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Monday, June 30, 2008

Rays Win Sixth Game In Seven Tries, First In AL East

Rays 5 - Red Sox 4

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox with first place on the line in the AL East, stuck to playing baseball.

James Shields scattered five hits over 6 1/3 innings and B.J. Upton and Gabe Gross homered, helping the Rays remain unbeaten at home against the Red Sox with a 5-4 victory that hiked their lead to 1 1/2 games in the division.

The Rays (50-32), surprising owners of the best record in baseball, have won six of seven and shrugged off a six-game losing streak to Boston, which is 6-0 against Tampa Bay at Fenway Park but 0-4 at Tropicana Field.

It was the first meeting between the combative division rivals since their much talked about June 5 benches-clearing brawl at Fenway that led to the suspensions of eight players, including Shields (6-5).

Both managers said beforehand that they didn't anticipate any carryover from the melee that ensued after Shields hit Coco Crisp in the leg with a pitch during the second inning of a 7-1 Tampa Bay loss.

"I knew from both sides nothing was going to happen. It was over," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We're professionals, they're professionals, and all that business is in the past."

Shields was suspended for six games for his part in the brawl. This time, he limited Boston to two runs before Tampa Bay's bullpen barely held on to hand the Red Sox their 11th straight one-run road loss.

Grant Balfour bailed the Rays out of a jam in the seventh, and J.P. Howell got the final out of the ninth after Boston scored twice on Brandon Moss' RBI double and Jason Varitek's sacrifice fly off Troy Percival trim the Red Sox deficit to one run.

Percival limped off the mound after appearing to tweak a sore hamstring backing up the plate on Varitek's sacrifice fly. Percival had an animated argument with Rays manager Joe Maddon before leaving.

"Percy was very upset, and I knew he was going to be very upset. He and I go way back, and everything's going to be fine between he and I," Maddon said. "He's been [closing games] for years and I know he wants to be the last man standing, but I have to do what I believe is right at that particular moment."

The 38-year-old closer apologized to the manager.

"I hate coming off the mound in the middle of the inning -- don't like doing it, and it's embarrassing -- but Joe did the right thing. ... I know better than to act like that. The situation got the better of me."

Howell earned his second save in three opportunities when Julio Lugo lined out to shortstop.

J.D. Drew hit his 16th homer for Boston, cutting Shields' lead to 4-2 in the sixth. It gave him 12 homers in June, third-most by a player in Red Sox history behind Jackie Jensen (14 in 1958) and Ted Williams (13, 1950).

James Anthony Shields was born on December 20, 1981 in Newhall, California. He is a major league pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. He bats and throws right-handed. Shields lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, during the off season with his wife, Ryane (nee Barber), and their daughter, Ashtyn. They married in November 2007 in Kauai, Hawaii. Shields is the first cousin of San Francisco Giants Outfielder, Aaron Rowand.

Lowell drove in Boston's first run with a fourth-inning single off Shields, who walked one and struck out five.

The Rays scored four runs off Justin Masterson (4-2), three of them following two-out walks. Upton homered on the right-hander's first pitch of the game, and Gross added a two-run shot after the Boston starter walked Dioner Navarro in the fourth.

A two-out walk to Willy Aybar also proved costly when Carlos Pena followed with a RBI double to make it 4-1 in the fifth. Jonny Gomes drove in what turned out to be the deciding run when he grounded into a force play with the bases loaded in the seventh.

Shields departed after giving up a leadoff single to Lowell and retiring Kevin Youkilis on a soft liner to shortstop in the seventh. Trever Miller walked Moss before Balfour escaped the jam by getting Varitek to foul out to the catcher and Lugo to hit a grounder back to the mound.

Both Varitek and Lowell said they think Tampa Bay has the capability to hang in the division race for the long haul.

"It's no fluke. They're a talented group," Lowell said. "I think a lot of times when you have a lot of young guys, you don't know how they measure up. There's no track record. But I think the talent is there. You've got to respect that."

FYI - Behind Sports

Venus advances, Second Seed Jankovic Loosed In 4th Round

Jelena Jankovic - In Serbian: Јелена Јанковић is a Serbian professional female tennis player born on February 28, 1985, who ranked World No. 3 as of June 23, 2008. Jankovic has reached the singles semifinals of the Australian Open, the French Open, and the U.S. Open. In 2007, she won the mixed doubles title with British partner Jamie Murray at Wimbledon.

WIMBLEDON, England - Second-seeded Jelena Jankovic was ousted in straight sets in the fourth round by Tamarine Tanasugarn on Monday, leaving the women's draw without its top three ranked players.

Jankovic's 6-3, 6-2 loss means that none of the top three women reached the quarterfinals — the first time that's happened at a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era. No. 1 Ana Ivanovic and No. 3 Maria Sharapova were upset last week.

Playing with her left knee heavily strapped, Jankovic was never in serious contention against the 60th-ranked Tanasugarn. The 31-year-old Thai, playing in her 12th consecutive Wimbledon, also was treated for a lower back problem during changeovers in the second set.

Defending champion Venus Williams, meanwhile, beat Russian teenager Alisa Kleybanova 6-3, 6-4 to move closer to another potential final against sister Serena.

Williams, a four-time Wimbledon winner, nearly squandered a 5-1 lead in the second set against the 18-year-old Kleybanova. She lost nine points in a row from her third match point in the eighth game and saved three break points at 5-4 before finally closing it with a backhand volley winner.

Williams played out on Court 2 — nicknamed the "Graveyard of Champions' for its long history of upsets.

Two-time champion Serena Williams was up next on the same court against Bethany Mattek, the only other remaining American in the draw. The sisters also were scheduled to play doubles together on Court 2 later Monday.

FYI - Behind Sports

Pacquiao Will Defend WBC lightweight Title On Nov 8 This Year

The new World Boxing Council lightweight champion Manny Pacquiao is set to defend his title on November 8.

In an interview, Pacquiao said the schedule for his next fight is already set but his next opponent remains unknown.

"Wala pa (kalaban) pero yung date November 8 (There is no specific opponent yet but it would be on November 8)," Pacquiao said.

He said his next fights would depend on the schedule which would be given by his promoter, Top Rank president Bob Arum. He added the decision to go up to the heavier weight division also depends on Arum.

"Depende sa makakalaban kung 140 pounds o 135 pounds (kung aakyat ng weight division). Depende sa (decision) ni Arum. Pwede kung matuloy yung kay Hatton (It will depend on the opponent if I will go to 140 pounds or stay at 135 pounds. It will all depend on Arum. But I can go up if the fight with Hatton will materialize)," Pacquiao said.

Hatton is the International Boxing Organization (IBO) light welterweight champion.

The Filipino southpaw boxing champion said he aims to continue improving on his right hand. I still need to improve my right hand. I will develop my right hand so I can use it more in my fights," Pacquiao said.

At present, Pacquiao is mending his bandaged right hand which was hurt during the fight against David Diaz. It is still swollen but it has no other injuries," Pacquiao said.

Pacquiao stole the WBC lightweight belt from Mexican-American champion Diaz via a ninth-round knockout. With the victory, Pacquiao became the first Asian boxer to win world titles in four weight classes. Pacquiao is also the holder of the WBC super featherweight title. Pacquiao and his team are tentatively set to return to the Philippines on July 4.

Eyeing On The Next Oponent - Who Is Richard Hatton
Richard "Ricky" Hatton - an English boxer, born October 6, 1978, in Stockport, Greater Manchester, England. He is one of the most popular British fighter of all time . He is more commonly known as Ricky The Hitman Hatton.

Hatton a two-time IBF and IBO Light Welterweight Champion, having relinquished the IBF belt, only to step back down to the weight class and beat Juan Urango. He was the WBA Welterweight Champion, but relinquished this title on August 31, 2006. Hatton is also the former WBU, WBA Light Welterweight Champion and WBC, WBA, WBO Inter-Continental Light Welterweight Champion, and current Ring Magazine Light Welterweight Champion.

Hatton was raised on the Hattersley council estate in Hyde, Greater Manchester and trained at the Sale West ABC on the Racecourse Estate. Both his grandfather and father played for Rochdale A.F.C. and Ricky had a trial for the youth team. But Hatton found a local boxing club in Hyde, which he still trains at and found he enjoyed the sport. Hatton's entrance music is the Manchester City club song "Blue Moon" as performed by the band "Supra." Aged 14, Hatton was taken by his uncles Ged and Paul to Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium to watch the second fight between Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank. Hatton joined the family carpet business on leaving school, but after he cut four of his fingers with a Stanley knife, his father made him a salesman to prevent him from losing his fingers.

FYI - Behind Sports

Sunday, June 29, 2008

US Women's Open - Stars Gear Up

Lorena Ochoa (born in Guadalajara, Jalisco on 15 November 1981) is a Mexican golfer who plays on the U.S.-based LPGA Tour and is currently the number one ranked female golfer in the world. As the first Mexican golfer of either gender to be ranked number one in the world, she is considered one of the best Mexican golfers of all time.

EDINA, Minnesota – Lorena Ochoa knows how mentally draining a US Women's Open can be, and the 2008 edition will be perhaps the most challenging of all as she takes on a long course, a retiring star and the woman who beat her to last year's title.

Ochoa, Annika Sorenstam in her last US Women's Open, and defending champion Cristie Kerr will be among the players to watch among the woods of Interlachen Country Club.

"It's one of those tournaments you just take so much out of you that hopefully you can take a week off after the US Open," said Mexican Ochoa, the LPGA Tour's leader and winner of six events — including one major — already this season.

"Just too much thinking and worrying and trying to save pars, and giving yourself some birdie chances that you really want to make. Just a lot of up and down. You need to be prepared," Ochoa said.

Swede Sorenstam is not only preparing for four rounds of long fairways and tiny tilted greens, but for the end of her decorated career that includes first-place finishes at 10 major tournaments.

"You only have so much to give, and I'm coming to a point where it's hard to get geared up other than for big events," Sorenstam said. "I have a lot of patience coming into a tournament. If it goes well, it's easy to stay on top and keep going. But when things are not going so well, it's easy to lose it."

American Kerr lost it last year, but not until after she tapped in the ball for par on the final hole to beat Ochoa by two strokes at Pine Needles. She dropped to her knees and cried, before leaping into the arms of her husband.

Her game is peaking toward the Open again this summer, and she'll try to repeat her feat by maintaining that bring-it-on attitude toward this layout of 6,789 yards, the longest in tournament history.

"This is a golf course you definitely have to respect," Kerr said. "You have to golf the ball around it. You have to execute that game plan as well as you can."

The dogleg 18th hole could be a major source of risk-reward suspense down the stretch. It's a par 5 that measures 530 yards but can be reached in two shots, and Ochoa was among the handful of players who easily cleared the pond with a 5-wood during practice rounds.

Some of the length of the course is negated by the generous assigned par of 73 — including five par-5s. Organizers have also mitigated the difficulty of the elevated, severely undulating greens with conservative pin placement.

"Sometimes caddies, they come and talk to you, 'We really need to be below the hole.' Sometimes they overreact," Ochoa said. "It's OK if you are 2 or 3 feet by; you can make a nice birdie putt. Not on these greens. You really need to pay attention."

There will be plenty of people paying attention to Sorenstam, especially in a state like Minnesota with so many Scandinavian descendants. One house next to the course has hoisted a big banner outside reading "Skol Annika" colored in Sweden's blue and yellow.

"I try to just stay cold about my emotions and focus on what I have to do," Sorenstam said. "But I do know in the back of my mind that when Sunday comes, I will not be playing here any more."

Ochoa figures to participate in many more of these, but she's still looking for her first US Open title. The 26-year-old from Mexico has had a rough couple of weeks, though.

She withdrew from the Ginn Tribute when her uncle died, and later learned after the LPGA Championship that her maternal grandfather passed away. He had been ill for some time, but Ochoa figured she would only be gone a week and have plenty of time to see him again.

"I never really said goodbye ... so that was tough," Ochoa said this week. "He was my joy and motivation."

She is longer than ever off the tee, and while her putting has cost her the past couple of events, she has a Tiger Woods-like drive to constantly improve all facets of her game.

The hardest part now will be blocking out all the potential distractions around her.

"The last few weeks have been rough for me," she said. "I play for a week, and I didn't play. It's been on and off, and I feel that it's important for me to get a rhythm, get my concentration on the golf course, and I'll be ready to play."

FYI - Behind Sports

Germany 0-1 Spain: Torres Spain's Hero - Euro 2008

Fernando José Torres Sanz (born 20 March 1984 in Madrid, Spain) is a Spanish footballer, who plays for Liverpool.

Torres started his career with Atlético Madrid, with whom he progressed through the youth ranks. He made his professional debut in 2001 and finished his career with the club having scored 75 goals in 174 La Liga appearances. Prior to this, Torres played two seasons in the Segunda División, making 40 appearances and scoring seven goals. He joined Liverpool in 2007, after the club paid their record transfer fee to sign him and marked his first season with the club by being their first player to score more than 20 league goals for the club in a season since Robbie Fowler in 1995–96.

He is also a Spanish international and made his debut for the team against Portugal in 2003. He has since participated in three major tournaments; UEFA Euro 2004, 2006 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2008. He was unable to score for Spain during the 2004 tournament, but did so on three occasions in the 2006 World Cup. He has been given the nickname El Niño ("The Kid").

Fernando Torres was the hero for Spain by firing them to Euro 2008 glory against Germany in Vienna - and ending 44 years of underachievement.

Torres struck in the 33rd minute at Ernst Happel Stadion and despite the efforts of Germany skipper Michael Ballack, they held on to their lead to spark wild celebrations in Austria's capital.

Heavyweights in European football who produce a constant stream of individual talents, Spain had not won a major tournament since 1964 but finally shook off their tag of being chokers, not able to cope with the pressure of the highest stage.

They have also been perceived as a nation divided by their regions - the lyrics to their national anthem are not used - but full-back Sergio Ramos had kept mentioning the word "united'' this week, and when Torres secured the Henri Delaunay for them they were just that.

Just shy of his 70th birthday, Luis Aragones will now leave his post as coach, probably for Fenerbahce, as a champion. Vicente del Bosque has been tipped to take over and he will inherit a young squad who have their sights on the World Cup.

While Portugal appeared destabilised by Chelsea announcing Luiz Felipe Scolari as their new coach during these finals, there were no signs of the same happening to Spain following Fenerbahce's statement revealing Aragones as their new boss on the eve of their semi-final.

They finish as the tournament's top goalscorers, helped by Torres who took the Premier League by storm with 33 rookie goals for Liverpool.

He was not on the top of his game for the whole of the tournament, but the 24-year-old stepped into the shoes of David Villa when Spain needed him.

"Viva Espana'' sang their fans before the sangria started flowing.

This was billed as a clash of Germany's efficiency and power versus Spain's fluidity and creativity which were on display as Russia were swept aside in the semi-finals.

Germany's drive came from Ballack, with the Chelsea midfielder passed fit despite carrying a calf injury on the eve of the final.

'Against the odds we will win the trophy', read one headline from a German newspaper on the day of the game - and Ballack was seen as the key to their chances.

They had been inconsistent in the group stages, then stuttered past Turkey after outmuscling Portugal.

Only Ballack's level of performance had been high throughout all of it but he ends the tournament a 'nearly man' again.

Six years ago he missed the World Cup final through suspension just after Bayer Leverkusen missed a trio of chances for silverware.

This season Manchester United pipped him to the Premier League and Champions League - and he finds himself the bridesmaid once more.

Facing Ballack was a Barcelona-bred wall of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas in midfield, with Arsenal's youngster getting his chance following Villa's injury.

But before they were allowed to impose themselves on the game, Germany had already wasted two early chances.

Ramos lost his bearings and gifted a pass straight to Miroslav Klose, whose poor touch let him down as he sped past Carles Puyol - and the opportunity had gone.

Then Thomas Hitzlsperger was teed up on the edge of the area by Klose but could not get purchase on his shot.

Spain started to move through the gears after their double reprieve, never looking back after they were let off the hook.

Their opening chance came after a Xavi pass had split the German defence to find Iniesta on the left. When the cross came over, Christoph Metzelder sliced towards his own goal and Jens Lehmann, the oldest player to feature in a European Championship final, athletically tipped around the post.

The post came to Lehmann's rescue when Torres climbed above Per Mertesacker to meet Ramos' centre - but the Liverpool man was not made to wait long for his goal.

It came 12 minutes before the break when Xavi played the ball beyond Philipp Lahm. The full-back was favourite to clear but Torres used pace and muscle to get around him and chip over Lehmann before celebrating his goal by sucking his thumb.

It could have got worse for Germany had David Silva not volleyed over wildly when found at the far post by Iniesta.

And German fans feared the worst when Ballack was forced off with a cut eye, but he returned after getting the bloodied injury treated twice. He was also booked along with opposing captain Iker Casillas for talking back at the referee.

Spain had chances to make it comfortable after the break, with Lehmann saving from Ramos' header and Iniesta getting a drive cleared off the line.

Their own indiscipline almost cost them when Silva butted his head towards Lukas Podolski - but no card was shown.

Torres was taken off in the 78th minute, with his job already done in waking the sleeping giants of European football.

FYI - Behind Sports

Michael Phelps, Kathryn Hoff Set World Records In 400 IM

Omaha, Nebraska - Michael Phelps set a world record in his first event of the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, touching just ahead of Ryan Lochte to win the 400-meter individual medley in 4 minutes, 5.25 seconds Sunday night.

Katie Hoff matched her former North Baltimore teammate in the 400 IM, taking down the women's mark in 4:31.12. Wearing the high-tech Speedo LZR Racer, Phelps beat his own mark of 4:06.22, set at last year's world championships in Australia when he turned in one of the greatest performances in swimming history with seven gold medals.

After saying he had no fear of Phelps, Lochte proved it by also going under the previous record. But his time of 4:06.08 was only good enough for second with Phelps in the next lane over.

"That was probably one of the most painful races of my life," the winner said. "Everything was left in the pool. I definitely would not have been able to do it without Lochte beside me. He's a great friend and a great competitor. I love racing him."

The 19-year-old Hoff -- playfully described by Phelps as the little sister he never had -- showed no signs of the nervousness that ruined her first trip to the Olympics four years ago. The youngest member of the U.S. team, she was overcome by the moment and threw up on deck after failing to advance from her first event.

All grown up, Hoff dipped under record pace on the breaststroke leg and held on with her freestyle to beat Stephanie Rice's mark of 4:31.46, set in March at the Australian Olympic trials.

"Stephanie really raised the bar when she broke my old record," Hoff said. "I'm just excited for Beijing, and I think it's going to be a really tough challenging race with her."

Like Phelps, Hoff also was wearing the revolutionary Speedo suit, which has been worn for 40 of the 44 world marks set since it was unveiled in mid-February.

"It definitely gave me a few tenths," Phelps said. "At the end, when I was getting a little tired, the suit gave me a little extra edge."

Larsen Jensen, also wearing the LZR, set an American mark in the 400 freestyle in a three-way race to the wall with previous record holder Peter Vanderkaay and Erik Vendt.

Jensen's time of 3:43.53 topped Vanderkaay's mark of 3:43.82, which was set last month in California. Vanderkaay also went lower, touching second in 3:43.73.

Brendan Hansen just missed another world record in the 100 breaststroke semifinals, advancing to Monday's final in 59.24. He holds the mark of 59.13, and nodded his head confidently when he looked toward the scoreboard.

Christine Magnuson was top qualifier in the semis of the 100 fly in 57.50 less than a second off Inge de Bruijn's 8-year-old world record.

Phelps was slightly off world-record pace after the opening butterfly, but he had a body-length lead on Lochte as they switched to the backstroke.

The minus sign indicative of a swimmer under record pace flashed on the board when Phelps made his flip turn on the back, sending the crowd at the Qwest Center into a frenzy. But Lochte was starting to close the gap, and he nearly pulled even as they headed toward the far wall in the breaststroke.

Lochte, a world record holder himself, was less than a second behind at the 300 mark and looked poised to pull off a monumental upset. He and Phelps went at it stroke for stroke over the final two laps, but Phelps never relinquished his lead.

After his arm touched the wall ahead of Lochte's, Phelps looked at the scoreboard, saw the record and thrust his right fist in the air. Then he slapped the water.

Lochte, breathing heavily, grinned as Phelps celebrated. They hugged in the water, and then again on deck while the fans saluted them both with a standing ovation.

"He looked great, and what an epic swim," said Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman. "One of the best swims I've ever seen."

Phelps won six gold medals and two bronzes at the Athens Olympics, just missing Spitz's record of seven wins at the 1972 Munich Games. Phelps who turns 23 on Monday is determined to knock off the mark in Beijing.

Lochte was the top qualifier in the morning prelims.

Who Is Michael Phelps
Michael Fred Phelps III (born June 30, 1985 in Baltimore, Maryland) is an American swimmer who holds World Records in several events. Phelps' achievements include eight medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, six of which were gold, tying the record for medals at a single Olympics, held by Alexander Dityatin since 1980.[5] Phelps's international titles, along with his various world records, have resulted in his being named World Swimmer of the Year four times — in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007. His stroke s are butterfly, individual medley, freestyle, backstroke.

Personal Life
Phelps grew up in the Rodgers Forge neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated from Towson High School in 2003. His father, Fred Phelps, worked with the Maryland State Police and his mother, Debbie Davisson Phelps, is a middle school principal. The two divorced in 1994. Michael has two older sisters, Whitney and Hilary. Both of them were swimmers as well, with Whitney coming close to making the U.S. Team for the 1996 Summer Olympics before injuries derailed her career.

In his youth, Michael was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He started swimming at age seven, partly because of the influence of his sisters and partly to provide him with an outlet for his restless energy. He blossomed quickly as a swimmer, and by the age of 10 held a national record for his age group. More age group records followed, and Michael's rapid improvement culminated in his qualifying for the 2000 Summer Olympics at the age of 15.

In November 2004, Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in Salisbury, Maryland. He pleaded guilty to driving while impaired the following month and was granted probation before judgment and ordered to serve 18 months probation, fined $250, obligated to speak against drinking and driving to high school students, and had to attend a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) meeting.

Between 2004–2008, Phelps attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, studying sports marketing and management. In May 2008, Phelps said he intends to return to Baltimore following the 2008 Olympics, joining Bob Bowman there when he leaves the University of Michigan, saying, "I'm not going to swim for anybody else. I think we can both help the North Baltimore Athletic Club go further. I'm definitely going to be in Baltimore next year." The club has announced that Bowman is leaving the University of Michigan to become the club's CEO.

Who Is Kathryn Hoff
Kathryn ("Katie") Hoff (born June 3, 1989 in Stanford, California) is an American swimmer.

Competitive Career
She trained with Michael Phelps in Baltimore, at North Baltimore Aquatic Club, and is currently trained by Paul Yetter. She holds the American record in the 200 meter individual medley at 2:10.05. She is a strong contender for the 2008 Olympic Games in multiple events. She is best at the 200 and 400 individual medley, though Katie is a very capable swimmer in many events, ranging from any of the four 200s to the 800 free. Katie lost the world record in the 400 meter individual medley to Stephanie Rice in March 2008. However, Hoff reclaimed the world record at the 2008 Olympic trials in Omaha, Nebraska with a time of 4:31.12.

She qualified for the 2004 Summer Olympics, but had a rather disappointing showing in her first Games, placing 7th overall in the Women's 200 metre individual medley and 17th in the 400 metre medley.

At the 2005 World Aquatics Championships, she set a Championships Record for her time of 2:10.41 in the women's 200m individual medley. She received two more gold medals at the competition, one in the 400m medley and the other for the 4x200m freestyle, with teammates Natalie Coughlin, Whitney Myers, and Kaitlin Sandeno.

She retained her 200m individual medley title by winning at the 2007 World Championships setting a new championship record of 2:10.13. She also won gold and set a new world record in the 400m IM, eclipsing Yana Klochkova's the old mark of 4:33.59, with a new standard of 4:32.89. This record was lost to Stephanie Rice on 22 March 2008 at the 2008 Australian Swimming Championships who swam a 4:31.46 shaving 1.43 seconds off Hoff's time. Hoff's previous experience helped her use her "veteran" status to help the most experienced member of the US team, Natalie Coughlin, prepare for their world-record-setting pace in the 4 x 200 m Freestyle Relay at the 2007 FINA World Swimming Championships.

Hoff was born in Stanford, California and lives in Towson, Maryland. Her mother, Jeanne Ruark Hoff, played basketball for Stanford University from 1979 to 1983.

FYI - Behind Sports

Boxing Idol Pacquiao Meets 2008 NBA Champion Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics players showed up and rejoiced over Manny Pacquiao's victory against Mexican-American pugilist David Diaz.

Manny Pacquiao, who was crowned as World Boxing Council’s lightweight champ, was elated by Celtics’ presence, especially by Kevin Garnett who is Pacman’s favorite.

The Celtics, who recently won the NBA finals, reportedly reserved 16 tickets to watch and support Pacquiao in his fight at the Mandalay Events Center.

Immediately after the bout, the cagers went to Pacquiao’s room to congratulate the boxer in getting his fourth world title. The Celtics, among them Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Sam Cassel posed with Pacquiao for a photo shoot.

“Alam mo, sabi ko, bago ako lumaban at natapos ‘yong NBA finals at Celtics and nag-champion, sana ma-imbita ko ang Celtics. Nagkataon na nandito sila sa Vegas, so inimbita ko (sila). Nagpasalamat naman ako na pina-unlakan nila ang imbitasyon ko," he said.

(Before I fought and after the Celtics won at the NBA finals, I was hoping that I could invite the Celtics. It so happened that they were in Las Vegas, so I invited them and they agreed to watch my fight)

Seeing his idols watch his bout was an overwhelming experience for Pacman. Sobra-sobrang saya at nanalo ako at pinanood ako ng mga idol ko (I was so happy my idols watched my fight).

Did Pacquiao ever think that one day he would be on top the world? He said he didn’t. But because he trusted God so much, “binigyan niya ako ng blessings" (he gave me blessings).

FYI - Behind Sports

Lethal Combination - Manny Pacquiao Outspeed David Diaz

LAS VEGAS - The Philippines' Manny Pacquiao, who is now the World Boxing Council's lightweight champ, made his best performance, making his title bout with Mexican American David Diaz, not just a fight but an execution.

Even Pacquiao's trainers said, were awed by his speed, which did not change, but had in fact improved even after he put on some weight to qualify as a lightweight fighter. Speed has been Manny Pacquiao's specialty ever since he was a scrawny 106-pound teenage brawler. When he stepped in the ring weighing 135 pounds on Saturday night, even his trainer wondered whether Pacquiao would lose some of his splendid speed with all that extra bulk.

That theory evaporated with one look at David Diaz's lacerated, bloody face, even before it hit the canvas in the ninth round. Not only did Pacquiao keep his pace while winning the WBC lightweight title with a ninth-round knockout, he got stronger along the way.

What a frightening thought for the rest of the talented lightweight division.

"I feel much, much stronger and more powerful at 135," said Pacquiao, the first Asian boxer to win title belts at four weights. "This is where I plan to stay. I did real well. I was really surprised it wasn't stopped sooner."

After winning a recognized championship fight at his fifth weight - including a nontitle victory over 126-pound king Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003 -- Pacquiao (47-3-2, 35 KOs) definitely has the credentials to qualify as boxing's mythical pound-for-pound champion.

His lightweight debut at the Mandalay Bay Events Center was every bit as action-packed as his long history of brawls at lower weights -- and like most of Pac-Man's victims, Diaz (34-2-1) just couldn't keep that ferocious pace.

Pacquiao was relentless with his right hook, apparently capitalizing on something seen by trainer Freddie Roach in Diaz's defense.

"It was his speed," said Diaz, the game but overmatched champion. "It was all his speed. I could see the punches perfectly, but he was just too fast. He boxed me more than I thought he was going to box. I said to Freddie, 'It's the best I've ever seen him box.' Freddie said, 'Me too. That was our game plan.' "

Three months ago, Juan Manuel Marquez stretched Pacquiao to the limit before losing a split decision in the same ring in perhaps the year's best bout so far.

Pacquiao took much less punishment this time while winning every round on every judge's scorecard, but Diaz was remarkably tenacious in the face of nonstop attacks -- until Pacquiao sneaked home a left hand that dropped Diaz to the canvas.

Diaz, the likable but unlikely champion from Chicago, knew he faced long odds -- 4-to-1 at fight time -- in his second title defense. The former U.S. Olympian hung in despite severe cuts and weary legs that wobbled with each of Pacquiao's big punches.

"His punches are just too fast," Diaz told his corner after the sixth round.

Round 8 and 9 Full Vresion

Diaz's face was dripping blood by then, and both fighters' white trunks were shaded pink by the eighth, when Pacquiao battered Diaz relentlessly. After Pacquiao's decisive punch in the ninth, referee Vic Drakulich stopped the bout before even counting to 10. Pacquiao tugged on Diaz's arm in compassion before leaping onto the ropes in celebration.

Pacquiao threw 788 punches to Diaz's 463, also landing 10 percent more of his blows. Pacquiao jabbed well, with remarkable discipline for an instinctual brawler, but Diaz was hurt most by the 180 power shots that connected.

Pacquiao started fighting as a scrawny 16-year-old in the Philippines, but he grew into a dynamic competitor who won world titles at 112, 122 and 130 pounds. Few of those victories gave Roach more pleasure than this disciplined effort.

"That was beautiful," Roach said. "The game plan was not to stand and trade, because Diaz is too dangerous. The plan was to go in and out, outbox him, do what Manny does best. He did everything that we asked him to do."

Some think Pacquiao's next move could be to bulk up five more pounds for a wildly lucrative fight with England's most popular plugger, Ricky Hatton. Pacquiao seems more likely to stick around to fight other lightweights -- perhaps 130-pound champion Edwin Valero or Humberto Soto, who lost a curious disqualification Saturday in an undercard bout.

"I can fight in November," Pacquiao said. "Who I fight is the job of my promoter [Bob Arum]."

Pacquiao has made his career on a series of exciting brawls with the best Mexican fighters of the post-Julio Cesar Chavez era, going 5-1-1 against Barrera, Erik Morales and Marquez, who lost a supermodel-thin split decision to Pacquiao last March.

Meanwhile, Diaz has made a career out of defying meager expectations, starting with two surprising victories over Zab Judah for a spot on the 1996 U.S. Olympic team. After quitting the sport for nearly two years early in this decade, Diaz earned his title nearly two years ago in a stunning 10th-round knockout of Jose Armando Santa Cruz.

Mandalay Bay was filled largely with Filipino fans, including an overly optimistic man whose sign read, "Pac-Man, Marry Me!"

FYI - Behind Sports

Thursday, June 26, 2008

$43.5 Million Deal As Giants For Chris Snee

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Signing guard Chris Snee as Giants for $43.5 million contract extension to keep young offensive line together to a six-year. The New York Giants guaranteed that their offensive line will stay for the foreseeable future.

Snee, 26, will earn nearly $24 million in the first three years of the deal, agent Tony Agnone said.

The extension will keep the right guard under contract with the Super Bowl champions through 2014.

Since beating the New England Patriots for the NFL title in February, the Giants have locked up three starters on the offensive line. Left tackle David Diehl got a two-year extension last month that will keep him under contract through 2013 and pay him $31 million. Left guard Rich Seubert also got a new contract through 2013.

Right tackle Kareem McKenzie and center Shaun O'Hara are under contract through 2012.

"Chris thought re-signing everyone was important," Agnone said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "They can have a cohesive unit for a while now."

The signing will also keep the family happy. Snee is the son-in-law of coach Tom Coughlin. The Giants rewarded the coach after the Super Bowl with a four-year contract worth $21 million.

"I am just happy to have it done before the season and really just have peace of mind and not worry about it and go out and play," Snee said. "I had faith that it would be done."

A former second-round draft pick, Snee has started all 59 regular-season and six postseason games that he has played for the Giants. The former Boston College product has started 48 consecutive regular-season games. He missed the final five games of his rookie season because of an inflamed gland under his jaw.

"We are very pleased to get Chris extended," general manager Jerry Reese said. "He has been a tremendous player and person for us since day one. It's also very important to keep our offensive line intact."

The Giants scored 373 points, their fifth-highest total in franchise history, last season. New York averaged 134.3 yards rushing, fourth best in the league.

The Giants also acquired guard Kurt Quarterman off waivers from the Atlanta Falcons. He spent most of last season on the Falcons' practice squad.

FYI - Behind Sports

Olympic Bed Of Yao Ming Memorabilia To Be Auctioned

BEIJING - It may be a little long for most people, but the bed Chinese basketball star Yao Ming will use at the Beijing Olympics is going on sale.

The official China Daily newspaper said Thursday that Yao's 7 foot, 6 inch (2.3-meter) bed from the Olympic Village will be just one of the items in an auction of Olympic memorabilia. Online bidding started Wednesday, the newspaper said. About 200 items of furniture such as coffee tables and closets from the village have already been listed, and the auction will include sports equipment, electrical fittings, and even pieces of land.

"This is not the first time Olympic organizers are auctioning memorabilia," Xiong Yan, president of the China Beijing Equity Exchange, who Olympic organizers have authorized to sell the items, was quoted as saying. "But as far as I know, this will be the biggest."

Auctions will take place after the Olympics and Paralympics, the newspaper said. The Olympics are Aug. 8-24 and the Paralympic Games are Sept. 6-17.

Houston Rockets center Yao is one of the most popular athletes in China. He had surgery on his left foot after suffering a stress fracture on Feb. 27, threatening his star turn as part of China's national basketball team at the Olympics.

A top official of China's national basketball team said last week no decision had been made whether Yao will play in an Olympic warm-up tournament next month.

FYI - Behind Sports

Wood Still Remembers 20-K Game After 10 Years

CINCINNATI – Kerry Wood still has vivid memories of his greatest game.

The Chicago Cubs closer remembers everything about the day he struck out 20 batters in his fifth major league start, joining Roger Clemens as the only pitchers to accomplish the feat.

Wood remembers how he felt warming up on May 6, 1998. He remembers how the strikeouts piled up. He remembers certain pitches he threw to certain batters. He remembers what he ate for dinner to celebrate.

"It was one of those days I just had it," Wood said Monday before the start of a series against the Cincinnati Reds. "Very few days stick out like that."

Wood was a 20-year-old rookie when he delivered one of the greatest pitching performances of all-time. He allowed only one hit, a third-inning single by Ricky Gutierrez, in a 2-0 victory over the Houston Astros.

When he fanned Bill Spiers in the ninth for his 19th strikeout, Wood tied the NL record. He struck out Derek Bell to end the game and tie Clemens' major league mark. It wasn't until after the game, when he was being interviewed, that Wood realized he had struck out so many.

Wood finished the 1998 season ranked third in the NL in strikeouts and won the league's Rookie of the Year award. He missed the final month with a sore right elbow, then had reconstructive elbow surgery the next April, starting a run of arm and shoulder problems that undercut his career.

"It's been a roller coaster of good, bad, indifferent – sometimes not even here," Wood said. "I've experienced a lot in Chicago."

Ten years after his greatest game, Wood is the Cubs' closer, something he never envisioned as a possibility when he was a rookie.

"I probably would have said, 'No chance,'" Wood said. "Probably with somebody else at some point in my career, but not with the same team."

Who Is He?
Kerry Lee Wood (born June 16, 1977 in Irving, Texas) is an American baseball player. A right-handed pitcher, he plays professional baseball for the Chicago Cubs. Wood has recorded over two hundred strikeouts in four different seasons between 1998-2003, with a high water mark of 266 K's in 2003. In recent years, he has had three serious arm injuries, and has only started a total of 14 major league games from Opening Day 2005 through the middle of 2006. Wood returned to the Cubs during the 2007 season as a relief pitcher.

Early Life
Wood became a high school phenom while attending Mac Arthur High School in Irving, Texas, for his first three seasons of high school baseball. He continued his domination of batters at Grand Prairie High School in his final season as a high school player.

MLB Records
* Fastest to reach 1000 strikeouts in MLB history (in appearances): 134 games
* Fastest to reach 1000 strikeouts in MLB history (in innings pitched): 853 IP
* Strikeouts in a 9-inning game: 20 on May 6, 1998 (tied record then held by Roger Clemens)

Personal life
Wood is married to the former Sarah Pates of Waukegan, Illinois. The couple has a son, Justin Dean (born 2006). After FOX repeatedly kept showing her reactions in the crowd during playoff games Kerry was starting, he asked that the shots of her in live telecasts be reduced.

FYI - Behind Sports

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Manny Pacquiao Favored To Win Over David Diaz

LAS VEGAS - The World Boxing Council lightweight champion made it from the Olympics to the pinnacle of prizefighting with a firm belief that his fate was in his own hands. He absorbed that philosophy from his parents while they raised nine kids, including baby David, as Mexican immigrants in Chicago.

David Diaz the underdog in this fight clearly isn't the star in Saturday's fight. Wearing shorts that made him look like any young Las Vegas vacationer, Diaz spent several moments at Wednesday's news conference patiently waiting as Manny Pacquiao signed gloves and posed for pictures before the fighters could do their own photo shoot.

Yet Diaz doesn't mind, since he obviously appreciates everything he's earned. He got choked up when he thanked his father, who overcame minimal education and tight financial circumstances to raise nine children in Chicago. "He's my first best friend," Diaz said. "He's the man I look up to. Doesn't read, doesn't write, and he still took care of nine kids. ... He loves boxing like I do. I asked him one time if I could go out and play (American) football, and he said, 'That's a sport for animals.'"

Diaz also is a mid-major sports celebrity in Chicago these days.

Yet even on the verge of an $800,000 (€513,000)-plus payday for taking on Pacquiao, Diaz still drives around Chicagoland in a 1991 car with no air conditioning — or at least he did, until he loaned it to his nephew.

After earning an unlikely berth on the 1996 US Olympic team with that same tenacity, Diaz determined his own fate when he quit boxing for two years — and again when he returned to the sport in 2002. Four years later, Diaz rallied from a heavy deficit for a knockout victory that eventually secured his title belt.

Diaz's life is stuffed with examples of why superstitions should be powerless over him. So why did Diaz want to sprint off the Santa Monica Pier on Monday at the sight of a goat in a Chicago Cubs baseball hat?

Well, because Diaz is also a lifelong Cubs fan who knows just enough about the Curse of the Billy Goat, the 63-year-old jinx that's supposedly keeping his long-suffering club from winning the Major League Baseball title, to be very afraid.

The promoters of his Saturday bout with WBC super featherweight champion Manny Pacquiao for Diaz's lightweight title jokingly recruited the goat to provide color at the news conference, yet Diaz wasn't really laughing.

"Man, that billy goat scared me, dude," Diaz said with a laugh. "Can you imagine if the Cubs start messing up, and that gets around? I'm not having that on my ticket."

Diaz wants nothing more than an honest chance to do the improbable. Pacquiao is a heavy favorite in the Vegas sportsbooks for the Filipino's first fight at 61 kilos (135 pounds), and Diaz is widely expected to struggle against Pacquiao's formidable power.

But it's never been a good idea to count out Diaz — not since he beat favored prospect Zab Judah twice to take the light welterweight spot on the US team in the Atlanta Games. He then posted a stunning comeback win in 2006, falling behind on all three judges' scorecards before knocking out Jose Armando Santa Cruz — a victory that led to his coronation.

"He's had a tremendous career when he's been behind," said promoter Bob Arum, who re-signed Diaz after the fighter's two-year break. "No matter how hopeless it looks, he stays in there and never quits."

Diaz won't acknowledge thinking much about how his life would change if he beat Pacquiao. Jim Strickland, Diaz's longtime trainer and beloved adviser, has said he might finally retire if Diaz wins, though Diaz claims he wouldn't allow it.

And though he claims to have more superstitions than he could mention, Diaz knows the responsibility for beating Pacquiao rests solely on his unimposing shoulders — goat or no goat.

"I have to go out there and perform," Diaz said. "If I don't do it, I'm not going to win. I never thought I'd get the championship, but now that I have it, I don't want to let it go."

FYI - Behind Sports

Manny Pacquiao And David Diaz Now In Las Vegas For Lethal Combination

World Boxing Council (WBC) super featherweight champion Manny Pacquiao and Mexican boxing champ David Diaz are now in Las Vegas in Nevada to prepare for their bout on June 28.

Pacquiao and Diaz were given a warm welcome at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino where the fight dubbed "Lethal Combination" would be held. The report said Pacquiao proceeded to an hour-long workout at the University of Nevada after meeting the media and giving interviews upon his arrival. In the midst of his preparation for the bout, Pacquiao expressed sympathies to the victims of typhoon Frank which hit the country over the weekend.

"Gagawa ako ng paraan, gagawin ko ang aking makakaya upang makatulong sa kanila (I will find ways, I will do everything to help them (victims))," Pacquiao said.

Diaz's World Boxing Council lightweight championship belt is on the line in the fight. Pacquiao will attempt to take Diaz’s championship belt on Saturday night.

Pacquiao (46-3-2, 34 KO’s), who has three championship belts under his name, the most recent being the WBC super featherweight title, decided to move up the 135-pound division to challenge Diaz (34-1-1, 17 KO’s).

For his part, Diaz said he would not let Pacquiao run with the WBC lightweight championship belt.

FYI - Behind Sports

Monday, June 23, 2008

Venus Williams Has 5th Title In Sights At Wimbledon

venus williams tennis wimbledon 5th titleVenus Ebony Starr Williams (born June 17, 1980) is an American professional tennis player, former World No. 1, and the reigning Wimbledon singles champion. Williams has won 14 Grand Slam titles, including 6 in singles, 6 in women's doubles, and 2 in mixed doubles. She also has won Olympic gold medals in the singles and women's doubles events. She is the older sister of fellow former World No. 1 tennis player Serena Williams. The Williams sisters are noted for their power games.

WIMBLEDON, England – Is her fifth Wimbledon title might change her? Wimbledon 2000 was Venus Williams first Grand Slam title, coming off a brief clay court swing after four months out with wrist tendinitis, she beat top-ranked Martina Hingis in the quarterfinals, her sister in the semis and defending champion Lindsay Davenport in the final.

She won the U.S. Open a few months later — replacing Serena as champion — and successfully defended both titles in 2001, giving her four wins in six majors.

Her two Grand Slam triumphs since then have been at Wimbledon, in 2005 — after a stretch of five losing finals to Serena from the '02 French Open to Wimbledon '03 when the Williams sisters were at the peak of their powers — and in '07.

She thinks it might even be more emotional than her first.

"I'm definitely not a crier. I'm the most happiest winner ever," she says, describing the big smile and pirouette that have followed her previous titles, "but maybe I would even cry."

She flashed a smile as she pondered that celebration for a while Sunday at a news conference for the defending champions on the eve of the tournament. Then she quickly snapped back into professional mode.

"But that's so long from now. Two weeks is a long time, especially if it rains. So my main focus is most certainly that first round."

The women's champion will get a Tuesday start on Centre Court against Naomi Cavaday, a British wild-card entry with a No. 199 ranking.

Younger sister Serena was getting the Court 1 program started Monday against Estonia's Kaia Kanepi at the same time as Roger Federer was to start his bid for a sixth consecutive Wimbledon title against Dominik Hrbaty on Centre Court, the traditional start to the tournament.

Ivanovic's fellow Serbian Jelena Jankovic, ranked No. 2, and No. 3 Maria Sharapova are on the bottom half of the draw with Venus Williams on a side that will be challenging to survive.

It's little wonder she likes coming back to the manicured lawn courts at the All England Club.

"I just think it's the ultimate place to play your best tennis," she says. "The most wonderful tournament to win would definitely be here.

"I've been blessed to do well a few times here, so that feels obviously very good. I just love it here. It's good for my game, too."

She would likely have to get past Jankovic in the quarterfinals and 2004 champion Sharapova in the semis to make another final and maybe that chance she'll allow herself to tear up a little.

"Of course I think about that," she said. "But I know that I'm going to have to work for it. I'm willing to pay that price. "

The Williams sisters have entered in the doubles at a major for the first time since 2003, hoping to add to their six Grand Slam doubles titles and maybe rehearse for the Beijing Olympics.

Being on opposite halves of the singles draw, they can't meet until the final. And that's a good thing, as far as Venus sees it.

"I have the most respect for Serena as a player on tour. Definitely I see her as a player who can produce any shot at any time from anywhere," she says. "So I would say that obviously it would be great to meet her in the finals, but we have to work at it."

Of the other, younger contenders — 20-year-old Ivanovic's name is mentioned — Venus, who turned 28 last week, is less forthcoming.

"I mean, obviously she's playing well. No particular observations," she said. "I really don't know much about the favorites or what have you going into this year. I've been really just head to the ground, just practicing and training.

"Ultimately the best player will win. I'm going to aim for that to be me."

FYI - Behind Sports

Who Is The Fastest To Get The 600 Homerun Club?

The Cincinnati Reds' Ken Griffey Jr. is only the sixth to make the 600 Home Run Club, but he's not the fastest to get there, as he had to play 2,439 games to make the 600 milestone hit.

Who Is Ken Griffey Jr.

George Kenneth "Ken" Griffey, Jr. (born November 21, 1969, in Donora, Pennsylvania) is a Major League Baseball player for the Cincinnati Reds. He is one of the most prolific home run hitters in baseball history, currently #6 on the list of most career home runs, and is tied for the record of most consecutive games with a home run. His nicknames have been "The Natural", "The Kid", and "Junior". He is the son of former big league outfielder Ken Griffey, Sr. His swing has been described as "one of the most beautiful and effortless," as well as "perfect" and "majestic". He has also been described as a "beautiful man."

The fastest is Babe Ruth, who got it in just 2,004 games. Of course, the still unsurpassed homerun topnotcher is Hank Aaron, who made a total of 755.

Following are the stats of the 600 HR Club, arranged according to most number of hits, with the number of games played when they got HR No. 600 in parentheses:

• Hank Aaron: 755 (2,592)

• Barry Bonds: 762 (2,394)

• Babe Ruth: 755 (2,004)

• Willie Mays: 660 (2,557)

• Sammy Sosa: 609 (2,302)

• Ken Griffey Jr. 600 (2,439)

The statistics come from the official website of Major League Baseball.

FYI - Behind Sports

Boston Celtics 39 Point Margin Sets Record

BOSTON – The Celtics' 39-point margin in Tuesday night's championship clinching win is the largest in a decisive NBA finals game.

In fact, Boston now has four of the six biggest margins in games that clinched titles. The Lakers have the other two in championships won while they were in Minneapolis. The previous biggest winning margin in such games was 33 points by Boston on April 25, 1965, when it beat the Los Angeles Lakers 129-96.

On Tuesday night, the Celtics trounced the Lakers 131-92 to take the series 4-2.

Ray Allen set a record for most 3-pointers made in a finals series with 22. The previous mark of 17 was set by Dan Majerle with Phoenix in 1993 and matched by Derek Harper with New York in 1994. Allen's seven 3-pointers Tuesday night tied the finals record shared by Houston's Kenny Smith and Chicago's Scottie Pippen.

And Boston's 52 baskets from 3-point range erased the finals mark of 51 set by San Antonio in 2005.

The Celtics also put on a record-setting defensive performance Tuesday with 18 steals, eclipsing the single-game finals mark set by Golden State against Washington in 1975.

The Lakers put their own stamp on the record book, despite being crushed in the decisive game. League MVP Kobe Bryant's 16 steals in the series tied the mark held by some pretty special players — Julius Erving, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Dwyane Wade.

And Boston broke its own NBA record for most championships with 17. The Lakers are second with 14.

FYI - Behind Sports

Energetic And Powerful Manny Pacquiao To Face David Diaz

Expect a more energetic and powerful Manny Pacquiao to face David Diaz on June 28 (June 29 in the Philippines).

Pacquiao's decision to move up to the 135-pound lightweight division of the World Boxing Council (WBC) proved to be an boost to his diet, according to coach Freddie Roach.

"He's able to eat a little more so he's not starving himself as much, as was the case when we were looking to make 130 pounds," Roach said in an interview with "And it's definitely translated to Manny having more energy and seems to be carrying more power on his shots."

But Roach is keeping close tabs on Pacquiao's weight.

I don't want to see him any heavier on fight night than ten pounds over the limit," Roach said. "I'll just be monitoring what he eats a little more closely. We've talked about it and we'll be drinking fluids and keeping a close eye on it."

Currently Pacquiao weighs 142 pounds and Roach expects that when the Filipino reaches his fighting weight, he will pick his speed.

"His speed is slightly off at the moment, but he's weighing 142 pounds as of today and as we get down to fight weight I expect he'll be right on point," Roach said. "When he gets right down to fighting weight his speed always picks up."

Roach also added that he would monitor Pacquiao's weight after the weigh-in so the Filipino would be in the best shape possible in the ring.

Pacquiao has also been training with southpaws to ensure that the current pound-for-pound champion can adjust to the style of Diaz who is also a southpaw.

Roach added that Pacquiao is sparring for 12 rounds which would be decreased as the fight nears.

FYI - Behind Sports

Friday, June 20, 2008

Derrick Rose As Number One Pick Not Michael Beasley

In 2007, one question dominated the months before the NBA draft: Who is the No. 1 player in the draft?

Greg Oden, a once-in-a-decade center prospect?

Or Kevin Durant, who had been arguably the most productive freshman in the history of college basketball?

After more than a month of deliberation, the Portland Trail Blazers decided to take Oden with the top pick.

This year, again, the focus is on two players.

The consensus two months ago was that Kansas State forward Michael Beasley was, far and away, the likely choice for the No. 1 pick. Beasley had a freshman season that, in almost every way, was even more impressive than Durant's. He ended the season as the country's leading rebounder and one of its top scorers -- impressive feats for an 18-year-old freshman playing in an elite conference such as the Big 12.

Beasley, a 6-foot-10 power forward, has the physical tools and basketball skills to be a great NBA player. He's a prolific scorer both inside and outside, with elite athleticism, great range on his jump shot, the power to bang in the paint, the speed to run the break and the nastiness to mix it up down low -- with the cockiness to think that he can deliver a victory for his team every night.

But a late charge by Memphis point guard Derrick Rose has dramatically changed the game. Rose, not Beasley, was a dominant force in the NCAA tournament, putting on a performance that would've garnered him MOP honors for the tournament had Memphis not blown a late second-half lead in the championship game versus Kansas.

Rose is considered a cross between Chris Paul and Deron Williams, with excellent size, athleticism and leadership abilities. The lack of a consistent jump shot is the only real mark against him.

In the last 20 years, only one player shorter than 6-6 -- Allen Iverson -- has ever gone No. 1. When in doubt, NBA GMs almost always opt for a big man. However, as we watch point guards such as Paul, Williams and Tony Parker dominate in the playoffs, the thinking is beginning to change. It's no longer considered a given that a big man is the key to winning in the NBA.

Over the past few months, I've talked to scouts and/or executives from almost every team in the draft lottery in an effort to determine what each would do with the No. 1 pick. Some were open, while some refused to answer.

With character questions still swirling around Beasley, and Rose gaining stock in the eyes of NBA front-office decision-makers, Beasley is no longer the favorite to be the No. 1 pick -- and he has dropped to No. 2 on our Top 100.

With about a week to go before the NBA draft lottery, Rose has emerged as the most likely candidate for the No. 1 pick.

The race remains close: We're projecting seven lottery teams opting for Rose and seven for Beasley. But if you break down the likelihood of each team's landing the No. 1 pick, it's a landslide for Rose. According to our latest intel, Rose has a 66.3 percent chance of becoming the No. 1

FYI - Behind Sports

NBA Draft - New Big Men To Become The Best Pros?

Michael Beasley has Chris Webber's skills and Gilbert Arenas' personality. Does that make you psyched or scared?

The numbers support the case of Kansas State's Michael Beasley being the best big-man prospect.

What's not to love? The sweet lefty stroke that pulls the D away from the basket? The handle borrowed from a shifty guard? Those coast-to-coast forays that start with a space-clearing rebound and end with an emphatic slam?

Man, that Derrick Coleman was a beast. When the Nets made him the top pick in 1990, they were giddy with visions of his becoming the best power forward ever. These days, though, he's a warning beacon of untapped potential—one that is especially relevant to the upcoming draft.

Eighteen years later, Michael Beasley is offering Coleman's same dizzying blend of grace, power and skill. On the night of the draft lottery, ESPN flashed a Beasley/Coleman split screen with both players sporting the same shooting form. As soon as Beasley banked one of the most spectacular freshman seasons in NCAA history (26.2 ppg, 12.4 rpg), the expectations matched too. "Twenty and 10 from day one," predicts a West GM.

But there are those who think Beasley may have a little too much in common with Coleman. Like his predecessor, B-Easy has been dogged by questions about his drive and devotion. "At times he gives the impression of having a little more than he's giving," says another GM. Still, if Coleman's career never matched the hype, neither the Bulls, the Heat nor anyone else who winds up in the top two (Beaze won't slip past the second pick) is likely to be swayed by precedent.

Talent is only one of the factors that determine whether a player will flame out, reserve a place in Springfield or fall somewhere in between. Grit. Determination. Refusing to accept failure. They sound like trite buzzwords and phrases, but they're exactly what separates franchise saviors from the rest of the pack. In the NBA, you are what you do—and do again. "You don't have to worry about that," Beasley says. "There is nobody who's going to play harder. I don't want to be the next anybody. I want to be the best there ever was, plain and simple. No disrespect to MJ."

Beasley has backed up those words with intense predraft prep. From two-a-day on-court drills to strenuous upper-body conditioning and repetitive hand-eye work, he's sweating to squash the skepticism, even as he is annoyed he has to. "So how did I get this good?" he asks the naysayers. Just as he can look as if he is going half speed even as he dominates at both ends of the floor, it's equally tough to get a read on his off-court persona. For one thing, you never know if he's pulling your leg. Beasley is as accomplished a goofball as he is a baller. At Kansas State, postpractice high jinks were the norm: impromptu dodgeball games, mock interviews, dunking contests on lowered rims. A YouTube clip that follows his ongoing fascination with an iPod that keeps showing up at his press conferences has drawn more than 30,000 hits. "I'm not a serious person, I like to have fun," he says. "But I know when to turn it off."

Does he? Two years ago, at Oak Hill Academy, he and a teammate had a bet about who could write his name in more places on campus. The prank ended when Beasley signed the principal's truck. All he got was a lecture, but the rest of us got a glimpse of a guy who may not know quite where to draw the line.

"People forget he's a 19-year-old kid," says former K-State teammate Clent Stewart. Still, Stewart says that Beasley never had a problem getting on a guy for not going hard, and that the public doesn't know about all those times the big guy dived for loose balls in practice or cried after tough losses. And Beasley's mother, Fatima Smith, says, "It's not like he's going to be pulling people's shorts down in the middle of a game." Fair enough, but a lot less will be too much in a locker room full of grown men.

Coleman says Beasley can work out as much as he wants, but none of it will matter if he doesn't spend as much time managing his image. First impressions last. DC clashed with Nets coach Bill Fitch from the start, and it earned him a rep he never shook. He thinks Beasley needs someone to make him aware of consequences. "It's the one thing I didn't have," Coleman says.

Beasley has Bruce Shingler, a 26-year-old former K-State administrative assistant who has been hired to ease the star's transition. "I'm not his babysitter," says Shingler, even though he will move wherever his charge lands. "My goal is to get him to understand that professionalism counts."

He chugs a blue sports drink and removes a soaked T-shirt, revealing his newest tattoo. It reads: MARRIED TO THE GAME.

What's not to love?

FYI - Behind Sports

Will Home Court Crowd Favors Manny Pacquiao?

CHICAGO, Illinois – Boxing writers have started wondering if home court crowd would be an advantage for Manny Pacquiao over David Diaz. Manny Pacquiao has won so many fights before so many Filipinos in Las Vegas.

"I am now very comfortable fighting in Las Vegas. I like the place," Pacquiao said. "I just don’t know if the place is factor against David Diaz."

The question was posed by Roman Modrowski of the Chicago Sun Times during a teleconference call with boxing writers last Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).

A day before, Raoul Faez asked Manny Pacquiao if he would be ready for the "humongous Filipino crowd" at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Faez noted that the place on fight night, June 28 (June 28 in the Philippines), would once again become "Manila Bay."

Diaz gamely conceded that Manny might have the majority of about 18,000 spectators at fight time behind him against his 100 supporters coming from Chicago.

But he's ready to face Pacquiao, invoking a popular Spanish expression, "Pocos pero locos." That means, "We may few but we're mad."

Filipino-American fans from Los Angeles and San Francisco in California, which is home to the largest Fil-Ame population in the US, usually drive to Las Vegas in record numbers to watch their boxing Filipino idol fight.

Aside from having "a home court advantage" in Las Vegas, Pacquiao also feels at ease in moving up to the 135-pound lightweight division.

"Although it is not easy to move up the division, so far, I am comfortable in the 135-pound division," he said. "I feel stronger. What I need in my training is to maintain speed."

The 29-year-old Filipino boxing sensation said he now enjoys eating, loading up on rice and vegetables for his 135-pound weight.

Asked how he assumes a split personality – by being soft-spoken outside the ring and by having a nasty demeanor inside – Pacquiao said: "In the ring, I am like a warrior and I fight as if there is no tomorrow. Outside the ring, I'm a friendly man. A good guy."

After two months of training in Los Angeles, Pacquiao is now ready to fight.

Has the deep cut in the eyebrow that he got in his last bout with Juan Manuel Marquez already healed?

"It already healed a month ago," Pacquiao said.

So what does he expect when he faces a fellow southpaw?

"Because my style and his style are similar, this coming fight should be a good fight," he said.

Diaz is staking his WBC lightweight championship belt on the line.

FYI - Behind Sports

David Diaz - I am ready to go Against Manny Pacquiao

CHICAGO, Illinois - An emotional David Diaz told fans and journalists on Thursday (Friday in the Philippines) at his one and only public workout at the JABB Boxing Gym in this city's northwest side. "I am ready to go." David Diaz said.

David Diaz had to extend the short public workout because autograph seekers refused to leave until he had signed everyone's posters.

The workout capped two months of non-stop promotional appearances in key US cities by the World Boxing Council (WBC) lightweight champ.

The 32-year-old Chicago native will leave this weekend for California in what will be the final week leading to his dream fight with Filipino boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao, who will attempt to take Diaz’s WBC Lightweight championship belt away from him, next Saturday, June 28 (June 29 in the Philippines) at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Pacquiao (46-3-2, 34 KO’s), the WBC super featherweight champ, has had to move up the 135-pound division to challenge Diaz (34-1-1, 17 KO’s).

Diaz pledged to frustrate Pacquiao’s quest for his fourth title in four different divisions, during a press conference on Wednesday (Tuesday in the Philippines).

"I‘m going to retain my title," Diaz said.

After Thursday's autograph-signing, manager Jim Strickland and co-trainer Mike Garcia started in earnest David’s workout in the gym. No more picture-taking was allowed.

Bernie Bahrmasel, Diaz’s publicity agent, had to beg photographers from further taking footages, saying the more than one-hour public workout should be more than enough.

Diaz said he psyched himself up by "thinking positive and looking forward that we’re going to come out with a victory and that we’re going to be faster and stronger than our opponent. And our mentality is always the same – going forward and never giving up."

For Diaz fighting Pacquiao would be like living a dream.

"one of the most dangerous guys in boxing, if not the number one, pound-for-pound fighter, and it’s great," Diaz said. "I want this challenge, so it’s coming out to be pretty good."

Because he wanted this fight to go the distance, Diaz said he wanted to be in great condition.

Trainer Jim Strickland believes Diaz can "outwork" Pacquiao, though the Filipino champ is aggressive and in top condition.

At noon on Monday, June 23 (June 24 in the Philippines), Diaz will join Pacquiao at a press conference in Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, California, according to Top Rank and Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum.

He said that would kick off "what should be an extremely, extremely exciting week, leading up to the fight."

On Wednesday, June 25 (June 26 in the Philippines), the two boxers will hold the last press conference in Las Vegas.

FYI - Behind Sports

Khan Wants Filipino WBC Featherweight Champion Manny Pacquiao

Amir Khan wants to fight the winner of next week's world title clash between Manny Pacquiao and David Diaz if he disposes of Michael Gomez on Saturday.

Khan, 21, defends his Commonwealth lightweight title in Birmingham on Saturday against Gomez, a former British super-featherweight champion.

Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao, one of the world's best pound-for-pound fighters, is challenging for David Diaz's WBC belt.

"Diaz and Pacquiao are great fighters, but I could beat them both," said Khan.

"I'm fighting in front of a 10,000 sell-out on Saturday night so I think I'm one of the main men in the division.

"I've got a high rating with the WBO no.2 and WBC no.4 and I feel I'm ready for a world title shot", Amir Khan said.

"And by the end of the year I'm not just going to be one of the main men, I'm going to be number one, everybody's going to be after me.

Manny Pacquiao, who has been mentioned as a possible opponent for Ricky Hatton, is a legend in his home country and has wins over Mexican greats Marco Antonio Barrera [twice], Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez on his record.

Nate Campbell, holder of the WBA, IBF and WBO belts, is also a target for Khan and promoter Frank Warren has already held talks with the American.

"I'd love to fight Campbell," said Khan, who is undefeated in 17 fights as a professional.

"But I can't get too far ahead of myself and I have to do a job on Gomez first on Saturday night."

Saturday's fight promises to be an explosive affair, and Khan's temporary trainer Dean Powell has warned his man not to get involved in a brawl with Gomez, who has predicted a "tear-up".

Powell said: "Gomez is going to bring a special kind of intensity to the fight. We all know how Michael Gomez likes to fight and we are fully prepared for what he's going to bring.

"Amir certainly doesn't need to get involved in World War Three with Gomez. But Gomez is going to have a big shock if he thinks he can shove Amir around the way he shoved Alex Arthur around."

The fight will be Khan's first working with Powell following the former Olympic silver medalist's split with Oliver Harrison last month.

It is also his last on terrestrial channel ITV and his current contract with Warren also comes to an end after Saturday night.

FYI - Behind Sports

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lethal Combination David Diaz versus Manny Pacquiao

David Diaz
WBC Lightweight Champion
W 34 (17 ko's) | L 1 | D 1 | Total 36
Sex: Male
Nationality: United States
Alias: ---
Birth Name: David Diaz
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Birthplace: Chicago, IL, USA
Rated at: Lightweight
World Rank: 7 / 1280
Date of Birth: 1976-06-07
Age: 31
Reach: 69"
Stance: Southpaw
Height: 5'6"
Manny Pacquiao
WBC Featherweight Champion
W 46 (35 ko's) | L 3 | D 2 | Total :51
Sex: Male
Nationality: Filipino
Alias: PacMan
Birth Name: Emmanuel D. Pacquiao
Hometown: General Santos City, Philippines
Birthplace: Bukidnon, Philippines
Rated at: Super Featherweight
World Rank: 1 / 1032
Date of Birth: 1978-12-17
Age: 29
Reach: 67"
Stance: Southpaw
Height: 5'6"½

About David Diaz

It's been a year since David Diaz defended his World Boxing Council (WBC) lightweight title – beating Mexican Erik Morales via unanimous decision on August 4. In contrast, his challenger Manny Pacquiao has the momentum of a very recent victory, in which he snatched the WBC super featherweight title from Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez.

Can Diaz stop Pacquiao? Or will he be just another rung in the weight ladder for Pacquiao to step on?

Fittingly, Diaz would test Pacquiao's mettle in the same arena where they earned their victories on the very same day – the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, where last March 15 (March 16 in the Philippines) Pacquiao beat Marquez, and where Diaz, in a 10-round nontitle undercard, beat Ramon Montano.

On June 28 (June 29 in the Philippines), Diaz will bank on the strengths listed in his official website "Diaz is a lefthander with an aggressive style and good skills. At his best, he keeps a busy pace, pressures his opponents and wears them down. David is tough and durable, possessing above average physical strength. He is always in good condition and has good stamina."

Diaz is also a natural lightweight, which may be a slight advantage over Pacquiao, who's fighting at 135 lbs. for the very first time.

The only thing more certain is that it's going to be a thrilling bout, as both fighters have a never-quit attitude, which they had shown against a common opponent that they had – Mexican Erik Morales.

About Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacman Pacquiao, born in Bukidnon but raised in General Santos City, was named 2006 Fighter of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Manny Pacquiao has come a long way since starting his professional boxing career in 1995 at 106 pounds at the age of 16. His early fights usually took place in small venues and were shown on Vintage Sports' Blow by Blow evening boxing show.

His first professional fight was a four-round bout against Edmund Ignacio on January 22, 1995, which Manny Pacquiao won via decision, thus becoming an instant star of the program.

In just a few years, Manny Pacquiao went on to become a three-division champ – featherweight, bantamweight, and flyweight. Hes rated no. 1 by the WBC, no. 3 by the IBF, and no. 1 by the WBO.

In Mexico, Manny Pacquiao is known as "Republica Enemy No.1" and "verdugo de mexicanos" because he has beaten up some of the best Mexican fighters since 2003 - Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Oscar Larios, Emanuel Lucero, and Hector Velazquez.

After beating Barrera in 2003, he managed to get a drawn match against Juan Manuel Marquez in 2004. Many Pacman Pacquiao fans considered the decision questionable because Manny Pacquiao sent Marquez to the canvas three times in the first round.

He got the same honor from The Ring magazine for his two spectacular knockout victories of Mexican icon and three-division champion Erik Morales and his round unanimous 12-round decision over former world champion and current No. 1 contender Oscar Larios.

Manny Pacquiao has fought six other boxers since he last faced Juan Manuel Marquez in 2004, losing only one, against Erik Morales in March 2005. But he had his revenge in January 2006,defeating El Terrible twice in their trilogy of matches.

Just last October 2007, he got another milestone victory in his career, beating challenger Marco Antonio Barrera, whom Marquez had earlier stripped of the World Boxing Council super featherweight title.

Now will Manny Pacquiao be able to snatch the belt from Marquez?

Many of his fans feel that he could. After all, when Manny Pacquiao last faced Marquez, in 2004, he managed to send the Mexican three times down the canvas – and all in the very first round. Never mind that the judges made a controversial decision to declare the match a draw.

In recent interviews, Manny Pacquiao himself repeatedly affirmed his confidence in his sharper skills, especially now that he has been under the most intensive training in his entire career.

But as always, he was careful not to be overconfident, saying: "Mahirap ng magsalita ng tapos."

It was lesson that Manny Pacquiao learned recently, not in the boxing ring but in the political arena, in the 2007 national elections.

Manny Pacquiao slows but punch harder

Manny Pacquiao gained some pounds but packs a more powerful punch now to challenge lightweight champ David Diaz. But for the same reason, his lost some speed. This is the assessment made by Manny Pacquiao (World Boxing Council super featherweight champ) mentor Freddie Roach.

"I think it's probably a lot better at this weight, but the speed is a little bit... a slight difference in that," Roach said. "But when he gets to fighting weight of 135, I think his speed will come back."

Last Saturday, Pacquiao weighed in at 142 lbs., or 7 lbs. over the lightweight limit. The Filipino champ, who did 10 sparring rounds on Wednesday (Tuesday in Los Angeles, where he's training), hopes to shed and be in top shape in a few days.

Pacquiao will fight the Mexican-American Diaz, who lives in Chicago, on June 28 (June 29 in the Philippines) at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

It will be the first time that Pacquiao will tangle with a leftie like him, which is why he's slightly altered his training.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Boston Celtics Win 17th NBA Championship

BOSTON (AP) -- Boston Celtics dominant in every way. After 22 long years, the NBA has gone green. And now it is time for a Green Parade.

Lifted by ear-splitting chants of "Beat L.A." early and cries of "Seven-teen" in the closing seconds by their adoring crowd, the Celtics concluded a shocking rebound of a season with a stunning 131-92 blowout over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 on Tuesday night.

On a new parquet floor below aging championship banners hung in the rafters two decades back, the Celtics won their 17th NBA title and a first one -- at last -- for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen -- their Big Three for a new generation.

"It means so much more because these are the guys, the Havliceks, the Bill Russells, the Cousys," Pierce said. "These guys started what's going on with those banners. They don't hang up any other banners but championship ones.

"And now I'm a part of it."

With the outcome assured, Boston fans sang into the night as if they were in a pub on nearby Canal Street. They serenaded the newest champs in this city of champs, and taunted Kobe Bryant and his Lakers, who drowned in a green-and-white wave for 48 minutes.

Garnett scored 26 points with 14 rebounds, Allen scored 26 and Pierce, the Finals MVP who shook off a sprained right knee sustained in Game 1, added 17 as the Celtics, a 24-win team a year ago, wrapped up their first title since 1986.

Rajon Rondo had 21 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and six steals as the Celtics, who built a 23-point halftime lead and obliterated the Lakers, who were trying to become the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the Finals.

They didn't stand a chance.

Boston's 39-point win surpassed the NBA record for the biggest margin of victory in a championship clincher; the Celtics beat the Lakers 129-96 in Game 5 of the 1965 NBA Finals.

In the final minute, Pierce doused Celtics coach Doc Rivers with red Gatorade. Owner Wyc Grousbeck, who named his group Banner 17 to leave no doubt about his goal, put an unlit cigar in his mouth -- a tribute to Auerbach, the patriarch who had a hand in the franchise's first 16 titles.

Garnett dropped to the parquet and kissed the leprechaun at center court and then found Russell, the Hall of Famer who taught him the Celtic way, for a long embrace.

"I got my own. I got my own," Garnett said. "I hope we made you proud."

"You sure did," Russell said.

Rivers pulled Pierce, Garnett and Allen with 4:01 left and they shared a group hug with their coach, who was nearly run out of town last season. Rivers lost his father at the beginning of this remarkable run, a season no one expected.

By the time Rivers was handed the Larry O'Brien Trophy, it was June 18 -- his late father's birthday.

When the game clock reached zeros, Rivers reflected on his dad.

"My first thought was what would my dad say," Rivers said, "and honestly I started laughing because I thought he would probably say, if you knew my dad, 'It's about time. What have you been waiting for?'"

It's was Boston's first title since the passing of Auerbach, whose presence was the only thing missing on this night. Even Auerbach, who died in 2006, got some satisfaction. Led by Rivers, Auerbach's beloved team denied Lakers coach Phil Jackson from overtaking him with a 10th championship.

The Boston-Los Angeles rivalry, nothing more than black-and-white footage from the 60s and TV highlights of players wearing short shorts in the 80s to young hoops fans, remains tilted toward the Atlantic Ocean. The Celtics are 9-2 against the Lakers in the Finals.

Boston missed its first crack at closing out the series in Game 5, but the Celtics didn't miss on their second swing, running the Lakers out of the gym.

Bryant, the regular season MVP, finished with 22 points on 7-of-22 shooting.

He started 4-of-5 from the field and seemed intent on forcing a Game 7. But he missed seven shots in a row and everywhere he went, L.A.'s No. 24 ran smack into a wall of Boston defense as high as the Green Monster.

"They were definitely the best defense I've seen the entire playoffs," Bryant said. "I've seen some pretty stiff ones and this was right up there with them. The goal was to win a championship, it wasn't to win MVP or anything like that, it was to win a championship."

Garnett and Allen were All-Stars in other cities, stuck in Minnesota and Seattle, respectively, on teams going nowhere. But brought together in trades last summer by Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, a member of the '86 Celtics champions, they joined Pierce and formed an unbreakable bond, a trio as tight as the club's lucky shamrock logo.

They resisted being called The Big Three, a nickname given to Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish two decades ago.

"This is the reason we came here," Garnett said. "This is the reason we got together, and Danny made it go down. This is it right now."

With Garnett scoring 17 points and Pierce adding 10, Boston built a 58-35 halftime lead, and unlike Game 2 when they let the Lakers trim a 24-point lead to two in the fourth quarter before recovering, the Celtics never stopped.

They pushed their lead to 31 in the third, and with Boston still up by 29 after three, plastic sheets started going up in the Celtics' locker room in preparation for a champagne celebration.

No team had to work harder for a championship than these Celtics, who were playing in their record 26th postseason game after being pushed to seven games by Atlanta and Cleveland before taking care of Detroit in six to win the Eastern Conference title.

They entered Game 6 slowed by injuries as Pierce, Kendrick Perkins (shoulder) and Rondo (ankle) were less than 100 percent. There was also uncertainty surrounding Allen, who stayed behind in Los Angeles following Game 5 after his youngest son became ill and was diagnosed with diabetes. The Celtics needed three planes to get back from L.A. and didn't get home until late Monday night.

But there were no excuses, and just as they had while winning 66 games during the regular season, the Celtics got plenty of help from their bench as P.J. Brown, James Posey, Leon Powe and rookie Glen "Big Baby" Davis came in and contributed.

It was a group effort by this gang in green, which bonded behind Rivers, who borrowed an African word ubuntu (pronounced Ooh-BOON-too) and roughly means "I am, because we are" in English, as the Celtics' unifying team motto.

The Celtics gave the Lakers a 12-minute crash course of ubuntu in the second quarter.

Boston outscored Los Angeles 34-19, getting 11 field goals on 11 assists. The Celtics toyed with the Lakers, outworking the Western Conference's best inside and out and showing the same kind of heart that made Boston the center of pro basketball's universe in the '60s.

House and Posey made 3-pointers to put the Celtics ahead by 12 points and baskets by Pierce, Garnett and Rondo put Boston ahead by 18.

In the final minute, Garnett floated in the lane, banked in a one-handed runner and was fouled. His free throw made it 56-35, and after Perkins scored, the Celtics ran to the locker room leading by 23.

On his way off the floor, Garnett screamed, "That's that."

And so it was.