Thursday, April 27, 2006
Page 2 Quickie: April 26, 2006
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
This is going to end ugly.
QB Brett Favre's return to the Packers for the 2006 season is unlikely to end any other way.
I respect that Favre wants to go out a winner -- that he can't stand the idea his final imprint on the game would be his humiliating 29-INT 2005 season.
But everyone in this process has made decisions about what's best for Brett, and while Favre has every right to do that, his team is kowtowing -- not doing what's best for the franchise.
New coach? Same QB.
Rebuilding? Same QB.
"Statement" signing? Same QB.
Favre is a lame duck: And so the Packers have to put their rebuilding efforts on hold ("rebuilding" meaning "develop a Favre replacement") to satisfy their star.
What happens if injuries or simply poor performance take the Packers out of the playoff race as early as last year?
Who's going to tell Favre he's benched for second-year QB (and future starter) Aaron Rodgers: Impotent GM Ted Thompson? Rookie head coach Mike McCarthy? Please.
Meanwhile, the Packers are still desperate for help on D, despite two offseason free-agent signings (DT Pickett, S Manuel). Will they mortgage their cap on free agent CB Charles Woodson, just to make Favre happy this year with the "statement" signing he wants?
(The only hope is that now that Favre has pinned himself down with a decision, the team can do whatever it wants. What's Favre going to do: Change his mind? What Packers fan in his right mind doesn't want the team to draft defense?)
Favre wants to end his career on his terms. And that's precisely the Packers' problem.
Wiz Bump LeBron
If LeBron made himself welcome in the NBA playoffs Saturday night, then last night the playoffs welcomed him back: Hard.
The Wizards harassed LeBron into 7/25 FG shooting, sending a message early with a hard foul from goon-ish Brendan Haywood that sparked an 18-0 Wizards run to turn what looked like a Cavs rout into a Wiz win.
LeBron nearly recorded another triple-double: He had 26 points and 9 rebounds, but instead of double-digit assists, he was forced into 10 turnovers. (He had only two assists, contrasting the 11 in Game 1.)
Michael Wilbon coined it the "LeBron Rules" in today's Washington Post. You didn't think LeBron's playoff career would be as easy as Game 1, did you?
(You certainly couldn't have expected the Wizards' big three not to bounce back from their 14/47 FG brutality from Game 1. Arenas, Jamison and Butler combined for 72 points (up from Saturday's 48) on 26/57 FG shooting.)
But it's much more interesting this way: How will LeBron respond on Friday? His Cavs have lost home-court advantage and they're headed to hostile D.C., where they were winless this season.
The Nike ad campaign for LeBron earlier this year showcased the many personalities of LeBron. So, on Friday, will we see Confident Game 1 LeBron or Frustrated Game 2 LeBron?
Here's the only upside for Ricky Williams after the NFL upheld its one-year suspension of him for yet another drug-policy violation:
He gets a year to get it together.
If he spends the next 12 months committed to getting himself into the best shape of his life, he'll return to the NFL, yes, as a 30-year-old running back, but also with a 28-year-old's mileage.
For now, he's saying the right things:
"I'm disappointed with the decision, but I respect it. I'm proud of my association with the [NFL] and look forward to returning to the Dolphins in 2007."
More than at any point in his career, actions must speak louder than words. Ricky has always talked a good game.
His history doesn't promise much for the future, but it doesn't have to determine it.
More NBA Wrap
Washington's big three had the bounce-back of the night from Game 1 stinkers, but Vince Carter wasn't far behind:
After going 12/33 in Game 1, VC was 12/20 for a game-high 33, and the Nets salvaged a split in their first two games vs. the Pacers.
It was "good news/bad news" for the Kings: They showed they could be competitive with the Spurs (even on the road without Artest), but they folded in OT (outscored 19-10).
The intrigue will be if the Kings can take Game 2's confidence-builder back home to the cozy support of fans in Sacto and at least force the Spurs to win the series back in Texas.
LAL at PHX (G2): What was that over/under I had on the number of shots Kobe would take after Sunday's 21-attempt game? 31?
MEM at DAL (G2): Fans toast new NBA Coach of the Year Avery Johnson, then wonder why the Mavs allowed the Grizz to shoot 53 pct on Sunday.
MIL at DET (G2): The question isn't whether the Pistons win; the question is how Richard Hamilton's ankle looks while they do it.
Kobe: From 8 to 24?
Maybe that over/under on Kobe's shot attempts tonight should be "24":
That's the jersey number Kobe is reportedly changing to next season, Darren Rovell reports.
Great move: There's an iffy association with his career as "8," plus is there anything more heart-pounding than "24?" Kobe positions himself as the NBA's Jack Bauer!
(Kobe is not actually doing it out of homage to Jack Bauer: "24" was Bryant's original high school number. But I like my Bauer theory more.)
Bonds Watch: Is it fair to start the Babe Countdown now? Bonds hit his 1st HR at home (and 2nd of the season) to move to 710.
Manny being Manny (finally): The Indians intentionally walked Papi, but set themselves up for a tie-breaking Manny HR, precisely the outcome that gives Sox foes the creeps: How do you beat them late if you can't get around either basher? (Though it was only Manny's 3rd HR of the season.)
Yanks not being Yanks: Last season, the D-Rays owned the Yankees. Last night, the Yankees sent a message: Not this year, pounding Tampa Bay 9-1 and taking out a year's worth of frustration on their unlikely rival.
Reggie Bush Watch
OK, here's what I know:
(1) The "house thing" won't affect Bush's draft status or endorsement value in the slightest. It's No. 1 and a payday.
(And because it won't impact his draft status, most fans' interest in the story will evaporate by today, if it hasn't already.)
(2) I don't buy his "nothing's wrong" talking points. Too close to McGwire's "won't talk about the past," in that he didn't really answer (or want to answer) the direct questions put to him.
If Bush, his lawyer or his publicist had any details that would instantly clear this up (and clear his name), don't you think they'd say it?
But Bush reportedly told USC administrators that he had no idea that his parents were renting the house. (via LA Daily News)
(3) It's not Bush's problem, really. If the Pac-10 cracks down (see circa 1990s Washington football), it's USC's problem. Big problem.
(And if reports in today's San Diego Union-Tribune are right -- that Bush had a previous relationship with the agent who owned the house his parents were living in, as detailed in a court hearing involving the agent's partner -- then this story is going to get messier. But still no impact on his draft status.)
CBB Mount Rushmore
"Mount Rushmore" is a terrific argument starter on ESPN.com's college hoops main page: Who are the four most iconic college hoops players of the ESPN Era?
Gottlieb led off with Ewing, Sampson, Tisdale and Larry Johnson. Katz swapped MJ and Manning for Tisdale and LJ. Fans picked Ew, Manning, MJ and Laettner.
For my Rushmore, I'll agree with Ewing (a consensus pick) and Laettner (on Bilas' and Forde's Rushmores), but I go a different way for my other two:
Chris Webber, because I think the Fab Five represented the most significant cultural inflection point in the sport in the ESPN Era.
And Carmelo Anthony, the most dominant and winning freshman, representative of the early-entry phenomenon that altered college hoops more than any other.
NFL Fan Draft
Latest from SportsNation's NFL Fan Draft:
27 (CAR): RB LenDale White
Who needs Stephen Davis?
28 (JAX): RB Laurence Maroney
1-2 punch with Fred Taylor?
29 (NYJ): C Nick Mangold
Replacement for Kevin Mawae?
Get a recap, and vote today for the Colts (9 a.m. ET), Seahawks (noon ET) and Steelers (3 p.m. ET). The first round ends!
Quickie Draft Challenge! Three days to go! Don't forget to sign up for the new "Daily Quickie Readers" group of ESPN.com's "Draft Forecast" game. (Open to everyone; no password needed). Sign up here!
Tribeca Film Fest
Like the NFL draft for film freaks, the Tribeca Film Festival also ramps up in New York City this week. (The biggest difference? Less jeering from Jets fans.)
Among other subjects, the TFF will feature nine sports-related films that will be creating buzz through the upcoming year. Over the next eight days, I'll give you a heads-up on all of them, so you can flex your film snobbery without even living in New York.
Tonight: "Akeelah and the Bee," which you might recognize from promotions at your local Starbucks. Spelling bees couldn't be hotter, from Broadway success to fantasy leagues.
(You're my man, Patel!)
It's impossible not to love the irrepressible story lines, and when they're fictional, like "Akeelah," even better: No fainting at the podium.