Forecast Was Unpopular but It Wasn't Spurious

Flip Saunders, coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, angered San Antonio fans when when he said the Lakers were far and away the best team in the league--before the start of the Spur-Laker series.

"I'll give you a football analogy," he told Dan Barreiro of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "The Lakers are like the Rams two years ago with Kurt Warner: high energy, scoring from all over the place, although their defense has also been unbelievable in the postseason.

"The Spurs were like a running team in the NFL. Very methodical. But when a running team gets down, 14-0, it has a problem."

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Trivia time: Who were the Dodgers' consecutive rookie-of-the-year award winners from 1979-82?

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Diamond in the rough: Philadelphia 76er Coach Larry Brown, commenting to Tony Kornheiser of the Washington Post on star player Allen Iverson:

"I sometimes hate Allen's mouth. But I understand it now. He goes out every game trying to win. He competes, he's tough, he cares about his teammates and he's loyal.

"If anything ever happened to me, Allen would be the first guy to my defense. I have unbelievable feelings for him. I've coached for 30 years. He's the most unique kid I've ever been around."

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Ali's spin: In the latest issue of "O"--Oprah Winfrey's magazine--Muhammad Ali says he doesn't believe his Parkinson's disease is a result of blows to the head absorbed during his boxing career.

A million people have the disease, he points out, and if there were a link, "then a million people must have gotten hit in the head."

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NBC slump: Tom FitzGerald in the San Francisco Chronicle: "NBC gets disappointing ratings for the Sydney Olympics, hardly any at all for the XFL and subpar numbers for the NBA's regular season. In the playoffs, a sure-fire ratings-boosting series between L.A. and San Antonio turns into a Laker sweep.

" 'With NBC's luck,' says Ed Sherman of the Chicago Tribune, 'Tiger Woods probably will withdraw from the U.S. Open.' "

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FYI: By winning the men's pole vault at the NCAA meet Wednesday, USC's Denis Kholev became the 10th Trojan to win or tie for first in that event, including the "Heavenly Twins," Earle Meadows and Bill Sefton.

That was their nickname in 1937 when they set a world record of 14 feet 11 inches at the Coliseum.

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Mr. Football: This fall, a Fresno State football jersey will bear the word "GRIDIRON." Redundant? No, it will belong to walk-on cornerback Jason Gridiron. Yes, it's his real name.

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Discreet: Baltimore Oriole owner Peter Angelos, on dwindling attendance at Camden Yards: "It's not that the fans don't want to see Tampa Bay. They don't want to see them that often."

In other words, get better or get lost.

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Trivia answer: Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Howe, Fernando Valenzuela and Steve Sax.

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Looking back: On this day in 1975, the Angels' Nolan Ryan pitched his fourth no-hitter to tie Sandy Koufax's record, beating the Orioles, 1-0.

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And finally: In battling Casey Martin for four years on the golf-cart issue, the PGA Tour and its attorneys "could have taken a more unpopular stance," says Mike Bianchi of the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel, "but only if they tried to outlaw the beer cart during tournament pro-ams."

Steve Jacobson in Newsday: "Let 'em all have carts. And if the PGA is concerned that there won't be time enough for commercials, it could sell space on the carts just like racing cars."

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