February 6, 2003
Ray Rhodes:
Saved from coaching exile by friend Mike Holmgren, who brought Rhodes in to help Seahawks' nowhere-to-go-but-up D.
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
THROWN.  BACK.

LeBron's been freed to play -- at least until the next court date on Feb. 19. Here are a few postgame questions, like Doug Llewellyn from the Wapner-era "People's Court":

To Team LeBron: Are you sure "temporary" will become "permanent?" Don't celebrate too soon; the judge can still rule on 2/19 to end LeBron's career -- before the state playoffs.

To the OHSAA: What do you know that we don't about what the key witnesses -- the store clerks -- will say at that Feb. 19 hearing? They are rumored to have conflicting stories.

To the organizers of next stop on the LeBron World Tour: How psyched are you? Because you know that the universe isn't converging on Trenton, New Jersey, to obsess over LeBron's sub.

To the coach of an upcoming opponent: How bummed is Scott H.S. in Toledo? Since SVSM had the option to choose which of its remaining games LeBron would sit out (and they sure weren't choosing the money-printer in Jersey), they picked middling Scott (currently just .500).

To the rest of us: How will the LeBron Bandwagon be affected if his team actually loses to nationally ranked Westchester (Calif.) on Saturday?

All Riled Up
Pat Riley called the officiating "an absolute joke" in the Heat's loss to the Blazers last night. However, the league has to examine the reported exchange between Riley and ref Derrick Stafford. "It's not about you," Stafford reportedly shouted. "Go on TV crying," he added, apparently a reference to the previous time Riley whined about the refs. Great; now we actually have to start wondering if there is a real ref bias against him.

Signing Hangover
The whole LeBron Saga has a lot of people in a hoo-hah about the adulteration of high-school kids. But the most exciting moments of college football's Signing Day were the announcements two prominent players made on SportsCenter -- and not because of their college choices. Who knows how good Andre Caldwell (Florida) and Antonio Cromartie (Florida State) will be on the field,

"GREAT RIVALRIES" EDITION
CONVERSATION TOPICS THAT ARE IN PLAY:
1. Mickelson vs. Woods (or is it Titleist vs. Nike?)
2. LeBron vs. OHSAA (it's not over yet)
3. Terry Tate vs. the Soccer Streaker (new ad amusing)
CONVERSATION TOPICS THAT ARE SO OVER:
1. UNC-Duke ('Heels erode it by the game)
2. SEC football recruiting (Until next year ...)
3. Idol: Julia vs. Kimberly (Julia?! Come on, America!)
 
but their sincere, polite statements -- under pressure of live TV, no less -- said a lot about them as young adults. It was the best kind of reality TV.

Big recruiting winners: As expected, USC and Florida topped most lists, with LSU also a consensus winner. But listening to the spinning going on campuses across the country, you'd think every school matched their wish list. Wouldn't it be great if just one coach said, "You all see it: Our class sucks."

Lefty's Backswing
A day after Phil Mickelson's critique of Tiger's equipment, he was backpedaling: "I hope that line wasn't taken out of context." Let's review what he said, and you can decide for yourself: "[Tiger] has inferior equipment," Phil said. Hmm. "Tiger is the only player who is good enough to overcome the equipment he's stuck with." (Equal time: Let's count up all the majors Phil has won with his. Riiiight.)

More All-Star Picks
Continuing the buildup to NBA All-Star Weekend, here are picks for the three big individual-talent comps:

Slam-Dunk: Will it be ruined again this season with the "Wheel of Disaster?" Contestants: Richard Jefferson (poor man's Vince Carter); Desmond Mason ('01 winner better finishing alley-oops);

Jason Richardson ('02 winner needs to add style to power); Amare Stoudemire (big men make it look too easy). Pick: Jefferson over Mason

3-Point: What happened to the glory days when this contest was loaded with one-dimensional players? Contestants: Brent Barry (does he get to dunk?); Pat Garrity (no chance); Wes Person (historically chokes); Peja Stojakovic ('02 winner too cool); Antoine Walker (too bad it's not "how many" vs. "how accurate"); David Wesley (filler). Pick: Peja repeats, over Person

Skills: New comp testing all-around ability -- dribbling, passing, shooting. Contestants: Jason Kidd (can't shoot); Stephon Marbury (can't shoot, either); Tony Parker (too young); Gary Payton (total package). Pick: Payton, the wily vet, over Kidd

Which Cup?
As first reported by ESPN.com's Robin Miller, R.J. Reynolds is likely going to stop as the title sponsor for the Winston Cup. Here are the three related replacement-contenders we'd like to see: 1) The Skoal Spitoon; 2) The Swisher Sweets Humidor; 3) The "Smoking Kills" Coffin.

UCLA hoops:
Nine straight losses and counting. The Bruins have eroded their status as a "premier" college hoops program. (UNC, too.)
 
 
Is justice blind, or are the refs?
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P2: Retro day!
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Duke retired Jason Williams' No. 22, a ceremony that has come to represent "great college players who underperform in the NBA" ...

Bob Knight hit 800 career wins last night. He doesn't care, so we will downplay, too ...

Fifty of those wins came vs. Northwestern, so it's nice timing that NU beat Indiana last night for the first time in 15 years ...

Not sure if he speaks for the players' union or himself, but Gene Upshaw wants the NFL to fine the Lions for their coach-hiring process ...

Next Tiger? The LPGA invited Michelle Wie, 13, to play in its first major of the season ...

Bachelorette Trista "decommitted" from Russ; a nation cheers ...

Don't forget to start your Friday with The Quickie ...


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