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June 2006

Why I like Dwayne Wade

Dwayne Wade is a wonderful young man who has yet to be touched by his celebrity status. Some celebrities, especially professional athletes, are products of their publicists and media team. Not so with Wade. That's not to say that he's perfect --- no one is. But this young man is awesome. He can easily reach the legendary status of Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Larry Bird and Dr. J.

Here's why I like Dwayne Wade...

Heat star Wade-ing into special territory

By Jill Lieber, USA TODAY

MIAMI — He's one of the most electrifying superstars in the NBA. He is 6-4 and 212 pounds and has a 39-inch vertical leap, a near 7-foot wingspan and hands big enough to palm a medicine ball. He's arguably the best perimeter player in the game, and he's been compared to Michael Jordan.

However, what people remember the most about Dwyane Wade, the Miami Heat's second-year guard, isn't what's on the outside.

Heat President Pat Riley is touched by Wade's genuineness.

"Life's not measured by the number of breaths one takes, but by the moments that take your breath away," Riley says.

"There's an awe about Dwyane, not only in his game but in his whole approach to life. His sincerity, his humility. All of those things are strengths when it comes to greatness."
Wade's teammates are inspired by his blue-collar approach.

"He doesn't buy into the NBA superstar hype because he's a special kid," guard Damon Jones says. "He's all about the team. He wants to win at all costs, and he understands he's a very integral piece of what we're doing around here. I can't even count the number of game-saving plays he has made, and never once does he boast or brag.

"He just goes about his work."

And Marquette coach Tom Crean is moved by Wade's sincerity.
"He has a gift of honesty," says Crean, who coached Wade from 2000-03. "He can be honest with himself and his teammates. What you see is what you get. In this day and age, so many people flash their agenda. His agenda is about winning, being a good teammate, being a good husband and a good father."

In the background

Wade, 23, the fifth overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft, drives a Chrysler, lives in a middle-class neighborhood, doesn't have a tattoo and never says the wrong thing. His entourage consists of his wife, Siohvaughn, and their 3-year-old son, Zaire.

His emergence this season — he leads the Heat in scoring (23.5) and assists (7.3) — combined with the arrival of a rejuvenated Shaquille O'Neal have been the catalysts for the Heat, who have the best record in the Eastern Conference at 40-14.

And his conduct on and off the court has caused folks to sit up and take notice.

Last year the Heat played in only two nationally televised games, including one on Telemundo. Tim Donovan, the team's vice president of sports media relations, and his assistant, Rob Wilson, called NBA beat writers across the country to try to convince them that Wade was a legitimate rookie of the year candidate.

"They all laughed at us, said we were blowing smoke," Donovan recalls. "We said, 'No, trust us, he's the real deal.' "

Wade finished a distant third to the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James and the Denver Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony in the voting.

But what a difference six months makes.

Today, at the season's midpoint, Wade ranks in the NBA's top 10 in scoring and assists.
Sunday, he'll join O'Neal in the NBA All-Star Game.

Now Donovan has more media requests for Wade than he has free time to talk about himself.
"This season, to a man, those same NBA beat writers are saying, 'Boy, you weren't kidding about this kid's talent,' " Donovan says.

The biggest stamp of approval, though, comes from O'Neal, who joined the Heat in July after eight seasons and three NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers — and a strained relationship with former teammate Kobe Bryant.

The instant he got to town, O'Neal declared Wade "a superstar," said the Heat were Wade's team and nicknamed him "Flash." Then he sat down with Wade for an hour to talk about the problems he'd had with Bryant.

"I wanted him to know all the stuff he read wasn't true," O'Neal says. "I told him it had nothing to do with me, and you'll see. This is stuff that happened between me and the other guy. And it can't ever happen between you and me."

Says Wade: "He was hurt by what happened in L.A. I told him, 'We aren't going to have any problems. I never had had any problems with my teammates, that's not the kind of person I am.' I said, 'I'm all about winning championships. If we're going to reach our goal, if I'm going to have the ball in my hand a lot and I'm going to be your sidekick, we've got to click.' "

They've been on the same page ever since.

Having dreams

"Dwyane respects the fact that Shaq respects and embraces him," Riley says. "That's where Dwyane is so different: A lot of young players come into the league and have no respect for greatness or for great players who have done it.

"Their relationship has flourished because of both of them cooperating, to be part of each other's games and to look out for one another. It's become a very dynamic duo."

O'Neal agrees.

"He's not a spoiled kid," O'Neal says, "and I'm not a spoiled kid."

The younger of two children born to Jolinda and Dwyane Wade Sr., Dwayne Jr., grew up on Chicago's South Side. His parents separated when he was young, and Jolinda struggled to make ends meet through welfare. Wade and his sister Tragil, who's five years older, bounced from place to place with their mother and her two daughters from a previous relationship.

"There were no birthday presents or Christmas gifts," Wade says. "You just didn't ever ask for what you wanted. It was my mission as a young kid to overcome being poor. I had so many dreams, so many aspirations."

It took several guardian angels to guide Wade through his turbulent childhood and lift him up to reach the stars.

When he was 8 and Tragil was 13, she changed the course of his life simply by tricking him into taking a bus ride.

Instead of going to the movies as she'd promised, she dropped him off at their father's home in another South Side neighborhood.

"It was two days before I realized she wasn't coming back," Wade says. "She was trying to get me away from the gangs and drugs, which were all right outside our mother's house, in our faces, every day. She didn't want me to get caught up in it."

Says Tragil: "We were raised to protect each other. It was a very stressful lifestyle with our mother. Our dad was with another lady, and he had three sons as well. I felt it would be better for Dwyane to be in that environment, with male role models."

Helping hands

The next year, Dwyane Sr. moved his family to a house in Robbins, Ill., a south Chicago suburb.
"It was a rough suburb, but it was a big step up," Wade says. "You could be outside late at night and not hear gunshots."

The new environment allowed Wade to play basketball with his stepbrothers and their friends, which included 9-year-old Siohvaughn Funches, who would later become his wife.

Siohvaughn's mother, Darlene, offered him a home to live in during his senior year at Richards High in Oak Lawn, Ill., when Dwyane Sr. and his wife were having marital problems.

Then, Jack Fitzgerald, the Richards High basketball coach, and several of the school's teachers offered their support by tutoring him for the ACT.

"His teachers came to me and said, 'What can we do to help him?' " Fitzgerald says. "Usually, with star players, the coach has to ask the teachers to give the kids a break. But we could all see how sincere he was about wanting to better himself through a college scholarship. We did everything we could to help him."

When Wade fell one point short of the qualifying ACT score, Crean went to bat for him, assuring Marquette's administration that he was well worth the risk of being the first partial qualifier in school history. As a freshman, Wade practiced with the team and dressed for home games but couldn't play or travel. And Crean rode him hard.

"Coach was harder on me than anybody else," Wade says. "When we lost, he'd come in the locker room and blame me, say it was my fault because I hadn't practiced hard enough. He wanted me to be a leader so he forced me to tell the guys how I felt about their performances. I wanted to call home and say, 'I can't do this.' It made me stronger, made me really want it more."

Says Crean: "We never treated him as a guy who sat out. We kept him at the front of the bench, either taking stats or notes. We never let him say, 'Woe is me.' "
In his sophomore year, Zaire was born, and he and Siohvaughn were married. They have been his guiding lights ever since.

"It gave me a home, something I'd been searching for all of my life," Wade says. "To have a person who believes in you so much and a child with a light in his eyes gave me the foundation I needed to flourish.

"My wife and son are invaluable to me. She inspires me, and our marriage has helped me mature and be responsible."

Jersey guy

When Wade decided to leave Marquette after his All-America junior season and enter the NBA draft, Crean gave his blessing. But he also cut Wade a deal: He promised to retire his No. 3 jersey, but only on the day Wade graduates. Crean says he has since changed his tune because of the way Wade has conducted himself in the NBA.

On Dec.7, Father Robert Wild, Marquette's president, honored Wade before the Golden Eagles game against South Dakota State, presenting him with the first Dwyane Wade Legacy of Leadership Award.

It will be given annually to the Marquette player who best exemplifies the traits displayed by Wade during his three years at the school.

Cheering on Wade from the stands that night were Heat coach Stan Van Gundy and several Heat players, including O'Neal.

On Jan. 17, his Heat teammates attended his 23rd birthday party at a Miami restaurant.
O'Neal, who'd spent the day shooting a commercial, was the last to arrive, carrying a Haitian rum cake loaded with candles. He led the singing of Happy Birthday.

Wade says the outpouring of affection was overwhelming.

"I'm living the life I imagined," Wade says. "I'm playing in the NBA. I'm playing on one of the best teams. I'm playing in one of the best cities. People know me around the world. I've got the family I want.

"Everything I wanted I got, and I'm happy."

© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged
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Miami HEAT and Dallas Mavericks NBA Finals tied at 2-2

Ok, let's get ready for Game 5 of the NBA Finals. My Miami HEAT can take the lead in the series on Sunday. Right now, Dwayne Wade is the star of the Miami HEAT. Shaq has already attained legendary status and D-Wade is the heir apparent. D-Wade is the HEAT franchise player. I pray that he never leaves Miami or the Miami HEAT.

The Mavericks will play the HEAT hard in this next game and they want to win on their home court. This series is a dog fight as I predicted. It will be difficult for the HEAT to win on Dallas but I'm praying.

Go Miami HEAT!

P.S. Oh, yeah, No Stackhouse in Game 5 becuase of that flagrant foul on Shaq in Game 4. How much of a differnce will that make?

© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

I am a Coke addict

I am a coke head. I need a 12-step program to rid me of this addiction. I must have at least a liter a day or I am tired and not in a good mood. Somebody help me, please. I tried drinking even more water than I already drink but that didn't do the trick, either.

I tried iced tea, fruit juices, coffee but nothing does it like Coca-Cola. Oh yeah, not that Vanilla Coke, Diet Coke, Caffeine-Free Coke, One Calorie, etc., etc., etc. Just make mine the original Coke.

Coca-cola is not good for the body. I know it but I drink the stuff anyway. Coke can clean rust off an car battery, that's how acidic it is.

I'm going to try to reduce my consumption to once a week. Please pray for me.

© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!


President's Body Man Leaving

The President’s body man (personal assistant) is leaving. So now we get to know the guy who gets more face time with the President than any of the Cabinet. Blake is going to Harvard B-school…without a bachelor’s degree. I guess working for the prez is the best recommendation letter anyone can have.

Now is the right time for Blake to make that move. Now, who can fill his shoes after four years with Goeorge W.?

Bush's Body Man Is Leaving


Cox News Service

Sunday, May 14, 2006

WASHINGTON — Add the president's "body man" to the list of close aides leaving the building.
After more than four years as President Bush's personal aide, Austinite Blake Gottesman will leave next month to head to Harvard Business School – one of Bush's alma maters – in the fall.
Gottesman's official title is "special assistant to the president and personal aide." The more commonly used body man moniker derives from the fact that his job is to stick as closely as possible to the president.

Since March 2002, he's spent about as much time with Bush as anybody on the staff. He delivers the presidential speeches to the presidential podium. He loads iPod One. He makes sure the president has the near-room-temperature drinking water he prefers.

He dog-sits Barney. He carries the hand cleanser. He keeps track of the president's schedule.

And he has traveled the world with Bush.

Oh, the stories the 26-year-old aide can, but won't, tell.

Gottesman is notoriously close-mouthed about what he does and what he's seen. No story about him is complete without the "Gottesman declined to be interviewed for this story" line.
Gottesman declined to be interviewed for this story.

He did confirm that he will leave his post by mid-June to head back to school in the fall.
Fortunately, White House aides who have watched Gottesman do his job are willing to talk about what they've seen. They talk of an endlessly loyal, efficient and courteous young man, always well-groomed and handsomely haberdashered, who has earned the president's trust.
"He is a friend and adviser to every employee of the White House, from career maintenance workers to cabinet secretaries," said Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin. "He is consistently kind and warm and generous with his time and provides extraordinarily good advice."

But, Bush advisers note, hold off on the permanent installation of a halo above Gottesman's never-a-hair-out-of-place head. The young wise man also can be a wise guy. Hagin, once the body man to the elder Bush when he was vice president, couches it in the positive. Retaining the "ability to laugh" is a White House virtue, Hagin noted.

"His timing is good," Hagin said.

Example: Within earshot of the president after a major speech, Gottesman says, "I don't know, Hagin. I thought it was a pretty good speech."

And then there's the works-every-time prank predicated on Bush's dislike of ringing cell phones. Most often targeted at a new military aide, Gottesman borrows the aide's cell phone and readjusts it from vibrate mode to really loud annoying ring mode.

Later, when the aide is in close quarters with the president, Gottesman will call the phone, set off the ringer and earn the aide a dirty look from the commander-in-chief.

"He is the one person in the president's orbit who can towel snap as fast and funny as the president," said longtime Bush adviser Mark McKinnon said. "And he's not afraid to throw a zinger back at the president."

It's all very respectful, McKinnon added, noting that Gottesman's zingers always end with "sir."
"Blake doesn't just serve the president, he entertains the president," said McKinnon.
And, another longtime friend noted, Gottesman has the perfect comeback when anyone zings him. It's what the friend called an uncanny ability to cry on demand. Not just soft sobbing, but big-time tears.

Gottesman's links to the Bushes go back to his days at St. Andrews Episcopal School in Austin when he dated Bush daughter Jenna. He signed on with the presidential campaign in 1999, shortly after completing his freshman year at Claremont McKenna College in California.
Peanut, as Bush calls him for a reason nobody can immediately pinpoint, performs a variety of functions for Bush, all aimed at freeing the president from the little annoyances that can ruin a world leader's day.

He carries the Purell for after handshaking sessions. He makes sure the president has his favored peanut-butter-and-jelly on days when lunch is sandwiched in around a busy schedule. He did the research to make sure Bush had appropriate iPod headphones for when he rides his bike.

"He sees problems and issues before they become problems and issues," said Josh Deckard, a friend who now works in the White House Press Office.

Gottesman talked about his job in a rare venture out from behind the scenes for an August 2004 "Ask the White House" online chat from Air Force One.
Jackie from Brooklyn asked about "that bag that you always carry on your shoulder."
"The bag just has hair products for me. I keep all the president's official stuff in my suit pockets," he joked.

In fact, Gottesman carries a variety of necessities, including the Sharpie pen for autographs, the breath mints, as well as presidential mementoes handed out on the road.
Aaron from Tulsa got this on-line chat answer about "the coolest thing" Gottesman did in his job:

"Some of the most memorable things have been being with the president on September 11, 2001; the opening ceremonies at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City; landing on and sleeping aboard an aircraft carrier; the secret Thanksgiving trip to Baghdad; watching (and being a part of) the special forces demonstrations at Fort Bragg; staying in Buckingham Palace; staying at President Putin's dacha (country house) outside Moscow - and being in the Kremlin; visiting Mount Rushmore."

"This is just part of why I consider myself the luckiest 24-year-old college dropout, by far," Gottesman wrote.

As a college dropout, Gottesman will be a rarity at Harvard Business School, where spokeswoman Kerry Parke, declining to discuss Gottesman's situation, said the institution "has admitted students in the past without an undergraduate degree."

"This is highly unusual, but it has occurred," she said. "Those decisions are made on a case-by-case basis."

© Cox Newspapers 2005

© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged
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Africa and the Miami HEAT

Today is a great day! My Miami HEAT won last night (by a huge margin)! I only saw the very beginning of the game and then I fell asleep. Much of what has happened during the game is so amazing to me but may be missed by many. It looked like a Santeria convention!

Without starting any big debate about religion, I must say that people need to be aware of the African influence on this game. The color white and the HEAT's current "White-Hot Heat" theme reflect the beliefs of those who practice Santeria. Not to mention the HEAT's other color, red...Chango...Santa Barbara...white beads...check it out for yourself. Santeria is practiced in countries throughout the world.

I am not an expert but I know many Caribbeans who are much more knowledgable than I about the orishas and the relationship to catholicism. It really is fascinating. Then, when I read about the "beads" worn by congressional leaders from South Florida, I could only think...hmmm...could this really be working?

The origin and history of Santeria is quite interesting. The similarities between Catholicism and mant formal and informal practices of folks from different parts of the world, further solidify my position that the world is a big, small place.

Check out the links below:

© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged
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HEAT Pull off Game 3 Win

I love Dwayne Wade. He has the heart and desire of a champion. The HEAT pulled off a victory in Game 3 of the NBA Finals last night. Thank God for D-Wade. A 3-0 lead in the series would have been much too devastating to the HEAT and their fans.

The question is, "Can the HEAT keep up the energy and desire to win?" The Dallas Mavericks are a great team. I must agree their bench has much more depth than My Miami HEAT. Now, if they could just do something about that Mark Cuban . . .

© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

Brownie Spills the Beans

The real story of governmental neglect during the Katrina aftermath is now being told. Michael "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" Brown is spilling the beans and exposing George W.'s pleasure in the Katrina spotlight shining on his buddy.

There is more to this story.

With friends like Bush, who needs enemies?

Brown: E-mail shows Bush glad FEMA took Katrina flak

Sunday, June 11, 2006; Posted: 12:07 p.m. EDT (16:07 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The former emergency management chief who quit amid widespread criticism over his handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina said he received an e-mail before his resignation stating President Bush was glad to see the Oval Office had dodged most of the criticism.

Michael Brown, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Friday that he received the e-mail five days before his resignation from a high-level White House official whom he declined to identify.

The e-mail stated that Bush was relieved that Brown -- and not Bush or Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff -- was bearing the brunt of the flak over the government's handling of Katrina. (Watch how Brown fell from grace -- 4:00)

The September 2005 e-mail reads: "I did hear of one reference to you, at the Cabinet meeting yesterday. I wasn't there, but I heard someone commented that the press was sure beating up on Mike Brown, to which the president replied, 'I'd rather they beat up on him than me or Chertoff.' " (Copy of e-mail [PDF])

The sender adds, "Congratulations on doing a great job of diverting hostile fire away from the leader."

CNN has been unable to verify the authenticity of the e-mail, but the White House designation "" is part of the sender's e-mail address, indicating it came from the Executive Office of the President.

A White House spokesperson said in an e-mail to CNN: "This is an old rumor that surfaced months ago and we're not commenting on it. This story has already been reported and I have heard nothing at all that would substantiate it."

Some of the contents of the e-mail were first claimed in a column written by Brown's lawyer, Andy Lester, in the conservative weekly publication Human Events, and subsequently picked up by news media, but until now, the existence of a written record memorializing those claims have been unreported.

The e-mail was provided to CNN on the condition that the sender's name be redacted. Brown said only that the sender was a "good friend of the president," who has been with the president "a long time."

Brown said, he too, considers the sender a friend.

While acknowledging that part of a political appointee's job is to "take the sword" for the president, Brown said he has grown weary of Chertoff making him a scapegoat for FEMA's failures in the wake of Katrina.

"I'm not willing to take that sword for Michael Chertoff," Brown said.

"I'm frankly getting tired of Chertoff out there, every time he testifies, talking about how Brown didn't do this or that," Brown said. "As long as Chertoff continues to criticize me, I think we need to recognize that I was doing everything I needed to do down there."

Brown also reiterated an earlier call for the resignation of Chertoff, whom he said suffers from "political tone deafness." Brown suggested that despite announcements to the contrary, FEMA is not prepared for the 2006 hurricane season, which began June 1.

"I want the White House in general, in particular Michael Chertoff, to stop dragging me through the mud every time the issue of FEMA comes up," he said. "There's a lot of things that need to be done to fix FEMA and continuing to throw that at me is not going to solve anything."
Lester said the White House was handling the situation in "a cowardly way."

"What the White House was actually doing was taking some stories that got started in the media and pushing them and pushing them until everything got diverted to Mike," Lester said. "Mike Brown was being made the scapegoat."

© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged
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The NBA Finals will be a dogfight

My Miami Heat lost the first game of the NBA Finals. :( That's OK, we'll get Dallas in Game Two. Dwayne Wade did appear to be a bit sluggish.

The Mavericks are a talented team. I had never watched them play until last night. This championship series will come down to which team is the hungriest and healthiest.

I hope that will be the Miami Heat.

Game Two, Sunday at 9 PM.

© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

Women's Confidence Day

Yesterday was Women's Confidence Day. I didn't know anything about it. Did you?

Queen Latifah Annouces Women's Confidence Day First Wednesday in June Will Celebrate Building Women's Self-Esteem By BRITTNEY JOHNSON

June 7, 2006 — - The country is celebrating women's confidence, by official decree. The singer and actress Queen Latifah, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., and the YWCA-USA teamed up today to launch the first annual National Women's Confidence Day on Capitol Hill. Now printed in the Congressional Record, womens' confidence, self-esteem and self-respect will be officially celebrated the first Wednesday of every June by millions of women across the country.

The goal of the day is to acknowledge and increase the confidence of individual women in their personal and professional lives, say organizers. The YWCA hopes that the day will remind women to radiate confidence daily, which should help them reach their goals. "I am someone with or without this man. I am someone with or without this job, with or without these tight jeans. I am a strong woman. I can survive," Latifah said while explaining the importance of confidence in the lives of women.

She also discussed the role of parental figures, society's exclusion of young girls and women, and the importance of women maintaining inspiration after college and into their careers.

The event was sponsored by women's apparel company Curvation, and served as the kick-off for the Curvation Project Confidence YWCA Educational Outreach Program. This program was created to provide the necessary tools for women to build their confidence and improve their lives.

National Women's Confidence Day is the first phase of the multifaceted women's empowerment initiative that includes training, research and educational programs aimed at confidence building.

CEO of the YWCA-USA Peggy Sanchez Mills said she sees firsthand how problems such as domestic violence stem from low self-esteem. "This is the first national program in the 150-year history of the YWCA-USA that is aimed at building confidence in women by providing those plagued with self-doubt the impetus to improve their own lives," she said.

Latifah, Maloney and Sanchez Mills believe that confidence is a key component of success and used Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt as examples to emphasize how society greatly benefits from the actions, accomplishments and overall presence of confident women.

Latifah, a musician, author and Oscar-nominated actress, is also the spokesperson for Curvation, an intimate-apparel line for women with curves. In addition to motivating women to take pride in their bodies, Latifah pushes the women's empowerment movement through her music lyrics, motivational speeches and book, called "Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman."

Latifah, who attributes her own success and healthy self-esteem to her the strong women in her family, hopes that the day will serve as a reminder for all women to make the next step toward completing any goal they have, no matter how big, small, or out of reach it may seem.

"Today we're not encouraging women to go out and conquer the world. We're encouraging them to begin to conquer their own small world," she said. "This day is yours."

© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!


Several analysts call the Mavericks as the next NBA champs citing citing lack of depth and speed on the Heat Roster. Here's their take below:

Frim the Miami Herald:

FLORIDA SPORTS BUZZ Analysts weigh in on Finals

BARRY JACKSON [email protected]

Polling analysts on the NBA Finals:

• TNT's Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith pick Dallas. ''You've got DeSagana Diop and Erick Dampier to guard Shaquille O'Neal -- you don't have to [double-team],'' Barkley said. ''That's going to hurt Miami's role players. They have no answer for Dirk Nowitzki. They can run a lot of bodies at Dwyane Wade. I give Jason Terry an edge over Jason Williams at the point.''

• ESPN Radio's Jack Ramsay, on, picks Dallas in six, adding that Miami doesn't have ''the depth, quickness or shooting ability to match up well. Udonis Haslem will probably need help covering Nowitzki, which will open up the court for the rest of the Mavericks. As Chicago showed [in the first round], a quick, penetrating team can get to the rim and create foul trouble for Shaq. The Heat doesn't have an answer for Josh Howard. The Mavs at times will threaten to run the Heat right off the floor.''

• TNT's Steve Kerr: ''Dallas in six, because of their versatility and depth.''

• ABC's Mark Jackson ''heavily'' favors Dallas ''because of depth, speed.'' He also predicts Miami's perimeter defense ''will be exposed.''

• TNT's Doug Collins: ''Miami in six, because I think Shaq is on a mission to fulfill the promise he made when he arrived there. Also, the schedule with [several] days off benefits them.''

• TNT's Reggie Miller, a frequent Heat critic, also picks Miami in six: ''Shaq shows the world: Kobe who?''

I'm praying for the Miami Heat in four but I predict the series will go to seven. Both teams are hungry first-time participants in the NBA finals. It will be a dogfight.


© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!