January 27, 2006
Wally Szczerbiak:
Finally gets a separation from hot-n-cold relationship with KG. Now he's Paul Pierce's sidekick. Two gunners? Eek. See Item 2 for more fun in Wally World.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Sometimes, there's a pop-culture moment that transcends its own genre and is worth leading a sports column:

Did you see Oprah taking on disgraced memoirist fabulist James Frey? You probably didn't, but you probably heard about it.

Yeesh: I haven't seen a Chicagoan work over a guy from Cleveland so thoroughly and humiliatingly since MJ abused Craig Ehlo.

But it left me convinced that the fix to most sports problems with coming clean could be solved by bringing in Oprah:

Ron Artest: Repentant or defiant? Well, which one, Ron-Ron? Let Oprah have a few minutes with him.

Bode Miller can't handle his own publicity stunts? (See 3rd item) How about a very public sit-down with Ms. Winfrey to talk about championship grace?

Looking for clarity from scheming scouts at the Senior Bowl? Divining the truth behind the Isiah-Anucha lawsuit? The real story behind the Red Sox front office? The final word on whether Kobe's 81 is "good for the children?"

Oprah, Oprah, Oprah, Oprah.

In sports, as much as anywhere else (say, nonfiction), "truth" has become "based on the truth." Sort of the truth. "Truthiness," as Stephen Colbert so presciently coined.

To Stern, Tags, Selig, fans: Force the Freys of sports -- and there are many -- to at least edge closer to being honest with us.

Take a lesson from Oprah.

Celts-Wolves Swap
Our problem for your problem: That's the essence of the trade that sent Wally Szczerbiak, Michael Olowokandi and change for Ricky Davis, Mark Blount and change.

Wally was always "Jan" to Garnett's "Marcia" (expect real stories of bad blood to come out now that they're no longer teammates) -- and he played defense like your average Sunday-morning gunner at the Y. Kandi Man was simply a waste of space.

Meanwhile, Ricky Davis is the type of "tolerate him when he's yours" player that Celtics fans will turn on even faster than KG turns on Wally; Wolves fans will learn. And Blount has been the butt of jokes for his overpriced contract.

On its face, the Celtics landed the deal's bigger star, but who can't foresee problems between Wally and Paul Pierce -- two shot-happy, defense-lacking perimeter players battling over can-you-top-this field-goal attempts?

Bode Disses Lance
Oh, Bode Miller, you moron: The U.S. Winter Olympics team's biggest personality probably could have gotten away with dissing only Barry Bonds in the latest issue of Rolling Stone:

"Right now, if you want to cheat, you can: Barry Bonds and those guys are just knowingly cheating, but there's all sorts of loopholes."

He's OK so far: Bashing Barry has become a national pastime.

But then Bode goes one step too far:

"If you say it has to be 'knowingly,' you do what Lance [Armstrong] and all those guys do, where every morning their doctor gives them a box of pills and they don't ask anything, they just take the pills."

Marcos Baghdatis: Unseeded sensation heads to Aussie final
Roger Federer: See that guy above? He's gonna get waxed
Duke: Rebounds from loss to G'town to win at VA Tech
Lady Vols: Lose back-to-back games for 1st time in 9 years
Rob Babcock: Raptors axe GM; hire Chad Ford!
Rider: Ex-dunk champ arrested on charges of kidnapping
Urp. See, when he messes with Lance, he messes with a bonafide national sports hero. Unlike Bonds, fans have no interest in connecting Lance with that. And they tune out the yelpers, who now include Bode.

Does Miller offer any proof? Elite Olympic-sport athletes probably know the 'roids underground better than anyone, but that doesn't mean you can just go spouting off -- particularly if you're trying to position yourself as the next American sports hero or the next Lance.

Less than a month after his "60 Minutes" problem, Bode is going to learn an even harsher lesson: America loves its sports mavericks -- but we don't like them too maverick.

You don't mess with Lance.

Kobe's Return
If it's felt like Kobe's 81 has lingered a wee bit too long, it's because the Lakers haven't played since Sunday's explosion. But he returns to action tonight vs. Golden State.

Looking for a preview? Two weeks ago, Kobe shot a mere 28 times, racking up 38 points (and 7 assists!) en route to a Lakers win. For comparison: Smush took 12 shots, Kwame 11, Mihm 9 and Odom 8.

Hmm, let's see: I'll take the over on Kobe shooting more than 28 times and the under on the rest of the bunch shooting 40 combined, like last time. What a difference two weeks make.

WBC Watch: Mercy!
The World Baseball Classic rules about pitch limits should at least begin to assuage MLB clubs that their best pitchers will not be abused: 65 pitches max in the 1st round, 80 in the 2nd, and 95 in the semis and finals. Even Grady Little couldn't mess this up.

Mercy Me! But there was one nugget of detail that should have every fan intrigued: The "Mercy Rule." The game is over if a team is ahead by 15 runs after 5 innings or 10 runs after 7 innings, including the middle of an inning. So, in theory, a team could have a "Walk-Off Mercy Moment."

Who doesn't want to see a rule set up for Little Leaguers triggered among two teams of professionals? How humiliating! Calling it now: The first U.S.-delivered "mercy" punishment will be the talk of the WBC.

Senior Bowl Mania!
I could do a rundown of all of the random players to watch for at the Senior Bowl (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN), but the QBs got all the glory in college -- why stop now? Three to watch for:

Jay Cutler: How can you not root for the guy from Vanderbilt? Ranked behind Leinart and Young but still good enough to be considered for the mid-first round, he's my pick to be the next Ben Roethlisberger (say, Miami?). Or even higher? Mort has tabbed Cutler "the best quarterback available."

Brodie Croyle: After an injury-plagued college career, Croyle emerged during Alabama's first-half run last season (well, right up until it lost its top WR to injury and the offense slowed to a crawl). Anyhoo, Mel Kiper said that Croyle's arm "as good as any QB I've seen down here in the last few years."

That's like Yoda saying "The force is strong in this one."

Michael Robinson: The QB who finished 5th in Heisman balloting isn't even playing QB anymore; he's been converted to WR (which sounds awfully cult-ish -- like you can see Antwaan Randle-El and Matt Jones on the sidelines, "Freaks"-style chanting, "One of us... One of us...").

Kubiak to Texans
If I was at the press conference introducing Gary Kubiak as the Texans coach (if "introducing" means "we knew about this for a month"), I'd collude with all of the reporters to cover a single topic: "So, Coach, can you explain how you're going to get Reggie Bush more than 15 touches a game?"

(Yes, I recognize that the Texans could draft Vince Young and that popular local sentiment is going that way. But given Kubiak's success developing QBs like Young, Elway and, er, Plummer, I could see him having enough hubris to think he can make an NFL QB out of David Carr. So Bush it is!)

Sneaker Watch
The most anticipated sneaker release I can remember is tomorrow:

The legendary Air Jordan XI (with the black patent leather, the ones that the kids wore to prom with their tuxedos) will be rereleased as part of a $295 limited edition set (along with the AJ VI, representing the anniversary of MJ's first title).

If you're not in line outside the shoe store already, however, you have no hope of "copping" them, as those same kids like to say.

Jermaine O'Neal:
He's out 8 weeks with a g-g-groin injury. Yeah, let's see how effective one-dimensional Pacers newbie Peja Stojakovic is without one of the Top 5 big men in the East drawing defenses inside.
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
CBB Power 16
Page 2 Index
Top 5 NBA Running Mates (in honor of Wally)
Dwyane Wade
Hasn't he eclipsed Shaq?
Shawn Marion
2.17 ppg as Nash finisher
Tony Parker
Small to Duncan's big
Rashard Lewis
22 ppg alongside Ray Allen
Yao Ming
Will he ever be a top dog?

NFL Job Board: Raiders eyeing Martz? Still think the job is Steelers OC Whisenhunt's, but it's fun to think of Martz with Moss. Just insanity, baby.

New name for Devil Rays? That's the word out of Tampa, where new ownership is looking for a name change in '07. Just "Rays" or even more radical?

MLB Hot Stove: Coco Crisp trade to Boston as good as over. Was Mota injury simply a pretext for Indians to rethink a move unpopular with fans?

Piazza to Padres? That's the rumor on both coasts. He'd help fill the void left by Ramon Hernandez leaving, but how many games can he catch?

Tiger Watch: Six shots back in Buick Invt'l. Slow start, but remember it was his first real round of the new season. He'll close in by Sunday.

What's the deal with Virginia Tech players and their fetish for stomping on opponents? Across the two biggest sports, at what point is the AD going to take some responsibility?

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