If Momma James plays, Cavs could win it all

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

How do you judge success in college sports? Well, postseason appearances are a good place to start. If this year's Wolf Pack baseball team qualifies for a regional, it will be the first school year since 1996-97 that the big three of men's sports (no, we're not talking about you, golf and tennis) all went to the postseason. Of course, baseball has the toughest road. Those guys actually have to win something important (the Western Athletic Conference Tournament next week) to get invited. Football didn't even need a winning record to go to its postseason party last season and the NCAA had to invent a new tournament to include the Pack basketball team this year. But, hey, the postseason is the postseason just the same, even if nobody watches. It's been a good year up on North Virginia Street.

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Pack baseball coach Gary Powers is coming close to another amazing milestone. The Douglas High graduate is just eight victories away from career victory 800. It could happen next week at the WAC Tournament. It's about time that Powers gets credit for being one of the greatest coaches in university history. Nobody has coached longer or won more games than Powers. He kept the baseball program from being demolished in the mid-1980s and turned it into a national power in the late 1990s. Let's not forget that Powers and his staff have had to recruit kids in a warm-weather sport to a place where it regularly snows in April. His baseball team has been as consistent as any at the university since he took over the program in 1983.

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It's about time baseball starts to get a little respect at the university. Just eight baseball players have been named to the Wolf Pack Hall of Fame and just three of those - Fred Dallimore, Rob Richie and Jim Stassi - played only baseball at the school. We should be headed toward a flurry of Pack baseball players named to the Hall. Andy Dominique is already eligible. Corky Miller will be eligible this fall. Lyle Overbay and Justin Martin will be eligible in 2009. Joe Inglett, Ryan Church, Don Price and Matt Ortiz will be eligible in 2010. Darrell Rasner will be eligible in 2012. That's a good place to start.

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Did you see LeBron James' mommy jump out of her seat to protect her baby son this week from the Boston Celtics? Momma James was upset that the Boston Bullies fouled little LeBron particularly hard. She was ready to fight the whole team. It seems that the Cavaliers should have gone out and got Momma James to play power forward in mid-season instead of Ben Wallace.

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It's official. The New England Patriots' Spygate is the most overblown, meaningless story in NFL history. And that is saying something. Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector, though, wants an independent investigation into the matter. OK, it's official. Spector is now the most overblown, meaningless politician in the history of politics. And that is really saying something.

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Here's hoping that Dan Gustin finds a way to get back into the Wolf Pack broadcasting booth on a regular basis sometime in the near future. Listening to Pack events on the radio without hearing Gustin's voice will be like watching the Pack wearing red uniforms. Maybe more than anyone else connected to the university in the last 30-plus years, Gustin was Wolf Pack sports. Gustin was not simply a talking head reading off a stat sheet and a roster. When you listened to him, you truly felt he cared about the Silver & Blue. He will truly be missed.

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What is going on with the top female athletes in professional sports? The best women's tennis player, Justin Henin, retires at 25-years-old a day after Annika Sorenstam announces she is quitting golf. Tennis player Kim Clijsters quit last year at just 23-years-old. Could you imagine Tiger Woods just walking away from golf? Adrian Peterson saying good-bye to football? Chris Paul leaving basketball? Ryan Howard quitting baseball? Maybe women just understand there is more to life than sports and making millions of dollars. Nah, that can't be it.

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The trend now in baseball is to lock down your young stars to lucrative deals before they reach free agency. The Tampa Bay Rays have already done it with three of their phenoms - Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Evan Longoria. It sure is great to be a young star in baseball, isn't it? You can get millions for signing a contract right out of high school and then get even more after playing a year or two in the big leagues. It's no wonder why winning a championship ranks about No. 45 on the top 50 things players care about.

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We still like the Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers to get to the NBA Finals. Unless, of course, Momma James throws on a uniform tonight in Cleveland. The winner? The team that somehow manages to win a road game.

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It sure was heartwarming to see Douglas grad Shawn Estes beat the Chicago Cubs this week. Estes has battled his way back to the big leagues after missing much of the last two years. His performance was just a reminder that the left-hander was the best high school pitcher in Northern Nevada over the last 20 years. This area has enjoyed a lot of great pitchers in the last two decades but nobody was more dominating than Estes.

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You have to be concerned about the New York Knicks hiring of coach Mike D'Antoni. D'Antoni became famous for his "seven seconds or less" philosophy of offense when he coached the Phoenix Suns. When you have Steve Nash at poing guard you can get a good shot in seven seconds or less. With the Knicks, it will take Eddy Curry at least 10 seconds to get across mid-court. And then it will be just three seconds before Stephon Marbury turns the ball over.

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It is usually easy to side with the organization when a player wants to tear up his contract and get a new deal. A contract, after all, is a contract. But in the NFL, a contract isn't worth the price of the ink a player uses to sign his name since only a few deals are guaranteed. If a team can cut a player any time it wants then why can't a player demand to renegotiate his contract? That's why we tend to side with Brian Urlacher in his fight with the Chicago Bears. Urlacher, heading into the sixth year of his 9-year deal, wants more money. The Bears, a team that has yet to be convinced that the forward pass is a real weapon in the NFL, aren't budging. Don't be surprised to find Urlacher in a Patriots uniform in the next year or two.

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