June 29, 2006
Andrea Bargnani:
First Euro to be picked No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft. (Only disappointment: Where was the all-world fashion from the Italian export?)
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Maybe the Knicks should have drafted NBA deputy commissioner and 2nd-round draft emcee Russ Granik.

Because it couldn't possibly have gotten worse for Isiah Thomas than drafting nonfactor Renaldo Balkman and nebulous Mardy Collins.

Knicks fans packing the Garden's seating area were my top highlight of the draft. All within minutes of the draft's 7:30 p.m. start time:

• "Fire Isiah!" chants begin.

• "This is a very rowdy crowd," David Stern observes.

• "Where's our draft pick?" was shouted when the Bulls' pick came up.

The hyped "protest march" before the draft fizzled -- only around two dozen people reportedly showed -- but bitter fans can take heart that it was eclipsed by the Knicks' draft dud.

Seriously: Renaldo Balkman?

As Greg Anthony pointed out, at least every other team in the 1st round got some obvious value -- instant help or potential or cap flexibility.

Except the Knicks: Balkman was easily the draft's most ludicrous pick, and one of the most questionable 1st-round picks in recent memory.

A team in the Knicks' position (and an exec in Isiah's position) needs to draft for one thing: Hope.

Selecting Balkman? Hope-less.

(Apparently, Balkman wasn't even included in the NBA's official draft guide. Maybe that's why Isiah was the only exec to see his 1st-round potential.)

How bad was it? Fans, expecting slip-sliding PG Marcus Williams at best and at least some name-brand talent at worst, were too stunned to even boo that loudly.

(By comparison, No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani got more boos. When it came to the Balkman pick, fans were obviously more baffled than irate; Isiah had succeeded in finally breaking their spirits.)

I'm not kidding about drafting Granik, who was conducting his final draft before retirement from the league.

As Granik concluded the draft and walked off the stage, you could hear in the background a final chant from Knicks fans: "One! More! Year!"

Isiah will never hear that.

Unless, after he blew his most obvious chance to even begin to repair relationships with the fans, they were simply reminding the Knicks' ownership of their deadline to fire him.

NBA Draft Wrap
If "Bargnani," "Balkman" and "Boo!" were three of the biggest highlights of draft night, what other "B" story lines dominated?

Blazers! I think Portland just made another trade. They got ripped on TV, but Brandon Roy was my top player in this draft. I'll take him now for Rookie of the Year.

Bulls! Got Tyrus Thomas, the most explosive talent in the draft, along with Swiss swingman Thabo Sefolosha. (The best is yet to come: What about those predraft rumors of a July deal for KG?!?!)

Boston! On its face, trading for Sebastian Telfair and drafting Rajon Rondo seems counterintuitive. But not if they're planning to move one in a deal to bring Allen Iverson to Boston. Oh, and they dumped Raef LaFrentz.

Battier! When Rudy Gay is scoring 20-plus ppg for the Grizzlies (with fellow draftee Kyle Lowry helping too), Wednesday night's swindling of the Rockets will be looked back on as Jerry West's finest moment as Memphis prez.

Joe Mauer: Worth tracking daily! 2/3 to raise avg to .392
Herb Brooks and Patrick Roy: Inducted into Hockey Hall
Outdoor NHL: Plan to put '06-07 games in MLB/NFL stadia?
Phil Garner: Suspended 1 game for chair-toss vs. Tigers
Steve Howe: Turns out meth was in his system when he died
NFL: Sued by players for recommending dodgy hedge fund
More Draft W/L
W: Marcus Williams at No. 21
L: Saer Sene at No. 10
Nets go UCrazy; Sonics: Hunh?

2nd-round Sleeper:
W: Alex Johnson (Memphis at 45)
L: Solomon Jones (Atlanta at 33)
Jerry West had a good night.

W: UConn: 4 first-rounders
L: West VA: Pittsnogled!
How did Gansey go undrafted?

Draft Cliché:
W: "Wingspan"
L: "Need"
"Wingspan" the new "Length"

W: LSU's Tyrus Thomas
L: Sonics' Saer Sene
See P2's Fashion Report Card!

MLB Hit List
Pedro rocked: Clobbered for 8 runs (6 ER) in just 3 IP in return to Fenway. Makes it easy for Red Sox fans to cheer him.

A-Rod cheered: Smacked a two-run, walk-off HR in the 12th inning. And, yes: makes it easy for Yankees fans to cheer him.

Santana sizzles: 9 K's (increasing his MLB-leading total to 124) and 0 ER in 7 IP in the Twins' 7th straight win (and their 17th in last 19). And yet?

Verlander sizzler: The Tigers' rookie sensation allowed 0 ER in 8 IP, with 7 K's and 0 BBs in yet another Detroit win to foil the hopes of the Twins or White Sox (also winners) to gain ground.

World Cup: Refs Picked
Given how much impact the refs have had on the World Cup this year, it's worth analyzing the pool of referee teams picked from the previous rounds to work the World Cup's quarters, semis and final.

Unsurprisingly, Russian ref Valentin Ivanov was cut from the World Cup roster of refs after he broke the single-game record for carding earlier this week in the Portugal-Netherlands game.

Surprisingly, Luis Medina Cantalejo of Spain, who gave the Italians that sketchy injury-time penalty kick to beat the scrappy Australians earlier this week, was kept on. More abbondanza for the Azzurri?

Brown Wants His $40M
As expected, Larry Brown filed a grievance with the league for his contract's remaining $40 million. The decision goes to Renaldo Balkman David Stern.

Let's review my plan:

I'd love to see David Stern force the Knicks to pay all $40 million (just for being so stupid -- and forcing Stern to sit through Wednesday night's angry mob of a draft audience).

But then I'd want to see him give Brown the ol' "USFL" judgment: $1 (OK, maybe $4; one for each contract year remaining), then earmark the rest of the money to fight corruption in youth basketball.

New PGA Tour Playoff
Playoffs?! Playoffs?! The PGA Tour's new "points" gimmick will have purists sputtering more than Jim Mora.

After all: What does it say when the placid PGA Tour is taking its competitive cues from noisy NASCAR?

The PGA Tour announced its "playoff"-style points system, to kick in over the final four tournaments of the year.

I love it.

Golf has never been about rankings, only majors and money.

So by putting such high stakes ($10 million) on the results over the last four tournaments of the year, it'll get players' attention.

And by linking the final set of non-major tournaments together (cutting players along the way!), it'll keep fans' attention.

Wimby: Match-Fixing?
Wait, this isn't Italy!

But nothing adds spice to glamorous events like investigations into fixing, all the more so at an event as stuffy as Wimbledon.

Who is Carlos Berlocq? An unknown from Argentina, ranked No. 89, until Wednesday's match with wild-card entry Richard Bloomfield.

Bets on the match increased 30-fold, with more than a half-million dollars put on the underdog Bloomfield, who won 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.

Results like that raise red flags, especially when combined with the irregular betting patterns.

Individual-sport athletes need to take their cue from the seasoned experts within American college football and basketball:

It's all about obfuscating the thrown games behind a point-spread, not actually winning or losing.

"Summer House"
This is the true story (true story!) of seven college football players, picked to live in a house and have their lives taped, and find out what happens when jocks stop being polite and start being real.

Think of ESPNU's upcoming TV show "Summer House" as the "Real World: Jock City." The biggest question is this: How quickly will one of the players obliterate his NCAA eligibility by doing something outrageously stupid?

Ali's Snack Line
The epidemic of childhood obesity is giving new meaning to the words "heavyweight contender."

Consequently, Muhammad Ali is reportedly getting into the ring with a new line of healthy food products.

I've already thought of a jingle:

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee: With Ali's healthy snack treats, kids can KO Mr. Fatty.

Pittsburgh Pirates:
Set a team record with 13th straight loss, blowing a 3-run lead in the 7th, then having would-be All-Star Jason Bay K with 2-on/2-out in the 9th.
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie Live
Page 2 Index
Katz on Draft
All-Fashion Team
Tyrus Thomas
Sported LSU purple!
Brandon Roy
Brown did for him!
Ronnie Brewer
Sky-blue controversy!
Rachel Nichols
Paced the TV crew
Michael Jordan
See P2's full report!

More Wimbledon: Remember when Tim Henman was a factor? Not against Federer (6-4, 6-0, 6-2). Even Federer himself says he's playing "excellent."

NBA gets a new ball: Traditional leather is out, and the new "composite" ball is in. Yes, but will it help me shoot better in my rec league?

The saddest news of the day? Hearing that Evander Holyfield is planning a comeback for August. Stockpile the soft foods for a decade from now.

Bruins hire ex-Red Wings coach Dave Lewis. Wait: Can he bring back Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov? Maybe draftee Phil Kessel will help.

More on Verlander: He became the first rookie in four years to win 10 games before the All-Star Break.

Peter Gammons was listed in good condition yesterday at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Here's to a full and speedy recovery.

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