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'Shhh. Don't even talk about that. [What if] Cleveland gets hot, Chicago gets hot?

It's way too early.'

- LaTroy Hawkins, closer for the Twins, on World Series possibilities.

worst to first

One month into the season, baseball's standings are upside down. Three last-place teams from 2000 - Minnesota, Philadelphia, and the Chicago Cubs - are in first place, while the New York Yankees are the only division winner from last year playing above .500.

It's too early to start planning for that Cubs-Twins World Series, but some of baseball's surprising starts this season might mean something.

April success has translated very well to October baseball recently. Fifteen of the past 18 teams to hold a share of first place entering May went on to make the playoffs.

That's good news for American League East leader Toronto, as well as the other division leaders: Minnesota, Seattle, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and the Chicago Cubs. But they aren't buying into history yet. "A good start means nothing without a good finish," says Corey Koskie, one of the keys to the Twins' surprising start.

Lakers: team to beat

Only a month ago, the Los Angeles Lakers appeared in trouble, a fractious team going nowhere while attempting to successfully defend their first NBA title in 12 years.

Now the Lakers look even better than last season's team. "We might be a little better, especially mentally," Kobe Bryant said after the Lakers beat Portland for the third straight time Sunday to complete their first sweep of a playoff series in 10 years.

The Lakers have a full week to rest and prepare for the second round, which begins Sunday at Staples Center. They'll face Sacramento, which defeated Phoenix 3-1.

2004 GAMES progress

International Olympic Committee officials expressed satisfaction yesterday with the progress made by Athens on the construction of long-delayed sports venues, considered a key element in its struggle to prepare for the 2004 Summer Games. Government officials also presented IOC inspectors with the final locations for all venues and firm dates for their construction.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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