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THE INSIDE TRACK | THE MORNING AFTER

Collection of What Ifs, and Wide Web of Sports

The high points, low points and ticklish talking points of the weekend that was:

May 22, 2000

What if we missed something important? What if the truth is out there? What if the Miami Heat found a way to have someone other than Clankin' Clarence Weatherspoon put up the series-deciding shot Sunday?

I have a rat-a-tat reassessment of life and the NBA playoffs, not necessarily in that order, as the last four teams left standing bolt for the finals.

* WHAT IF. . . The most dangerous shot the Lakers will take this postseason was from the Sacramento Kings in the first round, we just didn't know it when it was happening?

Portland is tougher and has more guns than the Kings, the Rose Garden is loud too, and Scottie Pippen and Rasheed Wallace are sure to mess up the Lakers for long, troubling periods.

But the combination of the incomparable Chris Webber plus a crazy, shoot-first, worry-about-it-later style plus the Arco Arena madness hit as many Laker vulnerabilities as you could, and maybe that five-game drama was as panicky as it's going to get.

* WHAT IF. . . Portland had played better in the final minutes Feb. 29 in the big regular-season showdown, beaten the Lakers, pulled out the No. 1 seeding, and won Game 1 of the Western Conference finals in the Rose Garden?

* WHAT IF. . . Wallace (seven technical fouls in 10 games) really is on his best behavior in these playoffs?

* WHAT IF . . . Miami Coach Pat Riley was willing to give up foul-prone warrior forward P.J. Brown last February for a shooter? Would advancing to the Eastern Conference finals mean he was shrieking "The Rules of War"?

* WHAT IF. . . Any of the top three lottery teams--the New Jersey Nets, Vancouver Grizzlies or the Clippers (none with a coach in place, by the way)--had actually told the truth when their executives were sitting there in Secaucus, N.J.?

"Don't congratulate us, it's embarrassing and a little foolish to be sitting here, hat in hand, begging Luck to bring us better players after all of our failed decisions and rotten plans."

THE BIG PICTURE

Royce Clayton might not be able to hit one, but he jumped out ahead of the curve this week.

On his personal Web site, Clayton, the Texas Ranger shortstop, announced his own feud (then recanted it) with Chad Curtis, most famous for being the player who stiffed Jim Gray at last season's World Series.

Some journalists fear this. I embrace it. If athletes want to pour their neuroses, hopes, dreams and enemies-list straight to the public at large, or exchange thoughts and information with those who want it most, why not?

There are terrific opportunities out there . . .

The Grudge Report: Clayton versus Curtis. Wallace versus Ronnie Garretson. Hey, there are tons of sports figures who hate each other and would love to spill it all, edit-free, on a Web page near you.

From us, face it, you get the mostly sanitized versions. On proandcon.com, you'd get the bitter truth.

Don'tstayinschool.com: An umbrella Internet service where all the agents, street-runners and assorted lackeys post the latest, hottest draft tips for the 2,000 or more non-seniors who are sure to be selected in the lottery portion of the NBA draft.

Zerotolerance/cnn.si.com: Streaming video of Bob Knight's first postgame confrontation with reporters from the organization that kicked off the investigation, featuring a live poll--will Knight, a) publicly admit his weaknesses; b) engage in witty, Oscar Wildean banter; or c) explain that "zero tolerance" is his definition for pin-head reporters?

WEEKEND TALKING POINTS

1. Mark McGwire, home run spree: I knew in April he had a chance to break Henry Aaron's record by hitting 234 more. Didn't know he was going to hit all of them this season.

2. "Wild, Wild West": Stars Salma Hayek and Will Smith were on hand for Game 1 of Laker-Portland tilt, along with the movie's technical advisor, Rasheed Wallace.

3. Wrigley Field melee: "Guzzle Beer and Hassle the Opponent Night" is never a good idea. How about extra "Cap Days" for the good Wrigley folks?

4. Carlos Perez, 80 mph of fun: What's more embarrassing--to be the team that keeps starting Perez, or the teams that keep losing to him?

5. Bob Knight, under wraps: It's not bad that he kept his job. What's bad is that he'll blame everybody else when he crosses the line the final time.

6. Malik Sealy, 1970-2000: The NBA loses another one of its best souls.

7. Mike Jarvis, Washington Wizard coaching candidate: Give this man an NBA job already so we never have to hear about him in the rumor mill again.

8. Jeff Van Gundy: An engine from the Knicks' team plane blew over his parked Honda. The stereo speakers from one of Shaq's cars could do that too.

9. Martina Hingis: She'll win the French Open women's title. And if she wanted to, she'd get at least as far as the men's semifinals.

10. Rush Limbaugh, "Monday Night Football" prospect: So Bill Parcells gets the New York Republican Senate nomination now, right?

LEADING QUESTIONS

So, with ever-changing track conditions, all that travel, and the races packed into five hard weeks, it apparently is really hard to win one of those Triple Crowns, huh?

Everybody raved about Fusaichi Pegasus after the Kentucky Derby.

Even casual fans saw that he looked stronger and tougher than every other horse.

Fu-Peg didn't run a terrible race in the Preakness.

And he still never really challenged Red Bullet down the stretch?

Instead of making the Belmont irrelevant, should it make the third leg that much more fascinating--and impressive--if Fu-Peg and Red Bullet should both run?

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