published Monday, February 13th, 2012

Wiedmer: Anthony Davis, Jeremy Lin and Phil Mickelson have big weekend

NASHVILLE -- Forty-eight seconds remained on the scoreboard, No. 1 Kentucky leading Vanderbilt by five frail points, the Commodores' Jeffery Taylor about to launch a 3-pointer from the top of the key.

Given the 11 points and two triples Taylor had already totaled over the final half's first 19 minutes and 12 seconds Saturday night, there was little reason to believe he wouldn't bag another one from over the rainbow.

No reason, that is, except for the fact that one Anthony Davis had far different ideas. Seemingly flying in from West End Ave., UK's freshman Spiderman soared through Memorial Gym's supercharged air to slightly block Taylor's jumper.

The ball ended up hitting fellow Commodore Festus Ezeli in the back of the head, was grabbed by the Cats' Darius Miller and basically sealed Big Blue's 68-63 victory, a win to all but officially lock up the Southeastern Conference regular-season crown, since UK now leads second-place Florida by 3.5 games with five to go.

Fittingly, when Davis was later asked Kentucky's relentless defense, he replied, "We said it in every huddle, 'We're going to lock up defensively.'"

That block wasn't the only game-changer this weekend. For sheer "Can't-top-this" drama, there may never be a more defining moment in a golf tournament than No. 12 at Pebble Beach on Sunday, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods both in top form.

Having just dropped one into the cup from the bunker as only Tiger can do, His Stripeness appeared to have seized momentum as Mickelson stood over a long par putt that looked almost certain to become a bogey.

Let Phil the Thrill drop a stroke on the same hole Tiger gained one and Lefty's lead over Woods would have shrunk to three strokes. Let Phil bogey on the same hole Tiger birdied and Mr. Mo would have shifted entirely to Woods, who can ride momentum the way Ronnie TurcotteJeremy Lin once rode Secretariat.

But Mickelson drained the par putt to remain four ahead of Tiger. Talk about an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better moment. By the time it ended, Phil was nine ahead of Woods, the tourney champ and has now bested Tiger five straight times when paired with him in the final round of a tournament.

But if that wasn't enough to fill water cooler conversation today, how about New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, who has actually done the impossible in not only leading the Knicks to five straight wins, but turning the Big Apple into a warm, fuzzy place.

Whether you call him Tim Tebow in sneakers, Lin-Sanity, Lin-sation or don a T-shirt stamped, "Just Lin, Baby!," you can't help but fall in love with the first Harvard grad since 1954 to make it in the NBA, and the first player since the ABA and NBA merged for the 1976-77 season to score 109 points in his first four starts.

"And this is a guy who was probably two weeks from being released," said ESPN analyst Hubert Davis, the former Knick, on Saturday in Nashville, where he was part of the network's GameDay crew.

"Now he's the hottest thing in the league. But I would say that this isn't only about all he needed was a chance. This is about making him making the most of the chance he got. That's what makes this story special."

A single sweet story: Lin has been sleeping on a couch in his brother's apartment because he feared he'd be cut.

And it is here that his sudden celebrity breaks with Davis when it comes to Lin-credible stories.

Davis is a physical freak of nature, a 6-9 guy with guard skills, though that can happen when you grow seven inches during your junior year in high school to go from a mid-major guard prospect to the No. 1 recruit in the country.

"It's been years since we've seen a talent like this," said ESPN's Jay Bilas of the nation's leading shot blocker and UK's leading scorer. "And he's just scratching the surface of how good he's going to be. Everybody talks about his defense -- and he's the best defensive player in the country -- but Davis has got some pretty good offensive skills, too."

One measure of Davis's celebrity: Kentucky handed out a free poster of Davis during last week's victory over Florida at Rupp Arena. That free poster is fetching $150 on the Internet.

Of course, that may pale in comparison to the money Lin may generate if his comet continues to burn bright.

Not that his high school coach at Palo Alto (Calif.) High School ever thought money would be a problem for him. But as Peter Diepenbrock told USA Today this weekend: "I thought he'd be an engineer making a ton of money in the Silicon Valley."

Instead, he's got a chance to make tons of NBA money for years to come, just like Davis. Lincredible, lindeed.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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chas9 said...

Mark--Fun column. Which poster would you rather have? The Ashley Judd or the Davis wingspan?

February 13, 2012 at 1:52 p.m.
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February 13, 2012 at 8:24 p.m.
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