Shooting from the lip
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
How devastating was that Lightning loss Saturday night to the Capitals? A victory would've meant the Lightning trailed in the Southeast Division (the team's only realistic shot at the playoffs) by six points. Now, it trails by eight. Eight points. That's four victories. Doesn't seem like much. But it is. Think about it.
If division-leading Carolina goes .500 the rest of the way, it would finish with 85 points. That means the Lightning would need 30 points in its final 23 games to make it. That means going 15-8, or something like 14-7-2. And the Lightning still only makes it if you assume that Atlanta, Washington and Florida — all ahead of Tampa Bay in the Southeast — go around .500, too. Say Carolina or Atlanta goes a game or two over .500. Now you're talking about Tampa Bay having to go something like 17-6 or 18-5 down the stretch, and considering it has won only 25 of its 59 games, what makes you think it can do that? When you have only a handful of games you can afford to lose, you must win games like Saturday night's.
Best R-rated moment
You almost needed to watch it in slow motion, but perhaps you noticed, too, the R-rated moment after the NBA Rookie-Sophomore Game on Friday night. During the postgame handshakes, Nets rookie Sean Williams pushed his middle finger into the face of Trail Blazers second-year player LaMarcus Aldridge and, based on our amateur lip-reading skills, said a Really Bad Word. Aldridge appeared to have been laughing, but Williams didn't look like he was joking.
How dumb is it that the NBA forced Lakers star Kobe Bryant to make an appearance in the All-Star Game even though he, obviously, is injured? (He has a torn ligament in his hand.) NBA rules stipulate that a player cannot skip the All-Star Game with injury unless he has missed the game before the All-Star Game or does not play in his team's first game after the All-Star Game.
The rule is understandable. The league doesn't want players making up injuries to get out of the All-Star Game. But this is where common sense needs to take over. Bryant always has been an ambassador of the game. He plays in the All-Star Game — and plays hard — every season. The last thing you want is for Kobe to miss the next month of real games because he was forced to play in a meaningless one.
Everyone wants to credit David Stern for being such a great commissioner, but it's moments like this that make you wonder about the guy.
Most interesting candidate
Last week, The Hockey News listed 20 names the Maple Leafs should consider for their next general manager. One name on the list was one we thought of — Lightning assistant GM Claude Loiselle. He is a former player, a lawyer, a solid evaluator of talent and has worked at NHL headquarters where his area of expertise was the collective bargaining agreement and the salary cap. But you have to wonder if the Maple Leafs, who would rather make a big splash with a recognizable name, would hire someone with a low profile such as Loiselle even though he just might be the best man for the job.
Just when you thought the NBA Slam Dunk competition was about to go the way of dinosaurs, VCRs and 8-tracks, one player made it relevant again — Orlando big man Dwight Howard. But the 3-point contest is still better.
Best trip down memory lane
Did you see that former Lightning goalie Dan Cloutier is back in the NHL? He was called up from the minors by the Kings after battling ineffectiveness and injuries over the past year. He has started twice, winning his first game then giving up three goals in two periods before being pulled with flulike symptoms in a no-decision Saturday night when the Kings lost to the Coyotes 4-3.
This Roger Clemens steroid thing isn't going away, especially after the Rev. Al Sharpton wondered aloud if the government is pursuing allegations against African-American players more aggressively than white athletes.
On ESPN's Sports Reporters, Selena Roberts of Sports Illustrated said, "I think they have to pursue (Clemens). If you're going to pursue Marion Jones, if you're going to pursue Miguel Tejada, you've got to pursue somebody like Roger Clemens. It’' only fair that if you’re going to chase one, then chase them all.''
Host John Saunders, however, correctly pointed out that athletes such as Jones and Barry Bonds testified before grand juries, not a congressional hearing like Clemens, hearings in which those testifying don't have the same rights as those in actual courts.
Game of the week
Don't make any plans for Saturday night. That appears to be the next, and perhaps last, decent chance Memphis has of losing before the NCAA Tournament, and maybe at all this season. The top-ranked Tigers host No. 4 Tennessee. The game is at 9 on ESPN.
"He will no longer be Indiana's head coach, in my judgment,'' ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas said.
Meantime, you knew it was a matter of time before someone started the Web site FireCoachSampson.com. Oddly enough, the site listed a poll in which viewers could vote whether the Hoosiers should fire Sampson. You would think the only people who would visit the site would be those who want Sampson out, but as of Sunday, 1,704 voters said Sampson should not be fired, while 1,657 thought he should. The best part of the site? A running time meter (right down to the second) of how long it has been since IU last won an NCAA basketball title. In case you're wondering, the time is at 7,630 days … and, of course, counting.