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Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Page 2 Quickie: April 17, 2006

The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Is Larry Brown gone in New York?

If he is, the Knicks have covered their backside. They took out an insurance policy on Brown's 5-year, $50 million contract in case he resigned for health issues (even if he jumps to another team), according to today's report in the New York Daily News.

(Does mental health count?)

It would be in the best interests for both Brown and the Knicks to exercise this option and end this failed experiment after this single brutal year.

There's no shame in that: It wasn't the fit that anyone thought it would be.

Unless you recognized that the Knicks were trying a youth movement incorporating three 2005 first-round draft picks, with a coach who notoriously hates rookies.

Or that Knicks president Isiah Thomas loaded up with shoot-first, me-first point guards (including a midseason trade to acquire a third one), with a coach who notoriously can't get along with his point guards -- particularly the ones who like to shoot a lot.

Or that the team didn't have the personnel to play great defense (or any defense: 27th in the league, with a 29th-worst points differential), with a coach who, if nothing else, demands effort on defense.

Brown was supposed to be the master resuscitator come to save his favorite childhood team, but in the end, the coach was the one who ended up on the ambulance stretcher.

So after a season of disagreement -- between coach and players, between coach and GM, between coach and just about everyone -- let's all agree to disagree:

Brown's "Right Way" was the wrong way for the Knicks. He took an already sorry team and actually made it worse. Last season's 33 wins look amazing right now.

But here's a chance for both sides to walk away. Brown can get out of this no-win situation (and even jump to another team).

And the Knicks can save themselves the remaining $40 million on Brown's contract, and slide from the "Right Way" to "Another Way."

Bonds Watch
It sounds counterintuitive, but with MLB investigating him, a grand jury looking into his "truthiness," and pitchers handcuffing him, Barry Bonds has rarely had more power.

Why? Because Bonds has bone chips in his elbow, he revealed this weekend. The elbow hurts, but he'll play through the pain -- for now. But he laid out one possible future scenario:

"If I have to have a procedure, then I'm done. Finished. That would be it."

At any moment -- whether his elbow hurts too much, he realizes he can't hit MLB pitchers like he used to or the heat from authorities gets too high -- he can simply claim he needs surgery and end his year (and career) there, fading from fan radar.

I'm sure that would be far less satisfying to him than passing Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list, but Bonds would remain in control, where he obviously likes to be.

Kobe MVP?

Lakers clinch with Kobe's 43: No stronger case for Kobe-as-MVP than the fact that he carried this otherwise mediocre Lakers roster into the playoffs, capped by Sunday's 20-point W over the Suns.

But don't confuse that blowout with the Lakers having a chance in a 1st-round playoff rematch with Phoenix. Steve Nash didn't play yesterday; in the 3 other games vs. LA, Nash averaged 18 ppg and 12 apg in 3 Suns romps.

Coming tomorrow: When is tanking preferable to winning for a playoff-bound team? Two teams meet in a gut-check -- and get some advice: lose!

NBA East Wrap
The final four playoff spots were clinched, but with two games to go, there is absolutely no clarity on how they might be seeded.

The Wizards are one game ahead of the Bucks, Pacers and Bulls. The Wiz play the Bucks head-to-head, then finish at Detroit (the Bucks play the Pistons before finishing at Washington).

The Pacers and Bulls also share two common opponents: Indiana plays at Toronto, then hosts Orlando; the Bulls are at Orlando, then finish at home vs. Toronto. Race should go down to the final minutes.

Quickie NBA Awards
All this week, I'll be laying out my NBA Awards ballot. Check back each day for a new award (schedule below).

Today: Most Improved!
Winner: Boris Diaw, Suns
Position-less on the Hawks in 2004-05, Diaw averaged 4.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg and 2.3 apg. Then the 6-foot-8 Frenchman joined innovative Phoenix in that offseason trade for Joe Johnson.

Position-less on the Suns, this time by design, Diaw averaged 13.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 6.2 apg, joining LeBron and Kidd as the only players in the NBA to average more than 10/6/6.

(Just look at his last two games: Sunday against the Lakers, he had 11 pts, 10 reb and 12 ast; Friday vs. the Warriors, he had 11-11-16.)

His versatility has been remarkable: At times, he played any of the five positions on the floor, creating mismatches on offense and havoc on D (1.1 blocks per game). As the French might say, Mon Diaw!

Coming this week:
Tuesday: 6th Man/Defensive
Wednesday: Rookie/Fans
Thursday: Coach
Friday: MVP

MLB Wknd Wrap
If you had both steady Albert Pujols and surprise Chris Shelton on your fantasy teams, Sunday was a banner day in what has likely been a dominating year for you as fantasy GM:

Pujols crowned new Busch Stadium as "The House that Albert Built," smacking 3 HR, including the walk-off winner, in an insta-classic 8-7 W over the Reds.

Meanwhile, Shelton hit his AL-leading 8th HR, Detroit's only offense in a 1-0 win over the Central-leading Indians. (Elias stats noted Shelton is the first AL player ever to have 8 HR in the first 12 games.)

Sheets makes return: Allowed 4R and 6H in 5IP vs. the suddenly unstoppable Mets, who are off to their best start ever (9-2).

(Are the Mets legit? Let's see how they do over the next three days against their intra-division nemesis, Atlanta, who were 13-6 against NY in '05 and 25-13 the last two seasons.)

Schilling is sizzling: 3-0 is best start since '02. Held the Mariners to 3H and 1R in 8IP (7K, 0BB) on Friday night.

So is Josh Beckett: 3-0 is his best start ever. Held Seattle to 6H and 1R in 7IP (5K, 1BB) to improve his season ERA to 1.29. Great trade.

And so is Jon Papelbon: The Red Sox closer is looking like this year's Huston Street, with 6 lock-down saves in 6 tries.

(Street had 23 saves as '05 AL ROY; Papelbon should smash that. But the MLB record for saves by a rookie (37 in 2000 by Kaz Sasaki) is a reach.)

Rockies experience a first: For only the second time in 11 seasons, there was a 1-0 result at Coors Field -- and for the first time ever, the Rockies were on the losing end; they won a 1-0 game last July.

NFL Fan Draft
We're less than two weeks from the NFL draft, so before you OD on mocks, why not check out who the fans are drafting?

SportsNation's Mock Draft began last week, and the results have leaned toward a "best player available" strategy:

No. 1 (HOU): RB Reggie Bush
He's the pick by a landslide.
No. 2 (NO): OL "Brick" Ferguson
Fans go for best available.
No. 3 (TEN): QB Matt Leinart
Reunite him with Norm Chow.
No. 4 (NYJ): QB Vince Young
Broadway-worthy star wattage.
No. 5 (GB): LB A.J. Hawk
Finally, some help on D!
No. 6 (SF): DE Mario Williams
But 49ers need O-line help?
No. 7 (OAK): QB Jay Cutler
Last of the big three QBs
No. 8 (BUF): TE Vernon Davis
The AFC East's Antonio Gates?

Be sure to weigh in today when fans will draft for the Lions (9 a.m. ET), Cards (noon ET) and Rams (3 p.m. ET). Let's just hope the fans are smart enough not to draft yet another wide receiver for the Lions.