February 21, 2006
Tanith Belbin and
Ben Agosto:

U.S. ice dancers dramatically win a silver medal, the first medal for the U.S. in the event since 1976.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

I just traded Paul Pierce. I'm not quite sure why Celtics GM Danny Ainge thinks it's so hard.

(Maybe it's because I sent him to the Lakers for overpaid Lamar Odom and teen C Andrew Bynum. D'oh! I ripped myself off!)

ESPN.com's NBA Trade Machine is the must-see toy of the week. Looking to kill time between now and Thursday's NBA trading deadline? Here it is.

Not only is it fun to play out wild, armchair-GM fantasies, but you can begin to understand the financial complexities that make fan-frothing trade fodder look so foolish in real life.

(Look: I just traded Kevin Garnett to the Nets for Richard Jefferson and two quality throw-ins! No, wait! The Trade Machine told me the deal failed for cap reasons!)

After playing around with the Trade Machine for a little while, you begin to realize your gripes about "Why can't my team make a deal?" are simplistic. Brush up on your math skills.

I finished my experiment by stepping into the shoes of Isiah Thomas. (Yes, I know, scary!) I was immediately overwhelmed by an urge to get rid of my most promising players and take on terrible new long-term contracts.

I succeeded in trading away Penny Hardaway's expiring contract and my most promising player, Channing Frye, to the Nuggets for injury-prone Kenyon Martin, PG Earl Watson and Voshon Lenard's expiring contract.

The only thing Trade Machine is missing? The Media Machine that shows the headlines ripping you after your deals go through.

Get trading!

NBA Story Lines
The five biggest need-to-know story lines for the NBA's post-All-Star Break stretch run:

(1) Texas Two-Step: Runner-up in the Spurs-Mavs division race drops all the way to 4th in the playoff seedings. (What a dumb system!)

(2) Pistons injury watch: The only thing between Detroit and a trip to the NBA Finals is some freak injury to one of the Big Four.

(3) Oklahoma Rock City: The displaced Hornets making the playoffs would be the feel-good story of the season.

(4) Trade deadline: Will any would-be contenders make a move for one of the weaker teams' star players? (Looking at you, Celtics.)

(5) Scoring Champ/MVP: With three players (Kobe, A.I., LeBron) all over 30 ppg, who will be the scoring champ? And will that guy be MVP, too?

George Mason: Mid-major makes CBB Top 25 for 1st time
Syracuse: Bubblicious 'Cuse gets must-win at home vs. WVA
Vin Baker: PF signs with Clippers, reunites with Dunleavy
Bucknell: Latest Top 25 one-week wonder; drops to "Others"
U.S. Nordic team feuding: Like Kobe vs. Shaq, it's quashed
Ex-Austrian ski coach: Shipped to psych ward after car chase
Olympic Wrap
Today's Best: Shani vs. Chad! The Olympics' best grudge match (and intramural, to boot!) in the 1,500m speedskating finale. Here's to some good, clean competition, gents. (No name-calling!)

Women's figure skaters open: Traditionally, this is the biggest audience draw, by far, of the Olympics. Sasha Cohen is America's top contender, but all eyes are on Kwan replacement Emily ("Sister of Sarah") Hughes.

Canadian women's hockey wins gold by a staggering 46-2 run through the tournament: And, if the precedent set with the equally dominant 2004 U.S. women's Olympic softball juggernaut is any indication, women's hockey will be exiled as an Olympic sport, right?

Finally, it seems appropriate that in the middle of the media mania for "Dancing with the Stars," U.S. ice dancing breaks through. ("DWTS" would be crazy to not line up a cameo by Belbin and Agosto for the finale.)

Drew, Daunte Moving?
Brees done in San Diego? Questions about his shoulder injury will keep the Chargers from giving him the franchise tag, though you get the feeling they are looking for an excuse to save some money and give top 2004 draft pick Philip Rivers some PT.

Culpepper done in Minnesota? Questions about his knee injury put Daunte on the trading block, with rumored trade partners including QB-needy Miami and Baltimore. Second-round pick seems high for a player who might not be ready until October, if then.

Ricky Update
The big mystery is that if Ricky Williams didn't test positive for pot, triggering this new one-year suspension, then what did he test positive for? Or was it simply a case of a missed test?

Whatever the reason, Ricky and agent Leigh Steinberg need to do a better job explaining why he failed the test. It doesn't matter that they are in the middle of an appeal or that the whole thing should be confidential.

Now that it's out in the open, the smartest thing Team Ricky can do is volunteer any plausible explanation that might turn fan favor back in his direction rather than toward collective mockery.

A-Rod: Still Whining
When will A-Rod learn that for every not-my-fault gripe, he earns less, not more, cred with fans?

He blames MLB for the "garbage" that erupted around his choice of a WBC team.

Never mind that A-Rod himself fueled the story by waffling between the U.S., the D.R., not participating at all and everything in between.

Miss Monday's Quickie?
Take the day off yesterday? Here's what you missed from Monday's Quickie:

*The real NBA All-Star MVP!
*Barry Bonds played us all!
*Daytona 500: Cheaters win!
*Wheaties Watch: Shani Davis!
*J.J. Redick vs. Adam Morrison!
*The Sports TV Ad of 2006!
*The Fate of Ricky Williams!

And much more! Check it here!

Bode Miller:
Another skiing event, another medal-free performance. Bode has gone from Mr. Cool to Freeze-Out. Hype is unforgiving; his name has become a punch line.
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
NBA Trade Machine
Page 2 Index
Most Tantalizing NBA Trade Bait
Kevin Garnett
If not now, this summer?
Allen Iverson
Ain't. Gonna. Happen.
Paul Pierce
Just do it already.
Ray Allen
Sonics blowing up team?
Steve Francis
But who really wants him?

Bonds Watch: No-show at voluntary report for Giants' position players. Let's not read too much into it. It was voluntary.

More intriguing: Cubs 2005 breakout player Derrek Lee wants a new deal before the season starts. And the Cubs should give it to him.

CBB Watch: Morrison scores 26 (in front of Kobe) in Gonzaga's 14th straight win, tying G. Washington for the longest streak in the country.

Bubble Watch: Michigan could go a long way toward securing an NCAA bid by beating No. 8 Illinois at home tonight (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).

Congrats to U.S. women's hockey, which earned a bronze medal. Sort of disappointing, but getting stomped by Canada for silver would have been worse.

All-time great broadcaster Curt Gowdy passed away at 86. Condolences to his family, friends and many fans.

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