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Comets' Two Stars Knew How to Play Transition Game

THE INSIDE TRACK | MORNING BRIEFING

September 01, 2000|MARK HEISLER

Rivalries between the stars of a basketball team aren't uncommon, so it isn't shocking there were reports of tension between Cynthia Cooper and Sheryl Swoopes, whose Houston Comets have won all four WNBA titles.

Cooper, 37, has announced her retirement. She was the league's most valuable player the first two seasons. Swoopes, 29, was the league's MVP this season.

"Sheryl has been big enough to stand on her own," Coach Van Chancellor says. "There's been enough attention for her and Coop on and off the court. On some teams, it would have been a problem. Not with us. We've never said this is anybody's team. We just go out there and play."

Said New York Liberty forward Vickie Johnson: "This year it was Swoopes' team. Coop knows it. They all know it. This was the transition year for them to become Sheryl's team."

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Not chopped liver: Of course, besides her two league MVP awards, Cooper was the MVP of all four final series and the scoring leader in her first three seasons.

"Cynthia Cooper is the Michael Jordan, the Larry Bird, the Magic Johnson of this league," said Liberty Coach Richie Adubato, after Cooper's late heroics in Game 2 of the finals put his team out. "She's the type of person who will not let her team lose."

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Trivia time: Name the only NFL punter who averaged 45 yards a kick for his career.

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Slump: Former Patriot All-Pro tight end Ben Coates is now a Baltimore Raven, little lamented in New England.

"Coates was one of the finest players in team history, but the last two years he simply mailed it in," writes the Boston Globe's Will McDonough. "Maybe somehow he will be invigorated in Baltimore this year.

"This spring, I asked an AFC East head coach if his team was interested in Coates.

"This was his reply: 'I watched the game films of every game he's played the last two years and as a professional head coach I was embarrassed, watching the way he played.'

"Coates simply had no interest in trying to block anyone his last two seasons in New England."

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The Be$t: Putting his money where his mouth is, Raven owner Art Modell signed former UCLA tackle Jonathan Ogden to a $44-million contract, the highest ever for an NFL offensive lineman.

"He's the best tackle in football today, and I think his future is extremely bright," Modell said. "Hopefully, he'll go down in history as the best ever to play the game.

"I've seen them all and I'm not going to compare Jonathan to others by name. Right now, he may be the best there is and he may be the best ever to play."

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This is maturity? Friends say John McEnroe is mellowing in middle age, although not too much. McEnroe still responds to hecklers when he plays on the senior tennis tour and slams his racket down, because he says fans enjoy it.

"I feel an obligation," he said. "They want to see personalities, which is OK so long as you don't go over the line, as I used to do regularly, of course."

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It would be wrong: New Indiana Coach Isiah Thomas toyed with the idea of bringing back former teammate Dennis Rodman but decided not to.

Said Thomas: "Wrong player, wrong town, wrong team."

He might have added, "Wrong century."

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Trivia answer: Washington's Sammy Baugh, 45.1.

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And finally: Colorado Manager Buddy Bell, on Todd Helton's drive for .400: "I've been asked if Todd would sit out on the final day if he's hitting .401. My answer to that is, I think he'd have a better chance of finishing at .403 than .399."

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