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Speaking out of turn

When Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson heard of Washington Wizards forward Chris Webber’s recent arrest, he got in a few digs at the player with whom he clashed at Golden State.

“From Day 1, Chris didn’t respect authority,” Nelson said. “He was the No. 1 pick, and he felt everyone should treat him like it, regardless. You don’t have to like the coach, but you have to respect the uniform.

“You don’t have to like the cop, but you’ve got to respect the uniform. Chris just doesn’t. He measures people’s success by their checkbooks. It’s sad.”

Nellie, what do you, the most overpaid coach in the league, use to measure success? It sure isn’t victories.

Proof that any fool can be a sportswriter

Bill Lyon writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer before last Sunday’s Super Bowl:

“The Packers will win this game because they will eventually wrest control of both sides of the line of scrimmage, due to superior size and strength and cunning, and because they have the best player at the most important position (quarterback Brett Favre).”

Lyon was waffling compared to the prediction by Bob Smizik of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette: “The Green Bay Packers will batter and blister the Denver Broncos by at least three touchdowns, giving the NFC its 14th consecutive victory.”

And the best forecaster in the country is … tennis great Martina Navratilova, who said before the game: “A very optimistic and nostalgic 31-24 win (right on!) for the Denver Broncos.”

That’s a lot of toilet paper

Calgary Flames coach Brian Sutter asked if the Sutter sons had always been competitive: “From the time the sun rose every morning. We had seven kids and one bathroom. Now that’s competition.”

Who gives a hoot?

The Miami Heat have defeated their fair share of Bulls and Grizzlies this season, but plans for a new $165 million arena may be derailed for weeks - all because of tiny burrowing owls.

The owls set up housekeeping in holes drilled to test the ground for contaminants. Now the Heat will have to move the protected birds - or build around them. That’s up to state officials.

Burrowing owls nest underground and, it turns out, the test holes are good starter homes for the birds of prey.

If the birds decide to raise a family, construction would have to be curtailed for 10 weeks - the time it takes burrowing owls to hatch a brood, raise the young, then send them on their way.

Florida burrowing owls are rare enough to warrant state protection - they’re classified as a “species of special concern,” one notch below threatened.

The owls stand 9 inches tall, and have sandy brown feathers and bright yellow eyes. They eat insects, especially beetles and grasshoppers, but also roaches and mole crickets.

It sounds as if they’d be perfect for guarding Dennis Rodman.

The last word …

“If you see a fur coat with one arm longer than the other, that’s my work.”

- Bobby Dollas of the Edmonton Oilers, who worked in his father’s furrier shop when he was a youngster and occasionally sewed skins together for coats.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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