Vescey’s 2005-06 Predictions

Posted in Basketball at 1:08 pm by

Though picking the Spurs to repeat next June, the NY Post’s Peter Vescey presumes that Indiana and Miami will be the likely finalists in the Eastern Conference.

The Pacers, despite flaunting six guys who can go goofy at any time, will provide stiffer resistance than the Spurs are accustomed to coping with in the Finals.

For the first time since the Indy 500 was raced with a horse and buggy, the Pacers are without the retired Reggie Miller. Not having him holding them back anymore is reason alone to pick them. By remaining loyal to Miller two years more than common sense dictated, the Pacers were financially forced to move free agent Brad Miller to the Kings in a non-productive sign-and-trade transaction and deal unhappy Al Harrington for Stephen Jackson.

Yeah, Miller could still fill it up at the end of his career, but so could James Jones (averaging 16.6 points and 42-percent FG from deep as a Sun), whose growth Reggie stunted, to single out one former teammate. And, guess what, the 6-8 Jones also rebounds and plays defense.

Afterthought: Let’s not dwell anymore on the past. Fans now get 82 fresh chances to guess when Artest will visit the special prosecutor. How can anyone not like the Heat to sail through the ashy Southeast Division, despite all the new sailors Pat Riley has welcomed aboard? (Coaches have no input regarding personnel changes in Miami and Detroit, to name two places.)

Isola : Curry Took Ephedra

Posted in Basketball at 12:54 pm by

Amidst continued questions regarding newly acquired Knicks C Eddy Curry’s physical condition, the New York Daily News’ Frank Isola throws a new revelation into the mix.

In the summer of 2004, Curry, in an attempt to lose weight, either knowingly or unknowingly began taking ephedra, a controversial diet supplement that increases metabolism. It is not recommended for anyone with a heart condition and federal investigators have linked ephedra to at least 100 deaths – including that of Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler – and to strokes, seizures and heart attacks. It was banned by most sports leagues, including the NBA, long before the federal government finally outlawed its sale last year.

According to a source, the pills were provided by Tim Grover, the Chicago-based trainer whose A-list clients include Michael Jordan and Alex Rodriguez. Curry denied taking ephedra, saying the weight loss was the result of a low-carb diet. Grover did not return phone calls made to his office.

“I wasn’t taking any supplements,” Curry says. “I cut out bread and sugar from my diet. I lost something like 35 pounds and I came in at 275 pounds. I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t feel like myself at all. I wanted to play at 285 or 290.”

According to a source, the Bulls noticed Curry’s dramatic weight loss and became suspicious. Curry gained a reputation as a player who gained weight during the off-season and avoided the Bulls’ training facility during the summer. Curry contends that he preferred to use Grover, whom he hired four years earlier, to monitor his workouts at Hoops the Gym in downtown Chicago.

Although Curry resumed his workouts in early August, there is some debate over just how strenuous Grover’s program was. When Curry arrived for Knicks training camp in Charleston four weeks ago, he was badly out of shape.

Tabloids Being Tabloids : Red Sox Angry, Mets Hopeful

Posted in Baseball at 12:03 pm by

The Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman writes that Red Sox ownership is fumingover yesterday’s reports of Manny Ramirez demanding a trade, yet reserving the right to change his mind.

œI echo Theo™s remarks today that deplore leaks to the media regarding private conversations, John Henry said in an e-mail. œI was able to ascertain that today™s story on Manny did not come from the Red Sox.

A source on the Red Sox said the team was œfurious about the story but given that Ramirez has made and withdrawn similar requests in the past, having him possibly express a desire to be traded once again did not raise anybody™s eyebrows along Yawkey Way. Still, the breach in confidence reportedly bothered the Red Sox a great deal, even if the source was discovered not to be on the payroll.

However, if Ramirez™ request to be traded does remain on the table for a long period of time, the leak does no favors for the Red Sox, who would lose leverage if potential trading partners believe that Ramirez is forcing a trade.

Despite the Mets being on Ramirez’ list of teams that he’d reject a trade to, the New York Daily News’ usually reliable Adam Rubin claims there’s still a chance of such of a transaction being completed.

Ramirez’s agent, Greg Genske, has said Ramirez would want no part of the Mets if he were traded. But that won’t stop the Mets from pursuing Ramirez, according to someone familiar with the team’s thinking.

Given Ramirez’s oft-changing stances, it seems plausible Ramirez could be convinced by Omar Minaya and Pedro Martinez to join the Mets if the teams could strike a deal.

Bucs Explore Gender Issues, Prepare To Kill Niners

Posted in Gridiron at 11:41 am by

Of today’s four late afternoon games that I won’t be watching, Tampa Bay/SF seems like the least attractive matchup. Though if Halloween would come a day early to Monster Park, I might change my mind. From the St. Petersburg Times’ Stephen F. Holder.

Bucs players enjoy Halloween as much as anybody, but we found talking to these guys about their Halloweens past was downright scary. And not because of the frightful reasons usually associated with the holiday.

Players’ memories covered the spectrum, some boasting of clever costumes, others recalling ones that could be described only as bizarre.

Take tight end Anthony Becht (above).

“When I was about 8, that’s when Pac-Man was real big,” he said. “So my mom, she cut a Pac-Man shape out of cardboard that covered almost my whole body. Then she made me wear these yellow tights with some yellow Converse (sneakers). And my sister dressed as one of the ghosts (from the video game). I wasn’t feeling too masculine walking around in that thing.”

If that’s the case, then what eventually happened must have crushed his manhood. Some of his neighbors remarked to his mother, “Your daughter is so cute,” Becht recalled. One problem. They were talking about Anthony, not his sister.

“I was like, “Come on, I’m a guy!’ ” Becht said. “They couldn’t see my face because of the costume. There were just two holes poked into the cardboard for my eyes. I did get a lot of candy, though.”

As an eighth-grader, tight-end Alex Smith, running out of fresh costume ideas, decided to dress as a drag queen. Turns out, it was quite the hit. Then again, that’s the problem.

“The thing was, everybody said I looked good, which is kind of scary,” he said. “I don’t know how I feel about that.”

Plaschke : DePodesta “Never Should’ve Been Hired”

Posted in Baseball at 11:23 am by

I suppose congratulations of some sort are due to the LA Times’ Bill Plaschke (above), who has proven that despite being barely capable of stringing a sentence together, he can run a Harvard educated executive out of town if he writes the same column enough times.

Some will say Paul DePodesta wasn’t given a fair chance. I say he never should have been hired in the first place.

Some say this makes Dodger owner McCourt look like a man who has lost control. I say this is about him finally taking control, however clueless and callous he appears.

Some say, a hasty firing. I say, a smart trade.

DePodesta and his strange managerial candidate list have been dealt into our memories for Pat Gillick, Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine.

Here’s guessing Gillick and his World Series rings will be the new general manager. Hershiser and his World Series ring will be the assistant. Bobby Valentine and his World Series appearance will be the manager.

None of this would be possible if DePodesta were still around.

The kid’s computer, once foolishly hailed by McCourt as the organizational savior, had become little more than a flashy box blocking the door.

McCourt should have known better. Or, at least, he should have asked someone other than Oakland’s Billy Beane, the most famous general manager who has never won a playoff series.

To fill shoes once worn by Branch Rickey and Al Campanis, should McCourt really have hired a 31-year-old who, when with Oakland, had been the most invisible No. 2 executive in the game?

Remember when, during DePodesta’s hiring news conference in February 2004, McCourt mentioned how it was so cool that his teenage son had been surfing chat rooms that claimed DePodesta joining the Dodgers was like Alex Rodriguez joining the New York Yankees?

An opposing viewpoint (to say the least), can be found here.

Matthews : King Roast Didn’t Go Far Enough

Posted in Boxing at 11:02 am by

A number of comics and z-list celebs recently gathered at the New York Hilton for a Friar’s Club Roast of Don King. Newsday’s Wally Matthews wasn’t laughing very hard, though he does bring up some valuable tidbits from King’s biography, in case they ever do a 2nd roast.

Far too many of us have bought into the popular image of King as a flamboyant but basically harmless boxing rogue.

Freddie Roman, Pat Cooper, Norm Crosby and the rest of them have certainly swallowed it, and though they may be accomplished roastmasters when the subject is your standard-issue celebrity, when it comes to King, they are as clueless as any of the dozens of well-heeled suckers who have fallen under King’s spell, only to be kicked to the curb. As a result, the “roast” was a series of gentle slaps, followed by professions of deepest love and respect for this man who “has done so much for boxing.”

Truth is, the Friars were not qualified to give King the roasting he deserves. That could be done only by those King already has roasted.

People such as Sam Garrett, who worked for King (above) as a numbers runner in Cleveland back in the 1960s. But Garrett couldn’t be there because he was dead, stomped into a coma by King over a $600 debt. According to the police report, Garrett’s last words were, “I’ll pay you, Donald, I’ll pay you.”

People such as Jeff Merritt, King’s first heavyweight, the one who got boxing people to pay attention to his ex-con manager because he could hit like a ton of bricks falling off a roof. But Merritt wound up a junkie and a failure; when last seen, he turned up at the Mike Tyson-Peter McNeeley fight begging his old manager for a few bucks. King had him thrown out by security.

People such as Earnie Shavers, King’s second fighter, whose huge punch propelled King into big-time boxing. He wound up having to cut the lawn at King’s mansion after he was betrayed by his trusting nature – and glass chin.

People such as the employees of financially ailing Forest City Hospital in Cleveland, who in the early ’70s believed King would save them with a boxing fundraiser at which he had convinced Muhammad Ali, whom he had never met, to appear. According to a book by the late journalist Jack Newfield, Ali got $10,000, King got $30,000, the hospital got $15,000. The hospital folded anyway but King met Ali, and the rest is boxing history.

Most of all, you need to talk to Ali, now 62 and in the grip of Parkinson’s disease widely believed to have been caused by repeated blows to the head. The most damaging of those were likely inflicted in his last two fights, against Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick. Both bouts were promoted by King despite medical reports, as detailed in Thomas Hauser’s comprehensive Ali biography, showing that Ali already was suffering brain damage and should not have been allowed back in the ring.

Mushnick Breaks New Ground, Attacks Greedy Dinosaur Rockers

Posted in Rock Und Roll at 10:48 am by

This was a slow news week for the New York Post’s Phil Mushnick. Since his last entry, incredibly, nothing has occured to justify trashing Mike Francesca, Chris Russo, Spike Lee, Vince McMahon, Nike, Stuart Scott or Stephen A. Smith. In Sunday’s column, he could only manage a very brief, negative reference to the video game industry, along with the following revelation :

Sports fans should know they’re not alone in being forced to buy tickets with outrageous face values and added, dubious service charges that are designed to beat scalpers to the sucker punch.

Tickets to the three Cream concerts at the Garden last week were priced at $365 (apiece!), $185, $148 and, if you wanted only to hear the concert, as opposed to also seeing it, $80.

Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce did perform one of Cream’s great old numbers, “I Feel Free,” but apparently they didn’t mean it.

Phil should be encouraged to know, however that tickets for the recent Danzig/Doyle reunion gig in San Antonio were far cheaper.