload to YouTube promptly. Thank you.

(Meanwhile, between prosecutors and investigators, the pressure is tightening around Vick. The questions remain the same as they were when the story first broke: (a) Will he be charged/convicted? (b) What will "Get-Tough" Goodell do about it, particularly given that Vick is one of the league's most popular players?)

Will the NFL play with European fans? Ticket sales for the London game are a good proxy: 40,000 sold in 90 minutes. Um, yes: The NFL playing in Europe will work.

Oh, NOW Brett Favre is going to be at Packers mini-camp. As usual, he is all about messing with the minds of his team execs and his fans.

Stephon Marbury to appear on Oprah tomorrow: The biggest affirmation yet of his $14.98 sneaker program, which has single-handedly turned Marbury from self-absorbed athlete-jerk into magnanimous philanthropist. You can still dislike the player, but I have yet to hear of anyone who disapproves of what he's doing with his shoes.

Is Jim Buss ripping Phil Jackson about the coach's ripping players in the media or more about the coach dating his sister, Jeannie?

Indy 500: Danica had the fastest lap. The Danica subplot remains the biggest reason to tune in to the race.

Preakness: Street Sense is a 7-5 favorite. Come on: You've got to pick a different horse.

NBA Draft: Brandan Wright hires an agent, which means there's no turning back to UNC. Not that he was ever going to, given his locked position within the Top 5 picks.

Kentucky out-recruits Florida for prep stud PF Patrick Patterson, the biggest signal yet that new Cats coach Billy Gillispie has UK back on track, brand-wise.

Patterson will step on campus as the best power forward in the SEC and one of the top 3 PFs in the country next year, along with fellow one-and-done frosh Michael Beasley and Tyler "Great in College, No NBA Future" Hansbrough.

Hope Kentucky fans will enjoy Patterson for the one year they have him before he jumps to the NBA. (Does that sound like a Florida fan bitter at being snubbed? I'll 'fess up to being disappointed, at the very least...)

Neal Pollack + Paul Shirley = Must-Read.

Navel-gazing: I don't check my blog traffic as relentlessly as others, but I noticed that Monday, I got more page views than I had in a month -- and that was with my unusual absence all day from posting. At that rate, I will find the most blog success by simply not posting anything. Sheesh...

-- D.S.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wednesday 05/16 A.M. Quickie:
Suspensions a GOOD Thing for NBA?

Suns-Spurs Suspension Mania! OK, so I appreciate that it was the Spurs' Robert Horry who was the instigator of the Game 4 game-ending goonery.

And I appreciate that it was the "victimized" Suns who got obliterated by the NBA's Game 5 suspensions for Amare and Boris Diaw.

And I appreciate that the NBA's ruling effectively guts Phoenix's chances to win the always-"pivotal" Game 5 (in Phoenix, no less).

And I appreciate that, consequently, the NBA's decision could cost the Suns the series.

And I appreciate that it could ultimately hurt the NBA itself (if you believe, as I do, that the Suns' style of play represents one of the only things that might slow down the NBA's otherwise inevitable decline from the legacy of its "star system.")

And yet... it's one of the easiest rules to remember (and follow) in the NBA: In the event of an on-court scuffle, don't leave the bench.

It's pretty simple, really. It's not like anyone thinks the rule itself is a dumb one. What I'm hearing is that people think that rules (and punishments) should be applied selectively. That, of course, generally defeats the purpose of rules. (Judging "intent" is a brutal game that the NBA will almost always lose.)

Expediency is a tempting reason to ignore the rule, but it also ultimately undermines the integrity of the game more than ruining the Suns' chances of toppling the Spurs.

If you want to blame someone, don't blame the NBA, which had little choice. Blame the players, who made the wrong choice. I don't care that their leader was brutalized by an opposing player. Be SMART about it: Don't leave the bench; deliver some on-court payback later in the game (or, if that's not possible, the next game). And be sure that it's a bench player doing it, not the team's all-NBA big man or most versatile player.

Besides: I wouldn't write the Suns off for Game 5 just yet. Combined with the home-court hype, being forced to be innovative -- a Mike D'Antoni specialty -- might befuddle the Spurs.

And watch out for the NBA to ensure officiating that "balances" out the negative p.r. from suspending Amare and Diaw. In fact, between tactical novelty, home-court hysterics and sympathetic officiating, I'll take the Suns to win.

P.S.: I want to point you to my friend and fellow blogger Henry Abbott at True Hoop, who develops and delivers the most reasoned (and influential) wisdom on all things NBA. Start with this most recent post. Then this one, which came earlier. UPDATE: Here's a post today, even better.

P.P.S.: Aha...the inevitable hedge. It's not that I don't see the reasoning of those who disagree with the ruling or who point out the NBA's own inconsistencies in its application. It's just that the most direct responsibility can be laid at the feet -- literally -- of the two players who broke the simple rule, despite (I assume) knowing all about it and the potential risks involved.

It's the end for the Warriors and the three weeks of mania they inspired from their die-hard fan base and NBA fans everywhere who craved something... different.

Golden State's first-round upset win over the Mavericks will go down as the greatest in NBA playoff history; their second-round flame-out will be a footnote.

The team's mercurial style was behind its win AND its loss: Those wins against the Mavs were inspired; last night's ugliness was not.

But hopefully, it will inspire other teams to try to be more creative – and raise expectations among fans everywhere that despite roster limitations, innovative coaching can turn freaks into a funhouse ride.

Bulls crush Pistons in Detroit, bringing the series to 3-2 with Game 6 in Chicago and all the momentum. Even if the Bulls got this series to 7 games, which they might, I wasn't sold on their ability to beat the Pistons in Detroit... um, until now.

Lance Berkman says the Home Run Title is "tainted" if Bonds earned it. I wonder how Berkman feels about his boy, Jeff Bagwell and his 449 home runs, many of which helped Berkman's Astros immensely. I'm not accusing, I'm just saying...

MLB Stud, Player: Jesse Litch, who made his MLB debut on his dad's birthday and went 8.2 IP, allowing 1 ER and 4 H. (Thanks to reader RL for the nomination.)

MLB Stud, Team: The Devil Rays, who played their first game at Disneyworld, which was one of the smartest and most innovative marketing decisions of the sports year. (And they won, too!)

MLB Dud: Lastings Milledge (aka "L Millz"), for joining in on a misogynistic rap song titled "Bend Ya Knees."

Clemens Watch: Will the Yankees have Clemens pitch before the end of May, side-stepping a possible Rocket debut at Fenway?

(While I would appreciate avoiding the media hysteria around THAT one, it seems like it would deny us one of the more dramatic moments of the season.)

Indy 500: The Fan-Unfriendly Move of the Year goes to the Colts. The team won't let No. 18 driver Jimmy Kite paint his car Colts blue colors with the words "Go Colts." But they'll let Peyton Manning be the race's official starter. I mean, for gosh sakes: It's the Indianapolis 500! Kite wants to give free boosterism to the Colts! (He's even No. 18!)

Vick Problems: Virginia prosecutors will meet with investigators to discuss the Vick case. Cue ominous legal-thriller music...

Speaking of NFL problems, Tank Johnson meets with Roget Goodell today. Cue ominous horror-thriller music...

In more positive NFL news, Jon Kitna loves Calvin Johnson. But really, though: Who wouldn't? (Oh, perhaps someone who thinks his name is "Charles," not "Calvin.")

NASCAR: Dale Earnhardt Jr was docked 100 points and his crew chief was suspended for cheating. It's a nice reminder that the outrage standard for cheating in, say, auto racing (and – cough – the NFL) is so much higher than in baseball. Imagine the brouhaha if the greatest player in baseball was busted for (or even simply accused of) cheating. Oh, wait...

College hoops: Patrick Patterson, the last remaining uncommitted top prep player, will make his college choice today at a press conference at 3:45. He's down to Florida and Kentucky... naturally...

Video Games: A new version of Tecmo Bowl is being released in 2008. Reminds me of one of my favorite T-shirts of all time, courtesy of No Mas.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tuesday 05/15 A.M. Quickie:
Suns Get Mad, Then They Get Even

Suns tie up series with Spurs 2-2 with gutsy win in San Antonio: I love how chippy this series has gotten. You always knew the Spurs were a little nasty; the Suns, however, always had that soft "Euro-style" tag.

Not anymore: They have now shown they are ready to mix it up, which is a prerequisite for an NBA champ. (Perhaps a little too much: Will Amare and Boris be suspended for Game 5 for leaving the bench after Horry's "hip-check" on Nash? "Hip-check" being Nash's word for it. I like it: Hockey references imply the goonishness that defines the Spurs' game.)

Cavs on brink of eliminating the Nets: Up 3-1 after win in New Jersey last night. Cavs-Pistons for the East title? Aside from the fact that Detroit is going to demolish Cleveland, sounds like the best(-remaining)-case scenario for the East playofzzzzz...

Does the Warriors' wild ride end tonight in Utah? Seemingly, the Jazz wouldn't want to take any chances by losing tonight – if any team can reel off three straight wins, including two on the road, to come from behind 3-1 to win a seven-game series, it feels like this Golden State team could do it.

Dirk getting his MVP award today: Try to stifle your laughter and/or derision and/or "time on his hands" jokes...

NFL return idol Devin Hester is moving to offense, which probably should have happened before the playoffs last season, rather than this offseason. Everyone will agree it's a great move... right up until his inevitable injury and the inevitable recriminations of hindsight.

(The real question: Despite his inexperience as a WR, how many of you will take a chance on him with a fantasy pick, given his opportunities for points both on offense and special teams?)

MLB Stud: Jason Bergmann, the back-of-rotation Nats starting pitcher who had 10 Ks and 2 hits in 8-plus IP in a DC win over the Braves, the Nats' fourth straight win.

(Oh, I'm a day late on this, but two words: Jack. Cust.)

(I'm also late on the Ken Griffey Jockstrap thing, which is hilarious and awesome, but here's the original link. There's been a ton of blogger pick-up on this, obviously.)

MLB Dud: Kevin Millwood. In his first start off the DL, allowed 4 runs, 3 hits and 3 walks, while recording only 5 outs. Adding injury to insult, he re-aggravated his hamstring injury ("re-aggravate" sounding like code for "handy excuse for sucking.")

Matsuzaka Watch: Throws first complete game of his season (5K, 0BB, 6H), a big win over the Tigers in the first of a four-game series.

(But that's not nearly as impressive as Greg Maddux throwing a complete game of his own: A Maddux-throwback 96-pitch 5-hitter. Wow. You can have Clemens; pound for pound, I'll take Maddux as the greatest pitcher of our era.)

The MLB postseason schedule gets rejiggered: The World Series is being pushed back a day, meaning Game 7 could come in November.

But the bigger impact might be the extra day of rest between games 4 and 5 of the divisional round and LCS rounds, making for interesting potential strategy decisions for managers regarding starting pitching.

NHL: The Sabres miracle is nearly kaput. Buffalo is down 3-0 to Ottawa in the East finals. That's as good as over. Sorry, Buffalo fans. Great ride this season, but – as always – ultimately disappointment rules.

Hard to understand how the franchise can retain its No. 1 ranking in "Fan Satisfaction" (or whatever it was called) after this. That's too bad, because it was the only thing Buffalo had finished No. 1 in in a long time.

Brett Favre will miss Packers mini-camp to attend his daughter's graduation. (If "daughter's graduation" means "doesn't want to deal with the stress of media asking if he REALLY wanted out of Green Bay.")

T.O. trashes Tuna: Really, are you surprised... at all? He must have been unhappy that Favre was getting all the attention.

Jermaine O'Neal to the Knicks? That's what he wants, according to Stephen Jackson. Would he make the Knicks a contender in the East? Not necessarily (particularly given the pieces the Knicks would have to give up to get him). But would he make them a playoff team? Yes.

As we get ready for next Tuesday's NBA Draft Lottery – the most high-profile Lottery since the LeBron Lottery and arguably the biggest since the Ewing Lottery – here's a phenomenal bit of obsession: A Celtics writer posted all 199 Ping-Pong ball combinations that would result in the C's winning the Lottery. (Frankly, all they have to do is win the 1st OR 2nd pick. Hell, it's less pressure to get the No. 2 pick and simply take whoever the top team DOESN'T take, between Oden and Durant.)

I know the NBA loves its envelope-opening drama, but why wouldn't the NBA put the live Ping-Pong ball selection on TV instead? Whatever drama they lose from counting backward from 13 teams is more than made up for by the "Let's-See-Tonight's-Winning-Numbers" live drama of watching Ping-Pong balls pop up and eliminating teams with each new digit. If there was ever a draft to experiment with this, it's this one.

High school stud PG Jai Lucas picks Florida over Kentucky: Apparently, he liked the idea of instant playing time on the two-time defending champs filling in for the departed Taurean Green more than the idea of rehabbing Kentucky's program, which – if anything – is already guard-heavy.

(Remains to be seen where Lucas buddy PF Patrick Patterson announces his commitment tomorrow. Will it be a sweep for Florida? Patterson is also considering Kentucky and Duke.)

Marketing makeover: The Mid-Continent Conference (The "Mid-Con") is changing its name to the "Summit League." (Reminiscent of when the Midwestern Collegiate Conference changed its name to the "Horizon League." So chalk up the end of another era of a blandly named, brand-absent college hoops conference.)

How many of you believe that Missouri's decision to fire its openly gay lacrosse coach was "performance-related" and not because of his sexuality? He had eight straight winning seasons before his first losing season this year.

Georgia women's golf coach Todd McCorkle resigns after inappropriate behavior. Here's the money quote: "I have learned through this experience that I must be 100 percent professional at all times." You'd think making sexually loaded comments to your players – and apparently screening Paris Hilton's sex video to them – would clear the original bar, but apparently not.

Happy One-Year Anniversary to Awful Announcing. (Given the explosion of sports blogs over the past year, you're going to be seeing a lot of 1-year anniversary announcements over the next few months.)

-- D.S.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Monday Quickie Coming Later Today

EARLIER: Sorry for the unexpected and unusual delay this a.m. Will post when I can.

Warriors down 3-1 to Jazz after losing first home game of playoffs: As I said after the Game 2 loss, the same thing you loved about this team a week ago after they vanquished Dallas is the thing that implodes them in losses like last night.

Brett Favre: Trade Me! (Or maybe not): I hope this he-said-he-denied "trade me!" finally exposes Favre once and for all as not worth the idolatry. Maybe this will finally inspire the Packers to do what's best for the team, not Favre.

MLB Mother's Day Stud: Fred Lewis, hits for the cycle (a present for mom) and leads the Giants to a 15-2 win over Colorado.

The most unlikely title of the year: "Phil Mickelson: Ultimate Playa"

NBA Exec of the Year: Bryan Colangelo. Saw this coming before the season started. He's the best exec in the NBA, and he has a second E.O.Y. award ('04-05 PHX) to prove it. Hopefully, his innovative international methods -- which triggered one of the most impressive one-season turnarounds in NBA history -- will inspire other teams' execs. (Either that, or pressure them. I don't care which. Colangelo shows fans that it can be done quickly and relatively easily, and they should hold their own team's GMs to a similar standard.)

Again, sorry about the delayed post today.

-- D.S.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sunday 05/13 AM (Very) Quickie

Happy Mother's Day!

Spurs go up 2-1 with Game 3 win in San Antonio. Does that effectively make Game 4 a must-win game for the Suns?

Nets show up at home and win Game 3 against the Cavs. Putting the "Three" into the "Big Three." (Or maybe that's putting the "Big" into the "Big Three." Either way...)

MLB Stud: Brewers, who with a win Saturday turned Sunday's game vs. the Mets at Shea into a rubber match between the two best teams in the NL, battling for early-season supremacy.

MLB Dud: Ryan Howard to the DL: Is there a "Face of Baseball" curse I should know about?

Who is this kid leading The Players?

Senators beat Sabres in 2OT to take 2-0 lead in Eastern Conference finals. Ack! Could the Buffalo Miracle be ending?

Bode Miller quits US Ski team: Like you didn't see this coming?

NCAA LAX: So how all-time huge would the irony be if Duke won the whole thing?

Must-see video: If you haven't yet, be sure to catch Baron Davis' dunk over Kirilenko from Game 3 on Friday night, the signature moment of the 2007 NBA Playoffs. Game 4 today!

Now, go be nice to all the moms in your life...

-- D.S.