April 24, 2006
Tim Thomas:
The NBA surprise of the weekend, scoring a game-high 22 points on 8/10 FG shooting (including 4/5 3pt), plus a career playoff-high 15 rebounds, in the Suns' 107-102 W over L.A.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

What Kobe must be thinking today:

"Phil Jackson turned me into Tim Thomas. Tim Bleeping Thomas!

"I am the most potent scorer in the NBA, so naturally, Phil's game plan would be to keep the ball out of my hands.

"I think this was just the Zen Master playing mind games showing everyone, who thought I might challenge Jerry West's playoff series scoring record, who the real king of the Lakers is. (And it ain't Jerry. It's Jackson.)

"I know the Suns are soft inside. I know the rest of my starters scored in double figures. I know that the strategy nearly worked.

"But I torched the Suns in the regular season, shooting 30 times a game. They were all ready yesterday to try to stop me. And why not?

"But me shooting 21 times -- only 7 times in the first half! -- threw me off. Way off.

"Phil shuts me out of the offense for 39 minutes, then tells me to turn it on? In the second half, I shot 5-of-14.

"Of course we fell short. I was out of sync: Blame Phil.

"I need to be shooting, shooting, shooting. That's how we got to the playoffs. That's why I had so many people calling me MVP.

"Here's what I promise you: No matter what Phil's game plan is, I will never again be emasculated like that on national TV.

"If I were you, I'd take the 'over' on my shot attempts for Game 2 on Wednesday. I'm going back to doing what I do best.

"Standing around not shooting while someone else scores the points? Now I know how my teammates felt all season long. And it stinks.

"Never again."

NBA Wrap
Observations after Game 1:

Adding insult to Kobe's psychological injury? LeBron's triple-double, the toast of the weekend. Just more evidence why LeBron is MVP, not Kobe. The Cavs could never do what the Lakers did yesterday, because LeBron leads the offense.

If it's the playoffs, it must be Phil Jackson's time to whine about the refs through the media. How five years ago.

Sunday, he had a problem with the number of fouls called, noting the Suns (who shot the fewest FTs in the NBA) shot 35 free throws Sunday.

The 48-hour window of amnestyis closing for all those who didn't pick LeBron as MVP but now want to change their minds after his "triple-debut."

(LeBron also sported the best-looking playoff beard this side of the NHL. A 21-year-old shouldn't be allowed to look that fierce. It's unfair.)

Can the Bucks still trade places with the 76ers and swap into the lottery, giving Philly the chance to lose the next three games to Detroit?

The Nets didn't just lose the game: They lost home-court advantage and they lost any mo' from their fast final two months of the regular season. My prediction of the Nets making the East finals seems shaky already.

Musical interludes: Who else thinks that in those brief glimpses when games go into commercial, Tom Petty eerily resembles Steve Nash?

R. Bush Scandal?
Just in time for NFL Draft Week, here comes a story that threatens to eclipse the event itself, because it involves the player everyone presumes is the No. 1 pick:

The Pac-10 is investigating the house Reggie Bush's family lived in for the past year, amid reports the living arrangements were allegedly financed by a Bush marketing suitor. (ESPN.com news services)

The inquiry won't stop Bush from being the No. 1 overall pick next Saturday. But it's not his problem as much as it is USC's.

While Bush gallops off into the pros, endorsement contracts (and cash) in hand, USC is left to deal with the potential fallout.

LaVar Arrington: Stays in NFC East, jumping to the Giants
Matt Doherty: Ex-UNC coach to jump to SMU from Fla. Int'l
Eileen Canney: Northwestern softball pitcher fans 28 in 18 IP
Jaromir Jagr: Skips practice and could miss Game 2
A.J. Burnett: Jays pricey ace goes on DL ... again (elbow)
Annika Sorenstam: Sunday 75 snatches defeat from victory
Hey, can USC's 2005 team still be on the short list of the "Best Team Ever" if it's slapped with sanctions from last season?

Bonds Watch
"Heck no." That was Barry's response when he was asked if he had a chance to catch Hank Aaron, a sentiment that should make Bonds-haters and baseball purists do a little dance today.

He said his expectations for the future were limited:

"I'm happy with what I've already done. If I get it, I get it; if I don't, so be it. That's life, baby. That's life. It was fun while it lasted."

Of course, Bonds can't go through an interview without tweaking the purists a little. One way to do that is to minimize Babe Ruth's legacy:

"The thing is, I'm not trying to pass Ruth because Ruth doesn't have the record. Hank Aaron has the record. Going past Ruth would be just like going past Mike Schmidt or anyone else in baseball. Right? The record is Hank Aaron's. The topic is Babe Ruth."

Meanwhile, Bonds hits No. 709: It took 15 games (out of 17; the longest season-opening stretch of his career), but Barry finally hit a HR, leaving him only 5 behind Ruth's 714. (Bonus: Some good news for "Bonds on Bonds.")

MLB Wrap
White Sox streaking: Every week of the season, a new team has emerged as hot. First, it was the Brewers. After Week 2, the Mets.

Now, it's the defending champs, winners of 8 straight. During that stretch, White Sox starters have gone 8-0 and the staff has allowed only 13 ER in 72 IP.

Old pitchers still rolling: Pedro moved to 4-0 after striking out 11 in a Mets W over the Padres; Greg Maddux went to 4-0 in his first four starts for the first time in his career. Who else wants to see the ageless Maddux as Cy contender?

Top Rumor: The Marlins offered Dontrelle Willis to the Mets for David Wright. The real "Face of Baseball" for the new Derek Jeter? Blockbuster, but the Mets quickly turned it down. (via Newsday)

If you had "April 23" in the office pool for "When will the Royals get their first win from a starter?" see the office manager to collect (and the answer to the trivia question is: Jeremy Affeldt.).

Red Sox ball to Hall: You can sleep easier knowing there's closure in the Mientkiewicz-Red Sox World Series ball brouhaha; the two sides agreed to send the ball to the Hall of Fame, where it really belongs.

NFL Draft Week
This week marks the apex of chatter, noise, speculation and subterfuge about next weekend's NFL draft. Like any good MBA, I wanted to find a framework to organize my coverage around this week.

With the No. 1 pick hardly in doubt (Houston might be dangling contract offers to Mario Williams, but Reggie Bush seems like a lock), the biggest draft drama seems to revolve around the big three QBs.

Leinart, Young and Cutler: The Saints don't need a QB at No. 2, so will they trade the pick? If so, which QB gets taken there -- and by whom?

In a domino effect, how does any move in the 2-slot affect the Titans at No. 3, the Jets at No. 4, the Raiders at No. 7 and beyond?

It all comes down to how you value those three QBs:

• Is Matt Leinart a better version of Carson Palmer or the next Chad Pennington? (If a team doesn't trade up to No. 2 to nab him, will he be reunited with his former USC offensive coordinator, Norm Chow, in Tennessee at No. 3?)

• Is Vince Young a break-the-mold game-breaker or tainted by the Vick backlash? (If you believe the scuttlebutt, he's coveted by the Raiders, currently holding the No. 7 pick.)

• And is Jay Cutler the most talented (if least heralded) prospect of the group? (If he doesn't go early, will he slip all the way to No. 17, as McShay has him in his latest Insider mock draft?)

The fate of all three will keep the top of the draft absolutely must-see -- for the deal-making, rumor-mongering and long-term fortunes of the teams involved.

So in addition to opining on the hottest rumors of the final days before the draft this week, I'll be taking a look at the big three. Stay tuned.

ND Gets QB Clausen
After senior QB Brady Quinn leads Notre Dame to a BCS bowl this season, Charlie Weis won't skip a beat.

The Irish landed a commitment from Jimmy Clausen, rated the top QB of the class of 2007 (and ahead of basically every QB in '06, too).

What prep QB wouldn't want to play for Weis? Who else can offer a better stamp of approval for an NFL future? (Clausen said it himself.)

So when the Quinn Era ends, look for a smooth transition into the Clausen Era, which -- with four years under Weis -- could make Brady look average.

(Downside of nabbing Clausen? Recruiting any QB depth. Good luck signing any top QBs over the next three years if they know they'll be sitting.)

NFL Fan Draft
Latest from SportsNation's NFL Fan Draft:

21 (NE): LB Bobby Carpenter
From Buckeyes to Belichick
22 (SF): LB Chad Greenway
Run on Big Ten linebackers!
23 (TB): OT Marcus McNeill
6-foot-7, 330-pound monster

Get a recap, and vote today for the Bengals (9 a.m. ET), Giants (noon ET) and Bears (3 p.m. ET).

NFL Draft Challenge!
Quickie Draft Challenge! 5 days to go! Don't forget to sign up for the new "Daily Quickie Readers" group of ESPN.com's "Draft Forecast" game. (Open to everyone; no password needed). Sign up here!

Keith Hernandez:
Under scrutiny for making sexist comments on TV about a female Padres trainer. Did he learn nothing from hitting on Elaine Benes? He says "teasing"; I say "idiot."
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
NBA Daily Dime
Page 2 Index
NBA First Team
All-"Game 1"
LeBron James
32 pts, 11 reb, 11 asts
Elton Brand
21 pts, 8 reb, 4 blocks
Tony Parker
25 pts (9-11 FG in 1st half)
Dwyane Wade
30 pts (14 in 4th), 11 asts
Tim Thomas
Surprise! 22 pts, 15 reb.

BCS Watch: With 5th BCS bowl added for '07, the BCS might change the current criteria (9 W's, top-12 BCS ranking) for selection. All about $$$.

Fifty-three percent of fans polled said MLB isn't doing enough to curb steroids. Increased testing and tougher penalties aren't satisfying? What would be? (via AP)

Urban Meyer denies it, but Florida's spring football game cracked open a QB controversy between senior Chris Leak and frosh Tim Tebow.

And how was your weekend? NFL DB Ricky Manning Jr., who got an offer sheet from the Bears on Friday, was arrested for suspicion of assault Sunday in Los Angeles. (via AP)

NBA Monday: CHI at MIA. I thought the Bulls kept Wade in check. If 30 and 11 is "in check," I don't want to see when he really goes off (8 p.m. ET).

Plus DEN at LAC: If you never thought you'd see a Clips playoff game, here's your chance to see fans who have earned this one (10:30 p.m. ET).

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