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Gonzaga’s First Defeat? I Did That

February 25th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, France, UCLA

The upside to getting an English-language-based TV package, here in the south of France, is that it allows me to look at about 50 sports channels broadcast in a language I more fully comprehend.

The downside is, when sports events are live in the U.S., it is some time after midnight in France. When, in theory, I ought to be sleeping.

So, I woke at 3:30 a.m. and checked online …

And saw UCLA was leading by 10 late at Arizona …

Which led me to finding the game on ESPN and seeing the Bruins close out the victory …

And learned that unbeaten Gonzaga was up next, against conference rival BYU …

Which ended with a shock BYU victory, 77-71.

Which leads me back to a point made previously: Many sports fans (including this one) believe their viewing a game somehow makes a difference in the outcome.

Because Gonzaga is now 0-2 in games I have seen from start to finish.

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Intentional Walk Gets Run Out of Baseball

February 24th, 2017 · 1 Comment · Baseball

It isn’t true I oppose every baseball rule change. Just nearly all of them.

Baseball’s rules should be treated with great reverence. Change them not at all unless some compelling need arises.

Making the intentional walk “automatic” is not a change that really needed to be made. It’s not like fans, players and owners were agitating for it.

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Fear of Relegation Prompts Midseason Ouster of Champion Coach

February 23rd, 2017 · No Comments · English Premier League, Fifa, Football, soccer

The financial ramifications of failure in England’s Premier League are the most dramatic in sports.

The difference between income inside the league … versus income outside it for the three clubs who will be relegated in May … appears to be something north of 400 million pounds. Maybe around half a billion.

Per club, per season. Mostly driven by a 5.1-billion-pounds TV deal for the world’s most-watched sports league.

Fear of demotion to the second division, and the financial Armageddon attached to it, led to defending champion Leicester City announcing today it had fired coach Claudio Ranieri — who was named Fifa’s club manager of the year only last month for leading City to the 2016 Premier League championship, one of the most astonishing upsets in sports history.

In most sports, in most countries, that sort of triumph would assure a coach of at least one full season of further employment, and probably two.

For Claudio Ranieri, it was good for two-thirds of a season.

And as harsh as that treatment seems, it is difficult to criticize Premier League owners for changing coaches when that half-a-billion threat of relegation becomes palpable.

As it now is, at Leicester.

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Magic Johnson Gets First Trade Right

February 22nd, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, Lakers, NBA

Even before his first full day as Lakers president of basketball operations ended, Magic Johnson pulled off a trade that will help the Lakers in what figures to be a long climb back to respectability.

Journeyman guard Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets for journeyman forward Corey Brewer and a Rockets first-round draft pick.

Some might say: “Lou Williams was the Lakers’ leading scorer!” But that matters little, if at all.

Four reasons why this was a fine first trade by Magic:

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Lakers Front-Office Shakeup: What Took So Long?

February 21st, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, Kobe, Lakers, NBA

Jerry Buss died on February 18, 2013.

Two months later, the team he owned, the Los Angeles Lakers, completed a 45-37 regular season and qualified for the NBA playoffs for the 31st time in the 33 seasons played since Buss bought a controlling interest in the club, ahead of the 1979-80 season.

Buss left his 66 percent interest in the team to his six children, to be divided equally. The trouble is, he got at least one key role wrong, that of executive vice-president of basketball operations.

That job went to son Jim, who had never really impressed, and the Lakers imploded.

They have missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, with a fourth failure all but assured this season, and today the one Buss child who outranked Jim in the Lakers hierarchy — sister Jeanie, the club president — fired her brother from his front-office job and also dismissed Mitch Kupchak as general manager, ending a 17-year run for the latter.

Jim Buss and Kupchak oversaw an 84-220 record in three-plus seasons since Jerry Buss died and have led a rebuilding era that has gone nowhere.

Former Lakers great Magic Johnson takes over the basketball operations job, and a GM is being recruited, with Rob Pelinka, Kobe Bryant’s agent, the leading candidate.

Asked at a press conference today about firing her brother, Jeanie said: “This was a very difficult decision. It was probably so hard for me to make that I probably waited too long. For that, I apologize to Laker fans.”

Apology accepted. [Read more →]

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The Attention-Grabbing Cousins Trade

February 20th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, Lakers, NBA

DeMarcus Cousins was traded by the Sacramento Kings to the New Orleans Pelicans today in what seemed like a lopsided deal.

The Pelicans got perhaps the league’s most prominent big man (and currently the league’s No. 4 scorer, at 27.8 ppg) in exchange for a whole lot of not much — rookie wing Buddy Hield, who is already 23; what’s left of Tyreke Evans and someone named Langston Galloway, plus the Pelicans gave up their two picks in the June draft.

They also got Omri Casspi from the Kings.

What can we make of this seemingly unequal deal?

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A Jimmer Sighting!

February 19th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, NBA

Remember when Jimmer Fredette was required viewing? I once watched him play in the wee hours of an Abu Dhabi morning … because I just wanted to see his act.

It was March of 2011, during the NCAA playoffs. That was the season in which he led the NCAA in scoring at 28.9 points per game, more than four points better than any other collegiate player, and helped get BYU to the final Sweet 16 for the first time since 1981.

And then?

Jimmer went 10th in the NBA draft, to Sacramento, but he never really showed he could play in the world’s top league. The Kings gave him two-plus seasons to become a significant contributor, but he never got there because he struggled to score, and scoring is about 99 percent of his game.

By the end of the 2015-16 NBA season, when he had played for five teams in four seasons, his options looked limited to D-League stuff. In August he revealed he was joining the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association.

And today, he scored 73 points for Shanghai in a double-overtime road loss in the Chinese league, where Jimmer is one of the leading scorers (38 ppg) and, also, the star he never has been in the NBA.

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Kyrie Irving and a Flat Earth; No, Really

February 18th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, NBA

Kyrie Irving, formerly of Duke University, currently LeBron James’s wing man in Cleveland, recently did a podcast with two Cavaliers teammates in which he repeatedly declared that the Earth is flat.

Flat. As in … sail long enough and your boat will go off the edge of the world. Flat as in “not round”. Flat as in “13th-century science”.

Irving recapitulated the “world is flat” thing on Friday when asked about it by ESPN reporter Arash Markazi.

Kyrie Irving, 21st century point guard and apparent Flat Earth Society adherent.

Until … today. When Irving suggested the whole of it was a sort of joke. A sort of experiment to see if people would, you know, react to his notions of the solar system, and take him seriously.

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Phasing Out Airline Seat-Back Screens? A Disaster

February 17th, 2017 · No Comments · Travel

Perhaps the only significant contribution, over the past decade, to making long flights in coach class endurable has been the seat-back screen and the in-flight entertainment package.

I know of no long-haul flight which does not have those little square screens right in front of the faces of passengers … and they go far in making the otherwise punishing experience bearable.

Now, airlines are planning to remove the screens in the coming years because 1) we “are all on our phones, anyway” and 2) because operators can save another few bucks in the process.

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Is the Future of U.S. Women’s Soccer … in Europe?

February 16th, 2017 · No Comments · Football, soccer, World Cup

U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd, twice the Fifa women’s world player of the year, said this week she will spend three months this year playing for Manchester City of England’s Women’s Super League.

This is the same Manchester City organization that has been competing for championships on the men’s side, in England, for the past half-dozen years.

Man City has a women’s team, and it’s good, and figures to get better now that Lloyd has committed to joining them for most of the spring.

Lloyd, 34, will miss the first half of the National Women’s Soccer League season to spend those 13 weeks in England, but her commitment, albeit temporary, is only the latest for elite American soccer players, who have had trouble monetizing their careers.

It now seems more likely several European nations will develop the women’s club game faster than has been seen in the U.S., where various leagues and clubs have come and gone and mostly lost money while paying players pittances.

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