03.29.06

Blazers’ Przybilla : It’s Quittin’ Time!

Posted in Basketball at 10:48 am by

More Trailblazers turmoil, as chronicled by The Oregonian’s Jason Quick

The darkest day of the Trail Blazers’ season may have arrived Tuesday when co-captain Joel Przybilla said his future with the team might be in jeopardy because of the way some teammates have given up on the season.

Przybilla (above), a fan favorite and a player whom coach Nate McMillan singles out for his hard work, becomes a free agent on July 1. He has spent much of the season saying his top priority is to re-sign with Portland, but after a dismal second half, which has included 22 losses in 25 games, the 7-foot-1 center says he will look elsewhere this summer unless changes are made.

“When the season is over, it’s going to be a big decision for me, and a lot is going to be determined by what team they bring back,” Przybilla said. “Because I’m telling you, this is tough, it’s real tough.

The Best Bench In Baseball Just Got Better

Posted in Baseball at 3:28 am by

The above headline is supplied by Ben Schwartz, who writes the following, after noting the Cubs have placed Mark Prior and Kerry Wood on the disabled list to start the 2006 campaign ;

The guy from Fire Dusty Baker, who has officially made me the second least forgiving Cub fan alive, picked up on what Paul Harvey likes to call ‘the rest of the story,’ by following up on the Cubs hoped-for Walker for Graffanino trade after it fell through.

“Let me get this straight…

The Cubs tried like hell to trade Todd Walker for Tony Graffanino. The deal could not be closed so the Red Sox put Graffanino on waivers. Now the Cubs can just pick him up, but suddenly they have no intrest in him. This brings up two points:

First, they really are trying that hard to dump Walker, huh?

Second, Hendry really did over-estimate Walker’s value when he re-signed him this off-season by a lot. I mean, the Sox were going to cut Graffanino anyway, and didn’t even want a free player. Wow.”

Cooking With Fabregas

Posted in Football at 3:15 am by

Arsenal 2, Juventus 0 (Champions League, QF, first leg)

Sorry, I think I deserve just a little credit for not going with “Absolutely Fabregas”.

All of a sudden, Arsenal’s loss of Patrick Viera last season seems a little less devestating. Not only is the (mostly) young Gunners side coming into its own with poised showings against Europe’s toughtest competition — last night’s impressive display following Arsenal’s ouster of Real Madrid — but the home side’s composure was in stark contrast to the 2nd half meltdown suffered by Fabio Capello’s men. From the Telegraph’s Henry Winter.

If Cesc Fabregas’ name danced merrily on the lips of every Arsenal fan as they strolled into the ground last night, then mention of Kolo Toure surely featured in ensuing utterances. Organised superbly by Toure, Arsenal’s defence equalled AC Milan’s Champions League record of seven successive clean sheets.

Juventus coach Fabio Capello must have secretly admired the mobility and steel of Toure and his defensive cohorts, particularly as his own back five cost £100 million – 20 times more than Wenger’s rearguard. Toure was magnificent, even inflicting two stealthy tackles on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who wore the bemused look of someone belatedly realising he had been pickpocketed.

This compelling first leg was played at an intensity and speed that Juventus failed to match. At times it resembled an FA Cup tie, although the only Englishman to touch the ball was Brian Barwick, the Football Association’s watching chief executive, who caught a wayward clearance from Zebina.

The foreign hearts in the Arsenal ranks were filled with an English passion as they tore into esteemed guests, the sixth-placed side in the Premiership giving a wonderful advertisement for the English league. The suggestion that Arsenal would struggle against more physical European opponents, and would melt when Vieira and Emerson crunched into challenges, was soon mocked.

Even Robert Pires, who would normally struggle to tackle a petit fours, flew into challenges on Vieira. The thought must briefly have passed through troubled Italian minds: had they plucked the wrong French ball-winner from Highbury? “Welcome Home Patrick – Toujours the Fantastique 4” read one banner on the North Bank. Nobody had bothered to add anything about Pires tackling him.

I didn’t get to see last night’s Benfica/Barcelona match in its entirety, but there’s a pair of saves at Ronaldinho’s expense that ought be shown on “SportsCenter” in an endless loop. “What Chris D’abaldo is to Saliva,” I can already hear John Buccigross intoning, “Moretto de Souz is to Benfica”.

Hometown Boor Bashes Bruins

Posted in Basketball at 2:52 am by

After the ethical lapses of Jim Harrick and the abomination that was Steve Lavin’s hair, you’d think there’d be tremendous civic pride over the recent achievements of Ben Howland’s UCLA basketball team. Think again, suggests the LA Times’ resident pain in the neck Bill Plaschke, who thinks the Bruins are so dull, “UCLA could win a national title and get hurt in recruiting.”


(Cedric Bozeman spies Plaschke ducking out to purchase nachos during Saturday’s UCLA/Memphis trudgefest)

The scoreboard flickered with the sort of numbers that Southern Californians love.

At a football game.

The playing surface was littered with the sort of diving stops and up-the-middle defense that Southern Californians adore.

At Dodger Stadium.

To many in its hometown, UCLA’s return to college basketball’s Final Four with a 50-45 regional championship victory over Memphis on Saturday was more confusing than cathartic.

This is fun?

This is entertaining?

This is L.A.?

More Deadwood than Hollywood, the cold-blooded Bruins are two winnable games from making their town’s sports fans face a long-dreaded question.

What if a national championship is brought to Los Angeles by a bore?

Why was Saturday’s 10.2 Los Angeles rating for the Memphis game only one-third the rating the game received in Memphis, and less than one-third the rating of other recent L.A. teams in playoffs and World Series and bowl games?

And did you talk to anyone after the game, or after any of the first four UCLA tournament victories?

The three words I have heard most often are “A great game.”

But the next three words, spoken in the same breath, are “Hard to watch.”

Shenin : MLB Is Parity-tastic

Posted in Baseball at 1:59 am by

Citing the White Sox’s improbable championship run last season, the Washington Post’s wishful thinker Dave Shenin declares “It’s Anyone’s Ballgame”.

In hindsight, the White Sox’ success should not have been so unexpected simply because they were mediocre the year before. In fact, they were the fourth team in five years to win the World Series after logging 85 or fewer wins the year before — including two champions (the 2003 Florida Marlins and the 2002 Anaheim Angels) who had losing records the year before.

So, with the dawn of the 2006 season upon us, we say to thee: Have faith, Milwaukee (manager Ned Yost, shown above). Hang in there, Arizona. Believe, Baltimore. This really could be your year.

If the period from roughly 1995 to 2001 will be known forever as the Steroid Era, perhaps this one will be known as the Parity Era. The evidence, as it was in the last era, is right in front of our eyes:

Eight different NL pennant winners in the last eight years. Four straight unique AL champs. Six different teams winning the World Series in the last six years. In the last five years, almost half the teams in baseball — 13 out of 30 — have played in a league championship series. And by our count, there are perhaps 17 teams good enough to win it all this season.

“It’s not like it used to be a few years ago, when you felt like only a few teams could win it all,” Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson said. “Look at our division [the NL East]. Any one of us could have won it in the last month.”

Perhaps instead of the “Parity Era,” we should call this one the “Era of Fundamental Soundness.”

Gaze at the Big Picture of Baseball over the last few years, and you can almost sense a sea change coming over the game. In the post-steroid era, the impact of the long ball clearly is diminished, and what is taking its place is a renewed emphasis on pitching, defense, athleticism, teamwork — all the things the 2005 White Sox, like the 2002 Angels and the 2003 Marlins, possessed in large quantities. (The 2004 Boston Red Sox? We’ll call them the exception that proves the rule.)

If anything, the trend should accelerate in 2006, the first year in which amphetamines are banned from the game — which is expected to result in starting players getting more frequent days off, and making the quality of a team’s bench that much more important.

Computer Associates’ Islanders Scam

Posted in Hockey, The Law at 1:49 am by

Perhaps someone other than Stan Fischler should’ve done the accounting? Newsday’s Mark Harrington on the forthcoming Richards/Kumar trial.

A fondness for exotic cars, “frequent” personal use of a Gulfstream V corporate jet and a $51-million loan backed by his restricted Computer Associates stock to buy one-third of the New York Islanders all may play cameo roles in the upcoming securities-fraud trial of two former CA executives.

In papers filed this month in advance of the trial in May, federal prosecutors said they intended to make an issue of the stock holdings and “lavish lifestyle” of former chief executive Sanjay Kumar (above, left) and co-defendant Stephen Richards to allege they had motives to manipulate the company’s books in the $2.2 billion accounting scandal. Kumar and Richards have pleaded not guilty to securities fraud, obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges.

In one of the more illuminating sections of the March 3 filing, the government draws a direct correlation between the $51 million line of credit Kumar secured on June 30, 2000, to buy his Islanders interest and the company’s July 3, 2000, announcement that it would miss financial projections. The latter disclosure, released just before midnight during the July 4 holiday weekend, caused CA stock to plummet 43 percent, or a collective $13 billion, when the market reopened July 5.

Kumar was able to use restricted CA stock as collateral for the loan because the CA board had voted days before the purchase to ease a restriction on the sale or transferral of the stock, prosecutors said. The vote took place the same day a Delaware court approved a settlement forcing key CA executives to return 4.5 million shares of stock from the plan.

“The Islanders purchase likely caused the 35-day month practice to extend for more quarters than it might have otherwise existed,” prosecutors charged.

The 35-day month refers to CA’s extending financial quarters beyond their close date so that more sales could be piled on, a violation of federal securities law.

Whammo!

Posted in Baseball at 12:01 am by

With no available videotape, the Associated Press photographer Brita Meng Outzen provides the Boston Globe with a blow-by-blow description of Monday’s brawl between Boston’s Julian Tavares and Tampa Bay’s Joey Gathright.