Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Look for Me Saturday

Ok- As of tomorrow, you shall most likely be treated to the blogging of Ty Walker. So, please enjoy that – I will be back on Tuesday.

I have been asked by a few of you to detail my plans in England for the weekend. Here it is.

Saturday – 6:45 am (CST) Manchester United at Liverpool – if you like depressed Bob, please cheer against Liverpool on Saturday morning.

Sunday – 7:30 am (CST) Blackburn at Bolton

Both games are on Setanta Sports (so I am guessing 99% of you don’t pay $12 a month for that channel on Directv)- But, the EPL Review Show will cover both games extensively and is on numerous times on Fox Soccer Channel with the first showing Sunday night, 7pm.

I shall be in the USA back Monday night.

Now, on to the blog:

Mavs are so good it is silly

Offensively, the Wolves (26-31) -- losers in 15 of their past 21, 6-11 under Wittman, 0-3 this season against Dallas -- were a wreck. Either they would launch shots after one pass or no passes or they would bull their way through plays without heeding the defense.

Wittman called that "exhausting the play to the very end, instead of 'Oh, the big [man] jumped out, I'm going to throw the ball back and see how they react to that.' "

Dallas' Big Three of Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jason Terry did the heavy lifting for the league's winningest team, a 48-9 club that, with 13 consecutive victories, has its third distinct winning streak this season of 12 or more (an NBA first). Eleven franchises -- Minnesota included -- never have had even one streak that long.

Nowitzki scored 15 of his game-high 23 points after halftime, Howard scored 15 of his 17 before halftime, and Terry split his 18 right down the middle. But who and when mattered less than what, which was the Wolves playing with no flow, no smarts and no resourcefulness (they never forced action inside to earn trips to the foul line, a cure for sickly shooting).

"It felt like we was running in sand," said Kevin Garnett, who shot 5-for-16 and sat down with 3:41 left with 15 points and 13 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks -- a staggering 11-0 when playing on the second night of back-to-back games -- stuck the Wolves with the lowest scoring total of any opponent ever. The previous low was 68, and that spans 2,157 games in Dallas history.

"Obviously, it's not all defense," said coach Avery Johnson, whose team dominated the boards, too. "We won't flatter ourselves. But give our defense some credit. DeSagana Diop had one of his better games, closing down the middle, trying to play Garnett as best we can. Our rotations were sound."

By the end, the difference on the scoreboard was 26. The games-behind in the standings is 22. But the gap between the teams overall is more vast than that.
In one locker room, Wolves guard Marko Jaric talked of his team's lack of chemistry or character. "It's about pride and that we don't have it right now, and we need to find it," he said.

Simultaneously, the Mavericks' Jerry Stackhouse already had moved on.

"We will be more impressed in June," he said.

One question: What's June?

Guerin dealt away – St Louis writes

Guerin, 36, who led the Blues in goals (28) and points (47), approved the waiving of his no-trade clause Tuesday morning. In the end, San Jose won out over Anaheim and Detroit for Guerin, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

"You can prepare for it as much as you want, but it’s still tough getting traded, leaving a group of guys that you’re comfortable around," Guerin said. "It’s tough, but in the same line, I’m excited to be going to San Jose. They’ve got some tremendously talented players there, and a good team, well-coached . . . they play hard every night. I’m excited about going there and playing in the playoffs and competing for a Stanley Cup."

The Sharks have a record of 38-24-1 and are ranked sixth in the Western Conference with 77 points.

Guerin’s agent, Bob Murray, said that he had conversations with the Blues on Monday about the team re-signing the right winger. But those talks didn’t appear to go any further Tuesday, as Guerin made it clear that he wanted to be in the playoffs this season.

"We had some discussions (with the Blues)," Guerin said. "We didn’t get into negotiations or anything like that . . . just very candid discussions. It was nothing . . . I don’t want to say serious because it’s all serious . . . but we didn’t get down to the nitty-gritty or anything like that."

Guerin said that late Monday night he had a couple of glasses of red wine to calm all of the emotions he was feeling about his future.

"Last night, I thought it was Detroit for a little while," Guerin said. "Then I thought it was San Jose. Then I thought it was Anaheim. I don’t know. My brain was going a million miles an hour and I’m not comfortable at that speed. I didn’t know what was going on."

The San Jose take on the trade

The Sharks' dirty little secret, you see, is that they have drifted from being one of the league's elite teams to a scary but flawed team that has been playing poorly for the last month -- unless of course you think going 5-9 since the start of Super Bowl week is your idea of priming for the playoffs. The Guerin deal is the show stealer, sure, one that seems to have fallen into the Sharks' lap late in the process.

Until then, Wilson's deal for Rivet, a large and stern right-handed defensive defenseman, seemed to have been a minor but potentially sufficient upgrade in and of itself, given that the Sharks only lost sixth defenseman Josh Gorges and one of their two first-round picks in what is expected to be a mediocre draft.

Rivet, at 32, is coming off a good 2006 but is having a mediocre 2007, capped by a spat over a punitive scratch in January by Montreal head coach Guy Carbonneau, and a subsequent bout with pneumonia. He was also the oldest Shark for approximately 60 hours, and while defensemen typically can peak late in a career, the new rules have probably shortened Rivet's window a bit.

Still, he was one of maybe a half-dozen defensemen with the veteran/right-handed/stay-at-home/take-the-body skill set Wilson wanted, and the BA (best available) on that list, which Wilson, ever the covert operator, identified only by saying, "None of the others were traded."

But when Guerin suddenly popped up, courtesy of St. Louis president/general manager John Davidson's inability to get Guerin to sign a new deal to stay a Blue as late as Monday evening, Wilson renewed his own interest with a phone call that led to true love. Wilson gave up no more in terms of usable talent than he had for Rivet -- Nieminen, Jay "The Freshman" Barriball and a conditional first-round pick (either this year or next, depending on where the New Jersey Devils end up -- don't ask how).

And though trades break opinions as often as validate them, this looks like a pure, ski-mask-and-Taser steal, even more one-sided than the Thornton deal with Boston, which in only 15 months has boiled down to Thornton for Marco Sturm.

Guerin becomes a potential linemate with Thornton and Mark Bell, thus allowing head coach Ron Wilson to move Jonathan Cheechoo to either the Patrick Marleau or Joe Pavelski lines in hopes of relocating the touch Cheechoo had a year ago. He could also move/inspire Steve Bernier from his extended dry spell, or have an option in case he never emerges.

But the back side of the Guerin deal is that he didn't go to the Ducks or Red Wings. Indeed, Anaheim got shut out on the players they most coveted (Guerin, Dainius Zubrus and the ubiquitous Smyth), and had to "settle" for veteran winger and clock-cleaner Brad May, who has missed much of the season with a shoulder injury.

ESPN looks at the Guerin and Norstrom deals

Bill Guerin traded from St. Louis to San Jose for a first-round pick in 2007, Ville Nieminen and Jay Barriball

Coupled with the Sharks' acquisition Sunday of defenseman Craig Rivet from Montreal, San Jose has gone from teetering on the brink to Stanley Cup contender in the blink of an eye. At least that's how it appears on paper.

Guerin will ramp up an offense that now stacks up against any in the Western Conference. The Sharks have lost five of seven, fallen off the pace of Pacific Division-leading Anaheim and, as of Tuesday morning, were sixth in the conference. This deal should change those dynamics in short order.

This deal not only brings a proven scorer (Guerin has 28 goals so far this season), but it also reinforces in the Sharks' dressing room that management believes this is a Cup-contending team. Guerin and defending Hart Trophy winner Joe Thornton are familiar with each other from their days in Boston, so that should help in the transition.

For a team that has been so conservative about its prospects and draft picks, giving up two first-rounders in a little more than 24 hours signals GM Doug Wilson believes the time is now, if at all.

Mattias Norstrom, Konstantin Pushkarev, third- and fourth-round picks in 2007 traded from Los Angeles to Dallas for Jaroslav Modry, Johan Fransson, first-round pick in 2008, second- and third-round picks in 2007

Solid and eminently dependable, Norstrom quietly has established himself as one of the most underrated defensemen in the NHL. The longtime member of Sweden's national teams has played 823 NHL games, all but 43 in the relative anonymity of Los Angeles. Adding Norstrom to a group that includes Sergei Zubov, Philippe Boucher, Darryl Sydor and Stephane Robidas, will make the Stars only that much more difficult to play against.

The Stars rank second in the NHL in goals-against, allowing an average of 2.34 goals per game (only New Jersey is better) and they are second only to Detroit in allowing the fewest 5-on-5 goals. There will continue to be questions about the team's offensive capabilities (only Vancouver has scored fewer goals of the top eight teams in the conference), but the earlier acquisition of Ladislav Nagy from Phoenix should alleviate some of those concerns. But defense wins Cups, and the Stars are as solid as they come on the back end.

I must admit, the Norstrom deal struck me as “out of left field”. I have always like Mattias, but I just didn’t think he was coming here. Anyway, now the Stars have traded away 2007 and 2008’s draft in exchange for Nagy and Norstrom. It surely looks like Doug Armstrong has concluded two things:

1) Mike Modano and Sergei Zubov are the stars of this team, and at their age, the window of opportunity is open for about another 18 months. So, go for it now, and worry about the rebuild overhaul when it gets here.

2) If the Stars don’t get out of the first round this spring, the Stars may have a new coach and GM trying to figure out what to do with the future. Doug Armstrong, Dave Tippett, and even many of these players MUST get out of the first round of the playoffs to insure job safety.

Ribeiro and Nagy get the Stars the win in Tampa Bay

Mike Ribeiro never met a space he didn't like, even if it doesn't seem like much space at all.

The crafty center is becoming a master of the well-timed, well-placed pass. A few of his early ones Tuesday didn't work, but that didn't mean he was going to stop trying.
Not surprisingly, he was rewarded.

Ladislav Nagy scored the winning goal, on a feed from Ribeiro, and the Stars had another strong showing as they beat Tampa Bay 2-1 in overtime. Dallas took sole possession of second place in the Pacific Division, five points behind Anaheim.
"I thought our team played pretty solid tonight," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "We have to stay in games and find ways to win, and, tonight, we found a way to win."
Ribeiro's final pass Tuesday went through traffic and hit Nagy's stick. The left wing wristed it home for his second goal in three games since joining Ribeiro's line.
"All through the game, I was trying to hit a skate or a stick," said Ribeiro, who has eight points in his past seven games. "That's what I'm trying to do."

Marty Turco, who stopped 19 of 20 for his second consecutive victory, said Ribeiro's passes are impressive.

"Ribs can put it through the holes in skates," Turco said. "It's no surprise he got it through, and it's certainly not a surprise that it went in."

Nagy, who came to Dallas in a Feb. 12 trade with Phoenix, said he's reaching a comfort level on his new line.

"We see each other pretty good," he said. "He was looking for me, and he's just an unbelievable passer. I just close my eyes and shoot."

It was hard to find a weakness with the Stars on Tuesday, especially early. The first time the Joel Lundqvist-Jeff Halpern-Stu Barnes line hit the ice, they kept the puck in the Lightning zone for almost their entire shift, which was more than a minute.

"That set the tone, didn't it?" Tippett said. "That was a nice, hard-working shift. We don't like our players being close to a minute, but they were having success, so they went at it."

Also, the Stars' defense killed off a two-minute 5-on-3 early.

And Jere Lehtinen extended his goal streak to three games, scoring his sixth goal in seven games. With assists from Mike Modano and Jussi Jokinen, Lehtinen scored his 22nd goal for a 1-0 lead.

Brodeur gets his 12th shutout of the season! …seriously, can there be anyone else for the Hart Trophy?

Martin Brodeur set a career high with his 12th shutout of the season in leading the Devils to a 1-0 win in Pittsburgh. It was Brodeur's third 1-0 shutout of the season and the 19th of his career, the most by any goaltender in the NHL's "modern era" (starting with the 1943 introduction of the red line). (Back in the pre-red line days, George Hainsworth set the all-time mark with 32 shutout wins by the minimum margin.)

But Brodeur really had to work to earn his shutout -- at least by his standards -- making 31 saves. It was the first of his 12 shutouts this season in which he faced 30 or more shots on goal, and only the 14th of his 92 career shutouts in which that was true.

Peter King from the Combine

1. Calvin Johnson is atop everyone's draft board. Two team executives told me that not only is the Georgia Tech wide receiver the No. 1 player on their boards, but also he might be 32 for 32. The amazing thing is, there's a good chance he'll last until the fourth overall pick.

Oakland is 1 and has to pick a quarterback. Detroit, 2, would be excommunicated from the NFL if it picked its 43rd wide receiver in the last four drafts. Cleveland, 3, recently took Braylon Edwards in the first round, and its coach, Romeo Crennel, craves meat and potatoes. Tampa Bay, picking 4, already has Michael Clayton and Joey Galloway and needs help elsewhere, but I don't see Jon Gruden passing on the best receiver to come out in a while.

I'm not a big wideout guy this high, because I think you can find receivers down the line and the washout factor of first rounders -- by my count, only 10 of the last 30 wideouts picked in the first round are what I'd call impact players today -- is far too high. "Not many people have my size, speed and strength,'' Johnson said while in Indy. Right. Like, none. Not many 6-5, 239-pound wideouts with 4.4 speed and production.

2. Wisconsin tackle Joe Thomas was a breath of fresh air. He's a left tackle who runs like a linebacker (4.92 in the 40), looked svelte doing all the drills here, and looked very, very much like Rod Marinelli's kind of guy. Marinelli is trying to rework the Detroit locker room and make it an egoless place. Imagine getting a fixture tackle for a decade who thinks like this:

The Wisconsin defensive front had a spat of injuries near the end of the 2005 season and so Thomas, who played defense for one game as a freshman, volunteered to fill in at defensive end. In his first game back at defensive end, he tore his ACL, threatening his draft prospects for this year. Why'd he do it?

"We had a couple injuries during the year, and I just raised my hand and said I'd like to step in and help the team win. And we won. So who cares about the injury?''
I don't know Thomas. Maybe that's rehearsed. But if the Lions can determine that Thomas is legit and not the best actor in the '07 Combine, they've got to take him. "I'd love to play for Detroit,'' he said. Send the plane, Mr. Ford.

Sports by Brooks on the seedy life of Tom Lasorda

JJT on the Cotton Bowl blame game

If we can be honest, the Cotton Bowl had become an irrelevant game played in an outdated stadium.

For that we can blame politicians like Mayor Laura Miller for lacking the foresight to do what it took to facilitate a deal with Jerry Jones to ensure that his new stadium was built in Dallas County. It's too late for the $50 million now approved to give the stadium a facelift.

There's no guarantee the Cotton Bowl will ever be relevant again, which is sad. In its day, it was a great game that generated wonderful memories spanning decades and generations.

The only hope for the game to become a major player in college football again is if it's in the Cowboys' new domed stadium. Given Jones' influence and a state-of-the-art stadium, maybe the game could become part of the BCS championship game rotation in a few years. Or if the BCS decides to add another game, the Dallas-Fort Worth area would have to be one of the more attractive sites.

It's too bad it had to come to this, but blame the politicians – not the Cowboys – as it relates to this matter. After all, it was the City of Dallas that stood still and watched the Cotton Bowl leave. Trust me, the Texas-OU game is next, followed by the annual Grambling-Prairie View A&M game.

At this rate, it's only a matter of time until the City of Dallas becomes a virtual sports ghost town.

Tonight, Aggie plays Longhorn in Austin

The No. 7 Aggies (24-4, 12-2 Big 12) and No. 15 Longhorns (21-7, 11-3) meet again tonight at the Erwin Center, in perhaps the most meaningful basketball tussle in the series' 90-year history.

For the first time, both teams will face each other while ranked in the top 15. Both still control their own destiny for a share of the conference title.

For the Longhorns, who not long ago dominated this series with an iron hand, it is a chance to reclaim their place as the state's basketball kingpin.

For the newly elite Aggies, who walloped UT 100-82 in a Feb. 5 meeting in College Station, it is a chance to take one more step toward completing the unfathomable about-face from Big 12's worst to Big 12's first.

I really don’t like this idea

The Oakland Raiders are trying to dump Randy Moss and the Green Bay Packers definitely are interested if the former all-pro wide receiver would agree to a restructured contact in order to play with a better team and Brett Favre.
Sources close to the situation said the Packers had explored trading for Moss, the temperamental former Minnesota Viking who once pretended to moon the crowd at Lambeau Field.

The two teams have had preliminary dialogue but at this point the Packers consider Moss to be an economically unfeasible solution to their need for another receiver alongside Donald Driver and Greg Jennings.

Moss has two years left on his contract, including base salaries of $9.75 million in 2007 and $11.25 million in '08. Moss' business agent is Tim DiPiero, but some of his affairs are handled by James "Bus" Cook, the only agent Favre has ever had. Mindful of tampering rules, general manager Ted Thompson and Packers coach Mike McCarthy have carefully avoided talking about Moss. Yet, neither has denied interest in him, either.

Poor Ron Santo

Ron Santo's heart was broken again Tuesday when he was denied entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame, leaving the former Cubs icon to wonder whether his day ever will come.

The nine-time All-Star learned Tuesday morning the Veterans Committee again declined to admit any former major-leaguers into their exclusive club, the third time since 2003 that no one made the grade.

Santo finished first on the Hall of Fame ballot with 57 votes out of the 82 cast, or 69.5 percent of the total. That was five votes shy of the necessary 75 percent for induction, making the news that much harder to stomach.

Santo was too distraught to talk to the media, and his good friend and former teammate, Billy Williams, said he probably was devastated by the news.

"I felt sorry for him because he was so looking forward to getting the call," Williams said. "I felt really good about it this year. I talked to Ernie [Banks] yesterday and I think everybody who was involved [wanted it to happen]. Maybe we were a little partial to him because we were teammates, but I really thought with the credentials he had, he was deserving."Santo was followed in the voting on the players' ballot by former pitcher Jim Kaat, who garnered 52 votes (63.4 percent). Former Dodgers first baseman Gil Hodges finished third with 50 votes (61 percent), while former Twins outfielder Tony Oliva was fourth with 47 votes (57.3 percent). The candidate getting the most votes on the composite ballot, featuring managers, umpires and executives, was former ump Doug Harvey with 52 votes.

Though no one has been voted into the Hall by the Veterans Committee in the three years it has held a vote—2003, 2005 and 2007—Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Forbes Clark said "we feel strongly the process is open and fair."

Please don’t watch Livingston blow out his knee if you have a weak stomach

International Philosophy

Hockey Dad

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Feeling a Little Football Today

I am feeling a little football today. Here you go:

Mickey tells us what the Cowboys want

So the annual bidding begins March 2, and since Thursday was the final day to issue franchise or transition tenders, we now know who's definitely up for grabs. Ya just pray the Cowboys land a La'Roi Glover or three, not Mike Vanderjagt. But hey, that's the chance you take when you play this game.

Now no shortage of ideas have been flooding in, ya'll more than willing to help the Cowboys spend their money. That's easy. How I'd love to go to that auction with yours. I'd make a killing, too.

My unscientific poll (e-mail) tells me these should be the Cowboys' top three needs to fill in free agency:

1. Offensive linemen, preferably a guard (again?).
2. Safety, the position that just won't go away.
3. A pass rusher, and at least you guys aren't all that discriminating. He can be a defensive end, defensive tackle or linebacker. Just someone to regularly join DeMarcus Ware in the offensive backfield.

Now that might be a fine list, and most of you should be commended for being so thoughtful. But you guys, most everyone seems to be missing the boat when it comes to needs, and to me, a need is something you just can't do without. The aforementioned three should be classified as wish list items. When it comes to needs, the Cowboys have just one must - one huge one.

Backup quarterback.

Hey, do not scoff. You guys scoff at me enough. I'm serious about this one, and you should be too. And so should the Cowboys.

Because, unless the Cowboys change their minds, they are not going to pay Drew Bledsoe his $1 million roster bonus, along with a $4.5 million base salary, to caddie for Tony Romo this year. That's some high-priced insurance for a guy you were willing to bench after 5½ games last year in order to roll the dice on a quarterback who had not played a lick in the NFL.

Because, unless Bledsoe changes his mind, having professed no desire to simply hang in the league as a backup quarterback, he won't be back here just to cash in another, say, $1.5 million paycheck. His heart was minimally in it those final 10 games last year anyway.

So, when you are prioritizing your free-agent bucks - and while the common number being thrown around for the Cowboys is $18 million under the cap, it's probably at least $5 million less when you budget in Gurode actually signing Thursday, 10 draft choices, a practice squad, potential injury settlements, accounting for signing a punter, kicker and possibly Marc Colombo - quarterback better take precedence.


Romo gets hurt, who you gonna call? Matt Baker? Please.

Romo flops, those 10 regular-season starts earning him Pro Bowl honors last year a mirage, who you gonna call? Jason Garrett? Maybe Wade Wilson? They ain't spring chickens anymore.


Top names on the list of unrestricted free agents as of Thursday afternoon would be: Garcia, Huard, Vinny Testaverde, Kerry Collins and Anthony Wright.

Sorry, that's the best I can do at the moment. Not sure the likes of Aaron Brooks, Todd Bouman, Shane Matthews, Koy Detmer or Marques Tuiasosopo would do much more for ya.

Now it's really hard to imagine the Eagles will let Garcia walk onto another team, though they might give him a chance to cast for a potential starting job. I mean, they have no guarantees Donovan McNabb will be ready to start the season.

Nor would it seem probable Kansas City would let Huard just up and leave, unless they think Casey Printers is ready for a backup role.

To me, the best fit here with the Cowboys would be Collins, but the Cowboys might run into the same roadblock with the 12-year veteran they did in 2004 when he drew their interest: Collins still has designs on procuring a starting job.

Clarence Hill makes a list of targets

Cowboys' potential free-agent targets

Guard Kris Dielman, San Diego Chargers: One of the two best guards on the market, and with Marco Rivera's return uncertain, it's a position of interest.

Linebacker Antwan Peek, Houston Texans: An affordable 3-4 linebacker who could flourish as a rusher under Wade Phillips and might serve as insurance for the injured Greg Ellis.

Offensive tackle Leonard Davis, Arizona Cardinals: Could be an option at right tackle or right guard. However, the price tag might be too high for this former Texas Longhorn.

Quarterback Damon Huard, Kansas City Chiefs, right: The Cowboys need an experienced and competent backup for Tony Romo. There is none better than Huard.

Safety Jordan Babineaux, Seattle Seahawks: Is a restricted free agent, but is one of the best safeties on the market. This Cowboys' killer and Texas native could be interested in coming home.


Unrestricted Free Agents (6)

OT Marc Colombo Was the biggest surprise of 2006 not named Tony Romo. Will be back.
K Martin Gramatica The Cowboys want him back at the right price. Will not pay big money for a kicker again.

S Tony Parrish Never really got a chance to show what he can do. But will not be back.

LB Al Singleton His run here is over. He is no longer a starter and costs too much to be a spot backup.

DE Kenyon Coleman He had his best season in 2006, but is not a starter. Will get a chance to return as a role player.

C Al Johnson There is no need for him to come back. The Cowboys have upgraded the position. He will look for a starting job elsewhere.

Restricted Free Agents (8)

TE Brett Pierce The Cowboys liked his potential, but missed much of the past two years with knee injury. Could be brought back to camp.

P Mat McBriar The Cowboys would like to work out a long-term deal for him, although he might be slapped with a second-round tender.

WR Patrick Crayton Quality third receiver. The Cowboys will likely put a second-round tender on him in case he gets an offer on the market.

CB Jacques Reeves A quality backup and special teams player. He will be offered the standard restricted free-agent tender to return.

CB Nate Jones The Cowboys like his versatility at safety, cornerback and special teams. They don't want to let him go.

LB Ryan Fowler A solid backup inside linebacker and special teams performer. Will be invited back to training camp.

FB Lousaka Polite Although he yo-yoed on and off the roster this season, he will be invited to training camp because the Cowboys have limited options at fullback.

LB Junior Glymph Continues to show potential as a pass rusher although production is limited. Will get offer to come back to camp.


Cowboys' potential draft targets

Safety Reggie Nelson,Florida: With Dallas planning to play Roy Williams close to the line, the Cowboys need a true ball-hawking free safety.

Receiver Dwayne Bowe, LSU: The Cowboys need to develop a potential lead receiver to replace the aging Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn.

Guard Justin Blalock,Texas: Guard is a priority because of Marco Rivera's uncertainty, and this Longhorn is as good as it gets in the draft.

Defensive end JamaalAnderson, Arkansas: Jerry Jones has never drafted a Razorback, but that could change if the talented Anderson falls to the Cowboys.

Safety Michael Griffin, Texas: If they don't get a safety in the first round, Griffin would be a nice consolation prize in the second or third round.

Objectives for the off-season according to C-Hill

Get Terrell Owens ready after surgery.

Jerry Jones has said a number of times that Terrell Owens will be back next season. Until he says something different, then assume that will be the case. The focus for the Cowboys is to make sure Owens is healthy after finger surgery and up to speed on the offense going into training camp. For the Cowboys to be successful, Owens needs to be fully involved starting in training camp.

Continue the development of quarterback Tony Romo.

Romo's development was a focal point of the coaching search. He has been a frequent visitor to Wade Phillips' office. He now gets a heavy dose of tutoring from Jason Garrett and quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson. Romo's play declined late in 2006. The Cowboys want to make sure he continues to progress.

Get Greg Ellis healthy and prepared.

Wade Phillips' system is predicated on having quality pass rushers. Ellis, one of the team's two best rushers along with DeMarcus Ware, must come back at 100 percent after surgery to repair a torn Achilles' tendon. He is set to play the linebacker position in Phillips' defense that Shawne Merriman played in San Diego. That Merriman notched 27 sacks the past two years should be enough motivation for Ellis' return as soon as possible.

Develop a scheme to best utilize safety Roy Williams.

Roy Williams is a four-time Pro Bowler at safety who was a liability on defense at times. He simply gave up too many plays. Blame Williams for not developing his coverage skills. Blame the Cowboys for not allowing him to do what he does best. Phillips plans on playing Williams close to the line of scrimmage where he can make plays and limit his deep coverage responsibility. The key is finding a true free safety to play center field.

Don’t forget the OL, Cowboys

If early mock drafts are any indication, the Cowboys will use the 22nd pick to select a cornerback.

California’s Daymeion Hughes and Texas’ Aaron Ross are the frontrunners. Considering owner Jerry Jones’ campaign to drape the franchise in the Lone Star flag, it would come as no surprise if the Cowboys went with Thorpe Award winner Ross.

Choosing either Hughes, Ross or another corner in the first round would be a sure sign Dallas is serious about moving Anthony Henry to free safety. The Cowboys need a center-fielder type at that position so they can play Pro Bowl strong safety Roy Williams closer to the line of scrimmage.

Williams is a liability in deep coverage, especially when teamed with either Keith Davis or Pat Watkins, who shared time at free safety last season.

Solving the problem at free safety is a priority, but the Cowboys also have needs along the offensive line.

The Cowboys have drafted only one offensive player (tight end David LaFleur, 1997) in the first round the last 11 years. That trend may come to an end in April because of Marco Rivera’s recent back surgery.

"I’ve recognized that we’ve got to look to our right guard situation and see how we handle it knowing Rivera is compromised here to some degree," Jones told reporters at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. "... Right now it’s hard to (count on him), but that’s not a decision I’ve made, and it’s not just mine. It is Rivera’s."

Even if Rivera returns, the Cowboys can’t count on him holding up for an entire season. He turns 35 in April and has undergone back surgery twice since the Cowboys gave him a free-agent contract before the 2005 season.

Auburn’s Ben Grubbs (6 foot 3, 305 pounds) should be available when the Cowboys are on the clock in the first round. The Cowboys could always keep Henry at corner and acquire a partner for Williams either via free agency or in a draft rich with safeties.

And, if you are like me, then you are fascinated by the Combine. Perhaps you aren’t thinking that the bench press numbers are not relevant to football, but yet you cannot stop watching as you put together your list of dream targets for your team. I have actually avoided most of the Combine, as I plan on trying to watch it all going back and forth to England this weekend, but here are a few items:

Saturday Results from Combine

Sunday Results

Monday Results

The NFL Combine blog

Meanwhile, The Cotton Bowl will move to Arlington …And you thought Dallas couldn’t get it done…

Arlington will likely host the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic starting with the January 2010 game.

The Cotton Bowl Board is set to vote on the change today and could announce plans this morning to move the game to the new Cowboys stadium, said Terry Briggs, a Cotton Bowl official.

Cotton Bowl president Rick Baker wouldn't say for certain whether the game would move because the committee had not voted yet.

"Our board will make its decision based on what is best for the future of our football game," Baker said. "It's going to be one of the hardest decisions our association will ever have to make."

The 74-member board's vote will be final.

Dallas Mayor Laura Miller said the Cotton Bowl Board has always wanted the game to be played in a covered stadium and that Dallas has no plans to cover the 76-year-old stadium in Fair Park. She said it would be disappointing if the board decides to change venues.

"Our goal is to make the Cotton Bowl the best venue to play college football during the State Fair," she said.

The Red River Rivalry, between Texas and Oklahoma, and the Southwest Airlines State Fair Classic between Prairie View A&M and Grambling State, are held annually in the Cotton Bowl stadium during the State Fair of Texas.

Cowboys spokesman Brett Daniels would not comment on the possibility of the Cotton Bowl game moving to the new stadium, which will have a retractable roof and is set to open for the 2009 NFL season.

Mavs beat the hapless Hawks …I can’t decide what I think of the yellow Atlanta uniforms…Has any team had more uniform changes than Atlanta?

That much was evident in the game, which the Mavericks took control of in the second quarter. They were never threatened after halftime as Dirk Nowitzki (27 points), Jason Terry (21) and Howard (20) led an efficient offense. Jerry Stackhouse had 19 points off the bench and Croshere was effective, too, as the Mavericks rolled to their 12th straight win.

The win came in spite of being shorthanded as Greg Buckner, already suffering from a broken nose, sat out after bruising his left knee against Denver on Saturday. With Devean George already out with a right knee injury, the Mavericks had to scramble in the backcourt. Buckner's status for tonight's visit to Minnesota will not be known until game time. Both Buckner and Howard made the trip.

And while the winning streaks keep getting more impressive – this is their third of 12 or longer this season and their 20th in a row at home – Avery Johnson was concentrating on other things.

"I'd like to have double [digit] winning streaks starting April 20," he said.
That would be at the start of the playoffs.

In the meantime, he'd settle for the league keeping a closer watch on defenders who crowd his shooters.

Mavs in Minnesota tonight …Danger, Will Robinson, Danger – Danger…

Who's hot: Kevin Garnett

Even hotter than usual, we mean. He's averaged 27 points and 18 rebounds in the last two games and is averaging 15.4 rebounds in the last five games. If you want the surest bet going, it's that he will reach double figures in scoring, something he's done in 377 consecutive games, the eight-longest streak in league history. And he's not just scoring. If he gets five assists tonight, he'll pass Kenny Smith for 79th on the all-time dish list. ... Rookie Randy Foye has supplanted Mike James in the starting lineup and has responded by averaging 13.5 points and eight assists in the last two games. ... The Mavericks have won three in a row over the Wolves, but only by a total of 11 points.

Elias Says

The Mavericks beat the Hawks on Monday night 110-87 and became the first team in NBA history to fashion three different winning streaks of at least 12 games in the same season. Eleven of the 30 current NBA franchises have never had a single 12-game winning streak in the history of their franchises: Charlotte, Cleveland, Golden State, Indiana (as an NBA franchise), L.A. Clippers, Minnesota, New Orleans/Oklahoma City, Orlando, Toronto, Memphis and Washington.

The Mavericks' win over the Hawks was about as sure a bet as they come, considering Atlanta's 22-34 record entering the game. There has been only one game in NBA history in which a team at least 12 games below .500 won on the road against a team riding a winning streak of at least 11 games: on April 24, 1993, Dallas, with a 10-71 record, won in Houston to end the Rockets' 11-game winning streak.

NHL Trade Deadline:

Watch Coverage from TSN in Canada Here

Guerin, Smyth, Roberts, Blake, Roenick …all will know the truth by 2pm…

The contenders and pretenders will be decided today as the NHL's 3pm et/Noon pt trade deadline approaches.

And with an earlier deadline date this season, there are plenty of players and teams left in play.

The St. Louis Blues continue to rebuild their lineup, trading veteran forward Keith Tkachuk to Atlanta on Sunday for centre Glen Metropolit and draft picks.
And team president John Davidson and general manager Larry Pleau hold arguably the most coveted prize today in winger Bill Guerin.

Guerin signed a one-year contract with St. Louis last summer and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in July. The 36-year-old has 28 goals and 47 points this season.

Another team that is expected to be in selling mode is the Florida Panthers.
With the team's playoff hopes all but dashed, General Manager Jacques Martin is fielding calls for helpful veterans like forwards Martin Gelinas and Todd Bertuzzi.
Bertuzzi, 31, is in the final season of a four-year, $27.8 million contract and will become an unrestricted free agent in July.

St Louis ponders the extension for Guerin

The Blues and the agent for forward Bill Guerin had two conversations Monday, and the puck now appears to be in the club's end.

Bob Murray, who represents both Guerin and former Blue Keith Tkachuk, spoke once in the morning and once in the afternoon regarding the Blues' leading scorer.

In the first conversation, the Blues expressed "serious intent" in re-signing Guerin, who has been garnering a lot of interest leading up to the NHL trading deadline today at 2 p.m. (St. Louis time).

"We had a bit of a discussion about signing Billy," Murray said. "They were general discussions, not negotiations back and forth. We talked about parameters and we have left that with the Blues. At this point, it's in their quarters, whether they want to take the next step ... if they want to trade Billy or take a further step."

That was in the morning. In a second conversation, Murray said that the two sides "talked about different alternatives."

Murray wouldn't elaborate on those alternatives. Asked if the Blues made Guerin a contract offer, he said, "I don't want to get into that."

Blues President John Davidson did not return a phone message left Monday.

The alternatives with Guerin, who will be a free agent on July 1, are fairly simple:

Re-sign him — With 28 goals, Guerin could easily command $3 million to $4 million per season.

Trade him and forget about him — The Blues should be able to get a nice package in return for one of the top forwards on the market.

Trade him with the intent of re-signing him in July — It worked with Doug Weight last season.

One thing is certain, though, and that's that everyone will know the answer by this afternoon.

On Monday, Guerin seemed to have no idea what would happen.

"It's not really up to me," Guerin said. "There are some decisions that have to be made by the Blues. I don't know which way that's going to go. It could go by way of trade. It could go by negotiations ... who knows? There's not too much time left. I just don't know which direction it's going to go right now."

Guerin added that he didn't "want to put everything on (the Blues) because J.D. and (Blues general manager Larry Pleau) have been nothing but great through this whole process. I guess if something were to happen, it would be a mutual agreement. But we're not there yet ... we're not talking about that yet. We'll see."

A sticking point appears to be that Guerin, while saying that he would like to re-sign with the Blues, would favor being in the NHL playoffs in April. That doesn't look like an option for the Blues, who with a record of 26-27-9 were 12 points out of a playoff spot before Monday.

"Yeah, I'd like to play in the playoffs," Guerin said. "It's too bad we got off to the start we did (7-19-6), or else we'd be playing in them here. It's still a possibility, but it's an uphill battle. In the end, I want a toilet made of gold, too, but sometimes you can't have that. It's not up to me."

JJT on Rangers situation

While it's great that Tom Hicks has given Jon Daniels permission to negotiate a lucrative long-term extension with Young, who certainly deserves it, deep down you know it means two years from now, Mark Teixeira will leave through free agency.
That's simply ridiculous.

You just don't let Hall of Fame-caliber players walk away, especially those you drafted and cultivated. At least not until they reach the end of their careers and their pride won't allow them to accept a reduced role.
The Rangers, however, have made a habit of it.

Pudge Rodriguez walked. They traded Alfonso Soriano, though Ian Kinsler's presence makes that deal less painful. They dealt Sammy Sosa, too, although they had no idea
he was going to become a superstar.

No one can predict who's getting into the Hall of Fame, given the self-righteous nature of the voters. But Young and Teixeira, given their current production, will receive strong consideration for baseball immortality.

Baseball Card Dorks rejoice

The "Holy Grail of baseball cards,'' the famous 1909 Honus Wagner tobacco card once owned by hockey great Wayne Gretzky, has sold for a record-setting $2.35 million, the seller of the card said Monday.

The buyer has only been identified as a Southern California collector. SCP Auctions Inc., a company that holds sports memorabilia auctions, said it bought a small share of the card. It is scheduled to be shown at a news conference at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.

There are about 60 of the tobacco cards in existence featuring the Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop, one of the first five players to be inducted in Baseball's Hall of Fame.

The seller, Brian Seigel, in 2000 paid a then-record $1,265,000 for the prize card, which is in much better shape than the others.

"This particular one was preserved in spectacular condition,'' said Joe Orlando, president of Professional Sports Authenticator of Newport Beach - the company that certified the authenticity of the card. "It's the Holy Grail of baseball cards.''
Still, the Wagner cards are so rare that even tattered ones will sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, Seigel said.

The others "you could stick in middle of the street and let cars drive over it through the day, take it in your hand and crumple it up, and it still would be a $100,000 card,'' said Seigel, CEO of Emerald Capital LLC, an asset management company, who lives in Las Vegas.

Gretzky and Bruce McNall, former owner of the Los Angeles Kings, bought the card for $451,000 in 1991.

These girls love the Flea Market

Dwight Schrute

Monday, February 26, 2007

Monday Blog

It is Monday in the Sports Community. Lots to discuss. By the way, I am out of pocket this weekend for my periodic trip to go watch soccer in person across the pond. So, we may have the return of Ty Walker (and his seedy picture choices) or we may have no blog after Wednesday until next Tuesday. I will keep you updated.

Our links today:

Michael Young about to get PAID

Contract negotiations between the Rangers and shortstop Michael Young continued Sunday, with the club hoping to reach an agreement this week on an extension that would keep Young through the 2013 season.

A person with knowledge of the negotiations said no deal has been struck, but the Rangers' offer is in the "ballpark" of a five-year, $75 million extension.

Young's agent, Dan Lozano of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, said the parties are still discussing details.

"We have two or three outstanding issues that we're trying to work through," Lozano said. "Hopefully, we can and if we can't, we still have next off-season."

Owner Tom Hicks said Saturday that the timetable for getting a deal done was a "week
or two," and Young said upon arriving in camp that he does not want contract talks to be a distraction. Spring training games begin Friday.

Hicks met with Young on Saturday at the Rangers' spring training facility in Surprise; Hicks said they discussed Young's potential role as the future "face of the franchise," but did not talk contract specifics.

Hicks is scheduled to return to Surprise early Friday for the Rangers' first weekend of spring training games.

Young will make about $3.5 million this season, and the club has an option for 2008 worth $4 million to $5 million. Young hit .314 last season with 14 home runs and 103 RBI while playing in all 162 games; he is a career .300 hitter in six major-league seasons with Texas.

Nelson Cruz – RF

Now Cruz would like a memorable Spring Training and nail down the Rangers' right-field job. It is his to lose after being acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers last July and hitting .223 with six home runs and 22 RBIs in 130 at-bats.

"This spring means a lot to me, to come here and get a chance to play every day in the big leagues," Cruz said. "This is what you hope to do. I just need to play my game and play hard."

Cruz can run, chase down balls in the outfield and has an above average throwing arm. At the plate, Cruz has what manager Ron Washington calls "serious projectable power."

Cruz mainly needs to show he can hit right-handed pitching and lay off the breaking balls that give him trouble.

"All Cruz needs to do is be himself," Washington said. "He doesn't have to beat out anybody. He just needs to keep improving. Other than Kenny Lofton, he's got the most natural physical ability among our outfielders."

Sammy Sosa will play some outfield this spring, but the Rangers are still looking at him mainly as a designated hitter. Washington just doesn't want Sosa to focus solely on his hitting.

Unintentional Comedy Alert: Our good buddy Evan Grant on camera …Get em, Evan.

Adrian Peterson steals the combine

Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson lit up the Indianapolis turf on Sunday with a blazing 40-yard dash time in the 4.3s. It turns out Peterson ran with a heavy heart that did not seem to slow him down a bit. has learned that Peterson was told in the wee hours Sunday morning that his half-brother was gunned down and killed in a Texas homicide. Sources say he was shot multiple times. The sources also said Peterson was very close to his half-brother and took the news extremely hard. Details are still sketchy and when contacted officials at the Houston Police Department did not have any information available.

Despite such heart-breaking news, Peterson pulled his emotions together to have an impressive workout at the NFL's scouting combine. Not only did he run the 40s (4.38 in his first run) but Peterson participated in all the running back drills.

Although his head was probably elsewhere, the former Heisman hopeful had what scouts deemed a terrific workout, including a 38.5-inch vertical and 10-foot, 7-inch broad jump. Peterson spent much of the time before and after his workout on the phone with grieving family members and didn't get much sleep Sunday morning.

It's even more impressive when considering many if not the majority of top-5 projected picks opted out of running and/or working out of the annual Indy affair In years, preferring to save their showing for personal workout days. Not only did Peterson decide to pull the opposite of most of prospects, he did so with a major distraction yet still blew the door off his workout.

Cowboys name Brian Stewart as the guy who watches Wade Phillips design the defense

The Cowboys are expected to name Brian Stewart as their new defensive coordinator, multiple sources said Sunday night. An announcement could be made as soon as today
Stewart, who was unavailable for comment, replaces Mike Zimmer, who left to become the defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons.

Stewart is close to new Cowboys coach Wade Phillips and is familiar with Phillips' aggressive 3-4 defense.

Stewart beat out Todd Bowles, who will remain as the Cowboys secondary coach.
Stewart and Bowles spoke Sunday night about the Cowboys' defensive personnel.
Stewart comes to Dallas from San Diego where he was the secondary coach. From the moment Phillips got to Dallas, he made two attempts to wrestle Stewart away from the Chargers.

Jared Allen – Great player – Not so great off the field

Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen has yet to be offered a long-term contract and has requested to be traded, according to a published report.

Allen told the Kansas City Star on Saturday that he wanted to finish his career with the Chiefs, but the club hasn't offered the restricted free agent a contract.

"I feel shocked and hurt." Allen told the Star. "Requesting a trade was probably the toughest thing I've had to do. It's nothing personal against the town of Kansas City and the fans. It's been great. [But] it doesn't look like my future is going to be there, and I have to accept that. That's why this is so hard. All the hard work I've put in, the blood, sweat and tears … I wanted to finish my career there. I was led to believe I was going to."

The Chiefs turned down Allen's request for a trade and president/general manager Carl Peterson said the club plans to tender Allen on Thursday, according to the report. Thursday is the deadline for teams to submit qualifying offers to restricted free agents.

Allen has 27½ sacks in his three NFL season and led the league with six fumble recoveries in 2006.

Allen's agent, Ken Harris, told the Star that the Chiefs plan to high tender Allen. Kansas City would receive a first and third round draft choice if another team signed him to an offer sheet. If that happens, Allen, would earn $2.35 million as a high tender in 2007 according to the Star.

One open issue that may be hindering Allen's request is that he just served jail time for his second DUI arrest and the NFL has not yet decided on a possible suspension heading into the 2007 season.

Bill Simmons looks at the Texas teams after the deadline

HOUSTON: A-minus
Carry-over grade from the superb Shane Battier deal. The Rockets couldn't swing a deadline trade because they didn't have anything to trade; even their plan to land Chucky Atkins by sending old footage of Juwan Howard from the '96 season to Jerry West and pretend it was a 2007 tape didn't work. Too bad. They were one more quality guard away from being legitimately interesting in May and June. And while we're here, nobody is allowed to mention another "Coach of the Year" candidate in 2007. The award goes to Jeff Van Gundy. Done and done. Let's agree not to bring this up again.

If the Spurs honestly believe this particular roster of guys can beat Phoenix or Dallas this spring, they're crazy. On the other hand, I'm not sure what they could have done. They need another big man to help out Tim Duncan defensively (he's slipping noticeably on that end), as well as a big-time perimeter stopper (Manu Ginobili's slipping and Bruce Bowen already slipped) ... but they had no trading chips other than their No. 1 pick, Luis Scola's rights and a couple of smaller expiring contracts. (Note: I spent 25 solid minutes trying to figure out a way they could have landed Joel Przybilla or Gerald Wallace for a reasonable price and couldn't make it work.) So what can you do? They're getting old and there's no real way to stop it.

The Suns could have used Atlanta's No. 1 and Kurt Thomas' expiring deal to land a blue-chipper like Rashard Lewis or Mike Miller. The Mavs could have used the expiring Austin Croshere/Jerry Stackhouse contracts and maybe even Devin Harris to land a max contract guy like Jason Kidd. But you know what? Dallas is 45-5 in their past 50 games and the Suns have the highest ceiling of any team in 20 years. I can't kill them for not messing things up. It would have been like a jockey going to the whip down the stretch with a 20-length lead.

Phoenix has the highest ceiling of any team in the last 20 years….Hmmm. Let’s just ignore the fact that he is so in love with them and that it seems absurd to label them higher than Jordan’s Bulls based strictly on finishing 2nd in the West in 2007. Let’s focus more on his timing. 20 years? Seems arbitrary, right? Oh wait. 20 years back takes us to the Celtics in their prime. Surely, as great as they are, they are no match for Sports Guy’s Celts.

Did you know he likes Boston?

My Dad is happy today – Matt Kenseth wins …Badger, Badger, Badger…

Matt Kenseth won the Auto Club 500 for the second consecutive year at the California Speedway. This time, he did it without his crew chief.

Robbie Reiser is serving the second of his four-race penalty for a violation in
Daytona qualifying. Kenseth isn't known as an emotional guy, but he was a little teary-eyed in Victory Lane.

"That was special one," Kenseth said. "This team was built by Robbie Reiser.
"It's cool to do this two years in a row and get some of our [50] points back from the Daytona penalty."

Kenseth knows he was lucky in this one. Another one of NASCAR's mysterious debris cautions and a late red flag were major factors in Kenseth winning.

With eight laps to go, Kevin Harvick was second and closing fast. Everyone watching had to wonder if Harvick was headed for another dramatic last-lap pass for the win, just as he did a week ago in the Daytona 500.

Kenseth was wondering the same thing while looking in the rear-view mirror of the No. 17 Ford.

"I was really worried," Kenseth said. "The 29 [Harvick] was running me down and I think he was going to pass me."

Harvick never got the chance. A nasty crash by David Reutimann brought the race to a halt with seven laps left. When it restarted under caution, Harvick realized he had a flat left-front tire.

Harvick took his bad luck in stride: "We consider this one of our two worst race tracks," he said. "So to run down the leader and have a chance to win is what it's all about."

Kenseth's victory was the fifth at California for team owner Jack Roush, but the first under the new name of Roush Fenway Racing. Roush announced at Daytona that he sold 50 percent of his operation to Boston Red Sox owner John Henry.

Mark Martin, the man who was the co-owner of Kenseth's car, now leads the points standings. Kenseth's former teammate backed up his runner-up finish at Daytona with a fifth-place effort Sunday in the No. 01 Chevy.

But Martin says he's only running a partial schedule. Right.

That's about as believable now as California Speedway officials claiming 87,000 were in the stands Sunday. Sure it's Academy Awards night, but it's baffling why the second-largest market in the country can't sell all 92,000 seats for a Cup race.
Maybe the Hollywood crowd needed a few soap-opera scandals like Daytona offered. But the weekend was free and clear of any debauchery.

Eric Duhatschek looks at the NHL Trade Deadline

Amazing Race Recap from Sunday

FLASH: Shield News

A long wait for fans of "The Shield" will come to an end this spring.

FX has set a premiere date for the show's sixth season: Tuesday, April 3, a week after new drama "Dirt" ends its season. The premiere will come just over a year after "The Shield's" fifth-season finale; that's the longest gap between seasons the show has had.

The long dry spell comes after a season five finale that saw Lem (Kenneth Johnson) murdered at the hands of one of his strike team partners, Shane (Walton Goggins), who mistakenly believed Lem had given up his crew to Internal Affairs. "Shield" creator Shawn Ryan says the bulk of season six, which will run for 10 weeks, will focus on Vic's (Michael Chiklis) search for Lem's killer, unaware that he's standing right beside him.

Recent Golden Globe winner Forest Whitaker will reprise his role as Internal Affairs investigator John Kavanaugh in season six, though Ryan declined to reveal how many episodes he'll be around.

The show is also gearing up for production on its seventh and final season. Those 13 episodes are scheduled to begin shooting in late spring, with a projected airdate of early 2008.

A website for Dead Baseball players

Brilliant Soccer site – 101 Great Goals

Chelsea wins Carling Cup; Terry Kicked in face – HARD

To Chelsea the trophy, to Arsenal the future. That division of spoils might have seen the victors celebrating and the young losers still feeling satisfied with themselves after a Carling Cup final that entertained and excited for 90 minutes. The stoppage-time fracas, however, sullied the match. Arsenal are left to prepare a response to likely FA charges, but in private they must also ask hard questions of themselves.

Chelsea were no paragons in this affair. The substitute Mikel John Obi tugged on Kolo Touré's jersey and, eve n though exasperated, the priority of Touré and his team, at 2-1 down, ought to have been restarting play. As Arsenal captain, the centre-half had a responsibility to bear that in mind, but could not suppress his rage.

He and Mikel were dismissed by the referee, Howard Webb, for their part in the ensuing melee, as was Emmanuel Adebayor. Though the striker may yet claim mistaken identity in the incident, in which Wayne Bridge sprawled on the turf, his refusal to leave the pitch until the physio Gary Lewin escorted him to the tunnel summed up the breakdown in Arsenal's self-discipline.

Those lapses seemed all the more peculiar in a team who had such shining grace about them for much of the afternoon. Arsenal should have been leaving Cardiff with only compliments on making this an exceptional final. As was inevitable in view of the opposing philosophies, they were by far the more attractive side, even if that simply compelled Chelsea to show even more resolve than usual and twice tap that reservoir of goals, Didier Drogba.

Most had predicted that domination would pass to the older, battle-hardened team as the day developed, but the situation of Jose Mourinho's men might have been irretrievable by then. Almost overwhelmed by the slick speed of Arsenal, they had to deal with the loss of their captain, John Terry, who was rendered unconscious as Abou Diaby booted him in the head in clearing after 57 minutes.

Adversity, though, is stimulating for Chelsea.

Terry Kicked in the head

Mini Mall guy and Ellen

Do you believe in Miracles?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Take That, Miami!

Mavs beat the Heat; almost make it look too easy …Interesting quote in this story about Dirk not liking the MVP Night promotion. I would think that would embarrass a man amongst his colleagues. Good job, Dirk.

The Mavericks beat the Miami Heat without Dwyane Wade, which meant it was perfect fodder for Shaquille O’Neal to escalate the banter between last season’s NBA finalists.

The Mavericks unveiled the Dirk Nowitzki MVP campaign, much to the superstar’s chagrin. But he did his part with a monster evening and a big second quarter by Jason Terry provided the juice for a 112-100 victory over the Heat at American Airlines Center.

It wasn’t enough of a showing to convince the Heat’s mammoth center of anything, especially considering the Mavericks beat the Heat last month in Miami without O’Neal in the lineup.

"They’re all right," O’Neal said of the Mavericks, who won their 10th consecutive game and at 45-9 are a mere 19 games ahead of the Heat. "They’re playing well. They play well at home. But they still can be beat."

Not by the Heat. At least not this season, unless there’s a rematch in the Finals.
If Wade’s absence – the guard who questioned Nowitzki's leadership was in Miami with a dislocated left shoulder – removed some luster from Miami’s only appearance here since winning the NBA Finals on this court, it didn’t show in the way the Mavericks handled business.

Nowitzki had 31 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Terry had 21 points, but 16 of them came in the second quarter, when he hit seven of eight shots and staked the Mavericks to a 23-point halftime lead.

It grew to 32 at the start of the fourth, and only a terrible night by the Mavs’ deep reserves allowed the Heat to get back to respectability on the scoreboard.
Nowitzki, meanwhile, was a tad embarrassed by all the MVP hoopla.

"I’m not a big fan of that," he said. "I don’t think you should push for MVP, especially with so many games left.

"I don’t think there’s an award for mid-season MVP."

The Mavs’ winning streak was their third of the season spanning 10 games or more. They join Milwaukee (1970-71), Philadelphia (1980-81) and the Los Angeles Lakers (1999-2000) as the only teams in NBA history to accumulate three separate double-digit winning streaks in the same season.

Meanwhile, The Heat have issues with DWade’s shoulder

Dwyane Wade is considering season-ending surgery to repair his dislocated left shoulder, which would be the biggest loss yet for the Miami Heat during their rocky reign as NBA champions.

The All-Star guard was hurt in the fourth quarter of Wednesday night's 112-102 loss at Houston. Wade flew home early Thursday in a private plane and was examined at a hospital by team physician Dr. Harlan Selesnick, who conducted a battery of tests.
"Wade is presently weighing his treatment options provided to him by the Heat medical staff," the team said in a statement. "Wade still needs to discuss these options with his family and Heat president and head coach Pat Riley, and will then decide what course of action to take."

Regardless of the decision, the Heat's bid to repeat was further weakened. They may hard-pressed merely to make the playoffs.

Stars going Duck hunting tonight; Mike Smith gets the start …makes you wonder who is the goalie in the playoffs if the two teams meet…

The Stars also received some interesting news Thursday that could force Armstrong into talks. Forward Patrik Stefan is expected to have hip surgery that will end his season. Stefan has been trying to play through the injury, but has decided he can no longer push his hip. Mix in that injury with Matthew Barnaby's post-concussion syndrome and Steve Ott's second ankle surgery, and there is the potential that none of the three players will be available for the playoffs.

"Our depth has been our strength all season," Armstrong said. "We have several players available in Iowa and we have key players returning to the lineup."

Brenden Morrow said Thursday that his rehabilitation has been going exceptionally well and that he remains on course for a March 21 return. Morrow, who suffered three severed tendons in his right wrist Dec. 26, has been told by doctors that he can not play before March 20. He said that schedule has allowed him to work on conditioning and lower body strength, so he should be fresh when the playoffs start.

Eric Lindros has been rehabilitating his sore groin and is close to returning to the lineup. However, he has been slowed by the flu. He has missed four games and will not play tonight, but, he said Thursday after practice, he should return soon.
Barnaby is also skating, but there is no real time frame for his potential return.
Ott is not skating, but he could return before the end of the season.

Smith gets start: Mike Smith will start in goal against Anaheim tonight. Smith made 32 saves in a 1-0 win against the Ducks on Feb. 10 and had a strong performance (29 saves) in a 3-1 loss to Detroit on Feb. 14. Marty Turco has played two games since then and Stars coach Dave Tippett said he wants to have a more regular rotation between Smith and Turco.

"We need both guys playing well," Tippett said. "We just got [Smith] going again, why would we want to get him away from that?"

Tippett said Turco will start Sunday against Vancouver.

Nagy moved: Tippett shuffled his lines Thursday in practice. Nagy was moved to a line with Mike Ribeiro and Loui Eriksson, while Niklas Hagman was moved into Nagy's spot on the top line with Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen.

War in Buffalo

Chris Drury went down. The rest of the Buffalo Sabres stood up.

The Sabres could only shrug the past five games as they watched their teammates limp off ice. But after their bloodied co-captain was helped off the ice by a hotly debated hit that they deemed dirty, the shrugs turned to punches. Lots of them.

The Sabres came out swinging at the Ottawa Senators on Thursday seconds after Chris Neil felled Drury during Buffalo's 6-5 shootout win. The Sabres felt Neil hit a defenseless Drury well after his second-period shot - the Senators disagreed - so they exacted revenge the only way they knew how. All 12 players on the ice fought as soon as the play resumed.

"You can't respond any other way," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "I was so proud of those guys."

Ruff threw the hard-hitting trio of Andrew Peters, Adam Mair and Patrick Kaleta over the HSBC Arena boards to line up against three of Ottawa's top scorers, Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Mike Comrie.

"We're an energy line, and there was absolutely nothing said," Peters said. "We decided to take matters into our own hands, and that's it.

"You take a run like that at anybody like that on our team, you're going to be faced with some problems."

Kaleta and Heatley jostled before the puck was even dropped. When the puck hit the ice, the melee began. Mair went at Spezza and caught him with a rock-hard left, leading Ottawa's Anton Volchenkov to jump in. With that, all 12 players on the ice dropped the gloves, including goaltenders Martin Biron and Ottawa counterpart Ray Emery.

"The hit on Dru was dirty," Biron said. "We've lost a lot of guys, and when a leader like that gets taken down . . ."

The battle resulted in an even 100 minutes in penalties, 63 for the Sabres and 37 for the Senators. And that was just six seconds after Drew Stafford fought Neil to avenge the hit.

Biron and Peters were ejected, along with Emery. The Ottawa goaltender fought twice. After scoring a takedown on Biron, he got to his feet and saw Peters ready to challenge him.

"I thought it was brutal," Senators coach Bryan Murray said. "I thought it was embarrassing. I think there should be suspensions, and there probably will be."
Added Ruff: "I don't condone the tail end when Andrew's emotion ran a little bit hot. But everybody's emotion . . . mine was running a little bit hot. With their goaltender, maybe that was a little bit too far. But at the same time, they knocked one our best players, they knocked our captain out of the lineup with what I believe was a dirty shot. You don't lay down after that. You don't lay down."

While the referees were sorting out the brawl penalties, Ruff and Murray engaged in a screaming, finger-pointing session at the benches, with Murray standing on the boards. They were debating the legality of the Neil hit, and the back-and-forth continued after the game.

Here is the video of the fights, pay special attention to Ray Emery, the smiling goalie…

ESPN looks at the Aggie Football team

After a 2006 season that included so many close losses, Texas A&M seemed close to turning around its fortunes in coach Dennis Franchione's fourth year in College Station. The Aggies lost three regular season games by a combined six points -- a four-point loss to Texas Tech and one-point losses to both Oklahoma and Nebraska -- but then rallied to beat Texas in the finale, ending a six-game losing streak in the game that matters most.

Then Texas A&M played California in the Holiday Bowl.

And it wasn't even close.

The Bears blasted the Aggies 45-10, and Texas A&M lost for the ninth time in its last 11 bowl games and failed to finish in the final top 25 poll for the seventh consecutive season.

So as Texas A&M heads into spring practice and begins preparations for the 2007 season, are the Aggies closer to becoming a real threat in the Big 12 South, or closer to putting their coach back on the hot seat, where Franchione seemed to sit ever since he arrived from Alabama before the 2003 season?

"The Holiday Bowl left a nasty taste in our mouth, but we know what we need to do," said Jorvorskie Lane, the Aggies' 270-pound tailback. "We want to compete in the Big 12 and with everybody in the nation. We're still not satisfied with a 9-4 record. We were looking for a 10-win season last year. In 2007, we want to be Big 12 champions and compete for a national championship."

Irvin wants to do radio

M ichael Irvin said ''there is nothing I love more than talking football and doing exactly what I was doing at ESPN.'' But whether he lands another network TV gig is very much in doubt.

Still, for a man who just lost a job he adores, Irvin sounded remarkably upbeat about his future in a phone conversation this week. The former University of Miami star spoke of how he now has the flexibility to pursue other interests, including movies and a radio call-in show.

Irvin said ESPN would not permit him to do a program for 790 The Ticket or Sirius Satellite Radio last season.

''I want to have a presence [in Miami],'' Irvin said, unsure if talks with The Ticket would be revisited. ``I want to do my own radio show. I enjoy radio more than anything. It's an opportunity to talk to the fans. I see Boomer Esiason and Cris Collinsworth doing [television and radio], but ESPN wouldn't allow that stuff.''
Though Irvin wants to remain on television, none of the NFL rights-holders appear interested.

CBS and NFL Network said they won't pursue Irvin. Fox (where Irvin previously worked) and NBC also aren't expected to hire him.

Irvin -- who appeared in the movie, The Longest Yard -- wants to do more acting.
''The Bible talks about . . . trying to maximize all of your gifts,'' he said. ``God frowns upon being given many gifts and not using them.''

Irvin said ESPN didn't give him a specific reason for his ouster.

FA Cup Schedule

Entertainment Weekly looks at Lost

P1 camcords Dan from a distance

Dirk makes Rolling Stones Video

Harris Bueller

Thursday, February 22, 2007

European Cup Greatness, Mr Hicks

I may have forgotten to mention the biggest sports story in my world on the morning blog, so I make up for it here. Here is a brief rundown:

Tom Hicks buys my favorite Soccer team, Liverpool FC.

Team has a week to prepare to play the best team in the world, Barcelona FC.

During this week, team has vacation/training in Portugal.

In Portugal, team comes apart at the seams, with striker Craig Bellamy attacking midfielder John Arne Riise with a golf club after a drunken karaoke incident.

Chaos ensues.

Game On, at a place only 1 English team has ever won (Liverpool 21 years ago)
Barcelona threatens to blow Liverpool out.

Bellamy scores.

Riise scores.

Liverpool wins first leg of Champions League Round of 16, 2-1.

Rematch in Liverpool, March 6.

Liverpool 2, Barcelona 1

John Arne Riise spoke of "destiny" last night as he struggled to come to terms with the reality that he and Craig Bellamy, reluctant golfing partners turned slayers of Barcelona, had scored the goals to condemn the reigning European champions to their first continental defeat in this arena in 14 games.

This staggering tie had been played against the disconcerting backdrop of events on the Algarve last week, when Liverpool's training camp had degenerated into a drunken frenzy with Bellamy reportedly threatening Riise with a nine-iron. But after the Welshman celebrated his equaliser here with a lusty golf swing as he tore towards the corner flag, all that was left was for Bellamy to tee up Riise wonderfully for the second-half winner to complete the visitors' astonishing comeback.

"It was destiny for both of us to score, I think," conceded Riise in the aftermath, the memory of his fierce right-footed finish seared on the memory. "Both Bellamy and myself have had a difficult run-up [to the game] but we've put it behind us when it mattered. The team is happy. We're going to enjoy this. We put the incident behind us very early and we worked hard for the team and we'll move forward.

"His celebration didn't bother me. Look, he's had a difficult time as well and I could see it meant a lot to him, so I'm happy for him that he scored and the whole team is as well. As for my goal, I don't think I've ever scored with my right foot. I just played on instinct - I could have taken a touch with my left but when I got the ball from Bellamy I just thought 'Smash it'."

I guess D-Mac Replaces D-Wade

D-Whistle hurt, takes the excitement off tonight’s big event in Dallas …except for the Dancing Dan McDowell...

With one swift swipe of Dwyane Wade's left arm, Pat Riley's return to the bench became a devastating experience.

Wade left Wednesday's game against the Rockets wincing in severe pain in a wheelchair, his left arm propped up.

The Heat lost the game 112-102, but it has probably lost a whole lot more with Wade likely sustaining what was initially called a dislocated left shoulder, which could keep Wade out for a period of about six weeks.

With about 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of a game the Heat had trailed for almost the entire way, Wade reached in on a driving Shane Battier with his left hand.

Battier's momentum forced Wade's left arm back, and Wade immediately grabbed the arm and walked to the bench hunched over. Wade had bruised his left shoulder during the Heat's home victory against Portland on Feb. 13, the Heat's last game before the All-Star break, and he had told teammates privately that it was bothering him Wednesday. It's unclear, however, whether that made Wade more vulnerable to a dislocation.

After Heat trainer Ron Culp tended to Wade on the bench for several minutes, a Rockets employee emerged from one of the tunnels with a wheelchair for Wade, who needed help even getting into the chair. Wade was in so much pain while on the bench, he was forced to tears.

It was a gruesome ending to what already had been a difficult experience for the Heat and Riley, who returned to the bench after taking a medical leave of absence and missing 22 games.

Revo says cloud is gone; so are the excuses …Kinda funny, given my long belief that Buck used Revo to leak stuff to the media under the user name “Sources inside the front office”, but since I was never able to prove that, let’s just keep it between us.

To be fair to the players, I can honestly say that not one time over the past four seasons did any of them seek me out to complain about Showalter, certainly not after the 2004 season, when he was named American League Manager of the Year. Yet, the reports of a tense, unhappy clubhouse became accepted fact.

Did the players' unhappiness with Showalter contribute to their inability to win? I remain skeptical. Show me the player whose numbers suffered because he didn't like the manager and I'll show you someone looking for an alibi.

Still, there's no question that the players' unhappiness with their manager is essentially the reason why he was fired and why second-year general manager Jon Daniels is focused on a "family atmosphere" in the clubhouse.

"There's not going to be any pointing fingers; up, down, left, right, in, out, we're all on the same page," Daniels said. "Regardless of your role in the organization, we're all pulling on the same end of the rope. That's scouting, development, big leagues, minor leagues, front office, ownership, players.

"Accountability is paramount. I put myself out there first. I've said publicly, I'm not delivering Ron a perfect roster. It's a work in progress, but there's a lot of talent here. We're trying to eliminate obstacles so these guys can just focus on playing baseball."

Trust, or lack of it, was the principal issue with Showalter. It might seem petty -- it did to me at times -- but trust is vitally important between players and manager. Showalter had a tendency to tell players, and even the media, what he thought they wanted to hear, and if that meant shading the truth a little, well... who's counting?
Example: Showalter might tell reporters that he had had a conversation with a player about failing to run out a groundball, when everyone else in the clubhouse knew the conversation never happened. Or he might say he had talked to a player on the phone about giving him a day off when all he had done was leave a message.

Sure, little things, but they added up. Showalter was his own worst enemy. He just couldn't make himself shut up. It wasn't that he had rules or made demands that were any different from any other major league manager. The problem was strictly personality.

Fuzzy takes on Wikipedia

Kravitz looks at the Pacers defense of Quisy

Saying goodbye to Chief Illiniwek

Last Dance

Gramps on the Wade/Norv connections

From a football standpoint, it'd seem impossible for Wade Phillips not to regret the timing factor of his departure from San Diego as the defensive coordinator, and his arrival at Valley Ranch as the Cowboys' new head coach.

But as a Texan, from Phillips' days as a schoolboy and college player in the state, and then as a high school coach, the "boots and roots" factor are significant and believable.

You can actually believe Wade when he says there are no regrets, and how could there be when Jerry Jones made his lifelong "dream job" a reality?

Then again, what a strange couple of weeks it's been since Phillips was hired.
Just as Wade was settling in here, the Chargers suddenly fired his old boss, Marty Schottenheimer, meaning the leading candidate to replace him would have been, yes, Phillips.

One voice from out West said Wade would have been named head coach within five minutes of Marty being shown the door. If so, Phillips would have been in charge of the best overall talent in football on a team that has it all, except for a playoff win in the last decade.

Instead, the new head coach in San Diego is Norv Turner, whom Jerry rejected in hiring Phillips.

The weirdness continued when Ron Rivera, whom Turner wanted to bring here as defensive coordinator, was fired by the Bears, then hired by Turner as his linebackers coach.

In Chicago, they are still trying to figure out why Rivera got the Lovie Smith boot. Regardless, it's Turner who benefited by adding a seasoned and respected coach to his staff, even though Norv's new defensive coordinator, Ted Cottrell, was hired by the general manager, A.J. Smith.

Around here, we like to think of the Cowboys as the most unstable organization in the NFL. Once Big Bill left Valley Ranch, what also departed were four years of stability, for better or worse. But mainly it was disappointment. Regardless, there was structure and a dominant football voice.

Now, it will be the predicted Locoville again, and I say this despite having been among the first to suggest it was time for Parcells to leave.

Buyers and Sellers in the NHL

GM’s vote down the 3 point a victory plan

The NHL's 30 general managers have given a thumbs down to the idea of awarding teams three points for a win.

"Because it's a terrible idea," Anaheim general manager Brian Burke said Wednesday as three days of GM meetings wrapped up. "That's why it didn't have any support."
The league's GMs liked the idea enough at the February 2004 meetings in Henderson, Nev., to include three-point wins on a list of recommendations for the board of governors. The NHL lockout put everything on hold and when hockey resumed with drastic changes, such as the shootout and the elimination of the centre red line for two-line passes, the three-point win didn't make the cut.

Whatever support that existed for it three years ago is now gone.

"I was actually a proponent of the 3-2-1 points system a few years ago," said Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, meaning three points for a win in regulation time, two points for an overtime/shootout win and one point for an overtime/shootout loss.
"But since then we've seen these great races and I think it's working just fine the way it is now. Our fans like it."

Colin Campbell, the NHL's director of hockey operations, says the game needs a breather from the constant change.

"It's time to establish continuity, you can't keep making changes," he said. "Let' s not confuse the fans."

The original idea of going to three points came from European soccer, which adopted the three-point win system in the 1980s and credited it with opening up the game. That's a notion Burke, for one, rejected Wednesday.

"They tried this in British soccer and everything I've heard is that it didn't make a difference," Burke argued. "Teams would get ahead and then would shut it down.

NHL GM’s help to put fighting back in …Yes!

Concerned that skilled players, notably Sidney Crosby, are not getting the protection they should, the league's GMs agreed that a player shouldn't receive a two-game suspension until he has accumulated five instigating penalties. Under the current rules, a player receives the suspension after three instigating infractions.
The NHL's competition committee, which comprises players and GMs, and the board of governors need to approve the change this spring.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says he isn't concerned about the optics of the rule change, which would essentially allowing tough guys to drop the gloves more often without fear of suspension.

"Among other things, it means a skilled player doesn't have to fight," Bettman said after Day 2 of the GM meetings wrapped up. "This wouldn't be the first time that we adjusted this. You fine-tune it, and if you need to adjust it again, you do."
Still, the talk comes a week or so after The Globe and Mail ran an editorial asking the NHL to ban fighting.

Ben Eager of the Philadelphia Flyers is the only player to have earned the two-game suspension so far this season for earning three instigators.

While trade talk continued to heat up as GMs spent more time together at a posh resort, other recommendations were also made Tuesday. They also need rubber-stamping from the competition committee and board of governors, who are scheduled to meet in June.

- Video replay: Starting next season referees could have a direct phone line to the war room at the league's head office in Toronto, as well as have TV monitors in the penalty box to watch replays. Currently referees only have direct communication with the video goal review official in the arena;

- Going to a one-minute penalty in overtime instead of traditional two minutes: The GMs agreed it's too soon to try this in the NHL next season but perhaps can be tried out in rookie tournaments next fall and/or possibly in the AHL.

Dirk selling something

Faxing Dwight from the Future