Shanoff's Wake-Up Call: Tiger, Trades, Oscars

Today's Calls: Tiger vs. the Match Play field, Shaq vs. LeBron, Bracket Busters vs. the Bubble, Andre Smith vs. Matt Stafford, Julius Peppers vs. Anquan Boldin, Slumdog Millionaire vs. Benjamin Button. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: "I'm now ready to play again." ↵

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↵And with that simple statement, the sports world has a new focus. After a week of A-Roid insanity and the NBA trade dud-line, the biggest story in sports is that Tiger Woods is back. ↵

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↵And we won't have long to wait — he will play Wednesday at the Match Play Championship. He will even be seeded No. 1 (which seems utterly ludicrous, but certainly adds to the drama). ↵

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↵It is going to be so refreshing to leave the off-field drama behind and actually focus on on-field performance. And no athlete in sports today moves the needle like Tiger. ↵

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↵He has a rebuilt knee. He has a new baby. He has everyone's attention. The only question left: Does he have his otherworldly game back? ↵

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↵NBA Trade Dudline: But, oh, what could have been! The captivating rumor of the day was Shaq to the Cavs. I almost think that Phoenix should have done it, simply to help interest in the rest of the league by creating the most dynamic duo in a generation (rank it up there with Shaq-Kobe and Jordan-Pippen). ↵

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↵It would have put the Cavs ahead of the Celtics in the East ... for good. It would have been must-see TV every night. It would have combined the two most marketable personalities in the league. It would have given Cavs fans two very, very good shots at the NBA title before LeBron bolted town. ↵

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↵Naturally, it fizzled. (The Suns' wildly successful start to the Alvin Gentry Era was no doubt a big reason for it.) ↵

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↵Overall, the day was a dud. The Knicks trading for Larry Hughes and Chris Wilcox doesn't qualify as anything close to a blockbuster. ↵

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↵One deal worth noting, more for the mind behind the move than the players involved: ↵

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↵Given his new status as the Moneyball god of the NBA, the idea that Rockets GM Daryl Morey thought highly enough of Kyle Lowry to give up his starting PG, Rafer Alston, to acquire Lowry should have NBA GMs wondering: Hey, wait, did we miss something about Lowry? ↵

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↵KG Knee Injury: Even though it sounds like a sprain or strain, you have to track this one. (And without him, the Celtics just aren't the same.) ↵

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↵CBB Mania: ↵

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↵— Just when you thought UCLA was overrated, they go and beat the first-place team in the Pac-10. ... ↵

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↵— As usual, Duke's trip to NYC to play St. John's in the Garden is good for what ails them. ... ↵

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↵— Weekend's Best: Bracket-Busters! (Butler-Davidson, Utah St-St. Mary's, N. Iowa-Siena, G. Mason-Creighton and More) — it may be your only chance to watch NCAA Tournament Cinderella candidates play other scrappy Cindys. ↵

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↵Mike Leach staying at Texas Tech: Well, at least he's got this new deal keeping him there until 2013. That's not to say that if/when another bigger, better job comes calling, he won't bolt like any other coach. But after all this drama, why would he leave? ↵

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↵NFL Draft: Memo to all those who think the Lions are drafting QB Matt Stafford: It's not going to happen. Some of us have been thinking all along that they'll take OT Andre Smith — and Jim Schwartz sort of confirmed it: "You need to be big and physical. Run the ball and stop the run when the weather gets bad." ↵

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↵NFL: Panthers tag Peppers. They still might trade him, but now at least he can't walk away as a free agent without the team getting substantial compensation from the new team (which, of course, limits the market for his services substantially). He had to see this coming. ↵

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↵Boldin back? As expected, Anquan Boldin is totally open to staying in Arizona. Now that Todd Haley is gone, I guess he feels he can relax. ↵

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↵OT: Given how dangerously close we came to a coin-flip deciding the Super Bowl winner a few weeks ago, OT reform is a long-awaited (and much-needed) idea. As such, I don't expect it to go anywhere. ↵

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↵Bonds Watch: I would classify this as a HUGE set-back for the prosecution. ↵

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↵MLB PED Scandal: Richard Justice has much greater access to Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt than I do. So the next time he asks them about how they didn't take any steroids, can he please ask them if they ever took any sort of stimulant or amphetamine (you know, back before they were banned)? ↵

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↵Move over, President Obama: There's a new No. 44 in D.C. ↵

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↵Michigan lowering ticket prices: The average decrease of $3 per ticket is hardly going to help folks struggling in this economy; I like to interpret it as less about reflecting macroeconomic issues and more reflecting that Rich Rodriguez's iffy on-field product merited decreasing ticket prices. ↵

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↵NASCAR: It's not quite A-Rod level, but the first NASCAR crew member ever was suspended for violating NASCAR's new substance-abuse (and testing) policy. We've come a long way from moonshine in the trunks. ↵

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↵Scandal Watching: It is a signal of just how lax NCAA regulators are that there is even a question that "package deals" (program gives parent of recruit a job) aren't a complete scam. ↵

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↵Soccer: 2010 World Cup tickets go on sale starting today. If you're the type to buy them, you probably already knew that. ↵

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↵The Last Word: Oscar Picks! I'm willing to totally buy into Nate Silver's picks. (Baseball, politics: The guy has been on a roll.) ↵

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↵Best Pic: Slumdog Millionaire ↵

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↵Best Director: Danny Boyle ↵

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↵Best Actor: Mickey Rourke ↵

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↵Best Actress: Kate Winslet ↵

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↵Best Supp. Actor: Heath Ledger ↵

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↵Best Supp. Actress: Taraji P. Henson ↵

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↵Next to the NCAA Tournament, Oscar Picks have to be the biggest office pool in America. Get to it! ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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