And now Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins continues the proud tradition of celebrating the Conn Smythe with a sexy significant other. This year’s trophy girlfriend is Oksana Kondakova - and based on the photos above & below, Geno’s doing quite alright for himself.
It’s been a rough decade for the Baltimore Orioles. The once proud franchise has long been third fiddle to the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East, but with the sudden rise of the Rays and the continuing competence of the Blue Jays, it’s hard to imagine a team that’s further away from being a contender in any division in baseball than the O’s.
So it’s fitting that when the O’s finally did achieve something great, nobody was around to see it. Trailing 9-1 to Boston in the fifth inning last night at Camden Yards, the rain came and most of the crowd took off during a 79-minute delay. After resuming, the Sox added a 10th run in the top of the seventh inning before all heck broke loose. Baltimore scored five times in the bottom of the inning off of Justin Masterson. Then they added five more in the eighth that included a three-run pinch homer by Oscar Salazar, and capped off by a Nick Markakis double off of Jonathan Papelbon.
The rally seemingly came out of nowhere, but perhaps we should’ve seen that the Sox didn’t exactly have their heads in it after the rain delay when the entire infield left the field in the bottom of the sixth inning…after recording the second out.
July 1st is upon us, and that means NBA free-agent season is about to kick into gear. Today was the deadline for players with options to decide whether or not to honor their deals or look elsewhere. And with most NBA teams looking to slash payrolls, it’s no surprise that there aren’t a lot of people choosing to opt out. Kobe Bryant heads the list, but nobody really expected him to opt out.
Carlos Boozer, on the other hand, declared months ago that he would be on the open market come July. But a lot has changed since then. Detroit was the only team in position to offer Boozer a substantial deal, but they balked at offering a deal that would pay him more than the $12.7 million he’ll earn next season for sticking around Utah. Plus, Boozer’s really into going to Sundance and he wouldn’t be able to do that in Detroit.
Meanwhile, Hedo Turkoglu is officially a free-agent, and while he’s garnering the most buzz, a lot of good players, such as Ron Artest, Jason Kidd, Ben Gordon, Andre Miller, Chris “Birdman” Andersen, and some guy named Allen Iverson could be had for the right price. Another guy on the market is Charlie Villanueva, who the Bucks declined to even make an offer to. TRUEHOOP says that’s a major indication that the economy is really taking its toll on the league. The Rockets are somewhat creepily taking a bit run at Marcin Gortat to replace Yao Ming for the time being, going as far as knocking on his door at 12:01 a.m. and setting up a Gmail account just for Gortat-based fanmail.
(A future star, or a really well paid cheerleader?)
Speaking of Yao, people in China aren’t buying that he’s really all that hurt, suggesting that the Rockets are overstating his injury so that he’ll be cheaper to re-sign when his contract is up next year. But will Houston want him back? Regardless of whether or not he’s healed, China expects him to play in next summer’s World Championships, which could lead to further injury and basically stick the fork in him (if it hasn’t been already).
(If Yao can’t run by next summer, he’s going to reinvent himself as Earl Boykins on wheels)
And now, without further adieu, let’s kick off July’s links with some bad goalkeeping, cheerleader car washes, and disembodied hair:
• Who has the NBA’s biggest payroll? Gotta be the Lakers or Celtics, right? No, actually, it’s New Orleans. And I’m sure that Wizards fans out there will be excited to learn that their team is #3 on the list.
• You want to edit some home video footage of Ty Cobb? Better respond to this Craigslist ad fast. He assures you that this is not a fake, because as we all know, people are always trying to pass around fraudulent Ty Cobb videos.
That sound you heard in New York last night were league officials and ABC executives quietly weeping into their gin and tonics while watching Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Because what they were watching was the one thing they didn’t need: a Los Angeles Lakers blowout. For the casual fan, the 100-75 drubbing of the Orlando Magic just confirmed what they already knew, that this series is a letdown after the hype of Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James, and the Lakers are going to crush the upstart Magic.
Sure, it was close…for a little over a quarter. The Magic did have a five-point lead early in the second quarter, and then the roof collapsed. This is what happens when a team that relies on three-point shooting has a sub-par shooting game (going 8-for-23 from beyond the arc). Without having to fear the Magic from the outside, the Lakers could double and triple-team Dwight Howard, a form of kryptonite that even Superman couldn’t overcome, going 1-for-6 and scoring just 12 points.
So while Howard struggled, Kobe was superb, scoring 40 points while coming close to a triple-double. He had 12 points in the second quarter as the Lakers established their dominance, and was able to create opportunities for Pau Gasol and the rest of his supporting cast. And with Phil Jackson being 43-0 in series where his team wins the opening game, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has to be sweating through his Men’s Wearhouse coat.
But if the Magic need any inspiration, they only need to look to the Stanley Cup (assuming they get Versus in central Florida). Facing a 2-0 deficit against the defending champion Detroit Red Wings, the Pittsburgh Penguins have rallied to tie the series after a 4-2 win in Game 4. Which is especially impressive since they managed to turn an early lead into a 2-1 hole in the second period, which could have easily crippled a lesser team.
And in what can only be seen as a good sign for the Penguins, Sidney Crosby had his first goal of the series, while Evgeni Malkin added a goal and an assist. So now we basically have a best-of-three series starting tomorrow night in Detroit. While the Red Wings are still probably going to win the series, at least the Penguins have made it interesting.
Finally, let’s tip our hat to Randy Johnson, who became the first pitcher since Tom Seaver in 1985 to get his 300th victory in his first attempt thanks to the Giants’ 5-1 victory over the Nationals. Thank you for sparing us of the daily update on the ESPN crawl and live game updates ruining our PBA Tour broadcasts on Wednesday nights on ESPN2. The Giants are planning a pregame celebration before their next home game to congratulate Johnson on his 300 career wins - all four of them with San Francisco.
The French Open women’s singles final is set, with Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova taking each other on in an all-Russian final. In terms of eye candy, this isn’t exactly the Maria Sharapova vs. Ana Ivanovic Australian Open final from last year.
Calvin Borel isn’t just confident that he’s going to win the Belmont Stakes on Mine That Bird to win the jockey Triple Crown, he’s guaranteeing it. (At least that’s what we think he said with molasses-thick drawl.) If he does pull this off, does this mean he gets put out to stud?
LeBron, here’s your slap on the wrist: the NBA fines King James $25,000 for bailing on the post-game press conference after the Cavs’ Game 6 loss to the Magic in the Eastern Conference finals. Plus, you made David Stern cry. How does that feel, LeBron.
You want Dontrelle Willis to succeed in his comeback with the Tigers, but then something like this happens: in 2-1/3 innings against the Red Sox yesterday, Willis gave up five runs without allowing a hit, walking five and hitting a batter.
Just when you thought that it couldn’t get worse for the New York Mets than getting swept by the Pirates, it also turns out that Jose Reyeshas a torn hamstring.
John Raines, a substitute teacher and athletic trainer at Sussex Central High in Delaware, has been arrested and charged with “inappropriately touching a student-athlete while treating her injury and threatening to prevent her from playing her sport when she tried to stop his advances.” Which is bad enough, but even worse when considering he’s the second faculty member arrested on sex crimes in the past two days and the third within a year.
Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson has selected ESPN’s Chris Berman to introduce him before his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and PRO FOOTBALL TALK wonders if that’s such a great idea. (Seriously, was Jim Kelly busy?)
Former Tulsa football player Neal Sweeney apparently got into a business dispute with the wrong person, as it ended up with him being shot dead at his fuel sales company. Police have arrested the person they believe is the triggerman, and hope this leads to further breaks in the case.
Maurice Neal, a linebacker for the Utah Utes, has been arrested in connection with a bar fight where he took out two men. Shouldn’t Utah be the last place that a bar fight should be happening?
Let’s be honest with ourselves: the Penguins are done. Sure, technically all Detroit did on Sunday night was hold home ice advantage with their 3-1 win over Pittsburgh in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the same score as Game 1. But their 2-0 lead pretty much feels insurmountable - does anyone feel like the Penguins can take four of the next five games against the Red Wings? Didn’t think so.
Especially since the Red Wings and their old, tired legs, were able to outhustle, outskate and just plain outplay the Penguins 24 hours after Game 1, a made-for-TV contrivance that was supposed to be their downfall. Pittsburgh’s Big Two of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have combined for one goal in the first two games, half as many as Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader, who was playing minor-league hockey in May. And both of his goals have been beauties, including his singlehanded effort last night:
The bottom line for Pittsburgh is simple: when their main goal scorers are being held in check, and their goaltending is soft, they are going to lose. It doesn’t matter how much revenge they want, or if Evgeni Malkin tries to start fights to fire the team up - Detroit is just the better team (and doing this without Pavel Datsyuk, mind you).
Speaking of Malkin’s fisticuffs: despite picking up an instigator penalty at the end of Game 2, which should be an automatic one-game suspension, the NHL has decided that Malkin will be on the ice when the serious returns to Pittsburgh. Think the league wants to avoid a sweep?
With the win, Texas advances to the Super Regional, where they will play TCU in a Best-of-Three series that will likely come down to the final pitch of Game Three. Seriously, guys, it’s OK just to win a 5-1 snoozer every once in a while. (Or if you are Florida State, a 37-6 snoozer.)
Finally, congratulations for Jamie Moyer for getting his 250th career win yesterday, a 4-2 Phillies win over the Nationals. (And really, shouldn’t that could as half a win?) The achievements of the 46-year-old goes to show that not being able to throw hard enough to break glass isn’t a prerequisite to being successful. And it also shows that if you are a lefty with a durable arm, even a 4.23 career ERA can’t keep you from reaching some big milestones.
I’m making a list of pitchers who don’t want to go to the Chicago White Sox, and apparently every No. 1 is on the list. First it was Jake Peavy of the Padres rejecting a deal, and now the HOUSTON CHRONICLE is saying that Roy Oswalt of the Astros will exercise his veto rights to nix any deal. But I’m sure Barry Zito is still available.
How not to win your first PGA Tour tournament: miss putts inside 10 feet on the final hole of regulation and the first hole of a playoff, and then have your approach on the second playoff hole ricochet off the pin and roll back more than 20 feet from the hole. Steve Stricker was the beneficiary of Tim Clark’s bad luck/meltdown, picking up the Crowne Plaza Invitational.
The Orlando Magic thought they had lost All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson to injury for the season back in February, but now the ORLANDO SENTINEL is saying that the rehab for his shoulder injury is “dramatically” ahead of schedule and he might be available for the NBA Finals.
Arkansas DT Lavunce Askew was arrested on Saturday after allegedly stealing a laptop from an apartment. His teammate Matt Marshall also stole an iPod Touch, but was not charged after he returned it to the doorstep and helped police track down Askew. See, Marshall might be a thief and a stool pigeon, but his heart is in the right place.
World champion hurdler Jana Rawlinson was forced to confirm an embarrassing, poorly-kept secret circulating around the track world for months. Not that she’s using PEDs, but that she had breast augmentation. You would think if there’s one sport where being busty is a disadvantage, it’s hurdling. Check out some Russ Meyer-approved before and after action:
Somehow LeBron James ended another game against the Orlando Magic in their Eastern Conference Finals with the ball in his hand and a chance to win the game. But unlike Game 2, he couldn’t find the miracle the Cavaliers needed, as his desperation heave from 35 feet was off the mark, wrapping up the Magic’s 116-114 OT victory. Orlando now holds a commanding 3-1 series lead, as the Cavaliers are threatening to take a page from the Ohio State football team and choke at the worst possible moment.
And perhaps it was fitting, since the game only went to overtime on two James free throws on a questionable foul committed by Mickael Pietrus with six seconds left - with James needing a friendly roll to get the second. (And honestly, how can the best player on the planet be so average and unreliable from the free throw line? Do you ever remember feeling nervous when Michael Jordan stepped to the line at the end of a game?)
It’s hard to blame James for Game 4: after all, he did have 44 points and 12 rebounds. Even the eight turnovers in the box score are more a reflection of him trying to do everything because he had to than any faults. No, the big problem for Cleveland is that they’ve pretty much turned back into King James and His Inept Court of Jokers this series, with his supporting cast basically providing nothing (Delonte West and Mo Williams combined to go 12-for-30 in Game 4, including 0-for-6 from behind the arc.)
Meanwhile, the Magic were unconscious from three-point range, going 17-for-38, with Rafer Alston leading the way with six threes on the way to a 26 point night. And Dwight Howard played angry in overtime - perhaps over picking up his sixth technical foul of the season, or because he thought he was fouled at the end of regulation. No matter what the reason, he took it out on the Cavaliers, scored on three straight dunks en route to 10 points in the extra session. So a dominant big man plus great outside shooting is a good thing, I guess.
Also a good thing: having your league’s best player and leading scorer on the same team. That’s exactly what the Pittsburgh Penguins have, and why they are heading back to the Stanley Cup after a 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes to sweep the Eastern Conference Finals. And even though they didn’t score in the series-clincher, Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had done more than enough, proving to be way too much for a game but overmatched Carolina side. So while the NBA is wincing at losing their dream match-up, the NHL has to be thrilled with a likely Penguins vs. Red Wings rematch.
Finally, to update a tragic story we told you about earlier today, KPHO-TV in Phoenix reports that Mike Tyson’s daughter Exodus, 4, has died from injuries she sustained in a freak accident at her family home in Arizona. No matter what you think about Mike Tyson as a person, monster or character in a classic Greek tragedy, your heart has to go out to him and his family. For anyone with a child, reading about this gets your stomach all tied up in knots.
So after what PRO FOOTBALL TALK had reported was a tug-of-war to sign John Lynch as an NFL analyst, NEWSDAY says that the winner is Fox, snatching the former Buccaneers and Broncos standout from ESPN. Lynch will likely be replacing Brian Baldinger, which means that he’ll need to have his finger run over with a steamroller to match the “analyst with the gross digit” quota at the network.
Ready for a career switch to the exciting and fast-paced world of sports business? Fat chance, says the NEW YORK TIMES, as tough economic times have made jobs in the industry tougher to get than ever. In fact, it’s so bad that people actually want to work for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Top Orioles prospect Matt Wieters is getting his call-up to the big leagues, and is expected to make his big-league debut as a catcher on Friday against the Tigers. CAN’T STOP THE BLEEDING wonders if the Baltimore sports media is making too big of a deal about this. (i.e. could Peter Schmuck please remove his tongue from Wieters’ mouth?)
The NEW YORK TIMES has the latest from Roland Garros (English translation: Ron Garrett) Stadium and the French Open: Serena Williams serves a “horrendous” performance, while James Blake is bounced yet again.
Just how dominant has Zack Greinke been this season for the Royals? As the KANSAS CITY STAR reports, he gave up one earned run in his fifth complete game of the season, a 6-1 win over the Tigers…and his ERA actually went up slightly, “ballooning” to 0.84.
Probably not what Marshall wanted to hear about their prized football recruit A.J. Graham: the TALLAHASSE DEMOCRAT says that Florida’s “Mr. Football” was arrested on robbery charges - just hours before his scheduled high school graduation.
Ryan Leaf is an instant sports blog punchline, suitable for use anytime you need a real-life example for the words “bust,” “loser” or “train wreck.” But at least he had some shred of dignity: sure, he had been one of the biggest disappointments in NFL history, a top draft pick turned into petulant baby whose lousy attitude with coaches, teammates and the media ensured he would be drummed out of the league; but at least he wasn’t Todd Marinovich. No matter what, at least his rap sheet was clean.
Well, you can forget that. Remember when he took a “leave of absence” from his position as QB coach at West Texas A&M (and also as - for some reason - the golf coach), and it came out that he had “asked” a player for pain medicine for an old wrist injury? It turns out there was more to that story - a lot more. Leaf allegedly really, really needed that medicine - so much so that he allegedly broke into the apartment of an injured player he knew had been prescribed Vicodin and grabbed him a handful of pills.
And Leaf apparently was about as good of a thief as he was an NFL player, since the cops traced the theft back to him, and the AMARILLO GLOBE-NEWS says that he was indicted yesterday on nine different drug and burglary charges. The district attorney says that Leaf is currently in British Columbia getting drug treatment (socialized medicine!), but the DA “hopes” he returns to the country. I can’t say that sounds promising. (And there goes Leaf’s chance of an NFL comeback.)
Also in need of a comeback: the Los Angeles Lakers. Sure, last night’s 106-103 loss to the Denver Nuggets only tied their Western Conference finals at 1-1, but after almost giving away Game 1 as well, it feels like they are staring up at a mountain. For the first two games, they were outplayed, outhustled and physical dominated by the Nuggets, and are now completely out of sync and without home court advantage. (Seriously, how does Kobe Bryant not get a shot in one of those last two possessions?)
So the home court advantage in the two NBA conference finals belong to the Nuggets and the Magic. I’m sure that the NBA front office is thrilled about possibly having to market a Denver vs. Orlando series. If you are an NBA Conspiracy Theorist, then rest assured that David Stern is currently making some angry phone calls to some referees today to “fix the problem.”
Meanwhile, we moved one step closer to a Stanley Cup rematch as the Pittsburgh Penguins outscored the Carolina Panthers 7-4 to a take a 2-0 series lead. Sidney Crosby scored the opening goal - again - but it was Evgeni Malkin who was the real star, notching a hat trick including scoring one of the sickest goals you’ll ever see in your life:
You couldn’t even do that in NHL ‘94 for Sega Genesis without getting your head cracked open. So while the Hurricanes’ Eric Staal might be busy complaining about his brother Jordan“cheating” during face-offs for the Penguins, everyone else is getting ready for another tilt between Pittsburgh and Detroit (and we all know that’s happening, putting NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in a much happier place than David Stern is right now).
The MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE reports that the Minnesota Wild and Minnesota Timberwolves are set to announce their new GMs on the same day. Maybe they got a “Buy One, Get One Free” rental package on the hotel conference room?
Sammy Hasan, a girls’ track coach in Amherst, NY has been charged with forcible sexual conduct with a female high school student. The BUFFALO NEWS says that earlier this season, one of his runners thanked him for “helping her with her technique”after she won a sectional title. SBB PUNCHLINE CREATOR 3000 ERROR 4XQ587: TOO MANY INAPPROPRIATE JOKES.
Former Houston Texans lineman Fred Weary tried to help an ex-teammate out by hiring former Florida Gator Anthone Lott as a general contractor on four townhouses Weary was building in Gainesville. Judging by the fact that the ST. AUGUSTINE RECORD says Lott has been charged with defrauding a bank and Weary of more than $185,000, I’d say that didn’t end too well.
There’s never a great time to start drunkenly hurling swear words at the opposing team from the stands during a high school baseball game…but to do it during a stoppage for an injury is just wrong. But that’s exactly what the SCHENECTADY DAILY GAZETTE says that George “Mr. Class” Sperow did before getting into a fight and then being arrested.
Ferrari is threatening to leave Formula One if they institute a budget cap in 2010, so now the TELEGRAPH is saying that Formula One rightsholder Bernie Ecclestonewill sue them if they do. Where else are they going to go - NASCAR? (Oh please, please let me see a Ferrari NASCAR team.)
Is there anything sadder than a kicker trying to hold out for more money? That’s what PRO FOOTBALL TALK says that Cleveland kicker Phil Dawson is doing as he skips the team’s “voluntary” minicamp. Isn’t there a Bahr brother somewhere who can still kick? Martin Mull? Stefan Fatsis?
Hey, readers! Time for another sensational SbB Clever Caption Contest!
Today we check out the NHL All-Star Game from Montreal, where we catch Evgeni Malkin (L) so happy to see Alexei Kovalev (R):
What ever could Evgeni be all excited about? Submit your suggestions into the comments section linked below. Winner will be announced in the end-of-the-day recap, and be treated to a celebratory bowl of poutine dumped on their head.
Good luck and good writing! (And in compliance with Canadian bilingual laws, bonne chance et bonne écriture!)