June 12, 2006
Jan Koller:
If the United States expects to be competitive in today's World Cup opener versus the very skilled Czechs, the U.S. has to stop their prolific 6-foot-7 striker.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

"Disgusted": If Pat Riley and the Heat used that adjective about Game 1, how would they describe their 99-85 loss in Game 2?


"Demoralized," because Shaq was held to a career playoff-low 5 points? Wasn't I just saying he was the unstoppable reason Miami would win this series?

Neutralizing one of the greatest players in Finals history into 2-5 FG should go down as one of the best defensive efforts in Finals history.

"Demolished," because Shaq and Wade (23 pts) accounted for only 33 percent of Miami's points (down from 56 percent in Game 1), and the other Heat players were largely ineffective.

On the other side, the Mavs showed why their scoring depth was considered such an advantage: Game 1 star Jason Terry had 16; 6th man Jerry Stackhouse had 19; and "Wade-lite" Josh Howard had 15 (and that doesn't even include Dirk's 26).

"Devastated," because Game 2's loss was even worse than Game 1's. Giving up that 11-0 run at the end of the first half seemed to signal defeat; the 24-point gap after 3 just made it official.

And even though the Heat might rebound at home in Game 3 (or even Games 4 and 5) to make the series competitive again, they've shown no indication they can stop the Mavs in Dallas.

An 0-2 hole has been overcome only twice in NBA Finals history. I love the old adage that an NBA series doesn't really start until the home team loses.

But from the looks of how badly things went on the road, there's another "D" word that Miami is scowling at in this series:


Cuban Blog Report
Continuing coverage/analysis of Mark Cuban live-blogging his thoughts during game day of the NBA Finals:

5:34 p.m.: "Finally..."
"Tom Petty was right. I hate the wait." Cuban regales us of tales of pregame trips to 7-Eleven, then his ideas for new Finals song parodies. (Cuban is right, too: I hate the wait for some better blog posts.)

7:25 p.m.: ("7:25")
"Absolutely nothing new to say." Except Cuban more fully explains his idea to give away the 1,400 extra tickets to Game 7 (yes, for free). "Hopefully it will work." (Actually, shouldn't he be thinking: "Hopefully, we won't have to bother?")

10:28 p.m.: "S-T-A-C-K"
"Say it loud, say it proud." This was Cuban's last post of the night, but he obviously was foreshadowing Stackhouse's big game. OK, so Cuban wasn't so crazy to trade away Antawn Jamison for Stack after all.

Clemens: 11 K's
At this rate, Clemens' fans in Round Rock can look forward to some kind of guaranteed freebie when he pitches there later this week.

After earning fans in Lexington, Ky., free windshield-wiper fluid with an inspired K in the 3rd inning in his 2006 minor-league debut last week, Clemens earned fans in Corpus Christi free tacos Sunday with his 10th K of the game.

Clemens finished with 11 K's, tying a team single-game record. He struck out 9 of the first 12 batters and allowed only 2 H in 6 IP, throwing only 73 pitches (52 for strikes).

There are no scheduled promotions for Round Rock on Friday, when Clemens is to pitch. Saturday is "Nolan Ryan Bank Night"; Sunday is "Free Ball Glove Night"; and Sunday is "Umbrella Night."

(Something makes me think they won't need a gimmick to get fans in to see Clemens, but obviously that won't stop him from earning them free goodies for their attendance.)

World Cup Superlatives
Best Result: 0-0
Soccer cynics might scoff at the notion of a 0-0 finish being the most exciting match of the World Cup's group round, but considering Trinidad and Tobago was playing:

• In its 1st WC game ever
• As WC's smallest competitor
• With a backup goalie
• As 10 vs. 11 in 2nd half
• vs. experienced Sweden

Denny Hamlin: At Pocono, NASCAR rookie earns first win
Bernard Hopkins: 41-y.o. clobbers Tarver for career capper
Jazil: Worst-to-1st ride ends lame Belmont. Who called it?
Yankees: Swept by A's in NYC for first time since 1994
Otto Pfister: Togo's coach quits over money; awful timing
Kaz Matsui: Import finally exported from Mets (to Rockies)
The nil-nil tie was totally thrilling, perhaps the most gutsy (and unlikely) outcome fans will see in this tournament. More weekend superlatives:

Luckiest Win: England. If it weren't for Paraguay's own goal just minutes into the game, England may have ended up in a 0-0 tie, too.

Toughest loss: Ivory Coast. Yikes, did I really take the Elephants to the title game? Advancement still possible; Argentina was a tough first draw. But in a Group of Death, the job just got much tougher.

See Odds and Ends for today's picks. Don't forget to update your picks in the Daily Quickie Readers group of the World Cup "Pick 'Em."

And be sure to check out Michael Davies' blog for Page 2.

Mauer = All-Star?
Boston's Jason Varitek is only one of several egregious errors in fan voting for the AL starting roster of the MLB All-Star Game. But can we all agree that soph Joe Mauer is more worthy?

This weekend, he was believed to have set an MLB record by reaching base at least 4 times in 5 straight games through Saturday.

Sunday, his streak ended when he only reached base once (1/4, 0 BB). Still, this kid should be a lock for the AL All-Star roster, even if Varitek undeservedly starts behind the plate.

Mauer leads the AL in batting (by 20 points!) and is 7th in OPS, despite having hit only 5 HR. Most astonishingly, he is Top 20 in the AL with 6 steals. The next closest AL catcher (Pudge) has half that.

Cubs For Sale?

Can you imagine if Mark Cuban owned the Chicago Cubs? It would make Cuban's passion for the Mavs look like Donald Sterling's interest in the Clippers.

There were rumblings this weekend that the Tribune Company might be willing to sell the team (for a struggling public company, it might help with a two-year-long stock slide).

The most notable name to come up as a potential owner was Ernie Banks, who wants to be part of any ownership group (and at least two potential bidders want Banks, including one group that includes Yankees uber-fan Rudy Giuliani).

Mostly, though, it would be intriguing to see what a baseball-first ownership could do with the most valuable brand in the National League.

It has always been assumed that the Tribune Company has never run the team to be a contender but merely as a cash cow and brand bling. Hands-on management willing to make investments (see John Henry in Boston) could be huge.

MLB 'Roid Watch
Grimsley Update: Why are people making such a big deal now out of amphetamines use a year ago? Does everyone not know that amphetamines were MLB's secret (and widespread) addiction for 40 years?

Meanwhile, Grimsley is going to challenge the team's decision not to pay him. If the standard for all players was "if you cheat, you don't get paid," then there would be a lot of players filing grievances.

Bonds wants immunity? Barry wants to talk to MLB's Mitchell Commission. He really does (or so his lawyer says). But, you see, there's that pesky detail: Anything he tells Mitchell could be used by the feds.

And since the feds are obviously trying to play "gotcha!" and there's no way MLB could provide the kind of immunity Bonds is looking for in exchange for talking, there's no way he's going to talk with them.

Meanwhile, as predicted, Bonds is dropping his lawsuit against the "Game of Shadows" writers. Is that because he couldn't prove they weren't telling the truth?

MJ's Ultimate 5
Michael Jordan picked out his ultimate starting 5 from his era (including himself, of course):

Magic as PG? No debate here.
Hakeem as C? Also, no debate.

Bird/Pippen split at SF? I understand MJ's loyalty to Scottie (and Pippen is/was a Top 50 guy), but this position is Bird's alone.

Worthy at PF? Jordan justified this because Worthy is a UNC guy, noting that BFF Barkley would be miffed. (No word on how Kwame Brown took the snub.)

Mostly, though, I think the pick shows how little Jordan regards Karl Malone, who certainly would be in any argument about the best PF of his era.

Personally, I would've taken Barkley over Worthy, but they are such different players. But MJ's reasoning (school ties) was l-a-m-e.

Zbikowski's KO
It's a symbol of the sideshow state of boxing when the most intriguing match of the year involved a Notre Dame football player.

Tom Zbikowski KO'd Rob Bell 49 seconds into the first round. Maybe Tommy Z was motivated when Bell wore an Ohio St. jersey into the ring.

(The first indication Bell was doomed? His OSU jersey was a No. 12 Justin Zwick model, not a No. 10 Troy Smith model.)

I'm still trying to figure out how Zib can get paid $25K to fight as a pro but not jeopardize his eligibility.

(The NCAA reviewed his participation and OK'd it, saying there was a clear line between his boxing and his football. Right: Tell that to his teammates who escorted him to the ring wearing football jerseys. Or the way the match got promoted, leveraged precisely due to his football fame.)

I would imagine that Jeremy Bloom is probably wondering, too. If college athletes can earn money as pros, as long as it is in another sport (and isn't endorsement money), Zib's fight toed the line.

The Next Poker?
Contender: Dominoes

When: Tonight, 5 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Like poker, it's easily accessible, familiar to everyone and a component of sociability.

Unlike poker, it's lacking cred in college dorms, not widely played online and not getting traction in "speakeasy"-style clubs.

"Roger Slam":
Federer can't beat Rafael Nadal on clay. Roger shouldn't beat himself up: NO ONE can beat Nadal on clay. Federer must content himself with his annual "3/4 Slam."
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie Live
NBA Daily Dime
Page 2 Index
2nd Best 5, MJ Era
Charles Barkley
If MJ doesn't want him...
John Stockton
Pass-first, then pass more
Kevin McHale
Nod over Karl Malone
Shaquille O'Neal
Nod over David Robinson
Isiah Thomas
Wouldn't make MJ's first 20

Stanley: Did Edmonton's Ryan Smythe interfere with Carolina G Cam Ward on that winning goal Saturday? Doesn't matter: Oilers can tie it up with Game 4 W.

World's Fastest: Asafa Powell tied Justin Gatlin (and his own record) with a 9.77 in London. Cannot wait for their head-to-head matchup in July.

LPGA Champ: Se Ri Pak managed to eclipse a 5th-place finish by Michelle Wie by beating Karrie Webb in a playoff on a spectacular 201-yard shot.

Is the AAU system broken, as David Stern said in his press conference Friday? Yes. Should the NBA try to fix it? Not unless it wants a quagmire.

Chicago Rush pull a "Steelers" and finish unlikely playoff run with three straight road wins, capped by an Arena Bowl XX title on Sunday.

NFL won't blood-test players for HGH (citing no reliable test). And what the league didn't cite is that an HGH test would probably implode the sport.

Today's World Cup picks: Australia d. Japan (ESPN2, 9 a.m. ET); USA d. Czech Republic (ESPN2, noon ET); Ghana d. Italy (ESPN2, 3 p.m. ET). (Total: 5-3)

Toni Braxton. World Cup opening ceremony. 'Nuff said.

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