Philadelphia Phillies

Odds and Ends: Ryan Howard needs a hug

This slump must really be hitting Ryan Howard hard. A usually media friendly slugger decided that yesterday was “Ryan Howard Day” and announced he would not be talking to any reporters yesterday. Certain members of the press are ripping him (of course) but he probably should get a break. He’s not exactly pulling a Ryan Leaf here. For the record, Ryan Howard day is gonna be May 16 when the Phillies give out Ryan Howard MVP bobbleheads in a game against the Brewers. Let’s hope he’s figured out his hitting by then.

In other news…

[beRecruited]: The worst hairdo in the NCAA tourney

[ebay]: A pair of Michael Jordan game worn shoes goes fot $35,000 on ebay. (You’d think the seller would throw in free shipping.)

[SI]: NFL breaks paid attendance record for 5th straight year

[WISHTV]: ex-Colts DB arrested on gun, drug charges. Will sign with Cinci any day now

[Boston Herald]: Tom Brady’s dad says success doesn’t eliminate problems. Yeah but keeping your soldier helmeted does eliminate one.

And finally, even though we have a firm “no white guy not named Eminem should rap” stance, this “This is why Duke Sucks” video is pretty funny.

NBA General

Jordan Goes For The Jugular

Yea, don’t mess with Mike

1. Just Making Room For More Carolina Blue
Michael Jordan made a rare appearance in front of the media on Tuesday in a hideous red jacket and finally chopped the head off the lead Bobcat when he told coach Bernie Bickerstaff that his services would not be desired next season. But in Jordan’s typical humiliating fashion, he didn’t fire Bickerstaff, but instead his Airness is going to try and get Bernie to provide countless hours of labor finishing out the regular season before officially being booted from the building. The move is incredibly ironic considering that while one crappy coach got canned, another crappy coach got a multiyear extension. So, now it’s up to Jordan to find a suitable replacement for the Bobkittens. Hmmmm, can you say Larry Brown?

2. Moving On Up

It took the Spurs 13 consecutive victories before they finally gained some ground on the Mavericks in the Southwest Division, but with a win over a lost Clippers team and a loss by Dallas to Golden State on Monday, San Antonio is now only seven games behind the league leaders. Talk about demoralizing! It must be brutal to rip off 13 straight, only to see a big, fat 7 in the games back column. But the good news for SA is that they should be able to stretch this streak even further by taking care of business against some of the league’s worst clubs. Milwaukee, Boston and the slumping Pacers are all waiting to get rolled before the Spurs’ next big test against the Pistons next week. The Mavs, on the other hand, have a nationally televised showdown with the Suns looming on their schedule.

3. No Shake For You!
With 11 minutes remaining in the game, Antoine Walker had a flashback to his better days in green as he exploded for all of his 13 points and helped the Heat mount a furious fourth quarter come back win against the Jazz. The two point loss, 88-86, was the first time that Utah had blown a lead at the end of the third quarter this season (14-1). The Heat were down by as many as 17 points at one point in the third quarter and trailed by 14 points entering into the fourth before Walker’s inside/outside barrage ignited Miami’s rally. Uncharacteristically, `Toine never performed his trademark shimmy shake during the onslaught. Apparently the gyrating just isn’t suiting his 30 year olds `ol bones.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Josh Smith vs. Philadelphia 37 min, 26 pts (FG: 11-20, 3FG: 1-2, FT: 3-4), 17 reb, 5 ast, 4 stl, 3 blk

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (49-14) @ Dallas (52-10) These are unquestionably the two best teams in the NBA today. Despite losing to the Warriors on Monday, the Mavericks have still won an astonishing 17 of their last 18 games en route to racking up an incredible 38 of their last 41, and on their home floor they are 20-3. But Phoenix comes into this game sporting a pretty impressive resume of their own, winning five in a row and 10 of their last 11 games. Like Dallas, the Suns have accomplished a pair of notable double-digit winning streaks. And like Dallas, the Suns can also lay claim to a 17 game winning streak this year. In addition, the Suns will have revenge to motivate them as they have been unable to knock off the Mavericks in a pair of games this season.

Buzzer Beater: In a move that was long, long overdue, the Timberwolves finally part ways with Eddie Griffin. Minnesota waived one of the most disappointing stars to ever come into the league after three all too troubling seasons in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. You can’t blame Minnesota for gambling on the underachieving youngster, but also can’t blame them for getting rid of the team’s constant headache. Kevin McHale is finally starting to prove that his award as the best GM in sports isn’t a total crock. Nah, it’s still absolutely bogus.

NBA General

North Korea a problem? Just send in Michael Jordan

The NBA: It’s Dictator-tastic!

We don’t much get into politics here at Sportscolumn but this Union-Tribune story is too good to pass up. Apparently, Kim Jong Il is a tremendous basketball fan who loves the NBA and has a video library of almost every game MJ has ever played.

[In 1001] Jordan’s management team was approached about the athlete making a goodwill trip to Pyongyang to meet Kim. The North Korean government, according to documents obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune, sent a letter authorizing the request, and Samsung, a South Korean electronics company interested in promoting reunification of the Koreas, had offered to underwrite the venture.

Jordan respectfully declined.

Apparently, because of the closed contact with the outside world, basketball in North Korea is a horse of a different color: “three points for a dunk, four points for a three-pointer that does not touch the rim and eight points for a basket scored in the final three seconds. Miss a free throw, and it’s minus one.” Kim Jong Il must not be much of a Shaq fan.

[SignOnSanDiego]: The Oddest Fan


Oct 30 in Sports History: The Rumble in the Jungle


In 1974: Muhammed Ali defeated George Foreman to regain the heavyweight-boxing title in Kinshasa, Zaire. Ali knocked out the previously unbeaten in the eighth round of the “Rumble in the Jungle.” Ali, knowing that Foreman would be tough to beat toe to toe, was able to outthink him. He threw very few punches throughout the fight, employing the “rope a dope” method where he let the big-swinging Foreman punch himself into exhaustion, until Ali caught him with a combination of punches to win back the belt. It was the first fight (for better or for worse) that was promoted by Don King, whose original slogan was (and we swear we didn’t make this up) “From the Slave Ship to the Championship.” Each fighter took home $5 million, which was unheard of at the time.

In 1997: Violet Palmer became the first woman to officiate an all-male sports league game when she was a referee for a game between the Dallas Mavericks and Vancouver Grizzlies in Vancouver, British Columbia. Palmer was joined that season by Dee Kantner as the first two female referees in the NBA.

In 2001: Michael Jordan came out of retirement for the second time, this time to suit up for the Washington Wizards in a 93-91 loss to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Jordan played two more seasons for the Wizards and showed flashes of the old MJ, but the team was unable reach the playoffs.

New York Knicks

Sep 25 in Sports History: Marv Albert gets arrested

In 1997: In one of the most uncomfortable and embarrassing moments in sportscasting history, announcer Marv Albert plead guilty to assault and battery of a female companion in a Virginia hotel room. Albert was accused of repeatedly biting the woman on the back and forcing her to perform sex acts. Albert was immediately fired from his job at NBC, where he did NBA and NFL broadcasts; and he was forced to resign from MSG Network as the voice of the New York Knicks, where he started over 30 years ago. He was rehired by NBC a few years later and became the voice of the New Jersey Nets in 2005 on the YES Network.

In 2001: Despite being “99.9 percent sure” he would never play again, Michael Jordan announced he would be returning (again) to play in the NBA, this time for the Washington Wizards. Jordan, who was already the president of basketball operations, played two more seasons for the lowly Wizards, averaging 21 points and selling out all 82 home games at the MCI Center in Washington (and most arenas on the road). He retired at the end of the 2003 season.

In 1994: In the most shocking upset since Mike Tyson-Buster Douglas, journeyman Oliver McCall knocked out heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis in Lewis’ hometown of London. McCall lost the title shortly thereafter, and is most remembered for his nervous breakdown in the ring in a rematch against Lewis, when he began crying and refused to defend himself. Many speculated that McCall was on drugs. All tests, however, came up negative.

New York Rangers

June 14 in sports history: Rangers win the Stanley Cup

End of the drought

In 1994: Hockey fans outside of the Big Apple were denied the opportunity of continuing one of the greatest taunts in sports history: the “NINETEEN-FOUR-TEE!” chant, as the New York Rangers won their first Stanley Cup since 1940. The Rangers, led by captain Mark Messier, defeated the upstart Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals at Madison Square Garden. It was one of the best finals series ever, as each contest wasn’t decided until late. Messier– as he’d been the entire playoffs–was the hero, scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal in the third period. Canucks’ fans watching the game back in Vancouver expressed their disappointment in losing by rioting in the streets. New Yorkers were just too relieved. Brian Leetch of the Rangers was named playoff MVP.

In 1998: Michael Jordan hit the game-winning jumper with 5.2 seconds left as the Chicago Bulls won their sixth title in eight years by defeating the Utah Jazz 87-86 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at the Delta Center. Jordan, who took home his record sixth Finals MVP, finished with 45 points and had a key steal off Karl Malone, which led to sinking the signature jumper. The shot was controversial in Utah because some believed that Jordan pushed off Jazz defender Bryon Russell. It proved to be the end of an era in which the NBA enjoyed unprecedented popularity and its highest ratings ever. Jordan would retire from the Bulls before the next season (which was shortened by a lockout) began. He would return in 2001 with the Washington Wizards.