VICE Sports feed for https://sports.vice.comenThu, 15 Nov 2018 23:04:02 +0000<![CDATA[Let's Watch Zion Williamson Do Amazing Things ]]>, 15 Nov 2018 23:04:02 +0000In case you haven't heard, the second coming of Christ LeBron James made his debut in college basketball this season for the Duke Blue Devils, and he's living up to the hype. His name is Zion Williamson and good lord look at him go at Cameron last night:

My God. That rim could have given him laser eye surgery—on an alley-oop, nonetheless.

At 6'7" and 285 pounds, his mere physical existence as a basketball player is baffling the world. He would be the second heaviest NBA player, only the 7'3" Boban Marjanović would outweigh hin, he's bigger than Gronk, and heavier than Brock Lesnar. Except he can do this:

That's a 40" vertical, folks. Brock Lesnar ain't getting that high, I'll tell you that. Here's a batch of this human highlight reel's best from his three games at Duke so far:

Oh, and across those three games, he's averaged 23.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3 blocks and went 32-39 for a ridiculous 82 percent field goal percentage.

Apparently, it just came out today, he was offered a scholarship by LSU—for football. The ex-assistant coach Eric Mateos reached out to him a couple of years ago. Mateos told ESPN, "I thought, hell, why not, he's probably the best damn tight end to ever live."

But honestly, maybe he should be playing QB instead:

Enjoy him while you can Dukies, he's not going to be there much longer.

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports US.

wj3d49Liam Daniel PierceSean NewellBasketballsportscollege basketballduke blue devilszion williamson
<![CDATA[What Does the Future Hold for USA Gymnastics?]]>, 15 Nov 2018 23:03:35 +0000On Nov. 5, what felt like the inevitable finally happened. The US Olympic Committee announced plans to pursue decertification of USA Gymnastics after its role in enabling the largest sexual abuse crisis in sports history and continued mismanagement once the extent of the abuse suffered by hundreds of young women at the hands of former Olympic team and Michigan State trainer Larry Nassar became public knowledge.

The scandal that is USA Gymnastics has been going on for three years. Athletes and survivors have been calling for this step for years, but decertification—characterized as a last resort—never came.

The USOC did not invoke this last resort when Nassar was found in possession of more than 37,000 images of child pornography, or when Nassar was sentenced to between 40 to 175 years as a result of pleading guilty to ten counts of sexual assault of girls. Or after watching their victim impact statements go viral—videos of women and girls, either crying or steelily explaining how their abuse impacted their athletic careers and lives. The USOC was similarly unmoved when the federation burned through three executives in two years. (One of those executives, Steve Penny, recently pled not guilty to evidence tampering related to the Nassar case at the legendary Karolyi ranch in Texas. Another, former Republican Congresswoman Mary Bono, made disparaging remarks about Colin Kaepernick’s Nike ad before she took the job; the tweet was resurfaced and Simone Biles, a Nike athlete, was not pleased to say the least.)

So, while the decision has felt inevitable and obvious, it has also been a long time coming, and carries with it a lot of uncertainty—namely how will a sport so inextricably linked to the Olympics carry on with its governing body in so much legal limbo.

In her public statement announcing the largely unprecedented move, USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland said there are plans in place for the athletes to thrive as the process of decertification goes on (review panel, hearings, fact finding, etc.), but the specifics of it aren’t mentioned. In an open letter to the athletes, Hirshland admits that Olympic hopefuls will have support for the Tokyo games, but that’s about as concrete as it gets. If you—or your child—are a club gymnast training in Iowa or California, though? “We are developing both a short- and longer-term plan and will communicate it as soon as we can,” Hirshland wrote in the open letter. “The clearest answer I can provide is that gymnastics as a sport will remain a bedrock for the Olympic community in the United States. Young people will continue to participate, refine their techniques and have fun.”

But her statement and open letter seem to question if USA Gymnastics would continue to exist in its current form when all’s said and done. “In the long-term, it will be the critically important responsibility of the recognized Gymnastics [national governing body], whether the existing organization or a new one, to lead gymnastics in the United States and build on the supportive community of athletes and clubs that can carry the sport forward for decades to come. We are prepared to identify and help build such an organization,” Hirshland said in the statement.

How this plays out is anyone's guess. Hirshland gave an email at the end of the letter for gymnasts, coaches, trainers, club owners, etc. to reach out with “ideas and suggestions,” which is better optics than Hirshland’s first meeting with gold medal-winner Aly Raisman at a Senate hearing in July. But the optics of the already fraught situation fail to negate the fact that Hirshland’s letter makes it seem like their hands are tied by this last resort, even as the USOC works on long term solutions. “There is a process that must be followed based on the USOC Bylaws that lay out how we recognize, and revoke recognition, for an NGB. We have filed a complaint. A review panel will be identified, a hearing will be held, a report will be issued and a recommendation will be made. Then the USOC board will vote to continue to recognize USAG, or to revoke that status,” she writes.

On Tuesday, a top USA Gymnastics official made it clear that this process will likely turn messy before we see resolution. In an email sent to athletes, coaches and parents, Tom Forster, USA Gymnastics high performance team coordinator, wrote that call for decertification was a “strategic move” to appease critics, Scott M. Reid of the Orange County Register reported. While that is almost certainly true, Forster’s email is telling in that his words show he thinks that the Nassar scandal is just a PR nightmare, instead of a horrifying assault against hundreds of women that could have been prevented. This is a real opportunity to confront safety issues within an elite sport that breeds intensely close one-on-one relationships between adults and children.

Here’s a portion of the email Reid obtained:

"I have met with Sarah Hirshland, the president of the USOC, a few times and it was communicated to me the USOC believes USA Gymnastics will suffer from the legal problems associated with the lawsuits from the survivors which will, in their opinion, hurt our High Performance Teams,” Forster wrote. “I believe this to be a strategic move on their part to appease our critics and congress for the perceived lack of progress we have made as an organization to solve our public image problems. If the USOC takes on the task of managing our [high performance] Teams USA Gymnastics will still be facing the challenges of litigation from the survivors.”

Forster completely missing the point is only natural for someone who worked in the same organization that was briefly run by Kerry Perry, an executive who hired Mary Lee Tracy, a well-known coach, as Elite Development Coordinator, even though Tracy defended Nassar in December 2016 . As a reminder, by mid-December 2016, Nassar was indicted on federal child pornography charges, not to mention multiple sexual assault charges in Michigan. Tracy was asked to resign three days after her hiring was announced because she attempted to contact Olympian Aly Raisman, who is suing USA Gymnastics. Time and again, this is the story of USA Gymnastics: the adults charged with mentoring and protecting children fail to grasp the extent of hurt that their inaction enabled.

The purpose of pursuing decertification is acknowledging that USA Gymnastics failed hundreds of young gymnasts, from medal winners to girls just starting out. The organization failed its athletes, and it repeatedly demonstrated an inability to find executives who could credibly and decently rectify the situation. By pursuing decertification, there is the opportunity to build an organization that privileges the safety of children and adult competitors over the medals they can bring home. (An unintended side effect of pursuing decertification is that the USOC could see some positive PR, but that’s unlikely as even the most casual watchers of the Nassar scandal seem horrified by everyone’s lack of action.)

Even so, Reid also reported that USA Gymnastics could put off the entire process of decertification by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as it would result in “an automatic stay” on the organizations’ litigation proceedings while the finances are sorted. Again, from the Register:

“If I was USAG and I wanted to stop decertification by the USOC I would go (to bankruptcy court) because it prohibits you from proceeding,” said attorney Jim Stang, who has written extensively on bankruptcy issues and served on the creditors committee in 13 child sexual abuse cases. “The bankruptcy court judge is like a traffic cop. Should I allow this decertification to continue? Or should I let it go for now or just stop it or keep the red light on? Is there something that can be worked out to keep USAG’s value (to raise funds to pay creditors)? What is the value if USAG is decertified?”

It’s a popular strategy that’s been used in clergy sexual abuse cases, Reid told popular gymnastics podcast GymCastic: The Gymnastics Podcast in early November. “If you look at the history of these Roman Catholic archdioceses cases, they repeatedly did this where they filed Chapter 11,” Reid said.

In 2004, the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon was the first diocese in the country to file for bankruptcy relief when facing lawsuits related to clergy sexual abuse. Plaintiffs at that time were seeking more than $160 million in damages, according to The Associated Press. This strategy was employed in Tucson, Arizona; Spokane, Washington; Davenport, Iowa; and Wilmington, Delaware, to name a few.

“This is their playbook; this is their go-to play. I think you’re going to see this with USA Gymnastics. There’s a huge financial benefit for filing Chapter 11 for both USA Gymnastics and the USOC,” Reid told GymCastic.

So not only are we looking at no definitive plan for helping athletes at all levels during the (likely lengthy) process of decertification, but there’s the possibility of another legal front that could halt litigation being brought by survivors. The consequences of how this plays out are important not only for athlete safety (and, you know, morals), but also because USA Gymnastics isn’t the only governing body being accused of enabling or looking the other way on sexual abuse. There’s USA Swimming and USA Taekwondo and the U.S. Equestrian Federation, at the very least. (Deadspin’s Diana Moskovitz’s deep dive into SafeSport, the initiative by Team USA to reduce misconduct in their ranks and how it has utterly failed is worth your time.)

It’s impossible to predict if USA Gymnastics will set an example for how to treat other organizations failing to protect its athletes—or if the outcome will be an unmemorable stop on the many years of litigation USA Gymnastics is certain to face. If decertification comes to pass, maybe the USOC will finally draw a line in the sand when it comes to protecting athletes from abuse. But what if a Chapter 11 filing happens first? Even after all this pain, money and medals could still rule the day.

If you think the 2020 presidential election is soon, the 2020 Summer Games are even closer. And it’s shaping up to a Valley of the Dolls redux of 2016 in Tokyo: The Americans will dominate the games (led by Simone Biles), while the failure of USA Gymnastics and the USOC to protect its athletes hangs in the air like an Amanar vault waiting to be stuck.

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports US.

mbyv3yCaitlin CruzSean Newellsportsolympicssexual assaultGymnasticsusoclarry nassarusag
<![CDATA[The Outlet Pass: The Draymond Green Trade Machine Edition]]>, 15 Nov 2018 18:02:46 +0000 So, What is Draymond Green’s Trade Value?

In the aftermath of a verbal dispute between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green that still may turn into something more and has already yielded one suspension while puncturing Golden State’s aura of invincibility, all eyes are on Durant’s free agency. Is this the pivotable moment that will push him out the door, onward to New York City or Los Angeles or whichever city will next be blessed by his inextinguishable knack for introducing a basketball to the inside of a rim?

Speculation in this case is a tad premature, but the stakes are high enough to allow it. (A dynasty hangs in the balance!) Even though we haven’t reached Thanksgiving, it always felt like Golden State needed to have a hand in its own demise; they’re too talented to be done in by a superior opponent. There’s still time for cooler heads to prevail—Steph Curry's health-related on-court absence from the equation shouldn’t go unnoticed—but the entire situation allows another question to creep into the periphery: What is Draymond’s trade value?

This isn’t to say Golden State should or will trade the perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate just to appease the unappeasable Durant. But it’s worth wondering what they could get, or would even want, in return. And outside the Bay Area’s cushy confines, where he’s ascended alongside the two greatest shooters who ever lived, what would Draymond even look in another team’s jersey?

Green will make $17.4 million this year and $18.5 million in 2019-20 before he becomes a 30-year-old unrestricted free agent. He never was a traditional All-Star, someone who can roll out of bed every morning with 20 points in their back pocket. Green’s value is instead very real and very specific to everything that makes Golden State so free and spacious. It’s not fair to ask if the Detroit Pistons would be better with Green instead of Blake Griffin, but the answer to that question is “no,” even though most league observers probably think Draymond’s overall on-court impact is more beneficial.

Even though he’s a three-time All-Star in his prime with nearly two years left on his deal, Green couldn’t fetch what the Cleveland Cavaliers received for Kyrie Irving or the Chicago Bulls got for Jimmy Butler. A lottery pick feels out of the question. But how do you weigh a key ingredient for the greatest team ever beside the temper that may be responsible for said team’s downfall? He’s one of four players averaging at least seven points, seven assists, and seven rebounds right now (the other three are Russell Westbrook, Ben Simmons, and LeBron James), but is also shooting 24 percent from deep with the fourth-worst turnover rate in the league.

Every dynasty that intends to stay on top must eventually alter its fundamental makeup on the fly. Having signed Durant, the Warriors (and Green!) know this better than anyone else. But their decision to publicly embarrass a franchise icon the way they did could reverberate in a way they couldn’t see, despite existing light years ahead of the competition.

What if Durant, suddenly emboldened by the call to reprimand Draymond, tells Bob Myers that he doesn’t want to leave. That he’s willing to re-sign long-term so long as Green is gone. And when does Green’s next contract complicate matters to the point where the fear of losing him for nothing/locking him up on an expensive, untradeable deal becomes too much? What are some hypothetical trades that make sense? Do they exist? I’m honestly not sure. Most teams that are in the time of their life cycle to have interest in Green can’t give the Warriors what they’d want in return, or have the type of salaries on their books to make it work (i.e. the Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans, Washington Wizards, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, and Houston Rockets).

But here are a few that, while flawed (repeat: these are flawed and mostly unrealistic because Draymond’s monetary value and skill-set are not easy to trade!) are fun enough to wonder about:

Portland Trail Blazers get: Draymond Green

Golden State Warriors get: Zach Collins, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Moe Harkless

How much more enjoyable will the NBA playoffs be if this trade happens? Golden State (possibly) sustains its standing in the short-term while looking towards the future with a cost-controlled blue chipper who can pass, shoot, and protect the basket. Portland ostensibly lands the missing piece it needs to make a legitimate playoff run without breaking up its backcourt duo.

Miami Heat get: Draymond Green

Golden State Warriors get: Kelly Olynyk and Justise Winslow

There’s no logical rationale behind this trade. I just want to see Draymond mixed with Heat culture.

Sacramento Kings get: Draymond Green

Golden State Warriors get: Marvin Bagley III, Bogdan Bogdanovic

Obviously terrible for Sacramento but this organization feels due for an obviously terrible move. Bagley III may not ever be good, but it’s so rare for a team as great as the Warriors to add a prospect with that much potential. It makes them significantly worse for the rest of this season, but would it cost them the title? At the very least, Golden State could turn around and use Bagley III as a trade chip to add more immediate help.

Brooklyn Nets gets: Draymond Green

Golden State Warriors get: Spencer Dinwiddie and DeMarre Carroll

For an organization that may not want to sit around and test free agency, this is one way to spice up their relevance while selling high on a talented guard whose skill-set overlaps with D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert. LeVert’s injury stalled Brooklyn’s metamorphosis into a frisky playoff team this season, but next year, with LeVert, Green, Jarrett Allen, and a lottery pick? They wouldn’t be bad!

Utah Jazz get: Draymond Green

Golden State Warriors get: Jae Crowder, Grayson Allen, and Thabo Sefolosha

A decent rookie plus a serviceable small-ball four plus a veteran who doesn’t really play anymore? That sounds like a reasonable package. Of course, sending Green to a team that has Golden State in its crosshairs probably isn’t realistic. (That goes for Portland, too.) Either way, just imagine a frontcourt that pairs the last two Defensive Players of the Year, while solving Utah’s long-standing issue that is Gobert at the five in crunchtime of a critical playoff game. The Jazz slice into their cap space and shouldn’t feel confident about retaining Green once he hits unrestricted free agency in 2020, but until then they would be the league’s most intriguing title contender. The Warriors save money and get better (?) on offense.

Tom Thibodeau: Stranger in a Strange Land

Say what you will about Jimmy Butler's behavior, multiple generations of corrosive dysfunction, and every other obstacle Tom Thibodeau has faced since he became President of Basketball Operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves—some of which was clearly self-constructed—but the team’s putrid defense is impossible to ignore.

The Timberwolves have the worst defense in the NBA, and are surrendering about four more points per 100 possessions than they did four years ago, when...they finished with the worst defense in the NBA. Teams are brutalizing Minnesota on the offensive glass and taking total advantage of their non-existent hustle back in transition. Their only five-man unit that’s played major minutes and come close to yielding dignified results was Butler + The Bench, and that group no longer exists.

Not all the blame can rest on Thibodeau—Karl-Anthony Towns is still at his best chasing shots to block and, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski pointed out on a recent podcast, Andrew Wiggins doesn’t appear to enjoy playing basketball—but the team has yet to resemble one that knows how to defend uncomplicated NBA offense.

What exactly is Derrick Rose doing here? Does he think he should switch onto Iman Shumpert? Does he see Kosta Koufous through the corner of his eye and anticipate having to guard a high pick-and-roll? For whatever reason, Rose being this far from where he should against a speed demon like De’Aaron Fox is instant death. Plays like it aren’t uncommon.

They’re allowing 1.13 points per possession after a made shot while opponents gallop by at the third-fastest tempo in the league, per Inpredictable. They make no effort to match up and hardly ever sprint back. The play below came seconds after a Towns dunk, and they can't even use poor floor balance as an excuse! It's not new for the Thibs Timberwolves, but it’s still disturbing.

He entered this job as a revolutionary defensive tactician, someone whose militaristic instructions could squeeze water from a brick. But how does a league that’s never been more open about its desire to make life easy for offenses impact Thibodeau’s stock if/when he loses his job? Can he build a top-notch defense in today's NBA, which looks much different from what it was when he was Doc Rivers's assistant in Boston or head coach of the Chicago Bulls? Or did poor personnel decisions spell out his own doom?

Philly Helps Ben Simmons by Getting the Ball Out of His Hands

Ben Simmons is 22 years old and—according to some smart people, including his own general manager—one of the world's 20 best players. He’s already won Rookie of the Year, one playoff series, and only Russell Westbrook and LeBron James have more triple-doubles since his career debut. If he doesn’t go down as one of the 10 best passers his size (6’10”, for those unaware) who ever lived it’ll be a wild disappointment.

He'll always be a unique mismatch who terrorizes defenses caught between stopping his momentum and realizing the moment they do he’s going to fling a dart out to the three-point line, or put one of his teammates in a hot-air balloon to cram home a lob. On defense, Simmons’s height and build allow the Philadelphia 76ers to stick him on opposing centers (Al Horford, Myles Turner, etc.) when they need to hide Joel Embiid on someone who isn’t as threatening in the pick and roll. He’s very good and special and the 76ers should feel blessed to have him on their team.

But if last year was a hazily appealing honeymoon, the earliest returns on Simmons’s sophomore season have sometimes felt like the first valley in a marriage that’s yet to experience any conflict; an unsettling realization that the notable hitches in his game won’t improve anytime soon—he and Philly are officially in this through good times and bad. Regardless of how physically imposing, rare, and breathtaking Simmons can be, building a championship contender with someone who can’t shoot as a focal point is exceptionally difficult. It helped spur Saturday’s blockbuster trade for Jimmy Butler and, regardless of what the team says, has made Markelle Fultz expendable. This year, Philadelphia has the 26th best offense in the league with Simmons on the court (on par with the tanktastic New York Knicks). They play like a 36-win team with him and a 48-win team without him. (When Embiid isn’t on the court but Simmons is, the Sixers have the worst offense and worst defense in the NBA.)

Philly still likes to get Simmons going downhill, usually to his left, with a J.J. Redick ball screen near the free-throw line. It’s a tricky but increasingly predictable action that most defenses are starting to spot from a mile away, especially as they use it more and more towards the end of quarters. Here’s the best-case scenario: Malcolm Brogdon deciding Fultz is a threat in the weak-side corner.

More often than not, teams will either switch the screen and force Simmons/Redick to go one-on-one, or the floor will be too congested for him to do much of anything. Watch Michael Kidd-Gilchrist below.

It’s early, we’re months away from the trade deadline and buyout market. Someone like Kyle Korver can really help. But a smart thing Brett Brown has done to mitigate Philly's shortage of outside shooting is use Simmons more as an off-ball scorer. That sounds insane, but this is less about his gravity flying off a pin-down and more about physical duck-ins and and the most intimidating Hawk cut in the league.

The sequence seen above is similar to what the Oklahoma City Thunder ran last season as a way to involve Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, and Russell Westbrook. (As covered by Ben Falk over at Cleaning the Glass.) Embiid screens for Simmons near the elbow and gifts him a free dash into the paint.

Below, the Indiana Pacers are ready for it. Bojan Bogdanovic spins under Embiid’s pick while Myles Turner drops a bit, ready to absorb Simmons’s cut. The Sixers shrug their shoulders and get a layup.

As Brown tinkers with different ways to accentuate Simmons’s nightmarish athleticism (while obscuring his setbacks) in lineups that feature Embiid and Butler, look for this more and more.

According to Synergy Sports, post-ups and cuts accounted for 18.2 percent of Simmons’s possessions last year. Right now they’re at 28.4 percent, with Brown stacking his playbook with more ways to let Simmons attack from spots on the floor where he’s comfortable. This baseline out of bounds set is a great example.

Simmons inbounds the ball and then immediately carves out post position for an entry pass. Simple, yet effective! But these actions aren’t enough to prop up Philadelphia’s offense and ultimately nullify an aesthetic that’s occasionally drowsy. Don’t let anyone ever tell you Simmons’s inability to shoot doesn’t matter, be it from the corner, elbow, or free-throw line. He's awesome and has found ways to overcome it, but defenses know he isn't willing to pull-up from 15 feet and they guard him as such. That's more wart than novelty. Shooting helps! But harnessing his physicality on the block, along with different ways to leverage his speed in a half-court setting, is wise. They should/will lean into it even more now that Butler is on board.

All the Wizards Have is John Wall and Bradley Beal’s Subtle Chemistry

The Washington Wizards have won three in a row, but don't let that distract you from the fact that they're still an indifferent collection of untenable contracts. They don’t seem to care or try, and when they do it’s laughably stubborn. (So, you don't think I can make this unnecessarily difficult pull-up two? Watch this!) Put on a Wizards game for ten minutes and your first takeaway should be that they desperately want to flex on the world but don’t have a gym membership. Steps are missing. Corners get cut. (In one recent play against the Orlando Magic, Washington surrendered a put-back dunk after Bradley Beal’s shoe came off and “prevented” him from hustling back into the frame.)

Their carelessness is underlined by bizarre lineup decisions—that include Scott Brooks’s penchant to play all-bench groups that have so far been outscored by (what follows is not a misprint) 29.3 points per 100 possessions—and a frustratingly fine point guard who’s powerful enough to take over a game while also being the number one reason it slips through his team’s fingers.

But hope lives in even the darkest corners of the NBA. And as inconsequential as it might be, flashes of chemistry between Washington’s two best players have provided a fleeting semblance of expertise commonly associated with professional athletics.

In both plays seen below, subtlety is key. Beal’s defender is primarily concerned with letting him race up off a down screen to either curl into the paint or stop cold for a jumper. Tyler Johnson sees Dwight Howard coming and all he’s thinking about is that pick, and how he can get over on it. John Wall knows this.

Terrence Ross is similarly positioning in the next example, but this one is a bit more scripted. As Wall dribbles up the floor, he points to his right, where Austin Rivers is jogging around Kelly Oubre and Jeff Green. The intention is not for Rivers to catch the ball, though. Instead, his purpose is to clear out one side of the floor, force several of Orlando’s defenders to focus on his movement, and let Beal fall into an easy layup.

Wall drops in a beauty, and Beal gets his easiest two points of the night. These reads won’t save Washington’s season, but, at the very least, they prove the Wizards (might) have a pulse.

What is Wrong With Terry Rozier?

Terry Rozier has range, athleticism, and the reflexes of a cat. He can pull up from 26 feet or knife towards the elbow and elevate over whoever’s guarding him. He loops the ball as he dribbles, yo-yo-ing it in place with enough command and elegance to make you stop and count how many players rival his authority over any given possession. He does what/gets where he wants and fluidly snakes pick and rolls with the best of them. He thrives in narrow spaces without turning it over and his toolbox has it all: filthy hesitation moves, a nasty between-the-legs crossover, the type of step-back that should/might be illegal. Before he went 0-for-5 on Wednesday against the Bulls, Rozier was making a career-best 42.6 percent of his threes.

Everything written above is true. It’s also irrelevant. Through the first month of his fourth season (the last before his next contract), Rozier’s potency has stalled. In 13 fewer minutes than he averaged throughout last year’s breathtaking postseason run, the 24-year-old's weaknesses have amplified as he familiarizes himself with a new life as Kyrie Irving’s backup, struggling to identify his own responsibilities off the bench.

His game is a laundry list of needless split-second compromises. Rozier bails out defenders with jump shots that haven't been falling, and rushes through motions that otherwise make him unguardable. He's playing on an edge nobody else can see. Instead of dribbling into the paint and lofting a high floater over shot blockers who want him to take that exact shot, as seen below, why not sprinkle some craft and misdirection into his game by pump-faking his way to the free-throw line?

Or instead of taking that shot, why not string out the play by dribbling into the corner, forcing Meyers Leonard to switch, then breaking him down from the perimeter, forcing help and creating an open look elsewhere? This play is not an unusual one for Rozier. He's either needlessly scrambling or uselessly placid, trying to fit in when the Celtics need him to stand out.

It’s common for players to let poor shooting/scoring numbers bleed into other parts of their game, but Rozier can’t afford to let that happen. He’s declined as a passer and for reasons that aren’t clear, has looked less comfortable than ever attacking the rim. His offensive rebound rate is less than half what it was last year, a crime given how dynamic he tends to be on the glass.

Rozier isn't the only Celtic struggling, but he's the most likely to get traded. And if this version of his game lingers for much longer, it's unclear why another team will be willing to surrender anything of value for the right to pay his next contract.

Brook Lopez's 3-Point Range is Madness

Look how far Brook Lopez is standing from the rim!

The furthest every NBA three-point line extends from the rim is 23.75 feet. (It's 22 feet from the corners.) Lopez has already made three shots from at least 28 feet away! This isn’t totally new—he took 16 from that distance last season—but his range is noticeably expanding in a way that’s turned him into Milwaukee’s very own/slightly taller Ryan Anderson. Even in today's era, this feels synthetic. Like, he's taken and made as many 30-footers as Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, and Chris Paul. How is any of this real life?

Jabari Parker is Playing Defense, Kinda!

It's too soon to say if this is small-sample-size theater or just one player's overnight transformation into Spider-Man, but Parker is allowing the fewest points per possession in isolation among all non bigs in the entire league, per Synergy Sports. In 28 possessions, opposing players have only made five shots with Parker as their primary defender. (Those who rank above? Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert, Wendell Carter Jr., and Domas Sabonis.)

The numbers might sound like a fluke but actually watch Parker do work and his quick hands and twitchy feet make this all feel somewhat sustainable. Here he is against James Harden and Jayson Tatum, two of the most difficult one-on-one covers in basketball.

Parker is jumpy, but in a good way, beating his man to spots after he boldly gets into their body to take away their shot. He displays a lateral quickness that, frankly, looks alien in his body. (Last season, Parker ranked 228th out of 263 players who defended at least 30 iso possessions. The year before that he was 268 out of 280.)

This is a far cry from claiming Parker is or will ever be a plus defender. But he's only 23 and the Bulls have been better (but still bad) on that end when he's on the floor. This might be more than nothing.

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports US.

kzvwzvMichael PinaSean NewellBasketballsportsnbaBen Simmonsdraymond greenthe outlet pass
<![CDATA[No Goalie Has More Swag Than Marc-Andre Fleury]]>, 15 Nov 2018 17:59:52 +0000 Marc-Andre Fleury is a fashion icon.

Sure, he may still be one of the best goaltenders in the world, a multiple-time Stanley Cup champion and likely future Hall of Famer, but his exceptional head-to-toe style in the crease may be the most important factor in defining his legacy amongst the all-time greats. If you rank goaltenders solely on how sick their gear is, which every serious hockey analyst and observer should, MAF is hovering right around GOAT status.

His swag was on full display Wednesday night when Fleury debuted, for the first time in a game, this blinged-out, all gold set of gear that had us Goldmembering all over our living room upon first glance.

The Golden Knights wore camo jerseys in warmups for Military Appreciation Night, with the 33-year-old Fleury looking extra swaggy, but he still looked sharp in the black Vegas sweater the team donned for the game while sporting the gold blocker, glove, and pads.

Fleury has been redlining the swag-o-meter ever since he got to Vegas, and we shouldn’t be surprised that his gear game during his second season with the Golden Knights is so on point. Of course, the pads and gloves are just a delight, but throw that gold ass helmet in the mix and you may as well fast track Fleury to the HOF immediately.

Remember, it was this same goalie fashionista who blessed the hockey world with the all mustard-yellow set when he was playing in Cape Breton back in the early 2000s—a unique and bold style that followed him to the NHL and a look he went back to several times over his time with the Penguins.

Further proving that dope gear is all that matters, Fleury was lights out in pitching a 29-save shutout—his NHL-leading third of the season—against the Ducks with those golden bad boys strapped to his limbs.

59vg5aKyle CantlonChris TomansportsNHLHockeyswagmarc-andre fleurygoaliesvegas golden knights
<![CDATA[Steelers Ransack Le'Veon Bell's Locker After Exit from Pittsburgh]]>, 14 Nov 2018 22:42:58 +0000More like Pittsburgh Stealers, amirite? Le'Veon Bell didn't just leave the Steelers after continuing his holdout for the rest of the 2018 season yesterday—he left all his shit, too. And after Bell's departure from the team, they didn't really feel obligated to, y'know, not steal it.

Bell rubbed his teammates the wrong way earlier in the season when he sent somewhat mixed messages about the duration of his holdout, which led to a lot of animosity, especially from the offensive linemen. Hell, he didn't even bother to return Ben Roethlisberger's texts.

So when it came to the day after the Bell situation finally ended, they just kind of took stuff from his locker—including his nameplate. Still, to hear reporters who witnessed it tell it, the plundering was more in jest than in ill will.

Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree was grateful for a pair of Jordan-brand cleats "gifted" by Bell, saying "wish you success" while trying them on:

Bell also left behind a nice batch of miscellany.

Wonder if Ariana Grande's "Thank U, Next?" was on that tape. Maybe he's not an Ariana Grande fan.

Apparently, even the man's suit was up for auction:

I mean, you can't really cry "theft" here, he left all that stuff in Pittsburgh, along with about $14.5 million.

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports US.

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<![CDATA[This Is One of the Dirtiest Plays You'll Ever See in a Basketball Game]]>, 14 Nov 2018 19:16:37 +0000A Division III basketball game got pretty heated last night, resulting in Fitchburg State's Kewan Platt laying out Nichols College player Nate Tenaglia in one of the dirtiest sports moments you've seen in a minute.

At a game played last night in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, Tenaglia buried a three with Platt coming up quick on him as he held the follow through. As Platt jogged over, he checked behind his shoulder to see if the referee was paying attention, and then proceeded to plow right into Tenaglia's face, elbow-first.

It's unclear what, if anything might have preceded this incident, but it's impossible to imagine it would have justified Platt's vicious blow. A full video of the incident, per For The Win, revealed that Platt received a technical in the first half, and was eventually ejected from the game after he leveled Tenaglia in the second half. Platt led Fitchburg State with 16 points, but his team lost to Nichols 84-75.

UPDATE (2:20pm, EST)

Platt has been suspended indefinitely from the team and barred from Fitchburg's campus, per ESPN. Platt's name has since been removed from the team's website, and the school's league, MASAC, vacated his "player-of-the-week" award, which was given to him recently.

Fitchburg's athletic director Matthew Burke issued the following statement:

The Fitchburg State community is appalled by the conduct displayed during Tuesday night's home basketball game. The player involved has been indefinitely suspended from the team and barred from campus, effective immediately. His behavior is antithetical to our community values and good sportsmanship. Fitchburg State does not tolerate behavior that violates those standards. The case is being reviewed at the student conduct level for consideration of further sanctions.

Nichols College released a statement saying they believed the incident arose after Platt grew frustrated with Tenaglia's defense, as he was marking him all game. They also mentioned that Tenaglia was "unharmed" in the incident, and that he was able to play the rest of the game.

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports US.

zmdnexLiam Daniel PierceSean NewellBasketballsportscollege basketballNCAANicholsdivision iiifitchburg statekewan plattnate tenaglia
<![CDATA[Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors, and Billionaire Brain]]>, 14 Nov 2018 17:45:59 +0000Draymond Green called Kevin Durant a "bitch" and got suspended one game for it. He said some other shit too, shit that apparently cut pretty deep, and questioned whether Durant was really committed to the squad in light of his pending free agency. It all seems pretty ill-advised, from a getting-along-with-your-co-worker-and-fellow-man perspective, but it also seems pretty standard, as far as most locker room shit is concerned. And yet the team, in publicly fining and suspending Draymond for calling Durant a "bitch," is making a one day controversy last a few extra days, simply by dint of deciding that Draymond Must Be Stopped.

As a pure PR move, it's total nonsense. There were private channels available for dealing with this, and the Warriors opted not to take them. Which means that the team isn’t taking any chances in letting everyone know how they feel: that suspending Draymond is acceptable, if it means that Durant’s needs are being addressed. One dude is more important than the other, and we will be proceeding as if that is the case.

In one respect, it makes sense: KD is a world beater. But here's the flip side: the Warriors would be contenders without his services. They won 73 Games without him, for God’s sake. Klay Thompson would still be running around screens, Draymond would still be swarming opponents’ pick and rolls, and Steph Curry would still be a generational offensive talent. Andre Iguodala would probably need to be replaced and the back end of the roster could use a little tightening up, but assuming they could and would pull that off with the massive hole losing Durant’s contract would make on their cap sheet, a Durant-less Warriors team would still be title favorites, or something very close to that.

But they wouldn’t be fucking unstoppable. They wouldn’t be the powerful killer of the league, Goku wandering into towns on the countryside and bumslaying NBA teams night after night like they’re petty bandits, a collection of talent that is so far ahead of the rest of the league that everyone else throws up their hands and just kind of plays for second place. They would be back in the shit, adjusting their rotation for extra wins, sweating details and hoping no one got injured, lest they be cursed with a five seed and a brutal matchup against the Nuggets or whatever. The whole of basketball would no longer seem rigged in their favor. You can win without the rest of Durant’s prime, but you can’t get so far ahead that you’re all-but-unstoppable.

The Warriors are now infected with Billionaire Brain.

Yesterday, Amazon announced that Long Island City, Queens, and Northern Virginia, would be the new sites for the megalith’s new corporate campuses. Amazon has mutated Seattle into a place that’s nearly impossible to live in without a significant personal windfall, and its effect on Queens, not exactly affordable already, will be insane. The tax incentives the company is receiving are out of control, $1.7 Billion in tax incentives the company will use to build helipads for Jeff Bezos and buildings where its employees can lose their fucking minds or piss in bottles to avoid knuckle rappings.

Why does Amazon feel like they have to do this? There are all kinds of little towns they could have invaded, create a company city where they can do whatever they want mostly consequence free. But instead, they held a months long public contest where cities and states debased themselves offering more and more extravagant tax breaks, and then picked the city where they could do the most immediate harm to everyone that currently lives there.

The answer is: Billionaire Brain. Jeff Bezos, already the richest person in the world, worth 100 Billion goddamn dollars, is not satisfied with owning a space-dominating corporation that exploits workers and tries to undercut every other company in the world so they can’t fucking compete and also places hot mics in the houses of as many people as it possibly can to leech as much information as it possibly can. He needs more. The only constant in his whole miserable life is the pursuit of more.

The Warriors front officer and management are infected with this same brain disease, a craving for more that is fundamentally unquenchable. It is not enough to win with Draymond, a dude who has been there from the start and gives you a fabulous defense while contributing to a ball-moving, fast paced offense. It isn’t enough to sit him aside and tell him to lay off Durant—we’re trying to fucking re-sign him, dude, do it in private and let it blow over.

No, the only the only recourse—if you’re looking to put together a squad that will be nigh unstoppable—is to make sure you can hold on to Durant totally and completely. There can’t be any moderation in your approach. It doesn’t matter if Draymond is irritable, or the locker room isn’t sure how to feel. KD is what makes more not only possible, but probable. The Billionaire Brain craves stacking the deck in its favor, and with Durant, the Golden State Warriors are virtual locks to bend the league to their will.

But… why? Why do they Warriors feel like they need to BE that? Contending year after year isn’t enough? Most other teams would die for that opportunity, but here’s the Warriors, putting that baseline existence at risk so they can be something more dominating, more inevitable than that. No one needs to win that much. They’ve reached the apex of achievement in the league, and found their craving only expanded.

Thankfully for novelty-seeking NBA Fans, this unstoppable manifestation of Golden State will break apart, eventually. It might be next year, when Durant goes and does something else. It might be in three years, when the team's knees start to give out. But it’s coming. The truth of sports is the truth of human bodies being born and built and breaking apart and dying and rotting. Would that the same truth applied to the corporate beasts that mount the world and take them for every last cent they can squirrel out of the ground. It would be a better world.

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports US.

9k4yeaCorbin SmithSean NewellBasketballnbakevin durantGolden State Warriorsdraymond green
<![CDATA[Ref Suspended for Using Rock, Paper, Scissors Instead of Coin Toss on Kickoff]]>, 14 Nov 2018 17:45:17 +0000Coin beats paper, rock, and scissors it seems. Coin always wins. A referee in the Women's Super League in England substituted a game of rock, paper, scissors for a coin toss, and is now suffering a suspension for his little bit of improvisation.

According to the Guardian, soccer referee David McNamara left his coin in the locker room before a match, and so he went back to the days of our youth and had Manchester City team captain Steph Houghton and Reading's Kirsty Pearce play a game of rock, paper, scissors to decide who would start with the ball.

League officials didn't take kindly to the situation. According to the Guardian, McNamara was suspended 21 days for "not acting in the best interests of the game," a charge he accepted.

The FA said McNamara did not oversee an official coin toss, which is required under the laws of the game, before Manchester City faced Reading last month in the WSL.

It makes sense that a coin toss would be required in the official rules—you can come up with a bunch of different aberrations in the age-old schoolyard game. But if McNamara ever decides to run the old rochambeau racket ever again, he should at least be required to bring orange slices.

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports US.

gy7gzbLiam Daniel PierceSean NewellsoccerReadingManchester CityFootball Associationwomen's super leaguedavid mcnamara
<![CDATA[Le'Veon Bell Holds Out for Entire NFL Season, Forfeits $14.5 Million Salary]]>, 13 Nov 2018 22:52:48 +0000Le'Veon Bell, who held out the first ten weeks of the NFL season, decided to let his playing 2018 eligibility slide away and is now locked out for the rest of the year, the Pittsburgh Steelers confirmed Tuesday. The superstar running back, who had until 4 PM on Tuesday to report to the team, will now aim for a new, long-term deal in the offseason when he hopes to become an unrestricted free agent.

Earlier this year, the All-Pro back decided to hold out for a better contract than the Steelers' $70 million offer, but ultimately missed out on his entire $14.5 million franchise tag by missing the deadline. He had previously lost out on $8.5 million of that $14.5 million, but guaranteed Tuesday that the remaining $6 million will no longer go to him.

Second-year player James Conner has stepped up in Bell's absence, ranking third in the NFL in both touchdowns and rushing yards among all running backs entering Week 11.

Bell missing the season allows him to preserve the long-term possibility of a 2019 contract. His decision marks a recent trend in player holdouts that straddle multiple leagues—including the NBA with players like Jimmy Butler. But the gamble risks the loss of an immediate contract, like in the case of Bell.

Bell also held out on 2017 training camp for similar reasons, but this year ratcheted up his ante by sitting out of games. The Steelers attempted to find a good deal for him before the Oct. 30 trade deadline, but since Bell didn't sign on to anything, nothing came about.

If the Steelers decided to retain Bell with a franchise tag again in 2019, they would have to pay out more, according to the collective bargaining agreement.


The Steelers could franchise tag Bell for a third time in 2019, but he would be tagged at the quarterback salary number, not the lower number he was tagged at this year, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.'s Austin Knoblauch wrote Tuesday that it's unlikely the Steelers would tag him a third time because the quarterback-salary would pay him more than $20 million for one season.

Here's more from on the options the Steelers will have:

The Steelers have two other options -- let Bell walk into free agency when the new league year begins in March or place him under the transition tag. The transition tag is a one-year tender that would allow Bell to negotiate contract offers from other teams. The Steelers would have the right to match any offer sheet Bell signs from another team under the transition tag but would receive no compensation if they don't. There is a potential dispute looming from the NFLPA over what the transition tag number should be for Bell.

Meanwhile, Bell's holdout rubbed his teammates the wrong way, with his quarterback Ben Roethlisberger going on record on Thursday to say, "I'm not going to comment on someone who's not in this locker room right now."

Head coach Mike Tomlin today commented, per ESPN:

When asked what happens if Bell never returns to the Steelers, head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday afternoon, "So be it."

It seems there's at least one team in the NFL that won't be eager to pick him up.

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports US.

bjezamLiam Daniel PierceChris TomansportsNFLFootballBen RoethlisbergerRunning BackLe'Veon Bellpittsburgh steelersmike tomlin2019 season
<![CDATA[MLB Pitcher Helps Rescue Puppies Stuck in Houston Storm Drain]]>, 13 Nov 2018 20:37:29 +0000Everyone knows kitties in trees are for firemen to rescue, but puppies in storm drains? Those are for MLB pitchers. Duh.

Oakland A's right-hander and Houston native Daniel Mengden, 25, was on his way home Monday when he saw a huge crowd gathering around an animal rescue attempt at a storm drain. The rescue group seemed to be lacking supplies, so Mengden ran home, got on some wading overalls and boots, lowered himself into the drain on a ladder, and saved himself some puppies. Alongside him was an Ironman veteran, Rick D'Amico, who also jumped in to help. It seems these puppies were in ridiculously qualified hands.

Check it out in this video, courtesy of KHOU 11:

According to KHOU 11, rescue efforts had been in place since at least Thursday, when neighbors called an animal rescue group to help save the dogs. Houston Fire Department and Houston Police Department helped remove manhole covers on Monday to give them better access, but eventually had to give up. It wasn't until Mengden and D'Amico showed up that they were able to wrangle the two pups.

Mengden spoke with after the incident:

"The dogs were howling, and we were just trying to whistle back and forth. They were still running from us when we got down there. They were scared to death down there. We're guessing they just fell down through the drainage ditch to the bottom, about eight or 10 feet or so."


"It was just kind of dumb luck. I was driving home from working out this morning and noticed some people were outside their cars, kind of blocking the road. I went up to them and they said they'd been trying to get these puppies out."

Six of the two pups' stray family members were rescued earlier in the week and will soon be up for adoption with Reggie's Friends in New Caney, Texas. Just in case you want a MLB pitcher-rescued pup of your own.

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports US.

ev3nk7Liam Daniel PierceChris TomandogssportsmlbBaseballPUPPIESoakland a'soakland athleticsoakland forever and ever and everdaniel mengden