Saturday, June 15, 2002

First off, I guess I feel the need to gloat a bit over the Nets. Not that I'm glad their sweep came at the hands of the Lakers. But as I predicted here three months ago, if they made it to the Finals, FOUR-AN-OH. Take that George Willis.

Bill Simmons writes about the resurgence of the Boston sports scene... Scott Burton is sick and tired of hearing about the "poor" Boston fans... Luke Cavanagh writes a rather pointed rebuttal to Burton... Steve Bulpett reports that the Celtics are now raising their ticket prices by an average of 12% for next season. COO Rich Pond says "the ticket increase is not in response to the fact the Celtics reached the conference finals in their first postseason appearance since 1995 but rather an inevitability due to rising costs after three years of holding the line." Um, sure. And the reason that you 'held the line' for that long is because you hadn't made the playoffs in forever, correct? And so now that you've made them, and advanced, there's no longer a reason to 'hold the line.' So why fool the people with such nonsense? Shira Springer finds the one season ticket holder who doesn't mind the price hike. "There wasn't one game where I felt they didn't play hard. I have no problem now with ticket prices going up," said Jay Munsay, who has season tickets in the balcony. Take it from a Sixers season ticket holder who saw the face price on his seat nearly double in 5 years: you get to the playoffs, you advance to later rounds, you make it to the Finals, expect to see significant price hikes over time... In an article describing the "plight" of the eastern conference for the forseeable future, Michael Holley manages to get a dig in at AI ("this is why you need to practice, Allen Iverson")... Speaking of Iverson, Reebok will be having him promo a new line of "retro" style of its shoes.

I'm posting a link to this NY Daily News article, not for the actual article, but for the photo chosen to accompany it. See, even little TJ played a part in helping sweep his daddy's team! Byron Scott plans on seeing his good friend Rick Adelman this summer. What will he say to him? "Leave Shaq alone." Shaq repeatedly spoke out during the Finals that he was tired of hearing of Adelman's complaints. "I'll see Rick this summer and tell him, 'Don't ever do that again,'" Scott said... Kevin Kernan relates this exchange he had with Rod Thorn, "When I suggested to Thorn that the best way to keep Kidd is to convince him that if he signs with San Antonio, he may not make it out of the West, the GM laughed and said, 'That's a good one, we may have to try that.'" K-Mart may have been all smiles on Friday, but Jay Greenberg says he, and the rest of the Nets, have a lot of growing up to do. "Yeah, we all love the guys who hate to lose. And some of us hate even more the despicable trick of making yourself look good at the expense of a co-worker." According to Thorn, Martin's emotional outburst was "out of line." Steve Serby tells Roger the Rocket it's "time to take your medicine like a man."

It appears that Howard Eskin has taken up writing using a pseudonym. Or at least it sounds like it. Some of the idiotic drivel in that article sound like a diatribe right out of an Eskin and Missanelli afternoon show. Iverson for Baron Davis and Eddie Jones? You must be joking. That's about as bad as the Iverson for Sprewell and Houston trade Eskin was wildly proposing. Mind you, this was while the Sixers were still fighting the Celtics in the first round. Yes, let's trade our best player for players who haven't been able to take their teams anywhere in the playoffs recently, that's always a good move.

Despite a possible strike, the WNBA announced a new deal with ABC/ESPN, since their contract with NBC ends after this season too. ABC is scheduled to show between 5 and 10 games, as well as the All-Star Game. So let me get this straight, the NBA All-Star Game will be on cable only, and the WNBA All-Star Game will be on ABC. When someone figures out the logic to that one, please let me know. Great question posed on WIP this week: If the WNBA strikes, and nobody's watching, is it still a strike? The Sixers director of player personnel, Tony DiLeo, said, regarding the upcoming draft, "Whoever we draft this year really won't help the team for a year or two, and will take a year or two to develop." This mentality is getting so tiring. Why can a Tony Parker (drafted with the 28th pick) have such an immediate impact on the Spurs, who were one of the top 4 teams in the league this year, but everyone we draft just seems to waste away on the bench in the Larry Brown School of Rookies, whose graduates generally end up on other teams (see: Todd MacCulloch)?

Dean of negativity Dan Shaugnessy says, following the Sox 2-1 loss to the Braves last night, that Pedro is "still one of the best pitchers in baseball. He's just not the Pedro we used to know." Earlier in the article, he even compared him to Mike Dukakis. Nothing like a little pessimism to get your weekend off to a good start, eh Dan? Michael Gee says Ralph Nader should be going after the people in charge of running the World Cup.

THIS DATE IN 76ERS HISTORY: One year ago today, the Lakers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers at the First Union Center, winning the NBA Finals 4-1. After taking Game 1 in a stunning OT victory at Staples Center, the Sixers dropped four straight to the defending champions.

Friday, June 14, 2002

Brendan Gaughan, a former Georgetown teammate of Allen Iverson, revealed that AI has quite a sense of humor, and a flare for playing practical jokes. "When we played UMass in the final eight in Atlanta, Allen wanted me to lead the team out after halftime. The team is in the tunnel and I'm dribbling a basketball and start out. What I didn't know was, Allen told the rest of the team to stay in the tunnel. I went out by myself. I wanted to kill him." Stephen A. Smith gets Jack Ramsay's take on whether or not the Lakers three-peat puts them in the "dynasty" category: "I don't think the [Lakers] are a dynasty-type team. I think they have two great players and one of the great coaches of all time, but it's a thin, thin squad.... Again, the Lakers are a great team. But when you compare them top to bottom, they're not in that elite class." Bill Walton disagrees, saying, ''they are one of the best of all time.'' The Mercury News reports on a possible trade rumor that would have Antawn Jamison joining Allen Iverson and Dikembe Mutombo in Philadelphia. To make such a deal work, the 76ers would likely have to give up Coleman and their 16th pick (Brown doesn't seem to stick with his rookies long enough anyway), and it would bring back another North Corolina alumni member.

Royce Webb (no relation to C-Webb, to my knowledge) says Shaq is "too damn big" and goes on to give a list of reasons why he is bad for the NBA, an opinion that will probably get expressed more and more with each passing (yawn) Laker coronation... For the benefit of sports radio talk show hosts who love to diss Iverson and elevate Kobe Bryant to God-like status (read: Howard Eskin), Steve Bulpett notes that Kobe started off 3-for-12 in Game 4. If Iverson pulled off that kind of start, Eskin would have lambasted him, saying he was "hurting the team," that if it weren't for the rest of the team pulling the weight, he wouldn't have a chance to have great 4th quarters. Of course, media types like Eskin are never ones to let facts get in the way of their personal agendas.

NBA.com announces Marv Albert's new 6-year deal with TNT, reportedly worth $6 million... Jim Baker talks about the new deal, and also mentions that the Tyson-Lewis Pay-Per-View racked in $103 million, making it the highest grossing pay-per-view event ever. Didn't those 1.8 million buyers have anything better to do than blow 55 bucks? Only in America... Peter King thinks the Eagles are in great shape to compete for the Super Bowl for the next 5 years. I bet if you were to poll the average Philadelphia fan, you would find that many would prefer the Baltimore Ravens approach, to go all out to win it all. After all, 19 years is a long time since the last parade. At last check, you don't get to hold a parade in a win a championship if you win the "salary cap" bowl. Pro Football Talk.com talks about an interesting contoversy between WIP's Angelo Cataldo (former Inquirer writer) and Phil Sheridan (current beat writer for the Eagles).

In a possible blow to the conspiracy theorists (who allege that the NBA and its broadcast partner "arrange" for certain opponents, in an attempt to boost ratings), the NBA revealed that the 2002 NBA Finals (which I kept to my word of not watching a single minute of, had the lowest ratings since the Finals went prime-time in 1982. Perhaps its time to address some of those issues in my email Mr. Stern. Your viewers (or should I saw ex-viewers) appear to be taking their interests elsewhere. Speaking of my email, still no reply back from the commissioner. I plan on posting my original email, along with a reply from Shawn McCarthy, head of the League of Fans, this weekend. Overall, Stern is "pleased with the direction of the league because the collective-bargaining agreement continues to allow small-market teams to compete." Unless Dick Bavetta is involved, he forgot to add. Speaking of conspiracy theories, the LA Times' T.J. Simers added fuel to the fire by questioning David Stern after his state of the league address. When pressed about Game 6 (no need to mention which one), Stern commented, "If you watch the videotape of Game 6, there were only two or three bad calls in the whole game." As Sixers radio voice Tom McGinnis would say, "Are you kidding me?"

Michael Hunt says that "market size matters". He notes that "even with the playing court leveled by the NBA's enlightened salary arrangement, professional basketball has been no more immune from ultimate major-market domination than baseball." Dale Hofmann offers this commentary, "except in cases involving DNA evidence, replay is always a bad idea, and where would we have found passion in this tournament if not for the officials' brains seizing before our very eyes?" ESPN's Darren Rovell bids farewell to John Tesh's "NBA on NBC" music theme. Allegedly, ABC has expressed interest in the the theme music, which is a change in their original stance that they would compose their own music.

Instant replay is pretty much a no-brainer for the NBA next year. Isn't it ironic that, in the entire playoffs, the only play (contrary to what Ashley McGeachy Fox reported when she said "there were many instances during the playoffs in which a replay would have reversed a referee's call and altered the outcome of a game") that, if reversed, would actually have affected the outcome of the game was Samaki Walker's 3-pointer at the end of the first half of Game 4? That would have put the Kings up 3-1 in that series, and likely would have put to bed all of the foolish talk of the past week of the "Lakers dynasty." Speaking of instant replay, Tom Enlund says there are certain logistics to work out, such as which televised feed that officials would use (officials will not peek "under the hood," as happens in the NFL). In fact, deputy commissioner Russ Granik says that "we may actually require the teams to put up in the arena some extra game clocks so that from certain positions, if a shot is taken and you don't get the clock over the backboard, you get another clock that is synchronized with it." Guess the old Boston Garden had it right when they had those famous east and west-end of the arena side scoreboards... Other interesting notes made during Stern's state of the league address on Tuesday included the Grizzlies and Timberwolves request to move to the Eastern Conference "for travel reasons." Yeah right. Apparently the T-Wolves think this is Kevin Garnett's only shot at getting out of the first round. Next year, the NBA Finals will start on 8:30 on ABC. If anybody's still watching.

Lisa Olson reveals some of her bitterness toward New England when she sarcastically asked, "how come Paul Pierce isn't dancing on any tables?" New York sank to new depths this week when they allowed Jason Kidd to ring the opening bell on the Wall Street... Peter Vecsey says Shaq just keeps getting better and better, and gets this jab in at K-Mart: "If he's learned nothing from Lord Byron Scott, he's learned those four magic words: 'It's not my fault.'" Ouch. Phil Mushnick hates everybody. Mike Lupica ridiculously proclaims the Lakers are the "Yankees of basketball." Someone should invite him to the FleetCenter and then to a math class (16 is greater than 14, Mike...see, the alligator is pointing that way).

It doesn't appear that Fenway Park is going anywhere anytime soon. Though I do hope the new owners reconsider putting seats atop the Green Monster. Won't that block the infamous Citgo sign in the distance, long a signature mark of the ballpark?

We will conclude today's links with this hilarious spoof (warning, rated R, for mature audiences only) of Delta Airlines.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Ashley McGeachy Fox and Phil Jasner note that Derrick Coleman is underwent knee surgery today. The Sixers web site notes that DC's surgery was successful. Ashley reminds us that Mayor Street has invited Kobe Bryant to visit Philadelphia this summer. Mr. Mayor, please let me know when you schedule this so that when Kobe comes to show off his 3 championship rings, I can be sure to be on hand and "welcome" him too... Stephen A. Smith laments the fact that the Sixers let "Big Mac" sign with the Nets last season, and asks the rhetorical question to Larry Brown & Company, "will you ever keep your own players for the long haul?" John Smallwood attempts to put the Shaq and Kobe dynasty in perspective with the all-time greats. Smallwood concludes, "These Lakers wouldn't beat Chamberlain's Sixers, Larry Bird's Celtics, Magic's Lakers or Jordan's Bulls. But with a victory tomorrow, they'll sweep their way to an NBA title, which is something none of those other teams could do." Of course, that wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that the Nets are probably one of the least deserving Finals contenders in recent memory, would it? Michael Holley writes on the same theme, starting his article off with the line, "In the beginning, God created the NBA," and reminding his readers that they "shouldn't continue to [compare today's players with the past by putting] them on a 2002/1980s split screen." Rich Hofmann suffers from New York envy, and after his field trip to a Yankees game, laments that Philly is no longer "a baseball town."

Peter Vecsey questions "Lord Byron" Scott's coaching schemes against Shaq... Phil Mushnick hates everybody... Fred Kerber says that Robert Horry is able to keep basketball in perspective, especially since his 8-year old daughter Ashlyn "is unable to walk, talk or eat wthout assistance." I was originally going to take a couple of jabs at Horry's expense today, based on some of his comments to the media this week, but somehow that would seem to be a display of very poor taste right now.

Michael Hunt says that instant replay is likely to be introduced next year in "0:00" situations. David Stern, acknowledging bad calls, says "there are some and there will always be some. That will happen." Stern has a news conference schedule for today to address "the state of the league." No word yet on whether my email to the commissioner will be a topic for discussion. Hunt also thinks Stern should put a halt to plans for European expansion and admit that expansion into Canada was a mistake. While overseas interest in the NBA might be increasing (no doubt due to the influx of European talent into the league), trying to establish a couple of NBA franchises on the other side of the Atlantic doesn't seem like such a great business decision... Bill Griffith notes that ratings for the Finals were down 29% for Game 2, and 26% for Game 3, when compared to last year. No word yet on whether Stern will try and arrange to have the Lakers flown to Philadelphia and take on the 76ers for Game 4 in an attempt to make this a series.

Ray Ratto pokes fun at Ralph Nader and the League of Fans... The Mercury News reports that Marv Albert will be named TNT's lead play-by-play announcer for next year, along with Mike Fratello, and that Bill Walton is likely headed to ABC/ESPN, to be possibly paired with Brent Musberger. So much for not being subjected to Waltonisms anymore. Is anyone else tired of the phrases "throw it down big fella" and "that's just not going to get it done?" Bill Simmons writes about Mike Tyson's "fade into Bolivian."

In a typical display of his arrogance, Shaq told the media this week "i'm going to ask for 300 million for two more years; hopefully I'll get it." Phil Jackson, responding to questions regarding his coaching future, slipped when he said, "I have not said two years is it. I mean, I want to fulfill my contract, and that's my first obligation, to try do do that. It's a responsibility I owe Jerry Krause." Quickly realizing his (unintentional?) mistake, Jackson added, "I'm sorry. Did I say Jerry Krause? [I meant] Jerry Buss." I'm sure both Jerrys were amused... Rick Fox is tired of hearing criticisms leveled at the Laker dynasty. "Most of our criticism comes from jealousy at our success and sour grapes. I guess it's difficult to be a good loser." Fox concluded, "We understand the jealousy, but it's starting to upset us." Hear that, Rick Adelman and Ralph Nader? You should all stop now, because you're hurting poor Rick's feelings. Michael Holley says the biggest speculation regarding Game 4 of the NBA Finals will not be if the Lakers will complete their sweep (they will), but what jersey Kobe Bryant will wear to the game. Am I the only one thinking at this point, who cares? Phil Taylor decries the modern era of corporate names adorning our nation's stadiums and arenas, and longs for the days when games were played at the Boston Garden, The Spectrum, Three Rivers Stadium, and Mile High Stadium. Amen. And now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go take a virtual tour of one of the luxury suites at the Vet...er, I mean Lincoln Financial Field.

Sunday, June 09, 2002

Stephen A. Smith discusses some potential Sixers trades. According to Billy King, "Allen Iverson is not on the trading block. I don't know how many times I have to say that... Iverson is not going anywhere." Smith mentions that Iverson, and possibly McKie, are the only "untouchables," and that Dikembe Mutombo is the most likely to be traded, perhaps to Portland for Dave Davis and Bonzi Wells... Eric Snow will be honored this week by the National Fatherhood Initiative with its 2002 Fatherhood Award... The Sixers web site has quotes from several players about Brown's induction into the Hall of Fame, including Iverson's sincere congratulations... Staples Center will be the venue for the 2004 NBA All-Star Game. David Stern was careful to note that neither the Lakers nor the Clippers are the "host team," and that the city is hosting the event. "The way we're doing it is really designed to minimize expectations with respect to great ticket requests for season ticket holders." In other words, screw the people who pay for the tickets night in and night out, so that we can fill the arena with our corporate sponsors and alumni.

Peter Vecsey proposes a radical playoff bracket realignment, to prevent anticlimactic NBA Finals where the winner is pretty much a foregone conclusion... Phil Mushnick hates everybody... Marc Berman says that Joumana Kidd enjoyed being a spectator at Staples Center, as opposed to "her experience at the hellish FleetCenter." Joumana continued to fan the flames of animosity toward Boston fans by citing lame anecotes. "A friend of mine wrote a book, saying Boston fans, when there's no sporting events, they go to the airport to boo the landings." How original.

Meanwhile, Phil Jasner noted that Rick Adelman is still complaining about the horrible officating of the now infamouse Game 6, and also notes that Shaquille O'Neal has been been committing violations on his free throw attempts. Shaq, displaying the smugness and arrogance handed down by his head coach, replied, "I'm at home, in the bathroom, flipping through the channels and he's complaining about how I'm stepping over the line. I don't believe people are still questioning me... Can I go one day without saying somebody saying something negative about me?" I'm sure Michael Hunt speaks for us all when he says concerning Shaq's sharing his bathroom habits, "that's more than we needed to know." Taking further digs at Adelman, and further displaying his arrogance, Shaq went on to say "if I had missed them, he wouldn't have said nothing. Don't cry, don't cry. Dry your eyes; here comes Shaq with those four little guys." Oh, and by the way, Shaq has been committing violations on many of his free throw attempts. I took the opportunity to look up the rule on the NBA's own web site, and found Rule 10, Section I (d) which states: "The free throw shooter may not cross the plane of the free throw line until the ball touches the basket ring, backboard, or the free throw ends." I learned something new here. I always thought it was only a violation if the player actually stepped over the line (such as when a player steps out of bounds), but come to find out if he 'crosses the plane of the free throw line' before the ball hits the rim it's a violation. Now watch Shaq's attempts when they replay the Kings-Lakers series on ESPN Classic and you be the judge.

Jim Baker says the early returns on the ratings for this year's Finals are not pretty. Well, I'd say Stern has nobody to blame but Dick Bavetta for that one... Bob Duffy talks about the revival of sports in Boston, and assures Celtics fans "Pitino won't be walking through that door." Bill Griffith talks about the conclusion of the Andy Rosenberg era at NBC Sports. Dick Ebersol seems mostly praiseworthy of Rosenberg's work, claiming he "had a knack of anticipating lulls in the action and slipping in replays during that game." Funny, it was the incessant interjection of instant replays (which could have been delayed until a real break in the action) which often seemed to cause the home viewer to miss part of, or all of, the next play. Another complaint I have often had regarding NBC's coverage is their "muffling" of the crowd noise, which fails to give the home viewer the sense they are "at the game." In contrast, if you watch Fox's coverage of the NFL, you seem to get a much better feel of the crowd noise. Just my personal observation from someone who's been to many games, then seen the replay later and said to myself, "gee, it seemed much louder when I was there." Griffith goes on to plug the web site run by one of my colleagues in New England, Bruce Allen, and his Boston Sports Media Watch site... Dave Lewandowski reports that Larry Bird may face some off-court competition for his bid to bring an NBA franchise back to Charlotte.