May 26, 2006
Rick Tocchet
and Janet Jones:

Begin process to later file $50 million defamation lawsuits against New Jersey over "Operation: Slapshot." My bet? They don't go through with it.
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
LUCKY.  BINKE.

The real star of the NBA East Finals?

Not Tayshaun Prince, though he had 24 points and 11 rebounds in a starring role in the Pistons' Game 2 win over the Heat on Thursday night.

Not Dwyane Wade, who had 32, combining with Shaq to account for 60 percent of Miami's points.

And certainly not the Heat's "Other Three" of 'Toine, J-Will and Payton, who regressed from a combined 41 points in Game 1 (17-27 FG) to 25 in Game 2 (7-26 FG).

No, it's Jacob Binke -- or "Jake the Dancing Kid" as you might know him from Detroit's home games broadcast on national TV.

As a new dad, I know binkies.

And as I watched the Heat score 17 points in the final 1:46 to shrink a Pistons blowout win to a 2-point lead with 9 seconds to play, I realized that Detroit needed a binky ... badly.

Thus, the "Binke Effect." Given the Pistons' uninspired D down the stretch, I'm willing to give at least as much credit to Binke's inspiring gyrations as to anything the Pistons actually did on the court.

If home-court advantage gave the Pistons the final nudge to hold off the Heat last night, Binke is its poster boy.

(And though you might be torn over how a 7-year-old is being exploited for entertainment value, "Binke Mania" sure beats the aggravating voice of Pistons PA announcer John Mason.)

Unfortunately, there's no Binke waiting for the Pistons in Miami this long weekend.

POSTSCRIPT: Here's your real debate: Which 7-year-old had a bigger week?

Binke or Braxton Bilbrey, the second grader who became the youngest ever to do the Alcatraz swim across San Francisco Bay on Monday?

Put Binke in the water, with all his thrashing/dancing, and he might just be able to make the swim himself. But Bilbrey gets points for the actual achievement. Apparently, being a 7-year-old is the new LeBron.

No "D" in Dallas?
The Mavs lost home-court advantage in the West finals on Wednesday night; if they lose again tonight in Game 2, the series is as good as over before it really even begins.

The key? The Mavs' talking point Thursday was clear: Transition defense.

The Suns ran all over them: 32 fast-break points, 16 assists for Steve Nash. After allowing a breakthrough 96 ppg during the regular season, the Mavs Sieves allowed 121 in Game 1.

In two wins vs. the Suns this season, Dallas allowed 102 ppg; in two regular season losses, they allowed 116 ppg. It doesn't take a Coach of the Year to devise the Game 2 strategy:

Get. Back. On. D.

(Meanwhile, Suns G Raja Bell will miss at least 3 games with his calf injury. Mavs G/F Josh Howard may still play in Game 2; watch his effectiveness on that gimpy ankle.)

Indy 500 Oldies
If last year's race was about the Danica Patrick sensation, this year's Indy 500 is nothing if not old school:

Michael Andretti, 43, and Al Unser Jr., 44, are both coming out of retirement to drive in the race. Unser has won the I-500 twice, and his father combined with Andretti's dad to win it 6 times.

While the fogies give it one more go, I'm still rooting for a Danica victory, which -- as I argued last year -- would become the top gender-bending moment in sports history.

CHECK OUT THE QUICKIE EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING!
WHO'S GOT THE MOMENTUM ...
Mighty Ducks: Finally get W at Edmonton (still down 1-3)
Gil Morgan: Leads Sr PGA Champ (credit home-course adv.)
Barbaro: Five days after injury, horse seems in good shape
... AND WHO'S GOT NO MO'
Jorge Posada: Out at least a few games (torn hammy)
Chiefs withdraw bid to host Super Bowl in 2015
Jeff Skilling/Ken Lay: Will they run Oz investment club?
 
Sam Hornish Jr. is on the pole; 2005 champ Dan Wheldon (who drives for Andretti) is a huge factor; and don't forget to say a prayer for the late Paul Dana, killed in an on-track accident earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the other big story line is that Indy temperatures are supposed to be in the 80s, which would make it one of the hottest 500s ever. That means the track will be slick.

Sampson Embarrassment
What advice would I give a college hoops coach who is not allowed to make phone calls or home visits to recruits? Learn how to text-message.

New Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson was taken to task by the NCAA on Thursday for making improper phone calls to recruits while he was the coach at Oklahoma.

One detail, however, really sticks out and is worth highlighting:

Sampson violated the rules at the same time he was talking up a college hoops "ethics summit" as president of the coaches' association!

Hypocrisy or chutzpah? That's a distinction Sampson can ponder while he's not out recruiting new players.

Congrats, Indiana. Your new coach is quite a catch.

MLB Hit List
Royals lose 13th straight: I'm not suggesting that MLB contract the Royals.

However, I will say that next month's morbidly must-see interleague series vs. the Pirates mimics the European soccer's "relegation" system:

The loser of the series should have to spend the second half of the season in AAA, with the top AAA team taking its place. Couldn't get much worse.

King Felix Watch: Starts tonight at Minnesota. In his last 10 IP, he has given up 12 ER. Which cynic will be the first to suggest that we re-nickname him from "King" to "Knave?"

Clemens Update: Clemens is down to the Astros or Red Sox, according to a source in today's Boston Globe. (Wishful thinking?) Rocket's decision is reportedly coming the first week of June.

Which MLB player was DQ'd? See the end of the column.

"Score Management"
Beware the blowout! Connecticut high school football coaches who bludgeon teams by more than 50 points will face a suspension for their next game, according to a new rule.

I appreciate the crackdown on crackpot high school coaches. There is something ethically debilitating about a prep coach who feels the need to run up a score when the game is way out of reach.

On the other hand, this rule punishes some taxi-squad RB for trying his hardest when the coach puts him in during a blowout and the kid breaks past some weak-kneed patsy defender to score a TD.

There's no perfect solution, except to suggest that a less severe method may be to encourage coaches to stop throwing the ball or calling timeouts after they are up 30 or 40 points. (Here's one other idea: Maybe install a running clock when the spread reaches 40 or 50?)

Maybe this rule is that encouragement. But obviously, the folks in Connecticut determined that rogue coaches are beyond an appeal to their sense of sportsmanship. That's the worst signal of all.

"Bird Flu" Promo
"Bird Flu Awareness Night":

In the history of minor league baseball attendance gimmicks, this one might set the new bar for insensitivity and hilarity.

Looming pandemic crisis? Bah! The Newark Bears' game promo tonight puts the hysterical into the current hysteria over the H5N1 virus.

Any fan bringing a chicken-related item to the Bears' box office gets into the game free. There, they can take advantage of the wing-eating contest, among other poultry-related fun.

Yes, but will they let in the fan who brings in that sickly looking live chicken?

(What a great opening scene for the next in the endless series of current made-for-TV movies and "special reports" about the bird flu.)

"Marriage Madness"
Congrats, Catherine and Jason! The happy couple are getting married today at ESPN HQ.

Sure, I know that the most common reaction to their decision to get married on "Mike and Mike" is to start an office pool on the over/under until the divorce. (Hint: Don't forget the square for "Annulment!")

But this is just the extreme version of every sports fan's unspoken dream: That their wedding intersect, even just slightly, with their passion for sports.

(Come on: When you're invited to a wedding weekend out of town, you know one of the first things you do is check the local sports teams' schedules to see if you can squeeze a game in. And you just know the bride and/or groom wants to go with you, if not for other commitments of the weekend.)

Matthew LeCroy:
Nats catcher yanked after giving up 7 stolen bases in 7 innings to the Astros. Given Frank Robinson's weeping over it, maybe we should call him "LeCry."
 
 
Today on ESPN.com
NBA Playoffs Index
NBA Daily Dime
Page 2 Index
 
Notable In-Arena Sports Fans
Hogettes
Redskins' cross-dressers
 
Mark Cuban
He gyrates like Binke, too!
 
Barrel Man
Defining Broncos costume
 
J-E-T-S! guy
Everyone takes cue from him
 
FSU Facebook Girl
Jenn Sterger catches camera
 

NCAA Lacrosse Final Four: One of the most underrated events of the sports year. Unseeded UMass is the party-crasher, along with Maryland, 'Cuse and UVA.

Tony Kornheiser can try to play down the expectations, but the early reviews are in and it is looking like he'll be the big star of the new MNF.

More Marriage Madness: I'm not embarrassed to admit that the weekend of my own wedding, we built the schedule around the Florida football game, something Gators fans Catherine and Jason might appreciate.

A new poker series is introducing a 15-second shot clock; I'm still convinced the best rule of all would be "no sunglasses."

New "X-Men" opens: Is it wrong to reveal that when I was a kid my favorite X-Man (besides Wolverine) was Angel? He's kind of lame, isn't he?

I met ex-Enron CEO Jeff Skilling once: He was an alum of my section at B-School, and he met with us to talk about how great Enron's business model was. D'oh.

Enjoy a safe and reverent Memorial Day. Thoughts are with the families of every soldier in the military who has ever given his or her life.



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