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Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Updated: March 1, 12:28 PM ET
Page 2 Quickie: February 27, 2006

The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

It's easy to call the U.S. Winter Olympians underachievers. (Gleeful Bode-haters get to paint with a broad brush.)

It's harder to come up with a field of those worthy of being on the traditional post-Olympics Wheaties box.

What goes into the pick? A formula that combines dramatic flair, positivity and, of course, gold.

Too few U.S. athletes provided that combo. But, far above the rest, the U.S. snowboarders energized the fans and the Games.

Shaun White and Hannah Teter, who each earned gold in the half-pipe, are my picks for the Wheaties honor.

On top of their stylish performances and likeable personalities, they, their snowboarding teammates and even their competitors bridged the Games from one generation to (and into) the next.

Who rounds out my ballot?

Joey Cheek, who did good while winning gold, donating his prize money to underprivileged African kids. (Cheek wants into Harvard? This is a no-brainer.)

Julia Mancuso and Ted Ligety showed that not every U.S. skier came to Torino to end up a dud. For that alone, they merit an honorable mention.

Unfortunately, as I argued Friday, this U.S. team will be better known for not winning: Bode's antics and Kwan's dropout, Cohen's slips and the speedskaters' bickering. (Among too many others.)

Is it too early to start talking about the top contenders for 2008 in Beijing?

Texans Trading Down?
How good would a potential trade package have to be to get the Texans to trade the No. 1 pick, a talent as transcendent as Reggie Bush? Charley Casserly says he is listening.

Would Houston fans take a Herschel Walker-type deal, low on names but high on draft picks, like the one instate rival Dallas used to catapult from NFL bottom-feeder to Super Bowl dynasty?

Or how about the one that the Chargers did, trading the rights to draft consensus top talent Michael Vick to the Falcons for what turned out to be LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees? Not too shabby.

The fact is, the Texans need more help than Bush alone can give them, and if another team is willing to offer a significant package for a chance at the best 12-touch-a-game player in the NFL, Houston must think hard.

Meanwhile, every team's fans can come up with dream scenarios, but let me throw this out there: The Patriots are sitting on extra picks in the 3rd and 4th rounds, stockpiled from previous trades.

Aside from their obvious needs on defense, why wouldn't the Pats consider trading their 1st-rounder, plus their extra third- and fourth-round picks, plus one or two title-tested vets to the Texans for the No. 1 pick? That's a good deal for Houston, too.

(I'm sure both Pats fans and haters will enjoy telling me why that idea is terrible. Hey, is there an NFL Trade Machine?)

CBB Wknd Wrap
UConn tops 'Nova: And they flip-flop in the rankings. Call their home-and-home split a wash. I hope there's a rubber match on the neutral court of the Big East Tournament title game, and however it might play out, both deserve a No. 1 NCAA seed.

Kansas' blowout loss at Texas isn't necessarily a sign it's not ready for NCAA Tournament prime time, any more than Villanova's loss at UConn sends the same message.

Redick: ACC's top scorer. When JJ Redick first got to Duke, a cocky 3-point shooting specialist with a buzz cut, I'd bet most fans wouldn't have thought he'd end his career as the ACC's top scorer. Love him or hate him, you have to respect his place at the top of that list.

What is the last week of the regular season good for? Jockeying for (meaningless) regular-season conference titles; jockeying for (slightly more meaningful) conference tournament seeding; and (most meaningful of all) for making a case to get off the bubble, for those who need it.

NFL Combine
Most intriguing stories:

(1) "Big Three" among QBs: As unlikely as this might have seemed the morning after the Rose Bowl, there's a 3-way comp between Leinart, Young and Cutler for top QB.

Cutler was the only one of the trio to participate in the combine, which continues to drive his early buzz, at least until the other two can perform at their private workouts.

Let me leave you with this detail: In an optional event, Cutler lifted the 225-pound bar 23 times, reportedly a record for QBs. He really wants to impress.

(2) Image rehab: Marcus Vick. From the file of Things You Say When You're Trying to Repair Your Rep: "I regret that situation and I'm very embarrassed about that situation... The most important thing for me right now is just make the correct decisions when no one is watching."

(3) Remember me? Jeremy Bloom. He's not among the elite WRs, but his Olympic cachet and potential as a return specialist will convince teams to take a chance. Has a second-day NFL draftee ever had more built-in marketing appeal?

(4) Wild card: LenDale White. Weighing in at somewhere between 235 and 255 -- at least 20 pounds more than the other elite running backs (and up to 50 pounds more than teammate Reggie Bush) -- White could be the next Jerome Bettis. Watch hype and momentum lift him into the top 10.

MLB Spring Wrap
Clemens is a big tease: He's going to throw a few pitches to Astros minor leaguers today, but you're not supposed to take it as anything more than that. Wait until his WBC performance for that speculation.

Strong words: White Sox GM Ken Williams calls Big Hurt an "idiot": "We don't miss his attitude. We don't miss the whining. We don't miss it. Good riddance. See you later."

Bonds watch: Now here's some news worth reporting: Barry could play in an exhibition as early as Friday. Take 4 days to batten down for hype.

WBC withdrawals: Melvin Mora dropped off the Venezuelan team, not because of injury concerns, but because they wanted him to play out of position.

Top prospects: Baseball America's annual Top 100 list of the best MLB prospects is a must-read, even if you're not in a FBL keeper league. (Q It Up has Top 5.)

Percival's career over? Tigers reliever says "probably" after excruciating pain during a pitching session on Sunday. He's currently tied for 10th on the all-time saves list.

NBA: Fire Isiah?
Among embattled sports execs, Matt Millen is off the hot seat: The first cries of "Fire Thomas!" were heard from the rafters of Madison Square Garden on Friday night.

The only question remains whether it will become as much of a sensation as the "Fire Millen" campaign, which included Web sites, public protests and -- most hilariously -- chants in arenas hosting other sports.

So when Rangers and St. John's fans start chanting "Fire Thomas!" we'll have something. Hey, the Big East Tourney at MSG is only two weeks away!

LeBron BOOED?!
Speaking of boos, you can understand Isiah getting booed in NYC, but what was up with Cavs fans booing LeBron on Friday night?

Booing LeBron?!

Sure, he had a horrible second half in the Cavs' loss to the Wizards (0-8 FG, 4-12 FT), but even to an Instant Historian, that seems fickle.

C'mon: It's LE-freaking-BRON. It's as if Cavs fans want him to consider jumping to another team when he's a free agent in 2 seasons.

(He'd look awfully good with Dwight Howard in Orlando, now that the Magic have freed up mega cap room. And Magic fans wouldn't boo.)

My bad: J-Mac
Very occasionally, I whiff on a story or find myself corrected by the readers. I'm more than happy to 'fess up. In this edition:

Jason McElwain rules! I missed commenting on the story of the autistic high school hoopster from Rochester, N.Y., who suited up for garbage time in his team's final game of the year.

J-Mac ended up hitting a school-record six 3-pointers (in four minutes!) in what has to be the heartwarming sports highlight of the year.

Hey, why stop the magic there? Let's get J-Mac in this year's McDonald's High School All-America 3-point contest!

Bode Closure
"I just did it my way. I'm not a martyr, and I'm not a do-gooder. I just want to go out and rock. And man, I rocked here," Bode Miller said after Saturday's DNF in his final "Oh-for-Olympics" event.

That might have been the epitaph on his career, but he capped it with his description of his performance Sunday: "You've got to go with catastrophic failure."

I'll agree with you there, Bode.