Usain Bolt won the 100 metres at the Golden Spike meet Friday, his first victory in Europe ahead of the London Olympics.The Jamaican, who won three gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games, had a slow start but pulled ahead in the final stretch to finish in 10.04 seconds.Bolt, who failed to improve his season best of 9.82 from a May meet in Jamaica, sounded disappointed with the time.“It’s hard to explain. I don’t really know what went wrong,” Bolt said.Ahead of the race, Bolt said he was working on his notoriously slow start to improve and be ready to attack his world records in the 100 and 200 in London.“At the start I didn’t feel explosive as I normally feel like,” he said.Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis finished second in 10.19 and American Darvis Patton was third in 10.22.This was his sixth competition in Ostrava.“I was looking to coming here for a good time. I guess it’s one of those days,” he said. “I just never got going.”The runners had to start twice after Simon Magakwe false started.That was something familiar for Bolt who failed to defend the world championship title in the 100 in Daegu, South Korea, after he was disqualified for a false start.But Bolt said that was not a problem for him Friday. He said he felt good ahead of the race.“I did some starts and I was flying from the blocks so I said, ‘Yeah this is good.’ I can’t tell you what happened.”Bolt will have another chance to lower his times in Diamond League meets in Rome on Thursday and Oslo on June 7 before returning to Jamaica for the national trials.In the meantime, he said he will seek advice from his coach.“I have to look at the tape and see what went wrong and call my coach to explain to me what I did wrong.”Source: Thestar.com
With the nation watching Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention, President Obama’s brother-in-law, who is the coach of the Oregon State basketball team, used a few of his time on stage to recruit.Craig Robinson, Michelle Obama’s brother, put it out there that he could use some more players to build his program. Speaking with President Obama’s sister, Maya Soetoro-ng, Robinson introduced himself as “Michelle Obama’s big brother, father of four and head coach of Oregon State University’s men’s basketball team.”Then he he made his move, albeit jokingly.“Any seven-footers out there, give me a call,” he said.Soetoro-ng and Robinson spoke glowingly of their respective siblings, but the Oregon State coach couldn’t resist slipping one last basketball reference in during the final 30 seconds of his speech. In praising the First Lady’s efforts to promote good nutrition in schools, Robinson said, “I’m proud of her work to give our children a healthier start in life. And let’s face it, Maya, I could use the recruits.”He could use some more wins, too. Although his teams have not reached the NCAA Tournament in his four years, he has lured more talent to the school.Guard Jared Cunningham became Oregon State’s first NBA draft pick in 14 years last June and guard Roberto Nelson and forward Devon Collier both have pro potential.The Beavers went winless in the Pac-10 the year before Robinson took over, has been competitive during his stretch. They have not finished above .500 in league play yet.But his team won 21 games and beat Texas in December, they still underachieved in the Pac-12, finishing a pedestrian 7-11.It’s surprising Robinson has not landed even more top flight recruits. He’s the brother-in-law of the President of the United States. His sister is the First Lady. Seems he has one of the all-time great recruiting pitches: “Come play for us and you’ll get to meet the First Family.” That’s pretty strong.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank high-fives cornerback Asante Samuel on the way to franchise best 6-0 start.The Atlanta Falcons have risen up to a franchise best 6-0 start after Sunday’s 23-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders, leaving them as the only undefeated team in the NFL.Quarterback Matt Ryan has been the key to this power surge by the Falcons. Over the first six weeks Ryan has thrown for 1,756 yards, 14 touchdowns with six interceptions.Not only has the offense been stellar, which was expected with so many weapons, but the defense has made big plays to keep the team undefeated. Cornerback Asante Samuel came up with a huge interception late in the fourth quarter and returned it for a touchdown. And defensive lineman John Abraham forced a fumble on a sack of Carson Palmer and provided pressure much of the day.Even though the Falcons’ record is flawless, head coach Mike Smith knows this is no time to get complacent.“They’ll watch the tape and they’ll realize that we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Smith said. “I can assure you that. They don’t need to have myself or any of the coaches in there watching it. They’re off during the bye week, but they will be in there watching tape. That’s the way we do things. That’s a great locker room and they realize that we haven’t played the best football that we’re capable of playing.”Indeed, they have needed late fourth quarter drives to beat the Panthers, Redskins and Raiders. But the fact is, Ryan accomplished the goal.“We need to strive to play our best,” Ryan said. “I don’t think we’ve done that the last couple weeks. It’s going to be critical for us to use this week to find ways to improve.”“I think we can improve so much,” cornerback Dunta Robinson said. “We’re not where we want to be as a defense. We want to be perfect.”The bye week allows linebacker Stephen Nicholas to get healthy after aggravating an ankle injury. The Falcons may also get back defensive tackle Corey Peters, who has been on the physically unable to perform list. That will help a defense that allowed 149 rushing yards on Sunday.With the Falcons being the only undefeated team left in the NFL they know the challenges will be significant.“The thing now is we know we’re going to get everyone’s best shot,” Robinson said. “We’ve got to take our game to another level.”After the off week, the Falcons go to Philadelphia to take on old friend Michael Vick and the Eagles.
Jordan Matthews11.09.64.50 YARDS/RECAIR YARDS/TGTDROP RATE On Tuesday, we looked at four players who changed teams during the offseason and could tip the scales of balance in the AFC. Now, we turn our attention to the NFC, where last season’s division champions — the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks — all appear vulnerable, while several of the also-rans they bested have made significant additions.NFC East: Alshon Jeffery, WR, EaglesOpportunity: The Dallas Cowboys were the class of the NFC East last season, going 13-3. But a spate of off-field issues and the potential of regression for second-year quarterback Dak Prescott may open up an opportunity for Philadelphia. Despite finishing last in the division at 7-9, the Eagles were among the best teams in the NFL according to Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, finishing fourth in the league (Dallas finished second).What needed to be addressed: Last year’s No. 2 pick of the NFL draft, Carson Wentz, took the league by storm — at least until fans, media and opposing defenses figured out that he was relying so heavily on the screen pass. According to TruMedia, Wentz threw more passes to or behind the line of scrimmage in 2017 than all but three other quarterbacks. And the Eagles ranked 29th in yards per completion last season.Potential impact: Jeffery and fellow free-agent acquisition Torrey Smith will add serious field-stretching ability to Philadelphia’s dink-and-dunk passing attack. Jeffery averaged an outstanding 15.8 yards per reception in 2016; since Jeffery became a full-time starter in 2013, only Julio Jones and T.Y. Hilton have averaged more yards per reception over more receptions. He also provides Wentz with a much more reliable catcher of the ball: Jeffery had the 14th-lowest drop rate of 87 qualifying NFL receivers in 2016, while Eagles WRs Jordan Matthews, Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor ranked 59th, 81st and tied for last, respectively. Nelson Agholor10.110.59.10 Source: TRUMEDIA Question mark: At age 27, Jeffery already has a history of nagging muscle pulls and soft-tissue injuries. He also served a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use in the middle of last season as a member of the Bears, making his gameday availability an ongoing concern.NFC North: Jarrad Davis (R), LB, LionsOpportunity: The Lions were just over half a game of head-to-head football away from claiming the NFC North crown when they squandered a 14-7 lead against the Green Bay Packers — and a 9-4 start to the season. They finished the year with three straight losses to fellow NFC playoff teams, including that Week 17, winner-take-all home game against the Packers. This spring, Detroit seriously outspent Green Bay in free agency, eyeing a possible first division title since 1993.What needed to be addressed: Detroit had the worst defense in the NFL last season, according to DVOA. Their pass coverage was an absolute disaster, allowing opponents to be 38.1 percent more effective than average through the air — by far the worst in the NFL. But none of the Lions’ major signings were on the defensive side of the ball.Potential impact: Davis, whom Detroit drafted with the No. 21 overall pick this spring, has been the unquestioned starter at middle linebacker since his first day on the team, according to the Lions’ official site. Head coach Jim Caldwell told the Detroit Free Press he expects Davis to “quickly” make an impact. Davis’s college defensive coordinator, Randy Shannon, described Davis as an amalgam of three linebackers Shannon coached at the University of Miami: Jonathan Vilma, Jon Beason and Ray Lewis. Those three boast 19 Pro Bowl appearances between them. If Davis’s athleticism and attitude are as advertised, he’ll fill a sizable portion of the hole in the middle of Detroit’s defense.Question mark: There’s no such thing as a can’t-miss rookie. Projecting a college player’s impact on an NFL unit is closer to superstition than art, let alone science. Further, Detroit’s problems with depth and quality up front were just exacerbated by pass-rusher Armonty Bryant’s latest suspension; it’s hard for linebackers to make impact plays when opposing quarterbacks are unpressured and tailbacks have free passes to the second level of the defense.NFC South: Adrian Peterson, RB, SaintsOpportunity: In 2016, the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers finished 6-10, good for last place in the NFC South. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons improved from a lackluster 8-8 in 2015 to winning the NFC for themselves last season. Somehow, in all the churn around them, the New Orleans Saints have finished 7-9 for three consecutive seasons. But with the Falcons losing the architect of the offense that took them to the Super Bowl, Kyle Shanahan, to the 49ers, the division could be there for the taking.What needed to be addressed: Saints tailback Mark Ingram had the fourth-highest per-carry rate of yards before contact in 2016; he didn’t run into a defender until he’d run an average of 3.26 yards. After the crack of the pad, Ingram was solid, averaging a 14th-best 1.82 yards after contact. But he can’t compare to Peterson:If Ingram needed any guidance learning how to make defenders looks silly, he now has the perfect mentor — albeit one who wants to steal his job. From 2011, the year Ingram entered the league, through 2016, Peterson had the highest average after-contact yardage rate of any back with at least 150 carries.Potential impact: Peterson’s historical lack of effectiveness out of shotgun alignments seemingly makes him an odd fit for Sean Payton and Drew Brees’s spread-style offense, but the Saints actually used shotgun formations at the eighth-lowest rate of any team in the NFL last year, according to Football Outsiders. Moreover, New Orleans ranked fourth in average yards-per-play when under center, roughly the same as in the ‘gun, and had one of the smallest gaps in efficiency between the two alignments. Though they still passed 63.4 percent of the time, the Saints are a strong fit for Peterson’s skill set. No wonder Peterson told Bleacher Report earlier this month that he was impressed by Payton’s passion about the dimension the veteran running back would add to the Saints’ offense.Question mark: Peterson is a 32-year-old running back with 11,747 of the hardest-earned yards in recent NFL history already on his odometer. The jury is out on how effective he could be moving forward.NFC West: Haason Reddick (R), LB, CardinalsOpportunity: At this time three years ago, the NFC West was one of the two best divisions in football. The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks had a death grip on the rest of the NFC, but the Arizona Cardinals were right on their heels. Since then, attrition has taken a toll on all three squads; a Cardinals team that went 29-9 with Carson Palmer under center from 2013 to 2015 finished second in the division last year at 7-8-1.What needed to be addressed: A host of defenders from recent years left in free agency this past offseason. The Cardinals lost Calais Campbell, Kevin Minter, Alex Okafor and Tony Jefferson, who finished first, third, seventh and 10th, respectively, on the team’s defense in Pro-Football-Reference.com’s Approximate Value from 2013 to 2016.The Cardinals boasted a top-three DVOA defense in three of those four seasons, but to keep that up, they’ll need the best of whoever is left — including Karlos Dansby, who returns at age 35 after three years elsewhere. Arizona desperately needs a young impact defender who can run, cover and hit at all three levels of the defense.Potential impact: Reddick, a Temple product who put up an outstanding combine performance, has the size and athleticism to run with the Cardinals’ outstanding secondary. The 6-foot-1, 237-pound No. 13 overall pick was among the top-performing linebackers in the 40-yard dash (4.52 seconds), vertical jump (36.5 inches) and broad jump (133 inches). General manager Steve Keim told the media that he expects Reddick to have a “huge” impact, according to the team’s official site — and Reddick’s timetable to contribute has since been accelerated, with linebacker Deone Bucannon slated to start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list.Question mark: As with Davis, measurables and fit alone don’t guarantee anything in the NFL. Reddick will have to prove that his knack for playmaking in the AAC can translate to the NFL. Dorial Green-Beckham10.910.16.90 Carson Wentz is getting an upgradeHow new Eagles wideout Alshon Jeffery’s 2016 performance compared with that of Philadelphia’s receiving corps. Alshon Jeffery15.813.11.10%
The Rockets’ season may come down to whether Trevor Ariza, coming off a career year in Washington and beginning his second go-around in Houston, can be a better fit than Chandler Parsons. Parsons is a versatile offensive player, but in Houston his value came largely from his ability to work around Dwight Howard-James Harden pick-and-rolls, either spacing the floor or driving to the basket with well-timed cuts. Ariza is a more limited offensive player, particularly off the dribble, but he is great in transition and can be effective providing spacing around pick-and-rolls. No player made more corner threes than Ariza last season, and he shot 45.0 percent from that location, among the best marks in the league.But Ariza’s real value is his defense. While Parsons was capable, Ariza is a near elite defender. ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus estimates the effect Ariza has on defense as +1.04 points per 100 possessions, nearly twice that of Parsons. That’s an important difference when playing alongside Harden, whose defensive inadequacies are well documented.Ariza has a specific defensive talent that makes him such a great fit for Houston. Over the last two years, he is in the 90th percentile of all NBA players in his ability to affect an opponent’s turnover percentage, according to NBA stat blog Got Buckets’ adjusted Four Factors Ratings. Parsons ranks in the 61st percentile. Forcing turnovers has an effect on both offensive and defensive performance, as steals often lead to fast breaks. The Rockets’ preference for an up-tempo, transition attack is well known and it works well for them — last season they had an effective field goal percentage of 66.0 percent after forcing a steal, compared to just 52.8 percent overall.Ariza may not bring as much offensive versatility as the man he’s replacing, but the quality of his defense may end up being much more important for a team already rich with offensive players. — Ian Levy The San Antonio Spurs’ dynasty is a blessed one. Tim Duncan’s longtime brilliance and the twin discoveries of Tony Parker and (particularly) Manu Ginobili, both draft picks that had no business turning into Hall of Famers,5Parker was taken 28th overall in 2001; Ginobili went 57th (!!!) in 1999. are the kinds of gifts that, while not guaranteeing championships, certainly set a team up for them. And perhaps the biggest blessing of all is Gregg Popovich, the greatest coach of the NBA’s modern era — Phil Jackson included.For his article about LeBron James’s potential free-agent destinations, FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver created a projection system using my Statistical Plus-Minus (SPM) metric that predicted how well each player would perform in the upcoming 2014-15 season. We can also apply the projection process to previous years, using SPM data that would have been available at the time6While still using the players’ actual minute totals from the season in question. to form “retro predictions” for historical teams dating back to the 1979-80 season.If we compare coaches’ records to the ones we would have predicted for them, Popovich’s greatness becomes clear. No coach since 1980 has exceeded preseason expectations like Popovich has.Not only has Popovich outdone the computer by 117 wins over his 18 seasons at San Antonio’s helm — 33 more than second-ranked George Karl and nearly 62 more than the oft-extolled Jackson — he’s done it in far fewer games than his coaching peers. While it took Karl and Don Nelson around 2,000 games to add 83 extra wins apiece, and Jackson more than 1,600 games to beat expectations by 55 wins, Popovich racked up his excess victories in far fewer: just a shade more than 1,400 games.7In the chart above, coach games and wins above expectation were pro-rated up to account for years where the schedule was less than 82 games per team.The 2013-14 NBA champion Spurs were a classic example of Popovich coaxing superior performances from his roster. In addition to Duncan (age 37) and Ginobili (36) cheating Father Time, Kawhi Leonard’s and Patty Mills’s respective games grew at an accelerated rate, while Marco Belinelli, Boris Diaw, Cory Joseph and Jeff Ayres all played much better than their previous track records suggested they should have. Of San Antonio’s core players, the only one who had a down year relative to expectations was Parker, whose SPM fell to +0.1 from +2.5 in 2012-13.The aforementioned SPM projections think the Spurs will suffer a decline in 2014-15. They call for Duncan and Ginobili to finally show their age, and for the supporting cast to regress to the mean. But Popovich’s bunch have also exceeded those same expectations in every single season since 1997-98. The good money’s on them bucking the odds yet again this year. — Neil Paine The Oklahoma City Thunder had one of the best draft runs of all time in recent years. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka — major, franchise-defining pieces all. And yet no NBA title. Harden was (infamously, in some quarters) traded, Westbrook has been hurt for significant parts of the past two seasons, and now Kevin Durant is out indefinitely with a foot fracture.Given the outsize role Durant has filled, using more than 30 percent of the Thunder’s possessions and playing virtually every important minute over the past five seasons, analyses of how the Thunder will fare without him will be imprecise, to say the least. And while Durant’s health will be the most important factor in determining whether the Thunder can win an NBA title this season, that, too, is currently outside the realm of statistical analysis.3At least for us plebeians in the public domain.And so, in the absence of a Durant analysis, let’s talk Reggie Jackson. Jackson’s third season was his best as a pro, and his emergence in the playoffs, including a 32-point performance in a vital win over the Memphis Grizzlies, gave the Thunder some hope that he could be a major piece going forward.His most valuable asset is his ability to attack off the dribble. According to SportVU, Jackson averaged 0.22 drives per minute last season, putting him 23rd in the league. He shot 48 percent on those drives, above average for a point guard, and generated more points for his teammates on drives when he did not shoot (0.74 per drive) than Kemba Walker and Jeff Teague, two other young starting point guards. Jackson’s ability to create for his teammates is not at an elite level, but it is improving; his assist rate increased to 23 percent last season.He’s an above-average defender, ranking as the 12th-best guard by Real Plus-Minus last season. But that likely overstates his ability; his length and speed help him match up well against point guards, but he gambles too often and doesn’t defend larger shooting guards well.Jackson is clearly the second-best guard on Oklahoma City’s roster, but he is not a natural two-guard. Scott Brooks may elect to start a better shooter, like Jeremy Lamb or Anthony Morrow, as a shooting guard, using Jackson off the bench. But in crunch time without Durant, a Westbrook-Jackson backcourt likely gives the Thunder the best chance to succeed. — John Ezekowitz For the past few seasons, the Mavericks’ offense has been composed of Dirk Nowitzki and people paid to play well with Dirk Nowitzki. Making people play nice can be hit or miss. In 2011, it hit, with the Mavericks beating the Miami Heat to win the NBA Championship. Other years, the strategy has usually been enough to get the Mavs a playoff berth, but rarely out of the first round.Dallas went through significant roster changes this summer and this year’s group of supporting specialists may be the team’s best yet. Judging by the decisions they made, the Mavericks sought out supporting players who possessed a few specific skills — breaking down the defense, creating shots for others, making open 3-pointers and finishing around the basket.The table below shows the better part of the Mavericks’ roster for this season and includes statistics on those offensive specialties, several of which come from the NBA’s SportVU Player Tracking statistics. For a glossary of what each term means, check out the footnotes4Drives are defined as any touch that started at least 20 feet from the basket and was dribbled to within 10 feet. Assist opportunities include all assists, as well as passes that led to shooting fouls and passes that would have been recorded as assists if the shot had been made. Catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts are those where the player held the ball for less than 2 seconds and shot without dribbling.:For a central offensive player, Nowitzki is remarkably flexible — comfortable in the post, at the elbow or behind the 3-point line, and willing to score, pass or act as a decoy. Depending on the matchup, the Mavericks may want to surround him with shooters, drivers, creators or finishers. Looking over the roster for this season reveals a wealth of options in each case.This table shows the number of players last season who met some elevated benchmarks in these categories, against the number of players currently on the roster who met those benchmarks:It’s Nowitzki that makes the Mavericks’ offense great. Having this array of subtly interchangeable offensive parts could make them into something even more this season. Just don’t ask about the other side of the court. — Ian Levy The NBA season, like a Stockton-Malone pick-and-roll, always arrives on time. To prepare for the next 1,230 games (All-Star festivities excluded), we took each player’s projected Real Plus-Minus and wins above replacement, calculated a total for each team, and ran 10,000 simulations of the NBA schedule to divine likely records and championship odds.1The rosters we used came from ESPN.com’s depth charts, and were current as of Monday, Oct. 20. We’ve split the teams into the lower and upper tiers in each conference; these are the eight teams that will likely make the playoffs from the West. (We previewed the West’s lower tier here.) So fill that Kevin Durant-sized hole in your heart with the stats, x-factors and regressions that could help determine the West’s pecking order. Basketball strategies come in and out of fashion, and last year the Trail Blazers might as well have been wearing dad jeans. In the post-“Moneyball” zeitgeist, long 2-point shots are verboten; it’s nearly always better to shoot a 3-pointer than a long, 2-point jump shot because the former has a higher expected number of points per attempt.But as with any fashionable tactic, there are those deploying countermoves. And the Trail Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge is that movement’s leader.Below is a plot of the top 100 players by the number of shots per game they attempted from 17 feet to 22 feet last season.2The NBA 3-point line ranges from 23 feet, 9 inches at its maximum to 22 feet at the corners. So the attempts plotted here do not include any 3-pointers. And look at Aldridge, up on a peak by himself:Aldridge took more of these types of shots than any other player in the league — 489 in 69 games, nearly two attempts per game more than the next-closest player. Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki, two superstars also known for long 2s, attempted 4.5 and 3.6 such shots per game, respectively.And Aldridge made a lot of them. He ranked 25th in long jumpers made, at 45 percent. Anthony shot marginally better than Aldridge (at 46 percent), while Nowitzki hits at a ridiculous rate of 52 percent. But Aldridge is taking many more of these shots than either Anthony or Nowitzki.Shooting this well at distance allows for greater offensive spacing for other players. With Aldridge, Portland has an invaluable asset: a great player whose talents run counter to the prevailing trends in the league. — Andrew Flowers Last season DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers’ 26-year-old center, led the NBA in rebounding — by the conventional statistic of rebounds per game. Which is impressive! But in the advanced-stats age, few stats are as they seem. Just because Jordan pulled in a lot of rebounds doesn’t make him a good rebounder — assuming, that is, we know what a good rebounder is in the first place.A better statistic than rebounds per game is Total Rebound Percentage.8This statistic and the data plotted come from Basketball-Reference.com. This measures the percentage of all rebounds a player grabbed while on the floor, which means it adjusts for how many rebounds were available to be gathered. That can vary by the pace of play, the team’s shooting percentage and other factors. By this measure, Jordan grabbed 21.6 percent of available rebounds, making him third in the league last year, behind Andre Drummond and Omer Asik, who gobbled 22.3 percent and 21.7 percent of available rebounds, respectively.But even this “advanced” metric, while an improvement, is still flawed. A truly good rebounder should not just grab a lot of rebounds, but rebounds above and beyond what his team would get otherwise. In other words, he shouldn’t be a rebound cannibal.Luckily, we can measure this form of cannibalism. From the basketball stats blog Got Buckets, we have plus-minus statistics that tell us how much a player steals rebounds from teammates when he’s on the floor.9I ran a regression between a player’s offensive rebounding percentile (which measures how well the team rebounds when the player is on the floor, after controlling for teammates and opponents) and his offensive rebounding rate (which measures only the player’s own rebounds grabbed) to determine the relationship between the two aspects of rebounding. (I also repeated the analysis for defensive rebound percentile and defensive rebounding rate.) For the entire population of NBA players, it’s a strong relationship, so there isn’t usually much difference between a player’s actual percentile and what we would predict from his individual numbers. However, some rebounders help their teams more or less than you would think from their own rebounding stats. With this data we can test whether prolific board-grabbers actually improve their teams in that category, essentially identifying “selfish” and “unselfish” rebounders.On the offensive boards, Jordan is a slightly unselfish rebounder, with his team ranking about three percentiles higher than you’d think given the share of offensive boards he grabs. (In the charts below, the unselfish players are above the lines, and the selfish ones below.)On defense, however, Jordan is a hungry cannibal.Even though he’s one of the most prolific defensive rebounders in the league (taking nearly 30 percent of available boards), the Clippers are 24 percentile points worse in this category when he plays, relative to what you’d think given how good Jordan is.Drummond is even more of a cannibal with the Detroit Pistons, however. The real winner seems to be Asik for the Houston Rockets, who, for a player in the top three in rebounding rates, still seems rather unselfish.Jordan is a good player, and a great rebounder. But don’t take his raw rebounding stats as gospel. — Andrew Flowers Across the entire league, the percentage of shot attempts that have come on 3-pointers has been increasing by about 1.5 percentage points per season over the last three seasons. Last year, for the first time in league history, more than a quarter of the shots taken were 3-pointers.That revolution has not yet reached Memphis.Last season just 16.9 percent of the Grizzlies’ shot attempts were 3-pointers, lowest in the league for the second consecutive year. Over those two years, the Grizzlies have attempted nearly 500 fewer 3-pointers than any other team. This strange, against-the-grain trend is a mix of design and circumstance, but the circumstances might be about to change.One of the reasons 3-point attempts have been going up around the league is that more and more big men are venturing out to the perimeter. The Grizzlies don’t have the personnel for that. They play a tough, interior style built around Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, neither of whom has 3-point range. Their focus on defense also means a significant number of minutes have been given to wing-stopper Tony Allen, who doesn’t have 3-point range either.But this year, the team gets back its best 3-point shooter from 2012-13, Quincy Pondexter, who missed all but 15 games last year with a stress fracture in his foot. (Tayshaun Prince took most of Pondexter’s minutes and had a disastrous shooting season.)Going into this season, small-forward minutes should be going to a healthy Pondexter and Vince Carter, who was signed to replace the departed Mike Miller. You can see from the table below that Pondexter (whose 2012-13 numbers are shown) and Carter are both excellent 3-point shooters, and together they are much more active behind the arc than the Miller/Prince combination was.The Grizzlies likely aren’t going to be breaking any 3-point records this season. Their offense will still be run through Randolph on the low block and Gasol in the high post; defense will still be given priority in most rotation decisions. However, this season the Grizzlies should have just a little more 3-point talent than they’ve had in the past, enough to add some much-needed variety to their scoring attack and to make them that much more dangerous in the Western Conference. — Ian Levy Very few first-time NBA coaches are lucky enough to inherit a team as talented as the one Steve Kerr has in the Golden State Warriors this year. Last year, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson shared one of the most remarkable offensive seasons any starting backcourt has had in the NBA since 2000. Together, they averaged a 55 percent effective field goal percentage10Effective field goal percentage accounts for the additional value of 3-point shots. The formula is (FG Made + 0.5* 3-Pointers Made)/FG Attempted. while combining to take 38 percent of the Warriors’ shots. That is the best eFG percentage for any backcourt that took more than 35 percent of its team’s shots since 2000.Kerr also inherits a defense that finished fourth in the league in defensive efficiency last season. Golden State’s defensive prowess, built on holding opponents to 46 percent shooting from inside the arc, the third-best mark in the league, was masked by its frenetic pace. The Warriors were sixth in the league in tempo last season, which meant that they actually gave up only the 10th-fewest points per game.Much of Golden State’s defensive success can be attributed to the signing of Andre Iguodala, perennially ranked by advanced metrics and scouts alike as one of the best wing defenders in the league. But drafting Draymond Green also helped. Green was the afterthought of the Warriors’ 2012 draft; Harrison Barnes, drafted seventh overall, was supposed to be the star. But Green quietly had a breakout campaign last year. He had the best defensive rebounding percentage (19.3 percent) of any small forward who played more than 15 minutes per game, and also was in the top three in block percentage and steals percentage. Green averaged only 21 minutes per game last season. He deserves more under Kerr.For Golden State to break through to a Western Conference finals appearance (or beyond), Kerr and associate head coach Alvin Gentry will have to maintain the team’s defensive record. Neither has ever presided over a top-10 defense in the NBA. They will also need the three veterans over 30 years old — Andrew Bogut, David Lee and Iguodala — to remain healthy, something that has not happened in recent seasons. The Warriors’ core is not getting any younger, and the elite in the West are not getting worse. But that’s for Kerr to worry about next year. For now, he needs to capitalize on his roster’s head start. — John Ezekowitz
OSU fullback Ronan Forrestal during a game against Wisconsin on Oct. 24. Credit: Courtesy of GJ HildebrandtFor the second year in a row, the Ohio State men’s club rugby team is preparing to play in the Big Ten Universities Rugby Conference Championships on Saturday.A tight race for the top two spots in the conference came to a close Saturday when the Buckeyes narrowly defeated Michigan 35-31 to solidify their opportunity to play for the conference title.Senior flanker and co-president of the rugby club Jake Berlin said the final minutes of the game against Michigan were a culmination of the squad’s season.“In the final seconds, your position on the field didn’t matter; it was all about grabbing the man next to you and doing whatever you could to crush that seed of doubt and prevent Michigan from crossing that line,” Berlin said. “Everything we worked toward came together in those final seconds.”Last season, the Buckeyes fell short in the championship game against Wisconsin, but this year the team feels stronger and better prepared after instituting a tougher practice schedule and 6 a.m. workouts three days a week.“Last year, I’d say we wanted to have the focus of being out here and being competitive, but it wasn’t there. This year it’s incredible,” sophomore lock and co-president Nathan Grose said. “Doing that stuff just brought everyone together, you show up at 6 a.m. and yeah it sucks, but it sucks with everyone else. We know we’re all getting better.”Berlin said he’s seen the work ethic of the program grow over time.“I can say right now the team is probably closer than it’s ever been in my four years, there’s kind of this old rugby culture that was around before I came in. It was a lot about more fun than actually working hard,” Berlin said. “I think myself and the captains have kind of gotten rid of that and started a culture that’s ‘work hard, play hard.’”Coach Ron Bowers, who played rugby at OSU from 1987-1991, said he is impressed with how the level of collegiate rugby has risen both since his playing days and over the last few years.“There are bigger, faster, stronger athletes,” Bowers said. “In Ohio now, there’s a lot more high school rugby, so they’re coming to us with three or four years of experience already, which makes a huge difference.”Despite the rise of high school rugby, many of those athletes got their starts playing football in high school, including senior 8-man/flanker and captain Santino Cua.“In high school I kind of wanted to play collegiate football and thought rugby would be a good way to hone in my skills. But I fell in love with the sport and chose to play it over collegiate football,” Cua said.While rugby is growing — plans for the first professional league in North America were announced Monday — it remains a relatively unknown sport in the U.S. However, Grose said those who start with it usually stick with it.“In high school, you see guys quit football to play rugby, but nobody ever quit rugby to play another sport,” Grose said. “I decided to try it out here, and I fell in love with it, fell in love with the team and it’s been awesome.”Cua said the team’s camaraderie and passion for the sport and team were the keys against Michigan and will be the keys moving forward.“The win over Michigan only happened because we had 15 guys who refused to let their brothers down. The bond amongst our players proved stronger than Michigan on Saturday,” Cua said. “It is one of those intangible characteristics that define a championship team, which is exactly what we plan to be come Saturday afternoon.”The Buckeyes are set to take on the Indiana Hoosiers for the Big Ten Universities Rugby Conference Championships on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Rockford, Illinois.
Chalk up another rematch for the Ohio State football team. Almost two weeks after finalizing an agreement to play Texas in the coming years, the Buckeyes secured another home-and-home series with Oregon for the 2020 and 2021 seasons, the athletic department announced Tuesday. “Oregon has developed into one of the premier football programs in the (Football Bowl Subdivision),” OSU athletic director Gene Smith said in a released statement. “We are excited to add them to our future slate of games.” The Buckeyes are slated to travel to Eugene, Ore., for a Sept. 12, 2020, contest before hosting Oregon on Sept. 11, 2021, in Columbus. Ducks’ athletics director Rob Mullens said OSU “provides another major conference opponent” for the future. “The Pac-12 and Big Ten have enjoyed a long-standing relationship, so the opportunity to add another Big Ten opponent was attractive, Mullens said in a released statement. “We have two of the most passionate fan bases in college football and the atmosphere at both Ohio Stadium and Autzen Stadium are among the best in college football.” Oregon football coach Chip Kelly said he shares a similar mindset. “This will be a great opportunity for our fans to be a part of an intersectional battle that has not taken place in Eugene very often,” Kelly said in a released statement. “I’ve always been a proponent of playing the highest level of competition possible. I’m a firm believer that you make yourself better when pushed by the level of your competition.” While the teams have only met eight times, it’s been less than three years since OSU defeated the Ducks in the 2010 Rose Bowl, 26-17. In fact, the Buckeyes are 8-0 against Oregon all-time. On Oct. 10, OSU and Texas agreed to play in Austin in 2022 and Columbus in 2023. The contest against the Longhorns is the first since the 2009 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, which saw Texas top OSU, 24-21. The Buckeyes announced the completion of their non-conference schedule for 2016 season Tuesday after home games against Tulsa on Sept. 10 and Central Michigan on Sept. 24 were finalized. Rounding out the Buckeyes’ non-conference schedule that year will be Bowling Green (Sept. 3) and Oklahoma (Sept. 17).
Former Ohio State and Baltimore Orioles’ outfielder Matt Angle (38) is congratulated in the dugout after hitting a lead off home run against Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander during the first-inning at Comerica Park in Detroit, on Sept. 24, 2011. Credit: Courtesy of TNSEvery kid playing catch in the backyard with his or her father dreams about the chance to make it to the big leagues.For most, those hopeful thoughts are virtually unattainable.But there are some who make it.Former Ohio State outfielder Matt Angle was able to achieve that goal. He spent three years playing at the school of his dreams, was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles and debuted with the team in 2011, becoming the first OSU outfielder since Nick Swisher to reach the majors.But for Angle, the dream he was living started well before he was drafted.Growing up in a suburban community in Whitehall, Ohio — a small city east of Columbus — Angle had grown up a fan of the Buckeyes. Both his grandfather and his aunt had graduated from OSU, and Angle said he was excited to play at the school he grew up loving.“It was awesome,” Angle said. “I grew up a Buckeye fan. Being able to have your family and friends come watch and still be close to home, it was a great experience.”Angle found a great deal of success at OSU, almost immediately. As a freshman in 2005, he started in 40 games in right field and quickly established himself as a bonafide leadoff hitter for the Buckeyes.On Apr. 27, 2005, in the second game of a doubleheader against Eastern Michigan, Angle was batting leadoff and starting in right field. For the remaining 27 games of the season, and essentially for the rest of his Buckeye career, Angle was found atop the lineup. But despite all the success, it was not until he participated in the Cape Cod League in 2006 that he started to believe a professional career in baseball was ahead of him.“(I) went out there, performed well, and that’s when you’re matched up against some of the best players in the country,” Angle said. Then, on June 7, 2007, the phone call finally came through, alerting Angle that he had been selected with the fifth pick in the seventh round of the draft, 219th overall by the Baltimore Orioles. Angle remembers exactly where he was when he got the life-changing call.“I was actually at my house on campus,” he said. “Just with some roommates and some buddies, and then got together with my family after.”Angle describes the moment as a great and memorable experience.“It’s something that you work hard for, something that you always dream about — the opportunity to play professionally, and it was something I’ll never forget,” he said.After being drafted, it took Angle some time to reach the majors. He debuted in 2007 at Low Class-A and the next three-and-a-half seasons traveled through various levels of the minors before finally landing in Baltimore.For many minor-leaguers, the travel can be an unwanted burden that puts stress on the family life, but Angle and his wife saw it as a great opportunity to see many different parts of the United States.“(My wife) was able to see a lot of cities and a lot of places that she wouldn’t have been able to see,” he said. “Looking back now, I think you appreciate it more — some of the trips, some of the cities, some of the opportunities. Time to spend together that you do while you were playing.”Despite the travel and most of the minor league teams being located closer to the East Coast, Angle kept to his roots and lived in Columbus throughout his playing career.“Columbus was always home,” he said. “Offseasons were always spent in Columbus, and then I would just live in whatever home city I was playing in that year. But Columbus has always been home.”On July 17, 2011, the day finally came when Angle donned an Orioles uniform and took the field at Camden Yards. He was slotted to lead off, a role in which he had grown comfortable. He went 0 for 3, but it was a day he will never forget.Orioles left fielder Matt Angle (38) bumps fists with first base coach Wayne Kirby (23) in the 7th inning after he is walked to first base by Indians’ pitcher Chad Durbin. The Baltimore Orioles defeated the Cleveland Indians, 8-3, at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, on July 17, 2011. Credit: Courtesy of TNS“It’s something you’re always working for,” Angle said. “My wife and my mom and uncle and cousin were able to make the trip over to Baltimore. It was a day game, I can’t remember if it was noon or 1, so it was early. Got in late the night before after getting called up so it was a quick turnaround.”And of all the teams he could have debuted against, of course it was the Ohio-based Cleveland Indians. Though Angle grew up as a Cincinnati Reds fan, it was something special for him to play against a local team.“(I was) not as much an Indians fan, but it was great growing up in Ohio to be able to make your debut against another Ohio team,” Angle said.Unfortunately for Angle, his career in the majors was short-lived. He finished the 2011 season in Baltimore and never saw another major-league at-bat. His final career stat line was .177/.293/.266, with a lone home run and 11 stolen bases.He spent four more seasons in the minors, split between the farm systems of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins and Oakland Athletics.But as the years wore on and it became clearer that he did not have the same skillset he had a few years earlier, Angle decided to hang up his cleats.“At that point, sometimes the game just kind of tells you,” he said. “Ideally, you would’ve loved to still been able to play longer, but sometimes the game just tells you it’s time.”Though his career as a player was over, Angle found a new career with the sport he loved. He knew he still had some unfinished business and a possible future back in Columbus.Angle left OSU a year early, without receiving his degree, so that was one of the first things he wanted to take care of when he moved back to Columbus.“It was something that was always important to me,” he said. “I actually finished my degree my last year of playing. And it was something I’ve always wanted to do. Having a degree from Ohio State means so many different things, whether it’s in the sport world or the business world.”While completing his degree in sport industry at OSU, Angle found that a job was awaiting him on the baseball team. He joined coach Greg Beals’ staff as co-video coordinator. In this position, he sits down with players to review film and helps them go through what might be wrong with their swing and how they can heat up at the plate. “My first year as the — I was more student, I was still graduating at the time — there was a lot more I was able to do on-field,” Angle said. “So you’re able to implement some things there, and now you’re just following through on the video side, suggesting, being able to give a fresh set of eyes watching the game a little bit differently.”Ohio State co-video coordinator Matt Angle in the dugout during the Buckeyes’ 2016 Big Ten tournament championship run. Credit: Courtesy of OSU AthleticsFor some of these younger players, a fresh set of eyes can be exactly what they need to help break out of a funk at the plate. Sophomore third baseman Brady Cherry said that the team benefits from having a former player with the experience at the plate.“He knows his stuff, and I think everybody here trusts him with all the knowledge that he has,” Cherry said. The experience Angle brings to the team isn’t only as a bastion of light for players going through a tough time at the plate, but it can also be a great aid to the coaching staff if it can’t seem to get through to the player.“Matt’s a great resource for me too — just in different approaches, how to approach hitters, and how we can go about attacking a week and attacking a practice plan, and helping get our guys as ready to play as possible,” Beals said.For Angle, his time spent helping coach younger players at OSU has been well spent, and he seems to like the work here. Asked what he will be doing after coaching at OSU, Angle said he doesn’t know.“That’s the great question. You know, we’ll see,” Angle said. “I’ve enjoyed the last two-and-a-half, three years that I’ve been a part of the program. Right now, being fully entrenched in the season, not really thinking too far outside of that. If you have any great ideas, I’d be open.”
Debit cards are set to overtake cash as the UK’s most frequently used payment method for the first time by 2018, three years earlier than expected, figures show. Britain is going cashless faster because of the rapid growth in the use of contactless cards, according to a payments industry trade association.In May 2016, Payments UK had predicted the tipping point in the nation’s payment habits would happen in 2021 – but now it expects this to happen by next year Its figures show that debit cards were used 11.6 billion times in 2016 – with just over one in five of these transactions made using contactless.Cash was used for 15.4 billion payments last year. Two-fifths (40%) of payments in 2016 were made using cash.By 2018, 13.4 billion debit card payments are predicted – of which around one in three are expected to be contactless.Cash is expected to be used for 13.3 billion payments in 2018 – meaning that for the first time, it will not be the most frequently used payment method. The popularity of contactless means that we expect debit cards to overtake cash as the UK’s most frequently used payment method in late 2018, three years earlier than we previously thought.Adrian Buckle, chief economist at Payments UK Adrian Buckle, chief economist at Payments UK, said: “The popularity of contactless means that we expect debit cards to overtake cash as the UK’s most frequently used payment method in late 2018, three years earlier than we previously thought. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Contactless cards are increasingly popularCredit: Barclaycard “This is a significant shift but it’s vital to note that even in the face of this change, we believe any claims the UK will soon become a cashless society are wide of the mark.”Despite the move towards plastic, cash is still predicted to make up around a fifth (21%) of payments in 10 years’ time, when it will have held on to its position as the UK’s second most frequently used payment method, according to Payments UK.