WHEEL OF FORTUNE
Who won big and who crapped out in the first week of NBA free
The NBA free-agent market is a bit like a casino--there are a few
ways to strike it rich and many more ways to lose your shirt, and
the whole experience can leave you full of fear and loathing.
Here are some of the games of chance that NBA general managers
and players engaged in after the free agency period opened on
Aug. 1, along with some of the big winners and losers.
SALARY CAP CRAPS
Lucky Seven: John Gabriel. The Magic general manager's plan to
dump salaries and create cap room to restock his team with stars
worked to near perfection. Signees Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady
will make Orlando a contender, although being rejected by Tim
Duncan, who re-signed with the Spurs, had to disappoint Gabriel
more than he let on.
Snake Eyes: Jerry Krause. The Bulls' G.M. had laid the same
salary cap groundwork as Gabriel, only to be spurned by his top
five targets: Duncan, Hill, McGrady, Eddie Jones and Tim Thomas.
Krause thought that if he waved a big enough check, free agents
would forget about the Bulls' reputation for mistreating
superstars. He was wrong.
Four Aces: Derek Anderson. The former Clippers shooting guard
waited quietly until the big-name free agents had made their
choices and then jumped ship to the Spurs, which is like trading
in a Schwinn for a Ferrari. He'll get the $2.25 million
salary-cap exception and a chance for big bucks next year.
Ace High: Maurice Taylor. Anderson's former Clippers teammate
played the same game as Anderson, but as of Monday he was still
waiting. No matter where he winds up--and Taylor hopes it will be
Orlando--he almost certainly won't get the $7 million-a-year
contract he had expected.
THE CONTRACT EXTENSION SLOT MACHINE
Three Cherries: Eddie Jones. A South Florida native, Jones
rejected extension offers from the Hornets during the season and
then saw his dream of playing close to home come true. Charlotte
traded him to the Heat along with Anthony Mason for a quintet in
which P.J. Brown and Jamal Mashburn were the key players. The
sign-and-trade deal left Jones, who had threatened to go to Miami
for the $2.25 million exception, with a seven-year, $86 million
Three Lemons: Glen Rice. As a Hornet, he also rejected
Charlotte's efforts to keep him and was traded to the Lakers,
with whom he won a title but lost free-agent value because of his
erratic play. His dreams of maxing out with a contract starting
at $14 million are long gone.
Rice won't need any telethons, of course. In the NBA, free agency
may be a gamble, but no one ever goes broke. --Phil Taylor
ESPN's WNBA campaign
SYNOPSIS Recreational hoopsters playing B-level ball, followed by
THE WNBA. THEY'RE BETTER THAN YOU ARE.
BACKGROUND Three scenarios were shot: an urban playground game,
two guys playing on a driveway court and a Wall Street rec league
at an indoor gym. The players, discovered through casting agents,
weren't coached or given a script. "We simply asked for actors
who could play ball," says Aaron Taylor, ESPN's advertising
director. "Then we put them on the floor and rolled the tape. We
weren't trying to make them look bad."
BOTTOM LINE Although the hilariously deadpan ads get their
message across, does that message ring true? "The WNBA players
are better than 60 percent of the players out here," says Curtis
Robinson, 37, a regular at the beachside courts in Venice,
Calif., "but they're not better than me." Says Perry Turner, 43,
an insurance adjuster who plays at a YMCA in Post Oak, Texas,
"Heck, I'd score 40 points against them on a bad night." But Greg
Johnson, a 42-year-old pickup player at Houston's Rice University
gym who can actually name some WNBA players, was more grounded.
"We'd probably do all right for a half, but after a while it'd
take its toll on us. They're in better condition." Teammate Joe
Collins is even more blunt: "No question the WNBA can beat us."
Tiger Woods vs. Screen Actors Guild
He may never win an Oscar, but as far as the Screen Actors Guild
(SAG) is concerned, Tiger Woods is a thespian, not a golfer.
That's why the union, which has been on strike against the
advertising industry since May, is so upset: On July 26, Woods
filmed a Buick spot with a nonunion crew in Toronto. Woods,
praised earlier this summer by SAG for refusing to do a Nike ad,
drew the ire of the Guild and its supporters. "He made a big
mistake," said veteran commercial director Joe Pytka, who also
directed Michael Jordan's Space Jam. "His excuse was that he had
a contract with Buick, but he also has a contract with the
[union], so he chose corporate America over his actor colleagues.
There are grave implications here."
One of them is that Woods could be kicked out of SAG, which would
prevent his working in future union productions--in other words,
almost all commercials. "This was a blatant crossing of the
picket line," says SAG spokeswoman Ilyanne Kichaven. In contrast,
she says, Lance Armstrong did the right thing in turning down a
bevy of commercials. Woods has been ordered to appear before a
SAG tribunal in L.A. on Aug. 18. That conflicts with a tee time
he has--at the PGA Championship in Louisville. "He can do it by
teleconference," says Kichaven, "or his representatives can speak
The problem is, Woods's reps at IMG don't know what to say. "Is
it a mea culpa they're looking for?" asks IMG spokeswoman Linda
Dozoretz. "He held off as long as he could. The Buick campaign is
themed around the Olympics, and it was getting down to the wire."
Woods is "sympathetic to the cause," says Dozoretz, "but he is,
after all, a golfer, not an actor." Who ever said golf was a team
Phil Taylor's Five Worst 1990s Free-Agent Signings
Jim McIlvaine, Sonics, 1996; seven years, $35 million
Averaged 3.5 points, 3.7 rebounds in two seasons before being
shipped to Nets.
Pervis Ellison, Celtics, 1994; six years, $13.2 million
Medical bills rivaled paycheck; once fractured toe by dropping
table on it.
Loy Vaught, Pistons, 1999; five years, $22.8 million
End-of-the-bench player who averaged 1.7 points in 1999-2000;
played in just 43 games.
Bison Dele, Pistons, 1997; seven years, $45 million
Erstwhile Brian Williams quit after two seasons; last seen
roaming the Middle East.
Isaac Austin, Magic, 1999; three years, $15 million
Arrived at camp 25 pounds overweight; off-loaded to the Wizards
after one season.
Amount Upper Deck paid Sotheby's for one of three extant Ty Cobb
jerseys, which it then gave to 14-year-old Robert Shell of
Milwaukee as a sweepstakes prize.
Estimated tax Robert will have to pay on the prize, which, his
mother says, will force the family to sell the jersey.
Pitches caught by the Boston Red Sox' Jason Varitek, who went all
the way behind the plate in a 5-4, 19-inning loss to the Seattle
Funds earmarked in the 2001 New York State budget for the
creation of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Amount the WNBA's Comets will donate to establish Kim's Place, a
Houston facility for young cancer patients and their families
that's named after former Comets guard Kim Perrot, who died of
cancer last year.
Head Over Wheels
Evel Knievel never did it, but on July 23, in the final round of
the freestyle motocross event at the Gravity Games in Providence,
Carey Hart, 25, completed the first motorcycle backflip in
competition. "That was the first time I ever attempted the flip,"
says Hart, who had practiced the maneuver on a BMX bike. "I was
nervous and tense leading up to the jump, but when I went up in
the air, I didn't think of anything. Then I hit the landing,
jumped off my bike and got mobbed." Nevertheless, Hart finished
10th out 10 finalists: He used his entire two minutes of stunt
time revving up for his finale.
--Lakers assistant G.M. Kurt Rambis, whose horn-rims inspired
the copycat Rambis Youth during his playing days. Said the now
spectacle-free Rambis, "I would hope I was known more for my
heart or hustle than for my glasses."
--Forty thousand pewter key chains given out by the Rockies in
1998 and '99 promotions, after 10-month-old Keely Walton of
Denver was found with high levels of lead in her blood from
--Recently acquired closer Bob Wickman, who blew his first save
opportunity for the Indians on the night that the ceremonial
first pitch was thrown out by Dr. Henry Heimlich.
--Eleven sets of top-secret bobsled runners belonging to the U.S.
team, from a storage unit in South Salt Lake, Utah. Thieves made
off with six Browning gun cases containing the custom-designed
runners, valued at upwards of $200,000. Matt Roy, the top U.S.
bobsled official, said the theft "sets our runner project back 10
--A grievance with the USTA, by world No. 1 women's doubles
player Lisa Raymond, over her omission from the 2000 Olympic
squad. Coach Billie Jean King picked Serena Williams for the
fourth and final spot.
--John Doggett (played by T2 star Robert Patrick), as the new
character alongside Gillian Anderson's Dana Scully on The
X-Files. Show creator Chris Carter says the moniker was inspired
by the late Jerry Doggett, longtime boothmate of Dodgers
announcer Vin Scully.
--Diamond of California, as the official supplier of walnuts to
the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Move over, Harry Potter: Not all the action in the publishing
world revolves around wizards. A good old-fashioned bidding war
erupted last week for the rights to Shaquille O'Neal's
autobiography. In the end St. Martin's Press beat out Pocket
Books by giving Shaq a deal that with bonus clauses could add up
to $750,000. St. Martin's is planning a February 2001 release....
Deion Sanders invited a group of Washington, D.C.-area senior
tech execs out to dinner last week. According to The Washington
Post, Sanders said his goal was "just to sit here and receive the
wisdom these gentlemen have in their business." When pressed on
what he might be planning--a dot.com?--Sanders cryptically replied,
"Iron sharpens iron." Sanders noted that he'd like to gather the
group regularly and call it the Roundtable....
Construction on Reggie Miller's $3.5 million dream house is
nearly complete. The mansion in Geist Lake, Ind., is being built
on the same site as Miller's previous house, which was destroyed
by an arsonist in 1997. (No arrests were ever made.) The new
19,200-square-foot edifice boasts six bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, a
billiards parlor, a wine cellar, a sauna and a beauty salon. It
also has two two-car garages and a separate mechanic's garage....
How big is Survivor? Big enough that it has a future NBA Hall of
Famer asking a YMCA basketball coach for his autograph. Jazz
forward Karl Malone invited recent Survivor castoff Gervase
Peterson to speak to members of Malone's children's foundation
and to sign autographs....
Bill Buckner and Mookie Wilson are teaming up. They've been
signed by Steiner Sports Marketing to autograph photos of the
famous 1986 World Series play on which Wilson's grounder slipped
through Buckner's legs. Buckner has been personalizing his
autograph by writing "Oops" or "My Bad."
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
A 15-minute phone conversation with Giants slugger Barry Bonds
was auctioned off on eBay for $481.
South Carolina football coach, on support for the Gamecocks, who
were 0-11 last year: "We raise more money per win than any school
in the land."