June 23, 2005
Tim Duncan:
Page 2's Scoop Jackson got it right: Duncan "still has one game left to save himself." All eyes are on the best player on the floor when it matters most.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Pistons in 7.

Two weeks ago, when I made that pick, the "expert" bandwagon was with the Spurs (collectively wiser ESPN.com users were split nearly 50/50.)

Now, 70 percent of fans are finally joining those who originally picked the Pistons to win tonight.

But why did fans come around?

By merely taking it to seven games, the Pistons have proved to themselves (and apparently everyone else) that they can win when it matters most:

Survive an early blistering on the road...

Recover to win a couple games back home in Detroit...

Here's the key: Win at least one in San Antonio (preferably on the back end and not in a fluky way)...

And consequently put all the pressure on the Spurs to not choke, rather than to win.

Simply put: The Spurs were expected to win; turns out they were saddled like a Texas stud.

Just as fans learned last June (and should have remembered this month), expectations can become the MVP sixth man...

...For the other team.

All-Star Starters?
Which pitchers should start in next month's MLB All-Star Game?

AL: Mark Buehrle. ChiSox teammate Garland gets the hype, but Buehrle (eight straight W's after Wednesday's 5-hitter) is the ace of the team (and AL).

NL: Roger Clemens. Strong comp (Willis, Peavy), but Rocket's ever-shrinking MLB-leading 1.51 ERA (after last night's W) seals the pick.

More MLB Wednesday
So much for "Turned Corner": After a 5-3 loss to the D-Rays, that Yankees' 13-run 8th inning from Tuesday doesn't quite retain the zing.

The Buddy Bell Effect: Need a boost? Fire a manager. The Reds beat the Cards, winning their second straight under interim skipper Jerry Narron.

Texas: Bounces Baylor, moves to championship best-of-3
Andruw Jones: Hits NL-leading 21st HR (9 HR in last 11 G)
Danica Patrick: Kudos for smacking down misogynist F1 prez
Indians: Sweep by Red Sox makes it official: No more mo'
Marlins: Haven't scored in 24 innings (lost to ATL, 8-0)
Brandi Chastain: Won't be playing for U.S. women's soccer
Tiger Mania! No .500 swoon! Nate Robertson tames the Twins to move the team two games over .500 and within 2.5 games of second in AL Central.

Must-Follow Start: ASG-starter wannabe Dontrelle Willis goes for his NL-leading 12th W today vs. ATL.

U.S. Women's Open
All About "Slammika": Only the greatest women's golfer ever and her march toward a Grand Slam could distract attention from confident 15-y.o. phenom Michelle Wie. But the presence of both storylines makes this Women's Open more must-see than it's ever been.

NBA Labor Deal, Cont'd
My week-long obsession continues: There's one element of the new CBA I love -- putting "development" into the D-League.

My understanding is the NBDL age limit drops from 20 to 18, allowing preps to go to the D-League for a year before being draft-eligible at 19.

Prediction: Even more preps decide to skip college, this time for the NBDL, where they can get NBA coaching and work on their game full-time before they're draft-eligible a year later.

As I argued yesterday, college coaching simply can't beat NBA coaching for the purposes of prepping an 18-year-old for a job in the NBA.

And isn't it better if preps who have no interest in the "college" part of "college hoops" have a pro outlet, while colleges can keep scholarships for the players who actually want to be there?

P2 Sneaker Week
Don't forget to vote in the Ultimate Sneaker Bracket on Page 2.

Meanwhile, as a sneaker-phile, I wanted to pass along a couple of my favorite books, for you or perhaps a sneakerhead you know:

"Where'd You Get Those?": From legendary shoe freak Bobbito Garcia (host of an upcoming ESPN2 show on shoes), the photos of old-school ballers is enough to make this my coffee-table staple.

"Sneakers: The Complete Collectors' Guide": Just came out a few weeks ago, and it photogenically delivers on the title's promise.

"Soul Provider": Page 2's own Scoop Jackson wrote this to promote the 30th anniversary of Nike Basketball. For Nike fans, it's a must-have.

Terry Porter:
Less than a week before getting the chance to coach the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, Porter is axed by the Bucks. (For Flip Saunders?)
Today on ESPN.com
Scoop on Duncan
Neel on Game 7
Sneaker Bracket
Women's Sports Phenoms:
Maria Sharapova
The reality is looks sell
Michelle Wie
Male fans wowed by drives
Danica Patrick
Biggest IRL star ever?
Abby Wambach
Next Mia Hamm?
Any X-Games athlete
The teen guys love 'em

CWS Drama: Arizona St. waxed Florida 6-1 yesterday; in a dramatic twist, they play a win-or-go-home rematch today (7 pm ET, ESPN).

Nice work by AL All-Star manager Terry Francona to pick Detroit fave Alan Trammell as a coach (others: OAK's Macha, plus Alou/Yost for NL)

Good news, bad news for the Padres. Good news: Bruce Bochy gets two-year extension. Bad news: Put SP Adam Eaton (9-2) on 15-day DL (and lost to LAD, too).

NBA Labor Fallout: "What about Oden?" Prep C good enough to be No. 1 overall pick in 2006, yet exiled to a choice between college or D-League.

Stop the Presses: Shawn Bradley is retiring from the NBA, with perhaps the least fulfilled potential of any player of the ESPN Era.

"Dancing With Stars" Update: Rachel Hunter bounced out. Remaining: Joey McIntyre, Kelly Monaco and fan fave John "J. Peterman" O'Hurley.

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