Dec. 4, 2003
Portland "Blazer"
Zach Randolph:

Two kinds of "spark": One got Zach in trouble Tuesday; other a career-high 34 in W over Pacers (after pregame apology for "D.U.M." arrest).
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
LEBRON.  BENCHED!

And, yet, the sun still came up this morning. Imagine that! (See DQ'ed, lower right.) On to today's real first item ...

New Carolina
If smacking around the Big Ten is an indicator, the ACC is nasty this year. Most impressive? "New-N.C.", with instant-impact coach Roy Williams and arguably the best starting five in the nation. ("Depth" is regular-season hokum; in March, who needs depth?)

NFL Bowl Weekend?
One of my ESPN.com colleagues made a great analogy that Week 14's top-heavy slate of NFL games will turn Sunday into as much of a must-see football feast as New Year's Day. So let's assign 'em some bowl names:

Bengals at Ravens:
Playoffs In-Sight Bowl

Cowboys at Eagles:
Face-the-Music City Bowl

Dolphins at Pats:
Fiesta on Fiedler Bowl

Seahawks at Vikings:
Home-for-the-Holidays? Bowl

Colts at Titans:
Alamo-mentum Bowl

Chiefs at Broncos:
Take-You-Outback Bowl

Bonds to Testify
Whether or not Barry Bonds says anything provocative (he won't) during his Thursday testimony in that steroid-company investigation isn't the point.

Something about "testimony" and "steroids" in the same sentence creates a swirl of sensationalism. The lasting image of Bonds entering the building today will have the whiff (if not the reality) of guilt by implication.

Lakers 90, Spurs 86
A motivated Lakers' starting five is an unbeatable starting five: They scored 86 of Lakers' 90 points. (Nine blocks for Shaq? Sick.)

IF YOU DON'T HAVE TIME TO READ THE FULL QUICKIE
TODAY'S THREE HOTTEST STORIES
1 Barry Bonds to testify in BALCO-'roids investigation
2 LeBron James benched in 4th qtr of Cavs L to Clips
3 Gwyneth Paltrow pregnant: Well done, Coldplay guy!
THREE STORIES YOU SHOULD JUST LET GO
1 Paris Hilton: Yep, already tired of her show ...
2 NFL finally fines ref for blowing Ravens-Seahawks clock
3 Trista/Ryan post-bachelor party breakup: No such luck
 
If Lakers win in Dallas tonight and maintain their focus, they're looking at only a handful of total losses heading into the All-Star break, at which point "72" (wins) talk will really crank up.

BoSox Get Man(ager)
Matchmaker, matchmaker ... If the Red Sox end up winning the World Series under new manager Terry Francona, is Curt Schilling eligible for Executive of the Year?

More MLB Moves
If the Yankees can't bully the Red Sox, at least they have the Mets, who reportedly made an offer to Japanese star SS Kaz Matsui. Will Steinbrenner put in a frustration bid?

Meanwhile, there's that gaping maw in the Yankees' pitching rotation, but there's growing certainty that they'll fill it with Montreal's Javier Vazquez (swapped for Nick Johnson, et al).

The Phillies are like the wannabe Yankees: Sudden free-spenders will throw $9 million at new P Eric Milton, who better throw more than last year's three starts for the Twins.

Hot baby name in Chicago: "LaTroy"? Yes, if newly acquired (and roundly approved) setup guy LaTroy Hawkins can fix the Cubs' shoddy, pennant-eroding, no-I'm-not-still-bitter middle relief.

A Duke Haiku
Think Duke is that good?
22-point wins don't lie:
At Michigan State.

MAC Daddies
Farewell salute to the MAC: Its early-season Cinderella stories captivated us all for about a week.

Then, two problems:
* Best teams caught "power-conference syndrome," knocking each other off -- and off the national radar.
* Playing league's dregs obliterated contenders' schedule strength.

LeBron (LEBRON!):
Benched (BENCHED!) in 4th qtr of Cavs' L to the Clippers (CLIPPERS!). Final line: 4 pts on 2/13 FG shooting, 0 (ZERO!) free throws.
 
 
Today on ESPN.com
Page 2: 10 Burning Questions w/ Jack Nicholson
IN: Aurilia to Red Sox?
NFL: Kitna for MVP?
 
A Few "NFL Bowls"
You Might Not See:
Redskins at Giants
Hot-Seat Sun Bowl
 
Bucs at Saints
Bloom-Off-the-Rose Bowl
 
Raiders at Steelers
Continental Tired Bowl
 
Panthers at Falcons
Cap. One-Reason-to-Watch Bowl
 
Chargers at Lions
Later-Gator Bowl
 

Every reason to be disturbed by FBI's investigation into hyper-threatening racist letters to NFL players over past 2 years ...

There's always a catch: Reading fine print, Marlins' "fan-friendly" re-signing of players now tied to new-stadium approval ...

From high mock-tane: Tracking Magic (17th str. L Wed.) like rubbernecking an accident ...

To high octane: Another super-charged W for Raptors: 105 pts ...

If Bonzi Wells can keep his head screwed on straight, the Grizzlies will have swiped him from Portland. That's a big "if" ...

Hope Diana Taurasi likes the Southwest; Phoenix won the WNBA draft lottery ...

If Jets' Herm Edwards really has escape clause after '03, he should stay put. Losing in NY stinks, but winning rules. With healthy Chad, he'll win ...



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