Did Yao Throw Artest Under The Bus To Bucher?

There’s been a palpable euphoria here in Los Angeles since the Lakers locked down free agent Ron Artest last week. Purple (& Gold) Kool-aiders of course love the deal, but Wednesday ESPN NBA reporter Ric Bucher quietly made a serious claim about Artest on middle-of-the-night national radio that might delight the Laker haters among you.

Yao Ming Ric Bucher

(Co-Author of Yao biography says Rockets covered up Artest’s bad behavior)

While talking to late-night, White Castle drive-thru companion and ESPN Radio host Jason Smith, Bucher said that Artest has not cleaned up his act as a person.

So why don’t we all know that Artest hasn’t (apparently) changed his volatile, oft-erratic ways off the court? According to Bucher, the Rockets were exceptional at covering up Artest’s alleged indiscretions.

Hmmm. Now where do you think Bucher would get that kind of information?

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Speed Read: O’s Rally From 9 Down To Top Sox

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.

Orioles celebrate

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.

Hideki Okajima and Terry Francona

And just like that, history was made. George Sherrill shut the door on the Sox in the 9th and an epic meltdown was complete, sending the nine Baltimore fans in attendance into hysterics (while a few thousand Sox fans sat in stunned silence). Final score: Baltimore 11, Boston 10. It was the biggest comeback in the history of the Orioles franchise (which dates to when they moved there from St. Louis in 1954), and the biggest comeback by a last-place team over a first-place team in the history of the game. For Boston, it was the second-largest blown lead in their history (they choked away a 10-0 lead to Toronto in 1989).

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.

Red Sox leave field with 2 outs

(Fail)

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.

Carlos Boozer

Boozer’s choice to exercise his option, and Mehmet Okur’s decision to do the same, has put the Jazz in a tough spot. They expect to lose Boozer after next season, and probably would’ve preferred if he bolted now. They’d like to sign youngster Paul Millsap to a long-term deal, and will now have to pay the luxury tax if they do so.

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.

Marcin Gortat

(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).

Yao's foot

(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:

Chris Cooley is taking some time from showing everyone his wang to set fire to dead farm animals instead.

• On the plus side, this goalie showed some nice hops in saving this ball from going out of bounds. On the minus side, well, you’ll see (thanks to SPORTS RUBBISH):

• The ONLINE SPORTS GUYS has the story of Florida International’s cheerleaders — whose program was cut from the school’s athletic budget — trying to save their team the only way they know how: a giant car wash. Video goodness within.

FIU cheerleader carwash

• JOCK AND BALLS has 10 mullets we all know and love.

• Pacifiers featuring logos of NHL teams are being recalled because they cause a risk for choking. Surprisingly, neither the Bruins nor the Sharks are among the featured logos.

• 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’ve got just about three days left if you want to buy Magglio Ordonez’s hair in an Ebay auction.

Magglio Ordonez's hair

On second thought, that miiiiight be a dead puli.

• 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.

• The BIRMINGHAM NEWS has posted odds on which college football program will be the next to commit a major violation, courtesy of USBET.COM. #1 on the list? USC. Last on the list? The Australian Institute of Ethics.

• Penguins star Evgeni Malkin has a Conn Smythe Trophy, and now he’s cavorting somewhere warm with Oksana Kondakova, a model with creative tastes in bikini tops:

Oksana Kondakova

Looks like Malkin’s enjoying the off-season:

Oksana Kondakova and Evgeni Malkin

 

What does Yao Ming’s future hold?

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Foot Could Cause Yao’s Career to Kick The Bucket

Ever since Yao Ming broke his left foot in the Rockets’ playoff series against the Lakers, the healing process for the Houston center has been moving very slow. In fact, doctors are worried that his injury is actually getting worse.

Yao Ming Lakers

And concerns are being raised that Yao may miss the entire 2009-10 NBA season. Or worse yet, his basketball career may be coming to an abrupt end.

Read more…

Yao Stars With Supermodel in New Animated Film

Yao Ming’s got time on his hands. Lots of time, as it were, and not just because his hands are the size of Colorado. He’s using the offseason to recover from a broken foot, one that effectively ended Houston’s shot in the playoffs against the Lakers.

Yao Ming Lin Chi-Ling

(”Wait a second, this is a sound booth! This isn’t a foot rehab clinic at all!”)

Luckily, because he’s so tall, Yao can do many things at once. [Wait, what?–ed.] To that end, according to CHINA DAILY, he’s lending his voice to a new Chinese animated film, “The Magic Aster”. He doesn’t need the money, of course, so his share’s going to the Shanghai Special-care Foundation. A charitable man, that Yao. But the real story might be the fact that he’s probably the third-most interesting member of the cast.

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Speed Read: Floyd’s Follies Continue to Roil USC

Tim Floyd, USC’s men’s basketball coach for the moment (and this after almost becoming a leader of Wildcats), allegedly paid a handler a thousand dollars in cash to be delivered to O.J. Mayo in a successful attempt to encourage the young point guard to follow through on joining USC for a season after signing his letter of intent.  (No, the handler wasn’t Li’l Romeo.  Good guess, though.)

O.J. Mayo Tim Floyd

Everyone from the handler to Floyd to USC could be in varying levels of trouble if true.  Therefore, absolutely no one except YAHOO! SPORTS’ source will speak on the record.   Their investigative journalism has been hit and miss, though their commitment to providing original reporting has not wavered.

It’s unclear how seriously the reporting from the site with the silly name can be taken, though, as they clearly do not have fake conversations where they hype their stories around a ridiculously small table while being filmed in black-and-white.  It’s not really journalism if it’s colorized.

E60 from ESPN

(Journalism!)

From one stereotypically smoky back room to another, Delaware’s legislature has passed a law permitting sports betting in a desperate attempt to fill a gaping $600 million maw in the state budget.  The governor has promised his signature on the bill once the state Supreme Court has spoken to the state constitutionality of the bill.

Delaware is one of only four states with a legal exemption to a 1992 federal law banning sports gambling and the only one east of the Mississippi.  State lawmakers have high hopes of becoming a gambling mecca for sports enthusiasts; one called the opportunity “an unbelievable cash cow”.  Again, it’s unclear how true this can be if no one will be allowed to gamble on the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

Wilmington Blue Rocks - Rocky Bluewinkle

(The only thing you can tease here is the moose, sir)

Finally, from one set of rocks to another, Boston came back to defeat the Orlando Magic 92-88 last night to take a 3-2 series lead in a highly predictable collapse from the team in blue that has only one mode: jack the three up and cross your fingers.

Magic against Celtics

Houston also got a condescending pat on the head for their Game 4 effort without Yao Ming before being penetrated 118-78 by the Lakers and falling behind 3-2 in their series. The Rockets now only have one reliable position: fetal.

Phil Mickelson and wife

(”… so that’s winning!  Interesting.”)

On the other hand, three fine NHL Game 7s have now been scheduled after wins by Anaheim and Boston last night.  Detroit never found its offense despite approximately 40392109 minutes on the power play while Carolina’s Cam Ward couldn’t quite figure out what all that goalie equipment should be used for. One possibility: handing off $1,000 in cash to the next O.J. Mayo?

Anaheim Ducks

And now a hail of bullet points discovered behind the olive loaf sandwich in the break room fridge; you know, the fridge that sent half your office to the hospital

Do you believe sports betting should be legalized?

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Speed Read: Celts’ Davis Makes Magic Cry Uncle

If anyone was going to step up and hit the game-winning shot in a must win game for the Boston Celtics, of course if was going to be Glen “Big Baby” Davis, right? I mean, just look at the guy’s track record. It’s…OK, basically it’s him getting screamed at by Kevin Garnett on the sidelines and crying into his towel. So what I mean to say is that there is no possible way that Glen Davis hits the biggest shot of the season for the Boston Celtics.

Glen Davis

But there he was, with the clock running down on Sunday night against Orlando and the Celtics trailing by one, draining a 21-footer after the Magic had swarmed Paul Pierce to give Boston the 95-94 victory to tie their Eastern Conference semifinal series at 2-2. And there he was charging down the court like he was chasing down the ice cream truck as it took off down the street, taking out some helpless kid on the sidelines in the process. Make sure you keep an eye on the kid’s friend shooting daggers at Davis:

Yeah, kid, I’m sure you could have taken him down if he just wouldn’t have run away so fast. But back to the shot: it’s not that the shot was too uncommon for Davis to hit - he does have that kind of range from the outside. But to hit that shot in that situation is just uncanny. Almost as uncanny as Paul Pierce having the guts to pass to him and let him take the shot with the Celtics’ season basically on the line. Can you imagine Kobe Bryant passing the ball to Andrew Bynum in the same situation?

Meanwhile, remember how the Rockets’ season was supposed to be doomed when Tracy McGrady went out for the season? That didn’t happen, as Houston won a playoff series for the first time in 47 years (approximately) before giving the Lakers all they could handle in their Western Conference semifinal series. But the news that Yao “Bamboo Bone” Ming would miss the rest of the playoffs with a broken foot suffered in Game 3 was surely the end of their run.

Kobe Bryant and Luis Scola

Then what in the world were the Lakers doing trailing by as many as 29 points to a team starting a 6-foot-6 center (Chuck Hayes) before falling 99-87 to have their series evened up at 2-2? For one thing, the Lakers had no answer for Chris Rock Aaron Brooks, as the diminutive guard ripped Los Angeles for 34 points, while the combination of Ron Artest and Luis Scola held Kobe Bryant to just 15 points.

As Phil Jackson predicted, it may have just been a case of a team playing full of emotion after having their backs to the wall; and yes, the Lakers did still regain home court advantage during the two games in Houston. But watching the Lakers and comparing them to the molten hot ball of basketball destruction that is the Denver Nuggets right now, perhaps that Cavaliers vs. Lakers NBA Finals isn’t as much of a sure thing as we previously thought.

Meanwhile, in those “other” playoffs, the Bruins followed the lead of their basketball brethren from Boston, although their prospects are still far more bleak. Despite their 4-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, Boston still trails 3-2 and needs to win at Carolina in Game 6 (where the Hurricanes have lost just once this postseason) in order to extend things to a Game 7. And in the Western Conference, the Red Wings pushed the Ducks to the brink with a decisive 4-1 victory to take a 3-2 series lead.

Other stories you might have missed as you were voting for your mayor to shave his handlebar mustache:

  • While the Celtics and Bruins were in their playoff battle, the Red Sox were simply beating the Rays 4-3. But how could one fan celebrate everything that was going on in the Boston sports world on Sunday? BUGS AND CRANKS found one fan who had the perfect answer: a Celtics jersey pulled over a Bruins jersey, topped with a Red Sox cap:
  • The Ultimate Boston Fan

  • Just to finish our Boston sports orgy: are you ready for a reality show starring Troy O’Leary as the baseball version of Simon Cowell? The BOSTON GLOBE says O’Leary hopes you are, as he’s developing a new TV show called “Play Big or Go Home” that is trying to find baseball diamonds in the rough. My choice for the Paula Abdul spot at the judges’ table? The San Diego Chicken.
  • England national team soccer star Ledley King was arrested over the weekend after allegedly assaulting a bouncer at a London nightclub and insulting his Pakistani heritage. THE SUN says that King got to sleep it off in the drunk tank, literally, as he passed out in the stony lonesome for five hours.
  • While that was happening, the TELEGRAPH says that Manchester United was throttling Manchester City 2-0 to put a stranglehold on the English Premier League title with two games remaining. But mercurial United star Cristiano Ronaldo found something to mope about, throwing a fit after being removed by Sir Alex Ferguson just short of an hour into the match:

  • PRO FOOTBALL TALK says that Drew Rosenhaus is, as usual, stirring up more problems. This time he’s using Twitter to start trades for one of his disgruntled players, saying that he thinks teams would give up a 1st round pick and more for my client Darnell Dockett.” 
  • NASCAR’s head of drug testing isn’t exactly buying Jeremy Mayfield’s claim that a reaction to an allergy medication led to his positive drug test, telling USA TODAY that “in my many years of experience, I have never seen a violation like this due to the combination of over-the-counter or prescription products.” But maybe he was trying to get pregnant?
  • The TERRE HAUTE TRIBUNE STAR reports that Milka Duno was bumped from a spot in the Indianapolis 500 during time trials on Sunday and will have to try again this coming weekend. I wouldn’t mind bumping her either, if you know what I mean…
  • Milka Duno

  • The DALLAS MORNING NEWS passes word that author Edwin “Bud” Shrake, who co-wrote the seminal golf instruction manual “Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book” with the teaching legend, died Friday morning of cancer at the age of 77.
  • With college athletes getting in trouble about Facebook postings on a seemingly daily basis, you would think that universities would avoid social networking sites like the plague. But the IDAHO STATESMAN says that Boise State is embracing the concept in a big way, complete with Facebook pages, YouTube channels and more. (h/t to THE WIZ OF ODDS)
  • Former Vikings and Falcons linebacker Henri Crockett was one of four men arrested in Toronto early Saturday morning after a scuffle with police during a traffic stop when they found Crockett and others with a handgun in their car.

What’s your level of interest in the Indianapolis 500?

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One Fourth Of Chinese Athletes Faked Their Ages

In news that shocks nobody, more evidence has come out that many of China’s young athletes have faked their ages. But this time, rather than allegations from the USOC or an investigative piece on Real Sports, the accuser is infallible. It’s science!

Chinese Gymnasts

Tests carried out by a provincial Chinese sports federation on the bones of 13,000 athletes found that 3,000 of them were older than their stated age. And since this is an official Chinese report, you know they’ll under-report it by a factor of ten. Therefore, I can say with complete certainty, that 300% of Chinese athletes lie about their age.

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Speed Read: T-Mac Reportedly Out For Season

Last February, the Houston Rockets were crippled - literally - by the season-ending foot injury to center Yao Ming. In what must feel like Groundhog’s Day for the team, this February is also bringing bad news for the team: their other All-Star anchor, Tracy McGrady, told ESPN.COM’s Stephen A. Smith that he needs microfracture surgery on his injured left knee and is done for the season.

Tracy McGrady

Keep mind that this is coming from the mouth of Smith, so take it with a grain of salt (right, Chris Bosh?), and the Rockets aren’t confirming the report. But they sure aren’t denying it either, and with Rockets owner Leslie Alexander telling the HOUSTON CHRONICLE to expect official news on McGrady later this week, it looks highly likely that T-Mac is going on the shelf for a long time.

Tracy McGrady

Alexander also told the paper that McGrady is a “superstar” and that the team has no plans to trade him. Which is probably code for “we really wanted to trade him, but now that he’s damaged goods we’re stuck with him.” How much his absence will impact the Rockets is unclear - he’s either been ineffective or out of the line-up for most of the season to begin with, but losing him can’t help.

The only thing injured on Alex Rodriguez right now is his reputation, which is doing about as well as Jack from Jack in the Box. His press conference at Yankee spring training didn’t help much - I would recommend not using the phrase “I’m here to take my medicine” again any time soon - and might have got his unnamed cousin in trouble.

Alex Rodriguez

Rodriguez claims that his cousin brought something called “boli” from the Dominican Republic, which the USA TODAY says usually refers to the steroids Dianabol or Deca-Durabolin. And now a DEA agent is ominously warning that “those who violate drug laws are always at risk of arrest and prosecution.” We don’t know who this cousin is yet - although BIG LEAGUE STEW has a list of candidates - but I’m guessing we’ll find out soon enough.

In related news, the AP reports that the MLBPA has sent a memo to its players informing them how to respond to questions about the 2003 drug testing. Their recommendation: don’t respond. The memo also goes into detail about little details like why the tests weren’t destroyed, and how the union did not give advance knowledge of tests of players.

Finally, fans who tuned into the Kentucky/Vanderbilt game last night expecting fireworks had to be greatly disappointed. Not in the game itself, but in the lack of a halftime interview between ESPN sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards and the man she spurned, Wildcats head coach Billy Gillispie.

ESPN reporter Jeannine Edwards

Alas, no luck last night. As the TENNESSEAN notes, with the game tied at halftime Edwards chose to interview Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings instead of Gillispie, telling the paper “I cut my losses.” This is, of course, the entirely wrong approach, and there should have been a producer in Edwards’ ear demanding she interview Gillispie. Not having her interview Gillispie would be like if Chuck Wepner replaced Muhammad Ali at the last minute for “The Rumble in the Jungle” - totally unacceptable.

What was the most painful/awesome interview in sports TV history?

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China’s New Basketball Role Model is Ron Artest?

When David Aldridge suggested a few days ago that Yao Ming feels like the Tracy McGrady Traveling Convalescence Show has an open-ended engagement that will sink his chance at an NBA title, he didn’t mention who might replace Tracy in Yao’s five.  (There’s plenty of room since Chuck got removed at the network level, of course.)

Considering how hard Yao Ming’s been pushing his old China Basketball Association to toughen up so the Summer Olympics’ butt-whoopin’ won’t hurt so much on their tender and underskilled bottoms, perhaps Yao’s new teammate, Ron Artest, is up to the task of the 3 am phone call.  (After all, that would be 5 pm in Shanghai.)

Yao Ming Ron Artest

We suggest Ron-Ron because fans and players haven’t adjusted to the new rougher play in China and fines have come down hard on both for “violence on and off the court”.  When we reported on Chinese cheerleaders in the CBA in March, we noted subdued crowds.  Guess that’s taken care of, too.  We’d suggest sending China T-shirt guns to complete the NBA starter kit, but we’re guessing restrictions on objects with military applications will squelch that deal.

Actually, the CBA has the final piece it needs to start their own Li’l NBA: a bona-fide NBA star who is tearing up the league at a 32-and-9 pace this season.  You’ll never guess who…

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Where Are All The Asian-American Basketballers?

Quick, name an Asian-American basketball player. Yao Ming? Yi Jianlian? Wrong, they’re full-on Chinese. And that’s the point. Only 0.4 percent of men’s college basketball players are Asian-American.

Jeremy Lin

According to the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, there were only 19 Asian-American players in Division I basketball in 2006-07, far out of line with the 4.4 percent population of the country (that’s a third of the African-American population.) Is it a case of the kids not going into the game, or is there discrimination? Read more…