The NBA's hot-stove league got very hot this week, with deals, heels and offer sheets flying back and forth throughout the country with such speed you needed David Stern's Blackberry to keep track.
Shaquille O'Neal, 32, still the most dominant player in the NBA, was traded from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Miami Heat for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a first-round draft choice in a deal that moves Miami to the forefront of the Eastern Conference. But the Lakers avoided total disaster by keeping Kobe Bryant from going to the Clippers. Cost to the Lakers: about $136.4 million over seven years.
All while Bryant prepares to stand trial next month for sexual assault in Eagle, Colo.
Meanwhile, the heel of the month award goes to forward Carlos Boozer, who bamboozled the Cleveland Cavaliers into thinking he was theirs by virtue of his word. Not so. Boozer, a restricted free agent, signed an offer sheet with the Utah Jazz for $68 million over six years to the dismay of Cleveland fans and his agent, who quit. Cleveland will not match Utah's offer.
That leaves the Washington Wizards to ponder matching Milwaukee's six-year, $35 to $40 million offer sheet to center Etan Thomas, who last season averaged 8.9 points and 6.7 rebounds a game. But Thomas has improved in his three years here and earned the support and respect of owner Abe Pollin, who has to sign off on any deal.
Etan was at MCI Center Thursday afternoon for a WNBA "Camp Day" game between the Mystics and Charlotte Sting that Washington won, 68-54, before 18,436 mostly screaming children who loved both the result and leaping Skydogs who performed acrobatic feats at halftime. The kids also had to be in awe of Etan's "match-this-offer" garb, including puffy shirt, apparently borrowed from the set of "Pirates of the Caribbean." The only thing Etan lacked was the eye patch and sword. LaVar: take note.
"I'm very comfortable here," Etan said. "I hope they [the Wizards] re-sign me. It's all a business decision."
That brings us to the Mystics, whose players aren't about business because WNBA business isn't so good. "Believe me, all of us would love to make half of what these guys make," said Mystics reserve Coco Miller, who scored eight key points in her team's win. "But we don't. We're in this because we love the game."
Miller earns about $50,000 for the four-month season, above the league average. Still, she added, "I played in Turkey in the offseason to make ends meet."
Her coach, former Bullet and 11-year NBA veteran Michael Adams, smiled when comparing the NBA and WNBA. "No one in the WNBA talks money,'' he said. "These ladies want to play and win.
"In the NBA, the stars make the decisions for the organization. When I played, I jumped at the first team that would have me. It took me four years to get a guaranteed contract.''
Jacobi's Labor of Love
Despite the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigation hanging over the Olympic track and field trials this past week, superb performances by track athletes and swimmers have nevertheless raised the interest level for next month's Olympic Games. Could the USADA gang have timed their sweep any better?
That said, far from the glare of video cams and reporters chasing suspects in Day-Glo, old friend Joe Jacobi of Bethesda was training anonymously this week in Augsburg, Germany, preparing for another run at a gold medal in a two-man canoe in whitewater slalom.
Jacobi, 34, 12 years removed from winning the gold in the Barcelona Games, husband of Lisa, father of 3-year-old Seu Jane. But despite not making the team in 1996 and 2000, Jacobi, a graduate of Churchill High School in Potomac, stayed the course, on the churning waters, in the canoe. And now he's back on the U.S. team -- paired with veteran Matt Taylor -- doing what he loves at the pinnacle of his sport: the Olympics.
If Kevin Garnett, Kobe, Shaq and Ben Wallace, among others, said "no thanks" when asked to be on the U.S. team, Jacobi said yes without hesitation. His projection for Athens? The results, Jacobi said in e-mail and telephone interviews this week, will take care of themselves.
"What has brought us this far is a focus on the process, not the results. I know that is not an easy thing to understand, especially when our sport shows up on the radar screen for two weeks every four years and the focus is result-oriented," Jacobi said.
"I have been given a fantastic opportunity and privilege to represent the U.S. with Matt in Athens. I am proud of the work we have done. I was close to finishing my career in 2001 when the world championships were canceled because of 9/11. But I love it too much to quit; when the opportunity to race in the doubles boat with Matt in Athens came along, I jumped at it.
"Sponsorships have been difficult to come by, especially when you're my age, with a child. Fortunately, my wife has a business and patience. Contrasting my amateur world with someone like Michael Jordan's life is commonplace, but I would not trade any of my experiences. There is no athlete more fortunate and richer than me."
Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos seems to be in a full-metal jacket these days. Not only is he expending all that energy trying to persuade Bud Selig and his fellow owners not to relocate the Montreal Expos to Washington or Northern Virginia, he now seems be putting the squeeze on first-year manager Lee Mazzilli, if I read Dave Sheinin's piece right in Thursday's Washington Post. Adding former Orioles manager Ray Miller recently as pitching coach to a staff Mazzilli didn't even choose can't be too comforting. . . .
Selig stuff: Why would the commissioner approve a trade of Randy Johnson from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Yankees or Red Sox, if that occurs? Where is the best interest of baseball in permitting that? I'll comment on the groundswell of enthusiasm among owners for extending Bud's tenure as commissioner past his current term (2006) once he decides where to relocate the Expos. If he makes such a decision, before the November election.
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