June 20, 2003
Pavel Podkolzine:
Don't call him a "project": 7-5 international sensation pulled out of NBA draft to work on game another year ... in Italy. Better training than the L?
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

The schedule says baseball's fantastic "Rivalry Weekend" starts today: But from the intensity of the Giants-Dodgers series that wrapped up Thursday night (on Jason Schmidt's 11K CG for SF) or the Cubs-Reds battle royale, you'd think it started on Tuesday.

Sure, a handful of the scheduled "rivalries" are forced (Detroit/Colorado? Cincinnati/Arizona?), but mostly, MLB has aligned regional matchups that perk the interest of mainstream fans with historical ones that excite the diehards. This weekend is by far the highlight of interleague play.

So as long as MLB is developing strategies to reinvent itself, take it a step further: Realign the divisions so that these rivalries are more than a once-a-season thing.

Boss Backs Down
Score one for Torre: George Steinbrenner issued a statement that he "will not be critical of Joe in any way." Not many people front on the Boss and survive to tell the tale. If they were in prison, it would signal a very interesting relationship (hint: rhymes with "switch").

Buick Classic
Tiger's playing well, but Furyk is still hot. This should be a fantastic duel through the weekend. But Tiger's on the brain for another reason ...

Blind Item: Besides in-denial Tiger, which massive (huge!) icon could be joining MJ in his Bucks ownership group?

Annika Senior
"This is about the game, not the name." At least Jan

1 Buick Classic: Pressure will build on Tiger
2 Rivalry weekend: Cubs/Sox, Yanks/Mets, more
3 CWS: Finally down to two teams -- Rice vs. Stanford
1 Ivy League raising athlete standards: Insert joke here
2 USOC board: Critics call for complete ouster, NYT report
3 NBA Draft pull-outs: WAY too many college kids stayed in
Stephenson's agent was up front about the women's golf legend playing in a men's senior event in October being entirely about the publicity of having a woman -- any woman -- play against men, to add some much-needed buzz to both genders' senior tours.

76ers Coach
Sure, he was about the 18th choice: But Sixers assistant Randy Ayers will be the team's new head coach. Was it that no one else wanted to deal with AI? Or was it that no one else wanted to deal with, um, finicky fans.

Nextel Cup
If you think cell phones are annoying at sports events, wait until nationwide walkie-talkies are ubiquitous at the race track; then you get to enjoy hearing both ends of the conversation.

Looking for a pick? I trust boxing aficionado Max Kellerman, who predicts Lewis in an early KO. This is likely to be the two biggest dudes you'll ever see hitting each other, but the real buzz is looking ahead to Lewis/Roy Jones, a veritable ATM.

Party Watching
Quickie's West Coast spy reports Gary Payton looked "comfortable" on the L.A. scene Thursday night at the kickoff party for Nike's summer-streetball tour. He adds: "Harbinger?"

Bulls PG Jay Williams:
Hope for his quick recovery after breaking leg in motorcycle accident last night; less quick to recover may be Bulls' chances to trade him.
This week's best rivalry? Vote below!
Today on ESPN.com
P2: Sports Guy Rambles
NBA Draft
MLB: Stark's Rumblings
"Sex and the City" Edition
Dating around
Va Tech a two-timer?
Mr. Big
7-5 Podkolzine undrafts self
Hooking up
Boxing title fights still appeal
Women bonding
Jan eyeing Champions Tour
Columnist's life
No lock for 'fab' lifestyle

Cubs pitchers won't have Jose Hernandez to boost K stats anymore; he joined his old team via trade with Rockies ...

ACC Watch: Will Virginia Tech swap allegiances over the weekend? Why worry about a negative p.r.. spin? Gotta think big picture ...

One of the Top 5 names in golf: Briny Baird, your first-round leader of the Buick Classic ...

The new retro jersey? Women's roller derby tops, apparently ...

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