June 1, 2004
Kareem Rush:
Non-factor rookie bench player nails *six* 3s, providing the back-breaking spark to the Lakers' series-clinching W over Minnesota.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

This Lakers team is not special.

Yes, they're back in the NBA Finals -- and they will surely collect their fourth title in five years. But all that preseason hype about this immortal lineup of four Hall of Famers? Wrong.

The most star-studded starting five in the NBA -- playing at home, no less -- had to be bailed out by two unremarkable bench scrubs named Slava Medvedenko and Kareem Rush.

With every unlikely 3 by Rush, the historical significance of this team was sealed: The Lakers are better than everyone else this season, but as champs go? Ordinary, matching their stars' effort.

Wolves: What Next?
Two words: Get healthy.
Embittered Sam Cassell told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that if he was pain-free, the series would have gone the other direction. That's half-right; Minnesota needed a healthy Troy Hudson, too.

In 2005, the Lakers might not be as good, but the Spurs will almost assuredly be better -- better than the T'wolves, at least; who else has the feeling that Minnesota's moment has come and gone?

Pacers-Pistons: Game 6
Larry Bird is unretiring!
That must be the big secret surrounding the Pacers' hush-hush strategy tonight, right? (No? It's defense?!)

Psst: D ain't their problem:
Indiana's fatal flaw is shooting, and I'm not sure how containing Rip Hamilton will help that. (But coaxing Bird to play sure can't hurt!) ESPN, 8 p.m. ET

NFL Cut Day
A good reminder: The NFL is a business. Ex-MVP? Former

Mark Prior: To make '04 debut on Fri; Cubs fans going nuts
Texas: No. 1 seed of NCAA baseball tourney (pool, anyone?)
Arena Football: Sets new attendance record; gimmicks rule!
Warner, George, Couch, Allen, Trotter et al: Cut!
World Series MVP Josh Beckett: Going on DL with blisters
Kwame Jackson, Miss Universe judge: Fired (15 min up yet?)
Super Bowl hero? Multi-year All-Pro? Fan favorite? Even the old standby What have you done for me lately? no longer really applies.

Now, it's: What will you do for me tomorrow? (Oh, and How will that affect my salary cap?) For fans, think of it as opportunity for catharsis. For example, take the Rams ...

Kurt Warner, projected to be cut by the Rams today and sign with the Giants as early as ... today. QB controversy in New York in 3-2-now.)

Stanley Cup Game 4
Unfortunately, while a 1-0 game in a baseball championship series is considered a classic, a similar score in hockey is fodder for the game's critics.

But they'd be wrong ... mostly: No environment in a team championship series is more taut than a Stanley Cup 1-goal lead -- but only in the third period.

Giants: 10 Straight
How deep in the dumpster were the Giants? They have won 10 straight and are still 1.5 games out of first place.

That said: In the NL West -- baseball's most unpredictable division -- the Giants have vaulted into contender's status in just two weeks.

How've they done it? Combo of tough pitching (2.8 RPG) and a soft schedule. Check back in two weeks, after SF finishes a stretch of 13 road games in 13 days (albeit vs. ARI, COL, TB and BAL).

Oh, and Bonds is back: 4 HRs in last 6 games, with the next seven games at Arizona and Colorado. Has all the markings of a tear-in-progress.

French Open
men's draw:

The only thing holding our attention was the antics of Marat Safin; now that he's out, who will offer the mooning and gamesmanship?
Today on ESPN.com
Page 2: The guts of Kristin Schmidt
NFL: Offseason overviews
Insider: NBA Draft updates
Biggest names on NFL cut day
Kurt Warner
Ex-MVP now a has-been
Rich Gannon
On the bubble
Eddie George
Too much mileage
Tim Couch
Packers bargain-shopping?
Larry Allen
Not a Parcells guy

OK, who gets their milestone first: Maddux 300 wins (got 293 Monday) or Griffey 500 HR (hit 494 Monday)? Says here: Maddux ...

Hmm: Or should we also consider the 500-HR plateau for Fred McGriff, too (hit HR 492 on Monday)? HOF'er? I don't think so ...

Congrats to Syracuse, which won NCAA lacrosse title, beating Navy 14-13 before biggest crowd ever to see a LAX title game ...

More congrats: to UCLA, for repeating as NCAA softball champs, beating Cal ...

Speaking of back-to-back, Jimmie Johnson won NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 for the second year in a row ...

For cattiness, deception and back-stabbing, "Mean Girls" has nothing on the running soap opera of NBA Draft "promises" that Chad Ford is tracking ...

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