John Denton of NBA.com reported this week on the NBA staging an exhibition game between the Orlando Magic and the Houston Rockets in American border town Hidalgo, Texas, on Tuesday. Hidalgo’s basketball arena is, “less than a mile from the Rio Grande River and the Mexican border.”
(Native Texan Lewis afraid to leave Texas city’s best hotel)
Denton noted that the NBA has often scheduled preseason games in the past in nontraditional pro hoops markets to “spread goodwill” to fans before the regular season opens.
The irony of the trip to Hidalgo is that at least one Magic player refused to leave his hotel room because of concerns about his personal safety.
The NBA is in financial trouble right now. We all know that, right? It’s not even a question, what with the salary cap already going down and threatening to plummet in 2010. The new figures, based on projections by David Stern and the league, are a salary cap around $50-54 million and $61-65 million for the luxury tax floor - anything above that line, and teams are paying a dollar-for-dollar tax to the league. In other words, it’s not financially advantageous to go very far over that figure; eventually you’re paying $8 million for a $4 million player.
(”Hello! I’m here to wreck your financial future!”)
If Game 1 of the NBA Finals seemly confirmed the suspicion that the Orlando Magic didn’t belong on the same floor with the Los Angeles Lakers, at least the Magic put an end to that on Sunday night in Game 2. They remembered how to shoot (at least two of them did), played some (at times) stingy defense, and generally were a total pest in pushing the Lakers to overtime.
Unfortunately for the Magic, what they didn’t prove is that they could beat the Lakers in the NBA Finals, as the home team held on for a 101-96 victory to take a 2-0 lead as the series shifts to Orlando for the next three (probably?) games. But they came tantalizingly close at the end of regulation. Hedu Turkoglu found Courtney Lee cutting to the basket behind Kobe Bryant on an inbounds play with 0.6 seconds left and tossed him a lob that reached Lee but forced a midair adjustment, causing his lay-in to be just off the mark, bouncing off the front of the rim as time expired.
While the Magic might not admit it, they seemed drained by the missed opportunity in overtime, although their inability to stop Pau Gasol in the extra period was just as crippling. The Spaniard scored seven of his 24 points in overtime, including a three-point play with 1:14 left that gave the Lakers an insurmountable six point lead.
As for the Magic’s shooting: Rashard Lewis and Turkoglu were outstanding, with Lewis hitting 6-of-12 three-pointers en route to 34 points, while Turkoglu added 22 points including three three-pointers. The rest of the team? Not so much, as the Magic weren’t helped by Rafer Alston and J.J. Redick combining to go 2-for-17 for the game, including a woeful 1-10 from behind the arc. Also not helping: that J.J. Redick was anywhere near the floor for any length of time, much less 27 minutes. For all the great coaching Stan Van Gundy might have done in Game 2, that can’t be considered his finest hour.
Right now, it will take an amazing comeback for the Orlando Magic to win the NBA Title. (Before the 2006 Miami Heat did it, who was the last team to go down 2-0 and win the NBA Title? The 1977 Portland Trail Blazers.) But perhaps they need to take a clue from famous local resident and occasional Magic fan Tiger Woods, who had some Magic of his own on Sunday, no overtime needed. Woods came from four shots back to win the Memorial Tournament in front of host Jack Nicklaus with one of his most impressive final round performances, shooting a 65 while hitting every fairway in regulation.
The performance was awe-inspiring enough to prompt Nicklaus to cave in Woods’ surgically repaired knee with a nine-iron after the match in an attempt to prevent Woods from reaching his record of 18 major championships, before standing over a fallen Woods and shouting a Ric Flair style “Woooooooo!” Actually, that’s a lie; in fact, Nicklaus remarked that it would “greatly surprise” him if Woods didn’t win major No. 15 in two weeks at the U.S. Open.
Finally, it’s kind of hard to fault the San Diego Padres’ Josh Wilson for giving up the go-ahead three-run homer to the Diamondbacks’ Mark Reynolds in the 18th inning of Arizona’s 9-6 win on Sunday. Sure, Wilson might have had extra motivation for pitching against the team that released him earlier this season, but he really shouldn’t have been out there anyway. Wilson is an infielder, and was only pitching after Padres manager Bud Black ran out of pitchers in bullpen. So he sent Wilson out there, who got fastballs up to 88 mph and mixed in a few change-ups as well.
Also, when you are relying on David Eckstein to homer to take the game into extra innings, you really should consider yourself lucky to be there in the first place, which is what the Padres needed in the ninth inning to erase a three-run deficit. Then again, the Padres really didn’t do much after that against the Diamondbacks’ bullpen, getting no-hit for all nine innings of extra baseball.
Former Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Sam Rayburn tells the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER that he was taking more than 100 painkillers a day before being caught forging prescriptions and getting clean. Or as Elizabeth Taylor would call that, lunch.
What could bring together Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former head coach Jimmy Johnson? How about a concert headlined by George Strait and Reba McEntireto open the new Cowboys Stadium?
Just when things couldn’t get any worse for the Washington Nationals, DC SPORTS BOG checks in with this: they had a malfunction during their fireworks display, and the debris just happened to fall on the D.C. fire chief. Proving that the Nationals really have turned into a bad 1970s sitcom.
Mike Brown proved that his WEC featherweight title victory over Urijah Faber in November was no fluke in the rematch on Sunday, going into Faber’s hometown of Sacramento, CA and winning a unanimous decision that left Faber in the hospital after the match.
Among the “highlights” of the ongoing court battle over the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes: the Phoenix suburb of Glendale (where the Coyotes actually play) is suggesting that coach and minority owner Wayne Gretzky is “overpaid” and should have his salary cut by more than $6 million. Because going after The Great One is a winning legal strategy in Canadian courts.
Long Island high school athlete Ryan Harrigan uses his abilities to chase down a would-be purse snatcher while working his after-school job as a grocery store employee. Would you like paper, plastic or handcuffs, Sir?
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any weirder in sports crime - O.J. Simpson still hasn’t found his wife’s killer but we can’t be assured that Dirk Nowitzki’s baby momma didn’t have something to do with it - former NFL linebacker Eric Naposki is arrested for being the gunman who killed Newport Beach (Calif.) millionaire William McLaughlin. If you’re looking for more information on him, don’t check his former teams. The Patriots have already spiked his former alumni player page.
According to the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, Naposki — who was the paramour of McLaughlin’s girlfriend, Nanette Johnston — shot McLaughlin six times in an infamous 1994 slaying that sent shockwaves through the Southern California socialite circles and the medical aristocracy, since McLaughlin was the man who invented the process to separate plasma from blood.
Then again, who saw the Magic win coming, either? After watching Cleveland breeze through its first two playoff series, sitting at home while waiting for the Celtics and Magic to finish beating each other up. When they finally returned to action on Wednesday, they jumped out to a lead, though that didn’t do anything to give them a win. No, instead, the Cavs dropped their first game of the playoffs, raising serious questions over whether the cast around LeBron James can keep up with Dwight Howard and a Magic team that looks more and more playoff tested.
Speaking of basketball, the Lakers are still in the playoffs, but they’re hardly the biggest basketball story going on in their own city. Ok, maybe they are the biggest story in L.A., but the Clippers are stealing some of their thunder, for good and bad reasons. First, they win the NBA Draft Lottery for the right to pick Blake Griffin. Then, less excitingly for fans of the red and blue (are any left?), is this incredibly damning portrait of owner Donald Sterling, who looks like a bigger and bigger racist with each article that gets published.
The most recent accusations were lobbed by ESPN The Magazine, which we tripped across via DEADSPIN, and they go into scary detail about his slumlording and overt racism in granting the right to live in his shantytowns. Here’s your gratuitous over-the-top pullquote, courtesy Mr. Sterling’s written records themselves (no one told him about this new invention called a “shredder”?)
When Sterling first bought the Ardmore, he remarked on its odor to Davenport. “That’s because of all the blacks in the building, they smell, they’r enot clean,” he said, accoding to Davenport’s testimony. “And it’s because of all the Mexicans taht just sit around and smoke and drink all day. He added: “So we have to get them out of here.” Shortly after, construction work caused a serious leak at the complex. When Davenport surveyed the damage, she found an elderly woman, Kandynce Jones, wading through several inches of water in Apartment 121. Jones was paralyzed on the right side and legally blind. She took medication for high blood pressure and to thin a clot in her leg. Still, she was remarkably cheerful, showing Davenport pictures of her children, even as some of her belongings floated around her.
Can’t David Stern steal back the top pick? I mean, top media market aside, is it really worth putting a talent like Blake Griffin in L.A. if it means helping Sterling make money? We’re certainly not sure it is.
Meanwhile, it was only a matter of time until the floodgates about Milton Bradley conspiracy theorists came out of the woodwork. Well, consider them here to stay, after two radio hosts on Chicago station THE SCORE debated whether Bradley was a good contributor for the Cubs. Not surprisingly, the takes of the two hosts were vastly different, though the boiled down to once major concern: Is Bradley a clubhouse cancer? Or is he just infairly maligned by the media?
The issue at heart is a legitimate one, since the media continues to trot out a ditribe about how Bradley brings only negatives to a team. According to analysis from MOUTHPIECE SPORTS, which we’ve always heard and read as well, Bradley is actually known as a terrific teammate, by Jake Peavy, Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Theriot and, most recently, Bobby Scales.
That sure makes it seem like Bradley is the victim of unfair media criticism, though who really knows with a guy so volatile he rips an ACL while arguing a call at first base. Not third or home, first. Yet that in itself seems to prove that he’s got a lot more passion that he’s getting credit for, so we’re not sure what Matt Abbacatola was talking about. Do you?
Speaking of Theismann, we’re sorry, but we can’t get enough of this whole Keyboard Cat fad, and if we don’t use this now, we’ll never get a chance to. Sure it’s macabre, but then there’s a cat! Playing a keyboard!
SI decides hockey is just relevant enough to compile a list of the sports most rugged players. Thanks SI. Of course, it is a pretty solid list, considering the fact that Owen Nolan is near the top. That’s all we needed to know.
The discerning reader prefers the news (and most foods) wrapped in bacon and liberally salted with panic. Therefore, we provide your Thursday morning sports-centric swine flu stories to better arm you at the water cooler to pass along the latest gossip mumbled through your faux designer mask:
However, Club America (a Mexican side) played the Chicago Fire in Bridgeview, IL, last night with nary a concern. That is, if installing hand sanitizers everywhere was just a promotional stunt. Which it wasn’t.
Whew. That’s a lot of abject terror sensible precaution for one morning. Please add any additional sports-related swine flu stories to the comments below so the few remaining survivors have a record of these final days.
Thankfully, our few remaining moments left as a functional species can be well-represented by the following people tellin’ it like it is and keepin’ it real with the kids, assuming your kids take Don Rickles’ routine at face value:
Geno Auriemma spoke to the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford after visiting President Obama earlier this week and explained to the assembled that “… there’s not a lot of difference between Italians and Jewish. Same part of the world and trust me, my mother and every Jewish mother I’ve ever met have a lot of characteristics in common.”
(Emergency vehicle sized appropriately to emergency)
Finally, a false alarm (possibly a fire alarm) in the eighth inning could not shake the New York Yankees from barely holding onto a 8-6 lead at Comerica Park over the Detroit Tigers last night despite holding a 7-1 advantage late in the contest. As Joe Girardi put it, “In this day and age, that’s a little scary.”
We’ve never been to one of those medieval-themed restaurants, but apparently they have a tendency to get diners a little overexcited about fairly obscure NBA wingmen.
The ORLANDO SENTINEL reports that a brawl recently broke out at a central Florida restaurant called “Medieval Times.” The melee involved multiple teenagers as they fought over … Rashard Lewis’ autograph? Read more…