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(Jamie Squire/2011 Getty Images)
(Jamie Squire/2011 Getty Images)

Seven in the Morning

Crosby making a statement; LeBron a cartoon; Nash throws it down and more Add to ...

It's expected that Sidney Crosby will be named one of the captains for the NHL all-star game today and thus charged with picking one of the teams in the fantasy hockey-style draft that the league has decided to use to spice up the format for the mid-season 'classic'.

Update: In fact Crosby was not chosen captain; Nik Lidstrom and Eric Staal have the honours

Sounds like fun and the format change has certainly generated some buzz. Problem: what if Crosby decides to not to show up for All-Star weekend? We've got that; another incredible performance by Blake Griffin; Steve Nash dunking and news on the best CIS hockey player of all-time; bar none.

1. Crosby says nothing, but will he be heard?

The Globe's own David Shoalts has stirred up the punch bowl in advance of the announcement of the all-star captains today -- Sidney Crosby, still out with concussion symptoms following a pair of hits that weren't penalized and didn't draw suspensions, may suspend himself from the festivities: The word filtering out of the Pittsburgh Penguins is that Crosby is an angry young man, angry enough to pull his considerable star presence from one of the league's showcase events because he does not think the NHL is doing enough to protect its players. An NHL source said Crosby is not likely to tell the NHL he is withdrawing from the all-star game to protest the fact neither player who hit him on the head was suspended. However, he could easily decline and cite the need for complete recovery from a mild concussion.The source said Crosby, who showed up at the all-star game in Montreal two years ago even though he sustained a knee injury and could not play, is not inclined to do any more such favours right now.

Meanwhile Greg Wyshinski, aka Puck Daddy, seems to think that a well-timed leak from the Crosby/Penguins camp is all the protest that is going to happen: I don't believe Crosby will miss the All-Star Game in protest. I do believe he could miss it due to injury. I also believe that when it comes to making a statement about the NHL 's policies, leaking this to the Globe & Mail the day before Crosby's likely named an All-Star captain *is* the protest

Crosby gets criticized for not speaking out enough; but when he did speak about his concussion recently, he was pretty forthright (he gets to it at about 1:30 of this video); next time he speaks it might be even more interesting.

2. Everyone's vote for NBA rookie-of-the-year:

Blake Griffin has gained attention for his spectacular ability to power through other powerful people and dunk a basketball; video game style. But that may be the least impressive aspect of the Los Angeles Clippers rookie season (he missed all of last season with a knee injury). On Nov. 18th the Clippers lost by 27 points to the Indiana Pacers; Griffin took it to heart and has lodged a double-double in all 27 games since. He called a team meeting as the Clippers continued to struggle and has seen his team, 5-21 at the time, win 10 of their next 14 games. The accolades have come from all over, but Griffin still wasn't satisfied, as his prodigious dunking ability threatened to overshadow the rest of his game: all I hear is: 'He can dunk. He can dunk. He can jump high.' But people questioned the other skills. As a basketball player, you take that personally." So yesterday Griffin took care of that too, dropping 47 points and 14 rebounds on the Pacers; making 19 field goals while missing just five shots; and dunking only once on the day in another Clippers win.

3. If Sidney Crosby wanted out of the al-star game, all he had to do was send a text:

It worked for the Detroit Red Wings' Henrik Zetterberg who alerted old teammate Brendan Shanahan in advance of the NHL picking it's All-Star game roster that he would likely not be available due to a troublesome back. Interesting story here on how Zetterberg was able to remove himself from the pool of players and just as importantly why the Swedish star - one-half of a paparazzi-worthy couple back home - is just as happy to avoid moments in the spotlight in any case: The spotlight, Zetterberg said, is "something that always will be there. But I think once you reach it, you just want to kind of get away from it. It's not that I need that spotlight or I need that attention. Once you're off your work, it's nice to be a normal guy.".

4. Raptors lose, but not all lost:

First of all, it appears that they've got this tanking thing down: play hard, play hurt, lose close games; right now they'd be drafting sixth, so there is still work to be done. They did all the right things in New Orleans yesterday on the Martin Luther King holiday, as former Raptor Jarrett Jack who has not had a easy time adjusting to life as Chris Paul's backup -- "Just seriously, trying to find a comfort level where I can direct people... It's hard to know where to direct them when I didn't always know where I was supposed to be. "It just takes time. I've never been through a situation where I was traded midseason. I see why people struggle (with it)." -- did his part to lift his new team over his old team. But this reading of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech by long-time Raptors assistant Alex English, recorded by the The Fan 590's Eric Smith for his halftime show, reminds that that there is life beyond bad basketball.

5. The episode about loyalty should be a good one -- LeBron James, in cartoon form:

Perhaps seeking to connect with an audience that he has not yet alienated, LeBron James is going to be starting his own cartoon series: "The LeBrons" [is]planned for a spring debut on its own YouTube channel and Mr. James's Web site, lebronjames.com, will revive the characters from a popular series of Nike commercials in which Mr. James played four versions of himself: the youthful and wide-eyed Kid LeBron; the physically adept Athlete LeBron; the smooth and savvy Business LeBron; and an ornery elder statesman called Wise LeBron.

"I'm mostly a kid at heart," Mr. James said of these manifestations, "and I'm the athlete, of course, that everyone sees. But I also have a business side, a cool side, and I love antique stuff and classical music. I guess that's the old man side of me."

"The LeBrons," whose first season will consist of 10 episodes of five to six minutes each, will center on the world of 16-year-old Kid LeBron and his life in Akron, Ohio, using authentic locations from that city, where Mr. James was born and raised.

Like a latter-day "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids," each episode will convey a message - the value of staying in school, staying off drugs or sticking by your family.

6. Imagine if Wayne Gretzky returned to college and played hockey:

That's kind of the scenario at work here, as Hayley Wickenheiser - widely acknowledged as the best female hockey player of her generation - has quietly returned to the University of Calgary to pursue a Kinesiology degree and play for the Dinos women's team. There is some question if a 32-year-old should be playing with those a decade younger or more, but she's leading the CIS in scoring and a turnaround at the UofC, and isn't any less competitive than she would be playing for Olympic gold, as opponents note she can be hard on the refs and isn't on the ice to make friends: For the teenagers who grew up idolizing her, it's disconcerting to experience the flesh-and-blood version shoving her glove in their faces and grinding them into the boards. It can be difficult to see heroes as human. Wickenheiser may have won three Olympic gold medals in hockey, but Goyette says she's not treated differently than her teammates. Wickenheiser attends practices and rides the bus with her teammates with a few exceptions. "I don't get to miss practice. I don't get any special arrangements," Wickenheiser said. "Sometimes I do meet the team (on the road), but I'm coming from an event or a speaking engagement with sponsors and that's no different than it would be with a club team. I've got to pay the bills too.

7. Steve Nash can dunk; or could:

Badly, mind you, and I'm not sure you can trust exactly what you're seeing here; but this NBA commercial where a 1996 Nash - the hair cut seems to fit - gets visited by a ghost from the future is pretty neat, and does feature Nash squeezing it down.

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