Shanoff's W.U.C.: Lakers Wrap Up Finals in 4

Today's Calls: Derek Fisher vs. Dwight Howard, Rafer Alston vs. Stan Van Gundy, NHL vs. Game 7, CC Sabathia vs. David Ortiz, Alabama vs. the NCAA, Donovan McNabb vs. Rex Grossman, Brandon Jennings vs. the NBA Draft and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: The Lakers haven't technically won the NBA title yet. But after 4 games -- and a 3-1 lead -- they might as well have. ↵

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↵Congrats, Magic, on a spirited run through these NBA Playoffs. They dethroned the champs, exiled King James and positioned themselves as the team to beat in the East -- not just next year, but for years. ↵

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↵But they're not beating the Lakers in 2009, not after losing Game 4 at home in Orlando. Oh, sure, the Magic might win Game 5 -- give the home crowd something to cheer about -- but it is simply too big of a task to beat the Lakers three straight times, including twice in L.A. in Games 6 and 7. ↵

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↵If the Magic were spirited, a reflection of the joyous Dwight Howard, the Lakers were relentless, a reflection of the driven Kobe Bryant (and the clutch Derek Fisher). After the Lakers were drubbed out of the Finals last year, they became the team to beat this year -- if only out of a sense of mission. ↵

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↵They are one step away from that goal, and Kobe won't be denied. ↵

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↵Derek Fisher is so money: Pick a YouTube clip from either of his two shots last night, any YouTube clip. ... ↵

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↵Dwight Howard: Nick Anderson 2.0? He had the record 9 blocks. He had the big double-double, 16 points and 21 rebounds. But he will be haunted by those last two missed FTs in regulation: 11 seconds to go, Magic up 3. Hitting even 1 of 2 would have put the game away. (Nick Anderson 2.0? Not quite, because without the rest of Howard's game, the Magic wouldn't have been in the game at all. Shaq did just fine without being able to make free throws. But Howard's misses -- 8 in all -- were brutal.) ↵

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↵Rafer Alston benched: Was that the difference in the game? He didn't play all that well in the 3rd quarter, but did that justify not having him see a minute in the 4th and OT? Now, Stan Van Gundy has turned Alston into a head case -- one more thing for the Magic to battle back from. ↵

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↵Stanley Cup: It's so interesting -- fans and media could not care less about the NHL ... but say "Stanley Cup Game 7," and all of a sudden everyone goes "Best single game in sports." It's kind of true. Let's be clear: If the NHL can't get fans to watch now, they never will. ↵

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↵MLB Talking Points ↵

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↵• Weirdest win of the year: Game-winning hit ... off a bird? ↵

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↵• CC can't stop Red Sox: Another HR for Papi. ↵

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↵• Ibanez still angry? HR in 10th beats Mets ↵

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↵• Streaking: Rockies win 8th straight. ↵

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↵• Where's Pedro? Looking at Cubs or Rays? ↵

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↵• Fantasy Studs: Gload (3/4, 2 HR, 3 RBI) | Scherzer (7.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 6 K). ↵

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↵• Interleague Weekend: Yanks-Mets, WS Preview? (BOS-PHI) ↵

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↵CFB: Alabama forfeits wins, the least painful of the NCAA's many unpainful "punishments." Unless you're Florida State, apparently. Spencer Hall has the must-read analysis. ↵

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↵Speaking of FSU, Clay Travis has a terrific take of the forfeits, with one incredible detail: If Bama forfeits their 2007 win over Florida State and Florida State has to forfeit their subsequent "win" over Alabama, what happens then? Did the game never happen? ↵ ↵

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↵NFL Offseason: Donovan McNabb is restructuring his deal with the Eagles. Not bad for a guy who was benched halfway through last season and whose career in Philly was presumed to be fading, if not over. McNabb remains the face of the franchise. ↵

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↵More: Rex Grossman returns! And what better place for the gunslinger than Texas, where Sexy Rexy will back up Matt Schaub, who is fragile enough that it seems inevitable that Grossman will see action, probably throw for 300 yards and a couple TDs, then turn it into a controversy. ↵

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↵Vick Watch: The UFL wants him. Instead of focusing on gimmicks, the UFL should focus on sustainable competitive advantage -- like allowing NFL-ineligible underclassmen into the league. ↵

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↵NBA Draft: Brandon Jennings took a risk, sure. But let's think about it this way: If he had gone to college for a year, maybe he would be being considered at a higher draft slot than he is -- but maybe he would be right where he sits now. The draft-info market isn't THAT inefficient; he is still valued ahead of, say, Ty Lawson. Meanwhile, who cares if Jennings slides out of the Top 5 and into the low teens? Regardless, the clock starts ticking on his rookie deal; if he can play in the NBA, he'll get paid ... on his NEXT contract. ↵

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↵(By the way, did you see the way Stan Van Gundy told it the way it is about the NBA's ludicrous age-limit rules? "It's a sham." Dwight, Kobe, Lewis and Bynum would probably agree with him. SVG had even less good things to say about the NCAA: "The worst organization going.") ↵

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↵CBB Coaching Carousel: Who in their right mind would want the USC job, you ask? Precisely who you think would: Coaches with absolutely no college basketball coaching experience, who cannot possibly understand how bad this job is going to be for the next few years. (And that's exactly what a program with no institutional control wants: New coaches who don't know NCAA rules.) ↵

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↵Crime: Tim Donaghy was attacked in prison by a mob member. See: THIS is why most people don't commit crimes -- it has nothing to do with morality and little to do not wanting to "do the time." It has everything to do with not wanting to be passed around Cellblock D like a pack of cigarettes. ↵

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↵Favre Watch: Really? Is it really going to be like this every day from now until the day four or five weeks from now when Favre inevitably signs with the Vikings? ↵

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↵The Last Word: The biggest -- and only -- sports-blog conference is happening tomorrow in NYC. If you are planning to be there, I look forward to seeing you there. Otherwise, I'm sure you'll be able to follow along via Twitter (#bwb) and the various attendees' blogs. It IS bloggers, after all. ↵

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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. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵ ↵

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

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