Speed Read: NCAA Tries To Erase History Again

I have always thought it’s weird when people bring up the idea of removing steroid-era numbers from baseball’s official record book, as if history can be fixed simply by ignoring it. Say what you want about Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire, but every single home run they hit counted in a real-life Major League Baseball game.

Derrick Rose John Calipari

(This never happened.)

Of course, the NCAA has been pulling these sort of shenanigans for years, “vacating” wins for schools that violate the rules. The latest to apparently earn this wrath is the University of Memphis basketball program, whose run to the 2008 title game is reportedly going to be vanishing from the NCAA’s memory today. As far as they’re concerned, the 38 wins accumulated that year never happened because Derrick Rose had someone else take the SAT for him in order to get into the school.

For those of you scoring at home, that’s twice now that John Calipari-helmed teams have seen Final Four runs erased from the books, although in 1996 UMass was only forced to give up its 4-1 NCAA tournament record, and not its entire season, due to Marcus Camby’s indiscretions with an agent. In this case, Memphis’ whole season is being invalidated and Calipari is about to find his coaching resume to be 38 wins lighter.

John Calipari UMass

(This didn’t happen either.)

I suppose it makes sense on some level. If Rose shouldn’t have been eligible to play, then how could any of the team’s wins be valid? But ultimately, this is just a big fat case of “who cares?” Michigan vacated its two runs to the title game with the Fab Five, but what did that accomplish (other than banning the team from the postseason in 2003 for things that happened a decade earlier)? It’s not like they’re giving up anything tangible. The memory of what happened will always be there. Chris Webber isn’t suddenly off the hook for that timeout thing.

In a FOX SPORTS article, Antonio Anderson says it simply doesn’t matter:

“Honestly, I don’t care,” former Memphis guard Antonio Anderson said. “We know what we did. We didn’t do anything wrong, but it is what it is.”

And he’s got a point. The rest of the team didn’t do anything wrong. Even Calipari, it seems, didn’t do anything wrong here. Derrick Rose did allegedly do something wrong, but it’s unlikely that anything is going to happen to him. He, like Camby and Webber, will go on to make tons of money in the NBA while their former teammates are told that their dream college seasons didn’t even happen.

Of course, thus far, only teams that didn’t win the title have had such sanctions levied against them. It will be interesting to see if the NCAA is willing to strip a team of a title and hand it to the runner-up if something like this happens in the future.

Chris Webber timeout

(This…yeah, this happened.)

Should Memphis be forced to give up its 38 victories in 2007-08 if Derrick Rose cheated on his SAT?

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So, remember how (insert contending team here) was crazy not to give up half their team to get Roy Halladay a couple of weeks ago? Well, there are at least two teams that are feeling pretty good about their decision not to mortgage the farm for a short-sighted chance at success.

Roy Halladay

Last night in Toronto, Clay Buchholz — one of the players rumored to be headed to the Jays in a proposed Halladay deal — outpitched the man himself in a 6-1 beatdown at Skydome Rogers Centre. The win, coupled with a Texas loss, put the Sox back into the Wild Card lead by a full game.

Meanwhile, the Phillies’ “Plan B” when attempts to get Halladay failed, Cliff Lee, ran his record to 4-0 with a two-hit, 11 strikeout, complete game win over the Diamondbacks. Lee has pitched 33 of a possible 36 innings in his four starts with Philly and has a 0.82 ERA. Looks like he might be the 2009 version of CC Sabathia in Milwaukee, only for a much, much better team.

Cliff Lee

• Hey, everything I’m reading says that there’s still a lot of competition for the Vikings’ starting quarterback job. I am, of course, talking about D.H. Conley High School in Greenville, North Carolina. What, is there another team called the Vikings with some quarterback issues?

• Warner Robins, Georgia, won the Little League Softball World Series last night, crushing W’s favorite team from Crawford, Texas. Warner Robins is the first Little League to produce both a softball and baseball world champion (the boys won in 2007).

• English soccer team Burnley, playing its first Premier League home game ever (and first in the top division in 33 years), did the unthinkable last night, shocking Manchester United 1-0 on an awesome volley by veteran Robbie Blake:

• CNBC’s Darren Rovell says that ESPN THE MAGAZINE is allowing its subscribers to renew for a year AND get an ESPN.COM “Insider” subscription for a grand total of $1. The Mag’s GM claims that it’s a ploy to get more people to read Insider content, and not an admission that the mag is in trouble.

• ELEVEN WARRIORS says at least one witness says that Ohio State linebacker Tyler Moeller threatened a Florida man named Gray Decker, and that is why Decker flattened Moeller with a right hook at a bar and ended his season.

Here’s more details on the odd case of Caster Semenya, who won the women’s 800 meter run by a ridiculous 2 1/2 seconds at the World Championships. She is undergoing what is reportedly an “extremely complex, difficult” set of tests to determine whether or not she is actually a she. A gynecologist is involved, so I imagine that “extremely complex” is an understatement.

Caster Semenaya

• ONLINE SPORTS GUYS says an Albuquerque high school baseball coach has been fired for hiring strippers to “entertain” his team while they were on a road trip in Denver last year. Says one parent:

“We thank all our friends in the Albuquerque baseball community for their support and well wishes during this unfortunate circumstance where no one comes out a winner.”

Whoa, hold on there. I can think of at least nine people who probably think they came out a winner.

• How’s this for ridiculous? The entire Angels starting lineup on Tuesday night in Cleveland has a .300 batting average or better, and all have at least 225 plate appearances. An all-.300 lineup hasn’t been on a Major League field since 1930.

Angels all .300 lineup

 • After missing more than a year, Billy Wagner is set to come back from injury … and the Mets are trying desperately to trade him. Ladies and gentlemen, the inaugural season at Citi Field!

• Before the Mets’ game with the Phillies on Saturday, members of the ‘69 World Series champion Mets will help build the framework of a home for Habitat for Humanity. An hour later, the current Mets will help build the framework of another NL East title for the Phillies. Ladies and gentlemen, the inaugural season at Citi Field!

John Smoltz has sucked this year. So the Cardinals are going to see if he can magically turn into a good pitcher again.

• Now, it’s time for fun with Twitter. First, the BOSTON GLOBE’s Amalie Benjamin is a little, uh, overpowered by David Ortiz:

Amalie Benjamin David Ortiz Twitter

And, Nick Collison comes dangerously close to calling his wife an unfortunate name. Good thing you got that period there, Nick!

Nick Collison Twitter

 

Speed Read: Derek Fisher Needs a Nickname Now

Dagger Derek? Darned Important Shot Derek?

Derek and the Three-Point Dominoes?

Perhaps the experts should handle the new handle for Derek Fisher now that he’s sunk another huge shot to carry the Lakers into overtime, where they took a formidable 3-1 series lead via a 99-91 triumph in Orlando last night. A three-pointer on an unusual inbounds play (taking it full court instead of using the opportunity to advance the ball on a time out) with just a few clicks left on the clock cinched the need for extra work from Kobe and friends.

Lakers Magic Finals

Neither team shot the ball worth a Mouse’s posterior, allowing the Magic to freefall from a 12-point lead into an overtime where they made one lousy shot from the field. Also not helping: the Vitamin Water that made Dwight Howard’s hands too slippery, causing him to turn the ball over seven times and miss over half of his 14 free throw attempts.

The series continues Sunday (because why rush greatness?) in Orlando, but it’s all over but the Kobe Koronation (™ SPORTSbyBROOKS Industries), barring three straight Creighton-esque repeats of Game 3’s wanton abuse of the three-point stripe.

The NHL, on the other hand, has gone the distance in the Stanley Cup Finals with home ice making the difference thus far. For one more night, they’ll be able to draw attention from the Phoenix Coyotes debacle and one man’s claim that the St. Louis Blues are even worse off than the Coyotes these days.

As always, Pittsburgh has brought the charm and grace it’s known for to the final Final game table:

Bill Guerin of the Pittsburgh Penguins

(That man is Bill Guerin, 87-year-old right wing for the Penguins. The sign is in Pittsburgh. The ridiculously large bird wearing the faux sandwich board probably isn’t a union member.)

On the other hand, the birds that sabotaged the Kansas City Royals last night in Cleveland have clearly organized. The Indians’ Shin-Soo Choo singled in the bottom of the tenth to score Mark DeRosa for a 4-3 win, but any possible throw to the plate to thwart the scoring attempt by DeRosa had to be abandoned when the batted ball bounced off a flock of seagulls in center field and ricocheted away:

First bugs and now nature’s winged rats… the Indians will rain down just about any ol’ plague on its enemies, won’t they? The only natural disaster of Biblical proportions left to terrorize opponents with has to be Dwight Howard’s free throws. (Bricks are the little-known 11th plague for obvious reasons.)

And now an errant hail of bullet points to enjoy while you avoid arrest while holding the police at bay by claiming to have swine flu:

Who’s winning Lord Stanley’s Cup tonight?

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Total Shocker: Memphis’ Compliance Page Is Down

To gawkers and passers-by of a total NCAA compliance train wreck, embarrassing details are the icing, sprinkles, syrup, and cherry on top of the sanction sundae. Kind of like the reports that Tim Floyd personally delivered at least $1,000 to a recruit at USC; there’s a schaudenfreudic glee to throwing up your hands and just asking how a coach is going to do that.

Memphis Down
(Whoops.)

And then, oh, Memphis. Currently embroiled in their own NCAA mess, the Tigers should probably be actively endorsing the strength of their compliance department. We’re not sure what the first step of that process is, but it can’t possibly be taking the page down.

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Speed Read: Brady Haters, Today Ain’t Your Day

Woe upon anybody who turned on “NFL Live” on ESPN yesterday, as the Worldwide Leader had fantastic news for everybody: Tom Brady’s knee is doing great!

Tom Brady Blingee
(Wheeeee yayyyy Tom Brady!)

This wasn’t particularly newsworthy, mind you; everyone knew Brady would be back for the start of the 2009 season. Then his surgeon and golf partner, Neal ElAttrache (that’s a fake name if I ever heard one; what’s Brady hiding???), gave his first post-surgery interview to the LOS ANGELES TIMES, and with quotes like these:

“With regard to his recovery of strength, I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” said ElAttrache, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles. “With an average person, it would have taken probably twice as long to get range of motion and strength back.”

Said ElAttrache: “Let’s face it, guys that are athletes like him, they’re strung together different. By and large, they follow the same biologic rules as the rest of us. However, they’re able to do things with their neuromuscular control and their strength gains and how they respond to exercise a little bit differently.

…it was only a matter of time before ESPN pounced and showed that amateur Peter King what a real ball-washing looks like.

Speaking of comebacks, it’s time to welcome back another target of unbridled man-crushery: Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipović, the fearsome MMA fighter. He set the world on fire a few years ago, mainly via YouTube videos of him kicking people in the head, before an uninspiring 1-2 stint in UFC sent him back to fighting in Japan. But rest assured, I didn’t forget the kicking in the head:

As UFC.COM reports (and they’d know these things), Cro Cop is set to face Mostapha Al-Turk in Germany in UFC 99. According to FANHOUSE, that means even more good news; with that addition, UFC is planning to show six pay-per-view fights instead of the regular five. There’s no indication that they’re moving the PPV price from its regular $50, which makes the announcement even better.

And yes, $50 is awfully steep for one person to watch an event, but if you’re watching a pay-per-view by yourself, there’s something very wrong with you. Pay-per-views are the flimsy excuse you need to have a social event, one that often involves healthy amounts of imbibition. It’s probably not very hard to find a sports bar showing the event, after all. But if “drunk guys in Affliction shirts” isn’t your thing, no worries; 1) Giants pitcher Brian Wilson doesn’t care for it either, and 2) just invite a half-dozen friends or so over and do it like that instead. But yes, six fights in one night is most certainly choice. Figure out a way to make it worth your while and make it happen.

And finally in more news of welcome returns, Phil Mickelson has apparently set a date for returning to the PGA Tour: June 11, for the St. Jude’s Classic in Memphis. Of course, the timing has everything to do with the U.S. Open the following week at Bethpage Black, right in Phil the Thrill’s haunt in New York.

John Daly pink pants
(Also, per public sympathy guidelines, these will be mandatory for the rest of the league.)

He’ll have an even more sympathetic crowd than the already boisterous fans at Bethpage, considering wife Amy’s recent cancer diagnosis. But as GOLF.COM explains, after these two tournaments, he’s probably not back for good:

Mickelson first thought surgery for his 37-year-old wife could happen as early as a few weeks since the announcement, but that has been pushed back for another month.

Her treatment and recovery will dictate whether he plays in the British Open, or how much he plays at all the rest of the summer. Mickelson already has won twice this year and is No. 5 in the FedEx Cup standings.

It’s both easy and tempting to say things like “Amy Mickelson is good reminder that life is more important than sports,” but that’s like saying “an apple is tastier than an aircraft carrier.” Well, yeah, but the two things don’t share the same useful metric. Of course life is important; nobody ever disputed that. But we’d be stunned if Phil’s return was spurred by anything but Amy telling him to get back on the course.

Other things to ponder while you learn the art of cat yodeling

  • Embedding is disabled, tragically, but you’ll get a pretty good sense of the surreal fanaticism of the SEC when you watch this 4-year-old little lady talk up the Gators.
  • Proving she’s not a three-program robot (1: drive car fast, 2: make non-threatening remarks, 3: wear bikini), Danica Patrick ruffled some feathers recently by telling Dan Patrick (not the same person; not even related, as a matter of fact) that taking PEDs isn’t cheating if you’re not caught. Was that wrong? Should she not have done that?
  • Cheer up, Nike: there’s still a way to salvage your precious Lebron/Kobe puppet campaign!

Which athlete looks the least like Conan O’Brien?

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Week In Review: Danielle Lloyd Destroyed in Fight

• Hottie soccer WAG Danielle Lloyd gets bruised & bloodied in a bar fight.

Danielle Lloyd

(The delicious Danielle, back before her bar-brawling days)

• What a memorable Memorial Day: Jose Canseco gets mauled in his MMA debut, while Mr. T pities Cubs fans with his 7th inning song stylings.

• Meanwhile, Kendra Wilkinson & Hank Baskett go for a dip at the MGM Grand’s Wet Republic - and Holly Madison is there, too!

Danica Patrick’s latest GoDaddy spot features the randy racer being pulled over by a policewoman-turned-stripper.

• Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima is pregnant. Great job, Marko Jaric!

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Speed Read: LeBron’s Heroics Keep Cavs Alive

I guess it just wouldn’t be a Magic-Cavs game in Cleveland if the home team didn’t blow a 20-point first half lead. And not only did their early 34-12 lead vanish, it went away nearly as quickly as it came about. By the time the Magic had finished scoring the first nine points of the second half, they had a 64-56 lead and it looked like Nike was going to have to commission a Hedo Turkoglu puppet.

LeBron and Wally

(The most impressive part is that LeBron literally carried Wally for the entire second half)

But then, LeBron James came alive and put the team on his back like a superstar should in a win-or-go-home game. And (for once this series) he actually got some help from his teammates, who had the courtesy to make the shots he set them up for. When all was said and done, LBJ had a triple-double (37, 14, & 12) and the Cavs had beaten Orlando 112-102, sending things back to Disney World for Game 6.  The odds are still stacked against Cleveland, but this Magic team isn’t exactly full of guys who have been here before.

Stan van Gundy

(Don’t worry Orlando, you still have this very calm, collected man running your team)

ABC counter-programmed against the NBA game with the gripping finals of the National Spelling Bee. Fortunately, they had the good sense this year to keep Mike and Mike away from it, instead going to “Dancing with the Stars” host Tom Bergeron, who was joined during the proceedings by Brooksfavorite gymnast, Shawn Johnson. The winner was Kayva Shavishankar of Olathe, Kansas, who got bonus points for having a name that was harder to spell than any of the words on the championship list. She spelled “laodicean” right to win the title, taking home the big trophy and $40,000, which will pay for nearly one year of college. This article says she’s a “budding neurosurgeon,” which leads me to believe that she’s actually already done brain surgery. Props to her if that’s the case. The favorite, Sidharth Chand, flubbed “apodyterium” and finished fourth, joining the 292 other spellers who have ultimately just wasted a whole lot of time studying for this. Anyway, this is all just an excuse to post the video of that one girl screaming the last word back in the ’90s again:

The fallout from the Memphis violations scandal continues, with new allegations surfacing about Derrick Rose, who is supposedly the Memphis athlete whose SAT was taken by a stand-in to ensure that he passed. According to the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, Rose was one of four Simeon High School athletes whose transcripts were fraudulently altered in order to help him get accepted to college. Meanwhile, Kentucky officials continue to maintain that they believe that John Calipari is not a risky hire, even though his two previous schools have come under investigation soon after he left.

John Calipari

• The BOSTON HERALD says that Terry Francona got so upset about getting ejected from yesterday’s Red Sox-Twins game that he received medical attention in the clubhouse afterward for elevated blood pressure. Tito’s only 50 years old, but has been a walking heart attack waiting to happen for several years. Let’s hope he lives to see David Ortiz go deep again.

• For years, baseball stat-types have been looking for a way to quantify Derek Jeter’s bad defense. Well, the HARDBALL TIMES’ Colin Wyers came up with a metric that does just that. According to the new SZR (Simple Zone Rating), Brooks Robinson is the best fielder ever (which sounds about right) and Jeter is the second worst (foiled by Eddie Yost).

• Here’s your Stanley Cup preview from USA TODAY. This is the first rematch since the Islanders and Oilers played back-to-back Cup finals in 1983 and 1984. The Isles won in ‘83 (their fourth title in a row) but the Oilers unseated the champs the next year. That means it’s now been 25 years since Gretzky and Messier won their first cup. And what a scene it was when it happened (fans with goofy signs were on the ice before the game ended. They’d be tasered these days):

• Speaking of the Stanley Cup, the first two games will be played on consecutive nights this weekend, the first time since 1955 that Cup games have been played two days in a row. And why? No, it’s not Yanni’s fault this time. It’s actually Conan O’Brien’s fault. DEADSPIN says that NBC wouldn’t air weeknight games because if they go into overtime, they could’ve pre-empted one of O’Brien’s first shows as host of the “Tonight Show.” The finals weren’t orginially supposed to start for another week, by which time the world would’ve forgotten about hockey altogether.

• The World Series of Poker got underway yesterday with a special 40th-anniversary hold ‘em tournament. The buy-in: $40,000. About half of the field of 201 has hit the rail, and this special tourney (a who’s who of pro players) will conclude on Sunday. The $10,000 main event doesn’t start until early July. For now, here’s a picture of Phil Ivey getting an arm massage as he casually leaves a giant wad of $100s just sitting on the floor:

Phil Ivey

• Could Joe Torre have a bigger horseshoe up his butt? Manny gets suspended for 50 games, and somehow Juan Pierre turns into Ty Cobb (uh, except for the racist part). Pierre, who is widely known to be one of the worst offensive players this decade (stealing bases doesn’t make you good), is hitting .440 since becoming the starting left fielder for the Dodgers. L.A. won again last night, 2-1 over the Cubs in Chicago.

• I have to admit that I never thought I’d see the day when John Salley and Patti Blagojevich would be interviewed together, but GOOD DAY L.A. had them yesterday morning as they promoted their new TV show about getting stranded in the jungle. And YOU BEEN BLINDED has the video, which includes Steve Edwards asking the married Salley about his “girlfriends,” which didn’t amuse John at all. Salley also defends Patti by calling our country “communist.” Good times all around.

John Salley and Patti Blagojevich

• Is Twitter over yet? Now the LPGA is saying they would “love” to have players tweeting mid-round. Yeah, let’s slow golf down even more.

• BLOOMBERG has a good look at Sonia Sotomayor’s influence in ending the baseball strike nearly 15 years ago. Sotomayor grew up just a couple of miles from Yankee Stadium in the South Bronx, which also happens to be the country’s poorest congressional district. But hey, at least they have a shiny new stadium with $2,500 tickets!

• Now that Shea Stadium has been blow’d up, Tom Glavine has decided it’s safe to pitch again. He threw five scoreless innings in a AAA rehab start last night, and may pitch for the Braves next week. Still, expect something to “flare up” if Glavine’s turn in the rotation comes up when the Braves are in New York.

Which sports figure would you most like to send to the jungle for a month?

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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: Celtics Win Is Bold, Spurs Look Old

After the first two games in Boston resulted in a 1-1 series tie, the Celtics-Bulls series felt like a truly 50-50 proposition. That’s definitely no longer the case, thanks to a 107-86 Celtics blowout that often wasn’t even that close. If there were any questions whether the reigning NBA champions would mount a credible defense after they lost game one, those concerns were answered last night, starting with a handful of Paul Pierce connections as the game tipped off, and continuing with another monstrous playoff performance from point guard Rajon Rondo.

paul pierce luol deng celtics bulls

Look, there’s no debating that rookie of the year Derrick Rose is going to be one of the league’s great players. And while he’s shown flashes of an ability to control the series at times, he’s never really been able to keep up with Rondo, who is taking the “third-year leap” concept to new heights. If Denver star Chauncey Billups is the MVP of the playoffs’ first two games, Rondo has the early lead after Game 3.  Playing on a sprained ankle that was bad enough to need help from two teammates to get back to the lockerroom, Rondo still scored 20 points, hitting 8 of 15 shots and dishing out six assists while corralling 11 rebounds and finishing with five steals.

It was an impressive performance, one that was only truly outdone by Pierce, who finally decided to stamp his authority on the series as a whole. The Celtics captain scored 24 points, hitting his first six shots as Boston took firm control of a series that truly seemed to be slipping away from them. Now, instead of doubts about whether they should have trailed 2-0 heading back to Chicago, the only question is why they weren’t up 2-0 themselves, considering the fact that Pierce had a chance to win Game 1 at the free throw line himself.

Things were far different for 2007’s champion in Dallas, where the Mavericks  thoroughly trounded intra-state division rival San Antonio to take a commanding 2-1 lead in the teams’ first round series. The final score was 88-67, but San Antonio trailed by nearly 40 points in the first half of a game that was practically decided by the intermission report.

Dallas may not be known for defense, but the Mavs held a San Antonio team that looked positively incapable of creating its own offense to 32 percent shooting after it hit half of its shots in the first two games. The Spurs look old, they look tired and they look as if Manu Ginobili really may have been the key to all the team’s past playoff success. Without the slashing Argentine, San Antonio looks headed for an early exit, which isn’t the kind of thing that anyone is used to in South Texas, or anywhere else for that matter.

An early exit is more than Tony Gonzalez has been able to get in Kansas City in recent years, which is precisely why he wanted to be done with the Chiefs. After months of lobbying behind the scenes, the All-Pro tight end finally got his wish yesterday afternoon, landing with the Atlanta Falcons on an offense that may be evolving into one of the league’s most dynamic.

Tony Gonzalez

Rather than draft Oklahoma State’s Brandon Pettigrew, the Falcons somehow found a way to land one of the greatest tight ends of all time. The real story is how they landed him for only a second round pick in next year’s draft.  Yes, the 2010 draft class should be significantly deeper than this year’s, but conventional wisdom still holds that a second round draft pick in the hand is worth a third round draft pick in next year’s bush. So, the Falcons essentially just landed Tony freaking Gonzalez for a third round pick.

How could Atlanta have pulled off something no one else in the league could? It’s not hard to come up with conspiracy theories, particualrly since Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff worked for Kansas City’s Scott Pioli in New England. Sure, familiarity doesn’t necessarily breed bargain basement deals, but if Pioli felt he had to trade Gonzalez — and if he insisted on sending him to the NFC (which he surely did) — then why not cut a little slack on a former protege?

The Kansas City Star, among others, is reporting that the Chiefs may have received a better deal from Cleveland and other teams closer to the draft, so there’s ammunition for conspiracy theorists (not that they need much). Others claim the Chiefs were offloading Gonzalez to set the stage for a big draft day move that will involve the No. 3 pick, an intriguing scenario that’s right out of the Patriots playbook for former Pats personnel chief Pioli.

It’s not the first time that former New England colleagues have been accused of being in cahoots with one another, and given the spread of front office talent from the league’s most successful franchise, it almost certainly won’t be the last either. The real question is whether there were actual shennanigans involved … and whether anyone can find enough proof to make those accusations stick.

jeremy tyler

eric byrnes diamondbacks mouthpiece

yankee stadium empty seats

Which team, down 2-1, is most likely to win their series?

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Speed Read: It’s All A Formality Until The Finals

This was one hell of a starting weekend for the NBA playoffs. We mentioned it before, yes, but we can’t shut up about it because it’s something that ought not be shut up about: Derrick Rose’s highly testicular 36-point performance at the Boston Garden was one of the most remarkable playoff performances in the last, let’s say, decade. He made tough shot after tough shot while being defended by one of the premier point defenders, Rajon Rondo, and hit every single free throw, including two to swing a one-point lead to the Bulls with time running out in regulation.

Derrick Rose

Then there’s the shredding that the Lakers delivered to the Jazz at the Staples Center. Sure, the final score was somewhat close, but the Jazz were never in serious contention after the first quarter; the Lakers are too deep and too talented to drop a game at home in this series. And speaking of depth, how dangerous is the Lake Show with not only its regular cast of characters, but a 95% healthy Andrew Bynum, a motivated Lamar Odom, and a productive Trevor Ariza? That’s such a bad sign for the rest of the league; you could conceivably take Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol off that team and still win a series against most teams. Got to think Derek Fisher’s total implosion can’t help, though. You know the Lakers are drafting a point guard who can play right away in the draft.

As for the rest of the league, we had the Lakers’ dominance as mentioned above, and then the only other top 3 seed who looked capable of going deep in the playoffs was Cleveland, who just toyed with the Pistons, 102-84. Lebron James … what can you say? 38 points, 8 boards, 7 dimes, and this absurd shot one step in from half-court:

How many players can take a shot like that and know it’s good from the moment it leaves their fingers? Look at him running at it. He knows. He’s Neo. He’s stopping the bullets and throwing them back at people. He sees those green numbers. He can fly.

Yes, we should mention the Nuggets’ 29-point win too, but having watched that game, we’re still not sold at all. Sure, if Chauncey Billups goes 8-9 from behind the arc in any other games from here on out, they’re probably going to win. But the final score, in this case, doesn’t reflect the competitiveness of the game; New Orleans was within seven points late in the third before collapsing. Denver’s still not a good 2 seed, and Chauncey’s avalanche seems like far more of an anomaly than J.R. Smith’s brickfest; he went 0-7 from downtown. Not sold, man.

And so that’s it. There’s nobody who, right now, looks like they can challenge the Lakers or Cavaliers. That’s not to say there won’t be exciting basketball, of course - witness Chicago-Boston or the Philly-Orlando game iced by Andre Iguodala - but those are sideshows, the undercard to the impending main event. The best part, then, is that even with the ultimate matchup worth writing in ink, we still have no idea who wins that series. The Lakers are deep, but Lebron is Lebron.

Is there a decent segue between anything Lebron does and the word “Gay”? No? Yeah, that sounds right. Anyway, golf has a fresh round of locker room jokes at the ready after Brian Gay set Harbour Town on fire, breaking Loren Roberts‘ scoring record and shooting -20 at the Verizon Heritage, including seven under in the final round. Well played, Brian Gay. Tyson Homosexual is impressed.

Brian Gay
(Resisting temptation for any reference to his wardrobe…)

And what’s the deal with the “Gay” surname? Like, yeah, it’s only been a big deal for the last two generations or so, whereas the name’s been around for a lot longer, and yeah, being gay isn’t in and of itself a problem. But it’s still got to be utter hell for a child; can’t people just change their kids’ names to “Gray” until they turn 18, and then it’s a judgment call when the kid becomes an adult? Nobody likes to be the butt of gay jokes, after all. Haha, I said “butt.” Let’s just move on.

Some quick hits while you make your very own flaming bacon lance of death

That’ll be good ebough for a one-game suspension for Milan Lucic; you can’t just hit dudes in the head in hockey, man! Except for their famous bare-knuckle sideshows that happen in every single game. Aside from that, we mean.

  • Don’t look now, but the Royals’ Zack Greinke is on a streak of 34 straight scoreless innings, meaning he’s just 25 away from tying Orel Hershiser’s record. We know what you’re thinking, and no, “Greinke” doesn’t rhyme with “stinky.” Grow up.
  • On the other side of pitching competence, there have been 25 home runs in Yankee Stadium in the first five games; that’s about 2.5 times as many as last season. Is it the new park? Lighter balls? How about “nobody on that entire team can pitch worth a crap”? I win!

USC Song Girls

  • Those would be the famous USC Song Girls, caputred in bikini form by - who else - BUSTED COVERAGE. It’s where you can read about sports, but masturbate at the same time!
  • But back to the Yankees, once you’ve cleaned up. You got some on your hand there. Okay, good. Anyway, the Yankees don’t really have much choice what to do with Chien-Ming Wang. He’s got a 34.50 ERA, but he’s not injured and he can’t be sent to AAA. But, on the plus side, manager Joe Girardi can throw him out of an airplane into the ocean. It’s in the collective bargaining agreement; read it.
  • And finally, here’s a hockey player using two sticks. How is this not legal?

Should playing hockey with two sticks be legal?

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Rose Drops Record-Tying 36, Bulls Win In Boston

The NBA Playoffs got off to a sterling start today as the seventh-seeded Bulls went into the TD Banknorth Garden and upset the #2 seed Celtics in overtime, 105-103. If you’re interested in the most concise recap of the game, we offer these four words: “Holy crap, Derrick Rose.”

Rajon Rondo Derrick Rose
(Make no mistake: this series belongs to these two.)

Derrick Rose was almost unguardable this afternoon, hit 12 of his 19 shots, all 12 of his free throws, and tied a rookie record by scoring 36 points in his first playoff game, placing him in the company of such no-names as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Tim Duncan. The thing of it is, though, you could make the argument that Rose didn’t even win the battle of the point guards today.

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