Monday, June 30, 2008

The Gilbert Conundrum

I've tried to avoid this topic for quite some time, but with NBA free agency beginning tomorrow, it's about time I talked a little Gilbert on this blog.

Word coming out of the Verizon Center as I type this is the team is close to signing Antawn Jamison to a four-year $50 million deal that would keep him in a Wizards jersey until the age of 36. If the Wiz waited any longer, they would be forced to wait until July 9th to sign Antawn because of league rules. This would have allowed him to be exposed to the open market.

I'm happy with the signing since there really isn't anyone available better than Jamison. And he is coming off a really solid season, where he was the rock for an injury-riddled team.

The real question for me is what to do with Gilbert Arenas. Forget that he's an icon in DC, I have a giant mancrush on him, and it's hard to imagine the team without him. The man wants $120+ over six years even though he's coming off two serious knee surgeries. He has yet to prove he's back to being the player that lit up the league a couple years ago. Now, the Wizards will make the argument that the last time they had the Arenas, Butler, Jamison trio 100 percent healthy, they had the best record in the Eastern Conference.

That being said, the Wizards are kind of in a pickle here, since there's really no one on the market until 2010 (when LeBron, Bosh and DWade are free agents) that replace the explosiveness or the appeal of a player like Gilbert. If I was certain Arenas were close to 100 percent I would have no problem giving him $100+, but the fact is no one, including Gilbert, knows what type of player he's going to be a year from now or five years from now.

If Ernie Grunfeld and the Wizards management sign him to this deal, and he gets injured again, this could be disastrous and would have ramifications a long way down the line. But let's get serious here: the Wizards are more than likely (in my opinion 85 percent sure) going to sign Gilbert. Rumor has it, Grunfeld is going to offer $100 million over six seasons, and Gilbert will probably take it since no other team is going to offer that much. If another gets in the bidding, I'm guessing the Wizards will match to the max.

But I've got a solution to all this that could (and I think would) work in any negotiations with Gilbert. I've been enamored for some time with Monta Ellis of the Warriors, who is a restricted free agent this season. It's likely no team can offer him more than the mid level exception, making it highly likely he's going to be back in Golden State. But what if the Wizards were to offer him a little more than he's probably worth (like they're already planning on doing with Gilbert) and try to steal him away from the Warriors (kind of like they did with Gilbert five years ago).

Ellis, while certainly not at the level of Gilbert just yet, is only 21 years old and has gotten significantly better every season. He's also got a clean bill of health and is one of the few players in the NBA that can legitimately be called a one-man fast break. It would probably leave a void at point guard for the Wizards because Ellis is not the quintessential playmaker, but neither was Gilbert when he first got here. What I'm trying to say is the Wiz have an alternative to lock up someone for cheap who I think has the potential to be better than Gilbert and has a clean bill of health.

If the Wiz offered him a good chunk of change, the Warriors would be hard pressed to match. One sticking point is that once word got out about an Ellis offer, it's pretty much certain Gilbert will look elsewhere because of the whole "you guys don't respect me" issue. That means if the Warriors do match, the Wizards are in a huge bind with no Ellis and no Gilbert.

Couple all of that with potentially signing Jamison to a two-year deal instead of the four-year deal that is being reported, and you've got a Wizards lineup of Ellis, Butler, Haywood, Stevenson, etc with something close to $20 million in cap space to go after LeBron, DWade or Bosh in 2010.

Like I said, it's just something that has been swishing through my head for awhile. I probably just wasted all this typing because I'm almost certain you're going to see a lineup of Arenas, Stevenson, Butler, Jamison, and Haywood for at least the next two or three seasons. Plus, my theory is really risky, but something to consider if Gilbert decides to sign elsewhere.

The important thing to remember is that none of this will matter if Agent Zero returns to his prior form. I know I'll be watching.

Midnight Budget Cowboy

I got the glorious honor of reporting from the 2009 fiscal year budget vote at the New York City council last night. And by last night, I am being sincere in saying city officials were working on a Sunday night. And by night, I actually mean night because the vote didn't go down until after 11 pm.

Of course I was less than enthused about having to be there so late, especially when what was deemed "the most contentious budget negotiations in a while" ended with the city council voting 49-to-1 in favor of the thing. I guess "most contentious" passes for near unanimous these days.

See the problem was, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg released a preliminary executive budget a little over a month ago that included about $700 million dollars in cuts, primarily to things like schools, service to the poor, and the New York City affordable housing authority. It was in response to revenue predictions that were not-so-good because of the rough economy that's currently weighing on the minds of everybody.

The city council felt this was just despicable on the mayor's part because it cut so many worthy programs. Plus, these city council members need something to fight for, or else their entire existence is basically worthless (I'm slowly starting to realize this might be the case anyways). But to their credit, the city council restored over $400 million of these cuts, as part of their amended budget. They had to negotiate the past few weeks with the mayor's office on all this.

What it comes down to, though, is a good old fashioned power struggle between the city council and mayor Bloomberg. The city council is still pretty furious about all these cuts, and many blasted the mayor for running the city like a corporation. They said when the going gets tough (economically), you don't strip the city of the programs that help those in times of need. Bloomberg, rumored to be the richest man in New York City, decided to take the rich man approach and cut programs for the poor so that the corporations and developers that are the backbone of New York City can make due during a recession.

Basically, this was like a shootout at the OK Corral. The city council, led by speaker Christine Quinn (who walks and acts like she owns the world), on one side, and Bloomberg on the other. I'm not sure who to give the victory. The council got the $400+ million back, but Bloomberg also got them to vote 49-to-1 in favor, while also creating his last budget before his term runs out in 2009.

Christine Quinn

All in all, it was an experience, to say the least. I could feel the grease coming off some of these slimy politicians haircuts. Whoever won, I've realized something about city council members. Most are pretty grimy and out for their own interests (duh they are politicians anyways), but the ones who are older than 45 seem a lot better than the younger ones. The over 45 crowd probably isn't aspiring for something greater considering they are still in the city council and generally appear to have the public's best interests at heart. The younger ones, well, they're easier to get a quote from because they are constantly in search of headlines to propel their careers.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The story of the 2008 NBA Draft starring ... Greg Buckner?

It didn't hit me until I watched the beginning of ESPN's telecast of the NBA Draft last night that this marks my 10th consecutive time watching the draft basically from start to finish. The 1998 draft when I was 13 years old was the infamous Michael Olowakandi debacle. I could probably spend an entire post going over all the mistakes and high-profile picks made that year. Like for instance, the then-Vancouver Grizzlies picked Mike Bibby second overall, passing over Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, and Rashard Lewis.

Some other memorable picks from that year included, well, the Wizards, coming off that memorable three-game sweep courtesy of MJ and the Bulls, not having a first-round pick and then selecting Jahidi "Jelly Donut" White from Georgetown. FYI, I had a #55 GTown Jahidi White jersey back then so I was ecstatic about the pick, clearly forgetting the consequences it had on the Wizards catering bills over the years. Oh yeah, this was the draft where Robert "Tractor that gets paid thousands by Ed White" Traylor got picked by the Bucks sixth overall.

And with the 53rd pick in that draft, the Dallas Mavericks followed up their franchise-altering selection of Dirk in the first round with the earth-shattering selection of Greg Buckner out of Clemson. Wait, what's that? You don't know who Greg Buckner is. Well, he hasn't done much in his career, but he was involved in a pretty big draft day deal last night, so he provides me with a perfect transition to my 2008 NBA Draft thoughts.

Buckner's trading card from back in the day.

1) The O.J. Mayo Conundrum: So if you haven't heard, because it happened following the conclusion of the Draft, the Timberwolves traded O.J. Mayo, Marco Jaric, and the golden goose, Greg Buckner, to the Grizzlies for Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal, and Jason Collins. Apparently, KLove was was the one player Kevin McHale really wanted, ending what Bill Simmons terms "the short lived Gay-Love era in Memphis". I actually like both of these players, Mayo and Love, and think both can be solid pros. I especially liked Mayo's decision to wear bifocals to the draft as a way to make himself appear sophisticated. Classy move.

2) The Beasley Pick: So I alluded to this the other day, about Pat Riley and the Heat being very skeptical about Michael Beasley and South Beach being near each other. Well, apparently Riley had a super-secret workout that somehow got leaked to the media making it no-so-super-secret with Jerryd Bayless and O.J. "Extra" Mayo. But he made the pick anyways, and I think it was the right move. Although Beasley is undersized (apparently he's only 6-foot-8) for a power forwards, he will have an excellent defender in Shawn Marion to pick up the slack for him. I like Mayo and Bayless, but in the long run I don't see them as anything more than a poor man's version of Dwayne Wade. Neither would turn into the legitimate point guard that Miami wants.

3) Say it ain't so, Joe Alexander: I really like Joe Alexander. I'm talking borderline infatuated with the man. In fact, during the NCAA Tournament, I was writing columns for the Daily and dedicated a whole one to Joe and his glorious trash 'stache. But getting picked by the Bucks at No. 8 might just spoil his NBA career.

Think about it, the Bucks just got Richard Jefferson in a trade, so he'll likely be manning the small forward spot, with Michael Redd at shooting guard. There's no way Alexander can play power forward in the NBA because he was already undersized at that position when playing college ball. Besides which, they've got Charlie Villaneuva and Andrew Bogut on the interior. The pick just didn't make sense to me, especially when players like Jerryd Bayless and D.J. Augustin were still on the board and your starting point guard goes by the name of Mo Williams. Although I must say, the Bucks got a bit scarier now that they have both Jefferson and Redd.

Speaking of which, how can David Stern legitimately approve this trade. It's so painfully obvious the Nets are tanking it the next two seasons just so they can grab LeBron in 2010. Isn't that some kind of collusion. This is a perfect example of what's wrong with the NBA. How are we supposed to take it seriously when teams are doing straight up salary dumps. Yi and Bobby Simmons for Richard Jefferson. What about Nets fans? They get the big three of Yi, Bobby Simmons ridiculously large and expiring 2010 contract, and Vince Carter's corpse until LeBron saves the day and they move to Brooklyn. Also, didn't realize until last night that Kiki Vandeweghe is their GM now. He's a moron, so I'm guessing they won't even end up with the King.

4) Eric Gordon to the Clippers: Everyone has this infatuation with Eric Gordon that I'm just not so sure about. I saw the guy live at Crisler earlier this year and came away somewhat impressed, but I just think he's too small to be successful in the NBA. He's 6-foot-3 and has no potential as a point guard. He's got pretty good range, but the best part of his game at Indiana was his raw strength and athleticism. Well, now he's going to be competing on a level playing field, where everyone is super freaky athletic, and I don't see him being that much stronger than your typical NBA shooting guard. I love how everyone has been saying "Eric can be like Ben Gordon", but what the hell has Ben Gordon done? Average 20 points, while chucking up a lot of shots. Welcome to the Eric Gordon era in L.A., where 9-for-25 shooting nights are the norm.

5) The Trail Blazers have the makings of a juggernaut: Seriously, I don't know if anyone caught some of the deals they pulled off last night, but their roster is absolutely stacked now. They picked up Jerryd Bayless and Ike Diogu from Indiana, giving up Brandon Rush and Jarrett Jack, and they somehow got Darrell Arthur. So let's take a look at this roster right now: Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, Jerryd Bayless, LaMarcus Aldridge, Sergio Rodriguez, Channing Frye, Travis Outlaw, Steve Blake, and Joey Dorsey. With a starting lineup of Rodriguez at point, Bayless at two guard, Roy at small forward and then Aldridge and Oden on the interior, this is a championship=caliber team very shortly.

6) The Jermaine O'Neal Trade: I'm really glad Jermaine didn't go to Cleveland like I unwisely guessed because then the Cavs would jump to another level in terms of the Eastern Conference. That being said, the Raptors are now almost as scary. They've got Jose Calderon with no reason to look over his shoulder now that T.J. Ford is gone, Chris Bosh and O'Neal in the interior. Not only is that a strong top three, but Bosh and O'Neal are going to draw their fair share of double teams, which is only going to open up 3-point shots for gunners like Jason Kapono, Carlos Delfino, and Anthony Parker. Remember, the Raptors were already the top 3-point shooting team last season.

7) You'd think being in the National Championship meant something: Think about it, besides Derrick Rose and Brandon Rush, every player in the National Title game a year ago got hosed. And even Rush got traded from Portland to Indiana, which made him very somber looking when they interviewed him after the switch. Darrell Arthur, who some said would be a lottery pick and I predict could become the steal of this draft, fell all the way to 27, and then got traded from New Orleans to Houston to Portland to Memphis all in the same night (imagine that dude's emotions last night). Then you've got the two juniors that decided to come out early, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Mario Chalmers, who both slipped to the second round, along with two seniors out of Kansas, Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson.

I think the biggest oversight was Chalmers, who got picked 34th overall by Minnesota and was then traded to Miami. If anything, though, he's got the opportunity, if he shows he can play the point, to start right away alongside Wade, Marion, and Beasley. Now that could be an intriguing lineup, although the wild card will be whether Chalmers can be a 6-foot-3 point guard, rather than a 6-foot-3 shooting guard.

8) You really thought I'd forget about the Wizards: From about the 10th pick on, I was hoping and praying Darrell Arthur would drop into the Wizards' lap at 18, and lo and behold, he did. I decided a month ago and told Graham that the Wizards would take Arthur. Plus I think he's exactly the type of player the Wizards need. A bruiser to come in as a backup for Antawn. Instead they picked another project along the lines of Andray Blatche. Javale McGee isn't going to bring anything to the table for at least three seasons, by which time this current Wiz nucleus will likely be over the hill. I'll let Chad Ford of ESPN do the complaining for me:

I'm not a huge fan of this pick, especially with a proven guy like Darrell Arthur on the board. McGee is a physical specimen, very long and athletic, and he has some skills. But he's very soft and looks like he's years away. He reminds me of Andray Blatche.

The Wiz also picked Bill Walker in the second round, but then traded him to the Celtics for cash considerations. I'm telling you right now, Darrell Arthur is going to put up a consistent 10 points and five rebounds a game for Memphis next season, just something to consider rather than counting your money, Ernie Grunfeld.

9) James Gist: Good Counsel and Maryland alum James Gist got picked late in the second round by the San Antonio Spurs. It prompted this text message from on-again off-again Spurs fan and Maryland alum, Matt Brown: James Gist spurs jersey already ordered.

That made me laugh. My question now is, who from the 2008 NBA Draft will become the next Greg Buckner? I'm going with Shan Foster of Vanderbilt, who went 51st overall to the Mavericks, the same team that picked Buckner ten years ago. In 2018, when I'm 32 (good God that's a scary thought) we'll re-visit this post and see if Foster ever stuck in the league.

Can Shan Foster live up to the lofty legacy of Greg Buckner?

Ball boy tryouts

As you may have noticed, there was no post yesterday, but I had a good reason. ON assignment for the New York Sun, I tried out to become a ball boy at this year's U.S. Open. Then I got to write about it and even got my picture in the newspaper.

I'm proud to say this is the second time my beautiful mug has graced the pages of a newspaper, excluding all those columns in the Daily. I don't think those really count. If you're curious the other time was in the Potomac Almanac after a tri meet against Wheaton and Wooton during my senior year wrestling season in high school. Of course I remember every little detail of that.

But if you read the column I don't think you get the full effect of what the tryout was like. This woman who was the assistant director of ball persons for the U.S. Open worked me hard. I basically did sprints for close to three minutes straight, which while not extremely difficult, was definitely more than I expected. I then had to show off my sterling arm by throwing across the court a bunch, rapid fire style. Afterwards, she told me I was good enough to make the next cut of ball boys.

Apparently this is also what ball boys have to do because that's the uniform they wear

She thought I wasn't taking this seriously, but I tried my best to make sure she knew I wanted to be in the Open. I'm really hoping I get a call for the next round of tryouts because working the Open would be sweet (and a great blogging opportunity, too). Luckily, I got to try out with a bunch of media people, and not at the public tryouts later in the day, where it was basically 90 percent 14-year-old kids. I fell like that would have been embarrassing, trying out with a bunch of teenagers.

Also another perk is that Polo is a sponsor of the Open, so yesterday I got two free shirts right off the bat. And I'm assuming if I make the Open I'll get even more Polo swag. Cheers to media perks everyone.

I'll hopefully keep you updated on this, because the call back interviews are in two weeks. Let the Mark for ball boy campaign begin.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Oh, the Possibilities

Well, as I've chronicled through the years, my favorite night of the year, every year, is NBA Draft night. Last June, I had the distinct pleasure of of attending the Draft, and that night remains as the greatest night of my life (even better than when I lost my virginity). This year, I dropped the ball and didn't realize I could apply for a press pass through the New York Sun until the deadline had passed. It was unclear if the editors would let me do that anyways, but I should have been more proactive.

But even though I'm not going doesn't mean I haven't been paying attention to the pre-draft chatter. Now, we all know it's likely Derek Rose will be going No. 1 to Chicago, but after that anything could happen. The presumptive No. 2 choice is Michael Beasley, but who knows what team he'll be playing for. I hate having to make picks for the draft because it's really difficult given how many trades could possibly go down. Think about last year, you had two huge blockbusters, one of which directly affected the NBA Finals (Ray Allen going from Seattle to Boston). You also had a fat person/thug from Michigan State coming to the Knicks (Zach Randolph).

I'm not going to take you through a mock draft (because there are plenty of sites that have their own that are probably far more accurate. If you're curious you can go here, here, here, here, or here. Instead I'd rather go through some of the endless trade possibilities I've heard in the days leading up to this draft. So here you go:

1) Miami: Everyone who thought Michael Beasley joining Dwayne Wade and Shawn Marion in South Beach should reconsider. Apparently Pat Riley is less than enthused with Beasley's defense and ability to handle the Miami scene. Apparently, Riles is a huge O.J. Mayo fan and he's not likely to make it past No. 3 and Minnesota. The big news coming from Miami, though, is its interest in Elton Brand and his expiring deal. The Clips really like Mayo, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a swap along the lines of Shawn Marion and the No. 2 pick for Elton Brand and the No. 7 pick.

2) Baron Davis and the Pistons: It's been announced loud and clear by Joe Dumars that something is going to change within Detroit's core, but no one is really sure what at this point. They initially went after Carmelo, apparently offering Chauncey Billups and Tayshaun Prince in the deal. The Nuggets didn't bite (wise move in my opinion). Now there are rumors trickling out about the Baron (Davis that is) going to the 'Stones. I'm reading reports that say Chauncey and Rasheed for Baron. Hopefully, I'll get out to that pick up soccer game later today and ask the man myself about all the hubbub.

3) Jermaine O'Neal: Everyone knows he isn't happy in Indiana, but those same people also realize he's probably not anywhere near the player he used to be. But look at his player card, the guy has been through a lot (Portland during the Stoudamire, Rasheed Jail Blazer days, the Palace brawl, playing for Isiah in Indiana) and he's still only 31. I would be ecstatic if the Wizards could somehow get him, but that's really, really unlikely. The team getting mentioned the most is the Cavs, so O'Neal could play second fiddle to LeBron. Not sure how it could work considering Jermaine's contract, but the Cavs do have expiring contracts with Eric Snow and Wally Sczcerbiak that they might be able to pawn off. Something tells me Jermaine has been dogging it the past couple years and the jolt of playing with the King would do wonders for his motivation.

4) Zach Randolph to just about anyone who wants him: I've heard there's a possibility the Pistons might be interested in him, and that would probably involve a straight salary dump. The Knicks and the new regime of Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni want to get rid of all the excess contracts that Isiah took on over the past few years. Apparently, they are also interested in T.J. Ford, and Randolph could work in Toronto as a complementary bruiser to Chris Bosh.

5) Memphis: As we all know after he got fleeced in the Pau Gasol deal, Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace is probably open to just about anything, even if its so lopsided. Plus, because of the Gasol trade, he's got a ton of mid-high first round draft picks over the next few years. Rumor has it they want to trade down from No. 5, while also getting rid of Brian Cardinal's deal. I've also read Mike Miller and Mike Conley are the two most likely to get packaged in that deal. I'm going to take a wild stab and say they do trade this pick.

That's my best stab at this. I think something is going to go down tomorrow night, but I'm not sure if it will be something major like last year. I wouldn't hold my breath on the Baron or Jermaine deal happening, but the other three remain real possibilities in my mind. We'll have to see tomorrow. I wish I was going to be there live, but I'm still looking forward to the best draft in all of sports.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Steve Nash and Friends

So I was walking down the street coming back from getting a haircut near my office in Tribeca (which is right near Ground Zero) when I got a pleasant surprise.

As I was crossing a street, Steve Nash just straight up walked right by me. It took a few seconds for me to realize it was actually him, since most NBA players I've encountered in the past are absolutely gigantically tall. Of course, I didn't muster up the courage to say anything witty, therefore eliminating any opportunity to start a conversation with the former MVP.

By the time I had walked 20 feet down the street, I realized I should have made some kind of comment about how I thought new coach Terry Porter was a bum and how his team is probably washed up in comparison to other Western Conference elites. Again, I didn't say these things.

And then I found out a couple days ago that the reason I saw Steve Nash walking around right near my office is he lives literally down the street from it. Awesome coincidence if you ask me. And now I found out that Nash is playing a charity soccer game in Chinatown, which is also right near my office.

Joining him are Thierry Henry, Jason Kidd, Claudio Reyna, and one of this blog's favorites, Baron Davis. Making all this better is that it's open to the public tomorrow at 5:30 pm. That's kind of right in the middle of the most busiest time at my work, but you're kidding yourself if you think I'm not going to try and find a way to make it out to this thing.

This has the potential for a great post if I can make it out there.

More nonsense from elected officials

I got the opportunity to cover a city council hearing today and shockingly, I left unimpressed. And by shockingly, I mean I figured elected officials weren't the sharpest tools in the shed, but I thought they might show some sign of competency.

I was there reporting on this Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise bill that was enacted two years ago in order to help get government contracts for minority and women owned businesses. Two years in, the bill has largely failed despite being trumpeted by Mayor Bloomberg as a hallmark legislation.

So I'm sitting in this hearing as a bunch of city council members describe in various terms their outrage with the ineffectiveness of this bill. And they were saying it to the director of city procurement, Marla Simpson, who had a lawyer background. I came into the meeting late, so presumably I shouldn't have been as well versed as any of these people on the matter.

But after about 10 minutes of reading through all the documents and listening to Simpson's testimony, it became readily clear the bill had failed because the legislators who wrote it (the city council members from two years ago) were morons. They created this bill to enhance opportunities while failing to acknowledge a state law that basically muted much of its effectiveness.

But instead of taking 10 minutes to read through the documents, city council members, many of whom would walk in for just 10 minutes to give their speech, would just express outrage at the bill being ineffective. And each time, Simpson would give the same answer about how the mayor's office was doing everything that was legally possible to get this thing to be effective.

It was frustrating to me because the hearing dragged on for about 2 and a half hours with pretty much the same thing happening over and over again. Poor Mrs. Simpson probably repeated herself 75-100 times over the course of this hearing. You'd really think these council members were the least bit smart, but today proved intelligence is not a prerequisite for public office.

I will say this about Bloomberg: he gets a lot of credit in this city for being so ambitious with his plans for the city. But many of his ideas, the city just isn't ready for and they end up getting caught in the wind and never materializing. This piece of legislation is a perfect example of that. It would be nice to have more minority contracts handed out, but in the end, a government has to award contracts to the lowest bidder, not anything based on race or gender.

And of course, when I came back to the office, my editor wanted a story on how outraged the city council was even though I explained they were all idiots. His response, "Of course they're idiots, but they're outraged so we report it." I'm not sure how this is going to work, but I'm going to try and discreetly show that these people are idiots without actually saying it. I should have an update if the story is in tomorrow's paper.

Monday, June 23, 2008

R. Kelly's sex tape starring Jim Palmer

So over at they are doing a chronicling of the ongoing R. Kelly child pornography trial. And let me tell you, it's fascinating stuff.

*Disclaimer: Seriously, I wouldn't continue reading this post unless you are absolutely ready to abandon R. Kelly for the rest of your life. This case has the makings of one of the most ridiculously hilarious/depressing examples of celebrity ever.

But like I said, this trial is ongoing and some very private (and mostly hilarious) details about the man that is R. Kelly are being extremely public. Here are some of the highlights of what has gone down so far courtesy of Slate:

The perfect backdrop for a sex tape
For the jury, there's a giant screen on wheels in front of the jury box. For the press, there's a Sony flat screen, lashed to an A/V cart with thick orange straps as if it's a flight risk. The VHS tape starts to roll, and the first voice I hear belongs to Hall of Fame Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, the one-time spokesman for the Money Store. As Palmer explains how you can easily lower your monthly payments, a guy with a shaved head who looks a lot like R. Kelly hands a young woman a folded-up stack of cash. "Thank you," she says softly. He pulls down his pants. Fellatio ensues.

Urinating Never Seemed So Casual
The director-star (allegedly Kelly) occasionally steps out of the picture to make sure the shot is framed properly, or to zoom in on an essential detail—say, the girl urinating on a tile floor. The choreography is also straightforward. The girl gyrates her hips from side to side like an exotic dancer; he moans lasciviously and orders her to move faster.

There's also the matter of his prolonged urination on the girl's face and breasts, which stops and starts, and stops and starts, for what seems like minutes on end.

Yes it's true: R. Kelly actually lives in a log cabin in the woods
Along with the logs, the lower level of Kelly's former residence includes a short lap pool and a basketball court with a mural depicting the singer shooting hoops with the Tasmanian Devil. From the outside, the red-brick residence—which you can take a gander at on Google Street View—looks less like a place where someone might live than some sort of small-time paper mill. His next-door neighbor was an Enterprise Rent-a-Car.)

Joe (anna) Dirt
She watched a bootleg copy at a friend's house in early 2002 and ran home crying after seeing the girl on the screen—"I thought she looked just like my best friend." The giveaways: her face and her mullet haircut.

The man likes filming himself in bed with women who have femullets, give him a break.

R. Kelly's lawyer actually uses a Wayans brother as part of his defense
Just as special effects turned Marlon Wayans (I know your last name, my friend!) into a little person, he suggests, so might the sex tape we saw on Tuesday be some sort of digital collage of faces and bodies. He asks Jamison whether she can tell if the video has been tampered with. Judge Gaughan doesn't allow the question: 'Just because she's seen the Waymons' movies doesn't make her an expert on morphing.'

Believe it or not, all that happened on the first two days of the trial. I'll have more R. Kelly updates as it goes along. Or you can read about it at Slate.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Interesting article

I was reading the New York Times this morning, which rightfully gets the distinction of best newspaper in the world, and this article regarding the CIA's interviewing and pursuit of high-level Al-Quada types piqued my interest.

This is the story behind the capture and subsequent interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. It's a great piece of reporting and writing, and shows a piece of journalism that pretty much only a newspaper could do.

I think the most intriguing part was how the lead investigator is now working in the private sector. Not to mention, his relative inexperience before conducting the interrogation. Seriously, this is a must read if you want a look inside what exactly the federal government has been doing since its pursuit of al Quada took form after the 9/11 attacks.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Eddie Vedder and Gary Bettman in a cage match

Well as most know, I like the NHL but but by no means do I consider myself a diehard of the sport. But if you haven't heard yet, the NHL is trying to boot the owners of the Rangers out of the league.

The crux of the problem comes down to disagreements between the league and the Rangers owners, Madison Square Garden, Inc., over licensing agreements for things like memorabilia, merchandise, and the team's website. The NHL is trying to copy the successful template of the MLB in seizing control of all its team's websites and merchandise so that they can pool the money more effectively.

The Rangers want to keep all this money for themselves, especially because they are in an extremely lucrative market. This whole ordeal started when the Rangers first sued the NHL in November so that they could keep the rights to their website, which sells much of its merchandise. A judge ruled in favor of the NHL, saying the league was within it rights to seize the website. The NHL responded by suing the Rangers yesterday, and threatening to kick out its owners via a three-quarters majority vote by the rest of the owners of the league. It also said the league's bylaws prohibit a team from suing the league, making November's proceedings illegal — hence wanting to throw the owners out altogether.

Clearly it's complicated and this could get ugly considering MSG's principal owner is James Dolan. Yeah the same James Dolan who employed Isiah Thomas for about two years too long. The same James Dolan who is willing to go to court even if it's pretty obvious his most famous and ridiculed employee definitely sexual harassed another employee. I'm not sure why the league is doing this so publicly, though, because having a successful and happy New York City team is absolutely essential for the league's continued surge after the post-lockout malaise.

Jimmy D and Isiah

In the NY Sun, today, Kevin Greenstein, has a similar take:
Reality is what it is, and it's difficult to see how the concerns of the Rangers can possibly supersede the NHL's in this debate over Web site control.

That all said, it's even more difficult to see how the NHL would benefit in any way from taking punitive action against the owners of the Rangers. Madison Square Garden is the NHL's most high-profile venue, and the Rangers are arguably its most important franchise: Forcing a sale and relocation — the team's owners also own the building in which they play — hardly seems like a desirable result.

The sooner the sides work together to reach a mutually beneficial solution, the better. After a lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season, the NHL has done a fine job of getting back on track. For it to lose any of that precious momentum by engaging in an ill-advised donnybrook with the Rangers would be an inexcusable mistake.

This dispute has affected me on a personal level as well. It would seem obvious that I might be conflicted because Graham now works for the NHL — and gets lots of free shit from the NHL, too. The real reason behind my despair — and subsequent blog post — is that what's included in the free shit realm of things. Specifically, I'm talking about Graham's ability to apply for tickets to any concert at Madison Square Garden, whether said concert is sold out or not, because the NHL and MSG used to be buddies.

Well, this coming Tuesday and Wednesday, the mighty Pearl Jam (Roche reference) will be performing at MSG. As many know, Pearl Jam is one of my all time favorite bands and I have never, ever seen them live in concert Of course, I realized these shows were going to take place about a week ago, which is about two months too late to actually get tickets. Both shows are sold out already. But last weekend I realized I might have a loophole with Graham and his NHL, MSG connection. Now that this story about the lawsuit broke, though, I'm not really counting on those tickets coming through.

To solve this predicament, I suggest something so ridiculous, so absurd that it might just make sense. What if we were to put Gary Bettman, James Dolan, Eddie Vedder in an eliminations chamber, which looks a little something like this:

Obviously my idea involved pro wrestling

They would then fight in a no holds barred submission match. Bettman and Dolan are both pretty small dude, but I'm guessing they are feisty fellas considering they've made it all the way up the corporate ladder, so to speak. But I would still put my money on Vedder, because everyone knows he would just rampage at the prospect of striking a blow against corporate America. Then I could get my tickets! Maybe we could throw Kimbo Slice in there to spice up the ratings a little bit. Not sure how good he is at submissions, but we'll make it work.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

About that Jim Bowden character

I've been working on this story today about how the board of the MTA (for non-New York types that's the board that oversees all the bridges, tunnels, railroads, subways, etc in the area) has been getting free EZ pass access. This is kind of a big deal because the MTA has been raising prices for customers across the board and most of these board members are gazillionaires who aren't supposed to get paid for being on the board.

But in doing research for this, it got me thinking about another character in my life who has been getting a free pass for quite a few years. He goes by the name of Jim Bowden and he's the general manager of the Nationals. I wrote about this a year ago on this blog, saying:

I hope Bowden knows what he's doing. He's gotten a free pass so far, but if the results don't start showing up soon, his time could very well run out a lot quicker than you would think.

Well, it's the middle of June and talking about the playoffs cannot be allowed considering the team is again in last place in the NL East with a sporty 29-44 record. To be fair, Bowden hasn't gotten much money to work with in building a team, but the decisions he's made with limited resources leads me to believe he isn't capable of being competent when he actually does get the money.

.The crux of the team's problems — and this is well documented — is hitting. Only one player is batting above .300 right now (for the record, it's the much-maligned Christian Guzman) and every young player the Nationals have gotten in trades or over the past couple seasons have performed inadequately. Look down the list and it's just frightening how badly some of these decisions have backfired so far: Lastings Milledge is hitting .254, Felipe Lopez is hitting .252, Elijah Dukes is hitting .243, Wily Mo Pena is hitting .205. Throw in Kearns's .187 average before getting injured and the awful play of Paul Lo Duca so far (.194 average), and you've basically got two-thirds of your starting lineup hitting atrociously.

Jimbo's mug shot from a DUI arrest in 2006.

All of these guys are Bowden acquisitions. The pitching staff is doing much better, but still lacks a front of the rotation starter. Rauch and Cordero were guys already in the system before Bowden arrived, so he can't take credit for that. This shouldn't be happening, though. Remember when the Nats brought Stan Kasten, the legendary architect of all those great Braves teams from the '90s on board, and he was supposed to mold the team in much the same way?

Well, I'm not completely off his bandwagon just yet, but I think it's about time he made the decision to fire Jimmy boy. I'm currently in the middle of reading this book by John Feinstein, Living on the Black. And while reading the other night, I stumbled upon this interesting passage talking about the near-players' union strike in 2002 that just made me go nuts:

As the deadline neared, tempers got short. Jim Bowden, then the General Manager of the Cincinnati Reds, went on a radio show and accused the players of 'steering Major League Baseball right into the World Trade Center,' as if a threatened strike could somehow be akin to the events of 9/11.

Kasten's phone rang that day. 'Who is the stupidest person on the face of the earth?' he heard Glavine's voice say.

Kasten had to laugh. 'Okay, Tommy, you win,' he said. 'Today you are no better than number two when it comes to stupidity.'

I'll make this succinct because I have to go to a press conference soon: If you thought he was stupid in 2002, why has he been allowed to make stupid move after stupid move the past 4+ seasons? The Nationals need a new GM, especially if they plan on actually making a splash in the free agent market.

Here's the book. It's by John Feinstein and chronicles the careers (and more specifically last season) of Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pumping my own stuff

So I had a whopping two articles in today's paper, including my first sports story on new Mets manager, Jerry Manuel. I also had this story about God-forsaken IKEA.

But while I'm on the Mets, I felt like I should criticize the always quick-to-call-for someone's-head media of New York. Yes, Willie Randolph hadn't done a good job so far this season (and for that matter since about June of last season). But I think firing him was clearly just a rebuttal to the mounting pressure on Omar Minaya and the Mets ownership. Is Jerry Manuel (basically a career .500 manager who has one good season and no playoff wins under his belt) really going to help? I don't think so.

It's just shocking to me that the Mets are going to desperate measures when they are just 6.5 games out of first place in the NL East (with 11 games remaining against NL East leader Philadelphia). If I were to fire Randolph, it would have been a few weeks ago when the Mets were really floundering.

Tim Marchman of the New York Sun was the first New York columnist to openly call for Slick Willie's axing back on May 2nd:

For a full year now, nearly no one on the Mets has done that. Wednesday's shameful 13-1 loss to the wretched Pittsburgh Pirates was the pitch-perfect demonstration of the depths to which this team, which a year ago was so vibrant and so promising, has managed to sink. When Oliver Perez walks five in 1.2 innings; when Jose Reyes fails to cover a base on a routine play, and when a strong lineup manages two hits against one pitcher who came into the game with a 13/22 K/BB ratio and another who was a hitter coming out of college and whose two shutout innings lowered his career ERA to 8.74, something is terribly, desperately wrong. These are not random failures of talent, but unforgivable errors of concentration and execution.

At the time, I agreed wholehearted with Marchman, but as of late the Mets had shown signs of turning this thing around. Reyes started hitting, Pedro was working his way back from injury, Johan is beginning to look like his dominant self, and they were only 6.5 games out!

To be fair, maybe the players had grown accustomed to Willie and a change was needed. And there is the precedent of the 2003 World Series champion Florida Marlins, who had midseason replacement manager, Jack McKeon, lead them to a remarkable resurgence. A lot of media types are applauding the actual move, while deriding the way it was executed (I kind of wish I was awake and on the Mets' press release list because that would have been an awesome e mail to get. Nothing will ever pass the "Brent Petway was the second overall selection in the Harlem Globetrotters' draft email I got last summer, though).

I really don't know what to think about this move, except that it's pretty lateral. I'm fairly certain Jerry Manuel will do no better than Willie Randolph did this year. I think the players, if they perform up to their capabilities, have enough talent to turn this season around.

IKEA by land and sea

So after going to IKEA in Brooklyn Monday ... I returned there Tuesday and then again this morning. Not exactly the most exciting of exciting things to do. I got to interview such luminaries as the President of Brooklyn (yeah, I also had no idea each borough had a President) and the North American president of Ikea (she was a lady from Denmark who seemed pretty nice).

See this whole IKEA thing in Brooklyn was a really big deal because a lot of people were opposed to having big box chain stores (a la Walmart, IKEA, etc) in the quaint, historic districts of the city. I totally agree with these people, atleast to a certain extent. IKEA shouldn't be able to just bust into an area and plant its gigantic blue and yellow footstep into the ground.

But here's my problem with the locals: after negotiating, IKEA made concessions such as making sure atleast 500 jobs at the store were held by people from the Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn, cleaning up the toxins around the area where the store was going to be, and refurbishing a dock so that people can take a water taxi (whose bill will be fronted by IKEA) to and from the South Street Port in Manhattan. They also added a little promenade for people to sit at and look towards the Statue of Liberty.

But these people aren't happy with the way the big blue warehouse called IKEA looks in comparison to the red brick nothingness that was there before. They dissidents towards projects like this think stores like IKEA will eventually drive people away from the area, with rent prices likely to go up. I understand the concern, but I'm also of the belief that business is business. Judging from the thousands lined up outside the place this morning, there's definitely a need for an IKEA in NYC. I know it sucks that your neighborhood is being transformed by one store, but sometimes life just isn't fair.

And anyways, from being around this area the past few days, it's not like we're up and destroying some legendary neighborhood like Greenwich Village or something along those lines. Red Hook had a ton of dirt lots and kind of junkyards that are scattered throughout Brooklyn.

Speaking of the dock IKEA built, on my way back to Manhattan after the grand opening this morning, I took the water taxi and it made me remember just how awesome traveling via boat is. I was sitting up on the top deck of the boat with my new $5 shades that I bought off some street vendor for real cheap. It was pretty awesome looking at all the various shores around New York, including the skyline of downtown Manhattan.

I will say, as I turned around to see Brooklyn's shore, the monstrous blue structure with the bold IKEA lettering looked a little out of place.

Monday, June 16, 2008

People really like IKEA

So while pretty much every other devoted sports fan was watching the hugely climactic U.S. Open 18-hole playoff involving Tiger, I had to go to a furniture store. Heck, even those that think golf is boring were probably watching Euro Cup. I was sort of in Europe, except it was spelled with an 'I' and a 'K'. And it was Swedish.

If you didn't know, which you probably didn't because very few people I know besides myself have to keep up with New York city news, New York City is about to welcome its first IKEA. It was kind of a big deal around here because local groups in Brooklyn fought like Hell to try and not have an IKEA. And as anyone who has walked into one of those places knows, IKEA sucks and is artsy fartsy crap.

IKEA of Red Hook (a Brooklyn neighborhood for you uneducated folk)

But of course, I didn't even get to cover the real news part about people hating IKEA. I got to cover the people who decided to wait in line two days in advance of the store opening. They were all trying to get an EKTORP sofa. IKEA is giving away free EKTORPS to the first 35 customers on Wednesday morning.

And let me tell you, there were some pretty big weirdos with really fancy tents. This one father-daughter duo told me about how they dressed up as gift-wrapped boxes as part of another IKEA's Christmas promotion four years ago when free shit was on the line. Now they've skipped work for three days so they can get a sofa. To say it took all the power within my corps to hold in my laughter and delirious pointing and laughing would be an understatement.

Seriously people, I know some want to blame this lagging economy on sub prime mortgage leases, but I didn't see any investment bankers waiting in line for a free couch this afternoon. They were all at work.

Yes, those are tents pitched outside of an unopened IKEA.

Although there was this one guy, who was blogging his experience over the next two days on his blog. I thought that was kind of cool. He was telling me how he likes to make his blog posts as if readers are living vicariously through him. You can find all his live blogging here.

Long live the blogger!

Bar trend re-emerges

So as anyone who attended Michigan with me knows, there's a set bar schedule for pretty much every day of the night — atleast amongst my friends. There was Mitch's on Mondays, Skeeps on Tuesday, Jug or nothing on Wednesday's, Rick's on Thursday, Rick's/wildcard on Friday, Skeeps then Ricks on Saturday, and lastly the Jug on Sundays.

And judging from my few visits to other schools, that's also a pretty prevalent trend throughout the country. But I always thought the reason we had such a set schedule in Ann Arbor was due to there being relatively few bars in the area. It just made more sense to have set days because it was so easy to identify exactly where to go.

It's kind of sad that I miss it so much so soon.

But now I'm thinking it's more and more just how I live my life, whether I agree with it or not. Judging from my bar attendance last summer and during the beginnings of this summer, attending a set number of bars is just how I seem to operate. Myself, Greg and Graham noticed this the other night while watching TV. We're really starting to just populate in one area of New York.

It's that area right around Murray Hill, where all my friends seem to be moving into. That would appear to be the reason why this is occurring. But even within that area, it feels like we go to the same few places all the time. There's Banc, Joshua Tree, Sutton Place, and of course the legendary bring back the glory days locale, Brother Jimmy's (remind me if I missed any others).

Basically, in a city with over 20,000 bars and restaurants, I probably named all but one or two of the bars I'm likely to attend frequently this summer. All of these places that I named are basically in the same exact location. Weird ... yes. But the more and more I think about it, the more and more it makes me happy that I'm atleast attempting to replicate college. I think over three weeks, I've really discovered that the real world is not all it's cracked up to be, and I'd much rather be lifeguarding at the beach.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

It ain't over just yet

Although I've laid justifiable praise on the Celtics and their general demolition of the Lakers thus far, I'm not quite ready to rule out the MVP and his merry men of moxie (or morbidness if you've only been watching the Finals). I'm not sold on the Celtics being able to close this thing out.

My reason is simple: Boston doesn't respond well to being the favorite in a series. And after the way they've played over the past five games, there's no denying the Celtics are the bonafide favorite these days. But remember what happened the last times they were put in the position of stomping out an underdog. First, they let a below .500 squad take them to seven games in the opening round. Then they allowed a one-man team to take them to seven games in the second round. And then, well, they played pretty well against the Pistons.

Now, I'm not saying the Lakers are going to win this series. Coming back from down 3-1 is next to impossible (actually as of now it is impossible because it's never been done before in the Finals). But I'm also not going to say this thing is necessarily over after tonight or even after game six. Something tells me the Celtics can feel this championship within their grasps and at the same time, they are going to start to feel the heat.

When the Lakers come out for tonight's game, I'm expecting the carefree ball we saw throughout the regular season and during the first three rounds of the playoffs. It's up to Kobe to be that transcendant player he wants us all to recognize him as. Come back from this deficit and his name will go amongst the greatest to ever play the game. Go down meekly, and getting closed out 4-1 or 4-2, and he's just another great player among the 50-75 that have played great over the years.

If all he wanted was a chance to show he's among the greatest, there's no better time than now. That being said, the two major advantages the Celtics will have however much longer this series goes on come down to rebounding and Paul Pierce. Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom can't board with KG, Perkins, etc and nobody besides Kobe can guard Paul Pierce. And unless the Lakers plan on getting Kobe in early foul trouble, don't expect him to stick Pierce until crunch time.

I think Kobe, if he puts his mind to it and stops settling for so many jumpers, can easily offset Pierce. I'm not sure what the Lakers have in mind for the rebounding disparity. You can't really teach brute force.

All things considered, the Lakers are up against a wall that they have shown little interest in attempting to climb. Maybe that will change tonight. But at the very least, you can't just give the title to Boston already. Let's hope the Lakers extend this thing and make them earn it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Can't call it a comeback

Seriously, though, all Jay-Z references aside, Lakers-Celtics Game Four delivered with what will go down as the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history. Like I said in my post the other day, I knew game four was going to be an instant classic, but I had no idea it would such a gut wrenching and demoralizing classic for the Lake Show.

It was especially shocking after LA got off to such a fast start, with all its starters and role players getting involved. I was watching the game at Greg's place and the first thing I said at halftime was "The Lakers scored 58 points, lead by 18, and Kobe has seven of them. I just don't see a comeback coming."

Greg wisely pointed out to me, "Mark, don't you remember game 2 when the Lakers came back from in way less time." And of course I responded with the obligatory "Yeah, but c'mon, Kobe won't let that happen." Well guess what, he just did.

Credit for the Celts victory has to go to Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Both are legitimate Finals MVP candidates and have really shown themselves in this series. I thought Allen was washed up after watching him struggle with confidence issues against the Cavs and Pistons in the earlier rounds. He just seemed a step slower and it affected his shooting because that lost step was leaving him less room to get his shot off. But he was the go to guy down the stretch last night. I mean, that drive down the baseline to the reverse up and under layup with just the right amount of English on it was a thing of beauty.

And then Ray Ray had the critical drive to his right after draining almost all of the shot clock for one of those layups in crunch time that reminded me of a Wizards game (you know how the Wiz kids will just give up these absurdly easy baskets with the game on the line). On a sidenote, I realize Pau Gasol was way too late on the help side defense, but if you're Sasha Vujacic how in the name of Serbia do you allow Ray Allen to drive so easily to his right with less than a minute remaining in a Finals game. It's Ray Allen, who has absolutely no left hand to begin with and it's crunch time, where Allen isn't all that used to handling the ball. You have to know he's going to drive right when he's got you at the top of the key.

I mean, seriously, you can't talk about Ray Allen without some sort of Jesus Shuttlesworth flashback.

Sorry, but I just thought that defense by Vujacic was inexcusable. And then ABC showed him on the verge of tears on the sideline after the next commercial break. Every good thing I said about The Machine got thrown out the window, pissed on by a dog, shat on by a homeless man, and then run over by a garbage truck.

Oh and Kobe. Well, he can bitch about how tough the Celts defense has been, but I think it's painfully obvious Michael Jordan would never allow a 24-point comeback at home in a huge Game 4 of the Finals. It's funny how one series can change everyone's feelings about one player. After that Spurs series, where it seemed like the Lakers got over the hump, Kobe was being praised for his newly discovered leadership skills and how he could become the first player since MJ to win the MVP, NBA Finals and Olympic gold in the same calendar year.

But here's why Kobe will never be MJ. He's so damn polarizing. Don't get me wrong, I'm an unabashed Kobe fan. Some of the things he does on the court are truly amazing to watch, but I know just as many people who hate his selfish guts. Nobody hated MJ. There was just so much respect for what he was all about. I'll close with this stat, if you include the 2004 Finals, Kobe has now lost seven of the past nine NBA Finals games he's participated in. That's very un-top five player of all time, if you ask me.

Yeah, I don't know what happened to Kobe in this game either.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ekpe's gone

Well, I don't know if any of you non-Michigan hoops fanatics are aware of this, but shotblocking sensation, Ekpe Udoh, decided to transfer awhile back. Now he knows where he's going to go.

According to the Oklahoman, Ekpe is going to Baylor.

I'm going to miss the lovable, goofy guy ... oh wait he didn't really like me and always ignored me as if I didn't exist when I would see him walking in the Diag. He was nowhere near as cool as DeShawn Sims. Seriously, though, his shot blocking presence will be missed, as Michigan's perimeter defenders were, and still are, less than good.

It's a tough loss for a team that was going to suck balls anyways. I guess now they'll just suck toes or something.

It's a conspiracy (in the Haunted House/System of a Down voice)

It's a shame the news coming out of the NBA Finals the past few days hasn't revolved around the anticipation for what should be an instant classic later tonight. Obviously, everyone has been talking about the latest allegations of disgraced ref Tim Donaghy, who is saying the league fixed game six of the 2002 Western Conference Finals. That series was Kings vs. Lakers and I distinctly remember it because there was a lot of talk after that series ended about the refs.

Even back then, non-conspiracy-theorists thought the refing was fishy. This is what a Sacremento Bee columnist wrote after that game in 2002:

As if the Kings' centers don't earn enough legitimate fouls by grabbing, hacking, shoving, and in general, doing anything necessary to slow the massive O'Neal, what should have been a gripping, tug-of-war fourth quarter decided by another dramatic play, instead evolved into a free-throw shooting exhibition.

The series deserved better. The players deserved better.

Disqualifying both of the Kings' centers on a couple of shaky fourth-quarter calls was, well, no way to win points with the viewing masses.

"They call the game one way for five games," said a still furious Divac, "and then they change everything. Tonight, we have no chance. Just let us play. We'll beat them. We won this game tonight. It's just not on paper. My sixth foul ... ridiculous."

Yep, definitely one of those bad-ref nights.

Tim Donaghy ... too funny.

And just today comes a report from the New York Times that adds to the gravity of the situation.

Hue Hollins, who retired in 2003 and has been outspoken about the N.B.A.’s treatment of referees, said he met for about an hour with two agents from New York before last season. In addition to asking questions about Donaghy, Hollins said the agents inquired extensively about Bavetta.

They asked if he ever noticed that Bavetta “was making sure that the home team would win, and I told them I had no idea because I didn’t work with him a lot.” Hollins said the agents did not ask about a specific team, game or series and did not ask about Game 6 in 2002.

“They were very specific about their questioning, as though they had heard something,” Hollins said. “They knew exactly what they were going after.”

My opinion on all this ... well I think one thing is for sure: Tim Donaghy fixed games. There are conspiracy theorists out there that believe David Stern almost certainly fixes scenarios to his liking. For instance, many question the validity of the 1985 Draft Lottery, which gave the Knicks Patrick Ewing. There's also the draft lottery that gave the Wizards the 1st pick (I just vomited in my own mouth thinking about Kwame) in the first year of the ill-fated Michael Jordan experiment. And I vaguely remember reading an article earlier in the season where Stern flat out said he prefers Finals matchups involving big markets (but I can't seem to locate it, so Stern is technically off the hook there).

Again, too funny.

Frankly, I'm not sure what to believe. As a fan of the league, I don't know how I could handle there being a fix in the NBA, making it resemble pro wrestling. While most know, I was a huuuggee wrestling fan back in the day, I don't think it would translate well to the NBA (unless they get cool entrance music and pyro every time someone enters a might elongate the game but imagine Kobe raising his arms in the air and igniting fire from the scorer's table upon entrance a la Kane).

Have no fear, though, Michael Wilbon is here. In a Washington Post column today, Wilbon comes up with a novel idea

Stern needs to empower an independent panel to investigate referees and their relationship with the league in much the same way Major League Baseball conducted an independent investigation into steroid use.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has for years been calling for a complete overhaul and independent monitoring of the league's officials. Phil Jackson is quoted by various news organizations as saying he and many of the coaches also want a separation of referees and the league. He was quoted saying that referees should be under a separate entity than the NBA entirely. "It seems to be more consistent with what we want to have happen to keep it from being influenced," Jackson said.

That seems like a simple and easy solution to me. Stern needs to address this immediately and not let all this ill-fated reffing business ruin another NBA Finals mathcup in the future. By the way, we had Spygate, why hasn't this one gotten a cool name? Wilbon suggests refgate, but that's just so bland. Donagate might work. I'll stick with that and let you know if I come up with anything better.

Judges like abnormal porn

I almost fell out of my chair when I read this in the papers today (yes, I have to read multiple papers so I keep up to date on the goings on of New York and the world and yes, it has taken away from my sports reading). But yeah, there is a ridiculous story that came out yesterday about a judge adjudicating a child pornography case in LA. His day kind of got ruined when the LA Times first reported this:

Opening arguments were getting under way in the obscenity case in federal court in Los Angeles yesterday morning when the Los Angeles Times posted a story online reporting that Judge Alex Kozinski's Web site contained images including "naked women on all fours painted to look like cows and a video of a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually-aroused farm animal." The site also contained pictures of urination and defecation, though they were "not presented in a sexual context," the paper said.

Judge Kozinski, 57, disabled the site after being asked about the images in an interview Tuesday night. He said he was not aware the images and videos could be publicly accessed. He called some images "degrading ... and just gross," but defended other items as "funny."

"I think it's odd and interesting. It's part of life," Judge Kozinski told the Times.

Seriously, I had to look at his picture online to make sure he wasn't this blog's good friend, Kyle R (didn't want to put the full name because, well, his future employers will have to find out for themselves about his absurd midget porn fantasies). I never knew you could paint women to look like cows. I'm kind of curious if he would ever make them moo. If I was ever a judge with a website, I think I would go with women painted like pandas. On second thought, that would probably look exactly like a cow. Oh wait, how the hell do you paint a woman to look like a cow?

Judge Alex Kozinski, and yes, he is the dude giving the hang loose sign.

Pumping my own stuff

Got another article in the paper today. I thought it was actually going to make the front page, but then it didn't. You can find it here.

I partly blame Graham's Mom for this. If you didn't know, which you probably don't because most people don't have to follow New York State news, state judges here decided to give themselves a pay raise. Here's the crux of the issue:

Setting the stage for a showdown among the three branches of government, a state judge has ordered Governor Paterson and the Legislature to start paying him and his 1,180 fellow state jurists more money.

If each judge on the state bench received the $600,000 sought by the four plaintiffs, the state's taxpayers would be on the hook for more than $700 million. The order by Judge Edward Lehner of state Supreme Court in Manhattan appears to instruct the Senate and Assembly to pass a law upping judges' pay within 90 days, which could prove an impossibly fast time frame for slow-moving Albany.

The decision also raises constitutional questions about the authority of judges to perform the legislative job of setting salaries and deciding how best to spend tax dollars.

Basically Graham's Mom wants more money. I propose the raises come from some of that internet money we all know is floating around, instead of the loyal New York taxpayers.

Fun times with a deputy mayor

I got the pleasure of waking up extra early this morning and attending a Crain's Business Breakfast Forum featuring New York City Deputy Mayor for economic development, Robert Lieber. There was a plethora of real estate types that probably will resemble Chod whenever he starts working for Tischman Spauer ("Thank God for them" in my best Kyle imitation of Gail Chod).

Lieber gave a talk about all this stuff they are doing across New York City in terms of real estate development. To answer your questions, yes I was bored as hell and yes I did eat a shit load of free muffins. And after the deputy mayor spoke and did this little Q&A session, he took some time to speak with the press. It was me, a guy from Crain's business magazine, a reporter from Reuters, and a guy from the New York Times.

Robert Lieber, deputy mayor of economic development to New York City

I stood there with my recorder out, listening to what the deputy mayor said to all these different questions, and it hit me. Being a public figure, especially someone in the government, sucks. These reporters were asking him all these questions that I had no idea about (I went with the smile and nod routine every time I thought he was saying something that required smiling and nodding). But all his answers were bland, non-specific ones because he's the deputy mayor and if they aren't ready to reveal something, they don't.

It was the equivalent of a basketball player going with the "We just have to focus on the next game" routine even if they are playing some dogshit team next and there's a huge game on the horizon.

But back to my story, all the reporters asked several questions apiece, and the attention then turned to me, the guy who knew next to nothing about the NYC real estate mumbo jumbo they were discussing. This deputy mayor is looking at me and I didn't flinch. I went with the tried and true "I think you answered everything I was looking for. Thank you."

The deputy mayor then kind of exhaled, and I think I may have seen him reach to loosen up his belt a little. It was a perfect example of someone changing who they are just to satisfy the press. If I were ever a deputy mayor, I definitely think I would go with the be myself routine rather than give bland, dull answers. For instance:

Q: Deputy mayor Giannotto, what are your thoughts on the Yankees asking for financing help from the city on the new Yankee Stadium

A: Fuck em'. Let em' take care of their own shit. I'm a Mets fan.
Here's the answer the deputy mayor actually gave

A:The Yankees have a number of alternatives available to them about additional financing. The financing they are looking for requires relief from the IRS, and adaptations of that kind. The stadium is going to be done, on time, for opening day 2009.

The new Yankee Stadium

I think we both got the same point across, except my mine was shorter, sweeter and a lot more entertaining. I find it funny that so many politicians get eaten up by the media here in New York, when what all the press is looking for is a little wow factor. Maybe I'm being short sighted because I don't have to win an election every so often, but I think more often than not, the people will more likely understand someone being themselves.

I just need something to keep me entertained. Maybe I'll start making things up when I see politicians, like a backhanded Eliot Spitzer comment. Something along the lines of ...

So deputy mayor Lieber, I heard Candy Delacroix gives the best hand job in the business. Is she a righty or a southpaw? Is she better on the road or does she prefer the friendly confines of your office? Man, I'm already laughing at the possible answers.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pumping my own stuff

So I had an article in the paper today. It goes a little something like this.

I'm a little bitter about how the powers that be here at the Sun messed with my lede (the opening paragraph for non-journalist types). Obviously, I would never be caught dead using the phrase "appetizing emporium".

Oh and to my pleasant surprise, I beat out the New York Times on this bad boy (notice the post time). Although, they got me on the age of the kid (23 months isn't quite two years old if my counting is correct). I don't think my editor has seen the Times thing yet. I'll keep you updated on if I get bitch slapped...then maybe I can sue this place and get the hell outta here.

About that Lakers game last night

They needed the win and they got it. You could tell from the get go Kobe just wasn't going to let them go down 3-0, especially in LA.

But I definitely thought this series was going to be easier than it has been for the Lake Show. All season long, I haven't been the biggest rah rah guy for the Celtics and actually thought they were going to lose to the Cavs in the second round and then thought they'd succumb to the Pistons in the conference finals. And before this series began, I thought it was going to be Lakers in 6.

Obviously, I was mistaken. This series is either going to be Lakers in 7 or Celtics in 6. And after last night when Paul Pierce and KG stunk up the joint for a good 3 quarters and the Celts still had a legitimate shot at winning, I'm more inclined to go with Celtics in 6. Seriously, if they win one game at Staples, this series is over, in my opinion. Although, to their credit, the Lakers seemed to turn a corner late in last night's game. Lamar Odom finally seemed to realize that to win a championship, you actually have to show up and play.If I'm a Lakers fan, though, I'd be real concerned with how tentative Pau Gasol looked last night. He appeared seriously intimidated by KG.

I've been rooting for the Lakers because I love seeing Kobe go off, but I'm about sick and tired of the Vladimir Radmonivic experiment. I know he brings length to the lineup, but wouldn't you like to see the machine, Sasha Vujacic, get some more minutes (and more shots). He's been the second-best player for the Lakers in this series and spreads the floor so Kobe can take it to the rack more easily.

My prediction...Game 4 is going to be an instant classic. I've just got this feeling. The Lakers can't go down 3-1 and the Celtics are gonna start to feel the heat from all that "can't win on the road" talk that will inevitably re-surface should they lose two in a row at Staples.


What a long strange trip it has been

Well, after much thought and careful consideration ... We're getting the band back together. Actually, I don't have a band and I don't really play an instrument anymore, so I'm bringing the blog back. As you can see, it has been a long, long time since my last post and I've gotten several requests to re-start. But after my guarantee of a Colts Super Bowl appearance, I went into a self-induced blogging coma. I just lost the will to do this thing.

Oh yeah, it also could have been the excessive amounts of alcohol I consumed during my final semester of college at Michigan. So you ask, why after months and months of hibernation, did I bring this blog back? Well, like I said in my last post, I needed to get hired before I brought it back. Right now I'm writing news for the New York Sun in New York City ... and it sucks. So I need a diversion. This blog provides that.

I seriously was planning on never doing this ever again, until the other day, when I realized my life has turned into a shell of its former self in a matter of weeks. It's just really depressing. I basically get the honor of writing small briefs on stories that have very little to no chance of making the front page of the paper, all while being forced to wear a suit to work every day because the big time editors at this place are extremely old school and conservative.

Here's a convo the editor-in-chief had with all the interns here the other day:

"I don't understand the criticism of going into Iraq. In Vietnam, the war I was in, we lost 4000 plus men and people called it a disaster. And in Iraq, we've lost, what, 400? I call that an unsubstantiated success. If you had told we were going to war and we'd only lose 400, I'd tell you let's do it."

I almost fell out of my chair when I heard this guy (or girl, not really sure)

But seriously, my life goes from warp speed to really really slow in a matter of minutes at this job, so there's definitely some downtime. If all goes to plan, I'll keep everyone who is just as bored as me entertained throughout the day. Probably not as many cool sports stories as last summer, seeing as I'm not covering sports...but whatever I'll find a way to entertain. It kind of feels like I'm the Cosby know how it came back after a long ass hiatus except it was on CBS instead of NBC and all the characters were a bajillion times older and a lot less funny.

Well consider me like the Cosby Show ... except I'm going to be funny although my topics aren't going to be nearly as interesting because this is the news and not the sports.

Bill is in favor of the blog ... insert your best Jello/Kids Say the darndest things/talking gibberish joke here.