Hey, "Don't Mess With Texas Football." That message, posted on Baylor's website, comes amid Texas A&M's efforts to leave the Big 12 join the Southeastern Conference and Oklahoma's flirtation with the idea of leaving the Big 12 to join the Pac-12. As SI.com's George Schroeder explains, Baylor is concerned that the Big 12 will break up, leaving Baylor out in the cold.
Baylor, which has threatened to sue Texas A&M if it jumps to the SEC, argues on its website that the Big 12 should be preserved because it is a bastion of Texas football and tradition. Four of the conference's 10 members - Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech and Texas A&M - are in the Lone Star state.
But don't be confused, Schroeder writes. Baylor also is acting in its own self-interest:
If you had your fingers crossed that Wednesday's meeting between NBA players and owners would lead to a quick resolution of their labor dispute, you might be a little disappointed. While the two sides agreed to end the public relations assault they have unleashed on each other since the NBA lockout started, little progress was made on any other fronts.
“The days of negotiating through the media are over, declared (David) Stern, (Adam) Silver and (Derek) Fisher. Fine,” SI.com’s Chris Mannix writes, referring to the NBA's commissioner and deputy commissioner, and the players union president. “But on several occasions, three of the most influential men involved in the negotiations were given opportunities to portray Wednesday's meeting in a positive light, to offer millions of fans the slightest glimmer of hope. Each time, they passed.”
Mannix explains that while players and owners are really no closer to reaching a new collective bargaining agreement after Wednesday’s meeting, the pressure to hammer out a deal will certainly start to weigh on them.
Who's in favor of college football BracketBusters? That would be Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who made the proposal to the NCAA this month. The plan essentially would allow the top four teams in the BCS standings from conferences without championship games (and from among independents) to play an additional game in December.
It's no secret that Cuban has been looking for ways to shake up the Bowl Championship Series landscape, but if you're expecting Cuban to make a hotheaded defense against naysayers, you may be disappointed, writes SI.com's Andy Staples:
Injuries and contract bickering threaten the New York Giants season, SI.com's Matt Gagne writes. With the Eagles stacked squad poised to make an impact in the NFC East, the Giants sit in a somewhat precarious position. First-round draft pick Prince Amukamara's broken left foot has sidelined him for the foreseeable future while an ongoing contract dispute with Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora both threaten to tamper with the start of the Giants' season. However, a favorable first-half schedule could work to their advantage - at least until the postseason:
"The first half is favorable, as six of the Giants' first seven opponents finished no better than two games under .500 last season," Gagne writes. "The lone exception is a Week 3 trip to Philadelphia, where Big Blue will try to snap a six-game losing streak against the reloaded Eagles. Soon enough, they'll truly have their work cut out for them.
"The final nine weeks include road games against the Patriots, Saints, Cowboys and Jets (though there's no traveling for that last one, to be played at New Meadowlands Stadium on Christmas Eve). They'll also face the Eagles and Cowboys again, this time at home, and host the defending Super Bowl champion Packers. The Giants faded down the stretch and missed the playoffs the past two seasons, even after posting 10 wins last year. It's a realistic number to see in the win column, but once again, it may not be enough to put the Giants in the postseason."
Boston Red Sox vs. Minnesota Twins (7:10 p.m., ET) - Kicking off a three-day road series against the Twins tonight, the Red Sox will look to continue the momentum from a dominant performance against the Yankees. The team took two of three games in that series.
In a surprising move, North Carolina's Board of Trustees sent head coach Butch Davis packing Wednesday. The decision comes in the wake of a laundry list of allegations against the school's football program and the looming threat of NCAA sanctions.
Chancellor Holden Thorp made the announcement, citing a desire to "restore confidence in the University of North Carolina and our football program" as a factor in the decision to fire Davis. And while removing Davis was expected and may have been necessary, SI.com's Andy Staples explains that UNC's timing probably couldn't have been worse.
"If North Carolina's Board of Trustees fired Davis on Wednesday for the sole purpose of protecting the reputations of the program and of the university, the trustees fired Davis about seven months too late," Staples writes. "If they wanted to protect only the health of the program, the trustees fired Davis about four months too early."
With Davis being fired just days before preseason practice begins, UNC's options are extremely limited in terms of finding a replacement. Thorp as well as athletic director Dick Baddour plan to meet with reporters Thursday to shed some light on their decision - and its timing.
Who will stay, and who will go? SI.com's Cliff Corcoran writes that some of the New York Yankees’ top prospects could find themselves out of pinstripes when the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline arrives. Among those who might be traded: catcher Jesus Montero.
"The best hitting prospect in the game prior to Bryce Harper's arrival, Montero projects as a monster bat," Cocorcan writes. "But he has yet to convince anyone he'll remain a catcher, which makes him a poor fit for a Yankees team that has Mark Teixeira signed to play first base through 2016 and may ultimately need to turn the increasingly fragile Alex Rodriguez, signed through 2017, into a designated hitter."
But the Yanks won't be the only team that may start swapping. The San Francisco Giants could give up top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler as they look to build their offense and rest on the pitching laurels of Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. Among others who may be traded: catcher Yasmani Grandal (Cincinnati Reds), pitcher Robbie Erlin (Texas Rangers) and pitcher Dellin Betances (Yankees).
Must-watch game tonight:
Detroit Tigers vs. Minnesota Twins (8:10 p.m. ET) – The Tigers will look for their 10th consecutive victory over the Twins at Target Field.
By the numbers
12: Number of years caddie Steve Williams worked for Tiger Woods before their split was announced Wednesday.
15,404: Number of fans who turned out to greet U.S. women's national soccer team stars Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and others at Wednesday's match between South Florida's magicJack and the Western New York Flash.
12: Number of games in the Texas Rangers' latest winning streak, which ended Wednesday night in a 9-8 loss against the Los Angeles Angels.
On the surface, Bryce Harper's performance at Major League Baseball's Futures Game on Sunday may have been a bit of a letdown. Finishing 0 for 4, Harper struck out twice and bee-lined two grounders to the first baseman. But as SI.com's Joe Lemire says, that doesn't even begin to tarnish the 18-year-old's array of accomplishments or dull his future prospects.
"What Harper still showed on the day were his first-rate tools, even if he failed to use them in a way that made a difference in the outcome," Lemire writes. "It was, however, just one game. Players are allowed to have a bad game now and again, especially when facing a barrage of the game's best international pitching prospects, opposing the Braves' Julio Teheran, Mariners lefty James Paxton, Blue Jays' Henderson Alvarez and the Royals' Kelvin Herrera. Part of why Harper more than other toolsy players is on a major league fast-track is his in-game maturity: He takes walks and more often than not makes the smart throw."
But despite the outfielder's maturity and skill, the Nationals have chosen to be conservative with their rising star, likely not calling him up to the majors this year to give him more time to develop. And that seems fine by Harper.
Good work MLB fans. As SI.com's Joe Lemire points out, baseball fans seemed to make the right calls this year when it came to selecting 2011's All-Star teams. Jose Bautista and his record-setting 7.4 million votes certainly prove that. But the biggest snub this year may be Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen.
"The Pirates have started to win more, but the credit hasn't followed suit," Lemire writes. "McCutchen has been the club's best hitter by far this season, leading the surprising team (only 2 1/2 games back in the NL Central) in nearly every category: average (.289), on-base percentage (. 390), slugging (. 493), OPS (. 884), runs (48), home runs (12), stolen bases (15), doubles (20), triples (3), walks (46) and total bases (150). As importantly, he ranks third in the majors at that position with a 6.9 Ultimate Zone Rating, meaning he's saved nearly seven runs with his glove. That's an outstanding figure, even if it's far off Diaz's unrealistic projection."
Other players who will be hoping for a much-deserved spot on the All-Star team: Yankees starter CC Sabathia, Rays second baseman/right fielder Ben Zobrist and Braves starter Tommy Hanson.
Though the grills will be going this July 4th, don’t forget to catch some MLB action tonight.
With just hours before the 2011 NBA Draft kicks off in New Jersey's Prudential Center, speculation continues about the fate of this year's class. Will Jimmer Fredette experience a major falloff in the pros? Will Kemba Walker be able to mold his skill set into one that is valuable in the NBA?
SI.com's Seth Davis offers up a collective scouting report on 40 of this year's draft prospects. Player breakdowns include:
– "Kyrie Irving, 6-4 freshman point guard, Duke. Just a great kid. He has only an 11-game body of work, but he has an incredible ability to get in the lane. He's a pass-first point guard, but he can also score. He's not a freak athletically like Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook. His game is more of the Chris Paul variety, but I don't know if he'll be that good. His lateral mobility is probably his biggest question."
Welcome back to Miami, Jack McKeon. On Sunday, Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez resigned just before the team was to take on the Tampa Bay Rays. The Marlins had kicked off June with a 1-17 mark and a nine-game losing streak (10 with their 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay).
SI.com's Jon Heyman reports that McKeon, who helped the team claim the 2003 World Series title, was offered the job. But what prompted Rodriguez to make an abrupt exit? Given a one-year contract with low pay under an owner notorious for axing managers, Rodriguez's exit might not be all that surprising.
"Rodriguez was 78-85 as manager since taking over for Fredi Gonzalez in late June 2010," SI.com's Joe Lemire wrote. "One has to imagine that, if Rodriguez had a longer-term contract or if he worked in a more stable environment, he might have stuck around longer before turning in his resignation."
It almost fell apart - again - for the Miami Heat on Sunday at Dallas' American Airlines Center. There were glimmers of that Game 2 Mavericks comeback, but as Chris Bosh sank a 16-foot jumper with 39.6 seconds left, Dallas' hopes of taking a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals slowly faded.
With less than five seconds left on the clock in Sunday's Game 3, Dallas big man Dirk Nowitzki couldn't shake a tough Miami defense, and he missed what would have been a game-tying shot, sealing Miami's 88-86 win. SI.com's Ian Thomsen explains that the back and forth battle bodes well for both teams as the series moves to Game 4 on Tuesday.
"Neither team can feel secure, and yet both have reason for optimism after Game 3," Thomsen writes. "The Mavs have two remaining home games that may yet send them back to Miami needing just one win to celebrate their first championship. James has shot a scant 10 free throws in three games, and yet he was increasingly aggressive while dunking off the dribble either in transition or the half court. Nowitzki had a splendid 34 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, and if he could just realize more production from his teammates - who went 17-for-49 and for a second straight game watched him score all their points down the stretch (the last 12 this time) - a tight loss like this could turn into a steadying Dallas victory Tuesday in Game 4."
It took 69 shots and more than two hours, but when all was said and done the Stanley Cup finals opener went to the Canucks, courtesy of a last-minute goal by Raffi Torres. Vancouver beat the Bruins 1-0 at home and as SI.com's Sarah Kwak explains, an improved third period paved the way for the Canucks Game 1 victory.
"In a cleaner third period, Vancouver seemed to play better without the interruptions and distractions that come with taking penalties,” Kwak writes. “The whistles were active early, and the animosity took no time to develop between the two teams that have met just three times in the last three years. Little history, but no lack of dramatics."
Perhaps the most dramatic moment of Game 1 came early during a post-first period brawl, when Canucks winger Alexandre Burrows was seen biting down on Bruins center Patrice Bergeron's finger. Burrows denied the incident, despite Bergeron sporting a bandage on his finger after the game.
Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks (9:00 p.m., ET) – A torn tendon in his finger isn't expected to hinder Mavs' star Dirk Nowitzki when the team heads into Game 2 of the NBA Finals Thursday night. Miami leads the series 1-0.
Led by Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks sealed the deal and sent the Thunder packing Wednesday night with a 100-96 win in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. Though Oklahoma City won't get a shot at the title, it certainly didn't go down without a fight. As SI.com's Chris Mannix explains, the Thunder fought to a three-point lead going into halftime but ultimately were outmatched by a better, more experienced Dallas squad.
"Oklahoma City will learn from this experience," Mannix writes. "(Kevin) Durant will learn how to play through contact, how to not let players push him off his spot. (Kendrick) Perkins will shed 15 pounds and regain the mobility he lost dealing with multiple knee injuries. Serge Ibaka will take the lessons learned from defending Nowitzki, and Zach Randolph in the conference semis, and come back in the fall a better player. (James) Harden will be a year older, a year wiser and that syrupy shooting stroke of his isn't going anywhere."
If Sunday night was any indication of what the Bulls have to contend with for the remainder of the Eastern Conference finals, now may be a good time to start worrying.
Chris Bosh put up an impressive 34 points in Miami's 96-85 win over the Bulls and showed he has much more to offer than just his strength on defense. As SI.com's Ian Thomsen explains, Bosh not only delivered Miami a 2-1 lead in their series against the Bulls, but answered critics who dismissed him as the least of The Big Three.
The Heat certainly aren't going down without a fight - and they proved that Wednesday night in a 85-75 victory over the Bulls. In the first few minutes of Game 2, the Heat seemed to have learned little from their first Eastern Conference final loss. But then came Udonis Haslem.
As SI.com's Ian Thomsen explains, Haslem wasn't a sure-fire answer to what was shaping up as a repeat performance of the Heat's Game 1 loss.
"Was he [ready]? No one could be sure," Thomsen writes of Haslem. "Not until he began to change the game, shouldering it and levering it and bodying up against the season-long trends that the Bulls had created and finally compelling them to swing the other way. Miami's 85-75 Game 2 victory Wednesday was won on the boards, in the paint and in transition, which is where Haslem used to thrive, and where he thrived now again. And not a game too late for the Heat."
But when all was said and done, Haslem's 13 points, five rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal in the course of 23 minutes - combined with LeBron James' 29 points and Dwyane Wade's 24 - proved to be a critical factor in the Heat's victory. With the series tied 1-1, expect Sunday's Game 3 match-up at American Airlines Center to be a hard-fought battle between Miami and Chicago.
With two dunks to kick off the NBA's Eastern Conference finals, the Miami Heat looked poised to dominate the Derrick Rose-led Bulls on Sunday.
Needless to say, things didn't go as planned.
As SI.com's Ian Thomsen explains, in a 103-82 rout of Miami, the Bulls flexed their defensive muscles early and capitalized on less-than-stellar performances from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to win Game 1.
"This was an embarrassing performance for a pair of stars who pride themselves on team play," Thomsen writes. "The Heat's minus-5 assist-to-turnover difference (11 to 16) was written in fire-engine red ink. James and Wade shared equal blame in a combined eight turnovers, one fewer than Chicago as a team. The Bulls have now won all four games this season against Miami, and this was their most important and emphatic victory. It was a triumph of team play against two individuals."
It probably wasn't the way Phil Jackson hoped to end his run with the Los Angeles Lakers, but don't think for one second that his legacy is tarnished. The 65-year-old coach sat nearly helpless as his team fell apart Sunday night, giving the Dallas Mavericks a four-game sweep. But, as SI.com's Jack McCallum explains, Jackson's impact on the NBA and his accomplishments as a coach are virtually unmatched, despite a lackluster playoff performance by the defending champions.
"We have to assume that this exit is permanent (he swears it is), and so does the 65-year-old Jackson exit having fallen short of his fourth three-peat," McCallum writes. "Of course, using falling short in conjunction with Jackson's career is just wrong, and not just because he stands 6-foot-8 and seemed taller than that when he was walking with two good hips and two good knees. Jackson won 70 percent of his regular-season games and 69 percent of his playoff games, and there is the small matter of his 11 championship rings. That makes him perforce the most successful coach in NBA history (no objective argument to the contrary is possible), and I would argue that he is also the best."
If you're the Los Angeles Lakers, now might be a good time to start worrying. With their second-consecutive Western Conference semifinals loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the reigning champions are looking less and less likely to deliver possibly departing Phil Jackson his 12th NBA title.
As SI.com's Sam Amick explains the Mavs' 93-81 rout of the Lakers was not simply the result of another lackluster performance from forward Pau Gasol. Or a virtually nonexistent defense that did little to stop the charges of Mavs point guard J.J. Barea. Instead, the toll of the playoffs could finally be catching up to L.A. "The Lakers continue to downplay the fatigue factor, not only from this season in which the target remained firmly on their back, but also the miles logged from three straight trips to the Finals," Amick writes. "Whatever the reason, the mountain of evidence against them is now taller than Bynum and Gasol combined."
While it's too early to completely rule out a Lakers comeback, if Games 1 and 2 were any indication, Los Angeles has its work cut out for it if the team is going to reconceptualize its defense, utilize a far more pass-driven offense and stage an impressive comeback.
Up tonight: Vancouver Canucks vs. Nashville Predators (8:30 p.m., ET) - In Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals, the Canucks are hoping that a home-ice advantage could be just what they need to tie up the series.
The bane of Los Angeles' existence as of last night: Chris Paul.
The New Orleans Hornets point guard and his team managed an astonishing 93-88 win against the Lakers, tying his team's series with the reigning champs. Sans leading scorer David West, the Hornets managed to capitalize on its pick-and-roll game with Paul racking up a game high 27 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists. As SI.com's Mark Haubner writes:
"This night in New Orleans was all about Paul. In the first half, the Hornets played less pick-and-roll than we've seen. They looked to get everyone involved with more of a motion game, and Paul was content to play facilitator, with four points on just three shots and nine assists. In the second half, New Orleans re-emphasized its pick-and-roll game, and its floor leader took over."
A crucial Game 2 victory for the Lakers came courtesy of the team's Sixth Man Award winner, Lamar Odom. With 16 points against the New Orleans Hornets, Odom proved exactly why he deserved the accolade. As SI.com's Lee Jenkins explains, while Odom has been widely criticized for his inconsistency and off-court distractions, he displayed incredible skill when it mattered most - particularly on a quiet night for stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
"The reality show, the cologne, the billboards featuring Odom and [Khloe] Kardashian make him an easy target, both inside the locker room and out," writes Jenkins. "But Odom remains the most popular Laker, beloved by teammates for his genial nature and generous spirit, which made it impossible for him to stew over his demotion two years ago. Because Odom was willing to come off the bench, the Lakers could start Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, keeping all three pillars of their dominant frontcourt. Although Gasol was as ineffective in Game 2 as he was in Game 1 - he is now 4-for-19 in the series - Bynum and Odom combined for 33 points and 18 rebounds. The Lakers, who were improbably outscored in the paint in Game 1, finally exploited their stark size advantage."