But the big story of interest amongst the hockey community is that the hometown Ducks lost in Phoenix, so now, with tonight’s war at the Pond, and tomorrow’s date in Phoenix, the Stars could be 1 point out of first place when we hop on the plane home on Saturday night if the Stars get 2 wins. When the Stars were 18 points out of first place in December, you could not have convinced me that was going to be possible.
Also interesting tonight is Marty getting the start in a huge game against Anaheim. So far this season, he has beat them 4-3 in October, but since lost to the Ducks 3 times, by scores of 4-1, 5-1, and 4-1.
Mike Smith has started 3 times against the Ducks, and lost the first time 4-1 in December, but beat them twice in February, 1-0 and 4-1.
It is obviously a real big start for Marty to demonstrate his ability against the first place Ducks at a sold-out Pond.
Obviously, hockey season is heating up…
The Aggie run is over …
The clutch baskets had come so easily, so naturally for Acie Law over the past two seasons that it seemed as if he could pull off his magic at any time, in any situation.
On Thursday night, playing inside an Alamodome crammed with maroon-clad supporters and a trip to Texas A&M's first Elite Eight on the line, the senior point guard never got the chance to make history.
With 2 seconds left and A&M trailing by one, the inbounds pass was intended for Law, but a Memphis player disrupted his route toward the Aggies' bench with an accidental thumb to the eye.
"My first instinct was to close my eye because it was burning," said Law, deeming the play a non-foul, then noting his brief hesitation prevented him from getting open.
The pass instead went to junior guard Dominique Kirk near midcourt. His only recourse was to take a couple of dribbles and heave a desperation 3-pointer from well beyond the arc. It didn't draw iron.
Now, how long until Billy is in Lexington …
He beats Rick Pitino. In Lexington.
Then he's free to talk. On the same day Tubby Smith leaves Lexington.
There are forces in play in the career of Billy Gillispie, and that was clear Thursday. There has to be some explanation for Acie Law missing the kind of shot he never misses.
So maybe Gillispie will get the job he's privately said he wants. He's a country fit for Kentucky, with his horse-racing hobby just down the road, and he could always come back to Texas. He'd want to come back to recruit.
The first tale comes from 1998, when Smith won the first Final Four played in San Antonio. That championship should have made him the Mack Brown of Kentucky (a few decades of free lunches plus a lifetime job for Greg Davis).
But it didn't take long before Smith took heat from a basketball nation that always wants more. Smith played a slower style than Kentucky liked and, besides, hadn't he won with Pitino's players?
So Smith bailed for Minnesota on Thursday, and left behind a note for the coach who follows him: One championship isn't enough.
Knowing Gillispie — and the egos of coaches — this won't scare him. The coaches' game is recruiting, and this game is more easily played at a top-five program. If Gillispie could get talent to come to College Station, doing the same in Lexington would be a lock.
The Rangers are rated #22 in Sports Illustrated, but #2 in the AL West …
Much of the conversation at Rangers camp this spring centered on the comeback of Sammy Sosa and understandably so, given his high profile and propensity for self-promotion. Ever modest, he wore a slammin' sammy's back T-shirt on his second day in Surprise, Ariz. But more important to Texas's season is the comeback of another former All-Star, new closer Eric Gagné. Over the last two years Gagné has pitched only 15 1/3 innings because of elbow and back injuries. Still, the memory of his 2003 Cy Young season, not to mention his 96.4% lifetime save rate -- no other active pitcher is higher than 91.7% -- was enough for the Rangers to gamble on a one-year, $6 million deal. "There were very few guys on the market who we thought could be impact players, and he was at the top of the short list," says general manager Jon Daniels. "At six million we're counting on him."
Gagné may not look the part of the intimidating closer, with his squat, 6-foot, 245-pound frame, scruffy hair and rumpled pants (he requests them a size larger than necessary), but if he regains his form, Texas will have one of the best bullpens in baseball. Hard-throwing Frank Francisco and Wes Littleton will split work in the seventh inning, and Akinori Otsuka, who racked up 32 saves in 36 chances last season, will pitch the eighth (that is, if Daniels doesn't trade him this spring for more depth in the rotation or another bat).
Otsuka isn't thrilled about his demotion. He says the Rangers didn't talk to him before signing Gagné and that he was caught by surprise because, "I thought I pitched very well last year." Otsuka isn't the type to let his displeasure affect his performance, but it's a situation worth watching.
Meanwhile, the Suns declare “Title or Bust” …
There are many Suns bashers in existence today, none bigger than TNT's Charles Barkley. Many NBA fans feel the Suns' system, which is predicated on a high-tempo offense, cannot work in the playoffs. They feel that defense wins championships and the Suns don't play much D. The fact is, the Suns may very well be capable of winning it all in Mike D'Antoni's system. To say that the Suns can't win is irresponsible.
Phoenix has gotten as far as the conference finals in each of the past two years so it must be doing something right. Unfortunately we will never know if the Suns could have won two years ago had Johnson not gotten hurt, or last year had Stoudemire, Thomas and Bell not been injured.
Doubters will have ample ammunition should Phoenix falter in the playoffs with a full roster. This is the year the Suns have to win it all. The window won't close after this year, of course, and it'll stay open as long as Steve Nash, Shawn Marion and Stoudemire are playing at a high level. But if Phoenix doesn't advance past the conference finals this year it will be more difficult for those of us who believe the Suns' style can win to defend the system. It will be harder to argue with the naysayers who believe that the Suns' lack of defense and inability to dominate in the half-court game is the team's downfall.
The Suns' chief competition to a title will be Dallas. The Mavericks are a more complete team than the Suns because they play better in the half-court set and put more emphasis on defense.
I read this story yesterday and began to worry. Tell me if these quotes by Tom Hicks resemble his views on spending with the Rangers …He has no plans of following Chelsea and United in spending…
Liverpool are currently fourth in the Barclays Premiership, 21 points behind leaders Manchester United and Hicks knows money will need to be made available to help trim that gap, though he ruled out a repeat of the transfer spree Chelsea embarked upon following Abramovich's buy-out of Chelsea in July 2003.
'I've been in the business for 13 years and I know that doesn't work,' the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars owner told Radio 5 Live.
'Our job as owners is to create the right balance of generating as much revenue as the fans want to pay, the sponsors want to pay, the media companies want to pay and giving as much of it to the players as you have to to have a business that can go forward as a business.
'The key is to have a smart manager like Rafa who will take a long-term view of how we can get better. I know enough from talking to him now that he doesn't want to do what you just described, he wants to build for the long term.
'I'm not saying we won't spend for transfers, that may be what we do. But it's got to be in the context of a plan that makes Liverpool competitive every year for a long time.
'We have budgeted a big number, I'm not going to tell you what it is because it's part of Rafa's plan, but the new stadium is very important to that because with the higher revenues Liverpool have we will be able to compete with anybody.
The Sopranos final scene has been shot …
Tony, Carmela and Paulie Walnuts set up shop yesterday in a classic Joisey joint to film the final scene of "The Sopranos."
But instead of the Bada Bing, a fictional go-go bar filled with naked pole dancers, the producers chose a wholesome ice cream parlor in Bloomfield, N.J., called Holsten's for the finale.
"Tony! Tony!" a small crowd of excited fans cried out when James Gandolfini, who plays mob chief Tony Soprano, alighted from his limo.
Gandolfini rewarded his fans by playfully sticking out his tongue.
"It's very exciting," said Pete Pignatore, 72, of nearby Clifton, whose pompadour would not look out of place on the Paulie character's noggin. "You see these people on TV, then you see them on your street. It's a whole different ballgame."
Wearing big shades and a chain around her neck that read "Jacqueline," 24-year-old Jackie Feliciano could have passed for a mob moll.
But she was just a fan - and got as giddy as a schoolgirl when she caught sight of Gandolfini.
"Oh, my Gawd, I can't even begin to tell you," she said. "Fabulous!"
Seldom, if ever, do I care about cricket. Ok. I have never cared about cricket. But, how can you not show some interest in this story? Murder is the ruling with the cricket coach who died …
A pathology report indicated that Pakistani cricket coach Bob Woolmer died of "manual strangulation," according to a statement from Jamaican police commissioner Lucius Thomas.
"In these circumstances, the matter of Mr. Woolmer's death is now being treated by the Jamaican police as a case of murder," the statement said Thursday night.
Police announced Tuesday that Woolmer's death was suspicious, two days after he was found unconscious in his room at the Pegasus Hotel. Woolmer, 58, was declared dead at a hospital soon after he was found. (Watch what has emerged as a possible motive in Woolmer's murder )
Initial media reports indicated he died of a heart attack.
Woolmer's death came less than 24 hours after former world champion Pakistan was beaten and eliminated by the relatively unknown Irish team on St. Patrick's Day, one of the biggest shocks in World Cup cricket history. The loss on Saturday prompted outrage among the team's hardcore fans, with protesters burning effigies of Woolmer and the team captain in Karachi.
Asked about suspects, Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Shields would only say, "We have a few definite lines of inquiry," acknowledging later that betting on cricket matches was among them.
Woolmer’s final interview
Our old boss leaves ESPN; he was tired of fighting with Dan Patrick’s toupee’ …
Red Zebra Broadcasting, a company formed by Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder last year, announced Thursday afternoon that it named ESPN Radio General Manager Bruce Gilbert its CEO, just one day after Bennett Zier announced his resignation from that position.
Zier, a former Clear Channel executive in the Washington area, resigned March 21. Red Zebra officials had said Thursday morning they expected to name a replacement for Zier in a day or two.
Gilbert joined ESPN Radio in 2003. While there, he helped expand its broadcast properties. He was also involved in the management of ESPN Radio stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth and Pittsburgh.
"Red Zebra offers an extremely unique opportunity to get back into the exciting world of local radio, where I spent 26 years before joining ESPN," Gilbert says in a statement released by Red Zebra.
Monkey-ed Dumb and Dumber
13 year old hockey prodigy