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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
(”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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
(”… 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?
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.
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 Pierceto 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.
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.
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:
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:
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?
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)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL TALK says Texas Tech’s Board of Regents has a teleconference scheduled on Friday to discuss the status of head football coach Mike Leach, who turned down the school’s $12.7 million contract offer. But they also might be discussing AD Gerald Myers, who is clashing with Leach. Sounds like it’s time for a Loser Leaves Town cage match.
Larry Bowa hates Brad Penny with the type of white hot passion usually only found in telenovelas and Billy Gillispie interviews. The RIVERSIDE PRESS-ENTERPRISE asked Bowa about Penny’s claim that Bowa talked behind his back, which prompted this retort: “The same guy that’s never on time, out of shape, has one complete game (in his Dodgers career)? That Brad Penny?”
The BOSTON GLOBE looks at the list of witnesses in the Barry Bonds trial and finds Patriots special teams captain Larry Izzo, who is expected to testify that Bonds’ trainer Greg Anderson gave him performance-enhancing drugs back in 2003. There goes his Hall of Fame chances…
Police tell WGRZ-TV that the Bills’ Marshawn Lynch not only had a loaded gun in his car when he was arrested last week in California, but also pot. Roger Goodell is coming for you, Marshawn - may God have mercy on your sou.
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.)
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…
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.
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…