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Monday, June 19, 2006
Updated: July 9, 3:16 PM ET
Page 2 Quickie: June 19, 2006

The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

If the Mavs did less whining and more concentrating, maybe they wouldn't be facing elimination in the NBA Finals.

Start with the most glaring: Josh Howard insists he didn't call that timeout in between Dwyane Wade's free throws at the end of OT.

Stop whining! Don't you think that if the refs could possibly have waved off Howard's hand signal, they would have?

("Forced to call it, simple as that," ref Joey Crawford told Marc Stein.)

Back up from there: Avery Johnson spent his postgame press conference complaining that Wade wasn't fouled by Dirk on that final play. "What do YOU think?" he kept repeating.

Stop whining! Maybe Johnson should have been worrying less about that particular call and more about stopping Wade generally. Dwyane scorched Dallas for 43, including 15 of the Heat's final 19 points.

(Wade's 23 free throws prior to that call should also have been an indication he was drawing fouls and was going to get that call if it was close.)

Even Mark Cuban got into it: Heading into Sunday night, the weekend's biggest whine from the Mavs was over Jerry Stackhouse's suspension, so Cuban wore a Mavericks "42" jersey, presumably in solidarity.

Stop whining! It might have shown solidarity with Stack, but it didn't show much faith in the rest of the players, who managed to scrap together their most spirited effort of the Finals -- without the aid of any intentional fouling.

Now, compare all that griping to the way the Heat handled themselves after those first two losses in Dallas:

Shaq wouldn't talk to the media after his awful Game 2, but at least he wasn't making excuses; Pat Riley kept saying the Heat simply HAVE to play better.

There may be two games left (both in Dallas, no less), but psychologically this series is over, based on the Mavs' defeatist, "we wuz robbed" whining.

Dallas' game plan for the rest of the Finals should be simple:

Get over it.

U.S. D'Oh-pen
The bad news for Phil Mickelson is that the new-style "Clutch, Relaxed, Major-Winning Phil" was replaced by his old nemesis, "Lefty McChokesalot."

Even after winning three majors, his double-bogey on 18 to lose this U.S. Open will go down as a defining moment of his career -- one of the worst 18th-hole chokes in major championship history.

Even he knows it: "I just can't believe that I did that. I am such an idiot." Yes, Phil. Yes, you are.

But the good news for Phil is that because Tiger missed the cut, countless millions of fans didn't bother to watch the action on Saturday and Sunday. (It was their loss, but still: No Tiger, no TV juice.)

Stanley Cup: "7"
All through the season, people have mocked, lamented, degraded or, most likely, ignored the NHL (and I'm not the only one!)

But even the casual (or non-) NHL fan can buy into the idea that there is no more intense event in sports than Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Game 7 of the World Series?
Where's the violent release?
Game 7 of the NBA Finals?
Does every point matter? No.
The Final Four?
My bracket is already busted.
Sunday at the Masters?
Still a little too placid.
World Cup Finals?
Where's the six-game build-up?
NASCAR Chase for the Cup?
Who gets that "point" system?
The Super Bowl?
Hoopla? Yes. Intense? Nah.

This is it for the NHL: If casual (or non-) fans are ever going to tune in, it's tonight. It's the best chance for the sport to remind casual fans why it is worthy of their attention the rest of the year.

Maybe they/you will tune in simply because it IS a Game 7, but this year's particular subplot is irresistible:

To see if Edmonton, the smallest franchise in the league, can pull off only the second-ever Cup Finals comeback from a 3-1 series deficit. (The Canadian underdog on the road? How can you NOT be rooting for the Oilers?)

Can tonight save the NHL with casual fans? Highly unlikely. Remember: The last two Cup finals went to seven games, and that certainly didn't "save" the game.

But for one night, hockey's doubters and dissers will be the ones worth ignoring.

World Cup: U.S. stuns
As bad as the opening loss to the Czech Republic was, the draw versus Italy was glorious. Salvaging a tie despite playing 40 minutes with a 9-on-10 disadvantage is a breakthrough moment for the team.

(Must-read: Michael Davies' blog.)

But will it matter? I keep reading analysts talk about how Italy is a cinch to beat the stumbling Czechs, setting up the once-impossible scenario of the U.S. advancing to the second round when the Yanks beat Ghana.

Um, hold on, jingoists: That's not going to happen. Ghana obliterated the very Czechs who crushed the U.S., and Ghana's 2-0 loss to Italy wasn't nearly as lopsided as the score suggests.

A first-time Cup participant, riding the euphoria of the country's first-ever win (and the first for any country from Africa), Ghana has at least as much motivation -- and even less to lose -- than the U.S.

(The impact of players being unavailable for Game 3 because of Game 1 and 2 cardings will be fascinating: For example, Ghana will be missing star F Gyan and MF Muntari; the U.S. will be missing MF Mastroeni and D Pope.)

Segui Used HGH
And the high-profile MLB player's name redacted from Jason Grimsley's affidavit to the IRS was …

DAVID SEGUI!!! (You'll excuse me if I'm underwhelmed.)

Not only that, but the guy 'fessed up to it, coming forward to set the record straight by waving around a doctor's prescription for HGH, which he says he's still using, even though he retired years ago.

Not exactly the blockbuster everyone was expecting.

This doesn't prove the existence of HGH in MLB; everyone already KNOWS that the sport is riddled with the stuff. It doesn't expose some widespread distribution ring; the guy had a doctor's note.

For me, I don't question the validity of the scrip itself, but an enterprising reporter might use it as a springboard into one of the seedier backroom storylines of the Enhancer-Ban Era:

Look into players using amphetamine-like stimulants like Strattera or Adderall (or even HGH) with a "legal" prescription, despite perhaps not really having the condition that warrants the drugs' use.

In other words: With greenies no longer available without cheating, how many players suddenly developed a case of ADD that needs treating?

MLB Hit List
Prior shelled in return: The only lift Mark Prior provided was to the Tigers' bats, allowing 4 HR and 8 R in only 3 2/3 IP.

A's win 10th straight: If it's June, it must be time for Oakland to shrug off its notorious slow start and start buzzsawing through the schedule. Their weekend sweep of the Dodgers gives the A's a 14-2 June, with the rest of the month against L.A.'s weaker division rivals.

Today's Pop Quiz: Kenny Rogers wins his 200th. OK, so name the eight other active pitchers with 200 or more wins? (Answer in "Odds and Ends")

(Amazingly, as the first AL pitcher this season to 10 wins, the 41-year-old Rogers is looking at a second straight All-Star Game, the bookend to last year's photog debacle.)

Manager of the Month? How about Joe Girardi? The inexperienced Marlins have won eight straight, including a win over Roy Halladay on Sunday. (His team's 29-37 record may not seem great, but hey, it beats the Braves!)

Remembering Bias
Len Bias was my favorite player growing up, and his cocaine-induced death -- 20 years ago today -- remains one of the most sickening feelings I have ever had in my life.

Today's anniversary should be a moment to remember one of the most talented college basketball players of all time …

… and a reminder, WAY beyond "Big Ben" territory, that our favorite athletes choose to do stupid things and that at any moment, those things can destroy their lives.

Maybe it's maudlin of me to also include "impact on fans" as a result, but as much as I loved him as a player, I remain angry at his memory for making such an awful decision.