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Mbah a Moute: Big Plus for Rockets

November 23rd, 2017 · No Comments · NBA, UCLA

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute‘s final season at UCLA, 2007-08, was also my last as a journalist in Southern California.

I remember Mbah a Moute fairly well. He was a junior, a starter at power forward for a UCLA program that was riding high, and a regular contributor the previous two seasons. But he also was the fifth-best guy in the lineup that included Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Darren Collison and Josh Shipp.

Nothing about Mbah a Moute said “NBA star”.

The notion that he would have a significant pro career … and he has, with 10 seasons and more than $25 million in salary … well, I never saw that coming.

Not only has Mbah a Moute, a native of Cameroon, moved into his 10th season in the league … the other day he had an NBA-record plus-minus statistic of plus-57 for his latest team, the Houston Rockets.

Which is astonishing, for several reasons.

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RIP, ‘Pocket Hercules’

November 22nd, 2017 · 1 Comment · Olympics

The first paragraphs went like this:

“He stands five feet tall.

“He weighs 132 pounds.

“He can lift 418 pounds over his head.

“His name is Naim Suleymanoglu, from Turkey, and pound for pound he is the strongest man in the history of the world.”

That was the opening of my story on the featherweight lifting competition at the Seoul Olympics, one of the more memorable events I covered as a journalist at 14 Olympics.

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Newspaper Wrinklers and Crumplers

November 21st, 2017 · No Comments · Journalism, Newspapers

Pretty much everyone who has worked in print journalism nurses a grudge toward people who crumple a newspaper while paging through it.

Today’s paper, especially.

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Sorting the World Cup Best from the Rest

November 20th, 2017 · No Comments · Fifa, Football, France, Russia 2018, World Cup

The 32 teams are set.

Last nation into the tournament was Peru, with a 2-0 aggregate victory over New Zealand in the inter-confederation playoffs.

Here are the nations that will participate in Russia 2018 — 31 of them, with the host Russia making it 32.

Let’s break these down into contenders, long shots, also-rans and no-hopers.

These evaluations might change a bit, after the draw is made, on December 1, for next summer’s tournament. But this is what we have at the moment.

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Rams Get a Reality Check

November 19th, 2017 · No Comments · Football, Golf, NFL, Rams

Whoa, there, Rams fans. Your team is not going to sprint to the Super Bowl any time soon.

That 7-2 start? Nice. But when the Rams stopped playing cupcakes and ran into another quality team, the Minnesota Vikings … well, it did not go well.

To the tune of 24-7, with the “highest-scoring-team-in-the-league” Rams on the “7” end of that.

What bits were scary for the Rams?

Several.

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Lonzo Ball Walks Away from Trouble

November 18th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, Lakers

A shoving match broke out during the Los Angeles Lakers’ game in Phoenix last night.

It was an entirely forgettable, silly display, as most NBA fracases are. A little post-whistle bump here (by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope), a modest shove there (by Tyler Ulis of the Suns) … and teammates rushing in to separate the “combatants”.

Noticeable by his absence was rookie Lonzo Ball. He was near the childish scuffle, when it broke out, but kept walking toward the Lakers bench. About halfway there he looked back — but kept walking.

Which led to a social media storm of (mostly) condemnation of Ball for not “coming to the aid” of a teammate … and a snarky putdown here and there.

Some suggested he is, essentially, a coward. The snarky putdown crew, riffed on the notion in some quarters that Ball is “passive” — to the point of not getting in sandbox style snits.

Actually Lonzo Ball ought to be congratulated for his actions — which seem to suggest he believes a serious person does not get involved with the antics of momentarily annoyed basketball players.

He summed up his position in a few words:

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Today’s List: Tips for Post-Game Questions

November 17th, 2017 · No Comments · Journalism, Lists, Sports Journalism

This is an important journalism skill outsiders rarely think about.

Posing post-game questions.

This is not the same as asking a question in an interview situation. At best, a one-on-one with flexible time limits. More likely something in a controlled environment, like a press conference.

Asking post-game questions in a clubhouse littered with laundry and tape and cluttered by too many reporters … is a special talent, and not all of us have it.

I thought of this, anew, after seeing a fairly disastrous and seriously short Q&A between Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder and reporters tonight. The video is all of 32 seconds and most of that is reporters clumsily framing questions — ahead of the predictably unhelpful Westbrook.

Let’s craft a list of tips for the clubhouse interview distilled from 35 years in the business.

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Dubai Police Indulge Need for Speed

November 16th, 2017 · No Comments · Dubai

This is a thing, in Dubai. The police there love to add exotic and fast cars to its fleet of cruisers. The faster and more exotic, the better.

The latest?

Five new “patrol” cars that get from Point A to Point B in a big hurry.

To wit:

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Let’s Enjoy Joel Embiid While We Can

November 15th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, Lakers, NBA

It is fun when we discover a new sports star/superstar.

Just when we get conditioned to the usual roster of the elite, boom, there he is: Another potentially great player.

Which is where Joel Embiid comes in.

Embiid is a 7-footer with quickness, dexterity and a fine shooting touch who plays center for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Like many NBA big men, he has endured a series of injuries, the most serious of which have been to his feet.

A native of Cameroon discovered by countryman Luc Mbah a Moute, the former UCLA Bruin, Embiid was drafted by the 76ers in June of 2014, after playing in 28 games in his single season at the University of Kansas.

Embiid did not actually appear in an NBA game for the following two seasons.

He lost 2014-15 to surgery on the navicular bone in his right foot; he lost 2015-16 to a second surgery on the navicular bone in his right foot.

He got through 31 games, his first since college, in 2016-17 before knee surgery stopped him cold at the all-star-game break.

But now he is back … and showing what he can do.

When healthy.

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LiAngelo’s Shoplifting? A Handy Twist for ‘Ball in the Family’

November 14th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, NBA, UCLA

Reality TV shows based on news-making families cannot be all goodness and light.

Some weird stuff going on? Some family tension? That helps feed interest in shows like Keeping up with the Kardashians, which has been runnnig since 2007. And, also, about the Balls and their much more recent reality debut.

LiAngelo Ball’s run-in with police in China? (Which ended Tuesday when he and two UCLA teammates got on a plane headed for Los Angeles.) That may not be good for the 2017-18 stats of LiAngelo, the middle of LaVar Bell’s three sons, but it could be reality-TV gold for LaVar & Co.

If Lonzo, a rookie with the Los Angeles Lakers, is (maybe) the star in the making, and little brother LaMelo is the brash gunner and “cute one” who could have a significant career …

LiAngelo can be cast as the edgy rebel.

His and his teammates’ sticky fingers created an international incident in China that deeply embarrassed UCLA, the Pac-12 and the U.S. government (and just about everyone who isn’t LaVar)– and that sets LiAngelo and his weirdly cropped eyebrows on the way to “bad boy” billing.

(And everyone loves a bad boy. A staple of theater/drama since the Greeks.)

LaVar Ball, pater familias of the Ball reality show (seen on Facebook) and founder of the Big Baller Brand line of shoes and apparel, certainly must see the creative possibilities here.

Consider:

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