Admin Note

An important family event will have me off the air for a short time. I should be back on schedule sometime between July 16 and July 18.

Please check back then.

Meanwhile, stay well everyone…

Here, There And Everywhere…

Today will be a clean-up of odds and ends on my clipboard. Any continuity from item to item is purely coincidental…

Kevin Durant ended what seemed to be endless speculation about where he will play basketball next season by announcing that he will sign a 2-year deal with the Golden State Warriors. This announcement raises one question in my mind:

    Are there enough shots in a game to go around among Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green? We shall find out next year…

This announcement puts to rest various speculations about where Kevin Durant may have chosen to play. Let me try to explain why some of those outcomes did not happen:

    Why not the Lakers? Well, in the last three seasons the Lakers have lost 55 games, then 61 games, then 65 games. That is not a good trend. Moreover, it means that in the past three seasons the Lakers have won a total of 65 games; the Warriors won 73 last year alone.

    Why not the Knicks? It is impolite to answer a question with a question but I will do so anyway. Who would want to play for that hot mess of a team?

    Why not the Wizards (in his home town)? Look at the Wizards roster; there are no certified star players there. Durant could not win with Russell Westbroook and a decent frontcourt in OKC; why would anyone think he might win with John Wall as his running-buddy and a less competent front court? Ka-beesh?

I somehow missed the following comment from Brad Dickson but Gregg Drinnan caught it and put it in his Keeping Score column. It is pertinent to the recent NBA championship won by the Cavaliers:

“With people in Cleveland rushing to see a sculpture of Cavaliers leader LeBron James that is made out of dryer lint, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald wrote: ‘You have over five decades to prepare, and this is what you come up with?’”

Joey Chestnut won the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest downing 70 hot dogs – and their buns – in 10 minutes. Ignoring the gastric distress of the moments following that feat and the impending intestinal distress on the next day, consider the “nutritional value” of 70 Nathan’s Hot Dogs:

    1260 grams of fat
    19,600 calories – not counting the 70 hot dog buns
    800 calories from fat – 64% of caloric intake from fat
    FDA “guidance” is to keep fat intake to 25-30% of ingested calories

Why do we celebrate gluttony on Independence Day?

There was a report that a disembodied human foot washed ashore in Rio de Janeiro right near where the beach volleyball competitions will take place in the Olympics next month. Just guessing here, but if an errant shot rolls down near the water line, no one is likely to say,

    “Give me a hand, here…”

Greg Cote had this comment about the upcoming Games in Rio in the Miami Herald last weekend:

“The Rio Olympics begin in one month. And, really, other than the threat of Zika virus and crime, the unfinished facilities, bacteria-riddled water, athlete withdrawals, doping suspensions and body parts washing ashore, everything is looking good.”

The 2016 Olympic Games have not yet begun but there is already sponsorship news about the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald had this item in a recent column:

“There is already an official toilet of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. I’m just glad sport isn’t overly commercialized.”

If for some reason you actually care enough about this to want more information, here is a link about the partnership between the Tokyo organizing committee and the toilet company.

Back in April Loyola University faced a problem on its women’s basketball team. Most of the players either quit or applied for a transfer citing harassment from their coach, Sheryl Swoopes. The university hired outside investigators and after several months of sleuthing, Loyola fired Sheryl Swoopes over the weekend. The Chicago Tribune has been on top of this story from the beginning; here is a link to their recent coverage.

Iceland’s hope of being the Cinderella of Euro 2016 ended over the weekend with a 5-2 loss to France in the tournament. The Icelandic team played hard for the entire game but France simply had better players on the pitch; the score was reflective of the game as a whole. Not to worry, however, there is a Cinderella still in the “Final Four” of Euro 2016:

    Wales – a team that had last won a game in a major international competition back in 1958 – will play Portugal and the winner of that game will be in the Final Game for Euro 2016.

    The other semi-final game will match France and Germany.

Finally, since I cited a Greg Cote comment above, let me close with another of his observations here:

“Colts sign Andrew Luck to richest deal in NFL history, worth up to $140 million through 2021. Imagine if he weren’t coming off his worst season!?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Summer In Finland…

Canadians celebrated Canada Day last Friday; Americans celebrate Independence day today. Between those two days of celebration, Finland hosted the Wife Carrying World Championships in the town of Sonkajarvi located a couple hundred miles northeast of Helsinki. The race takes place on a 253-meter sand track with a water obstacle that is 1-meter deep. The male in the race has to carry the female – who does not have to be his wife – for the entire course. Thirty-five teams competed and the winner was a Russian team that finished in 1 minute and 2 seconds.

The rules for this competition require the female to be carried must be at least 17 years old and must weigh at least 49 kilograms (108 pounds). The rules also state that all of the contestants “must have fun”.

If you missed the opportunity to got to Sonkajarvi to take in this event – or to participate in it at your choosing – be advised that Finland will host another world championship event later this summer and you still have time to plan to go or to practice so you can participate. From 24 through 26 August in the town of Oulu, the 21st annual Air Guitar World Championships will take place. The guiding spirit for that event is summarized here:

“According to the ideology of the Air Guitar, wars would end, climate change stop and all bad things disappear, if all the people in the world played the Air Guitar. At the end of the competition, the whole universe is invited to play the Air Guitar for the world peace.”

Last night, the Marlins beat the Braves in a game played at Fort Bragg, NC. It is the first MLB game played in the state of North Carolina and it is the first MLB game played on a military base. This was one of the home games for the Braves and the crowd was clearly in favor of the Braves. That did not matter much as the Marlins won the game 5-2. From the crowd shots of the game, I believe those in attendance were all servicemen and their families and it certainly appeared as if everyone was having a good time. Obviously, this was a makeshift facility for an MLB game; there did not appear to be an empty seat in the house and the attendance was reported as 12,582. During the game, they interviewed Rob Manfred about the motivations for putting the game at Fort Bragg. Manfred said that MLB is committed to putting real baseball games in places where it has never been before and make it clear that he wanted to see things like this happen in the future. Based on the crowd response last night, it is probably worth replicating.

The Braves “lost” a home game by playing this game where they did. The Braves are clearly having attendance woes this year – in addition to their on-field woes. The team is about as bad on the field as most people thought they would be and fans are finding other things to do with their spare time instead of going out to the ballpark. The Braves are averaging only 22,724 fans per game – down 3,266 fans per game from last season. These are not “early numbers”; the Braves have already played 47 home games as of this morning which is over half of their season allotment of home games.

In an attempt to get more fans into the park, the Braves have come up with an interesting sales promotion. You can buy a monthly pass for $39. Each person can buy up to 4 of these passes but the catch is that you do not know where your seats will be. About 2 hours before game time, each monthly pass holder will get an e-mail informing them where they will be sitting for the game that day/night. The pass will automatically renew month-to-month unless the buyer cancels out of the deal prior to the arrival of the new month.

In July, the Braves will play 9 home games. If you thought you might want to see even 3 of them, the monthly pass is a pretty good deal because that would mean you would see a major-league game for $13 per game. Those are minor league prices… I think this is a good idea for a team that is struggling at the gate. For all of the details, here is a link

There is a strange story out there concerning former Seahawks’ backup QB, Tarvaris Jackson. In June, Jackson was arrested for allegedly pulling a gun on his wife; he has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. There has been no trial or any pleading in the case so I am loath to fill in any details here. What is strange in this matter is that Jackson requested a public defender claiming that he is broke.

According to reports, Jackson said that he has no income and no savings or investments. He said that his assets are a car (worth $100K) and nothing else. Evidently, the judge was skeptical and denied Jackson’s request for a public defender. Jackson is correct in saying that he has no income; he is an unrestricted free agent and has not signed with any NFL team as of this moment. [Aside: This arrest and these charges will surely not make him any more attractive to NFL teams considering any addition to their QB rolls.] However, his assertion that he has no savings or investments is difficult to believe.

    In 2015, his contract with the Seahawks brought him $1.5M

    In 2014, his contract with the Seahawks brought him $1.25M

    In 2013, his contract with the Seahawks brought him $840K

Jackson was originally drafted in 2006; so, he has made a significant amount of money over the last 10 years. Obviously, he may indeed be destitute as he claimed; but I can understand why the judge was skeptical here.

Finally, here is an item I gleaned from Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter in the Seattle Times a while back:

“New York ended its holdout last week, becoming the final state to legalize MMA fights.

“The first bout will be at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 12 or the next time someone wears a Red Sox jersey into Yankee Stadium — whichever comes first.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

NBA Stuff …

I am intrigued by one of the early NBA free agent signings. The LA Lakers signed Timofey Mozgov for 4 years and $64M; I have not looked up the exact terms of the deal so let me assume for a moment that this is a simple $16M per year contract. I think there is a huge risk for the Lakers in this signing. Consider:

    Two years ago, Mozgov averaged 10 points per game and 7 rebounds per game for the Cavs. In the subsequent off-season, he had knee surgery.

    Last year, Mozgov averaged 6 points per game and 4 rebounds per game. In the Finals against the Warriors, he played a total of 25 minutes in 7 games and scored a total of 15 points in those 7 games.

    Mozgov will be 30 years old in 2 weeks.

Perhaps he needed that year to rehab his knee fully. In that case, the Lakers have themselves a competent center to go with three or four young and promising players who cannot play center; that would be a shrewd move by the Lakers. On the other hand, it may be that the Lakers are paying $16M per year to a guy who was essentially a bench player for all of the NBA playoffs this season. [Even before the Finals against the Warriors, Mozgov only averaged 5.8 minutes per game for the Cavs.] If his knee is damaged to the point where it will not improve significantly from where it was last season, the Lakers will have signed a $64M albatross.

While I am on the subject of the NBA – sort of – I wrote recently that Adam Silver wanted to make a rule change to eliminate the “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy and that I fundamentally disagreed with him on that point. However, I do have a suggestion for The Commish related to an issue that I think would benefit the NBA significantly. Moreover, given the large increase in revenues that the NBA has experienced – and is projected to experience in the next few years – this is the time to consider it.

The NBA is not well-served by the negotiated terms of the current CBA that creates the “one-and-done” situation in college basketball. Yes, there are some players who are physically ready to be NBA players one year out of high school; Karl Anthony Towns is the most recent example; however, please do not forget the names Kwame Brown or Eddy Curry. Yes, there are some players who are mature enough to handle the fame and riches they obtain as they sign their rookie NBA contracts; let me just say that some of them handle those assets more poorly than others. In the days when players stayed in college for 3 or 4 years before coming to the NBA, the league had access to talents that had received good coaching for a longer period of time and – generally – more mature individuals. So, how can that situation obtain once again?

I think that it is time for the NBA to make a major investment in the D-League – or to use the D-League as the basis for evolving a much more robust “minor-league system” for basketball. The NCAA used to provide this to the NBA for free; Federal courts ruled that the NBA could not prevent players from skipping directly to the NBA; the CBA legitimized – in a legal sense – the notion that a player had to be 1 year removed from high school to be NBA-eligible. I just do not think that 1 year is enough in most circumstances.

Let me review the D-League briefly here:

    There are 22 teams in the D-League and 14 of those 22 teams are owned by a “parent” NBA team.

    Eight other NBA franchises have some sort of “hybrid”/”partnership” sort of “ownership”/”affiliation” with other D-League teams.

    It is not as if there are not close ties between the NBA and the D-League already.

The problem is that the public perception of the D-League is about as bad as it could be. Ask most folks about it and the response will be somewhere on a spectrum centered around “the place for players who can’t play in the NBA”. Compare that with the public perception of minor league baseball where most folks think of those teams as “places where prospects hone their skills in order to get to the majors”. The NBA can do a lot to change that perception; and if they do, they can then embark on a course whereby they can begin to develop players over time for the parent club; having draft picks spend some time in the D-League should become a normal part of player development much as happens in baseball.

There are probably CBA considerations here but my next idea might make the NBPA amenable to a change here:

    I think the NBA Draft should be increased to at least 3 rounds and preferably 4 rounds.

    I think that D-League salaries need to be increased on a scale and that contracts for players taken in the second, third and fourth rounds should be limited to 2 years. After that, the parent club has to sign the player to an NBA contract that meets some minimum standard or the player becomes a free agent.

    I think that a first-round pick who is sent to the D-League for “seasoning” should continue to get his guaranteed NBA contract salary based on the slotting formula that exists and his time in the D-League counts directly toward the time when he fulfills that contract and can sign elsewhere as a restricted free agent.

I think this will make the NBA a better league with a better product to sell to the public. Yes, it will cost the league some money, but it will not bankrupt the owners by any stretch of the imagination. It complies with the law in that all of this would be codified in a CBA and it allows for the truly gifted player to go directly to the NBA after one year of college – Karl Anthony Towns as my poster child here.

Finally, since today is the day Johnny Manziel declared that he will get totally sober and serious about playing for an NFL team this year, here are two comments about Manziel from columnists:

“Johnny Manziel was indicted. My question: What with all that partying, how does he find the time for domestic assault?” [Greg Cote Miami Herald]

And …

“Last week, Johnny Manziel attended a Justin Bieber concert. In a crowd full of 16,000 11-year-olds, Manziel was still the least mature person in the room.” [Brad Dickson Omaha World-Herald]

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………