Thursday, April 9
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Truth & Rumors
Shaq places blame for Suns failure
Shaquille O'Neal always talks about how he has seen it all in 17 NBA seasons but he has never experienced this. For the next five games, the Suns center is just playing out the schedule with the next Dallas win or Suns loss eliminating Phoenix. O'Neal last missed the playoffs as a rookie in 1993 but even that came on a tiebreaker after the last game. O'Neal, 37, averaged 18.0 points this season, his best scoring work since Miami's 2005-06 title season. His 61.1 percent shooting is a career best and his 60.9 percent free-throw shooting is second best in his career. O'Neal blames the Suns season's "athletic culture changes" for the team's demise and knows his future with them is uncertain. "I'm sure there's going to be some decisions to be made," said O'Neal, whose contract expires with a $20 million salary next season. "It's not my job (to decide). There are two types of business owners. Do you want to win or do you want to save money? Period." When asked which one Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver was, O'Neal said: "I'm not sure. The guy over here (Dallas owner Mark Cuban) spends money. I don't think he's really worried about the salary cap. I've been around 17 years and that's what it is. You either want to win and don't really care about the salary cap or you want to be under the salary cap." (Arizona Republic)
Augusta changes draw complaints
The azaleas are brighter than ever. As usual, not a blade of grass is out of place. Anticipation is higher than it has been in years at the Masters, with Tiger Woods a winner again after knee surgery and Padraig Harrington going for a third straight major. But the buzz at Augusta National has been tempered by three years of more teeth-gnashing than fist-pumping. Birdies have been replaced by bogeys. Players are becoming more vocal in their criticism of a course that has produced so much excitement from so many charges over the years. They say it has become too long, too tough. The cathedral of golf is starting to remind Masters chairman Billy Payne of a concert. "Criticism hurts a little bit," Payne said Wednesday. "It's like when you go to a piano recital of one of your granddaughters and you hear somebody say, 'Boy, that's the worst kid I've ever seen.' It hurts your feelings." Payne responded by making the course shorter -- by 10 yards. The club also enlarged the tee boxes on the par-4 seventh and par-5 15th, allowing officials to move the tees a little more forward to make the hole play slightly shorter. Otherwise, a club that tries to control so much can only hope Mother Nature is on its side."(Associated Press)
Joba vs. Yogi over before its over
Their fight was over before it was over. Joba Chamberlain said there's no bad blood between him and legendary catcher Yogi Berra, after the Yankee hurler was caught on tape mocking the former Bomber backstop. "Yog is great and I got a chance to talk to him on the phone, and he knows I love him and he loves me, too," Chamberlain said yester day, before the Yankees played the Baltimore Orioles. "Yogi is Yogi and Joba is Joba and that is the way it is." It was like deja vu all over again at the Berra household, where Yogi's wife also said there are no hard feelings. "Yogi loves Joba and Joba loves Yogi," said Carmen Berra, pinch-hitting for her hubby who was traveling out of town. "Their relationship is perfect." During the Oct. 18 drunken-driving bust in Lincoln, Neb., a rambling Chamberlain mocked Berra about his height. The raucous relief pitcher blathered that he was a catcher in high school and is now good friends with one of the game's all-time greatest catchers. (New York Post)
Must-See Photo
Randy Johnson of the Giants brings the heat against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 8 at AT&T Park in San Francisco. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Must-See Video
The wild and wooly sport that's sweeping the countryside.

Game To Watch
Brewers vs. Giants, 7:05 PM ET -- Ryan Braun (4-for-8 in the series) and the Brewers face promising young righthander Matt Cain in the rubber match of their season-opening three-game series.
Milwaukee Brewers
San Francisco Giants
This Day In Sports History

SI Vault: More Wayne Gretzky
1941 -- PGA establishes the Golf Hall of Fame.
1965 -- Houston Astros beat the New York Yankees 2-1 in an exhibition game at the Astrodome as Mickey Mantle hits the majors' first indoor homerun.
1987 -- Wayne Gretzky passes Jean Beliveau as the NHL's all-time playoff scoring champ.
1989 -- Scott Hoch chokes on 18-inch putt and loses the Masters Tournament.

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