June 16, 2006
"Da-vid! Hassel-hoff!":
Even though Dirk made most of his free throws while hearing this, this is the chant of the year from NBA fans. Maybe it was in his head while shooting FGs?
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

On Father's Day weekend, it's appropriate to ask the Mavs:

"Who's your daddy?"

For the first two games of this series, everyone could be rightfully convinced it was Mavs super-owner Mark Cuban.

Then, in Game 3, Dwyane Wade took over. Gimpy knee? Yeah, right: Wade made the Mavs his Gimp.

Two games (and 78 points from Daddy Dwyane) later, it's a new series: Tied 2-2, with a fifth game to come still in Miami, the Mavs' endless road trip.

If you thought things couldn't get any more humiliating for the Mavs than to blow a 13-point lead with 6 minutes to go in Game 3, think again:

The Mavs set a new NBA Finals low for points in a quarter with their pathetic 7-point effort in the 4th quarter Thursday night.

Dirk picked the worst time to have his worst game of the season. If Shaq's 5-point effort in Game 2 was his new low, Dirk sort of matched him, scoring only 5 points on field goals on 2-14 shooting (16 points overall including his 11-13 effort from the free-throw line).

(And if Wade's knee was a question heading into Game 4, then Dirk's ankle, which he twisted -- and then shot 0-2 on FGs with 1 rebound in the 4th quarter -- is under scrutiny for Game 5.)

"It's a series," Dwyane Wade said after Thursday night's 24-point blowout win by the Heat.

"Now it's a best of three."

So which team has the edge?

Miami has all the momentum, and with a third straight game in Miami (thanks to the NBA's 2-3-2 Finals format), there's no reason to believe the Heat can't take a 3-2 series lead.

On the other hand...

The Mavs have home-court advantage, and there's also no reason to believe the Mavs won't turn it around at home in the series' final two games. Remember how Miami was unable to perform in Dallas in Games 1 and 2.

This final "best-of-three" is so compelling because there's no question the Heat have the edge in Game 5, but there's also no reason to believe the Mavs can't win Games 6 and 7 back in Dallas.

After the unpromising start to this series, this kind of wild finish is all fans can ask for. Obviously, my "Heat in 5" pick is a dud, but suddenly it's not so crazy to have picked (and still pick) Miami to win it all.

Tiger Sinks at Open
Two bearish stats that stand out about Tiger's first-round 76:

(1) It's his 2nd-highest opening round ever, and (2) only two players have ever won the Open with that bad of a first round, Hogan ('51) and Fleck ('55). His contention on Father's Day would be a miracle.

Meanwhile, if the only players Open fans really care about are Tiger and Phil, do you think they can get behind Phil's Euro doppelganger?

First-round leader Colin Montgomerie is Europe's Mickelson (or, at least the way Mickelson used to be, before he, y'know, started winning majors).

But, in the U.S., all that means is Monty gets all the razzing of being the "best to never win a major," without the accompanying hard-luck popularity that fans showered on Phil.

(Actually, fans must be coming around to Montgomerie: Remember that "Be Nice to Monty" campaign a few years ago? It's a new era; yesterday, they politely applauded him.)

Stanley Cup Game 6
The Oilers' Stanley-stalling injury to team MVP goalie Dwayne Roloson? That's such old news.

Five games later, the script has been flipped: Now, all the injury questions are for Carolina:

How will the Hurricanes do without center Doug Weight, whose 3rd-period shoulder injury should keep him out of Saturday's Game 6 in Edmonton?

Or the possibility of missing defenseman Aaron Ward, who suffered a Game 5 "upper-body injury," which sounds like a code for "whupping."

Carolina coach Peter Laviolette, who comes across as so tightly strung he should have an endorsement deal with Fender, was terse: "There's no update."

Hockey needs a Stanley Game 7 on Monday night on national TV. Thanks to the frenzied Edmonton fans, an inspired Oilers team and a little karma payback on the injury front, the sport will get it.

Ecuador: Advances to Cup round of 16 for first time ever
North Dakota: Sues NCAA over right to use "Fighting Sioux"
Ronaldo: Cleared to play after dizziness, but should he?
Tribune Company: Cubs owner debt rating reduced to "junk"
Paul Pierce: Celtics star to have MRI on elbow (yikes?)
David Ortiz: HR hits Metrodome speaker, becomes a single
MLB Retribution
As I noted yesterday, the first rule of MLB retribution is that you don't talk about MLB retribution. You just do it.

That's why Yankees starter Randy Johnson was suspended 5 games for throwing at Eduardo Perez on Wednesday. Manager Joe Torre was suspended 1 game ... perhaps for sanctioning it? He'll never tell. (Rule followed.)

Meanwhile, there's White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who is unrepentant about speaking out about his internal compass (and taste/tolerance) for revenge:

"I told my players, if that thing happens against anybody, we'd better do something about it."

(And yet, because rookie pitcher Sean Tracey didn't hit Hank Blalock in his one-batter, many-tears relief appearance, Guillen likely will avoid Torre's fate.)

But here's the fascinating part: An overwhelming number of fans agree with Guillen and Johnson's code of vigilante justice:

Check out these poll numbers: 80 percent of fans say, "Drill this!" (Though 74 percent of fans thought that Ozzie went too far in berating Tracey in the dugout afterward. To review: Physically harming an opposing player? Cool. Emotionally harming your own player? Not cool.)

MLB 'Roid Watch
Bud's PR offensive? In a letter to fans today, Selig says all the right things about HGH "problems" in MLB and a commitment "to protecting our game," but a newspaper ad? Come on: Where's his podcast?

D-Backs slugger Luis Gonzalez has every right to be ticked at Arizona boss Ken Kendrick for tossing him under the 'roids bus by implying publicly that Gonzo's stats are sketchy. How do you do that to your own player?

Uh-O's: MLB's Mitchell inquisitors want to talk to Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo and several players next week. Better prep an answer to the question: "So, how well did you know Jason Grimsley?"

MLB Hit List
This is the best idea ever.

Rip away, rip away, rip away: That's A-Rod's invite to critics, in the Quote of the Day: "If I was a writer I'd probably be writing some nasty things, too. If I was a fan I'd probably be booing me, too."

Esteban Loaiza has some focus: I don't know about you, but if I spent Tuesday night in jail for DUI and driving 120 in my Ferrari, I wouldn't have been able to go out Thursday and throw 6 innings to get the win in the A's 9-6 win over Seattle.

Interleague Mania! Best series of the weekend: NL West-leading Dodgers at suddenly surging A's (7 straight W's); White Sox (2nd-best record in AL) at Reds (3rd-best record in NL). Plus: Anna Benson returns to New York!

MJ Joins Bobcats
Good for Michael Jordan finally getting that NBA ownership gig he so desperately wanted. And good for Bob Johnson for bringing him on in Charlotte. It's a terrific PR move for a franchise that needs it.

But given Jordan's track record as a personnel executive, Johnson is a starry-eyed fool to hand the reins to basketball operations over to Jordan. Hmm, let's review the track record:

*Jordan drafted Kwame Brown.
*Jordan hired Len Hamilton.
*Jordan drafted Kwame Brown.
*Jordan traded Rip Hamilton.
*Jordan drafted Kwame Brown.

I'm not expecting the Bobcats to trade the No. 3 pick in the 2006 draft to the Lakers for, say, Kwame Brown. Then again, I'm not expecting Jordan to do anything with the pick but completely futz it up.

(At least, this time, there are no high school players in the draft for Jordan to misevaluate. Remember: With that No. 1 pick in 2001, Jordan was deciding between Kwame, Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry. It didn't even occur to him that Pau Gasol was the top talent in that draft class.)

Big Ben Closure
There: Was this so hard?

"If I ever ride again, it certainly will be with a helmet."

Wait a second...

If he ever rides again?!?!
(sigh ... head buried in hands)

World Cup with Davies
I spent lunchtime yesterday with Page 2 World Cup blogger Michael Davies, watching England beat TNT at Davies' local pub. He's rubbing off on me:

For: David Beckham kicking the perfect goal assist; Wayne Rooney making his World Cup debut; England fans who wear outfits like they're extras from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

Against: Crouch scoring but not doing "The Robot" in celebration; Cinderella Soca Warriors who choke away a stunning draw in the final 10 minutes; England fans in bars who don't/won't/can't sing.

Click here for Davies' blog.

Best Goal Celebration Yet: Ecuadoran sub Ivan Kaviedes who, after scoring in stoppage time, put on a yellow Spider-Man mask to honor his late teammate Tenorio, who used to celebrate that way. (Chad Johnson taking notes?)

U.S. Watch: Between coach Bruce Arena criticizing his stars like Donovan and Beasley, and his stars like Convey implicitly criticizing Arena right back, the team is ripe to be obliterated by motivated Italy.

Prostate Power!
The best sports gimmicks take something very traditional about the game and give it a clever -- even a seemingly heretical -- twist.

Last month, MLB had players use pink bats for the first time ever to raise awareness for breast-cancer research on Mother's Day. It was the coolest in-game promotion the league has created in years.

Sunday, MLB is pulling off a neat double play by tweaking the traditional 7th-inning stretch: It's happening during the sixth inning.

The cause is prostate-cancer awareness, which hits one out of six men (thus the inning switch) and is a worthy cause on Father's Day.

And men out there -- whether you're an experienced father, a new father or just a dude who likes to play the field -- if you're of the age where prostate exams are due, don't by shy about it.

Besides, if you're paying to take your family to the ballpark, between the tickets, the parking, the food and the souvenirs, you've already experienced a far more painful procedure than you'll get from the doc.

Dusty Baker:
Happy 57th birthday! After last night's 3-2 L to Houston to drop the Cubs' record to 26-39, who wants to bet that Baker won't celebrate his 58th wearing a Cubs uni?

Today on ESPN.com
Quickie Live
NBA Daily Dime
Page 2 Index
Fewest Points in NBA Finals Quarter
Mavs 2006 (7)
Do you believe in omens?
Jazz 1998 (9)
Remember debacle vs. Bulls?
Nets 2003 (9)
Good thing no one watched
Knicks 1999 (10)
Played like an 8-seed
Four tied (11)
Including those '03 Nets!

Cuban Blog Watch: No posts during Game 4, probably because Mark was freaking out. Big expectations when the Finals return to Dallas next week.

NBA Draft: By Monday, underclassmen without an agent have to decide whether they're in or out. I bet Texas PG Dan Gibson goes back to UT.

NFL: Finally, some good news for Bengals fans weary of hearing about WR Chris Henry being arrested: Carson Palmer threw on the field yesterday. What's the O/U on the week he returns?

USC Scandal Watch: USC star WR Dwayne Jarrett must apply to regain his eligibility after living in a condo at a discount thanks to Matt Leinart's dad.

Mets star rookie Lastings Milledge is a great talent, but he's gone from prospect to prima donna. Last Met to show up for yesterday's game?

Happy Father's Day! New meaning for me this year...

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