It's been a meteoric fall upward for Lane Kiffin, who was 12--21 as a head coach before bolting Tennessee for USC. As a kiss-off, he raided the Vols of his defensive-coordinator dad, Monte, and recruiting guru Ed Orgeron. And the six NCAA violations he accrued in Knoxville? He kindly left those behind.
Reggie Wayne broke ground on a $16 million entertainment complex in Katrina territory and broke the end zone against Baltimore. Haitian-American Pierre Gar√ßon (page 20) gave his ravaged fans some cheer with a 40-yard chase-and-strip of Ed Reed.
With marquee snipers Steve Nash and LeBron James looking on, the Hawks' Jamal Crawford and NBDL call-up Sundiata Gaines of the Jazz coolly drained game-winning treys for their clubs. Said Gaines, who earned a second 10-day deal, "I love pressure."
The Syracuse men matched their best start in a decade (17--1) with their fourth offing of a top 13 team, West Virginia; the women reached 15 wins sooner than ever, thanks largely to senior Nicole Michael, who is closing in on the program's career scoring record.
Call Blake Griffin's "debut-prolonging injury" what it really is: another Clippers catastrophe. That puts Blake in league with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins. Cooling from an early hot streak, the team that groomed goons Sean Avery and Darren McCarty had to yank its goalie six times during a 3--10 stretch.
Against the Jets, San Diego saved its worst for last: Philip Rivers threw back-to-back picks, and Nate Kaeding (left) missed as many field goals, three, as he had all year. Now Norv Turner (14--0 with the Chargers in December; 3--3 in January) is at leisure to ponder that onside kick.
Ba-a-ad! If only every character on Spike's uninspired football sitcom (com being used loosely), Blue Mountain State, were as speechless as the namesake school's masked mascot, the goat. "Dumb even by fratboy standards," said The New York Times.
How to explain free-falling Liverpool, 10-7-3 and bounced from the FA Cup by second-tier Reading? Start with injuries to five of their top nine scorers, including Fernando Torres. Things could grow bleaker if Torres, as rumored, is gone from Anfield after the season.
SI PLAYERS NBA POLL
WHO IS THE NBA'S MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER?
Joe Johnson, Hawks G 9%
John Salmons, Bulls G 6%
Lamar Odom, Lakers F 4%
Gerald Wallace, Bobcats F 4%
David Lee, Knicks C 3%
Johnson may be a short-timer on this list, given his 21.2-point average for on-the-rise Atlanta.... Wallace also may be playing his way off, having elevated his rebounding average from 7.8 in 2008--09 to 11.5 this season.... Four '09 All-Stars besides Johnson received votes: Raptors forward Chris Bosh, Lakers forward-center Pau Gasol, Hornets forward David West and (seriously?) Cavs forward LeBron James.
Based on a survey of 190 NBA players • For more on the poll, and to comment on it, go to SI.com/players
ICON SMI (GRIFFIN)
DENIS POROY/AP (KAEDING)
COURTESY OF SPIKE TV (MASCOT)
RICH KANE/ICON SMI (MICHAEL)
DAVID E. KLUTHO (JOHNSON)
SAM SHARPE/US PRESSWIRE (WALLACE)