Morning briefing

Times Staff Writer

Doing a slow burn in NBA

Forget players flashing gang signs, referees betting on games and conspiracy theories that have playoff outcomes predetermined. NBA Commissioner David Stern wants to stamp out fires.

Stern said this week he's concerned with the proliferation of pregame pyrotechnics and suggested the league would develop regulations.

"I think that the noise, the fire, the smoke is a kind of assault that we should seriously consider reviewing," he said. "Maybe I'm not the demographic that likes to be assaulted by loud rap, smoke, pyrotechnics and chemicals. I'm outdated, but I think it's time for us to say, 'Hey guys, let's look at it one more time.' "

Hey, the No Fun League philosophy works for football, so maybe it can help the NBA.

Trivia time

Man O' War, considered one of the best thoroughbred horses of all time, won the Preakness in 1920 -- part of his 20 wins in 21 races. Name the only horse to beat him.

Shirting the issue

UPS last week entered into a unique marketing agreement with the owners of Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown. But you wouldn't have known it from how the horse's trainer, Rick Dutrow Jr., was dressed Thursday for a news conference leading up to Saturday's Preakness. He wore a yellow golf shirt with no visible logo.

"It was the only clean shirt I had left," Dutrow explained.

All in a name

Big Brown was so named because his original owner, Brooklyn trucking executive Paul Pompa Jr., did business with UPS, which uses "brown" as an advertising tool.

Another Preakness entrant is named Behindatthebar, formerly co-owned by Don Stanley and Michael Shustek of Las Vegas, who still have a minority interest in the horse.

"We came up with that name because we were always behind with our bar bill," Stanley said.

Whole lotta glove

Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez has never been known for his defensive ability in left field, but he told the Boston Herald this week that his defense is underrated.

"I think I'm the best ever to play left field in Boston," he said in an interview.

He went on to say he thinks he should be considered for a Gold Glove, even though Manager Terry Francona often takes Ramirez out of games in later innings.

"How am I going to win a Gold Glove if they take me out in the eighth?" he said. "I only made two errors last year. Put a good word in for me."

Bring your bee game

Sports-minded adults need not feel left out when the Scripps National Spelling Bee takes place this month.

The eight ESPN Zones nationwide will conduct Sports Spelling Bees on May 29-30, testing adults on how to spell the names of athletes and coaches.

And, no, it won't count if you say "C-O-A-C-H K" when you're asked to spell Mike Krzyzewski.

Trivia answer

Upset, at the Sanford Memorial Stakes in 1919. That victory is often credited with upset becoming a term for an underdog winning.

And finally

Wallace Matthews of Newsday wrote about New York Mets pitcher Oliver Perez, whose pitching performances range from overwhelming to awful: "For all the talk about how dominant his stuff can be, in many ways, Perez remains the pitcher he has always been. Lights out one day, no lights on at home the next."


Times staff writer Larry Stewart contributed to this report


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