June 29, 2004
David Bell:
Hits for the cycle, which would be impressive enough, but there's gotta be some kind of record involved, because his granddad, Gus, did it too.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Is the Red Sox-Yankees series starting in New York tonight "just another game," as Manny Ramirez called it? Or Bronx-style payback, as the NYC tabloids would have you believe?

It's still way too early in the season to declare this series "make or break" (especially for the Red Sox) but what is in play is that by Friday, those "games behind" the Yankees in the AL East could be the least of Boston's worries. Consider:

* Extreme wild card competition from West and Central ...

* Those hard-charging D-Rays suddenly surging in Boston's very own division ...

* And few -- if any -- helpful trade prospects in the rumor mill.

More than 5 games behind New York -- and playing a smidgen over .500 since May 1 -- the Red Sox can't afford to get swept. And, for once, it has less to do with their rival and more to do with ... well, the rest of the American League.

NBA: Work Stoppage?
Don't let the hysterics freak you out: Inklings of an NBA union work stoppage after next season isn't simply posturing for future negotiations -- it's largely inconsequential.

If the NBA wasn't around in the fall of 2005 ... do you think anyone would even notice?

Fans might look up briefly enough from their fantasy football standings to say, "Oh, there's no pro hoops?"

Shaq Watch
Hilarity ensued: During a team-by-team roll call at yesterday's union meeting, O'Neal apparently raised his hand -- twice. For the Kings and Mavs. (The Lakers? Uh, hand was kept down.)

D-Rays: More winning ways for those Rays; now won 16 of 18
Shaq: Next union president? How about next NBA commish?
Hank Blalock: 2 HRs in win; hitting .376 w/ 8 HRs in June
Shaq to Mavs: Cuban not bullish but maybe bull-*something*
Mike Tyson: Tells paper he's living like a "street bum"
Andre Rison: "Bad Moon" to deadbeat; arrest warrant issued
Tennis' Anti-Anna?
Looking for a seat on the Maria Sharapova Bandwagon? Too late. She's a hottie and she's good (just made the Wimbledon quarters). That's the ultimate combo.

She's sports' Lindsay Lohan, and she's got Humbert Humbert tennis scribes currently stumbling over themselves.

The Google Test: Is Sharapova the next Anna? Let's track her Google search results this week. Today: 58,900. Check back tomorrow.

WNBA's Sharapova?
Well at least she's legal: WNBA player Lauren Jackson of the Seattle Storm -- last season's league MVP, by the way -- is getting criticized by women's sports boosters for posing in a risque Aussie mag, but no denying because of it, she has become the most intriguing player in women's hoops (easily the most Web-searched). As they say, any nudity publicity is good publicity.

T-Mac Deal
Just finish it already: No one likes the guys who hang around the party too long.

What McGrady needs to say:
"I can win a title AND lead the league in scoring ... if I learn to defer to Yao."

What Francis needs to say:
"I can be an All-Star starter every year AND score more points than Iverson ... if I let Jameer Nelson handle the ball."

Quickie Book Club
"How Soccer Explains the World," by Franklin Foer, a sensational writer for The New Republic who also happens to be a huge soccer nut, has put together the smartest sports book of the summer, using 10 variations of worldwide soccer fandom to illuminate larger theories of globalization.

"Moneyball" disciples:
Epstein, DePodesta, Riccardi: Once-hot GMs now helming underachievers; meanwhile, the Original Master Billy Beane? A's surging.
Today on ESPN.com
Page 2: Reel/Real: "Major League"
Top NBA free agents
MLB: Rumor Central
Top 5 NBA Free Agents
Kobe Bryant
Clippers? Suns? Spurs?
Kenyon Martin
Nets? Nuggets? Hawks?
Rasheed Wallace
Pistons? Sixers? Knicks?
Steve Nash
Jazz? Lakers (via trade)?
Mehmet Okur
Suns? Jazz? Nuggets?

Re: Bell's cycle/sketchy triple: Think the umps took into consideration that the game was a rout? But in a close game? No way it stands ...

K-Mart vs. Kidd debate: Nets' best move? Trade Kidd to the Spurs for Tony Parker and re-sign Martin. Win for everyone ...

Americans couldn't care less about English tennis star Tim Henman, but every Wimby round he advances drives his country nuttier ...

Kobe judge will lose battle with the media to return mistakenly supplied transcripts, but media shouldn't do anything with them ...

Denial in Denver: Nuggets GM says rumors that coach Jeff Bzdelik will be fired are wrong; if so, why not give him a long-term deal? ...

Pedometers: The hot new personal technology device? Fans swear by 'em; PGA just cut a deal to market them ...

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