Chucky’s Revenge : Atkins On Kobe

Posted in Basketball at 12:05 pm by

The Lakers have lost 8 in a row and seem assured of missing the playoffs. On the bright side, no one is going to jail, and Chucky Atkins can clearly ID who’s in charge. From the Los Angeles Daily News’ Ron Siler.

All season long, the Lakers have fought the battle of perception vs. reality when it comes to Kobe Bryant and the power he wields within the organization. Now one of Bryant’s teammates officially has opened the subject for debate.

It came Sunday with a snarled answer from Chucky Atkins that silenced the locker room as soon as the words escaped his mouth. The question put to Atkins was what he would do as general manager to remake the 10th-place Lakers.

“I ain’t no GM,” Atkins said. “Ask Kobe. He’s the GM. It’s his team. Go ask him.”

Atkins, who has grown increasingly frustrated in recent weeks, was asked to clarify if he was, in fact, saying that Bryant was calling the shots for the organization.

“I don’t know,” Atkins said. “Last I heard they told me that (general manager) Mitch Kupchak was supposed to make the decisions around here. So you all going to ask him those questions, please.”

Atkins became the first Lakers player to call out Bryant this season and made his comments only a half-hour or so after interim coach Frank Hamblen had said morale on the team was “OK” despite eight consecutive losses.

“They seem to get along with one another still,” said Hamblen, who accused the team Thursday of quitting in the second half of a loss to Denver. “They listen to what you have to say, try and go out and do what you want them to do.”

With the Lakers all but certain to miss the playoffs for the first time in 11 years, Atkins was asked what should be done differently next season, and again his words spoke volumes.

“What would you do?” Atkins said. “You watched this (expletive) all year.”

Bryant said of his relationship with Atkins: “He’ll be OK. He’ll just work through it. He’ll be fine. That’s my boy, so I look out for him, make sure he’s doing OK.”

Mighty Mouse to MSG?

Posted in Basketball at 11:54 am by

Stephon Marbury as a shooting guard? Damon Stoudamire at point guard for the Knicks? It could happen, writes the New York Daily News’ Frank Isola.

Damon Stoudamire will tell you he has a history with Isiah Thomas, one that may be strong enough to lead to a reunion in New York next season with his former boss.

Stoudamire, according to sources, is a free agent the Knicks will strongly consider this summer, even if Thomas selects a guard in the draft. Thomas wants to add quickness, experience and another ball handler to his backcourt. The addition of a player of Stoudamire’s caliber would allow Stephon Marbury to play more minutes at shooting guard.

Thomas has hinted that he wants to play a style similar to that of the Suns and SuperSonics, spreading the floor with three-point shooters and taking advantage of Marbury’s ability to drive to the basket. Thomas also envisions having three players – Marbury, Jamal Crawford and possibly Stoudamire – who can all play both guard positions.

“If that happens, it would be great,” Stoudamire said late Saturday night. “I definitely think the beauty of playing that way is that you have three guards that can pass, dribble and shoot. Isiah is molding the team the way he did in Toronto and like the team he played for in Detroit. Isiah, Joe Dumars and Vinnie Johnson all complemented each other.”

The 5-10 Stoudamire, who scored 25 points in Portland’s 103-96 victory over the Knicks on Saturday, long has been a favorite of Thomas, who drafted Stoudamire 12 years ago with the Raptors. Stoudamire, who will turn 32 in September, is not expected to re-sign with the Blazers this summer. The uncertainty surrounding Allan Houston’s arthritic knee – the Knicks would prefer that the veteran guard retire – and Crawford’s inconsistency give the Knicks reason to want to add a veteran player with Stoudamire’s resume.

“I’ve got some history with a lot of the guys that run the team in New York, Isiah, Brendan Suhr, and I even played with Herb (Williams) for (one game) in Toronto,” Stoudamire said. “It’s something me and my agent will definitely look at. At the end of the day it’s something I will definitely listen to.”

Stoudamire’s agent is Aaron Goodwin, who also represents Crawford as well as Vin Baker, whom the Knicks signed to a two-year, $7 million contract last summer. Baker was eventually traded to the Houston Rockets in the Maurice Taylor deal. Thomas has a good working relationship with Goodwin, but his friendships with Stoudamire and Goodwin may not mean much if and when the two sides begin negotiating.

Stoudamire will earn $12.5 million this season and is prepared to take a significant pay cut this summer. How much of a cut is open for debate. The Knicks can offer Stoudamire their mid-level exception, which would be a deal starting at $5 million. However, Thomas may want to save that chip for a younger player who can become a starter. The Knicks could get Stoudamire for a deal starting at $2 million but Stoudamire figures to draw interest from several teams.

Klapisch On Minaya, The Wilpons & The Mets

Posted in Baseball at 11:37 am by

One of Bobby Valentine’s least favorite people, the Bergen Records’s Bob Klapisch, as interviewed at MetsGeek.com.

MetsGeek.com: Omar attacked the free agent market, going after arguably the three best players available ” Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado ” while at the same time trying to build around talented young players like David Wright and Jose Reyes. Do you foresee the Mets using this strategy in the future, signing big name talent and combining them with players brought up through the farm system, or was this more a one time deal?

Bob Klapisch: That all really depends on how much money the Mets make available to Omar. It is remarkable, and this goes back to the Duquette discussion, that under Jim Duquette™s administration the Mets were only given an eighty million dollar payroll. Duquette basically had to trim forty million dollars, get rid of bad contracts, and be competitive all at once ” which is a nearly impossible task. Now, under Omar, the Mets™ payroll is suddenly over one hundred million dollars again. Where the Mets got that extra twenty to twenty-five million dollars is a mystery to me. It™s possible that the Wilpons had it and they just decided to let Omar spend it after withholding it from Duquette, or some people theorize that the money is coming from Time Warner and Comcast, to help the run up to the new network next year and to put a competitive and watchable product on the field. Either way, there is money on the table right now, and if you™re willing to spend one hundred million dollars every year, you™ll be able to chase some big name free agents, as well as develop talent. If that™s what the Wilpons are willing to do, then Met fans can look forward to a pretty good team year after year after year. That™s assuming that they make some smart decisions with that money, but first and foremost if there™s money to spend. So, I don™t know if this winter was an aberration or not, I don™t know if it was a one-year spike just to coincide with next year™s network. But if this is a barometer, then there are good things coming down the road for the Mets and Mets fans.

MetsGeek.com: Now, most Mets fans have heard and/or believe that the Mets have built their teams with an eye towards making the back pages, making the splashy signing, competing with the Yankees, etc. How much, if any, impact do you think the New York media has on the Mets™ decision-makers?

Bob Klapisch: Unfortunately, I think it has a lot (laughs). I say unfortunately because I think the Met ownership listens to WFAN a lot, and I do believe that had something to do with Jim Duquette™s dismissal last year, because the criticism over the Kazmir trade was unrelenting. As I said to you before I think they really believed that having Zambrano and Benson would create this pennant race and divert the attention away from Kazmir, and when it didn™t happen, Mike and the Mad Dog just spent the next month killing the Mets, killing Wilpon, killing Rick Peterson, killing Art Howe. Everybody was thrown under the bus, and I do believe that kind of pressure, public pressure, media pressure was more than the Wilpon family could take. Somebody had to take the fall for that. Art Howe was one and Jim Duquette was the other. I™m sorry to say it, but in this case, the Wilpons should have just not listened to the radio. But yes, they do make their decisions based on what they hear, and based on what they think people are thinking.

Tribe Tap Juan Gone To Start In RF

Posted in Baseball at 11:32 am by

I’m gonna resist the temptation to make yet another gratuitous Tom Sizemore joke, but suffice to say Cleveland will be very lucky if Juan Gonazalez plays more than 100 games this year.

Jamal Crawford’s Winning State Of Mind

Posted in Basketball at 9:30 am by

As the Knicks’ playoff chances slip slide away, the New York Post’s Marc Berman takes issue with Jamal Crawford’s choice of words.

Friday night in Seattle, Jamal Crawford talked about coming back to his hometown feeling different this time. After four years with the Bulls, Crawford said he was finally returning “in a winning situation.”

Winning situation? What an insult to all the Knick teams that actually won. Crawford must be confused. It’s the Bulls, the club that allowed him to flee last summer in return for Knick junk, in the winning situation, six games above .500, vying for homecourt advantage.

If Crawford (above) thinks he’s in “a winning situation,” the Knicks have greater problems at shooting guard than anyone imagined.

The Knicks, 10 games under .500, are done now, having blown their season during a rainy Pacific Northwest weekend in back-to-back defeats in Seattle and Portland. Crawford put forth stinkers in both games.

The Portland loss was one of the season’s most disgraceful defeats, with players admitting they came out “flat” in a game needed to keep their dying playoff hopes alive.

The lost season continues tonight in Golden State. If you blame Stephon Marbury for this mess, you’d be dead wrong. This season was not lost at point guard. It was ruined at shooting guard, where Crawford did not live up to expectations and where Allan Houston’s bizarre season brought the team down emotionally.

Crawford is a better point guard than shooting guard ” with a nice handle but streaky outside shot. He’s been at 39 percent all season. But the biggest disappointment with Crawford has been careless defense, perhaps because he’s playing out of position, perhaps because he doesn’t hustle.

If Crawford took more pride in his defense than in his pass-to-himself-off-the-backboard trick-play dunk, the Knicks would be a better team.

Ajax Appropriates, Slurs To Follow

Posted in Football at 12:31 am by

The New York Times’ Craig Smith on the curious case of Amsterdam’s Ajax, their supporters’ symbols of choice, and the resulting response.

Outside, souvenir stalls sold Israeli flags or flags with the Ajax logo, the head of the fabled Greek warrior, emblazoned inside the star of David. Fans arrived with hats, jackets and scarves embroidered with Hebrew writing. Until recently, the team’s official Web site even featured the ringing tones of Hava Nagila and other Jewish songs that could be downloaded into fans’ mobile phones.

Few, if any, of these people are Jewish.

“About thirty years ago, the other teams’ supporters started calling us Jews because there was a history of Jews in Ajax,” explained Fred Harris, a stocky man with brush-cut hair and a thick gold chain around his neck, “so we took it up as a point of pride and now it has become our identity.”

For years, the team’s management supported that unique identity. But over time what seemed to many people like a harmless – if peculiar – custom has taken on a more sinister tone. Fans of Ajax’s biggest rivals began giving the Nazis’ signature straight-arm salute or chanting “Hamas, Hamas!” to provoke Ajax supporters.Ajax games have been marred by shouts of “Jews to the gas!” or simply hissing to simulate the sound of gas escaping.

The most disturbing displays have come during games against teams from The Hague or Amsterdam’s greatest rival, Rotterdam. But even Eindhoven fans get into the act: not long after the game started, a chant arose from the corner section of the city’s stadium reserved for fans of the opposing team.

“Everyone who’s not jumping is a Jew!” the crowd cried over and over again as thousands of people in the section jumped up and down.

Ajax games have become so charged with such anti-Semitic displays that many of the team’s Jewish fans now avoid the games altogether. The offensive behavior is not one-sided: during a game against a German team late last year, a group of Ajax supporters displayed a banner that read “Jews take revenge for ’40-’45,” a reference to the Holocaust.

“We were probably too tolerant,” said Uri Coronel, a Jew who was a member of Ajax’s board in the 1990′s, speaking about the management’s past attitude.

Since then, the atmosphere at the games has become “unbearable,” he said, adding that the fans’ adoption of a Jewish identity is widely misunderstood as something positive.

“A lot of Jews all over the world believe that Ajax fans are proud to call themselves Jews, but it’s a kind of hooliganism,” he said.

There is no clear reason why Ajax, founded in 1900, became known as a Jewish club. Amsterdam has always had the largest Jewish population in the Netherlands and the club had two Jewish presidents in the 1960′s and 1970′s. It has had Jewish players at various times. The club, which owns 73 percent of the listed company that owns the team, also has some Jews among its 400 members, but no greater a percentage than their representation in the city’s general population. There are no Jews on the club’s current board.

“The club has no real Jewish origins,” said John C. Jaakke, the club’s dapper president, speaking before the Eindhoven game.

Nonetheless, the club became identified in the public mind with Jews in the 1950′s, and by the 1970′s, opposing fans began to call Ajax supporters Jews. The supporters adopted the identity in a spirit of defiance.

Mr. Jaakke said the trend had bothered the club’s management for the past 10 years, and many Jewish supporters have complained that it makes them uncomfortable. Finally, last year, during a period of national debate about the language being used in soccer stadiums, the board decided to take the opportunity to address the issue. One of the main catalysts for that debate was not anti-Semitic chants, but chants calling the well-known girlfriend of an Ajax player a prostitute.


Austin Regional : Michigan State 94, Kentucky 88 (double OT)

Posted in Basketball at 11:58 pm by

Every now and then, someone (occasionally not a woman or a foreigner, either) will ask what could possibly be so compelling about watching 10 guys in long shorts running up and down a hardwood floor for two hours. To which I’ll answer on this glorious night, no matter how many times I’ve watched college basketball, there is always the chance that something will happen that I’ve never seen before and might never see again. And what could be more compelling than 3 middle-aged guys in zebra shirts hunched over a 5-inch TV monitor, reviewing the same regulation-ending play, over and over again, while 16,000 patrons stand around scratching themselves?

19 lead changes, 10 ties, 2 overtimes, and at least 48 ounces of a flat, black liquid optimistically dubbed Diet “Coke”.

(The Spartans’ Shannon Brown, 24 points, throwing it down)

In all seriousness ladies and gentlemen, Sunday’s regional final between Michigan State and Kentucky was as packed with intrigue and drama as any game I’ve attended. On the intrigue scale, Mark Story of the Lexington Herald is wondering like so many others, how Kentucky failed to get off a shot with nearly 26 seconds left in the first overtime.

Eschewing a time out, Tubby Smith called a play from in front of the UK bench.

According to numerous UK players afterward, the plan was for Rondo to work the clock down to around eight seconds, then attack the basket by driving the lane.

Said Chuck Hayes: “We wanted Rajon to drive, put the ball on the rim and then me, Randolph (Morris) and Kelenna would attack the glass.”

But, instead, Michigan State jammed the lane. Rondo couldn’t penetrate and wound up pitching the ball to Azubuike on the wing.

The 6-foot-5 junior said he thought he saw three seconds on the clock when he received the ball. Under heavy defensive pressure, Azubuike chose to drive the ball toward the baseline.

“I should’ve just risen up and shot it,” he said later in a subdued Kentucky locker room. “But I thought I could create space and get a shot.”

He didn’t.

With the Final Four on the line, the clock expired without UK getting a shot.

Said Smith: “You hand it to Kelenna and hope he would jump up and shoot it – but he didn’t.”

Tournament basketball is packed with ironies. Tubby Smith is one of the best late-game situation coaches I’ve ever seen, but, in basketball terms, this was pretty much the unpardonable sin.

The Final Four on the line and you don’t get a shot?

For Tubby – whose team gave one of the biggest-hearted efforts any Kentucky team ever has in a big game – this will be the second-guess equivalent of Rick Pitino’s decision not to put a man on the inbounds passer in the famous 1992 “Christian Laettner” game.

A lot of this will be unfair. But a captain goes down with his ship, and a coach is responsible for the outcome of late-game situations.

So those who want to look for reasons to bash the current Kentucky coach have a new and fair one if they want it.

Davidoff On Andy Pettitte’s Hair

Posted in Baseball at 11:38 pm by

When the Yankees chose not to make Andy Pettitte a competitive offer the winter before last, local press and fans alike were aghast that George Steinbrenner could let the lefty walk. A year later, Newsday’s Ken Davidoff survey’s the state of Pettite’s arm/hair and how the Yankee roster has evolved.

The gray hairs, on the other hand, sent us into deep thought.

About Yankees magic and mythology, about the last four years of disappointment, ridiculously heightened expectations and even more ridiculously increased expenditures.

Pettitte enjoyed an unofficial Yankees homecoming yesterday, at Legends Field rather than Yankee Stadium, and he received a pleasant ovation, more sitting than standing, as he took the mound. Once he began to pitch, he looked like someone recovering from left elbow surgery, indicated not so much by the two-run homer he surrendered to Alex Rodriguez as the fact he mixed in 26 balls among his 60 pitches.

And yes, he looked a tad gray, plenty of such rebellious strands integrating among the browns on his head. Like the rest of us (in the spirit of fairness, we are going bald rather than gray), he’s getting older.

“I’m not where I want to be,” Pettitte (above) said after his four-inning performance. “I want to be strong. I want to feel like I’m 100 percent. It’s still a work in progress. I’d be lying if I sat here and told everybody that I felt awesome.”

Can you imagine the panic that would be set off in New York had he said that while under George Steinbrenner’s employ, with just a week to go before Opening Day? Could you envision Pettitte starting April 6 against the Red Sox while on a limited pitch count?

You can say that the Yankees lack the “magic” they seemed to possess from 1996 through 2001. That’s easy, and not altogether inaccurate.

The harder part is figuring out what they could have done in order to keep the magic going.

Certainly, for example, they made the right call in cutting bait on Pettitte when they did. The same goes for their decisions on saying goodbye to Scott Brosius, David Cone, Joe Girardi, Jimmy Key, Chuck Knoblauch, Tino Martinez, Ramiro Mendoza, Mike Stanton and John Wetteland.

Their worst two send-offs? Jeff Nelson, the first time, and David Wells, the second time — two of the least popular players, within the organization, of the era. Perhaps emotions got in the way.

Block That Fox

Posted in Free Expression at 10:10 pm by

Mr. B. Daniel of Austin, TX has helpfully forwarded an Associated Press item about a Tulsa man who has invented a device that prevents the Fox News Channel from reaching your TV screen.

It’s not that Sam Kimery objects to the views expressed on Fox News Channel. The creator of the “Fox Blocker” contends the network is not news at all.

Kimery says he has sold about 100 of the little silver bits of metal that screw into the back of most televisions, allowing people to filter Fox News from their sets. The Tulsa, Okla., resident also has received thousands of e-mails, both angry and complimentary, as well as a few death threats since the device debuted in August.

“Apparently the making of terroristic threats against those who don’t share your views is a high art form among a certain core audience,” said Kimery, 45.

Formerly a registered Republican, even a precinct captain, Kimery became an independent in the 1990s when he said the state party stopped taking input from everyday members.

Kimery now contends Fox News’ top-level management dictates a conservative journalistic bias, that inaccuracies never are retracted, and what airs is more opinion than news.

“I might as well be reading tabloids out of the grocery store,” he said. “Anything to get a rise out of the viewer and to reinforce certain retrograde notions.”

A Fox spokeswoman at the station’s New York headquarters said the channel’s ratings speak for themselves. For the first three months of this year, Fox has averaged 1.62 million viewers in prime-time, compared with CNN’s 805,000, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Kimery seems like a smart guy. Hopefully he can invent some sort of device that will enable viewers to change the channel or to turn off their televisions altogether. Like say, a human hand.

You Think Your Job Sucks?

Posted in The Woah at 9:40 pm by

There are a number of vocational choices that seem doomed. Weiland’s N.A. sponsor. Manager of the Tampa Devil Rays. Add to that list working as a recruiter for the U.S. Armed Forces, writes the New York Times’ Damien Cave.

A recruiter in New York said pressure from the Army to meet his recruiting goals during a time of war has given him stomach problems and searing back pain.

Suffering from bouts of depression, he said he had considered suicide.

Another, in Texas, said he had volunteered many times to go to Iraq rather than face ridicule, rejection and the Army’s wrath.

“The recruiter is stuck in the situation where you’re not going to make mission, it just won’t happen,” the New York recruiter said. “And you’re getting chewed out every day for it. It’s horrible.”

Recruiters have “the only military occupation that deals with the civilian world entirely,” said Charles Moskos, a military sociologist at Northwestern University.

Even before the war, recruiters contacted on average of 120 people before landing an active-duty recruit, Army data showed. That number is growing, recruiters said.

One recruiter in the New York area said that when he steps outside his office for a cigarette, he often is barraged with epithets from passers-by angry about the war.

In January, the brother-in-law of a prospective recruit lashed into him. “He swore at me,” the recruiter said, “and said that he would rather have his brother-in-law in jail for selling crack than in the Army.”

The recruiter said, when out of uniform, he often lies about his profession. “I tell them I work in human resources,” he said.

(shown above, the Army’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is put to the test when one potential jarhead asks about the party scene at Fort Dix)

Jeff Van Gundy, Pestered By Puff Pieces

Posted in Basketball at 11:49 am by

From the Detroit News’ Chris McCosky.

Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy apparently is done with the cute Coaching Van Gundy Brothers stories. “If I see one more story about us I’m going to puke,” he said, referring to stories about him and his brother Stan, who coaches the Heat. “Me and my brother. Me and my mom. Mom listens with the sound, my dad doesn’t. Who cares? Really, I’m so sick of it. You guys just won’t let it go. I mean, gosh. It’s not a novelty anymore. It’s painful to read those stories. ‘And when Jeff was 3….’ I mean, my goodness.” When told that Stan was far more chatty on the topic, Jeff said, “He’s in a better mood. He’s 52-16. Let me win 12 in a row, let me go 41-9 over a stretch of games, you can ask me whatever you want about anything you want, you’ll get a positive remark.

Who Knew…

Posted in Basketball at 11:25 am by

…that Larry Brown was such a big Crank Yankers fan?

Inside The Mind Of Bobby Fisher

Posted in Free Expression at 12:45 am by

If you had a chance to observe former World chess champ / onetime American icon Bobby Fisher flipping out on ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap last night and spewing a truckload of anti-semetic invective….well, guess what? That was nothing compared to the mind-blowing collection of conspiracy theories and axes to grind, available at the web site maintained by Bobby’s girlfriend.

Perhaps most astonishing is Fisher’s claim that Paul Harvey is being paid $30 million by the Jews. If this is correct, can I get a pro-rated refund?

The Importance Of Reading Headlines Carefully

Posted in castration nation at 12:18 am by

In my own Emily Litella moment, I misread a headline in this morning’s online edition of Newsday, mistaking it for “C-Murder Barred From Having Penis” (which I’m sure you’ll all agree, is cruel and unusual punishment).

(Never mind.).


Chass On The Astros, Beltran And Berkman

Posted in Baseball at 11:51 pm by

Incredibly, the Astros’ inability to resign Carlos Beltran is still binge debated (and in some quarters, defended). Count the New York Times’ Murray Chass amongst those who question the wisdom of Houston meeting the demands of Lance Berkman but not those of Beltran.

What Carlos Beltran did in the Astros’ two postseason series made it difficult not to do what it took to retain him. He batted .435, slugged 8 home runs and drove in 14 runs in 12 games.

“There’s been some pretty good postseasons over the years,” Phil Garner, the Houston manager, said. “But in terms of hitting the ball as hard as you can possibly hit it and hitting it out of the ballpark, I haven’t seen anything like that.”

Yet in 90 regular-season games after the Astros acquired him from Kansas City, Beltran batted only .258.

“This is your free-agent year and you have a chance to make a lot of money,” Garner said, seeking a reason for Beltran’s mediocre performance. “That might have been a personal self-induced pressure. When he got in the playoffs, all things went out the window and he was playing to win. He wasn’t playing for himself; he was just playing to win and things started happening for him. He was in a zone that people die for.”

When the time came for the Astros to try to keep Beltran as their center fielder, they offered $105 million for seven years, but they didn’t offer the no-trade protection he wanted. When they recently signed Berkman, he asked for and received that provision.

“That has been misunderstood to a great extent,” General Manager Tim Purpura said of the Beltran negotiations. “If we could have gotten a deal done, that’s something we probably would have given him, but we never got a deal done. Berkman is a young man who grew up in Houston. He expressed an interest to stay with us the rest of his career.”

The Astros, Purpura said, have given no-trade clauses to players, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, for example. “With Beltran,” he said, “we never got to the end point where that could have been a deal maker or a deal breaker.”

Berkman is also a young man coming off a flag football injury, which curiously wasn’t held against him that much (perhaps because he didn’t claim to be washing his truck).

Marbury Vs. Telfair

Posted in Basketball at 6:12 pm by

With Stephon Marbury’s Knicks visiting younger cousin’s Sebastian Telfair’s Blazers later tonight, both the NY Post’s Marc Berman and the Daily News’ Frank Isola chased the former for comments about the alleged feud between their families, as chronicled in Ian O’Connor’s recent Telfair biography, “Jump”.

From Berman’s article :

Asked if he was hurt by the book, Marbury said, “No. I know they just don’t know better. I don’t get mad at ignorance. How could you get mad at someone for not knowing that two plus two is four. I know how they think. Now they’re seeing and understanding what it’s about. You can’t satisfy everyone. It’s impossible.”

The book also details a well-known tale in which Marbury and Telfair went 1-on-1 on the project playgrounds a few years ago before a sizeable crowd. It was a physical battle in which they traded hurtful insults and Telfair schooled his older cousin.

When asked about the playground duel, Telfair (above) got angry, saying yesterday, “It was a basketball game we played against each other. You’re not going to get me saying something that will come between our family.”

Marbury believes the Telfairs have changed their tune since Sebastian turned pro. Marbury has a big family and supports his wife, kids, mother, father, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews.

“It’s hard because everybody wants something,” Marbury said. “We knew they’d do a 360. It’s new to them. But we’ve been going through the last nine years and we know what it’s about.”

Marbury claims his family is unfazed. “We don’t, especially against family, hold grudges like that,” he said.

Marbury says he does counsel Telfair. “I speak to my cousin,” Marbury said. “I know he was young and he was being manipulated by someone trying to make money. That’s all [author] Ian O’Connor was doing. I totally think he took advantage.”

Ligtenberg Denies Sucking, Rutsey Disagrees

Posted in Baseball at 5:49 pm by

The Toronto Sun’s Mike Rutsey on the plight of the defiant Kerry Ligtenberg, struggling to make the Blue Jays’ major league roster.

Kerry Ligtenberg is a realist. He is also adept at reading between the lines.

Despite being armed with a guaranteed contract for 2005 worth $2.5 million US, Ligtenberg knows he’s a long shot to make the club as one of the seven relievers.

Competition for the final two spots in the bullpen has been fierce and Ligtenberg, coming off a miserable injury-plagued season, could find himself the odd man out.

“There’s definitely a battle going on and they want to take the guys that are throwing the best and I understand that,” Ligtenberg said yesterday. “I know my situation and I’m probably on the bubble right now.

“I don’t think they really want to eat the salary but it’s something they may be willing to do if I’m not throwing that well.”

Health-wise, Ligtenberg says there’s no lingering effects from the inflammation in his left hip that pretty much crippled his season last year when he was 1-6 with a 6.38 ERA.

“The hip feels good,” he said. “The first 10 days I wasn’t feeling real good and we made an adjustment. The last three weeks my hip has been good, it hasn’t been an issue.

“After last year I feel like I really want to be here to prove at least to the fans that I don’t suck that bad.”

But the hip remains a cross Ligtenberg will have to bear until he proves otherwise and that doesn’t help his chances either with the Jays or elsewhere. There isn’t much of a market for 33-year-old relievers coming off a dreadful year with a hip problem.

“I kind of knew coming in we’ve got some young guys with good arms and great stuff and I knew it was going to be a fight,” he said. “Regardless of what happens, I’m just going to keep working hard. I’m not going to pout about it. I know I can still pitch. But it’s not my decision and I can’t worry about it.

“I know I can still get guys out.”

The chances are that for Ligtenberg it just won’t be in a Blue Jays uniform.

Austin Regional : Evolution Puzzler

Posted in Basketball at 5:08 pm by

The K.U. band played Aaron Copeland’s “The Ascent Of Man” while a guy in a Wildcat suit posed atop a human pyramid at mid-court. There were no howls of protest from the nearly capacity crowd at the Erwin Center.

Clearly, we as a society have progressed to the point where another Scopes trial is not necessary.

Dear Sidney…

Posted in Baseball at 10:26 am by

…was the name of a heartwarming sitcom starring the late Tony Randall as (what else) a New York bachelor. It might also serve as the name for a reality show documenting the exploits of the O’s boozy hurler Sidney Ponson, who apparently had more than one run-in with authorities during the off-season.

“I wasn’t drunk, and the thing is going to go to court,” Ponson said in the clubhouse Friday morning. “If you have one beer you can be over the limit. That doesn’t mean I’m drunk. You guys are making such a big deal over everything that goes on off the field. How we’re playing and who’s hurt, you guys don’t even care about that.”

It’s been a regular occurrence this spring, reporters gathering around Ponson and asking him questions about his off-the-field behavior. The pitcher finally got sick of it Friday, and made no effort to mask his displeasure.

“Why do you guys have to know everything that goes off the field with me?” he said. “Off field is our private time, and if something happens we have to deal with it. Not you guys, not the millions of fans of baseball.”

To quote Faber College’s Dean Wormer, fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life. Though it hasn’t hurt David Wells that much.

(UPDATE : You’ll note from the comment below, the program in question was actually called “Love, Sidney”, though how a New York bachelor is supposed to find love with a small child burning up his apartment, I will never understand.)

(UPDATE TWO : The Orioles have dropped Sir Sidney to 4th in their starting rotation, though manager Lee Mazzilli swears this has nothing to do with Ponson vomiting all over Melvin Mora or punching out a life-size cutout of Boog Powell for looking at him funny.)

Pedro Scratched From Scheduled Start…

Posted in Baseball at 12:55 am by

….and Mets fans start clawing their own eyes out. From the New York Times’ Bill Finley.

Pedro Martínez was scratched from his spring-training start against the Florida Marlins on Friday night because of stiffness in his lower back.

X-rays were negative, and Martínez maintained that the problem was minor and that he would be ready for the regular-season opener on April 4 against the Cincinnati Reds.

“I’m just doing what anybody would do in spring training, play it safe,” Martínez said. “I’ll work on it and will still have time to continue or finish the job we have been doing in spring training. That’s simply it. This is no big deal. Anybody, after a long time in spring training, could get a dead arm, back stiffness, ankle, shin splints, stuff like that.”

Martínez last pitched on Sunday and said he took a rare day off from his work routine on Monday. He said he thought he might have overdone it on Tuesday.

“I should have done a little something Monday,” he said. “Tuesday, I piled up one hour of running, plus the weights, the med ball and all the things you do with your lower back.”

Manager Willie Randolph said Martínez would most likely start on Tuesday against the Washington Nationals. That would allow him to have a full complement of rest before opening day.

Martínez said he would play it by ear in determining when he would pitch again. “Right now, we just don’t want to take any chances of making it any worse and put opening day in any jeopardy,” he said. “Opening day without a doubt. If I play it careful, I will be there.”

General Manager Omar Minaya said the decision to scratch Martínez from his start reflected the team’s conservative philosophy for spring-training games.

“Especially this time of year, this late in spring training, we just want to get out of here healthy and in shape,” Minaya said. “A lot of this has to do with us being more on the conservative side.”

Austin Regional : Bogut Busted, Duke Demolished

Posted in Basketball at 12:45 am by

I think it is safe to say that Utah C Andrew Bogut has been successfully exposed by a tenacious Kentucky squad. The towering Aussie’s post-up moves are much more impressive against weaker/smaller competition, and the Wildcats’ hack-a-Bogut tactics paid major dividends, the Utes’ center shooting just 2 of 11 from the charity stripe.

Earlier in the game, I had thought that Kentucky double-teaming Bogut would leave someone else wide open when or if the ball would be kicked back out…but Bogut kept looking for his shot at every opportunity.

Line of the night goes to King Coffey : The Game Isn’t Over Until They Show Ashley Judd On The Jumbotron.

Earlier, Michigan State’s Paul Davis (above, left) and Alan Anderson proved to be every bit the equal of Duke’s Sheldon Williams and Daniel Ewing. Tom Izzo has now made the Elite Eight 5 times in the past 8 seasons, which puts him in pretty rarified territory.


Schilling Shelled

Posted in Baseball at 5:17 pm by

On the bright side, at least David Wells and Curt’s other teammates can provide constructive criticism.

Imus’ Shitkicking Neverland Under Investigation

Posted in The World Of Entertainment at 3:23 pm by

From the New York Post’s John Mainelli and Leonard Greene.

Radio’s irascible Don Imus went on the warpath yesterday over questions being raised about the charity he runs for sick children at his New Mexico ranch.

Investigators from the New York Attorney General’s Office have been reviewing allegations that the cranky talk-show host has been using the 4,000-acre ranch for personal getaways.

Although he took issue with the inquiry, Imus aimed his angriest venom at The Wall Street Journal for a story he described as “a hatchet job” and its author, whom he called “a dishonest punk.”

“They should be ashamed of themselves,” Imus told his morning listeners.

Expenses at the ranch totaled nearly $2.6 million, according to tax papers, but the ranch hosted only about 100 children, the Journal said.

Imus and his family, meanwhile, stay at the ranch for weeks at a time ” he was broadcasting from there yesterday ” without reimbursing the charity for the visits.

Imus maintained that he runs the ranch while he is there and saves money by not paying a director. As for using the ranch as a vacation spot, Imus says he has a $24 million waterfront estate in Westport, Conn., that suits his vacation needs just fine.

Imus, who wears 10-gallon hats while on the air, ranted about the scrutiny for more than half his show, denying that he takes advantage of the ranch for personal use.

He said that during the holiday season when he was there last year, he never even got on a horse.

“I’d close [the ranch] down before I’d pay to stay here,” Imus said. “That’s insane.”

Imus’ charity drew the attention of New York investigators when the organization failed to file its income-tax exemption forms on time, said Darren Dopp, a spokesman for Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

Sources said such delays, while routine, are often red flags, as was the anonymous letter Spitzer’s office received about Imus’ ranch visits and the charity’s high dollar-to-child ratio.

We have it on good authority (well, Tom Greenwood) that Imus has an Imelda-like fetish for high end track shoes. Perhaps Eliot Spizer can see if the I-Man has been moving charity dough to the account of Paragon Sports?

Walk, Don’t Run : Marchman on Ishii and Zambrano

Posted in Baseball at 2:47 pm by

The New York Sun’s Tim Marchman likes the Mets’ acquisition of Kaz Ishii, correctly stating that “(Jason) Phillips is a generic backup catcher; Ishii is a good no. 5 starter who can be relied upon to be somewhere between league-average and 10% below league-average. Generic backup catchers can be found in Triple-A or on the waiver wire; reliably semi-competent starting pitchers cannot.”

However, Marchman also cautions that a pitching rotation including Ishii and Victor Zambrano “could well lead to the establishment in Flushing of the least awesome pair of control pitchers in baseball history.”

This Mets team is uniquely ill-equipped to handle two pitchers who issue so many free passes. Two of the Mets’ major question marks going into this season are relief pitching and middle-infield defense. No one seems to be exactly sure who will be coming out of the bullpen, but it will almost certainly be some combination of washed-up veterans and unproven kids who will have heavy demands placed upon them due to the presence of starters Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine. The addition of Ishii, who like Zambrano will be running up huge pitch counts and leaving plenty of games in the fifth inning due to his propensity for the 3-2 count, will only add to that pressure.

Much the same goes for the infield defense. With Kaz Matsui playing second base for the first time in his career alongside Jose Reyes, who has far more talent than experience, you’d ideally like to see the Mets front office devise ways to minimize what could be a weakness. Instead, they’ve come up with a way to ensure there will be a tremendous amount of runners on first base, which will just put more pressure on a double-play combination that already has more than enough.

This spring has seen no signs that Zambrano and Ishii are going to turn things around anytime soon; the two have combined for 13 walks in 16 innings. Whether or not their addiction to the walk turns out to be of historic proportions, they’re almost certain to put Mets fans to sleep, burn holes in the lining of Willie Randolph’s stomach, and cost the team more than their ERAs would lead you to think.

Raismann On ‘Roid Mania

Posted in Baseball at 2:40 pm by

It’s not whether you ratted anyone out, but rather, how you sell the beer. The Daily News’ Bob Raissman on a dilemma facing MLB mouthpieces.

Already, in the wake of last week’s congressional hearings, rumor and innuendo are still presented as facts. Forget about callers to sports-talk radio; so-called legitimate broadcasters are getting into the act.

On Saturday, during an interview with KSLG-AM in St. Louis, Wayne Hagin (above, right) , a Cardinals radio play-by-play man, said Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton had used “the juice” early in his career. Hagin was a Rockies voice from 1997-2002.

“I know he (Helton) tried it because (former Colorado manager) Don Baylor told me, ‘I told him to get off the juice – you’re a player who doesn’t need that. Get off it. It’s made you into a robot at first base defensively,’” Hagin said on KSLG-AM. “And (it) may have altered his swing. He got off it.”

Helton vehemently denied Hagin’s allegation. The broadcaster backtracked, saying he was referring to Helton’s use of creatine, not steroids. Helton wasn’t buying Hagin’s explanation and indicated he might sue the announcer.

Hagin’s big mouth not only presents a predicament for all baseball voices, but sets up a huge dichotomy in the Cardinals’ broadcast booth. At one end is Hagin, who is not averse to going public with information he has heard – no matter how inaccurate. At the other is Joe Buck who, in January, told HBO’s “Real Sports” that if he found out a St. Louis player was on steroids he would not report it.

“I’m not in a position, as the Cardinal announcer, to break stories,” Buck said. “… I’m not a journalist.”

Spoken like a true spokesman for Budweiser.

Baseball’s corporate sponsors, and companies that advertise on a local basis, no doubt would like team broadcasters to take Buck’s speak-no-evil approach. That way, the subject of steroids would not cut through the airwaves on a warm summer night. It also will mean certain voices are sitting on information and not truly serving fans.

No one is looking for any baseball voice to take Hagin’s irresponsible, slanderous approach. And yet, if any baseball broadcaster has facts, or wants to offer an opinion on baseball’s steroid controversy, he should be encouraged to bring it to the microphone.

Don’t hold back. Tell the truth. Even if it is not good for baseball’s business.