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Flynn Hits Close to Home

Former Niagara Falls and Syracuse star Jonny Flynn dressed in rapid fashion Tuesday night, eager to see family and friends following the Minnesota T-Wolves 94-88 loss to the Toronto Raptors. It was Flynn's first NBA game in proxmitiy to his native Niagara Falls, and he impressed: 17 points on 6 of 14 shooting, eight assists, four rebounds and three steals. Flynn scored 11 of his points in the fourth quarter in attempting to rally the T-Wolves to a rare victory.

The downside of going early in the NBA draft is that you end up on a team that's usually rebuilding. As Flynn's learned, the 3-18 T-Wolves fit the mold. There just aren't many scoring options. It'll be interesting to see if head coach Kurt Rambis gives Flynn more liberty as the season evolves, or if he adheres to the triangle offense despite lacking the personnel to make it effective.

-- Bob DiCesare

Buffalo Sports Museum a labor of love

Boutet V

Be sure to check out the Monday Extra in the Sports section on local teacher John Boutet's labor of love, the Buffalo Sports Museum. Boutet has more than 10,000 pieces of memorabilia in his home and has put photos of many of them on his voluminous Web site at www.buffalosportsmuseum.com. I spent three hours in his home last week and probably could have spent about 13 more because there were so many bring-back-the-memories things to see.

For an even better look at the collection, follow this link to our Web video, Great work as always by digital media producer Joseph Popiolkowski and photographer James P. McCoy, whose shots are in the paper, on this blog and in this photo gallery

Boutet VI Boutet sent me a follow-up email last week that he agreed to let me share here. What's the favorite item in his collection? It's the mid-1950s Duke Snider Rawlings baseball glove of his late father, Paul. When John was a child, Paul Boutet was the one who took him to the Aud and Rockpile and let his son become a kiddie collector of sorts by mining ticket stubs and the like. Boutet gives you some more insight:

"He taught me everything I know about the game of baseball and more importantly life in sports. ... My Dad was the father who would always end up volunteering to coach when none of the other fathers would. He would work his 10-hour days and rush home to get us in the car and head over to Kenmore West for practice. He was the father who would drive all the kids home because he knew it was safer than having them walk or ride a bike on the busy Kenmore streets. He was the father who kept every kid who tried out because he knew everyone had value even if they were only the water boy or equipment manager. He never once cut a kid. He made sure every kid got a jersey even if it came out of his own pocket.

"He was the father who treated every kid to ice cream after the games on Saturdays at Anderson's. He was the father who threw batting practice until his arm nearly fell off. He was the father who when he found out that 20 kids weren't going to make the St. Joe's JV hockey team said "Let's make a JV "B" team just so those 20 kids would have a team to play on. He never coached hockey in his life but he wanted those kids to have a team to call their own. He named the team the "It's" because he said "It was the team to play for". That was my Dad, always looking out for all the kids, not just his own. So my favorite item is that tattered old glove, because it symbolizes all that my Dad was...my hero."

Great stuff. Nothing more to be said after reading that.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Bird faces race issue

Indianapolis Star sports columnist Bob Kravitz caused a stir with his column on Wednesday, in which he wonders if Indiana Pacers President and NBA legend Larry Bird is trying to build a team dominated by white players.

In a league that is nearly 90 percent African-American, half of the Pacers' roster is white. They also drafted North Carolina All-American Tyler Hansborough, who is white, with their first-round pick.

Bird once said in an interview that the NBA needed more white players to create excitement among its mostly white ticket-buying fan base. There also is the issue of those embarrassing incidents, including that brawl in Detroit, involving some African-American Pacer players that turned off Indy's white fans who fill most of the seats at Conseco Fieldhouse.

There might be a racial component to the Pacers' roster, but I don't think Bird is being a racist.  It should be noted that eight of Bird's last 10 draft picks were African-American. The Pacers' best player, Danny Granger, is African-American as well.

For anyone to suggest that Bird's player moves are racially motivated is crazy. He was color blind as a player and he still is as an NBA executive. The make up of his roster is purely coincidental. Bird needs to win to stay employed, so it wouldn't be smart to put together a team that can't.

---Allen Wilson 

Talkin' about practice (the remix)

Fun stuff, including an appearance by a certain new Buffalo Bill at the end ...

---Keith McShea

Buffalo's best in the NBA

Since 1970, 21 athletes who played high school ball in Western New York, have been drafted by the NBA, according to Rodney McKissic's story in today's Buffalo News.

That list includes Bob Lanier, who was picked No.1 overall by Detroit in 1970 from Bennett and St. Bonaventure, and Nichols School and Duke All-American Christian Laettner, who was selected third overall in 1992 by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

On Thursday night, Jonny Flynn (sure thing) and Paul Harris (second round?) of Niagara Falls are expected to join the club.

Your thoughts on the NBA draft and the local connections?

Can the Lakers repeat?

The Los Angeles Lakers have just begun to savor their 15th NBA championship, but the question of winning it all next year has already come up. The oddsmakers have already made them the favorite, but it won't be easy to repeat. A number of things have to fall in place for the Lakers to go back-to-back.

Forwards Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza, who were instrumental in this year's title run, become free agents in July. So will backup point guard Shannon Brown, who had some good moments in the postseason. Odom, who made $14.1 million this season, and Ariza, who earned $3.1 million, will likely command big money on the open market. The Lakers want to keep both, and there have been reports the players might be willing to re-sign for less money than they could get elsewhere, but it's highly doubtful their agents share that opinion.

In reality, the Lakers would have to give Odom and Ariza contracts that would put the team over the salary cap and thus require them to pay a big luxury tax. That hasn't been an issue before, but it could become an issue now given the country's bad economy. Conversely, the economy might help the Lakers because other teams might not offer big money deals to Odom and Ariza.

If I had to make a choice between the two, I'd keep Odom. It would be cheaper to re-sign Ariza, but you can find another perimeter scorer and defender like him. However, there is no one else in the NBA like Odom, a power forward with point guard skills. With Odom, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, the Lakers have the most talented trio in the NBA. And speaking of Kobe, he can opt out of the last two years of his contract this summer, which would complicate matters even more.

Another issue the Lakers have to resolve is coach Phil Jackson's status. He has one year left on his contract, but he certainly has nothing left to prove now that he has surpassed Red Auerbach with his record 10th NBA title. There's also Jackson's health to consider. He has endured hip problems that have made walking painful at times. He may decide all the travel is too taxing on him physically. Jackson said after the game on Sunday that he would take about 10 days off to relax and think about his decision. All of L.A. will be waiting nervously for that decision.

So if Jackson returns, Odom and Ariza get re-signed and Bryant doesn't opt out, you would have to like the Lakers' chances to repeat. They are still relatively young, with only Bryant (31 in August), Odom (30 in November) and point guard Derek Fisher (34) in their 30s when next season begins. Gasol is in his late 20s, while Ariza, center Andrew Bynum, point guard Jordan Farmar, small forward Luke Walton and two guard Sasha Vujacic are in their early to mid-20s.

The Laker team that takes the floor in 2009-10 will depend on owner Jerry Buss. He made several million dollars in extra revenue from his team's 12 home playoff games. Buss loves to win and he has always made the financial commitment to make the Lakers a contender. If he continues to invest in the talent on his roster, he could be rewarded with a 16th NBA title.

---Allen Wilson

Magic's title hopes go poof

The Orlando Magic came into the NBA Finals on a tremendous roll but simply ran into a better team in the Los Angeles Lakers, whose superior talent, depth and experience made the difference in the series. That said, the Magic will spend the entire summer wondering what could have been.

What if Courtney Lee hadn't missed a tough but makeable layup at the end of regulation in Game Two? What if Jameer Nelson didn't have a brain cramp and prevented Lakers guard Derek Fisher from taking and making a clutch three-pointer to force overtime in Game Four? If the Magic had won one or both of those games the series might have been totally different.

The one positive the Magic can take from its Finals loss is the team far exceed expectations. No one thought the Magic would even get this far. Next year the expectations will be much higher. Anything short of the Finals will be deemed a disappointment.

A couple of things have to happen to improve the Magic's chances of returning to the Finals. First and foremost, all-star center Dwight Howard must improve offensively. He is a great defender, but he's so predictable because he has no low post moves or a face-up game. He also has to get better as a free-throw shooter. Secondly, the Magic must re-sign forward Hedo Turkoglu, who opted out of his contract to become a free agent. Turkoglu is valuable to the Magic because of his ability to initiate the offense and get everybody involved like a point guard. His versatility doesn't exist with any other player on the team. 

 ---Allen Wilson

Redemption for the Lakers, vindication for Kobe

The Los Angeles Lakers embarrassed themselves losing by 39 points to Boston in the deciding game of last year's NBA Finals. But that defeat provided the impetus for their run to the championship this season. Some people may say that the Orlando Magic was its own worst enemy with all the missed opportunities and mental mistakes it made. But even at its best the Magic was not going to beat the Lakers, who simply weren't going to be denied this year. This title was sweet redemption after last year's debacle.

Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant was vindicated by winning an NBA championship because he finally got one without Shaquille O'Neal. This was very important for Bryant, who filled the only void in his Hall of Fame resume by earning the Finals MVP award. He no longer has to answer questions about Shaq, and he also validated his status as the greatest player of this generation.

---Allen Wilson

Stan Van Gundy, meet Jim Baron

What was I thinking about when I saw Derek Fisher hit that game-tying three-pointer for the Lakers at the end of regulation last night? March 16, 2000. The CSU Convocation Center in Cleveland.

Apparently, Bona grad and New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro had the same thought in his blog this morning.

"I swear, sometime, someday, it will finally dawn on basketball players and basketball coaches that when you have a three-point lead with time running down it isn't just the smart play, it's the only play, to foul someone and take your chances that way. You lose games because you don't do that, you torture your fans (my own story of torture: NCAA Tournament, 2000, St. Bonaventure-Kentucky, three-point lead for the good guys before Tayshaun *$#@#$%$%$#ing Prince nails the game-tying three). Welcome to the club, Magic fans. But, god, is Derek Fisher clutch."

For a time after that Bona game, what did I use for an end signature on my emails?

Foul Tayshaun Prince.

---Mike Harrington

Sore loser

LeBron James deserves all the credit he gets for being a great player who carried an average team to the Eastern Conference finals and for all the goodwill he's built up during his young NBA career. But his behavior after the Cavaliers were eliminated by Orlando last Saturday was unacceptable.

It's become a tradition in NBA (taking a page from the NHL) for players and coaches on both teams to shake hands after a playoff series is over. But James declined to stay on the floor after the Cavs lost. Not only that, he left Amway Arena without speaking to the media. He was unapologetic a day later, saying that congratulating a team that beat him is not his style and adding that he "didn't have anything to say" after the game.

As the leader of the Cleveland franchise and so-called face of the NBA, James had an obligation to address the media. He owed it to his fans, who wanted to hear and read what he had to say. It also was unfair of him to make his teammates face the music alone.

James may overcome this because he's been a class act, but his actions last Saturday were classless. And please spare me the "He's just young" excuse. His age had nothing to do with it, though he did come off as a spoiled brat.

James calls himself a leader, but he set a very poor example. I always believe you learn more about an athlete after defeat than after victory. What James showed after Saturday's loss is he's a very poor loser.

---Allen Wilson

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About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.

@WDX2BB | bbailey@buffnews.com

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