July 16, 2004
Mitch Kupchak:
Who else thinks the easy part is over? Keeping Kobe? Eh, he was always going to stay, apparently. Casting for support? THERE'S a challenge.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

So the Springfield Shopper -- or whatever paper it was -- is claiming that Randy Johnson favors the Yankees, because he wants the best chance possible in the postseason.

But if you believe in conventional wisdom that postseason success hinges on quality starting pitching, why would anyone think New York is more desirable than Unit-suitors Boston (No. 1 AL ERA), Oakland (2) or Anaheim (4), all with better pitching than the Yankees.

(And pitching depth must certainly be on his mind after his bullpen failed to save his brilliant seven-inning performance.)

No, the right team for Johnson is the Cubs. And with the new questions about Mark Prior's elbow (following Thursday night's painful early exit), the Cubs' priority should be doing whatever it takes to bring the Big Unit to Wrigley.

If Boston was smart, if they can't get Johnson themselves they should help the Cubs; the Red Sox can't afford to have Johnson end up with the Yankees. Think of it as the best kind of collusion.

Kobe Stays
In case you missed my "Extra! Extra!" addition to the Quickie yesterday afternoon after Kobe announced he was staying with the Lakers, there was a "made-bed/lie-in-it" gist:

Between the similar-sized supporting cast, constant double-teams and the usual scrutiny, there should be no shortage of drama as I officially unveil "The Lakers'Drive for .500!" (TM).

K-Mart Goes
Carmelo, K-Mart, Camby, Nene: The most talented front-court in the NBA and the most versatile.

With no Shaq in the West, the Nuggets have the quality -- and more importantly, the quantity -- of size to contain Duncan, KG and Yao.

Prediction: West's No. 2 team

Kiki Vandeweghe: In two seasons has created a contender
27-, 28-year-olds: Now eligible to audition for "Am Idol"
Ali G: Fewer laughs/30 min than Chapelle; still hilarious
NJ Nets: Great backcourt of Kidd/R-Jeff...then what? Yikes
Tigers pitching: Holds Yankees to 5 hits -- all home runs!
French TV: Don't mess with our Lance, you Frenchy jerks
British Open
Els Yeah! There's no better nickname for a golf hole than Royal Troon's "Postage Stamp." Any hole that allows the casual duffer -- or even the fairly advance mini-golf player -- to think "I can hit that distance" is one to watch.

And if you weren't watching, you missed Ernie Els' hole-in-one Thursday. Doesn't that win him a coupon book, some arcade tokens and a free soda from the clubhouse?

NL East Madness
The most intriguing (dare I say "exciting?") MLB race is the one with all the most mediocre records -- the Phillies, Braves, Mets and Marlins in the NL East.

Battling the Phillies this weekend in a crucial four-game series that they began with a win Thursday night at Shea, New York joins Florida at just a game out of first, leaving the Braves -- the bleepin' Braves! -- tied with Philly for first, despite Atlanta being written off at least a half-dozen times since March.

The lesson: In the second half of the season, the least meaningful line item in the standings is "Winning Percentage (PCT)." The only one worth watching? "Games Behind (GB)."

BCS Reform
Which AI has a worse rap: The villainous baddies of "I, Robot" or the BCS computer polls?

And yet the coaches get away with the continued ludicrous non-disclosure of their individual weekly votes. As long as the poll system remains in the hands of a "football-igarchy," can we at least have some transparency? Apparently not.

As with opaqueness in big business, consumers have to ask: What are they hiding?

Marion Jumps
The best part about Marion Jones qualifying for the Olympics with that improbably long jump Thursday is that now the media circus that she seems to enjoy so much will intensify by about a million.

They must have thought they'd come in under the radar while we were all looking at Kobe; Huggins reinstated before Labor Day? Shameful.
Today on ESPN.com
Page 2: Simmons mailbag
Stein: Wrong movie, Kobe
ESPY coverage
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Enemy of the State
Totally underrated thriller
Independence Day
Top eye-candy flick of '96
Bad Boys
He's made for buddy-cop movies
Role of his lifetime
Six Degrees
Best acting job, by farBest acting job, by far

It's not sexy to simply retain your own free agents (unless you live in LA), but the Spurs did as good as anyone, keeping Ginobili...

Best half-inning of pitching ever? Mike Schultz of Calif. League throws 5Ks. FIVE! New record? No one knows; it's got to be up there...

Derek Fisher may have been the glue that held the Lakers together, but how soon before he comes undone on the woeful Warriors?...

Tom Brady's backup: No more of a useless role in the NFL; yet the Pats sign J Miller and K Kittner. What happened to Rohan Davey?...

Martha Stewart Mania: With sentencing Friday, a full weekend to let those old jokes about prison life fly!...

Let's all give a last kudos to the Clippers: Points for trying (and being a major player in the NBA storyline of the summer)...

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