NEXT 2004 REPORT CARD
We Call ‘Em Like We See ‘Em
—And Sometimes We See ‘Em
LeBron James: Forget about the Nike deal. King James has kept the first part of his contract with the game by putting up better rookie numbers than previous prep-jumpers Kobe, T-Mac and KG. The second part of the contract: reinvent himself for the next 10 years to keep up with the hype.
Candace Parker: Yeah, she averaged another double-double (24.3 ppg, 14.2 rpg), led Central High on a 35-0 sprint to the Illinois Class AA championship and became the first junior to be named Naismith Player of the Year. But let’s not notify the Vatican just yet. Save that for next year, when the Tennessee signee helps Pat Summitt finally whup Geno’s goliaths.
Marian Gaborik: Rebounded nicely from a late-season slump to rally the Wild past the Canucks and Avalanche—before some Giguere guy ended the scoring spree. Two straight 30-goal seasons have us thinking maybe Jiggy vs. Gabby is the West’s next great playoff matchup.
Josh Beckett: Strolled off into the Bronx sunset with a shutout, a share of the postseason strikeout record (47, with Randy Johnson) and World Series MVP under his belt. And he did it without ever uttering the words Cowboy Up. Can’t decide which we appreciate more.
Hannah Teter: The rookie copped medals in all five of her superpipe starts, reeling off 900s from Aspen to Japan. At September’s World Cup in Chile, she linked the move to a McTwist and ripped a gold-medal final run that put a ridiculous seven points between her and the silver.
Heather OReilly: Looked like she was headed for the No Calls pile when she crumpled with a broken leg after scoring Team USA’s first goal in a World Cup warm up against Ireland. Then she came back strong for the college season, leading her undefeated Tar Heels to the national championship.
Hee Seop Choi: We were reaching like Steve Bartman on this one. A sweet April made the big first baseman Darren Baker’s favorite. But a midseason collision (with Kerry Wood) and collapse (an 11-for-67 slump) didn’t do him any favors with Dusty. Maybe now Dad can help Darren make drawings of Derrek Lee.
Ricky Barnes: The buff duffer looked good enough to turn pro after dropping a first-round 69 by Tigers side at the Masters. Too bad he missed the cuts in his next five starts and failed to qualify in Q School.
Greg Biffle: One pole and only three top-five finishes in 35 starts had the Roush racer grousing about inferior equipment. Still, his lone win (Pepsi 400) has other teams offering big bucks for a switch when his contract expires after 2004. Guess we got a little ahead of ourselves.
Antonio Bryant: As one-third of one of the NFL’s most dangerous receiving corps, the second-year wideout hasn’t exactly racked up fantasy numbers while sharing the ball with Terry Glenn and Joey Galloway. He’s let Parcells hear about it, but spreading the wealth is why the Boys are back.
Paradorn Srichaphan: Became the first Asian-born player to hit the Top 10, then fell a match short of finishing there. Beat James Blake for the second of two titles, but struggled on clay and lost to Andy Roddick in the fourth round at Wimbledon. (Of course, it’s not like A-Rod ended the year with a bang.)
Brandon Jacobs: Stuck in Auburns backfield behind Cadillac Williams, he showed us something with 182 yards against Mississippi State. If Cadillac goes pro, Jacobs should get his chance to cruise.
Baby Shaqs: You know it’s too early to call when one of your pick’s stats includes acing kindergarten (Aaron Lock). Second-rounder Sophocles Schortsianitis didn’t make the Clippers, and Kendrick Perkins is playing second fiddle to Raef LaFrentz in Boston. But Drew Haymaker has cracked the Santa Fe High (Edmond, Okla.) starting lineup, and Baby Shaq (the gelding) took home a career high $31,000. So call it a push.
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