April 20, 2005
Jason Campbell:
Auburn QB is the hottest player on the NFL Draft board, especially with rumors the Redskins traded into the first round to pick him.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

The NBA Playoffs start early:

If the Nets win tonight, they're in.

LeBron's Cavs need help: They need a win in Toronto AND a Nets loss in Boston. (If both teams lose, New Jersey backs in.)

That's a tough break for LeBron, given that the Nets are motivated (beat the Wiz Tuesday night) and 3-seed Boston is playing not to get hurt.

The tougher break is that the NBA playoffs are likely to begin this weekend without LeBron, its biggest attraction.

There's more star power out than in: No LeBron, no Kobe, no KG. Abd two biggest media markets, L.A. and New York, are out as well.

Here's an idea: Don't leave these valuable assets on the sidelines. There's a great way to fill the interminable days between first-round games:

Put the Cavs and the 13 other non-playoff teams in a single-elimination "Losers' Bracket."

Call it "N.I.T. for the NBA."

It would take five nights: Barely more time than it will take the Heat to sweep the Nets (yes, or Cavs).

Does it diminish the playoffs? Only if you think being crowned "Best Loser" is some kind of threat to the legitimacy of an NBA title.

Otherwise, it's fun AND fans get more LeBron.

NFL Draft Watch
Draft Week is about momentum.

Compare QB Jason Campbell to QB Aaron Rodgers.

Campbell spent his undefeated senior season in the shadow of USC's Matt Leinart at his position and eclipsed by RBs Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams on his own team.

Now, after solid workouts and all-important buzz from the media, he's THE hot player on the board.

The best rumor is the Redskins traded next year's first-rounder to Denver to move up to No. 25 to take him.

And another team may still jump the Skins to grab him!

Bulls: Beat Knicks, clinch No. 4 playoff spot after Wiz loze
Dodgers: 6-run rally + 10th-inning clutch = 7th W in row
Mavericks: Beat Sonics, win 8th straight (Dirk had 21)
Fenway fans: May be charged with misdemeanors vs. Sheff
MLB-wide alcohol policies: Selig thinks there's no need
New York/London: IOC rips them for sketchy 2012 OLY bids
Hearing that type of talk about Alex Smith or Rodgers? Hardly: It's all about trading down, not up. (But there are no takers; what does THAT say?)

What a huge difference for a team to seek out a player, rather than feel compelled to take him, based on some idiotic form of conventional draft wisdom (see 49ers).

Roberts Rules
Brian Roberts, AL MVP?! Previous season-high in home runs for Orioles 2B? Five in 2003. Light-hitting was an understatement.

After hitting *another* HR last night, he has 6 -- in April, clinching him as MLB's No. 1 '05 breakout. (See Big 5 for more.)

Meanwhile, the O's are rumored to be looking to make a deal for the Rockies' Todd Helton. Isn't Balto's lineup nasty enough already?

Yankee Stink
Eduardo Perez, Yankee-Killer?

Bad omens come 2-for-1 in NY: Randy Johnson got shelled (Perez: 2 HR!) and the D-Rays snapped an 11-game losing streak at Yankee Stadium. Last time Unit gave up 5 runs in three straight games? 1992.

One more ominous sign: 13 games into their season, the Yankees are still in last place in the AL East.

Can another high-priced offseason starter, Carl Pavano, stop the bleeding tonight? The Blue Jays (9-6) ain't the D-Rays, that's for sure.

NBA Draft Update
UNC exodus continues: PG Raymond Felton is expected to announce later this week. Could Sean May be next up?

Top prep declares: His name is Gerald Green, he's from Oklahoma and he's 6-8 in the Tracy McGrady mold. Should be a Lottery pick.

Deron Williams in, too: Illinois PG, who had as good an NCAA Tournament as any guard, will enter as expected. Top 5 pick?

Chris Paul hired an agent, so he's not even THINKING about returning to Wake Forest (Beefy teammate Eric Williams leaving option open.)

With the first pick of Congress' ongoing hearings on steroids in sports, the House Committee members select ...

Paul Tagliabue of the NFL!

Don't expect Tags to get the "Selig Treatment." The NFL has a more aggressive policy than any other pro sport.

But without the chance for sparks, why should fans bother watching? (Well, unless they're going to call the Panthers punter to testify.)

Aaron Rodgers:
Tuesday's fun party game became: "How far will he slide down the draft?" From presumptive No. 1 overall pick to ... KC at 15? Dallas at 20? (Even lower?)
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie live!
NFL draft coverage
Baseball Tonight Extra
Ranking Crasnick's MLB Fast Starts
Brian Roberts
Early Fantasy AL MVP!
Joe Randa
Early Fantasy NL MVP!
Clint Barmes
4 HR, inside track on R.O.Y.
Gustavo Chacin
Anchors Jays surprise rotation
Bruce Chen
Pennies on dollar vs. Unit

More NFL draft: Texans shore up DB, getting Raiders CB Phillip Buchanon for their 2005 2nd- and 3rd-round picks. Works for both teams.

More NBA playoffs: Pacers can clinch 6th spot over Philly (and series vs. Boston) with a win tonight; 7th is no place you want to be (vs. the Pistons).

Santana watch: Johan pitches against Lima and the Royals today.

BCS to meet next week: New formula is on the table. "Committee" (a la NCAA Tourney) makes sense, but won't keep media from crowning own champ.

Documentary watch: "Ring of Fire," about boxer Emile Griffith, who killed his rival, Kid Paret, on live TV in 1962. Great reviews, on USA tonight.

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