April 13, 2006
Richard Seymour:
See: The Pats spend big when they need to. Sign defensive MVP to a contract extension reportedly worth $30 million over the next 4 years.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

You play to win … right?

The 76ers and Bulls are locked in a duel to earn the 8th spot in the East playoff field, and I have only one question:

What are they thinking?!

Here's what we know about that 8th playoff spot: Whichever team wins, it will get obliterated by the Pistons in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

It's not even a question of the value of a young team gaining playoff experience. What kind of experience is it to get humiliated?

Remember: Herm Edwards got it wrong. You don't "play to win the game." Hello?! You play to win the championship.

And in the service of that goal, both the Bulls and Sixers are better off increasing their draft status in the lottery, and continuing to build for playoff runs in the future, than they are getting flattened by the Pistons next week faster than you can say "ping-pong ball."

I recognize that the Bulls are playing with house money, because they hold the Knicks' very likely shot at a top 3 pick. And the 76ers' Allen Iverson (40 pts, 10 ast in a W vs. the Wiz) isn't getting any younger.

I appreciate AI's competitive spirit. You can't win the championship without being in the playoffs. But this isn't the Bulls' year, nor is it the 76ers' year. Not even close.

The NBA isn't the NFL: The difference between the worst-seeded team and the top-seeded team is huge. And these Bulls and 76ers aren't the 8th-seeded '99 Knicks in a wide-open East; the conference is so top-heavy this year, even the Heat and Nets will be huge underdogs to the Pistons.

And I think there's a healthy group of Bulls and 76ers fans who won't be too upset when one of their teams misses the playoffs.

That's healthy thinking, too.

LeBron Hurts Ankle
Speaking of packing it in for the season, if you have tickets for any of the Cavs' last four regular-season games, your best view of LeBron might be of him wearing his best sideline finery.

LeBron sprained his ankle in the Cavs' 96-73 loss to the Pistons (which doubled as foreshadowing of a likely East semifinal shellacking).

Combined with the fact that the Cavs are a lock for the 4th seed in the East, that means there is absolutely no incentive for the Cavs to give LeBron anything but R and R in this last week of the season.

Pedro vs. Nats
Did Pedro set up Jose Guillen with last week's aggressive pitching?

Because in the much-touted rematch Wednesday night, Pedro got Jose to fly out and ground out twice. Was Pedro in Guillen's head?

The pivotal moment came in the 6th, when Guillen faced Pedro with the bases loaded and one out. Throwing in the 80s all game, Pedro fired a 91-mph fastball at Guillen, who weakly hit into a jam-ending double play.

Pedro walked off the mound in the 8th with a win in his back pocket, but apparently with Guillen's soul, too.

Jim Thome: HR (5th in '06) helps lead ChiSox past Tigers
Pistons: 1 W (or Spurs L) from clinching full playoff HCA
Mets: 5 straight W's; 6-1 start is best since 8-1 in 1985
Wizards: Lose 4th straight, are stumbling out of East 5th
Brewers: MLB's Week 1 sizzlers lose their 3rd straight
Bucky: Country rocker finally booted from "American Idol"
MLB Wrap
Who had Game 8 in the "Griffey Gets Hurt 2006" pool? Please pick up your prize (an autographed Ace bandage) in the coffee room. (Griffey left the game in the 4th with knee stiffness; day-to-day).

If Coco Crisp can earn a 3-year, $15.5 million contract extension for going on the DL for a few weeks with that busted finger, what kind of money do you think he could get for a season-ending ACL tear?

Today's Best: King Felix vs. Tribe. Still looking for his first win of 2006, Mariners starter Felix Hernandez goes against the Indians, the AL's hottest offense.

Quote of the Day: "I'm not saying we're Murderer's Row. But if a pitch is there, we can put good swings on the ball." (Pirates 2B Jack Wilson, on the team hitting 8 HR in 2 G.)

NFL Draft Watch
It's official: Matt Leinart dumped super-agent Leigh Steinberg, presumably so he can streamline his agent and marketing teams under Creative Artists Agency (CAA).

So where might his new agent see him drafted? He's not expected to slip out of the top 4. Let's evaluate the possibilities:

No. 2: Trade-up by Team TBD. The Saints don't want him, but they might want the bounty of extra draft picks he might command by trading the pick. In this slot, Leinart could land anywhere from Balto to Who-Knows-Where?

Agent's comfort level: Agents are no fans of the unknown. They can try to steer things by suggesting which teams he might be more friendly about signing with, but that's a quick way to spoil his Golden Boy image.

No. 3: Titans. Would reunite him with old USC O.C. Norm Chow and give him a year as the mentee of Steve McNair (that is, if the Titans don't ship McNair out and put it all on Leinart's thin rookie shoulders).

Agent's comfort level: Nashville isn't a media mecca like New York, but the chance to step in for a deposed McNair and start right away would give his client a unique rookie QB spotlight.

No. 4: Jets. New York already has a touch-passer in Chad Pennington, but his injury history and inflated expense might make it tempting to hedge his return by drafting the top-rated QB available in years.

Mo Money, Mo Valley
What does a trip to the Sweet 16 earn a coach from the ultra-trendy Missouri Valley Conference?

How about a 10-year deal? (That's nice, but every hot mid-major coach gets those long deals … right up until he leaves for a big-name school.)

But Turgeon spurned the advances of other "name" programs to stay in Wichita. So there must be a big payday in store for him, right?

$750,000, a 60 percent raise from his old salary of $460K. Now, I'm not going to sniff at three-quarters of a million, but if the MVC wants to be taken as seriously as a major, where's the breakthrough seven-figure deal?

$750K should be enough to get him to stay for, oh, say, three more years. Or whenever Kansas fires Bill Self after a few more first-round NCAA Tournament flameouts.

Sports Law Watch
Duke lacrosse update: Defense attorneys say they expect indictments to be filed against at least one player for sexual assault, possibly as early as Monday. And other players might be indicted for aiding and abetting. (via the New York Times)

Brazilian footballer Antonio Carlos was charged with criminal racism by Brazilian prosecutors for using a racial epithet at a match last month. He can avoid trial by handing out antiracism leaflets at sports events. (via wire reports)

Here's an odd one: The lead prosecutor in Redskins safety Sean Taylor's trial resigned after defense attorneys alleged he was using the case to promote his career as a South Beach DJ. Yes, that was the lawyer's growth career. (via the Washington Post)

NASCAR Cat Fight
NASCAR likely will reprimand Greg Biffle's girlfriend, Nicole Lunders, after her much-publicized altercation Sunday with Kurt Busch's fiancee, Eva Bryan.

A few punitive suggestions:

(a) Monetary fine
(b) Dock Cup points from BF
(c) Her own calendar
(d) Beer ad

David Wells:
Mr. Trade Me was booed lustily by the Fenway "faithful" after giving up 7 R and 10 H in less than 5 IP in an 8-4 loss to the Blue Jays.
Today on ESPN.com
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SN: NBA Picks
Page 2 Index
Ranking East Seeds 5-8
Could they pull out 5-seed?
Outperforming expectations
Backing into playoffs
I love AI's grit
Sorry: Still years away

J.J. Redick keeps cleaning up the awards: Wins Sullivan Award as top amateur athlete; first men's basketball player to win it since Bill Walton in 1973.

NBA Tonight: Mavs at Suns. Dallas in near-must-win situation if it wants to keep pace with the Spurs, who are 1.5 games ahead of the Mavs for the West lead.

More NBA: The East's playoff seeding from 5-8 is getting murkier: The Wiz are in 5th, but only a game ahead of the Bucks and Pacers.

So while those 3 battle for who will lose in the 1st round to the Heat, Nets and Cavs, the 76ers and Bulls are tied for 8th. Only one can advance.

Duke lacrosse players are turning to presidential help: They have hired former Clinton PR guru/lawyer Bob Bennett to serve as a spokesperson and spin man.

Favre Watch: John Madden on Favre -- "I haven't talked to him, I've just listened to him: It sounds like he may be setting himself up to be traded."

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