Un-Bull-ievable: Shades Of Memphis

Tonight, basketball fans learned a very valuable lesson: It is a lot easier to hit free throws when you don't have to deal with it after getting slapped in the face.

But seriously, Derrick Rose needs to learn how to make clutch free throws.

And I'm still waiting for Rajon Rondo's desperation heave of a three to go in.

Instead, Game 7 in Boston.

Even more to come tomorrow.

As for now? Celebratory drinks all around!

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

The Proof Is In The Pump Fake

The difference between Gordon and Jordan: Jordan makes the shot.

Fifth overtime game this series ... pretty sweet. Vinny Del Negro coaching it ... not so much.

More to come...

Bulls Won't Go Down To Boston's Bullies Too Easily

Kevin Garnett can snarl, growl and bark all he wants. He still isn't playing in this series, and every time I see a camera cut to Garnett channeling his inner primal beast, my hope is that his knee buckles and someone takes him to a locker room far, far away.

Is that wrong to feel that way? Probably. But aren't you sick of so much attention to a player who is dressed in clothes I couldn't afford if someone quadrupled my pay.

In the end, the Celtics escaped with a 106-104 overtime victory in a game they had no business winning. Sure, Brad Miller (an 82 percent free-throw shooter) missed a pair late while Rajon Rondo got away with a blatant flagrant foul ... but it should have never came down to that.

The Bulls blew an 11-point fourth quarter lead in a game in which Ben Gordon played 50 minutes that normally he wouldn't have played, scoring 26 points on 6-of-21 shooting from the field and 11-for-12 from the charity stripe.

In the end, the Bulls' biggest shortcoming wasn't their lack of a big man. As usual, it was the lack of a strong coach, who failed to realize that Paul Pierce was slashing away as he scored 15 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, including the game-winning shot over John Salmons.

Now, all the Bulls can do is re-group for Game 6 in Chicago.

Mocking The NFL Draft Part Two

Contrary to popular belief, the NFL Draft does not end with the first round. Neither should the analysis. As usual, void without sarcasm.

With the No. 47 overall pick in the NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders selected Michael Mitchell, a safety from Ohio University, not to be confused with the Ohio State University. I almost feel bad for the kid because all he's done is play hard and at the best of his abilities and his reward is having to play for the Raiders.

The Chicago Bears traded out of their second round pick and an opportunity to select Georgia wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, sparking a dozen upset Facebook status updates from the Bears fans on my friends list.

Can't argue with the Bears' thinking here ... even Massaquoi thinks you dropped the ball on your status. And he knows a thing or two about dropping balls.

Stephen McGee, a quarterback from Texas A&M University. McGee threw for 586 yards and two touchdowns last season. Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell threw 450 yards and three touchdowns in one game ... a win against Texas A&M. So which signal caller was selected with the No. 101 overall pick by the Dallas Cowboys? If you guessed McGee, you probably heard what TTU coach Mike Leach said about the former Aggie back-up.

More dumbfounding quarterback draft decisions: QBs from Sam Houston State, Ball State, Fresno State, Rutgers, West Texas A&M and Kent State were chosen. If you can name these quarterbacks you are either Mel Kiper, Jr. or Todd McShay or you haven't been on a date with a very long time.

Pictured above is former South Carolina kicker Ryan Succop, who was the 256th (and final) player drafted. Now if there was only a catchy nickname for being the last player chosen in the draft. ...

The Curious Case Of The DePaul Coaching Carousel

Here we go again.

DePaul Blue Demons men's basketball coach Jerry Wainwright has had his staff raided ... by his own AD. Earlier in the college hoops off-season, Scott Wainwright (yes, Jerry's son and former staff assisstant) was given his walking papers ... much to the chagrin of Papa Wainwright.

The younger Wainwright was allegedly pushed off the Lincoln Park campus when his pops would not agree to a partial buy-out of the three years remaining on his contract. Now, the rest of his staff is looking for work.

(Aside: Seriously, has there ever been a job in college basketball history where three assistant coaches have gotten the heave-ho and the head coach has gotten to stay?)


Sources told WSCR afternoon host Dan Bernstein DePaul had been trying to push Wainwright and his entire staff out the door in an effort to help lure SIU head coach Chris Lowery away from his alma mater. And when Wainwright declined to resign and accept the partial buy-out, heads started to roll.

In December, Lindsey Willhite of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, basically gauged Lowery's interest in the gig. C-Lo's response: Deserving of a block quote.

The biggest thing for me is, I want to win. That's No. 1. The only way I would leave Southern is if I thought I could go and win somewhere. I make great money. So I don't have to take a job where I feel is going to be detrimental to my career. I don't think I'm going to go anywhere that's detrimental to winning. And that's the thing: I've always been a part of winning, from high school to college to assistant (coach). Every step of the way, I've had some success. At this point, I don't need to go anywhere just for money.

In my chats with Lowery, I've learned that he likes the city of Chicago. (Most of those chats revolve around: "Hey Coach, get some Chicago games on the schedule so I can see the team once I graduates. Always my favorite ice-breaker w/C-Lo ... I digress.) He likes the city's recruits. He likes the exposure that could come from the media there. He likes Harold's Chicken (yeah, he told me that ... long story for another day). But DePaul seems like a job (right now) that could be detrimental to his career. Nothing says "detrimental to my career" like going to a school that was winless in the Big East.

Suprisingly, this is the last Lowery's name will be mentioned in this post (kind of).

Because if DePaul can't have C-Lo, it seems as if it will settle for assistant Lance Irvin, who coached under Joey Meyer in one of his many previous stops. As the Blue Demons attempt to rebuild the mess created by Wainwright (technically started by Dave Leitao but dates back to the Pat Kennedy days), Irvin is the "perfect" candidate because of his family ties to the very talented Mac Irvin Fire AAU team ran by his pappy.

At this point, Irvin should weigh his options carefully. If he returns to DePaul, it will likely be only for one year ... and likely will not land any of the Mac Irvin crew because he'll be added so late in the process. (Kind of why SIU doesn't have any Fire recruits right now. Most of those kids have already committed elsewhere.)

One year of bad Blue Demon basketball probably isn't worth the nearly six-hour trip up I-57.

Meanwhile, I can't help but wonder if Lowery is getting agitated by the situation. One of Lowery's top recruiting principles is bringing kids in who want to be Salukis. If an assistant (a highly regarded one at that) doesn't follow the same mantra, isn't that self-defeating ... or hypocritical?

Having dealt with Coach Irvin this season, I know the following:
  • He's a great quote.
  • In practice, he participates like he's a 20something.
  • The kids love him.
  • Coach Lowery loves him.
But if he goes, he goes. Remember when SIU had three different head coaches in three years ... and each of them won the Valley and the Valley's Coach of the Year award? If Saluki Nation can overcome that, it can overcome the loss of an assistant who had only one year worth of ties to the program.

Irvin's got that fireeee! I think...

OH NO! Could this be another domino-type effect not seen since Roy Williams left Kansas for North Carolina, Bill Self left for the Illini for the Jayhawks and Bruce Weber left SIU for Illinois?

Jerry Wainwright, he of the 0-fer record at DePaul, cleaned out his assistant coaches and one can't help but wonder if he'll bring current SIU assistant Lance Irvin into the picture.

You may remember him for coming in as a much ballyhooed recruiter that must have enjoyed the city of Dallas too much to want to end up at a place like Southern Methodist in the first place.

But Carbondale? He just couldn't turn that down, either. Besides he's been pulling in all kinds of talent from his family pipeline, Mac Irvin's Fire. The Fire is an AAU team from Chicago ripe with budding prospects to make boosters drool.


What do you mean he hasn't signed anyone yet? You mean to tell me this guy couldn't secure at least one player for us from that team?


Seriously, what's the hype with this guy. I realize that college sports, specifically college basketball is all about AAU connections.

But usually when you hire a guy who's sole credentials are essentially being a meal ticket for the pipeline to prospects, you actually sign some of those prospects.

Thanks for wasting our time Lance, don't let the door hit you on the way out. I'm sure you'll find another job next year when Wainwright gets canned.

But at least you'll have those connections!

Site News: TBDS To Slow Its Roll

Part of the reason for this post is to put forth a picture of Jessica Biel. But the real reason is to announce some site news.

Because of Finals Week and the week of hell that leads up to Finals Week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, several TBDS writers are handcuffed. Therefore, things might be slower around here for the time being.

Don't worry, though, the site is still in good hands. Hartwig will be here for all your baseball needs, and you can follow Johnny Sole and the Chicago Blackhawks' playoff run and I'll do my damnest to follow anything Cubs, Bulls or SIU-related.

BFeldt and SalukiOrphan will return to their Cardinal-loving posts after Finals Week and Graduation weekend.

And so will the rest of the staff.

Picture Credit: Chickipedia

Weird Beards Will Be Batting Clean Up

Guys with a career OPS of .754 should not be batting clean-up for any professional baseball team. The Kansas City Royals, included.

Yet, the Chicago Cubs are on the brink of putting a new face (usually with a weird beard) in the four-hole.

The Trib's Paul Sullivan got it covered:

Piniella's makeshift lineup includes Reed Johnson the clean-up spot after Kosuke Fukudome, with Micah Hoffpauir batting fifth. Piniella said he was simply going left-right-left in the lineup.

This line-up scares me ... in a bad way.

A Trip Back In Time Leads Off This Week's Chicago Baseball Week In Review

Colorado Rockies vs. Chicago Cubs

Here at the Chicago Baseball Week In Review, The Big Dead Sidebar will tackle each of Chicago's baseball team's most pressing issue. For the Cubs, it's like 2007 all over again ... and that's not good. While on the South Side, the revolving door in center field keeps turning.

When Lou Piniella began his first year as manager of the Chicago Cubs, he was accused of being asleep at the wheel by fans and media. And while it seemed like that on paper, micro-managing the bullpen while constantly flip-flopping the batting order early in the season helped Piniella figure out which players he could win with.

Now, Piniella is back to his old tricks. Today, Kevin Gregg is closing, but tomorrow it could be Carlos Marmol. Alfonso Soriano went from lead-off hitter to fifth to second back to lead-off down to third and then (you guessed it) back to lead-off.

But those issues pale in comparison to the rest of the crap Sweet Uncle Lou is toiling with.

Without Mark DeRosa, Piniella is pushing buttons trying to find out how many guys it takes to fill all the roles one man like DeRo could fill. Fontenot is flopping, Miles has been mind-boggling and Hoffpauir's defense is damning. Yet, Piniella has to try to put square pegs in round holes in hopes that something sticks.

So, Cubs fans, be patient. It might not be until June when Piniella finally figures out his ball club.

Luckily, it seems as if the White Sox have one problem it really needs to work the kinks out of. Unfortunately for The Good Guys In Black, it has been the same problem they have been trying to fill since 2006.

While I stand by my belief that Jim Thome is the offensive threat the Sox need to carry an offense, the team (and its fanbase) has desperately missed Aaron Rowand. And The Human Crash Dummy is still beloved and isn't really doing a bad job out in San Francisco, but since he's been gone, there's no denying the gaping hole in center field.

Jerry Owens, Brian Anderson, Nick Swisher and Ken Griffey, Jr. headline the center field flops since Rowand's departure.

So what's the solution to this problem? Simple. Employ less contact pitchers.

The Cubs have lead the National League in strikeouts the last few years, so they could afford to have a less than stellar defensive outfield because a good chunk of outs came via the punch out. If the White Sox could scout out more punch out experts, they could survive with an adequate center fielder.

On the offensive end? Hope that Thome, Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye and Carlos Quentin pound the snot out of the ball.

Mocking The NFL Draft

NFL: APR 25 NFL Draft

Prior to April 25, Mock Drafts were all the rage. Kiper. McShay. That guy in your chem lab that with a Ryan Leaf throwback jersey.

But where's the analysis? Leave that to me. Void without sarcasm. (P.S. Enjoy the gratuitous Erin Andrews photo)

1. Detroit Lions - Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia. The Lions chose him because they liked his mental make-up. Better schedule another check-up for Mr. Stafford, because anyone who wants to play for the Lions must be clinically be insane. Even if it comes with $41 million guaranteed.

2. St. Louis Rams - Jason Smith, OT, Baylor. I understand the Rams were looking to solidify their O-line, but who will Smith be blocking for? Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk are long gone.

3. Kansas City Chiefs - Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU. There is nothing I can say here that the ESPN sleeper hype machine hasn't already said.

4. Seattle Seahawks - Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest. Congrats, Aaron, you went from one depressing city to another. At least Seattle has Starbucks, the Space Needle and Ken Griffey Jr.

5. New York Jets (via trade) - Mark Sanchez, QB, Southern California. Maybe it's just me, but I think one more year studying under Pete Carroll and with USC Song Girls would have been better in the long run.

6. Cincinnati Bengals - Andre Smith, OL, Alabama. Just what the Bungals needed, another problem child. At this point, if Cincy added Pac Man Jones and Plaxico Burress, they would need to make the team's pads out of tephlon.

7. Oakland Raiders - Darrius Hayward-Bey, WR, Maryland. As fast as DHB is, the only thing that will come faster are the bust labels.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars - Eugene Monroe, OL, Virginia. I thought the Jags would go with Michael Crabtree here, to give David Garrard another target. Doesn't matter, last year he proved how much more he liked to throw it to the other team.

9. Green Bay Packers - B.J. Raji, DL, Boston College. The new punishment for failing a drug test is having to spend your winters in Green Bay, Wisc. Wait, you say he didn't fail a drug test. We'll I'll be darned.

10. San Francisco 49ers - Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech. Luckily for Al Davis and Raider Nation, the wide reciever Oakland should have taken is conveniently found just across the Golden Gate Bridge.

11. Buffalo Bills - Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State. "F*ck the state pen, I f*ck h**s at Penn State." - Biggie Smalls'd

12. Denver Broncos - Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia. Two things are guaranteed to happen. 1) Moreno rushes for 2,000 yards next season (if he can jump ahead of the other 750 running backs in Denver). 2) Kyle Orton will become a Hall of Fame quarterback.

13. Washington Redskins - Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas. D.C. has a black president and a black quarterback. Only in America!

14. New Orleans Saints - Michael Jenkins, CB, Ohio State. Who knew Saints management knew what defense was.

15. Houston Texans - Brian Cushing, LB, Southern California. Another team that seems to have found the cure to being allergic to defense.

16. San Diego Chargers - Larry English, DE, Northern Illinois. The Chargers fill the void of having a Northern Illinois Huskie alum left behind when Michael Turner bolted for Atlanta.

17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (via trade) - Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State. No truth to the rumor that SIU head basketball coach Chris Lowery recruited the future Buccaneer back-up to be the team's third Freeman next season.

18. Denver Broncos (via trade) - Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee. This pick originally belonged to the Chicago Bears. Why yes, I would rather have Jay Cutler. Thanks, Denver.

19. Philadelphia Eagles - Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri. The Iggles were prepared to trade out of this pick before Donovan McNabb stormed the draft room and held the draft room hostage until they drafted him a friend.

20. Detroit Lions (via trade) - Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State. The Lions got this pick from Dallas, who really could have used this to rebuild some of its soft spots. A great value choice ... now if they can only get that kind of value out of a Ford car...

21. Cleveland Browns (via trade) - Alex Mack, C, California. I can't believe someone drafted that chick from that old nickelodeon show to be an NFL O-lineman. Whoda thunk it?

22. Minnesota Vikings - Percy Harvin, WR, Florida. I knew he was versatile, but I didn't know the Vikings would be implementing the Wildcat offense with Harvin as their QB.

23. Baltimore Ravens (via trade) - Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss. No punchline here. Good kid. good story. I got nothing.

24. Atlanta Falcons - Perria Jerry, DL, Ole Miss. I didn't know the Rebels fielded a team after Eli Manning left the team. Good for them!

25. Miami Dolphins - Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois. At this point in the draft, I'm still trying to figure out how a Northern Illinois player was drafted ahead of a player from the Fighting Illini. Jerry Kill must be the man.

26. Green Bay Packers (via trade) - Clay Matthews, LB, Southern California. Poor guy has to go from summer with the Song Girls to winter in Green Bay. Sorry, man.

27. Indianapolis Colts - Donald Brown, RB, UConn. Wait, UConn has a football team?

28. Buffalo Bills - Eric Wood, C, Louisville. The Bills just went back in time to 1998 and ordered 3,000 "We Got Wood" shirts from the Cubs.

29. New York Giants - Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina. Giants management must have heard Brandon Jacobs' comments about Braylon Edwards not being able to catch. Here's hoping BJacobs is spot on and Hakeem can be "The Dream" receiver they had with Plax.

30. Tennessee Titans - Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers. Vince Young and Kerry Collins are licking their chops for this big play target. How long 'til Britt is hanging out with VY's crew?

31. Arizona Cardinals - Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State. If Wells went to an SEC school rather than a Big 10 school, he would have been a top-15 pick. Instead, his affiliation with tOSU dropped his draft stock. Maybe he should have invested in sweatervests.

32. Pittsburgh Steelers - Ziggy Hood, DT, Missouri. There's a reason the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl last year: They've got guys with cool names. Guys like Santonio, Limas, Roethlishotdogpolishberger, Ziggy are championship-caliber names.

Check out The Big Dead Sidebar on Monday for more draft news, notes, analysis and overall ripping of your favorite teams and players.

Sweet Home Chicago

So, about that home ice advantage thing I mentioned earlier in the Blackhawks-Flames matchup? I think there is something to that, way more than any of the other seven first round series. Why? Well, much of it has to do with the youth that the Hawks have on their roster; they must have more confidence and be more comfortable playing in front of the NHL's biggest fan base (they did lead the league in attendance this year).

After struggling through Games 3 and 4 in Calgary, the Windy City Kids took it to the Flames from the start in Game 5 last night. They were faster, more physical, had better goalie play, better defense, and anything else you can think of in a hockey game.

The 5-1 victory puts Chicago a win away from the Western Conference semifinals. They have three solid wins in Chicago and two bad losses north of the border. In the first four games, the team to score first was the loser in the end. Not last night, as Chicago continued to pile on the pressure and eventually knock out Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.

Now, the issue of winning in Calgary remains unsolved. The Pengrowth Saddledome is a sea of red just as the United Center is, but the similarities in color is the closest the Hawks have looked to being comfortable there.

Game 5 is Monday night, and the Hawks would love to close out Calgary right then and there. If they do not, they should be confident in front of the UC crowd for Game 7. Yet, how long can that pattern continue?

Must Be The Shoes: Bulls Bounce Celtics in Double OT

Sure, the heroics of Derrick Rose (23 points 11 rebounds 9 assists) and Ben Gordon (22 points, including game-tying 3-pointer in OT) helped springboard the Chicago Bulls' 121-118 double overtime victory against the Boston Celtics ... but like Spike once said: it must be the shoes.

And while everyone talks about the shorthanded Celtics, it was the very shorthanded Bulls (playing only seven players) that picked up the win to tie the series at 2-2.

The winnable seven-game-series moves back to Boston. If Vinny Del Negro can figure out how to stop Jesus Shuttlesworth in a clutch situation and Tyrus Thomas understands the term "game management" the series would be very winnable.

Bulls 121 Celtics 118 2OT [ESPN]

Watch My Feet: Bulls Back In Black

For a team without a traditional low-post presence and without a traditional head coach (you know, like one that has experience), it only made sense that one of the Chicago Bulls' mottos coming into this season must have been "Tradition Be Damned."

A long time ago, at a bar stool far, far away, this basketball fan was shocked, awed and appalled to see the new-look Bulls with a new look on their feet. That's right, black shoes.

No matter how cool they were, the Bulls were forbidden to wear black shoes during the regular season back in the day, when men were men and Rodman dressed as a woman (once). It was a privilege to wear the black sneakers, so they only did it in the playoffs. And sometimes, tradition is cool. Like the Yankees not shaving. Or the Raiders drafting poorly. So to see the black shoes in a meaningless regular season hurt my eyes.

Then to see them sport white shoes at home in the playoffs and then proceed to get smashed by the shorthanded Celtics ... to be honest ... it was fitting. I called them out, and apparently, so did others.

And at noon, the Bulls will be back in black.

The Bulls already had trampled on the tradition a bit by wearing black shoes for most road games during this regular season and white shoes at home. For continuity's sake, that's why they went with white shoes in Game 3. But longtime equipment manager John Ligmanowski confirmed the Bulls would be breaking out the black shoes for Sunday's Game 4 matinee.

Five other things the Bulls should consider bringing back for Game 4 against Boston:
  1. Defense
  2. Rebounding
  3. Ben Gordon's jump shot
  4. Phil Jackson (to coach)
  5. Ray Clay (for pre-game introductions)

Black is back for Chicago Bulls [Chicago Tribune]

The Dumbest Thing I've Ever Heard In The History Of Baseball

And all it took was one at-bat into the bottom of the first inning for me to put FSMidwest on mute. Thanks Al Hrabosky!

"I don't care if (the ball) gets by you and it turns into an inside the park home run. You've got to dive for that ball.

No wonder Cardinals fans are a sick and twisted bunch.

Centerfielder? Center Fielder? Either way it doesn't matter.

The key issue for the Chicago White Sox since 2005 center around the revolving door in center field.

Of course that was the year Aaron Rowand left in a trade for Jim Thome following the team's first World Series title in 88 years.

Think of it like the situation the Chicago Bears have been dealing with since the departure of Jim McMahon. Another season, another quarterback.

Same deal with the White Sox. It's been Brian Anderson, Rob Mackowiak, Darin Erstad, DeWayne Wise, Ken Griffey, Jr., and the list goes on.

Currently, Anderson is fending off the likes of Scott Podsednik (Triple-A) and Jerry Owens for the job and is doing a solid job at it. He still probably won't hit much but people are missing the most important thing about the situation.

It doesn't really matter.

The key is the same as it was in 2008. Can the back end of the rotation hold up.

Yesterday's shellacking of Bartolo Colon certainly didn't help the cause and Jose Contreras has been pretty miserable from the get-go.

In Colon's defense, this was his first bad start. In Contreras' defense, he's probably 58-years-old.

As White Sox fans usually do, they are already calling for Contreras to leave the rotation before the first month of the season is over.

The bad news is that there aren't any viable options in the farm system (No, Aaron Poreda isn't ready yet) and there isn't anything better on the current roster either.

That being said, I think Contreras should get two to three more starts to prove he's making some kind of progress before he gets sent to the bullpen.

Besides, Clayton Richard, everyone's pick to click, has an ERA over four and opponents are batting well over .300 against him. Doesn't sound like the answer to me.

If either pitcher continues to nose dive, perhaps calling up Pedro Martinez (my all-time favorite baseball player) or the crusty, trusty, old Paul Byrd.

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Cubs-Cardinals Part Duex: The Edition Written For A Special Reader

So, it has come to my attention that this site has been lacking on its coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals.

I'd like to go on the record and say that it is not my fault. We've got two Cardinals "experts" that are on staff and would likely provide much better coverage of "their" team than "that idiot Cubs fan" would.

With that said, welcome aboard Prof. Freivogel. Thanks for the clicks, and if you'd like, you can click on an add and help us get paid.

And now, onto the baseball stuff.

The Cardinals (11-5) enter baseball's best rivalry in first place as they continue to ride the hot bat of first baseman Albert Pujols. The Machine is batting .345 with 6 homers and 21 ribbies and a ridiculous OPS of 1.184. I know it's only April, but it is at the point where I constantly wonder why pitchers even throw him strikes anymore. You wanna take a pitch low and away for a seeing eye single down the right field, cool. But it's not cool when a pitcher lays a slider that doesn't slide and it ends up as a souveneir.

Adam Wainwright (tonight's starter) is a heck of a pitcher and Ryan Franklin seems to have found a niche at the back of the bullpen. But everything in between is muddled. If the Cubs can somehow pinpoint that weakness, they could take two out of three just like they did last weekend.

As for those Cubs (8-6), they find themselves behind Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the standings. Ath this point, all I can say is yuck! Pittsburgh's got talent, but not enough of it. Cincinnati is still managed by Dusty Baker. So while the Pirates could stay long enough to pester some folks in the NL Central, but the Reds, ha! That's laughable. It won't be long before Dusty ruins the golden arms Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez and Aaron Harang, so no fan of a club outside of Cincy should worry.

But as a Cubs fan, there is lots to worry about. Milton Bradley can't play because he's hurt and because he's going to be suspended. Bradley's batting .043 with his only hit being a homer in Milwaukee. He's shown a great eye at the plate, too good at times. Everyone knows about Crazy Uncle Milton's antics toward figures of authority, but I feel as if he could summon that aggression toward a 90-mile-per-hour fastball, it could lead to a boost in production.

Then there's Crazy Uncle Milton's replacement, Micah Hoffpauir The Great. Cubs fans love "The Hoff" because he's left-handed and he hits for power ... two things the Cubs haven't had since Henry Rodriguez. And while Cubdum treats him like a young pup, few seem to realize he's 29 and many 29-year-olds don't magically realize their potential during what is supposed to be the prime of their career.

And he doesn't play defense well. At all. Think Daryle Ward without consuming two tons of donuts between half-innings.

The big issue with the Cubs is their bullpen, or lack of it. Carlos Marmol is doing fine and Kevin Gregg isn't terrible when he's not facing the heart of a really good line-up. Same with Aaron Heilman.

But the rest of the 'pen, is a joke. And not one of those good, hearty jokes. One of those played out, boring jokes your friend tries to use on a girl that he's trying to pick up at the bar that only end up c-blocking you in the end.

Neal Cotts is bad and should be taken out to the pasture and left there. Angel Guzman is a flop and should have been dealt when opposing GMs still thought his arm had value. David Patton isn't worth the jersey they throw on his back every day.

If the Cardinals can expose the joke, then Cardinal Nation will be laughing all the way to the bank this weekend.

Each game has a pitching match-up that is honestly worth a damn. Which is nice. No one wants to see 4th and 5th starters go up against aces. Mismatches make rivalry games boring.

Game 1 pits Ryan Dempster against Adam Wainwright. Can Dempster rediscover the magic that made him an All-Star pitcher last season or will "Cy" Wainwright continue his dominance over the Cubbie blue bats.

Sean Marshall and Mitchell "Almost Typed Wade" Boggs square off in Game 2. Both youngsters have something to prove here. Boggs has been very highly regarded in the Cardinal minor league system, while Marshall needs to prove his worth to the big club before he gets shipped out in exchange for Jake Peavy.

Game 3 seems like a mismatch on paper with Rich Harden taking on Todd Wellemeyer. But it all depends on which pitcher shows up to the bump. If the good Harden, which doesn't have shoulder problems or control issues, shows up, then the Cubs will be in great shape. If bad Harden shows up, they're screwed. Same as Wellemeyer. If the nightmarish Wellemeyer shows up, the Cubs won't be able to wait to step to the plate. But if he takes Dave Duncan's advice and applies it, the Cards will be just fine.

So, sit back, relax and strap it down. The National League's best rivalry comes to you starting at 7:00 p.m. central time.

Don't miss it.


The Chicago Bulls public relations staff got what it wanted on Thursday night. I'm seeing red.

The real Bulls (or the Bulls I've come to know and dislike on a nightly basis) showed up on Thursday. Ben Gordon's woeful offensive performance fueled the flames of those who can't wait to push out the team's leading scorer. Derrick Rose showed he was still a rookie and Vinny Del Negro proved why he was a rookie head coach.

And yet, the Boston Celtics only lead the best-of-seven series 2 games to 1.

Celtics 107 Bulls 86

Saluki Women's Basketball: Change Is Here

If there is one thing SIU AD Mario Moccia seems to know, it is change.

When Jerry Kill left McAndrew Stadium and the Saluki football team for the greener pastures of Northern Illinois, Moccia and his Dream Team committee went out and found Dale Lennon.

Gone was the run, run, run some more offense. In came the term "modified spread." Lennon replaced Kill's hard hat (and lunch pail for that matter) with a visor.

So, when SIU women's basketball coach Dana Eikenberg announced her resignation on April 2, should we have expected anything other than the unexpected? Hot names bantied about included Cindy Stein of Mizzou, Kathi Bennett of Wisconsin, Jennifer Roos of Bowling Green and Greg Franklin of Mississippi State. And yet, none of them stood at a podium in Lingle Hall and introduced themself as the new women's basketball coach.

(An aside: OK, southern Illinoisans, I get it. You love Greg Franklin. He's local and you love local. Gotcha. But there's no need to bring down a coach hours into her regime just because she's not "one of us.")

Instead, it was Missy Tiber of Tusculum College, a Division II school in Grenneville, Tenn., a town I couldn't find even if I plugged it into my GPS.

So, what does Tiber bring to the table? Here's a quick rundown:
  • An up-tempo offense that averaged 84 points per game last season. That's 24 more points than the Salukis averaged last year. (There's your big change folks, scoring. Remember my saying: You can't win if you don't score!)
  • A recruiting map that spans the southeast. (Insert SECspeed reference here.)
  • An open-door policy with the media. (As she told The Southern: "I'm not going to make my kids live in a box.")
A fresh face and a new system will likely do wonders for a team that is one year removed from a mass exodus and two years removed from a Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship.

Missy Tiber tabbed as new Saluki women's basketball coach [Daily Egyptian]
Let's see what you got, Missy [Daily Egyptian]

Home Sweet Home, Road Woes

Many people feel home ice does not mean a whole lot in playoff hockey, as the best team with the better goalie can win on anybody's surface during the postseason. This seems to make sense, but not with the Blackhawks and Flames. The series is tied 2-2, as we head back to Chicago for Saturday night's Game 5.

Chicago looked fairly smooth and confident on the ice during the first two games at the United Center. Then the scene shifted to the Pengrowth Saddledome, and they looked like a different team. Granted, the puck took some unlucky bounces against Chicago but much of that was created by the team just coming out flat.

They are a young team, so being on the road in the postseason has to affect them a little. It looked like it did, so all they can hope is that the 22,000-plus at the UC can help will them back to victory.

Now, the one person who should not be affected by the road as much is goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. He is a veteran but his struggles went right with the team. His team did not give him much help, but the netminder could have been a lot better.

So, it's on to Game 5 on Saturday night. It has been "home sweet home" for both teams, and Chicago hopes that can continue. If not, they are danger of having this great season come to an end, for they have not looked very good in the two road games.

Change Is Coming To Saluki Basketball

Change is coming to the SIU women's basketball team

This is where your favorite sports editor needs a budget increase. Remember when that Memphis news station staked out a camera outside of John Calipari's office? Well, surely you remember the pretty blonde placed in front of the door that I immediately fell in love with. Either way, the SIU athletic department has called for a 2:30 p.m. CT press conference to introduce its new women's basketball head coach.

This comes 22 days after AD Mario Moccia announced the resignation of Dana Eikenberg, whose regime saw the high of highs (MVC championship in 2007) and the low of lows (mass exodus and alleged verbal abuse). Moccia employed the services of John Nicklow (intercollegiate athletic committee chairman), Dr. Harold Bardo (faculty athletic representative), Greg Cook (local businessman/big-time athletic donor) and Kerri Blaylock (all-world SIU softball head coach) to find the best candidate. This is the same committee that helped find and hire Dale Lennon.

And that worked out very well for SIU.

As for who the coach is? No leads yet. Any guesses? Leave 'em in the comments.

Dana Eikenberg resigns as Saluki women's basketball coach [Daily Egyptian]
Moccia: More than 100 applicants for Eikenberg's vacated post [Daily Egyptian]
Bardo, Blaylock discuss Saluki coaching search [Daily Egyptian]
DE Sports Blog: WBB head coach search officially underway [siuDE.com]

Photo Credit: Colorado Independent

Shark Sighting

Jeff Samardzija of the Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs bullpen needs a bailout plan. Too bad President Obama is a White Sox fan.

So the best the Cubs can do is call up Jeff Samardzija ... if they can only spell his name correctly. And while they're at it, can they call up Milton Bradley's bat? What about his hitting shoes? $30 million and he's batting B-I-N-G-O numbers ... that's not gonna cut it. (P.S. Adam Dunn is ripping the cover off the ball ... only me and the three Washington Nationals fans have noticed.)

Anyway, if Samardzija can spell relief, which seems to be something a majority of sCrUBS relievers cannot do, I will go out of my way to make sure his name is spelled correctly on this blog. That also means I will not call him Jeff Spellcheck when I have a lazy moment.

But what does this all mean? If the Cubs are calling up Samardzija to be ready to go tomorrow, it means someone has to go. It cannot be Angel Guzman (no more options). Or David Patton (Rule V guy). Could it be Neal Cotts? Maybe, but what about the old adage about being able to pitch forever if you're a lefty? Guess it doesn't apply to Cotts. Luis Vizcaino could go, but he hasn't been downright atrocious yet. I guess yet is the key word there.

Not that the Pirates have any talent, but does anyone know where Dave Littlefield is? Oh, right. He's with the Cubs.

It's not too late to clone Carlos Marmol, is it?

Chicago Cubs Baseball: Where History Is Doomed To Repeat Itself If Only Because Of Media Reminders

Sightings of cats running wild and doofus fans sitting down the left field line sparked reminders of black cats and Bartman. Allow me to say the following.


But seriously, white cats are all the rage these days. Opening day at The House That Debt Built (a.k.a. Citi Field) saw a white cat invasion in a Mets loss. Then last night at Wrigley Field. The Cubs staff handled it well as it grabbed that cat by its tail and looked to put it away in a friggin' bag.

I'm sure PETA has nooo problem with that.

Then there's that fan down the left field line.

Well folks, guess what, this happened last year, too. I've petitioned before that the front row of seats down in that section should be automatically vacated. I know you paid a lot of money for that prime seating, but if you were willing to spend lotsa cash on quality seats ... if you really wanted a souveneir ball, you could buy one at the gift shop. It's not that big of a deal.

I guess all we need is a rogue goat sighting to complete the trifecta.

But seriously, I'm sick of it all. Just play f*cking ball!

Choke Cubs Choke, Choke Cubs Choke hey Chicago...

I can't tell you how much I hate that song and the idiots dancing around and clapping and singing along with it but you know what I hate more?

How people can't let go of the "curses".

There are no such thing as curses. The White Sox threw the 1919 World Series for god sakes and they just won a world title in 2005.

No excuses anymore.

Which all the more infuriated me when I saw this.

It wasn't even a black cat this time.

And then I read on that somebody was booed for catching a ball in the "Bartman seats".

Enough already.

Just win and be done with it like they did yesterday. Don't have someone "bless" the dugout before the playoffs start again. Why do you want people thinking the curse is real.

It isn't real until you have it in players heads that there's some mythical reason they are destined to screw up.

The real issue from the past two years still hasn't been addressed yet.

The Chicago Cubs do not have any lefty power.

And no, Milton Bradley's creaky head and frame doesn't count.

Photo Credit: http://afroelich.com

The Rich Report (4/21): Seeing Red

Reds vs. Cubs
Ed. Note: Last year, I came to the conclusion that each of Rich Harden's starts down the stretch were going to be crucial. So after each start, I provided the line for Richard James Harden until the season ended or his arm fell off. Whichever came first. Harden is back in Cubbie blue, so I figured why not do it all over again

After a crummy start against the Rockies (and Jason Marquis - yuck!), Rich Harden struck out eight batters in three innings. Unfortunately, he also walked four batters and allowed five hits and four earned runs as he picked up his first loss at Wrigley Field.

Harden bounced back with a performance so good, not even Neal Cotts and Luis Vizcaino could ruin.

Harden's Line: 6 IP 3 H 2 R 2 ER 8 K 2 BB

That's a heck of a line for someone who was slotted as the team's No. 4 starter. If Lou Piniella and Larry Rothschild can find a way to limit his pitches, without allowing the bullpen blow his games late, it could be beneficial to the Cubs down the stretch -- when they need him the most.

Of course, a 7-run outburst definitely helps.

Upon Further Review: The Lions Still Look Like Losers

After an 0-16 season, the Detroit Lions were desperately in need of a change.

Unfortunately for the Cowardly Lions, I do not think new jerseys is what their fandom had in mind.

And even though a name and logo change helped spur the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to an American League championship, they had amassed talent after years of suck.

All Detroit has from its years drafting high is Calvin Johnson and a bunch of scrubs.

Enjoy the cellar, boys.

Report: Wisconsin's Bennett Interviews For SIU WBB Head Coach Vacancy

When SIU AD Mario Moccia announced Dana Eikenberg's resignation, Moccia outlined a list of 12 to 13 things he was looking for in the team's next head coach and that he had hoped to find it in a three week time span.

We are now entering Week 3, and we now have an interviewee thanks to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

"Assistant coach Kathi Bennett, generally credited with bolstering the defense of the University of Wisconsin women's basketball team in her first season on the staff, has interviewed for the head-coaching vacancy at Southern Illinois University."

A simple Google search helped me find the following info on Bennett:
SIU wrapped up its application process Monday and will look through approximately 130 applications.

That's quite a task, but Moccia is no stranger to finding the right fit. He landed Dale Lennon, who led the Saluki football team to a 9-3 record and a Missouri Valley Football Conference championship. Moccia also nabbed Audra Nothwehr, who led the Saluki women's tennis team to a No. 3 seed in the upcoming Valley conference tourney.

Yes, tennis (one of the first beats I covered) is legit.

So as the process begins trust Moccia (and his committee) to do their due dilligence in finding the right candidate. As complex as this process seems (and I can only imagine how difficult it must be for you the reader who might not understand the situation as well as someone who has talked to Moccia on a weekly basis all year long) it's a good thing.

The last thing this administration wants to do is botch this hiring ... or worse ... make the wrong hire.

Patience is a virtue. In Moccia We Trust.

Bennett interviews for women's head coach job at SIU [JS Online]

It's On!

Not that the first two games between the Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks weren't physical, but they lacked that big fight that always happens in a long playoff series. Yes, there were big hits against the boards, crashes in center ice, and collisions in front of the net. Yet what I am talking about is that long, extended fight in which the officials get down on the ice to break it up and punches throw as the referees are in the middle of two players.

Well, we got that near the end of Game 3. You knew Calgary wanted to come out physical in front of their home fans, and you also figured the young Hawks would want to show that they won't back down. Chicago has some bad boys of their own like Ben Eager, Dustin Byfuglien, and, at the end of tonight's game, Adam Burish as well.

Tensions boiled over and, in front of Calgary's version of a sea of red, the players got into it. I am usually a lover, not a fighter, but come playoff time, all bets are off. As for the game, Calgary took control late in the second period and carried that into the third. Their 4-2 win saw a couple of goals that took weird bounces and ended up past Nikolai Khabibulin.

With the win, the Flames ended their six-game losing streak against the Blackhawks dating back to the regular season. You didn't think Chicago would go 8 for 8 against the Flames this season, so take this loss, and see what you can do on Wednesday.

One thing is for sure...this series has really begun in the sense that fight is back in both teams. The first big fight of the series came tonight and should carry into Game 4 on Wednesday.

Curry Shouldn't Steph To The NBA Yet

North Carolina State v Davidson
In 2008, while the Kansas University men's basketball team captured a national championship, Stephen Curry captured the eyes and hearts of basketball fans.

That season, Curry averaged 28.6 points per game, but it was what he did in the NCAA Tournament that put him on the map. He averaged 32 points per game as he led Davidson to an Elite Eight appearance. But that number doesn't really do what he did justice.

Curry poured in 40 against Gonzaga as he hit 8-of-10 3-point attempts. The Wildcats would need all 40 as they just squeaked by the Zags, 82-76.

As an encore, Sensational Steph dropped 30 on a Georgetown squad that was a Final Four team the year before. The Hoyas came into the game with an outstanding defensive squad that was praised throughout the nation ... of course until Curry hit 9-of-10 free throws and connected on five 3-pointers. Then he did the same dad-gum thing against Wisconsin, an even better defensive squad. Curry scored 33 on 6-of-11 shooting from the great beyond.

And even in defeat, Curry scored 25 points as Davidson (yes, Davidson!) gave Bill Self's Kansas squad one heckuva fight and one helluva scare.

That is why the Davidson star should not forgo his final season of college eligibility for the fame, fortune and comfort at the end of the bench that will come with declaring for the NBA Draft.

This year's NCAA Tournament missed the kind of dramatic flair that came when Curry stepped on the court. Overlooked by the big boys on Tobacco Road, Curry landed at Davidson and started to light up opposing defenses from the day he stepped on campus. He was stuntin' like his daddy, Dell Curry, an NBA Jam Tournament Edition favorite as he dropped threes from every angle. And before you knew it, Curry was arguable the face of college basketball.

However, Davidson flopped in the SoCon postseason tournament, which cost the Wildcats an at-large bid to The Big Dance ... and without the proper credentials in the eyes of the NCAA committee, the 'Cats ended up in the NIT.

Sports fans and hoops experts hoped Curry could lead his team to Madison Square Garden as they crossed their fingers hoping for one more shining moment on basketball's most grand stage. Curry scored 58 points in two games, but fell just short of one more appearance at the Garden.

Thus, the speculation of Curry jumping to the NBA Draft began. The sharp-shooting, bucket-filling combo guard is projected to go 15th to the Detroit Pistons. (Makes me wonder if the rebuilding Phoenix Suns could use a gunner like Curry at 14.) This scouting report compares Curry to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (another NBA Jam legend) and Steve Kerr.

Both were more-than-servicable NBA players, but that is where Curry must answer the biggest question not on any mid-term exam.

What is worth more to Curry?

He could return to being a college superstar being beloved by fans, media and even opposing coaches for just one more year. He would likely be competing for one last shining moment in the NCAA Tournament while completing the four-year trek that nearly no college star ever finishes anymore.

Or he could forgo all that for the NBA's riches, and the torture of having to live in Detroit.

Word On The Street
[Draft Express]

Nick Swisher's ERA (Not Batting Average) Leads Off This Week's Chicago Baseball Week In Review

MLB: APR 11 Yankees at Royals
Here at the Chicago Baseball Week In Review, The Big Dead Sidebar will tackle each of Chicago's baseball team's most pressing issue. For the White Sox, it's Nick Swisher's big mouth and miniscule earned run average. While on the North Side, the Cubs' bullpen is making a non-believer out of me.

Stop me if you've heard this story before. Nick Swisher comes to a baseball team in a major metropolitan area and befriends the media. If you have heard this before, you might be a Chicago baseball fan. Specifically, a fan of the White Sox.

Swisher (better yet, his alter ego Dirty 30) charmed the pants off Chicago baseball reporters and fans with his personality. A strong start didn't hurt either. Now, Swisher is back to his old tricks, but this time in The Big Apple where he slurps everyone from A-Rod to Jeter to Joe Girardi. (I don't blame him for slurping Jeter: his leftovers are dimes. I'd wanna be his best friend, too.) But heed this warning Yankees fans, players, management or anyone that will read this upstart blog ... be careful what you wish for.

The antics of one Nick Swisher wore thin as the year went on, which is understandable when you're batting .200. So when Swish says Joe Girardi is the best manager he's ever played for, he's basically calling out White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen in the process. So, why call out Ozzie Guillen? The only logical answer is to get into a media sparring war. And as beloved as Swisher is now, Guillen has the support of Chicago and a fandom that was "sick of Dirty 30 juice."

The Tribsters are all over it:

"All of a sudden, [Swisher] knows everyone on the ballclub. ... You only got one week, two weeks on the team, and everyone is nice?

"That's the way Swisher is. Things work out for him good, everyone is great. That [stuff] doesn't work out for him, it's someone's fault."

Talk about a seamless transition: who's fault is it that the Chicago Cubs' bullpen sucks?

Is it Lou Piniella for putting guys like Neal Cotts and Kevin Gregg in pressure-filled situations? How about the players? They deserve blame, too, right? Well, it's early (get ready to hear that a lot as we enter baseball's third week), but I blame GM Jim Hendry.

Gregg would be good if he was a middle reliever in low-stress situations. I wouldn't mind seeing Neal Cotts ... in another uniform. And when a Rule V draft pick and a White Sox reject round out your bullpen, nothing good can come of it.

In search of a solution? Piniella says throw more strikes. I say throw some scientists into a room and find a way to clone Carlos Marmol as soon as possible.

It's Not How You Start, But How You Finish

If a hockey game ends after one period, the Chicago Blackhawks would be down 2-0 in the series instead of a pair of wins from their first playoff series victory since 1996.

In the first 20 minutes of play, the more experienced Calgary Flames have come out and taken it to the host Blackhawks. Calgary has had more shots, been faster to the puck, has been more physical, and has not let the exuberant United Center crowd get into the game.

Then the teams go to the locker room, and after what is probably a speech with some expletives from Coach Joel Quenneville, Chicago is a different team. They look a lot more like the explosive offense that was seen in the regular season. In Game 2, 20-year-old captain Jonathan Toews scored a much-needed power play goal early in the 2nd period to get the Hawks going. Patrick Sharp scored off a nifty pass to center by Patrick Kane, and then another Toews goal late in the 2nd gave the Hawks the lead for good.

All three goals were fueled by the speed and athleticism that the young Blackhawks possess. You can also give credit to goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who has kept Chicago in the game before the offense starts to get going.

At some point, the Hawks need to be the aggressor in the first period, especially as the series switches to Calgary for Games 3 and 4.

Yet, it does show something in the young team that they are able to battle back in a postseason environment. Still, come Monday for Game 3, you hope they can start the same way they have finished. A win is a win, though, and hockey playoffs in Chicago is alive and well.

Rose-Beasley Debate Silenced By Debut

2008 NBA Draft
The Chicago Bulls lucked into the No. 1 overall pick and one of the greatest debates in Chicago sports history.

The great debate pitted Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley against each other. Both players brought something special to the table, but the Bulls could only choose one.

And no matter what Beasley does in his playoff debut later today, there will be a segment of fans that believe the Bulls made the right choice with Rose.

I am a part of that group.

Rose has transcended the look of this team. And while Rose joined an already overcrowded backcourt, he proved to be the best of the group of guards that entered the season in Bulls uniforms. With the way he has taken over the point guard position, Rose has basically used his pimp hand to put everyone in their respective roles.

Kirk Hinrich was once pegged to be the next Steve Nash before an injury-riddled 2007-08 season sent him to an afterthought. However, Hinrich found his nitch as a back-up combo guard with ball-handling skills and the ability to make open jump shots.

Ben Gordon solidified his role as a mini Vinny "The Microwave" Johnson. BG7 lit up defenses as he benefitted from having a point guard that can set him up off the bounce or off a screen.

Did you see what Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas were able to do when Rose was feeding them they alley while they threw down the oops? Noah and Thomas should be playing high-pace, high-energy basketball. And that's the kind of match-up problem some teams, no matter how talented, have trouble defending.

So thank Vinny Del Negro for bringing the Phoenix Suns-lite offense into Chicago. (Thought I'd never say that). And thank the Bulls for selecting Rose over Beasley.

Milton Bradley Pegged With 2-Game Suspension, Derrek Lee Approves

You never forget your first time. Neither will Milton Bradley.

Bradley has made two plate appearances as a Chicago Cub at Wrigley Field, but his first got him just a tad bit of trouble.

The nutty outfielder struck out looking with the bases loaded in Friday's 7-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. Bradley, who disagreed with the call, was tossed after bumping home plate umpire Larry Vanover and was then suspended for two games for his actions.

And what does an injured Milton Bradley do? Appeal the decision.

While he has the right to appeal the two game suspension, Crazy Uncle Milton probably should have just taken the punishment as his injured groin continues to heal. But he's got the support of his team and the Wrigley faithful (so far).

During the appeal, Bradley has decided to not comment to the media.

Good idea.

For another good idea, shout out to Derrek Lee. The Gold Glove first baseman has stepped up in full support of Bradley, which should probably help build morale in the clubhouse. Lee went through his own valleys in his first year as a Cub in 2004, so it is nice to see one of the team's most visible players stand up for the new guy.

"I like it. ... He said what he had to say and walked off. That's him. He's intense. It's a big situation, he wants to do well, and he got upset. It's OK. He didn't do anything malicious."

Bud Selig and Bob Watson respectfully disagree.

Ramirez, Rose Lead Chicago

Aramis Ramirez walk-off two-run home run yadda ... yadda ... yadda. Been there. Done that. Got the white flag with the blue "W" raised.

But how about Derrick Rose.

The NBA's probable Rookie of the Year poured in 36 points (tying Lew Alcindor's a.k.a Karrem Abdul Jabber's rookie playoff debut record) and dished out 11 assists in the Bulls' 105-103 overtime win against the Boston Celtics in Game 1 ... on the road, mind you.

(Insert Rose Garden references here)

(Insert Rose blooming references here)

More tomorrow.

Anything Is Possible, But Not Everything Is Probable: Your Bulls-Celtics Preview

NBA: JAN 28 Bulls at Clippers
Break out the black shoes and the nostalgia of six championships in the 1990s, the Chicago Bulls are back in the NBA Playoffs.

Chicago enters the playoffs led by star point guard Derrick Rose, a revamped nucleus and the hope it might be able to steal a series instead of just a game from the defending NBA champion Boston Celtics.

The Beantown Ballers enter the series without the league's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and even though they were 16-7 without Kevin Garnett, there is no doubt his interior defense and his ability to finish around the basket will be missed.

And make no mistake about it: the reason we are talking about the Chicago Bulls being in the playoffs is because of John Paxson's midseason movement via the trade channels. The Bulls were meddling in that area where they were not terrible, but not also not good. Chicago seemed destined to be that team that barely makes the playoffs only to get crushed by 20 points per game in a four game sweep, or barely miss the playoffs while landing poor draft position.

But by adding John Salmons and Brad Miller while subtracting Thabo Sefalosha and Larry Hughes had turned the Bulls into the team fans had expected to see from day one. Arguably, the biggest thing to happen with the Bulls has been the "injury" to Luol Deng.

However, let's make this one thing clear: There are no short cuts to the NBA Finals. There are no short cuts to a championship. All we (as Bulls fans) remember of the Jordan Era were the championships, but it was easy to forget the path to those titles.

Now, the Bulls have to overcome Jesus Shuttlesworth, The Truth and the aura of the New Garden, not to mention the defending champs.

If Chicago can steal a game at the Garden, they might have a shot to sneak out a series win only to get pummelled by Orlando in the second round. If not, I think the Bulls can be competitive ... but that can only take you so far.

Prediction: Celtics in six.

How One Swing Can Erase Three Ks

Alfonso Soriano of the Chicago Cubs
Carlos Zambrano was flat-out bad today, and all of a sudden what was supposed to be the Cubs' biggest strength is looking like a weakness.

Alfonso Soriano started the day with three strikeouts as he couldn't hit a slider if it was sitting on a tee.

Yet, when the Cubs left fielder came up to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning, all was forgotten as his two-run home run sailed over the left-center field wall. Carlos Marmol (not Kevin Gregg ... thank goodness) closed out the ninth to secure an 8-7 Cubs win.

This is how Soriano's five home runs break down so far:
  • Two lead-off homers. (Cubs win both games).
  • Two game-winning homers. (Cubs win both games, duh).
  • One game-tying homer. (Cubs lose in extra-innings).
Let the record show Soriano would have had no shot to hit these home runs if he was not in the lead-off spot. And you know what? He should stay there ... no matter how much former governor Rod Blagojevich disagrees.
Let the record show

Cubs-Cards Reloaded

Today has got to better for the North Side Nine, right?

Carlos Zambrano is on the mound and I have to think after watching yesterday's bullpen performance, Big Z is not going to want to exit early today.

Nor do I want him to.

Zambrano is the Cubs big-name, big-money pitcher and I want him to pitch like that against the team's chief rival ... especially after a brutal loss.

While I'll put yesterday's loss on the relief (or lack thereof), maybe hitting coach Gerald Perry should tell Cubs hitters to aim toward left field.

Watching Chris Duncan patrol the outfield is like watching that kid in Little League who has his finger up his nose, hat on backward, counting clouds in the sky and one pant leg rolled up before a screaming liner comes his way.

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune

Musings on the Amusing

Couple of interesting things I'd like to touch on today.

First, I have no idea how this made the sports section in a major U.S. newspaper but I found hilarious and interesting.

Honestly, I'd probably freak out if I knew a hotel was haunted and I was staying there. Of course, I don't believe in ghosts but that kind of stuff just freaks me out.

Even if those stories about the creatures or whatever coming into a players room are false, it's all in the mind. I'd probably convince myself there was a ghost in my room and run for wherever Jim Thome's room was in hopes that the ghosts would succumb to his gentlemanly attitude.

Being on the same team as A.J. Pierzynski wouldn't help either. I could envision him trying to take advantage of the fact that I still check my closet for the undertaker every night.

Moving along, we also saw the first curious case of crazy Milton Bradley. No, not the board game king, the ballplayer.

Y0u have to think a suspension is looming because of his prior history but on a Bradley scale of meltdowns this one was actually pretty mild.

Prepare yourself for more with this guy but it's certainly fun to watch him implode. I can't wait until Bradley and Carlos Zambrano get into it during the dog days of summer. That will be truly be a sight to see.

I know he's on the disabled list right now but if the Chicago Cubs could acquire outfielder Jose Guillen from the Kansas City Royals it would be the Indiana Pacers reincarnated into a baseball team.

Heck, I could see the two crazy outfielders going into the stands and taking swings at the drunks in the bleachers. Would that be a site to see or what?

I can see Len and Bob calling it now:

"And Bradley is laying on the Cubs dugout trying to be calmed down and here comes the beer!"

Havlat Delivers

The Chicago Blackhawks are a young team, no doubt about it, but there is a veteran there in the mix of youthful exuberance. That man is Martin Havlat. Injuries were the story of his career the last few seasons, but this year, Havlat has stayed healthy and has helped lead the Hawks to the postseason. It makes sense that he was the guy to deliver in Game One of the postseason.

After getting his own rebound to score the tying goal, Havlat put another passed Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff in overtime, 12 seconds into the extra session. When you sit and watch a NHL postseason game, you expect two or three overtimes and a chance to sit and get excited for another couple hours. Well, Havlat decided he would just end it quickly, and that worked for the 22,000-plus at a rockin' United Center.

This was just Game One, and there is a lot of work still to be done. Yet, after one night, the young Hawks are on top. It makes sense that a veteran in the mix led them to victory.

Crazy Uncle Milton Won't Be Inviting Larry Vanover For A Post Game Meal

(Explitive Deleted)

Weren't you just waiting for the first call to go against Milton Bradley?

I was.

Bradley stepped to the plate of a tied game with the bases loaded and one out. The $30 million man calmly took three straight balls out of the strike zone before taking two straight strikes to fill the count. Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright stepped off the mound for a moment before delivering a nasty curveball that appeared to dip low and inside.

Home plate umpire Larry Vanover disagreed, ringing up Bradley. Who all of a sudden forgot that it was only days ago he told the Chicago Sun-Times that he was a new man. He was cool, calm and collected ... until borderline call went against him. Then, he went nuts. So did the crowd.

Welcome to the Milton Bradley Era.

Actually, the Cubs' 7-4 loss to their arch rivals from St. Louis exposed several of the two-time defending NL Central Division champion's weaknesses.

The Cubs bullpen is bad and features Aaron Heilman and Luis Vizcaino ... guys that I wouldn't trust getting out Fat Albert let alone Albert Pujols. And unless manager Lou Piniella can successfully clone Carlos Marmol five-times over, it will be a mighty struggle for the Cubs' pen.

Kevin Gregg is the team's closer, and it's actually fitting. You can't spell Cubs without B(lown) S(ave).

The starting rotation is good, not great. Sean Marshall tossed a few good innings, but if he was the hold up and the reason why the Cubs didn't get Jake Peavy, then someone's head needs to be examined inside the Cubs front office. I'm pretty sure the 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner would not have allowed a two-run homer to the offensively-inept Chris Duncan.

Then there's Crazy Uncle Milton, who signed a three-year contract in the offseason. The Cubs chose Bradley over Adam Dunn, citing his athleticism and ability to play the outfield. Sure, Dunn will never be confused with an average defensive outfielder, but it's hard to play defense while laying on a trainer's table.

Some say the Cubs are cursed by a gypsy, a Billy goat, a black cat or a Bartman.

I say the Cubs are cursed by poor management, poor play and underachieving ballplayers.

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune

Trying to Put Out the Flames

What were you doing in 2002? In April of that year, I was watching the Blackhawks take on the Blues in the postseason. I was also about to graduate 8th grade but that is not the subject of my blog. Yet that does show that 2002 is a long time ago for me, and it is also the last time Chicago has seen their NHL team in the postseason.

In that year, I did not have much faith in the team winning a series. I received some confidence after they won in St. Louis to take Game 1, but they did not win another game in the series after that. This season is a bit different, as players like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have helped lead a young squad to 104 points on the season and home-ice advantage in the first round. They have also taken all four games against Calgary this season and have outscored them 19 to 7 in the season sweep.

Yet something tells me that that last statistic is not necessarily a good thing, and essentially, it does not mean anything now that we have reached the playoffs. It's a whole new season as coaches and players let us know, and the regular season success doesn't mean much at all. The Hawks will have to stick with Calgary star Jerome Iginla and find a way to get the puck passed Miikka Kiprusoff.

Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin is 22-5-2 all-time against the Flames including the 2004 Stanley Cup finals with the Lightning. Again, this stat does not mean a whole lot. All it says is the numbers are in favor of the Blackhawks, but unfortunately, you do not win games based on paper. The teams will decide it on the ice, beginning with tonight's game at the United Center.

So, get those playoff beards started, grab a seat, and enjoy playoff hockey. Chicago hopes they have more playoff games than they did in 2002.

Birds down Infant Bears

The real baseball season began today as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs in their first match up of the 2009 season.

There's just nothing quite like taking down your biggest rival. Especially when it involves Crazy Uncle Milton going all Crazy Uncle Milton on the umpire.

Yes Cubs fans, it was a ball. Congrats, you should have lost 7-5 instead of 7-4.

It was Chris Duncan doing the damage for the Cardinals, going 3-for-4 with one home run and three rbis.

Adam Wainwright went six innings, allowing four runs and striking out six.

With the bases loaded in the sixth inning, Wainwright struck out Bradley (mentioned above) and forced Alfonso Soriano to fly out to left field to get out of the jam.

Yadier Molina then hit a single in the top of the seventh to break a 4-4 tie and give the Cardinals the lead for good.

Hopefully, this will be a sign of things to come in the 2009 version of the Cardinals-Cubs rivalry.

Bruce Pearl Just Set Rap Music Back Forever

There aren't enough tracks by Kanye, Jay, Nas, Lil' Wayne (no vocoder), T.I., Ludacris or anyone else for that matter that can bring rap music back from the depths Bruce Pearl took it the other night.

ATTN: Dr. Dre: Bring me Detox, or bring Bruce Pearl death.

I'd be really excited about Cubs-Cardinals, but...

Holly Madison Cubs Fan
Adam Wainwright vs. Sean Marshall?

In one bullpen, you have Marshall, who is on about seven months rest, having not started a regular season major league game since Sept. 23 against the New York Mets.

Wainwright, well, he's the second coming of Cy Young if you ask Cardinals fans.

In any case, baseball's best rivalry is renewed today in Chicago with a four-game set that already has implications at the top of the division.

And just because I can, I'll drop this picture of Playboy bunny Holly Madison wearing Cubs gear.

I await to see our Cardinals expert's response.

TBDS Civil War has begun!

Losing: A Bulls Blessing In Disguise?

Detroit Pistons v Boston Celtics, Game 1
I could feel the sense of impending doom (and probably defeat) in Chicago all the way from Carbondale when learning the Bulls would face the Boston Celtics after losing its season finale to the lowly Toronto Raptors, 109-98.

But without reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Kevin Garnett, beating the Celtics sounds like less of a pipe dream and more of a possibility that the Bulls won't get swept in four games.

While the defending NBA champs still have Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, each of whom are capable of carrying of their team all own their own, youngsters like Rajon Rondo and "Big Baby" Davis have taken giant steps of improvement.

Allow me to get this out of my system now because basketball analysts are going to shove this concept down your throat from now until the series is over: The Bulls are young and dangerous.

In fact, there is some truth to that. Derrick Rose is a man-child and will probably be your Rookie of the Year, and even though he doesn't have playoff experience, he does have the experience of taking Memphis to a national title game in his freshman year. Freshmen don't do the things he did last year. And most rookies don't do the things he did for the Bulls this year.

As for the rest of the Bulls, well, they're not as young as the media hype would make you believe.

Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich were here for the first go-around of the Baby Bulls, so they are no strangers to the NBA Playoffs. Brad Miller (10 years) and Tim Thomas (11 years) have plenty of NBA experience, so playoff basketball isn't an unheard of concept to these two. John Salmons is a six-year vet.

My main concern in this series is Vinny Del Negro. There is no need for me to go into the fact that he has never coached a playoff game at any level, and even though he "coached" a 41-41 playoff team this year, Mike D'Antoni would have had this team in a much better spot.

There, I said it.

My hope that this playoff experience is more of a gift than a curse. It should give the "youngsters" that much needed game experience, but a good series by BG7 might price him out of the Bulls' price range. A "good" series also might give Del Negro a false sense of job security, and the fact is as much as I like to see the Bulls succeed, I wouldn't mind if Del Negro bit the bullet so a real coach (Avery Johnson, anyone?) could come in here and deliver a championship to Chicago.

Well, it starts Saturday. Anyone seen TBDS' NBA expert? Eh, he's probably consoling himself as his Milwaukee Bucks prepare for a summer of good eats and mediocre baseball in the land of bratwurst.