Housecleaning time: Clips, links and e-mail

We're long overdue for some major housecleaning (links, e-mails and follow-up thoughts), but before we get to that, I have three thoughts from the weekend, including one about "The Sopranos," so get ready for a spoiler alert:

1. It seems like the Pistons have reached a fatal point -- they've gone as far as they can go with their current nucleus, they can't retool with lottery picks or major free agents, and they're probably going to get 10-15 percent worse every year unless they blow things up and head in another direction. Right now, they're a pretty good team that finished better than they should have because the East was so crappy this season; they're coming off a series in which a flawed Cavs team conceivably could have swept them 6-0 if two plays had gone differently; and they were blown out in consecutive our-season-on-the-line games (never a good sign). They don't have the right personnel for the Nash-era NBA, they don't get fast-break points, they don't have anyone who can create slash-and-kick baskets ... I mean, do you realize that the biggest lead they had in that entire Cavs series was eight points?

Clearly, they need to move Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace -- both of whom should have significant value to younger teams looking for one veteran to get them over the hump -- then build around Hamilton (who has a team-friendly contract), Tayshaun Prince (ditto), Jason Maxiell, Amir Johnson (major sleeper), the 15th pick in the 2007 draft and whatever they can get for Billups and 'Sheed (whether it's young players, picks or cap space). It's the only move. For instance, let's say they make the following moves:

A. Sign-and-trade Billups to the Clippers for Corey Maggette, Sam Cassell (expiring contract) and the 14th pick.

B. Deal Wallace (two years and $26 million remaining on his deal) in a three-way trade in which 'Sheed goes to Washington, Antawn Jamison (expires in 2008) goes to Portland and Zach Randolph goes to Detroit. ... Or they could just deal 'Sheed for Jamison straight up if they wanted the cap space.

The other option? Re-sign Billups, hope McDyess and C-Webb come back, hope to get lucky at No. 15 with the likes of Rodney Stuckey, and waste their entire free agent exemption on this year's Nazr Mohammed. Face it, Detroit -- your window to win another NBA title this decade, for all intent and purpose, closed for good on Saturday night. As Greg from Detroit pointed out in a "we need to blow it up" e-mail last night, "Please help us, we have officially become the Atlanta Braves of the NBA."

2. Speaking of windows, the Red Sox left the window slightly ajar in Fenway by giving away that Yankee game -- first, Lugo gives away an insurance run with the dumbest slide of the season, then Paps leaves an 0-2 fastball over the plate to A-Rod in the ninth. Bad loss. Believe me, I'm not panicking ... it just seemed like they were one more win away from ramming a giant pitchfork into the Yanks. No matter how many problems they're having, the Yankees are like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees in that you never feel totally comfortable until you see their heads get chopped off. You don't want to leave them "bleeding to death" but breathing. You just don't.

3. Wait ...


All right ...

Sunday's episode was so tense, I almost started smoking again. Unbelievable. But why am I terrified that Paulie Walnuts is in cahoots with Phil Leotardo? Doesn't it seem fishy that Phil went after Tony, Silvio and Bobby but ignored Paulie, or that Paulie was in charge of Phil's whacking but it got "screwed up"? I'm fearing the Paulie backstab-out-of-nowhere, as scripted by Vince McMahon.

By the way, I enjoyed this e-mail from Kevin P. in Austin, Texas: "In regards to tonight's second-to-last episode of 'The Sopranos,' I truly believe A.J. finally surpassed Fredo as the most sniveling and pathetic Mafia-related family member of all time. He was on the cusp in the last episode but I felt he officially grabbed the reins tonight at approximately 8:46 CT."

One more thing: Between the "Lost" finale and the way the "Sopranos" is wrapping up, it's hard to remember a greater stretch of TV. Two of the 10 greatest TV shows ever slinging 99-mph heat at the same time. Fantastic.


All right, time for some long overdue clips and links:

1. Eugene from San Antonio is trying to turn me into an alcoholic: "Check out this article that appeared in the San Antonio Express News on Sunday. David Robinson actually considered not signing with the Spurs to wait for Boston or L.A.!"

(P.S.: I'm a huge fan of Robinson as a person and believe he's one of the best role models in the history of professional sports ... but wow, has there ever been a dumber decision than Robinson not just waiting two years and putting himself in the open market instead of signing with the Spurs just to pick up an extra $1 million per year for two years? If he liked them that much, couldn't he have waited two years, gotten an insurance policy to cover the contract he could have gotten, allowed the open market to drive up his price and signed with them then? ESPN needs to create a show called "The Top 50 worst business decisions in sports history." That's a lock for the top five.)

2. From the YouTube files ...

• Kelly from Baltimore: "One man's interpretation of the Yellow Ledbetter lyrics."

• An anonymous Kansas Jayhawks fan: "If this brawl were to happen today, all that would be televised is the negative influences of pop culture, thugs in the NBA (well, this was college) and such. But videos like this show that nasty stand-clearing brawls are nothing that's unique to the post-1990 era."

• Ken from Tarzana: "Check out a classic cameo by David Letterman on 'Mork and Mindy.'"

• Luke from Richmond: "If you have a YouTube account, check out this clip from a movie called 'Undefeatable.' (Note: the clip can only be accessed by 'mature users' for some reason but it's totally fine.) I had to cover my mouth I started laughing so hard at work. Its pretty high on unintentional comedy. One of the best slow motion punches ever."

• Josh from Brooklyn: "Funny link to my twin friends playing the theme song to '90210' on the same guitar ... described by some as incestuous homoeroticism, but it invokes a few smiles. Pop culture at its finest."

• From Sully in Boston: "This is absolutely classic. I haven't seen acting this bad since Mike Brown playing the role of coach for Cleveland."

• KRob in Santa Cruz, Calif.: "In your LeBron article on Friday, you made a small reference to Pele. Whenever my friends and I start getting into the argument of the greatest athlete of all-time, I have one friend that drops the Pele hammer, hard, every time. I didn't really take him seriously until I saw this. Now I drop the Pele hammer as well ... hard. I highly recommend watching the whole 10 minutes."

• Jordan H. in Elmira, N.Y.: "Had to write in about that Johnnie Morton fight! I couldn't stop laughing because it was so funny (here is the link if you missed it). Watching this makes me think that Jay Leno could have knocked him out after Johnnie called Jay out after the Lions won a game that year."

• Josh from San Fran writes, "Check out the Top Moments in NBA Draft Lottery history on (scroll down to the bottom). It's an instant classic. My favorite part is No. 10, when it takes Elgin Baylor a good two seconds to figure out that he just got the No. 1 pick. Doesn't that explain his career in a nutshell? Also, we get Jerry Krause's epileptic fit when he got the Elton Brand pick (No. 8) and everyone around him begins to retreat. We have the look of horror on Jerry West's face when losing out on LeBron (No. 5)."

(Note: I forgot how hilarious Krause's reaction was. One of the all-time funniest NBA moments. Watch that 20 straight times and see if you're still not giggling on No. 20.)

4. Speaking of the lottery, before the tragedy of 5/22, Josh from New Castle e-mailed an article containing details from every lottery the Celtics have ever participated in. What a grisly list. I loved that we sent Kenny Anderson for the draft that ended up getting Jerome Moiso. Perfect. Also loved the desperation of sending Milt Palacio in 2001 because he hit that miracle shot against the Nets. Somebody needs to come up with a "Top-25 Worst Ideas For Lottery Representative" list.

5. The readers seem to be split on how we should name LeBron's Game 5 performance. Old friend Jason Whitlock sold me on "LeBron's 48 Special" but a host of readers think it should either be called "LeBron's 29 for 30" or "LeBron's Leap." Maybe we should make this an poll.

While we're here, two leftover Game 5 e-mails:

• Dave F. in Brooklyn: "That performance was truly insane. I was sitting in my living room giggling. It was like one of those kung fu movies in which Bruce Lee is fighting 30 guys, but they only send one at a time for some reason."

• Jake in Vegas: "One of the things you didn't point out was TNT panning the Palace crowd during their postgame show. The looks on the faces of the Pistons fans is the one thing that I think I will always remember about the game. I've never seen anything like it in sports. They were COMPLETELY shell-shocked, just sitting there with blank looks on their faces like they had just survived a back-alley encounter with Keyser Soze. And its not like this was even the series-clinching win, either. Most times when they show the fans of the losing team after a tough home loss, they are either trying to ward off the trash-talking from the opposing teams' fans or just trying to make their way out to their cars. The Pistons fans just sat there like they didn't want to go home so they wouldn't have to go to bed with nightmares of King James dancing through their heads."

And just for kicks, a postgame e-mail from Game 6 from Brandon in L.A.:

"I love the NBA. Can you think of any other avenue in life in which a 22-year-old black kid from Akron, Ohio, would excitedly jump in the air and lovingly embrace for a good 20 seconds a 7-foot-3, 31-year-old from Lithuania?"

6. Speaking of Bron, Kevin from Cleveland passed this along: "Here's a link from the News-Herald, a local paper just east of Cleveland, in which sportswriter Roger Brown puts you at No. 3 on the list of the six people who have done the most damage to their reputations since the Cavs-Pistons series. Here's what he wrote:

"Simmons spent months ripping and mocking James as an overhyped fraud -- and gained lots of national attention in the process. But after James' historic Game 5 performance, Simmons scrambled to save face in embarrassing fashion. He wrote a column on LeBron that was more slobbering and fawning than a 13-year-old girl writing a fan letter to Justin Timberlake."

Sorry, I have to respond to this one. First of all, if Roger can produce anything I've ever written that called him LeBron an "overhyped fraud," I will send him a $200 check to double the salary that the News-Herald is paying him every week. I think he has me confused with Charley Rosen.

Second, I love the idea that me "ripping" LeBron gained me national attention ... really? From who? Did I happen to be in a coma at the time? I criticized him in my Anna K. column from Miami (and rightfully so, Bron mailed in a game on national TV); my All-Star column from Vegas (where Bron's lack of enthusiasm for the season was a major topic, and if you don't believe me, check out the column by Brian Windhorst from March once LeBron started playing hard again, and this from a writer who's covered LeBron for his entire career); when LeBron made the absurd "global icon" comment; and a couple of times during the playoffs when Bron-Bron didn't seem properly enthused by the proceedings (and he wasn't). I don't regret a single thing I wrote about LeBron in the past year. Everything still stands.

And third, before Game 5 of the Detroit series, I picked the Cavs to win in 6 and wrote an extended section about LeBron showing signs of turning the corner and getting it in Games 3 and 4, to the point that I had my hopes up for Game 5 because there was a chance something truly special might happen. Here's the exact quote:

"The fact remains, No. 23 happens to be the only interesting thing about this painfully disjointed Pistons-Cavs series. ... Like many others, I'm looking forward to Game 5 solely because of LeBron. Like many others, I want him to shift into fifth gear, hush the crowd, rip Detroit's heart out and make the Vivid Video face after everything's said and done. Like many others, I will be disappointed if this doesn't happen."

Bottom line: If you're going to rip another writer, make sure you've actually read the guy first.

While we're here, my ESPN colleague Colin Cowherd mocked my seven trade scenarios for Kobe on the radio last week without reading the entire column or even attempting to understand its premise, namely, that the trade options for Kobe were limited because (A) he needed to go to a big market for a team that could contend right away, and (B) nobody pays 100 cents on the dollar for a team looking to unload an unhappy superstar.

And if that wasn't bad enough, Cowherd embarrassed himself by not understanding basic NBA trading principles like "it would be valuable for L.A. to swap Vlad Radmanovic's contract for Bobby Sura's expiring contract in a T-Mac/Kobe deal because Sura's contract expires in 2008, which would buy them some cap space down the road."

Look, I know the radio business lends itself to hosts lazily skimming other people's columns and blogs ... but seriously, Colin, in the words of Mark Jackson, you're better than that. Your show's on for three hours a day and you get four giant commercial breaks per hour. That leaves you plenty of time to research your segments so you don't come off as misinformed. No offense.

7. All right, how did I miss this? How did I miss this???? Anthony from Gloucester, N.J., explains:

"I doubt you caught the Reebok Grand Prix on CBS this past Sunday. Track and field is only exciting every four years for the Olympics -- except when Gus Johnson takes the helm. I watched him call the 110-meter hurdles for some guy named Liu Xiang (apparently the best hurdler in the world). Gu-Jo got me on my feet and the race lasted only 13 seconds. Just another example of how CBS has the X-Factor over the other networks when it comes to sports telecasts."

Speaking of missing things, I can't BELIEVE nobody sent me this clip before a few days ago -- it was like finding out that there's another view of Shannon Tweed's nude scene in "Hot Dog: The Movie" or something. Patrick R. from Holyoke, Mass., explains:

"Inexplicably, this YouTube clip has less than 10K views, but it's a treat -- silent footage from right-center of the Roberts steal, steady as it has to be and no less fun for the passage of time."

(Note: Isn't there a way for someone to take that video, then match it with the audio of the game?)

8. After getting sent roughly a kajillion A-Rod jokes and e-mails over the past few days, the one I enjoyed the most was a relatively simple e-mail from New York reader Bjorn C.:

"I don't know if you've been following the whole A-Rod strip club scandal, but this quote from the New York Daily News (which put on its investigative hat and interviewed strippers at A-Rod's favorite clubs) absolutely made my day:

"A petite stripper at the Hustler Club said A-Rod 'likes the she-male, muscular type.'"

"Oh man. That's hilarious. I'm gonna paste it again.

"A petite stripper at the Hustler Club said A-Rod 'likes the she-male, muscular type.'"

"Somehow, this never stops being funny."

(Couldn't agree more. We're about 40 months away from seeing A-Rod re-enact Eddie Murphy's 5:30 a.m. "just being a good samaritan" car ride in Hollywood.)

9. Well, I've been pushing for a TV show with Corey Feldman and Corey Haim since 2002 (scroll down to the Corey Haim section) ... and I'm not sure what's more incredible, the fact that they're both still alive, or that it's finally happening.

(Speaking of old columns, Jake from NYC read my running diary of the 2002 Spelling Bee and points out that the famous "euonym" moment that I wrote about in that column has now been immortalized on You Tube.)

10. Kudos to Lissa in Attleboro for digging up LeBron's Bo Jackson shot from 2006 that I mentioned in Friday's column: "Your description made me go looking for the video. I think you owe it to all your fans to share it; and please, please give me credit so I can brag to my boyfriend that I got published by the SG before he did!!! Clip starts after the commercial, 46 seconds in."

11. Jared B. in New York wonders, "I don't know if you've mentioned this, but did you ever look at how many guys are on the payroll for 2006-07 for the Philadelphia 76ers and not playing for them? They are paying Chris Webber, Jamal Mashburn, Todd MacCulloch, Aaron McKie and Greg Buckner. For a total of $45 million, too. There has got to be some kind of conspiracy theory here how Billy King still has a job."

12. Some dopey-but-fun links:

• Dan from Chapel Hill, N.C.: "I send this baby name site to all my friends who are expecting. It's fascinating."

• Nick Holle from Minneapolis: "What did Ray Allen say when he heard about Kobe's trade demands today? Hint: It starts with 'I' and ends with 'told you so.'"

• A million people sent me this and it's been floating around the Web for a solid week, but in case you missed it somehow, Noah from Indiana explains: "'This package includes: A one-hour coaching session with the New York Knicks head coach, Isiah Thomas, at Madison Square Garden.' Are you kidding me? Shouldn't they just call this 'Learn how to sabotage your AAU or high school team in one hour or less.'"

• Really enjoyed this link from Lindsey in K.C.: "I know you like Joe Posnanski so here is a GREAT column he wrote about Bo Jackson. I got chills a few times remembering some of those things he did!"

• More good reading: Tim McG from Evendale writes, "In case you haven't seen it yet, good article on the sub-culture of Dunkin' Donuts." And Mike in N.J. adds, "As a baseball fan, I thoroughly enjoyed this feature about Kerry Wood. As a Cubs fan, it made me throw up in my mouth a little."

This feature on Durant/Oden made me think that it's not a lock Oden goes first. Hmmmmmmmmm.

• From Mike in Boston: "You have to include this in your links section. I wish I could say this was a joke, but what a spin job by the Hawks. Do their fans really believe this!?!?"

• Had to pass along this N.Y. Daily News report on Hal Steinbrenner (George's youngest son) potentially taking over the Yankees because of the overwhelming Vito Corleone/Michael Corleone parallels.

I never wanted this for you ... you were supposed to be Senator Steinbrenner, Governor Steinbrenner ...

• Finally, ESPN Books released an "uncyclopedia" called "23 Ways to First Base" by Neil Fine and Gary Belsky. Two whopping disclaimers: First, ESPN Books published my Red Sox book, and second, Neil Fine has been editing my magazine column for the past five years. Could you perceive a major conflict of interest here? Yes. Absolutely. But they mailed me this book last week and I was thinking, "Crap, now I have to think of a way out of plugging this thing without hurting anyone's feelings because there are too many conflicts here" ... and then I started thumbing through it and realized within about three minutes that it's one of the top-10 toilet books of all-time.

I can't even really properly describe the book other than to tell you that ...

A. It's an absorbing and valuable collection of relatively useless/helpful sports information -- stuff like "What are the lyrics to the Canadian National Anthem?" and "Who were all the No. 1 baseball picks since they started the draft?" and "What were the names of every player on 'The White Shadow'? and even "What are the best percentages for Texas Hold 'Em hands?"

B. The book has a hard cover, but it's compact, which means it fits perfectly on the top of any toilet. Just trust me, it's useful for this purpose.

C. I'd never recommend something that costs money unless I thought it was worth it.

So there you go. Buy the book, don't buy the book, I don't care. Just telling you that I liked it.