June 21, 2006
Dwyane Wade:
If you factor in skills, likability and, of course, winning, the NBA Finals MVP (36 pts, 10 reb in Game 6) is the best player in the NBA right now.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

As of this morning, there are no updated posts on Mark Cuban's blog, expressing his emotion over last night's NBA finale.

Here's what he might be mulling over -- in true blog style, listed reverse-chronologically:

6:45 a.m.
To all my critics out there, I hope you saw that TV shot of me immediately after the game, out on the court. I was clapping.

That's the image I want you to take into the offseason, not the one of me screaming at the refs after Game 5.

I was clapping for my team (it was an amazing season), I was clapping for the Heat (they earned it), and I was clapping for the NBA.

Yes, commissioner Stern, you read that right. Because, despite everything else, I love this game. And the NBA just finished a playoff season that was as good as any in years.

As the Mavs' owner, I'm disappointed. As an NBA fan, though, I can accept the result as the crowning achievement of the careers of legends like Shaq, Zo and Payton -- and the ascendancy of the greatest player in the league, Dwyane Wade.

Even as upset as I am, I'm nothing if not an optimist. We'll try to get 'em next year, but no matter what happens in the future, the league is better now than when I entered it.

5:06 a.m.
I'm still up. This feeling stinks. It stinks. It STINKS. I IM'ed Rather. He said that Keith Van Horn should have played. Is it too early in the morning to curse?

4:22 a.m.
Can I just say one last thing about the refs, and then I promise I'll be over it. Once again, Dwyane Wade had as many (or nearly as many) free throws by himself as we did as a team. The Heat made four more free throws (in a 3-point result), but took 14 more shots.

If Mickey Arison invites me to the Heat's victory parade, I'll show up wearing a Wade jersey, believe me. But his Jordanesque star treatment is going to keep me up nights all summer long.

2:34 a.m.:
I regret nothing. If caring about your team is wrong, I don't want to be right. Was my team's four-game collapse a reflection of my own frantic style?

In our spirit of blaming everyone but ourselves the past seven days, I'll say that it wasn't me. I can only sit courtside and cheer, maybe buy a new exercise bike. I can't make plays.

1:13 a.m.
The NBA can have my $250,000. But what I'll remind them is this: Money can't buy happiness.

Oh, it can buy a sports team. It can buy great players. It can buy appearances on "Letterman." It can buy Dan Rather and "Good Night, and Good Luck."

But, in the end, it can't help me buy my way out of this sense of crushing defeat.

More Ozzie Beanball
Last night, new White Sox reliever David Riske did what rookie Sean Tracey wouldn't do a week ago:

He plunked an opposing batter with a pitch in retribution for a previous inning's beaning against one (no, TWO!) of his teammates.

And then Riske was tossed, along with Ozzie Guillen.

I'm not sure if Riske will earn a bonus from Ozzie; the pitcher will almost certainly have his manager's respect.

'Zo Mourning and Gary Payton: Old-timers get their rings
Adrian Beltre: Hits HR in winning homecoming vs. Dodgers
Steve Alford: Gets 1-year deal ext. at Iowa (through 2010)
MLB HGH Tests: Bud says league won't freeze urine samples
Clemson: CWS No. 1 seed eliminated by loss to CS-Fullerton
Mary Pierce: Joins Lindsay, Serena in missing Wimby (foot)
But the situation was a great example of where baseball's muddled brand of vigilante justice falls apart.

Both teams were warned by the umps after Sidney Ponson hit TWO White Sox players (with the bases loaded, no less) in the inning before.

But if MLB is going to allow the team effectively "throwing the first punch" to get away with it -- while punishing the team that stands up to defend itself -- the entire system will fall apart.

I'm no fan of MLB's unwritten rules of retribution (wasn't Chicago's 20-6 beating enough payback?), but as long as MLB is going to allow it to happen on one side, it can't hold the other side to a HIGHER standard.

MLB All-Star Update
The AL Axis of All-Stars is cracking! With just eight days left to vote, three vote-leaders (of the seven total from NY/Boston) are vulnerable:

Out! Johnny Damon
Replaced by: Ichiro

Nearly out! Jason Varitek
Only 27,000 behind: Pudge

In jeopardy! Robinson Cano
Within 126K: Tad Iguchi

Fans were obviously dissatisfied with seven of eight AL starters being from New York or Boston; four of eight is WAY more reasonable. Keep making it happen!

Meanwhile, It Still Counts: After owners and union agreed, the All-Star Game winner this year will once again get home-field advantage in the World Series. Yes, it's better than nothing.

(Count me among the supporters for Rob Neyer's idea: Give the league with the better overall interleague record the World Series HFA.)

NBA Draft Watch
One week away!

Given the uncertainty at the top of the draft, here's a weird "rumour," via today's Toronto Sun:

The Raptors trading the No. 1 overall pick to the Bobcats, along with PG Alvin Williams, for Charlotte's No. 3 pick and PG Brevin Knight.

That makes sense for the Raptors, if they think they can still draft Euro-stud Andrea Bargnani at the No. 3 spot (and save some rookie salary), but what's in it for the Bobcats?

For Michael Jordan to dangle as trade bait? To have his pick of players? To show he's a deal-maker?

Chad Ford was reporting that new honcho Jordan likes Brandon Roy; maybe he wants to insure he gets his pick by jumping ahead of his old team, the Bulls, who have been rumored to like Roy, too.

I don't think it's "too high" to draft Roy at No. 1 overall, particularly since experts already had him in the draft's top 5.

And in a draft where fans and experts are hard-pressed to pick a definitive "No. 1" player (Bargnani? Aldridge? Thomas? Morrison?), "best fit" is as good a draft rationale as any to take a player No. 1 overall.

NHL Good News
You can partially blame the NHL's lockout for Stanley Cup Game 7 TV ratings that were down 25 percent from 2004's Game 7.

But you have to CREDIT the lockout for fiscal responsibility that has resulted in a 13 percent increase in each team's salary cap for next season, from $39 million to $44 million.

More money for player salaries means an even more competitive distribution of players, which means better product. Forget the superficiality of TV ratings as a worthwhile NHL metric; instead, focus on those dollars.

From that perspective, the first season back from the lockout was a rousing success.

Anna Benson, Novelist?
One might think that Anna Benson's real life is far more interesting than any fiction; certainly any fiction that SHE could come up with.

And yet, the bloggers at GalleyCat report that Benson is working on a roman a clef, tentatively titled (and untentatively promoted as) "Baseball Wives."

One can only hope at least one plot point will involve a pitcher who cheats (and I'm not talking about HGH), and the spouse who seeks retribution with the assistant groundskeeper, among other team employees.

And yet, if you think that a novel by Anna Benson sounds awful, just wait until she sells the film rights.

Michael Owen:
England striker is out of the World Cup with a knee injury, tempering the Three Lions' Group B win -- knockout match vs. Ecuador ahead.
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie Live
Page 2 Index
NBA Daily Dime
2006-07 NBA Contenders
NBA ushers in "Wade Era"
Their turn in rotation?
Must re-sign Ben Wallace
Motivated or one-hit wonder?
Need big move this summer

Smoltz willing to be traded? "If it happens, I'd be open to it." The Braves should have an unromanticized vision of their season and do it.

World Cup Today: In one of the best games of the first round, unbeaten (and unstoppable?) Argentina plays unbeaten Holland for Group C title.

Coach K on his silence during lax scandal: "I think it's important for me to remember my place. I am the basketball coach. I'm not the president."

The hot trend in college sports? Conferences starting their own niche TV networks. The Big Ten will announce theirs today (via Chicago Trib)

Northwestern's women's soccer coach resigns. If all college coaches resigned if their underage players drank, there'd be no college coaches.

Uecker stalker update: You know it's a little scarier than usual when a case can't proceed because the stalker *can't be found.* Yikes.

Roids Watch: No surprise, the tainted Orioles insist that David Segui acted alone in taking HGH (consistent with Segui's own statements.)

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