Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Extra Point/ESPN Sportsbeat for April 1-15, 2003
Schaap: History on Burk's side
TUESDAY, APRIL 15, 2003
Extra Point -- Jeremy Schaap (morning): "It's become quite fashionable the last few days to rip Martha Burk, whose anti-Augusta rally drew only a few dozen protesters, but we should not take the low turnout as evidence of the inherent injustice of her cause. On the contrary, it is rare, exceedingly rare, for a cause in its infancy to draw the majority to its side. Fifty six years ago today, Jackie Robinson broke the color line in major-league baseball. It's worth remembering that at the time Robinson debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers, most people thought Branch Rickey was out of his mind, including the vast majority of major-league baseball players. There were those who argued that blacks had their own leagues and teams, that they didn't need to be in the major leagues. Whatever you think of Martha Burk's methods, try to focus on her message, which is really rather simple: Women should not be discriminated against, not at a golf club that invites the whole world to watch its tournament every April. History is on her side."
Extra Point -- Dan Le Batard (afternoon): "Well, it turns out Roy Williams does give a bleep about North Carolina, and now all those apologizing for the way Williams boo-hooed his way through the Final Four can shut up. He talked about what a difficult time this was for him -- his great burden being choosing between two dream jobs -- and now he 'Ben Howlands' his way out of Kansas. We keep focusing on the coaches in this sport, saying they are the only constant, but how constant can something that is forever changing really be? So many of the coaches who aren't 'Matt Dohertyed' pull a Roy Williams or maybe even a Jim Harrick, and in the end, the students can't transfer the way the coaches like Williams do -- not without penalty anyway. You ought to give a bleep about the unfairness in that, because Williams lands in a soft place, but the freshman at Kansas he promised four years doesn't."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "Remember when the New York tabloids were wringing their collective hands a couple months back? They were predicting that George Steinbrenner's meddling and criticism of icon Derek Jeter would once again upset the Yankee apple cart. Well, Jeter may be hurt, and that cart may yet wobble, but it doesn't look like April is the cruelest month for 'Boss George' and the Bronx Bombers. They're sitting at 10-2, already leading frustrated arch rival Boston by three games in the AL East headed into tonight's home game against Toronto. It may be only April, but there's a Yankee solidly in the early lead for Rookie of the Year, and it's Hideki Matsui. He's already driven in 14 runs, including three with a homer in last night's 10-9 victory over the Blue Jays. Meanwhile, 40-year-old Roger Clemens is 2-0 in his first three starts, charging hard to get the five he needs for 300. There is one big negative for the Yankees other than injuries to Jeter and closer Mariano Rivera. Cuban rookie José Contreras has not pitched well. If he doesn't turn it around soon, 'The Boss' will ship Contreras to Columbus. That aside, there are far more ups than downs with the Yankees right now, and they rate an early, straight 'A.'
"Call it the first step in the healing process at North Carolina. Roy Williams had been Dean Smith's choice all along to run the Tar Heels. Now the old coach, his cronies and the rest of 'The Family' will be welcome again at practice. There was an enormous rift between Matt Doherty and the old guard around the 'Dean Dome.' He had even exiled Dean's secretary to the basement in his effort to stamp the program with his own identity. But hugs and wins are two different things. Like a lot of coaches have discovered out in Westwood, you have to tread lightly when you follow in the footsteps of a legend. A lot of excellent coaches have walked away from UCLA without ever filling the shoes of John Wooden. Roy has a good chance to turn things around, but it's not inconceivable Westwood could repeat itself in Chapel Hill."
Le Batard: Even in defeat, Tiger's the story
MONDAY, APRIL 14, 2003
Extra Point -- Dan Le Batard (morning): "'This is good for golf, Tiger losing.' That's what the sport has become now. Not 'How did Ernie Els do?' Not 'Where's Vijay Singh?' Not 'Why does fill Mickelson physically look like he swallowed a dinosaur egg?' No, it's, 'Did Tiger win, or did he lose?' That's it. While The Masters proved that everyone else isn't necessarily playing for second place, it did prove again that everyone else is a secondary storyline, Martha Burk included. Nice protest, by the way. More media people and police officers than actual protestors. Turns out this no-women edict was a media-generated controversy. Anyway, the infallibility of Tiger? That, too, is something of a myth. Golf didn't need him rallying to climb all the big names ahead of him on the leader board. He has been gluttonous about his greatness, and it was good for his game Sunday that he finally decided to share some of his wealth."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "You have to give the Augusta National Golf Club credit for this much: They have managed to make one of the world's greatest golf courses even better. It used to be you could show up there with your putter and win yourself a green jacket. You could hit drives all over the property and recover fairly easily. How do you think Seve Ballesteros won it twice? But no more. You pay a price for wide ones now and have to accept it. You now have to think out there, as CBS' excellent analyst Lanny Wadkins pointed out repeatedly all weekend. You get yourself in a bad spot at Augusta now, and you have got to protect bogey first and then worry about saving par. That was Tiger Woods' real error Sunday. He drove it in trouble on a short hole but made up for that with a brilliant, left-handed recovery. His big mistake was then trying to stiff it for par, instead skulling it over the green en route to double bogey. With U.S. Open fairways, the greatest greens on the planet and all the heritage, they have almost everything now at Augusta National."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "We begin by turning to the ancient calendar of the Chinese. It says this is the Year of the Sheep. As a matter of fact, if you look a little more deeply, it's the Year of the Black Sheep, something Western culture uses to symbolize an oddity. And nothing is more odd than the start of the Year of the Black Sheep baseball season. Look at the evidence. Before he finally won yesterday, Greg Maddux had combined with Pedro Martínez, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling to start 0-8 with an ERA of 7.23. Hall of Famers-in-waiting, yes, but you wouldn't know it from this month. Check out the batting leaders -- the Cardinals' Jim Edmonds and the Angels' Garret Anderson. Both have career batting averages just under .300, but right now they're hitting closer to .500. Then there's the standings. Look who's leading the NL East -- the Montréal-San Juan Expos, the only team that can print its program in two languages, neither of them English. And how about the Kansas City Royals? At 9-1, it's a testament to having a payroll ranked among the top 29. You may think this whole thing is a quirk -- like a black sheep -- but here's hoping that 2004, the Year of the Monkey, doesn't get here too soon.
"From Tiger Woods' charge on Saturday morning to Jeff Maggert's strange bunker shot to Mike Weir's topsy-turvy, playoff victory last night. Was that a great Masters tournament or what? Even better was that this was the first major sporting event to be carried on American television commercial-free. How great was that? We have one person to thank for all this: Martha Burk. Hey, Martha, let me just drop a hint your way: Among all the players who ever have donned a uniform in the National Football League, not one has been a woman. Hey, Martha, if you can get us a Super Bowl without TV time-outs, I have Paul Tagliabue's telephone number right here. By the way, folks, after watching a ton of Masters coverage this weekend, I am left with one question: Whatever happened to Martha Burk?"
Wilson: Breath of fresh Air
SATURDAY, APRIL 12, 2003
Extra Point -- Chuck Wilson (morning): "Now that the Washington Wizards have officially been knocked out of playoff contention, the Michael Jordan critics will be out in force telling us what a failure his comeback has been. They're still mad that he didn't ride off into the sunset after his series-ending shot to win his last NBA title. So some argue that MJ has tarnished his reputation. What nonsense. Michael Jordan returned because he loves to play and missed the competition. There were critics who said he wouldn't hold up physically, and his game would be a shell of what it once was. Last year Jordan did suffer an injury, but this season he has played every game. He's averaged 20 points and logged more than 37 minutes per game -- at age 40. Individually, he's done more than most expected. What about the team you say? OK, you're right. He wasn't able to make the Wizards a winner. The fact is they should have made the playoffs, but has it tarnished his legacy as a player? No way. Years from now, when you talk about Michael Jordan, the memories will still take you back to his glory years with the Bulls. Nothing has and nothing could change that."
Anderson: Bohl'd over
FRIDAY, APRIL 11, 2003
Extra Point Commentary A.M. -- John Anderson: "So former Kansas athletics director Al Bohl is stunned and sickened that the basketball coach can run his boss out of a job---is this some sort of Jayhawk joke? Of course he can. And so can most any high powered coach at most any major university. Roy Williams isn't the first and won't be the last to flex his position and popularity to get what he wants from above, whether it's a raise or a change in management. Look at the school recruiting Williams. You don't think Dean Smith worked for who he wanted to work for at North Carolina? Ditto for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke or Lute Olsen at Arizona. These guys aren't monsters they're masters. Won enough games and made enough money for the school to have their say. Same goes for football coaches, as long as they're winning big. Bohl's 652 days on the job were nothing compared to Williams 418 wins. Listen, a great number of A-D's are basically bean counters who too often show up to hire and fire coaches and never get taken to task. Bohl did.....just didn't like it."
Extra Point Commentary P.M. -- Shelley Smith: "US Troop commanders storming into Baghdad this week reportedly completely changed tactics at the last minute upon learning that Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins had undermined the U.S. position. At least that's what Baseball Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey believed could have happened had he allowed the 15th anniversary celebration of the movie "Bull Durham" to go on as planned because the hit film's two stars have spoken out against the war. Among his next moves, Petroskey plans to keep Steve Nash out of the NBA playoffs, US hockey teams from playing in Canada and actor Michael Moore from appearing in any movie that might win an award. What Petroskey clearly doesn't understand is that speaking out against the war is first of all, a constitutional right, isn't the same as not supporting our troops who are heroically fighting to preserve that right and that, most likely, they don't give a flip about what he does or doesn't do. as Robbins wrote in response to the cancellation: 'Long live democracy, free speech and the 69 Mets -- all improbable, glorious miracles that I have always believed in.' Free Bull Durham."
Sportsbeat -- Brent Musburger: "With a week to go till the NBA playoffs, we turn our attention today to the upcoming NFL Draft, there are six quarterbacks this year who are drawing attention as potential high-round picks. First-USC's Carson Palmer. Scouts love Palmer's deep ball, but there are concerns that his senior season with the Trojans was just a one-year wonder. Second-Marshall's Byron Leftwich, whose courage in playing through injuries this past year has earned him a ton of praise. Still, some wonder if those same injuries have made Leftwich damaged goods. Third-Florida's Rex Grossman, who may have the best arm among the top QB's in the draft, but who ALSO has a clear lack of mobility. The 4th quarterback on the list is the fastest riser up the draft board among QB's-Cal's Kyle Boller. But like Carson Palmer, skeptics aren't sure Boller's senior year was a one-year wonder. Fifth is Louisville's Dave Ragone, a hard-throwing lefty whose stock has fallen since last fall, when he began the season in many eyes as the top NFL quarterback prospect. Rounding out the list is perhaps the most controversial of the quarterbacks-Chris Simms of Texas. Most believe Simms will last into the second, if not, third round, but you do wonder what new Cowboys coach Bill Parcells is thinking. The Tuna had tremendous success with Chris's father Phil and Parcells has been very quiet about the two young QBs he has in Dallas at the moment-Quincy Carter and Chad Hutchinson."
"The Cincinnati Bengals own the Number One pick in the draft, but it's unclear as to what they will do. New coach Marvin Lewis is a defensive guy, so don't be surprised to see him trade down to land a top defensive back like Kansas State's Terrence Newman or Washington's Marcus Trufant. After all, there is no guarantee a quarterback like Carson Palmer or Byron Leftwich will turn the Bengals around, and after getting burnt a few years back on Akili Smith, Cincy cannot afford another high round bust."
McKendry: Anthony relishes the moment
THURSDAY, APRIL 10, 2003
Extra Point Commentary P.M. -- Chris Moore: "So Al Bohl, the former Athletic Director at Kansas, believes he was thrown under the bus by current and maybe soon to be former, basketball coach Roy Williams. Well, Dr. Bohl welcome to the big time, if you take the A.D. job at Kansas, you better understand that you're taking a back seat to the basketball coach. Bohl was quoted as saying "it's a sad day in college athletics when a college basketball coach can hire and fire an athletic director." Please. What course did Bohl take at Kansas, Naive 101. If so, I'm sure he passed. Make a list, in your head, of A.D.'s throughout this country that play second fiddle to coaches who supposedly work for them. How about players in the pros that far out-value and out-power the managers, coaches and general managers that are their supposed bosses. Perhaps none of us are comfortable with this turn of events, but the fact that it exists and has existed is no secret. Follow the power by following the dollars. And don't complain when it goes against you. It's called whining."
Sportsbeat -- Brent Musburger : "Until the playoffs prove otherwise, the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings remain the class of the NBA, and the two will meet up for their fourth and final regular season matchup later tonight. One storyline to watch-how will Shaq react to being fined for skipping yesterday's Lakers practice. In case you missed it, O'Neal phoned in 15 minutes prior to the practice with two flat tires. Phil Jackson, however, wasn't buying. As the Zenmaster pointed out, Shaq only has about a dozen cars and surely he could have found at least ONE with four tires full of air, therefore the fine. But in the end, it's only tip money for the Shaq Daddy, and besides, the Kings always seems to bring out the best in O'Neal. Remember, Shaq considers Kings center Vlade Divac to be the league's biggest "flopper", and who can forget O'Neal's "Sacramento Queens" wisecrack back in the preseason. No, expect The Big Aristotle to be ready to play. Don't forget-there remains a big carrot at the end of the stick for the Lakers. With four games left to play, L.A. still has a shot to finish as high as fourth in the Western Conference, earning them home court for at least one round of the playoffs. Not bad for a team that started out the gates 11-and-19. Do the math and you'll find that the Lakers are 36-and-12 since, with wins in eight of their last ten games. The Kings, though, are just as hot-with wins in 11 of their last 12."
"As down as the NBA's Eastern Conference is perceived to be, it's still not DOWN ENOUGH to get Michael Jordan's Wizards into the post-season. MJ's disappointing final season is about to come to a close as both the Magic and Bucks hold a magic number of one for clinching the last's final two playoff spots. MJ is now home for the playoffs for the second time in as many seasons in Washington, and is left with nothing to do but ponder his future. Following last night's loss to the Celtics, Jordan did leave the door ajar for a return to Chicago as the Bulls GM. But don't expect it to happen. Above all reasons, Bulls GM Jerry Reinsdorf does not figure to pony up the cash it will take to lure Jordan back in the fold."
McKendry: Anthony relishes the moment
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9, 2003
Extra Point Commentary A.M. -- Chris McKendry: "With a net drapped around his neck, Syracuse freshman Carmelo Anthony told everyone that he didn't regret going to college. In fact, he enjoyed every moment. What's not to enjoy? Anthony is a Final Four MVP and Syracuse is a National Champion. But let's get something straight. Anthony did not go to college, he joined a basketball team for a semester and a half and brilliantly increased his draft status. Going to college means returning from New Orleans and having a grade point average come May. But Anthony's type of student is not dealing in grade point averages but draft stocks. A career high 33 points in the semifinals...three assists shy of a triple double in the title game...Anthony's name is alongside LeBron James' on everyone's draft board. His stock can only go down if he returns to college. Read between the lines, there's simply no reason for Anthony to catch up on classes when he's already caught lightning in a bottle."
Extra Point Commentary P.M. -- Jay Mariotti: "How curious to see a man of such bluster go so quietly. Jerry Krause ached to prove he could built a dynasty without his antagonist, Michael Jordan, one reason he and Jerry Reinsdorf dismantled the Bulls, one of sport's dazzling dynasties. Five years, 280 losses, two lackluster coaches, zero playoff berths, no major free agents and too many kids later, Krause departs the Bulls as a post-dynasty flop. It will go down among the infamous decisions in NBA lore, siding with Krause in a power struggle while letting Jordan and Phil Jackson leave in 1998. It would behoove Reinsdorf, the owner so blindly loyal to Krause, to undo the damage and revive pro basketball in Chicago. How can he achieve that? By bringing Jordan back. Make him the face of the organization, give him a chunk of ownership, let him woo free agents. Makes sense, right? One problem. This time, Jordan isn't listening. Reinsdorf had his chance five years ago, and now, as Jordan's playing days end, he says he'll return to the Washington Wizards' front office. As they say, touché. The least Krause could have done was have a press conference this week, but he declined. I guess the last five years speak for themselves."
Sportsbeat -- Brent Musburger: "If you're looking for a golfer to turn this weekend's Masters into something other than The Tiger Invitational, consider the following names: Davis Love, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia. All or none of the above may show up over the coming days in Augusta to make a run at the Green Jacket. But really, there are few out there who do not expect a Tiger Woods three-peat, that is, if anyone is really giving much thought to Tiger's quest. Clearly, this year's Masters has been subdued and overshadowed by Martha Burk's crusade, and more importantly, the events in the Iraqi Desert. Most, if not all of us have had a hard time focusing on fun and games when the men and women of our country have been laying their lives on the line in the Middle East. The numbers support that thought, with ratings for this spring's March Madness down 25 percent from last year. Expect the same to hold true for the Masters this weekend as our attention is sure to be turned overseas with the hope that if events, as we suspect, are winding down, our men and women have a safe return home to the U.S."
Schaap: Turco's upright lowdown style
TUESDAY, APRIL 8, 2003
Extra Point Commentary A.M. -- Jeremy Schaap: "You want someone to root for in the Stanley Cup playoffs? More important, you want an antidote to all the Sharpie-wielding, ball-hogging egomaniacs who've overrun the world of pro sports? If the answer is yes to either of those questions, Marty Turco's your man. The Dallas goaltender struck a blow for sportsmanship on Sunday. He went into the Stars' final regular-season game with a 1.75 goals-against-average. The modern NHL record was Tony Esposito's 1.77. Turco could have rested and claimed the record sitting on the bench. Instead, he played, stopped all twenty-one shots he faced and lowered his average to 1.72. He earned the record, restoring some faith in pro sports, and spurring memories of the late Ted Williams. Williams was batting .400 going into a doubleheader on the final day of the nineteen forty-one regular season. His manager gave him the option of sitting out, Williams played and ended up hitting .406. Williams would be proud of Marty Turco."
Extra Point Commentary P.M. -- Dan Davis: "Darryl Strawberry walked out of prison this morning in Gainsville, Florida. He's walked out of prison in the past, sometimes when he wasn't supposed to do so. But this time Strawberry had the blessing of the authorities, good behavior earning his release after 11 months of an l8-month sentence. Once suspects that his only hope of avoiding a return to jail is to accept a lifestyle change so radical that it must not include ANY involvement with baseball. Strawberry grew up in that game, an activity which at the highest levels fosters and encourages infidelity and substance abuse. It is beginning to change...but too late to prevent the ruination of Strawberry, who succumbed, as many have to the temptations which exist for any rich, young athlete. I'm no doctor, but I'll bet anybody that the moment Strawberry drives down Dale Mabry Boulevard in Tampa for the first time, he will be a beaten man once again. He must gather up the wife and kids and go find a life someplace else, away from the Yankees, away from the past. I hope he does."
Sportbeat -- Brent Musburger: "Well, the party's on in upstate New York, and congratulations to Jim Boeheim for bringing the championship home to Syracuse. Over the years, Boeheim has taken more than his share of hits coaching his alma mater, but in winning his first title in three tries, Boeheim had a night to remember. His Orangemen were more than ready shut down the Kansas attack, and in the end, it was Boeheim's talented group of freshmen, not the Kansas seniors, who played like veterans. Leading the way-Carmelo Anthony, who, despite being slowed by a cranky back, finished three assists shy of a triple-double in what was undoubtedly his last college game. But even without Anthony, the Orange will still have plenty to reckon with next year, including Gerry McNamara, who capped off HIS remarkable freshman year with one of the most memorable shooting performances in championship history: 6 first-half 3-pointers which gave the 'Cuse a lead they would never surrender. As for the Jayhawks, how do you explain a veteran team turning in a 12-of-30 night from the free throw line? No, sometimes, experience is NOT the be-all and end-all, and Roy Williams now has the off-season to ponder just how useless conventional wisdom can be."
"Don't book Roy Williams flight to North Carolina just yet. While Williams is sure to be the Tar Heels first choice to fill their vacant head coaching job, published reports out of the Midwest claim there could be a power play in the works that would keep Williams in Kansas. It's no secret that Williams and athletic director Al Bohl do not get along and the icy relationship could pave Williams' road out of town. But sources have told the Kansas City Star that if Bohl were to be ousted and replaced by either of Williams' two hand-picked candidates, the coach may just stay put. If in fact Kansas opts to give Williams his way, you would have to think that he will leave the Tar Heels at the alter once again."
Le Batard: Tired story
MONDAY, APRIL 7, 2003
Extra Point Commentary A.M. -- Dan Le Batard: "Why do we insist, no matter the circumstances, on making the coaches the college basketball storylines? It's lazy. It isn't Jim Boeheim's zone that has taken Syracuse right to the cusp of the championship; he never won with a team that had Derrick Coleman, Rony Seikaly, Sherman Douglas and Billy Owens. It's a bunch of exceptional, long athletes who could play any defense well, average 80 points per game and, by the way, have Carmelo Anthony. And Roy Williams, while a very nice man, kept talking about what a difficult, difficult time last week was for him. He did this while wearing Mardi Gras beads. Difficult time? Playing for the championship and deciding between two wonderful jobs? We should all have these kind of difficulties. Tonight's championship game is between two excellent programs that have rosters filled with wonderful players. Let's make this game about the kids, not the adults. Let's keep the coaches where they belong -- on the sidelines."
Extra Point Commentary P.M. -- Dan Davis: "Will Roy Williams earn his first national championship in his final game coaching Kansas tonight? Or, will Syracuse-forever coach Jim Boeheim earn HIS first? Williams has been unwilling to deny his interest in the North Carolina job and given the way Matt Doherty was rushed out of Chapel Hill last week, you have to suspect Williams has at least informally indicated to SOMEBODY, that he's a go this time around. He turned the Tar Heels down three years ago...but with a senior dominated team at Kansas, this seems the right demarcation point. Should be interesting to see if he can outcoach Boeheim tonight. Williams has the senior leadership and vaunted fast break at Kansas. Boeheim's brilliantly coached zone defenses and his much younger squad have just taken out three consecutive Big 12 teams. Will Kansas be the fourth? Why not? The Big East was slighted when the field of 64 was chosen, getting only 4 teams in. All four made the Final l6, Syracuse can win it all, and as a conference the Big East dominated the NIT also. THAT conference, it turns out, got game!"
Sports Beat -- Brent Musburger: There appear to be three scenarios that could unfold in tonight's NCAA Championship Game in New Orleans. One, the Kansas Jayhawks find a way to get it done against Syracuse and Roy Williams rides off into the North Carolina sunset, this time accepting his alma mater's invitation to return home and coach the Tar Heels. Remember, the grapevine has it that Williams and KU's athletic director Allen Bohl are not the best of buddies. Scenario Number 2, Williams cuts down the nets at the Superdome, and decides once again to stay put in Lawrence, Kansas. Three-the Orangemen take home the title and the college basketball pundits realize once and for all, that yes, Jim Boeheim CAN coach. Either way, one of the game's elite and most deserving coaches walks away with his first championship tonight in The Big Easy."
"A couple of things to keep an eye on in tonight's championship game. First-Syracuse freshman sensation Carmelo Anthony-he is easily the best pro prospect on the floor and is a consensus Top Three pick in the NBA Draft this June. The impact Anthony has had on the rest of his team is not unlike the impact Danny Manning had on Kansas' last championship team back in 1988. Anthony can single-handedly lift his team to victory this evening-he is THAT good. But don't forget about the two Kansas seniors-Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison. Recent history has shown that having star seniors with Final Four experience can be a ticket to the title-so far this decade, we've had Michigan State and Mateen Cleaves, Duke and Shane Battier, and Maryland and Juan Dixon. What a story it would be for Roy Williams if Hinrich and Collison join that illustrious group. Williams has a tremendous amount of affection for both players, who spurned the NBA dollars to return to college for their senior seasons-unheard of in this day."
Wilson: Respect for San Antonio
SATURDAY, APRIL 5, 2003
Extra Point -- Chuck Wilson (morning): "The San Antonio Spurs aren't getting the respect they deserve. They have won 23 of 27 games since the All-Star break and are a league-best 31-11 against teams .500 or better, but most of the talk in the NBA's Western Conference revolves around the Lakers, Kings and Mavericks. Critics claim the Spurs are too dependant on Tim Duncan and will fail in the playoffs. Undaunted, the Spurs have moved within a half-game of first-place Dallas and hold the tie-break advantage over the Mavs. If the Spurs do finish first and beat the '8' seed, they would the play the '4' vs. '5' winner -- right now Portland or Minnesota. Avoiding the Lakers, Kings and Mavs in the early rounds would give them the Spurs a decided advantage. There is just one problem: The Lakers are closing fast, and they may finish as the '4' or '5' seed. Their comeback win last night at Memphis moved them into a tie with Utah for sixth place, two games out of fifth. Wouldn't it be a kick in the teeth for the Spurs if they overtook the Mavs and finished first, only to have to play the Lakers in Round 2?"
Schaap: In lieu of Tiger
FRIDAY, APRIL 4, 2003
Extra Point A.M. -- Jeremy Schaap: "This week in Atlanta, the PGA Tour presents the Bell South Classic, without Tiger Woods, which is like throwing an inauguration without a president. Well, not quite, but close. Next week, we get the Masters, and it's never too early to handicap the field. Of course, the field is already handicapped, by the presence of Mister Woods, who is no longer so much a part of the field as above it. I don't know the actual betting line, but it's hard for me to imagine that Woods isn't better than even money against the rest of the field. Think of that-one man against dozens of the world's best and most people think it's more likely that he'll win than any of them. However, if it's not going to be Tiger, again, who will it be? There's Davis Love, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, maybe even Padraig Harrington. Then there are two men in their forties who might just have the right stuff-both had superb weeks at the Players' Championship. Don't be too surprised if Fred Couples wins his second Masters or if Jay Haas wins his first."
Extra Point P.M. -- Shelley Smith: "If Roy Williams really wants to keep his team from being distracted by the North Carolina rumors, all he has to do is say: "I AM NOT A CANDIDATE." It's that easy. Seriously. Tell the world you're staying at Kansas for the rest of your career and we'll stop speculating. But Williams hasn't said that. All he has said is that he won't discuss the North Carolina job or any other job this week while he and his team enjoy the excitement of being in the Final Four. And so the questions keep coming. He wouldn't have to mean it, naturally. Just ask Ben Howland, the new coach at UCLA who slipped out of Pittsburgh in the dark of night following a team meeting where most of his players were led to believe he was staying. I'm most happy for the son of a friend of mine who is considering walking on at KU. Had he been given a scholarship, he'd be trapped if Williams leaves. As it stands now, he can sit back and wait while the Jayhawks battle the distractions, the non-denial, denials and the Marquette Eagles"
Wingo: Something to prove
THURSDAY, APRIL 3, 2003
Extra Point -- Trey Wingo (morning): "So who really needs it more? Thursday night -- Game 3 between the Lakers and the Mavericks. Big game, late in the season, but is it a bigger game for the Lakers or the Mavs? Los Angeles is the three-time defending champs, but as we saw against Seattle the other night, occasionally they choose not to defend anything, and for long stretches the offense is downright wretched besides Shaq and Kobe. No matter what happens, they're either sixth or seventh in the West, which leads us to the Mavs. The entire season they've had the best record in the league and have split their first two games of the season with L.A., but they need this game. They won't admit it, but the unstapling at the Staples Center still digs at them, and unless they keep winning, they not only won't have the best record in the West, they won't even win their division. The Spurs are kicking a little tail right now and could still catch the Mavs and bump Dallas all the way from one to three in the West, which would be disastrous. The Lakers are reeling, but it's the Mavs that really need to step up on Thursday."
Extra Point -- John Anderson (afternoon): "I probably will be forced to turn in my baggy shorts on this one, but with only eight games left in Michael Jordan's Wizards career, might I suggest M.J.'s two-year comeback stint in Washington has hurt his team more than it helped. That his return under the guise of helping lead a young team by example, teaching them how to work hard and win has actually done just the opposite. The view from here is that M.J. has actually retarded the growth of his franchise. The young players aren't catching on but, instead, are intimidated, getting tired of being beaten down, not mature enough to handle the so-called scathing competitiveness of 'Air Jordan.' The thing about experience is you have experience it; it can't be taught even by the best. So Jordan's 'team' comeback has become a look-at-me, last lap around the league. Players who should be doing hands-on learning at crunch time are sitting on the bench and watching as Michael takes all the shots and gets all the glory one last time while casting most the blame to substandard teammates. It's a lesson all right -- in ego and folly."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "With the start of today's BellSouth Classic in Atlanta, it marks the last chance for everyone to tune up for next week's edition of The Masters. Those sticks will be gripped a little tighter. Those game faces will take on an even more serious look. No doubt about it, folks, Martha Burk and her protesters are gettin' ready.
"Oh, just when you thought your cable operator or satellite provider had given you everything you could possibly want as a fan, did you see what The Travel Channel had on last night? It was the first installment of the World Poker Tour. Folks, I'm not kidding. The Travel Channel has paid the tour a rights fee for 13 events, and they say it'll be profitable when they sell the distribution rights overseas. I'll give them credit for one thing: They're insisting competitors pony up the ultimate ante -- an entry fee of up to $25,000. The tour's championship will be played at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, and the winner collects $1 million. I don't want to say this poker tour is quickly turning serious, but I hear the players are about to form a union just to avoid drug testing.
"They tell me Microsoft mogul Paul Allen has a bottomless supply of money. Folks, he's going to need it. According to reports, his Portland Trail Blazers, who host the Utah Jazz tonight, will lose a team-record $100 million this season. So how does this happen when you have the only major-league game in town? For starters, the Blazers' payroll is $105 million this year, including Scottie Pippen's $20 million price tag, but that's just the tip of 'Pipp's' iceberg. Remember, the NBA has a luxury tax, and in the case of Portland, it's in excess of $50 million. In essence, if you add salary and the luxury tax, Pippen's contract alone is going to cost Allen around $40 million, the most anyone is giving up in dollars for any one athlete in any one season. $100 million in losses for the Blazers, and just think, we haven't even included bail money."
McKendry: Curse of George
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2, 2003
Extra Point -- Chris McKendry (morning): "George Steinbrenner has learned a lesson: good karma cannot be bought. Steinbrenner opened the Yankees' 100th anniversary season voicing concern about Derek Jeter's declining stats and late-night hours. Golden boy Jeter giving Steinbrenner trouble? Sounded like a reach, but on opening day while reaching for third, Jeter gave Steinbrenner a real problem -- a dislocated shoulder that will cost Jeter at least the better part of two months. Jeter, who made his Yankee debut in 1995, has been on the DL three other times, never missing more than 15 days. This trip would be a problem. Jeter's replacement so far is Enrique Wilson, who batted .181 last season. Those stats would be a decline. Steinbrenner will likely go out and buy a shortstop in Jeter's absence, but here's another important lesson: With the exception of the Babe, the best Yankees aren't bought; they're born, and like karma, that's something money can't change."
Extra Point -- Jay Mariotti (afternoon): "Two years ago, Matt Doherty was national coach of the year. Today he's another unemployed American wondering why he's prematurely gray. Just what we needed, huh?, before the Final Four -- a coach shown the Final Door by 19-year-old bosses. Doherty becomes the latest Guinea pig in an increasingly evil profession, a victim of a once-steely but now-frazzled North Carolina program that lets players run the asylum. It's a bad precedent, allowing kids enough rope to hang a coach. Doherty's bosses made vague references to his so-called abusive ways yet haven't provided details. My guess is that's more façade than truth. Face it, the Tar Heels haven't made the big tournament for two years, unacceptable in the Carolina family. Too bad they don't have the guts to admit this was
about spoiled boosters, not abused kids. That quickly, the wonderful stories of March become April's afterthoughts. Now the big story at the Final Four won't be whether Roy Williams wins but whether he replaces Doherty. That's sad."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger from Denver (afternoon)
"It should come as no surprise that the two Big 12 teams are favored to get to Monday's championship game at the Final Four in New Orleans. After all, the Big 12 has proven itself all year to be the nation's top conference. The Texas Longhorns are the NCAA Tournament's lone remaining one-seed, and they are quarterbacked by super, quick point guard T.J. Ford, the best passer to roll into the Louisiana Superdome since Archie Manning. While the 'Horns are favored to beat Big East survivor Syracuse, Rick Barnes will need a big game from James Thomas and Brandon Mouton. Ford can't do it alone, especially against an air-tight, 2-3 zone that's only getting better as the tournament wears on. As for the team that won the Big 12 regular-season title, Kansas made it to the Final Four a year ago before losing to eventual national-champion Maryland in the semis. There's every reason to believe Roy Williams will be playing for his first ring Monday night if his stars take care of business against Marquette. Nick Collison was unstoppable against Duke in a regional semifinal, but he was a no-show against Arizona's zone defense in the regional final. Meanwhile, guard Kirk Hinrich picked up the slack against the Wildcats after he had turned up missing against the Blue Devils. What we're saying is you may stop one Jayhawk, but it's going to be hard to stop 'em both.
"You cannot count me as a front-runner tonight. I'm a bottom feeder here in Denver, where the Nuggets are hosting the New York Knicks at 10:30 Eastern on ESPN. The Nuggets are the possible favorite in the LeBron James derby. Now I realize you folks in Cleveland think the Cavaliers have this thing wrapped up, and a home-court loss tonight against Indiana would certainly help the cause to keep in LeBron in Ohio. Or would it? You may not have known this, but it's been 13 years since the team with the worst record actually won the draft lottery. Hey, LeBron, the air may be thin here in the Rockies, but it sure is sweet."
Moore: Perfected dimensions
TUESDAY, APRIL 1, 2003
Extra Point -- Chris Moore (morning): "As we make the transition to another baseball season, it is with great joy I tell you that I wouldn't change a thing. We often take this forum to complain, and why not? There's plenty wrong out there, but you know what? One of them isn't baseball. It's been around since the 1800s, and yet every spring I marvel at just how little I'd change the rules if I could. Almost all the spectator sports we watch have lamented the growth in players and the nature of the game changing as a result. The rim is too low, the rink's too small, the tennis and golf equipment is too high-tech, football needs replay -- you've heard it all and probably believe a lot of it. I know I do, but baseball is different. Do you really want to see aluminum bats? How about bases 100 feet apart instead of 90? How about four strikes or four outs an inning? I didn't think so. For all that's wrong, let's for a change celebrate something that's right. Perfect? Hardly, but it's as close as we're going to get."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "Admit it. You have a much better feeling about the beginning of this Major League Baseball season than you had a year ago. We were looking at a real doomsday scenario a year ago -- owners and players on a collision course with few hopes of avoiding a disastrous work stoppage. But along the way both sides came to their senses and, under the stewardship of an under-appreciated commissioner, they came to an agreement. We have yet to see if that deal will in fact save the game from its own economic self-destruction, but at least we can concentrate on the races. Most teams will survive. The National Hockey League picture is different entirely. That sport has this year's playoffs and one more season to go before it reaches its Armageddon, and there is reason to be concerned. It seems quite likely that hockey players will refuse to give the tremendous amount of ground they have to give if the NHL is to survive. Hockey is not this country's national pastime, and it is in serious trouble here. Players don't seem to realize that."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "Baseball's opening day arrived early this year, and if you saw any of the highlights of blizzard ball in Baltimore, you'd say it was too early. As a matter of fact, there was even more evidence that April fools were enclosed in March trappings. Randy Johnson had won 10 consecutive opening-day starts until Hideo Nomo and the Los Angeles Dodgers torched the Arizona lefty 8-0. Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was hell-bent on third base when his left shoulder ran full-speed into a Blue Jays catcher in full body armor. Jeter and that separated shoulder will be missing for a while from the Yankee lineup, and you can bet that the New York tabloids will be counting the days. Tom Glavine showed up wearing a New York Mets uniform on opening day, and those lovable Cubbies treated him like a batting-practice pitcher. Final score: Chicago 15, New York 2. The only thing missing was Sammy Sosa's 500th home run. Glavine even got booed by the Shea faithful. Hey, Tom, as Jason Giambi would say, 'Welcome to New York.' Oh, Glavine's old buddy, Greg Maddux, took the millions to stick around Atlanta long enough to get roughed up yesterday by the San Juan Expos. Maybe all this bizarro baseball was God's way of saying don't start the season until April.
"While we're waiting for the NCAA Final Four, we'll focus tonight on the semifinals of the NIT. First up is Georgetown against Minnesota. Who would have thought the program left in scandal by Clem Haskins would be the last Big Ten team left standing in college hoops? The nightcap has Bob Knight leading his Texas Tech team against Mike Jarvis and Saint John's. Jarvis is such a fan of Knight, he says he had to scrape his pennies together to buy a copy of 'The General's' first book -- Let's Play Defense. I'm just trying to remember if Knight had a chapter on how to deal with home cooking, because you can bet it'll be a pro-Johnny crowd tonight at the Garden. You can hear both games tonight starting at 7 Eastern on ESPN Radio."