January 25, 2006
Mario Lemieux:
Happy retirement to one of the greatest athletes of the ESPN Era. The big question moving forward: What's the impact on the struggling Pens franchise?
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Nothing is ever easy with Ron Artest. Not on-court performance. Not media relations. And now, not even shipping him out of town.

Tuesday's hot rumor of an Artest trade to Sacramento for Peja Stojakovic is on hold -- possibly (even probably) for good -- because Ron-Ron reportedly doesn't like his destination.

Any excitement that Kings fans might have had about acquiring Artest (and, as one of the NBA's most complete players, they should be thrilled) is effectively deflated -- if not gone for good.

"But he's our crazy freak" -- the standard talking point of fans of the biggest sports nut-jobs -- doesn't apply if the player never makes it to his destination.

So Artest remains in this weird fan limbo: He's not really a part of the Pacers anymore, so Indiana fans don't have much love for him. But he's not in another city yet, so no other fans can really embrace him.

How can Kings fans not take it personally when the rumor is that the player isn't coming because he doesn't like their city? Even if the deal goes through, he's got a lot of making up to do.

And Ron-Ron doesn't really do contrition.

Pistons Roll On
Getting fired by the Wolves was the best thing to ever happen to Flip Saunders. And nothing could make his first return to Minnesota sweeter than routing his old team 107-83 for yet another Pistons 8-game winning streak.

Let's see: With the taint of being fired deflating his arrival, all Saunders did was step into the shoes of the Hall of Famer who led the Pistons to a championship and make the team better than it ever was.

And with the roster of the team basically the same as when Brown coached it, the difference between this year and last year can be largely attributed to Saunders -- specifically, his willingness to open up the offense (where Brown kept a choke hold). Saunders' relaxed style has translated into 99.8 ppg (7th in the NBA); under Brown, the Pistons scored 93.3 ppg (23rd).

Meanwhile, when All-Star reserves are announced, if Chauncey Billups (28 pts, 8 ast, 7 reb) isn't on the list, it will be one of the biggest robberies in NBA All-Star history. He has to make it.

Theo Being Theo
So the Red Sox reinstalled the "Theocracy" after all. What bold new title did the team give its prodigal son?

General Manager.

Call it "Theo Being Theo." He's back to being GM, and the bold "co-GM" power-sharing experiment between Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington is over.

Thanks very much, boys, but now that Theo's back, you can go back to your old jobs. Never mind that press conference we had a few weeks ago when we talked about what great Red Sox GMs you'll make.

Iowa: Beats Indiana; now 3-0 vs. Top 25 teams at home
Daunte Culpepper: Fires his agent. Hmm... YA THINK?!
Donnie Henderson: Ex-Jets D-Coordinator jumping to Detroit
Martina Hingis: Wild comeback run at Aussie ends to Kim C.
Tim Nardiello: Not allowed to coach U.S. skeleton in Torino
Jeff Bagwell: Says relationship with Astros is beyond repair
Quickie readers know what a Theo fan I am, but this second term of Theocracy hasn't come without its price:

With new threats both in the division and around the AL -- plus this short breakup -- Theo is now under more pressure than ever to deliver.

First new crisis: That trade with the Indians for Coco Crisp is in jeopardy because throw-in Guillermo Mota reportedly failed his physical.

More on Kobe's 81
Quickie Quote of the Day: "We can't have that as a steady diet if we're going to accomplish what we plan to accomplish as a basketball team."
-- Phil Jackson on Kobe's 81

(Translation: Don't expect to see Kobe jack up 46 shots ever again while Jackson is his coach.)

XL: Steelers in White
I can't believe there's a correlation between the jersey color the designated home team picks -- colorific or white -- and success in the game itself. (Yo, FootballOutsiders, hook me up!)

However, I can believe that the Steelers see no reason to change the "Road Warrior" mentality now after having won three playoff games in a row in their road whites, even though they had the choice to wear their traditional black in the Super Bowl.

(Related: If you thought the Seahawks' blue jersey was some unnatural, that-ain't-right color, you're dead on. Even the team's own site calls it "complicated." It's best described as "blue-ish." Can't argue with their 10-0 record wearing it at home, though.)

XL: Governor's Bet
You know the two weeks before the Super Bowl is too long when some of the most fascinating news is what the two governors bet in the annual Super Bowl tradition:

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire bet a bushel of Washington apples against Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell's box of hot dogs and Heinz condiments.

I know Pittsburgh is a Heinz town, but is that really the city's official food? I'm sure the health-conscious folks in Seattle are more than happy to send the dogs to the local food bank.

Meanwhile, a side "pride" bet is a little more interesting:

If the Steelers win, Gregoire will display a Terrible Towel in the office; if the Seahawks win, Rendell has to fly a "12th Man" flag in the state capitol of Harrisburg, Pa.

Advantage? Seattle. Nothing makes more of a statement of dominance than flying your opponent's flag over your city.

Shirley TV
Paul Shirley might be an NBA vagabond, but don't pity him. Not after the way he was able to parlay his ESPN.com column into a sitcom deal with Fox.

So here's an open invitation to any TV network: I offer up the Quickie as a fantastic sitcom ... and I'll bet I could even work Paul Shirley into an episode. But I'm not jealous or anything...

Isiah Thomas:
Being sued by a former employee for sexual harassment. (Wait: Did he go on the Stephen A. radio show and offer to throw down? He seems to like that.)
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Bubble Buzz
Page 2 Index
NBA Coach of Year rankings
Flip Saunders
Yes, better than Brown
Mike Dunleavy
Come on: It's the Clips!
Mike D'Antoni
And doing it without Amare
Mike Fratello
Grizzlies on the rise
Byron Scott
Hornets 1 G under .500

More shock waves from Kobe's 81: Suddenly, an otherwise huge night (like A.I.'s 41 in a W over the Kings) doesn't seem so impressive anymore.

NFL Job Board: Rams fans must be thrilled that the team hired ex-Saints coach Jim Haslett to run the defense (yes, the italics mean sarcasm).

CBB Tonight: No. 18 BC at No. 25 UNC, but how will the Eagles react after their team bus reportedly hit and killed a bicyclist on Tuesday? (via Daily Tar Heel)

Expanding on this week's items on college hoops parity, here's another exhibit: Final Four-worthy Villanova had to rally to beat S. Florida.

Senior Bowl practice QB gossip: The scouts like Vandy's Cutler, and Kiper thinks Penn St.'s Robinson will have to change positions.

It was reported Tuesday that the NFL was considering making the Thursday/Sunday TV package an online exclusive. Unlikely, but how bold would that be?

Disney buys Pixar: Yes, but can they do anything to jazz up my SportsNation animated head? That would be my first order of business.

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