Bullish on Michael and Co. heading into NBA playoffs


Whew! The seemingly interminable NBA regular season finally has ended and now we can get on with the meaningful part of the year -- the playoffs. The pick here to win it all is Chicago.

The Michael Jordan-led Bulls had the second-best record in the league (61-21) to Portland's 63-19. Also, the Bulls finished with four wins, giving them momentum for their series with the Knicks beginning Thursday in Chicago. The Bulls are 35-6 at home. The Knicks are 21-20 in the Garden.

* How many more years are the Washington Bullets going to floor these lousy teams and then talk about settling scores next season? The Bullets won only 30 games this year, one less than a year ago, and for the third straight year failed to make the playoffs.

* A lot of area golf fans were happy to see Fred Funk finish seventh and win $31,167 in the Heritage Classic last weekend at Hilton Head Island.

Funk, who coached the University of Maryland golf team from 1982 to 1989, has won $100,823 this year. He'll have a big following at the Kemper Open starting May 30 at Avenel in Potomac.

* The Blast is taking seriously its first-ever outdoor game Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at UMBC against the Maryland Bays, champions of the American Professional Soccer League. Three times last week and every evening this week the Blast players have been practicing at Essex Community College, adjusting to the outdoor game.

The Blast players shouldn't need any more adjustment time than that. All of them played outdoors for years before taking cover. This contest should pack UMBC's 4,500-seat stadium. The Blast should win.

* Loyola College basketball coach Tom Schneider doesn't know the history of his own school when he says the Greyhounds' non-conference schedule next winter (including NIT winner Stanford, Princeton and NCAA tourney teams Richmond and Towson State) is the school's toughest ever.

In the late '40s, the Jim Lacy era, Loyola -- then a member of the Mason-Dixon Conference -- beat Villanova with Paul Arizin and Seton Hall with Pep Saul and Bobby Wanzer and lost a disputed two-point decision at LaSalle, which had Larry Foust, Ace McCann and a freshman named Jim Phelan.

With 40 seconds to play Loyola led LaSalle, 71-70, according to three different scorebooks, and could have killed the clock. In those days a team that was fouled could take the ball out of bounds. But the LaSalle team manager had the official scorebook. He said the score was tied, 70-70. Loyola shot, missed, and LaSalle scored at the buzzer to win, 72-70.

Villanova, Seton Hall and LaSalle at that time were among the best in the country. Princeton, Richmond and Towson are not. Neither is Stanford, which didn't make the 64-team NCAA field.

* People are scratching their heads over sophomore Bill McCaffrey's decision to transfer from Duke. They'd like to know where a basketball player can play for a better program and get a better education.

McCaffrey wants to be a pro and feels he's not getting enough playing time at Duke. He got enough to make the All-Final Four team. He's said to be interested in Stanford, where his brother, Ed, is a football wide receiver. George Young drafted Ed on the third round Sunday for his New York Giants.

* NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue talks nonsense when he says Rocket Ismail's defection to Canada will not hurt his league.

Says Tagliabue: "He's only one player and it's a team game." And just how many people does he think are going to buy tickets to see Russell Maryland?

* The New England Patriots made a smart move in drafting Maryland quarterback Scott Zolak on the fourth round. Everybody knows Zolak is a big kid (6 feet 5, 220 pounds) with a strong arm who has started only one year. Those who've met him also like his intangibles -- intelligence, personality. He's a classy young man. All he needs is experience.

* You have to give Baltimore's Pam Shriver high marks for citizenship for her role in last night's 2000/LOVE tennis fund-raiser at the Capital Centre to help reduce world hunger (not to mention her role in raising funds here to fight Cystic Fibrosis).

Shriver's unselfishness is to her everlasting credit as a person. It also helps explain why she never rose to No. 1 or No. 2, although she did get to No. 3. With so many interests, Shriver never has been as single-minded as Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.

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