Saturday, June 02, 2007

Saturday 06/02 A.M. (Very) Quickie

MLB, NL: Carlos Zambrano puts Michael Barrett in the hospital after Cubs clubhouse melee. Take a sip today every time you hear someone wedge in a pun about the pitching-catching "battery."

MLB, AL: Torre throws A-Rod under the bus, says that A-Rod's "Mine!" against the Jays wasn't cool. I say: When your team sucks as bad as the Yankees, they should be PRAISING A-Rod for doing whatever it takes to try to win games.

D'backs win 8th straight: Arizona's success biggest surprise of the MLB season so far?

Bonds Watch: Whatever his motivations, I actually give him credit for not talking about the home run chase and focusing on the performance of his team in each game.

Florida coaching search: Let's hope the Gators wrap it up today and announce that VCU coach and Billy D protege Anthony Grant is the new head coach.

BCS Reform: SEC presidents reject Florida prez Bernie Machen's plan to try to create a new football playoff. Any sort of reform seems pretty DOA at this point.

Kobe Watch: Could the Bobcats make a play for Kobe? What if they packaged, say, Gerald Wallace (sign-n-trade) and Adam Morrison?

That deal makes the Lakers deeper (Wallace is one of the most underrated talents in the league; Morrison stinks, but gives them a marketable face), and the Bobcats add Kobe to a nucleus of C Okafor and PG Felton in the wide-open East.

Got more to add that I've missed? Chime in in the Comments.

-- D.S.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Friday 06/01 A.M. Quickie:
Billy Donovan Bolts, LeBron James Rules

Yes, I know LeBron deserves top-billing today, but for personal reasons I simply can't bump the Billy Donovan story beneath today's lead item...

Billy Donovan leaves the Florida Gators and college basketball for the Orlando Magic and the NBA. I tried to sort out my many thoughts on it, but they still come out in a jumble of half-thoughts (oh, and in Deadspin guest-posts on the topic)...

*After winning two national titles, Billy has earned the cred to do whatever the hell he wants without Florida fans feeling bitter. I appreciate the "what more can he accomplish" thing, but I have an answer: Perennial national-title contender and a place in the Rushmore of college hoops coaching, which he was on pace to earn.

*I appreciate the money factor, but is $5.5 million really that much more than the $4-plus million Florida would have paid him? Oh, and he would have been the highest-paid coach in college hoops. I hope money wasn't a real factor in his decision-making. Easy for me to say, I know, but still: It's not like he wasn't going to get paid staying in college.

*I respect the fact that he sees coaching in the NBA as a "challenge," but I just don't see the lure (if you take out the money). Coaching in the NBA kind of sucks. Unless you luck into a Jordan/Pippen or Shaq/Kobe (Phil Jackson) or a Duncan (G. Popovich), the best you can do – the best! – is be the next Jerry Sloan, who is best-known for (a) homophobia and (b) not winning an NBA title. I'm curious to see whether Billy's style -- which was a perfect fit for the college game -- translates at all. And, even if it does, if he derives the same joy from it.

(Now, that said: If you were going to join an NBA team, it doesn't hurt to have your centerpiece player be the best post player in the East. Given a little better supporting talent – no, NOT Vince Carter – Dwight Howard could make the Magic a perennial contender for an East title. By the way, I loathe to say it, but JJ Redick is the big winner here. Donovan will have that guy jacking 3s all night.)

To summarize: I get that the money was sick. I get that he had little left to truly prove in college. I get that he was intrigued by the new challenge, particularly with an emerging big man to work with as a cornerstone. I get that, of any NBA job, one geographically closest to his family was the most ideal.

But I go back to what he has built at Florida – and what was on the horizon. And I go back to this idea that Donovan realistically was on track to join Wooden, Knight, Smith and Krzyzewski on the Mount Rushmore of college coaching.

To walk away from that? Wow. I wouldn't. I wish him the best, but I won't be surprised if he's back in college by 2012 (in my nightmares, taking over the reins at Duke from a retiring Coach K).

Who should the Gators get to replace Donovan? To me, the answer is easy: VCU's Anthony Grant. He was Donovan's lead assistant for the first title team. He knows the system and the players and the Florida community. And his "only" one year of head-coaching experience is mitigated by the fact that he did such an amazing job in that one year. Grant could keep Larry Shyatt as the top assistant, keep PG recruit Jai Lucas from bolting to Kentucky and extend Donovan's tradition. (Gators fans, please stop talking about Rick Barnes and John Calipari. Please.)

LeBron Rules: OK, LeBron has re-asserted himself as the uber-star of the playoffs. And he might have just single-handedly saved the NBA Playoffs. He put the Cavs on his back and put on one of the single-greatest one-man shows in NBA Playoffs history.

48 points (29 of the Cavs' final 30 points!) leading Cleveland to a double-OT win over the Pistons in Detroit to take a 3-2 series lead.

(Now: As experts throw out that "85 percent of teams that win Game 5 in series tied 2-2 win the series," consider that the Cavs were up 3-2 on Detroit a year ago before dropping the final two games. But last year, the Cavs – and LeBron himself – were far less tested. This year? He is willing it to happen.)

There were a lot of questions about LeBron's willingness to dominate throughout this season, these playoffs and even the early games of this series. No more: Last night, LeBron transformed into Optimus Prime.

Spelling Bee: Evan O'Dorney is your champ, though you might not have known it from his less-than-enthusiastic reaction. It wasn't stunned silence; it was matter-of-fact... even boredom. I'm not sure you'll ever see a champ crowned – in ANY competition – with less enthusiasm than O'Dorney showed.

(I have to admit: He made me wonder if perhaps the flip-side to his savant-level abilities in math, music and – obviously – spelling, he has a wee bit of a personality disorder. I guess they might go hand-in-hand. I don't say that in any way to mock him or be cruel; I actually felt a little bad for him that he seemed to find little joy in the accomplishment. I did, however, find it amusing that his understated demeanor totally threw off Stuart Scott in the post-win interview session.)

(By the way, I was so happy to be proven wrong about Mike and Mike's participation at the Bee. First, they treated the event with the earnest dignity it deserves. Second, I had presumed they would be the lead broadcast team. ABC was much better off playing it straight with the team of the excellent Robin Roberts and whoever that Bee analyst was.)

Oh, and don't forget to check out the Bee's All-Name Team, courtesy of Name of the Year.

MLB Stud: Roy Halladay, wins 100th career game and blanks the White Sox in his return from the DL. Welcome back to the AL East's best pitcher.

MLB Dud: Jason Giambi, who went to the DL with arch problems. Yes, if "arch problems" means "looming slap-down from MLB over 'roids." (Could miss a month, though speculation is that it could run even longer.)

Yankees-Red Sox: Ugh... again? Take a swig every time Clemens' name comes up.

MLB Trade: Armando Benitez shipped from the Giants to the Marlins. I'm not sure there's a more frustrating closer in baseball in the last decade. Anyone whose team has used Benitez can understand that.

NFL: Concussions linked to depression. That makes the league's new, seemingly sincere effort to manage its concussion epidemic all the more important.

Vick Watch: The prosecutor says informants link Vick to dog-fighting, which sports fans already knew from intrepid reporting by ESPN and SI. The question is whether merely being indicted (not convicted or even prosecuted) will trigger a suspension from NFL Commissioner Roger "Get-Tough" Goodell.

Trent Green Watch: I think the Dolphins will eventually get him. Man, how stupid does Atlanta look now for trading away Matt Schaub? Joey Harrington can't possibly give fans any confidence.

T.O.: Dallas is assumed to give him his $3 million roster bonus today, keeping him on the team for 2007. Whee.

More NBA: The Suns are going to hire TV analyst Steve Kerr as President and GM. (Funny: He apparently didn't say a word about it during the Pistons-Cavs game last night. How freaking lame of him is THAT?)

Related: So when is a sports team going to hire a smart, businss-savvy blogger to run the show? No: Really.

Pacers hire Jim O'Brien: Yawn. Charter member of the NBA Coaching Recycling Program. Good luck to him when they ship out Jermaine O'Neal. You can already hear the players griping about O'Brien's heavy-handed style.

Kobe Drama: Notice how this story immediately fell off the radar as of last night? Thank god.

BCS Reform: I think the SEC presidents should do a live web-cast of Florida president Bernie Machen's presentation about creating a playoff.

Horse Racing: Street Sense won't race at Belmont, making the third leg of the Triple Crown even more irrelevant than it already was.

Tennis: Venus KO'ed at French Open. Eh: Ping me when Federer and Nadal meet in the men's final.

Golf: I don't care if Michelle Wie lied about her "wrist injury" to drop out of the Ginn Tribute before achieving the crappy score that would trigger the DQ rule that would keep her out of LPGA events for the rest of the season. She did the smart thing.

Athletes Who Blog: Welcome to the club, Kevin Youkilis (One of my favorite players, despite the fact he plays for the Red Sox. The overriding factor is that he plays for "my team," if you know what I'm saying. If you don't, then what I'm saying is that Youk is the rare Jewish Major Leaguer, and I root for all of them... especially the ones on pace to be All-Stars.)

Politics: One more reason to love Barack Obama? He's a pick-up basketball junkie. Check out this story.

Movies: "Knocked Up" is going to be the biggest comedy hit of the summer. And nothing else will be close.

-- D.S.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Donovan, Patel Both Out!
Updated: Billy Out...For Real!

UPDATE: Full breakdown of the Billy Donovan news in the morning. My good-news/bad-news afternoon: I was stuck on a JetBlue flight, so I had nothing to do but watch ESPNews and contemplate the developments. As you can guess, I have many opinions. Coming in the a.m.

ORIGINAL: For the record, I am infinitely more disappointed and distressed that Billy Donovan is out at Florida (bound for the Orlando Magic and the lure of the NBA) than I am that Samir Patel is out at the Spelling Bee (though there was some drama, which always helps).

However, I wish Billy D all the best: How can you begrudge a move after two straight titles? Presuming the report is right, I hope Florida acts quickly to hire Donovan protege Anthony Grant from VCU.

As for Patel, the Bee should have upheld his sketchy appeal, if only to totally amp up the drama for tonight's finals.

- D.S.

Thursday 05/31 A.M. Quickie:
Deja Vu! Kobe, A-Rod, Spurs, Bee, More!

Geez, see what happens when I do my usual morning post at 4 a.m. and can't get back online the rest of the day...?

Trade Kobe! Um...Nevermind! Well, that was a whole lot of nothing. It was the sports-media equivalent of a supernova: A day of frenzy, but ultimately, nothingness.

The only thing that came out of Kobe's "Trade Me! Wait, Don't!" frenzy was that Kobe knows how to use the media. He obviously understands that sports media thrive on daytime drama, like a soap-opera addict. The pipeline MUST be filled with stuff to talk about, ad nauseum.

By going out with "Trade me!" then backtracking to "Eh, nevermind!" Kobe also flexes his power over the Lakers. Would it have been cool to see Kobe traded, say, to the East? Absolutely.

But all this frenzy did was allow bloggers and columnists and talking heads the chance to pursue "Can-you-top-this?" trade fantasies all day long. (At least most of them used Chad Ford's "Trade Machine" to see if the numbers worked.) The most common phrase of the day? "Wait, but my idea actually works!"

There will be a trade by the Lakers, all right. But it just won't involve Kobe.

The more likely outcome is that the Lakers will abandon their plan to turn teen center Andrew Bynum into a future cornerstone of the franchise. They simply can't wait for him, and his trade value will never be higher. (The Nets covet Bynum and would absolutely trade Jason Kidd for the young center. The Lakers balked at this in February, and it probably cost them any chance of advancing out of the first round of the playoffs. I don't expect them to maintain their stance about it.)

In the end, Kobe's demand wasn't "Trade me!" but "Trade someone else!" And it's not a crazy request. The Lakers need to make moves to win now.

So, instead of Kobe trades, let's talk about Bynum trades -- the trades that will help Kobe win now. You've already heard about the Bynum-for-Kidd deal, which makes sense for both teams.

Let me throw out my own ridiculous trade theory: The numbers don't work AT ALL, but if I was the T'wolves, I'd consider trading KG for Bynum. The T'wolves aren't going anywhere with KG. Why not rebuild around a center who will be a force starting in 5 years?

Guess what: By 2012, to win the West, you'll have to have a great center to battle an aging Duncan, a peaking Amare and an Oden just hitting his prime. The T'wolves' future is brighter with a promising young center like Bynum than a past-his-prime KG. Can someone please help make the numbers work, without saddling the T'wolves with albatross contracts?

Want the best analysis of the situation? Skip the predictable mainstream stuff and go with The inimitable Basketball Jones, with a phenomenal podcast on all things Kobe.

More A-Rod Scandal! After yesterday's off-field stuff (see next item), it's refreshing to have an on-field scandal. This one is a tempest in a Toronto teacup: A-Rod apparently used a little catty verbal gamesmanship to disrupt Jays infielders from fielding a pop-up.

Blue Jays players are crying "bush league!", although their griping seems way more wimpy than A-Rod's pathetic bleating on the basepaths. (Did the Jays players not remember A-Rod's infamous effete swipe at Bronson Arroyo in the 2004 ALCS?)

Gamesmanship is part of the game. We accept that there's trickery that goes on. Most of the time, fans tip their cap (some cranks might gripe, but you can't please everyone). Understandably, we don't like that stuff to be as blatant as A-Rod made it, but I'm OK with it.

Meanwhile, as usual, it's the cover-up and not the crime that is at the heart of the real issue: A-Rod insists he was yelling something innocuous, when everyone knows he was trying to mess with the infielders' heads. Why didn't he just say this:

"Yeah, I shouted at him. So what? I'm trying to help us advance runners, score runs and win games. At this point, my team needs to do ANYTHING it needs to in order to win. I'd rather win shamelessly than lose with class, and I think most fans would agree with me."

(Hmm: Now that's an interesting debate question. Would you rather win shamelessly or lose with dignity? Consider the long and storied -- and memorable -- history of champs who are shameless, then rack your brain trying to remember the dignified losers.)

More: Tabloid A-Rod! I have absolutely no problems with A-Rod being caught, like any other celebrity, by paparazzi, whether that's a paid photographer or just some fan with a camera-phone. This is the era we live in; we're the "Deadspin Generation" (Copyright, D. Shanoff), and any athlete who doesn't recognize it is going to get burned by it. (And the fogeys in the mainstream media who are complaining need to get over it, too. Fans are doing the job that the media should have been doing. Yes, including 24/7 "Gawker Stalker"-style coverage.)

They're not saying "Boo!", they're saying "Boo-onds!" (h/t: Waylon Smithers): Barry Bonds was booed vociferously by Mets fans last night ("convicted" steroids guy Guillermo Mota, a Mets reliever, got a 50/50 reception). Hey, it's the fan's right to boo, and I'll always defend that as the equivalent of the Fan's First Amendment. But I guarantee those same fans are bragging this morning that they went to go see Barry Bonds last night – and in 20 years, they'll still be talking about seeing Barry Bonds the season he broke Aaron's mark.

MLB: Instead of the usual daily Stud/Dud list, with the season two months behind us, I'd love to get your "Two-Month MVP"; "Two-Month Cy"; and "Two-Month Rookie of the Year" for each league. Have at it.

Spurs eliminate the Jazz: Not that anyone didn't see this coming. Now, all the NBA needs is the Pistons to finish off the Cavs for this NBA Finals to become the least thrilling in NBA history. SI covers aside, there is simply no appetite for the Duncan Dynasty we're living in.

(Meanwhile, I like that Deron Williams sort of called his Utah teammates out. There's nothing wrong with competitive spirit, particularly from the NBA playoffs' most break-out talent.)

Grizzlies hire Marc Iavaroni: By far, the hottest name in NBA coaching – and a terrific hire for Memphis, a team in need of a spark. The guy to give it to them is a Mike D'Antoni disciple who can bring Memphis a little bit of that Phoenix-Toronto-Oakland-style international flavor. (This past season, if Golden State was like Phoenix without the discipline, then Memphis was like Golden State with even less.) Second, I am thrilled that the Grizzlies didn't go with one of the retreads from the NBA's Coaching Recycling Program. Third, I predict Rudy Gay is going to be a huge star in Iavaroni's system.

Meanwhile, the Magic say they're trying to go after Florida's Billy Donovan, but I think that Donovan signs his fat new deal to stay in Gainesville by the end of the week, and the Magic are left with the NBA's above-mentioned Coaching Recycling Program.

NCAA bails out Duke players, gives them an extra year of eligibility to make up for last season's "lost" year: Now, this seems a little strange, given that it was Duke that canceled the season. It's a very weird precedent, to be filed under "Beware of Unintended Consequences."

Stanley Cup: Ducks go up 2-0 on Senators after 1-0 nail-biter in Anaheim. Well, nail-biter for hockey fans.

College Football: What does it say when it's news that Notre Dame's QB situation was "narrowed" to three contenders... from two! (Related: As a pre-frosh, Jimmy Clausen is already setting a pace to break Brady Quinn's career team record for douchiness.)

Vick Watch: Pro Football Talk says that NFL Security thinks Mike Vick is guilty in the dog-fighting scandal. And I'd trust NFL Security's judgment over that of local law enforcement. NFL Security should be running U.S. Homeland Security. They know EVERYTHING.

More NFL: Chad Johnson will race a horse. 'Nuff said.

MLS signs YouTube deal: As I've said with every sports league (NBA, NHL) that has done this type of distribution deal, it's nothing but a win and a smart play.

Spelling Bee, Cont'd: I caught a bit of Mike and Mike this morning and they were already snickering at the Bee. I believe it was that the Bee is in primetime on broadcast TV. As I said yesterday: Mike and Mike come across like the assholes if they take an otherwise gloriously earnest competition and layer it with the sarcasm of the classic junior high "cool kid" and "jock" making fun of the "smart kid." The finals are tonight. Darren Rovell's picks are uncanny (see second time down in the link). My guy, Samir Patel, is still in win it!

Rovell's last paragraph contains genius: Why haven't other media companies (online, blogs, etc.) sponsored contestants? For the amount of exposure the finalists get -- in primetime on broadcast TV, no less -- a company could easily give the kid more than the measly $10,000 (or whatever) they get for winning the thing. They could pick the most flamboyant kid, who would definitely get the most airtime/attetion. And the return-on-investment is easy to see. This will be interesting to track next year. Ha ha: How about a ""-sponsored kid?

MLB Nostalgia: Postman E tipped readers off to this Hardball Times story about Steve Dalkowski, whose mythic career seems made for YouTube, but simply came too early.

Must-Read: United Football League! Oh my god. I'm a sucker for innovative sports leagues, so I'm obviously smitten with this idea of a start-up pro football league.

There's a lot to like here: Great founders. Mark Cuban. Friday nights. Untapped markets. IPO ownership of the teams to fans. Mark Cuban.

I disagree with story author Joe Nocera about Arena not being a model to follow: By all accounts, the Arena Football League is the greatest sports-league pure start-up in the last half-century. (One of my crowning achievements of business school was "cracking" the case study of the Arena League, so I'm impossibly biased.)

Will it work? Who cares? It's fun to think about. (See that link to Rovell's blog above in the Spelling Bee item; the lead item of his blog is about the United Football League.)

-- D.S.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wednesday 05/30 A.M. Quickie:
Bee, Cavs, Kobe, Beckett, Vick, Buss, More!

Spelling Bee Mania! I love the Spelling Bee. Two years ago, I won the Page 2 Spelling Bee Fantasy League title. Last year, I remained enamored with it. This year, I'm still all in.

Darren Rovell and I have been friends for years, and the Bee is one of the things he and I mutually agree is fantastic. He does a much more obsessive job than I do in breaking down the field. He handicaps the race here.

We both agree on one thing: Samir Patel. Drafting Patel led to my Fantasy League title in '05, and I picked him to win last year (he didn't, but has a mean streak). Rovell likens Patel to the Bee's Peyton Manning, and he's right: It's Patel's year. He's my pick to win.

Mike and Mike will be doing the play-by-play. One of the things I liked most about Bee broadcasts was the earnestness of the otherwise anonymous broadcast team matched the sincerity of the kids. I really hope Greenberg and Golic don't turn this into a case of the "cool" kid and the "jock" kid turning the primetime event into a sarcastic mockery of the "smart" kids. That would be like re-living junior high for me, without the beatings. (Here's a hint that, if they do nothing else, will help: It's not about you, M&M, it's about the kids.)

I was looking around for a live-blog, and here's one I found. (Yes, but will they be doing the early rounds, found on the obscure cable channels?)

Meanwhile, around the sports that wish they had the authenticity of the Bee...

Cavs even up series with Pistons 2-2: When Larry Hughes went down with that injury, how many of you agreed with me that the Cavs were d-o-n-e? Hughes replacement Daniel Gibson (21 points) would like to disagree. (Bonus: Undersized combo guards at the NBA Draft "combine" get a boost!)

Kobe teed off on the Lakers front office on the radio yesterday, ramping up the rhetoric -- and perhaps pressing the conditions that the team could-should-would trade him? He has a right to be angry: The team ain't building a contender (which I believe), and the team is blaming him for exiling Shaq (which I think he deserves). I think it's all setting up a summer of intrigue where they could very well trade him. I've got no evidence -- just an intuition. Of course, I think they SHOULD trade him.

Vick Scandal, Day Nth: says Vick doesn't understand that dog-fighting is wrong. PFT is hearing that league folks think an indictment is inevitable. And there's something about the search/non-search warrant for his property, but I can't work through the thicket of intrigue. Just dig up the damn property already.

MLB Stud, Pitcher: Josh Beckett, who returned from the DL to win his 8th straight decision. ("Straight" should get a mild asterisk, given the break between starts.)

MLB Stud, Batter: Gary Sheffield, who hit 2 HR and had 5 RBI in a 14-2 Tigers clobbering of the D-Rays. For the first two months of the season, it sure looks like the Yankees messed up in letting him go.

Clemens Watch: The only real reason to pay attention to Roger Clemens' prep for the season was that he would make his first start for the Yankees at Fenway. Now, it looks like it'll happen against the White Sox. What a wuss.

(Actually, the other vets on the rotation set up to pitch there, and why mess with their turns? Well, for starters, because Roger Clemens is ALL ABOUT the special rules. Why stop at "doesn't have to travel with the team?" Why not add in: "Enters rotation when/where it makes the most dramatic sense?")

MLB Stats: "FORP." Alex Belth (via Emma Span) is pushing "FORP" (Fun Over Replacement Player), which is a pretty clever concept. Curious who your most favorite "fun" MLB players are. Here's the Belth link.

Duke Scandal: Will any of the "Duke Three" be able to lead normal lives? Reade Seligmann will find out: He has transferred to Brown. We'll see if he brings any stigma with him. That must have made for one hell of an application essay.

Marquise Hill's death was ruled accidental. That compounds the tragedy that he wasn't wearing a life vest.

Lakers owner Jerry Buss arrested for DUI: Forget the 74-year-old man. How about the fact that there was a 23-year-old woman in the car with him? I fully expect LA-based Sports by Brooks to have the photos ASAP. (Please be Lindsay Lohan... please be Lindsay Lohan...)

French Open: Andy Roddick ain't good on clay. For the second year in a row, he is bounced out of the French Open in the first round. Seven other US players went with him. Eh: Clay is the knuckleball of tennis surfaces – a gimmick.

TV: Kudos to the rookie Big Ten Network for making ESPN's Dave Revsine its signature hire. Beyond being a Northwestern guy, he has always been one of the most underrated talents at ESPN.

My genius friends over at ProTrade have a new live-game application for baseball that could radically change the concept of understanding a game's turning point. Here's the link.

Rookiepedia is back for the NBA Draft.

More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tuesday 05/29 A.M. Quickie:
Vick, Kobe, Judd, Clemens, Hopkins, More

After a long weekend away, there's a lot to catch up on...

Here's the overarching question: After three days away, what was the biggest story of the long weekend that will dominate fan discussion today? Marquise Hill? Michael Vick? NBA Playoffs? UFC? Indy 500? Bonds? Lacrosse? Allison Stokke? Something else? Let's just dive right in:

Vick Doggy Dogg: Oh, Michael Vick is so screwed. Did you catch the ESPN report? Vick is a "heavyweight" in the sport, says an informant that investigators say is reliable.

Vick is apparently totally immersed in it. He bets a ton of money. The informant says he personally saw Vick bet the money. The only question now, beyond the scope of the criminal charges, is the over-under on how many games Vick will be suspended by NFL commissioner Roger "Get Tough" Goodell. If Vick was an also-ran talent, I suspect he'd be gone for the entire season. Because Vick is a superstar, we'll see. The word is six games, but doesn't that number seem pretty arbitrary?

(And, in a wild twist, the dog-fighting community is nervous that a freaked-out Vick will start snitching – new T-shirt craze! – and cripple the industry. What a quandary for Vick: If he helps out the cops, he'll help himself personally, but ruin his fan cred.)

Let's drop the flippant comments: The accidental death of Patriots young D-lineman Marquise Hill was a horrible shock. Condolences to his family, friends and fans.

NBA Playoffs West: Spurs win in Utah to go up 3-1, and the Jazz are as good as finished with the series heading back to Texas for Game 5. (On the plus side, Deron Williams had 27 points and 10 assists in another brilliant game. See item below for more on Williams.)

NBA Playoffs East: LeBron Strikes Back. 32-9-9. Guess he took all that "can't win either way" from Games 1 and 2 personally. Remains to be seen whether he can sustain it for another win in Game 4, let alone two more after that.

(Meanwhile, Larry Hughes is doubtful for Game 4, and a foot injury might keep him hobbled the rest of the way. For the Cavs, that means this series might end even sooner than was thought before.)

Clemens is ready: 6 IP, 89 pitches, 6 Ks, 2 H, 2 BB, 0 ER. Apparently, he's ready to go. The only question: Will "go" happen at Fenway? (Oh, here's another: Given the Yankees' suckitude, will Clemens even make a difference, or will he be begging for a trade by the mid-summer trade deadline?)

Indy 500 415: You can take or leave the three female-driver sensations, but I don't know of an Indy driver as universally respected as Dario Franchitti.

The reason? Two words: Ashley Judd. When you are married to the most celebrated hottie super-fan in sports, you can count on our support. Congrats to Franchitti, if only because he gives the rest of us an excuse to see, post and comment on Ashley Judd.

(Meanwhile, the Indy 500 ran into the one factor that obliterates the event: Rain. "Indy 415" just doesn't have the same cachet.)

Kobe apparently demands the Lakers bring back Jerry West -- or else he says he wants a trade out of town. When was the last time a player lobbied for a specific GM? I've seen a player lobby for a coach (Michael Jordan). I've seen a player lobby for another player. But GM? That's a new one.

Now: What can the Lakers do? They can bring back West in some kind of consultative role, but what can West do? For starters, he can trade promising prep-to-pro center Andrew Bynum for talent that can help Kobe win now. But maybe there's another way to go...

...The fact is, the Lakers aren't going to be competitive in the West now (with the Spurs, Mavs and Suns so much better), in the short-term (with the Nuggets, Jazz and Rockets rising) or in the long-term (when, presumably, the Blazers and Sonics would have superstars while Kobe is in his decline). What if the Lakers SHOULD trade Kobe?

(The only problem: Either the Lakers would get back 50 cents on the dollar OR the team Kobe is traded to would be gutted to the point where they're no better than his Lakers team now. A Dallas Morning News columnist offers "Dirk for Kobe, straight up." The problem: Even if it made sense for the Mavs, they'd be nuts to give up so much value to a team under pressure to trade its star. If I was Mark Cuban, I'd say: No, how about Josh Howard for Kobe, straight up? And if I was the Lakers, I'd still do it.)

The fact is: Kobe is screwed. He's stuck. Sure, he can leave in 2009 when he's got a contract opt-out, but it's going to be a long two years until then. He kind of deserves his situation, though. No sympathy.

(Update: Kobe denies he demanded a trade, of course.)

NBA Draft: Rumor has it that PG Mike Conley Jr. is a lock for the Hawks at No. 3. I believe I was the first person to say that in the first 90 seconds after the Lottery order was finalized. Nevertheless...

(Now, is it the RIGHT pick? Obviously, the Hawks need a point guard. It's a position they've effed up before in the draft: In fact, they did it TWICE in one draft, taking Marvin Williams over both Chris Paul and Deron Williams. But I'm not as sold on Conley being a Can't-Miss NBA point guard as everyone else. I think he's Mike Bibby with a worse jumpshot. I'd love to be proven wrong. Conley, I'm sure, would love to not go to Atlanta; I was hoping to see that wild scenario where the Blazers finagle both Oden AND Conley.)

Speaking of young point guards, Deron Williams is ridiculous. 27 and 10 last night... and he was fighting the flu! If you were starting a team from scratch and had your choice of any point guard in the NBA, I'll bet more teams would take Williams than Chris Paul. (Those are the only two candidates in the debate.)

Bonds: 746. 10 to go...

MLB Stud, Player: Ryan Howard, fresh off the DL this weekend, clubbing 2 HRs in a Phillies win over the Braves. Philly is surging...

MLB Stud, Player Emeritus: Bo Jackson. A lot of people are talking about this Posnanski column about Bo, who was an MLB rookie 20 years ago. They're right: It's a terrific read, as most everything that celebrates Bo is. Between his baseball exploits, his Monday Night Football runs, his "Tecmo Bo" legend, his "Bo Knows" Nike iconography and his "cut-short" career, Bo might be the greatest sports folk hero of all time. The clincher: He was great in the late-80s, when most sports bloggers and mainstream rising sports writers were in their teens -- at the peak of their idealized fandom.

MLB Stud, Owner: George Steinbrenner. Calls out Brian Cashman, who demanded more responsibility, got it, and now seems to be squandering it away. And he called out Jason Giambi, saying Giambi should have just kept his mouth shut about steroids, etc. The Boss is old school: "Stop Snitching (On Yourself)."

MLB Dud, Player: AJ Pierzynski, who spiked Justin Morneau, inspiring the Twins to hammer the White Sox, 10-4.

MLB Dud, Team: Tampa Bay Devil Rays. It only took two games to get Elijah Dukes back in the lineup. Two games missed out of 162. I know those two games weren't punitive – but they should have been. And should have been more.

(And, of course, Dukes hit a bases-loaded single in the 9th to drive in 2 runs and lead the D-Rays to a come-from-behind win over the Tigers. This makes me question the entire concept of karmic payback.)

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: My pick? Ottawa. Gotta root for the team that displaced America's Team (Buffalo Sabres). And how can you not like Senators goalie Ray Emery? If he played in a major US market, he could be the most popular player in the sport.

(I made that pick on Monday morning. Obviously, last night's Game 1 win by the Ducks in Anaheim puts Ottawa in a hole right away. Whoops.)

NCAA LAX (Men): Hopkins beats Duke. Is there a college program that is so epically awesome in a single sport (but irrelevant in every other) more than Johns Hopkins and lacrosse? In the end, Hopkins' legacy overcame Duke's irony. It would have been the more dramatic (if predictable) story if Duke had won, but who can begrudge more Hopkins dominane?

NCAA LAX (Women): Northwestern wins its third straight title. Dynasty! (And, believe me, that's not a word you hear in Evanston. This might be the most successful sports team in school history. I'd say the previous contender would be the football team from 1995-1996, when it captured two straight Big Ten titles.)

NCAA Baseball Tournament: Vandy! Vanderbilt will be the top-seeded team in the NCAA Tournament, after a phenomenal season where the Commodores won the SEC regular-season and tournament titles. Usually, top-seeded tournament teams are tough to root for. In this case, you have to be soulless to not be rooting for Vandy to win the national title.

BCS Reform: Florida president Bernie Machen has a plan, and he's going to reveal it on Thursday. But the Tampa Trib's Andy Staples has a preview – and, amazingly, it's not far off from my "SEC secede" idea, ridiculed by almost all of you: He wants to form an LLC similar to the one the BCS created, but (a) have it run a playoff system, (b) generate WAY more revenue, and (c) distribute it to all D-1A schools, not just the power conferences. Here's a link with more details.

Prep Football: Should Texas high school football players be subject to random steroid testing? Forgetting the legality of it, it seems like a decent idea. I'd like to see stricter tests of the college players in Texas, first. I can only imagine what THAT scene is like.

UFC: Jackson upends Liddell. You kind of knew the UFC poster boy was going to be beaten. After all, he had lost to Jackson before. Is it really so bad for the sport that the favorite loses? I'd argue that an upset is rarely -- if ever -- a bad thing in the championship round of any sport, particularly when the favorite is overhyped. USC heading into the 2006 Rose Bowl comes to mind. Upsets prove unpredictability, and unpredictability is the lifeblood of any sport. Now, you could argue that a "new" sport needs the type of predictability that would create marketable names, but with Liddell on the way down/out of UFC anyway (he's 38), they were better off with a new king, anyway.

NFL Conduct, Cont'd: Clay Travis has a pretty interesting (and unusually "straight") take on the NFL's new "Get Tough" personal conduct policy. The influential Pro Football Talk dismissed it. Read Clay's column. What do you think?

Miss Universe: Miss Japan wins, and Tony Romo is one of the judges. Good to see playoff humiliation doesn't keep him from celebrity events.

And then, of course, there's the Alison Stokke story. Here's a story from the front page of today's Washington Post about it. What hath With Leather wrought? (Tell you what: It's the ultimate symbol of Matt Ufford's influence as an "indie" sports blogger.) As usual, Deadspin has the definitive take. Oh, and here's another interesting take from Off Wing Opinion's Eric McErlain.

-- D.S.