April 30, 2004
Carmelo Anthony:
Mouth writing checks the left knee can't cash? Hard to back up tough talk toward the T'wolves when his playoff PT is a game-time decision.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

You can (and should) spend hours playing around with Page 2's Sport Skills Difficulty Rankings. (See "Q It Up," right.)

Or print it out and enjoy endless barstool debate with your friends. Five observations:

No. 1 Boxing; No. 2 Hockey:
Hmm: Is there a correlation between these sports' ultimate difficulty and the fact that they are both en route to popular oblivion? Fascinating to consider.

No. 4: Basketball?!
Most overrated: How difficult it be if tens of thousands of middle-aged jokers do it at the local park every weekend?

No. 45: Swimming?!
Most underrated: Tell that to Michael Phelps after he wins six Olympic golds this summer and named "World's Best Athlete."

No. 1 "Analytics": Hockey?!
Right: All those college-hockey Rhodes' scholars...

Top Bragging-Rights Upset:
Badminton ranked No. 30;
Auto racing ranked No. 32.

Fire Nellie
Mark Cuban and Donald Trump are locked in an ego war over their competing reality-TV shows, but Cuban may want to steal a page from the Donald's playbook:

Cock his hand in the position, glare at massively overrated Mavs coach Don Nelson and utter the magic words: You're fired.

Too many close losses, too many dashed expectations, too much good money thrown after bad results.

Cuban wouldn't accept this kind of performance in any of his other businesses; why should the Mavs be any different?

Lakers-Spurs Game 1
One match-up defines it: Kobe Bryant vs. Bruce Bowen -- the playoff's premier scoring threat against its top perimeter defender.

Game 1 prediction: Bowen puts Kobe on lock-down tougher than anything he'll see this year (uh, unless he's convicted this fall); Spurs strike first (Sunday, 3:30 p.m., ABC).

Barry Bonds: Smacks No. 668 (Bonds family total: 1,000)
Andy Pettitte: Secures first win of his Astros career
Red Wings-Flames series: Tied 2-2; worth tuning in for ...
Hornets-Heat: No, seriously, *at least* two more games?!
Kevin Garnett, Olympian: Thinks he'll be too weary to play
Canadiens: Swept out of their playoff series by Tampa Bay
Speaking of boxing, tonight's Minnesota-Denver Game 5 (10, ESPN) sizes up more like a prize fight than a playoff game, what with all the threats of violence -- and at least one accusation of a hit "below-the-belt." Prediction: Nuggets go down, fighting.

Jeter Slump Over
Now he's simply 1-for-36:
Thursday's game-lead-off HR was such a spark that he promptly went 0-3 to finish the game.

Where are my SABR guys? Given Jeter's current .165 B.A., what will he have to hit between now and the All-Star Break to nudge it to, say, .250?

NCAA Reform
But not so reform-ish that full implementation can't wait until, like, the end of the decade. So given that the new NCAA academic threats won't kick in for a while, what I want to see ASAP is the list being generated of schools that wouldn't have made the cut if the policy was in place this year.

Jockeys Rule
Kudos to marketing Mini-Me's:
Here's hoping the ruling that allows Derby jockeys to wear sponsor logos turns them all into riding billboards.

Critics mutter the word "NASCAR" like it's an STD: Get over it -- it's simply smart business, affecting the athletes' performance within the hyper-sponsored sport no more than a TV ad.

The jockeys are small potatoes, figuratively (literally, too): Ads on any (and every) sports' uniform are an inevitability. Embrace it; then maybe fans will get some say in the ads that will be placed.

Derby Picks
In the most wide-open field in years, you've got to go with the horses that will make the best stories afterward:

Show: Imperialism (15-1)
Trainer: Kristin Mulhall, 21
Place: Tapit (8-1)
Guinness beer in training diet
Win: Smarty Jones (9-2)
Nothing beats "Told you so"

Ranked last (60th) on the Most Difficult list; dragged down by lowest-in-field ranking in "Nerve" -- expect the Bassmasters to go nuts.
Today on ESPN.com
Page 2: Vote for Best Female Athlete
Dr. Jack on Doc Rivers
Sneak Peek: MLB's 2005 Free Agent Class
Page 2 Ranking of Most Difficult Sports
Also wins "Most Brutal"
Ice Hockey
Can't argue with this.
Yes, but which position?
Just like those Y games.
Probably underrated.

Whether he stays in the NBA draft or returns to St. Joe's for one more year, Delonte West will be a better pro than Jameer Nelson...

Jim Boeheim should reward star Hakim Warrick for returning to Syracuse next year by shoring up his NBA weakness: Outside shooting...

MLB's two hottest pitchers are on the mound Friday night: Roger Clemens (4-0, 2.05 ERA) and Dontrelle Willis (3-0, .71 ERA)...

Farewell to NPR's Bob Edwards, who offered one of the great benefits to waking up at excruciatingly early hours. He'll be missed...

Euroleague Final Four championship prediction: With a Duke-like home-court advantage, Maccabi Tel Aviv will top Skipper Bologna...

The Pistons-Nets East semi series is going to be full of telegenic passion: Detroit in 7, avenging last season's Nets sweep...

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