Month: September 2019

Spring Training Matters

On the other side, teams like the Rockies,8Because of the Rockies’ extreme park effect, which wouldn’t manifest in the spring, it’s possible that the model is being too pessimistic here. Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers showed unexpectedly anemic offenses in spring training, which drags down their regular-season projections. None of these teams had more than a faint hope at the playoffs anyway, but the third- and fourth-biggest decreases in expected offense belong to two potential playoff contenders — the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago White Sox — which may now find their paths more difficult.So you don’t have to wait months to begin worrying (or in the case of Mets fans, hoping) about the fate of your team. Once combined with a dose of projections, spring training results go a long way toward predicting how well a team will hit.CORRECTION (April 10, 2:56 p.m.): An earlier version of this article included a table with incorrect information on teams’ spring training OPS averages. It has since been updated. On opening day, every team has playoff dreams. Early on, the potential of the season outweighs our knowledge of each team’s quality. While our best predictions are modestly useful, they can’t tell us which team is destined for greatness with much certainty or which early-season trends to trust or disregard. That makes it tough for a baseball columnist — a pitiable lot, us — to write about anything with any certainty.But we do have spring training. Conventional wisdom holds that what happens in March is meaningless. But conventional wisdom can’t use R. Spring training results aren’t entirely worthless — either for players, as FiveThirtyEight’s own Neil Paine showed last year, or for teams. And I’m particularly interested in this idea that a team’s spring training may offer some indicators of how its season will go. What are the limits of its powers? And what is its potential?We know that spring training isn’t incredibly predictive. I gathered data on each team’s spring-training and regular-season performances in the last five years (2010-2014), checking to see whether there was any correlation between a team’s offensive performance in spring1I used on-base plus slugging percentage. and its average regular-season on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). Just as with other spring statistics, there was a weak but consistent2The correlation is a statistically significant r=.2. relationship between the two. The teams that bash in spring tend to continue doing so through the summer.Even so, spring training results were somewhat faintly reflected in the regular season — teams have to bash a lot before the trend is noticeably continued once the season starts. But we’re not just interested in how spring training correlates to the regular season; we’re interested in whether spring training should make us adjust our expectations of what’s to come.If we look at spring training performances and then compare them against what sabermetric projections3By projections I mean estimates of players’ future production based on their past history and the history of players similar to them. For example, based on the three years of MVP-caliber performance that began his career — and the rarefied historical company that performance puts him in — Mike Trout is likely to be excellent again this year, to the tune of a .297/.382/.519 triple-slash line (his spring training performance of .441/.514/.847 only reinforces that belief). have to tell us, these preseason games become a lot more telling. So rather than just see whether offensive stats from spring training correlate to regular-season stats, let’s tally up all of a team’s player projections (I used PECOTA projections from Baseball Prospectus), average them, and combine that with spring training stats.Once I added in the projections, I had a workable system for estimating a team’s regular-season OPS — much better than the one based solely on spring training data.4A simple linear model, incorporating spring statistics and regular-season projections is able to predict team OPS with r=.35. This isn’t so far-fetched — we make these kind of calculations in our heads all the time. If a team is terrible on paper but slugs like the pre-humidor Colorado Rockies in spring training, we assume it’s likely to end up somewhere between those extremes in the regular season.After factoring in the projected performance, a 100-point increase in spring training OPS raises a team’s expected regular-season OPS by 15 points. While that’s not a huge increase, it’s also a much stronger relationship than what we find for individual players, where a hitter whose OPS is 100 points better than expected in the spring improves their expected regular-season OPS by only six points.5These are not perfectly comparable because Neil Paine used weighted on-base percentage in his analysis and I’m using OPS. However, if you scale each coefficient in terms of the standard deviation, player projections remain less responsive to spring-training performance.There’s a reason spring training has more to tell us about teams than individual players. It’s about signal versus noise. For an individual player, any set of 50 plate appearances (in spring training or otherwise) is extremely volatile and doesn’t say much about them individually. But bring together all the plate appearances of the nine players who make up a batting order and the volatility begins to cancel itself out. All of a sudden we have some sense of how good the nine are in aggregate.For example, New York Mets center fielder Juan Lagares hit much better than expected for the past month, and there was probably some luck involved in his .359 spring training batting average. But Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud hit much worse (.212/.226/.288) than PECOTA would have predicted. If we gather together Lagares’s lucky singles and d’Arnaud’s unfortunate strikeouts, we get a decent measure of the average ability of Lagares and d’Arnaud together — even if we aren’t sure how much of the difference between the average and their individual numbers will come from d’Arnaud improving or Lagares regressing.Speaking of the Mets, they led all of baseball with an .817 average spring training OPS despite mediocre projections. Such a performance is good enough to raise their expected regular season OPS by 11 points, which ought to be worth something like two wins over the course of the season.6This estimate was obtained by regressing team runs against team OPS. That should bolster the fans’ dark-horse World Series hopes (or at least their hopes of making the playoffs for the first time in nine years).The success of other top spring performers had little effect on their OPS projections because they were already so high. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics were already expected to field excellent offenses, and so their spring performances only confirm what we already believed.7For the following predictions, I am using a different, more accurate model (r=.5) than the linear regression I mentioned above. read more

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Get Big Kevin Durant Denied at the Rim in

Kevin Durant is undoubtedly one of the best scorers who ever played basketball. To stay sharp in the offseason, he spends time playing basketball in playground leagues against lesser-skilled players, but every so often embarrassment strikes.It rarely happens, but even the six-time NBA leading scorer even runs the risk of being supremely denied at the rim.Watch the video to understand just what happened to Durant when he tried to drive to the basket while Pops Mensah-Bonsu, a Ghanian forward who plays for an Italian league, was defending him during a Goodman League game in Washington D.C. read more

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Mike Tyson Takes OneMan Show To London Stage

Mike Tyson at his Nevada home in February. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)Former undisputed heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson will be heading to the British stage to perform his one-man show, “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth.”Tyson first performed his show at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, then he went to Broadway in NYC. Next, Tyson will be overseas, starting off a mini tour at the Apollo Theater stage in London March 21-22.“I’m excited to take the show abroad and share it with my fans across the globe,” said Tyson. “Undisputed Truth is my story – I’m giving my all and I’m proud to take the show internationally.”“Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth” is also scheduled to travel to Glasgow March 25th and Manchester March 26th, before heading to engagements in Norway, Denmark and Sweden.According to Whatsonstage.com, the show described as a “rare, personal look inside the life and mind of one of the most feared men ever to wear the heavyweight crown”, it spans the highs of winning the heavyweight title to the lows of his conviction for rape in 1992.The show was written by Tyson’s third wife, Lakiha Spicer, and is directed by filmmaker Spike Lee. read more

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Supporters Want Colin Kaepernick Signed by NFL Season Start

People gather in support of unsigned NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, in front of NFL headquarters in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)NEW YORK (AP) — Supporters of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the national anthem to protest police brutality against blacks, showed their solidarity with him and his cause at a rally outside National Football League headquarters on Wednesday, demanding that he be signed by the start of the regular season next month.More than 1,000 people, many wearing jerseys bearing Kaepernick’s name, crowded the steps outside the NFL’s midtown Manhattan offices.Kaepernick, who once took the 49ers to the Super Bowl, opted out of his contract with the team in March and remains unsigned. Supporters say he is being blackballed for his advocacy, but some critics say he should not have sat or kneeled during the anthem or contend his lack of a job is more about his on-field talent.Chants at the demonstration included “Boycott! Boycott!”Women’s March organizer Tamika Mallory, addressing football fans, said, “I don’t care how long you’ve been watching football, if they don’t stand up for your children, turn the damn TV off.”Some speakers said the league’s treatment of Kaepernick is of a piece with its cavalier attitude toward players’ health.“How in the world can we call ourselves the land of the free, the home of the brave, and you get vilified and criminalized just for speaking your mind?” the Rev. Jamal Bryant said. “The NFL has proven with their treatment of Colin Kaepernick that they do not mind if black players get a concussion, they just got a problem if black players get a conscience.”Earlier Wednesday, the NAACP called for a meeting with the NFL to discuss the fate of Kaepernick, who was born to a white woman and a black man but was adopted by a white couple. The civil rights organization’s interim president, Derrick Johnson, said in a letter to the NFL’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, that it’s apparently “no sheer coincidence” that Kaepernick isn’t on a roster.“No player should be victimized and discriminated against because of his exercise of free speech. To do so is in violation of his rights under the Constitution and the NFL’s own regulations,” Johnson said.The NAACP’s state president in New York, Hazel Dukes, said: “Right now, the action of the league seems to imply to young black men that this league, which is comprised of 70 percent African-Americans, only values black lives if they are wearing a football uniform.”Goodell has said the league isn’t blackballing Kaepernick.Some other players followed Kaepernick’s actions last season, and some are doing so in this year’s preseason. On Monday, a group of Cleveland Browns players prayed in silent protest during the national anthem. Among those kneeling was a white player, Seth DeValve. Another white player, Britton Colquitt, did not kneel but kept his hand on the shoulder of a teammate who did.That protest earned the ire of an Ohio Supreme Court justice, the lone Democrat holding an Ohio statewide office. Justice Bill O’Neill wrote on Facebook that he wouldn’t attend any games at which “draft dodging millionaire athletes disrespect the veterans who earned them the right to be on that field.”“Shame on you all,” he said. read more

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The Big Questions Facing The Big Four In The East

gfoster (Geoff Foster, sports editor): The first-round of these NBA playoffs was widely viewed as a small appetizer (an amuse-bouche?) before the real meal begins in the conference semifinals. That has largely held true, particularly in the East, where the four teams that won — the Bucks, Celtics, Sixers and Raptors — lost a combined two games. In the West, things have gotten more interesting with the Nuggets-Spurs going to seven games and the Clippers refusing to go away against Golden State.But let’s start by looking at the two East matchups, which begin this weekend. The first game of the second round is Philly-Toronto on Saturday. Our model gives the Raptors an 81 percent chance of moving on. Obviously Joel Embiid’s health is the big question here, and if he’s not at full strength, that could make those 19 percent odds look even slimmer. Does Philly stand a chance here? How much hinges on Embiid’s health?chris.herring (Chris Herring, senior sportswriter): The Sixers definitely have a chance. I’d give them more than just a chance. But I have huge questions for them, too. And the Raptors deserve to be favored, for sure.natesilver (Nate Silver, editor in chief): With Embiid at 100 percent, you can make the case that the Sixers have a more talented starting five, however effective that talent might or might not be at coming together as a team. Without him, you really can’t.tchow (Tony Chow, video producer): It’s obviously an understatement to say the Sixers’ chances hinges on how well Embiid plays, but I think they showed they can also play pretty well without him in the last series.chris.herring: Yeah. He was asked whether time off has been helping his tendinitis at this point, and he essentially said: Not really. I’m fascinated in this series from a matchup standpoint. It’s going to present some real challenges both ways.natesilver: I don’t think they had a terribly good record without him during the regular season, did they? And Toronto is much better equipped to exploit holes at both ends of the floor than the Nets were.chris.herring: Just 8-10 without himtchow: Yeah, as far as matchups go, it’s going to be really interesting to see how Marc Gasol does against Embiid. Gasol was solid against Nicola Vucevic last series, but Embiid — even a not-100-percent Embiid — is an entirely different scenario.chris.herring: I will say this: I would assume Embiid is going to be available for each game of this series. I could be wrong on that, and who knows how he’ll hold up. But they don’t have much room for error here, whereas against Brooklyn they did, and he still played four of the five games.Agreed that the Embiid-Gasol matchup is an interesting one, and one that Gasol played pretty well. Embiid has struggled some with him over the past year, even dating back to Gasol’s time in Memphis. Embiid tears Serge Ibaka apart when that’s the guy guarding him.natesilver: Kawhi Leonard also seems like he’s pretty well-equipped to neutralize Ben Simmons as an offensive force.tchow: How much should we read into the regular-season performance here? The Raptors went 3-1 against the Sixers this season, but all those games happened before the trade deadline, so no Tobias Harris on the Sixers and no Gasol on the Raptors. (Also, it’s fair to point out that the one game they did win against the Sixers, the Raptors were playing without Kawhi.)chris.herring: Not too much, in my opinion. We mentioned it before, but the Sixers only had 10 regular-season games with their entire starting five together. That group has been so jumbled all season. I think we saw both the best and worst of the Sixers in the last series. That first game against Brooklyn, they played as if they were total strangers. Shot totals were out of whack, and Jimmy Butler finished with 36 points. Simmons and JJ Redick were awful that game.gfoster: After going all-in on this season with Harris and Butler, the Sixers are very top heavy. They really don’t get much from their bench, and now Mike Scott’s status doesn’t look good for the start of the series. How much does this matter? It seems like depth is more an issue for the regular-season grind.chris.herring: It’s huge. The Nets’ bench outplayed Philly’s for most of the series. Sixers are going to need their starters to be fantastic.natesilver: In the playoffs, you can go about seven players deep instead of eight to 10 players deep, but Nos. 6 and 7 still matter quite a bit.chris.herring: Yep. And that means on both ends of the floor. It hasn’t been talked about a whole lot, but Harris is going to be a big swing player in this series, I think. Figuring out who he can guard in this series is critical.tchow: Would we see him on Pascal Siakam? Siakam seems like a nightmare for a lot of the Sixers’ starters.chris.herring: Maybe you can put him on Danny Green? But that’s the sort of assignment he’s not exactly used to. If he guards Siakam, Siakam will feast like it’s Thanksgiving. He’s definitely not guarding Kawhi. And it’s already strange in the sense that you might end up having to put Redick on Kyle Lowry, which is far from traditional in the first place. The Sixers are such an interesting team.natesilver: For Philly, what’s the threshold between a successful season and a failure? Do they need to win this series? If they play a good, tough series and lose in seven, is that a failure?tchow: It feels like they put this team together to reach the NBA Finals.chris.herring: Assuming it’s not a five-game series or shorter, I think Brett Brown can make an argument that this was a brand-new team that wasn’t cohesive at all. They’re going to need to re-sign either Butler or Harris, if not both. I think you could run this team back and see growth next season. No one is old at that point. I don’t feel like many people are taking the Sixers here, and an 81 percent chance for the Raptors seems like such a high number to me, given the talent Philly has. But they don’t have the experience together. Nor do they have home-court advantage.tchow: As much as I want a Sixers-Bucks Eastern Conference finals, I don’t think I’m taking the Sixers here either.gfoster: Part of that is us not having seen them very much at full capacity. And they aren’t even at full capacity now with Embiid banged up.natesilver: I guess all I’m saying is that both Boston and Philly are in this weird bucket where getting knocked out in the second round might seem like a disaster — but there are also two VERY good teams at the top of the conference and there isn’t necessarily a lot of shame in losing to them.chris.herring: Absolutely. I agree with that notion.gfoster: Speaking of getting knocked out in the second round, the Raptors’ playoff history is grim. But things are obviously different. For starters, they won’t be swept by LeBron for the third straight year. Also, Lowry is the only real holdover from those previous teams. Does this seem like a team that can go to the finals and make noise? We give them a 54 percent chance of making the finals, for what it’s worth.chris.herring: They are so difficult to believe in because of the slow, “Are they really doing this again?” sorts of starts they get out to.tchow: Game 1s are just not Toronto’s friend.chris.herring: They are a pretty complete package. I still don’t know that I would take them over the Bucks, but I wouldn’t argue with anyone who said they are taking Toronto to win the East.natesilver: Our model is REALLY high on Toronto right now. Which has been the downfall of many a good model in the past, being too high on the Raptors.chris.herring: And speaking of not playing at full strength, the Raps weren’t leaning heavily on Kawhi at all this season. You’d hope that pays dividends now, with him being rested and healthy.natesilver: Yeah, the model is basically saying that the fully intact, healthy version of the Raptors’ rotation is almost Warriors-level good.chris.herring: They are missing OG Anunoby, who may be back if they get to the Conference finals or NBA Finals. He’s solid for them, as a 3&D option. But they’re in a good place.gfoster: Interesting that their “full-strength Carmelo” is less than their current Carmelo. How does that work?tchow: I think it’s because our model is not high on Anunoby.natesilver: Yeah, it thinks Anunoby is a replacement-level player, whereas the other guys they’d play instead of him are closer to league-average playerstchow: I agree with Chris that he’s a solid option for Toronto once he returns. But according to our model, he’s a negative on both offense and defense.gfoster: Boston and Milwaukee met in the first round a year ago, with the Celtics winning in seven games (without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, no less). Obviously things are different this time around. We give the Bucks a 77 percent chance of winning this. Does that sound about right to you?chris.herring: I think so. I’m almost as high on Milwaukee as I am the Warriors, which sounds wild to say out loud. But I am.natesilver: It sounds about right to me: 3-to-1 favorites with the best player in the conference, home-court advantage, and a much better regular-season record seems reasonable.chris.herring: I do feel like this series has the potential to make me look stupid, though.gfoster: Best player in the conference or in the league, Nate?natesilver: Don’t bait me into answering that! I think he was probably the MVP this year, but answering if he’s the best player in the league going forward is trickier.tchow: Just to make sure our readers follow, we’re talking about Giannis right? There’s no Bucks fan out there that’s going to assume Nate thinks Eric Bledsoe or Malcolm Brogdon is the MVP.natesilver: We’re talking about Nikola Mirotic, Tony.tchow: Of course.gfoster: Who guards Giannis? Boston has two great defenders in Al Horford and Aron Baynes.tchow: I would assume Horford gets the assignment for the most part, but they’re going to have to double.chris.herring: They’ll use everyone. Probably starting with Horford, who’s guarded him pretty well before. I don’t think they’ll have to double! And it’ll be dangerous to try that, given all the shooting the Bucks have.tchow: For what it’s worth, Giannis averaged 31 points against Boston in the regular season. That’s his third-highest scoring average this season against a team he played at least three times (behind the Knicks and the Sixers).chris.herring: I just think they’ll try to confuse him by using a lot of different faces over the course of each game.natesilver: Don’t Horford and Baynes seem a little too slow to guard Giannis? I mean, 90 percent of the league is too slow, but they’re in that 90 percent, no?chris.herring: Horford’s been pretty decent at this before. If you can force him to pass without doing it through a double-team/over-helping, it’s a win. He was really, really good on Simmons last year, which is similar in some ways, even though Giannis is obviously the better player. It’s strange, but I almost feel like looking at last year’s series doesn’t help a whole lot. Milwaukee was playing such a stupid offense, and Giannis couldn’t kick the ball out to anyone because of their spacing.gfoster: It seems like the strategy for some teams is to just let Giannis get his points and shut down the perimeter. Could that work for Brad Stevens?chris.herring: It could. I think the biggest fear if you’re Boston is Horford getting into foul trouble, which, as Nate brought up, would force you to play Baynes a lot in a matchup that’d be tough for him.natesilver: I suppose that’s the strategy you have to try — shutting down the perimeter. Which is different than saying that strategy will succeed, but you have to try it because this Bucks team without the perimeter shooting is basically last year’s Bucks team, and that team was very beatable, obviously.chris.herring: The other alternative, if those guys simply can’t stay with Giannis, is to play small — Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, etc. This is another series where they’ll miss Marcus Smart. (And Milwaukee could really use Malcolm Brogdon as another ball-handler/shooter.) I really do think the key to the series will be more about how Milwaukee defends, though.natesilver: Yeah, I think Smart would have been huge in this series.chris.herring: To me, this series will probably answer the biggest question I’ve had about Milwaukee all along: Is their defense — which gives up more threes than any team in basketball — one that can work in the playoffs? They dare teams to shoot threes. In today’s NBA, that’s going against the grain hardcore. Especially when the other team has a big with that sort of range.And can the Celtics exploit that sort of defense, with Brook Lopez dropping back in pick-and-rolls instead of stepping up? Horford can shoot! It’s dangerous to sag off him.natesilver: I guess I didn’t realize how problematic the Bucks’ 3-point defense was during the regular season. They let opponents shoot 36.3 times per game — most in the league — at a 36.1 percent clip. Now, some of that is that their interior defense can be so good that threes are the only shots you can get. But if you’re forcing opponents to take undesirable threes, the percentage should be lower than 36.chris.herring: Exactly. That’s their entire strategy: To allow threes from the top of the key, which Lopez doesn’t venture out to, but to try and limit them from the corners, and to play a smart strategy in terms of who you’re letting take them. Mike Budenholzer’s idea is straight out of the Popovich/Spurs’ belief that you can plan to allow certain guys to get open and bait them into taking those shots.tchow: By the way, shoutout to Ben Falk from Cleaning the Glass. Just out here creating smarter basketball fans everywhere.chris.herring: But the Bucks go to an extreme with it, and a lot of it is rooted into having Lopez protect the rim, where he’s more comfortable. It’s amazing that Milwaukee basically lets teams take threes — in this day and age — yet still is the best defense in the league. It says a lot.But think about it: If you decide you aren’t going to take a three, it means you’re either pulling up from midrange or going into the paint against the long arms of Giannis AND Lopez?gfoster: Do we believe in the Gordon-Hayward-is-back narrative?chris.herring: I don’t know. His end of the season was encouraging. I feel like the Bucks could be a tough matchup for him, though. He was simply average, or slightly below average, against the Bucks this season.tchow: I see where that narrative is coming from though. His stats against Indiana last series aren’t that far off from his career averages. But yeah, this is a tough, tough matchup.chris.herring: I just kind of feel like the Bucks can bring you back down to reality very quickly with the way they defend. A shot that seems like it’s there and open can vanish really quickly against a defense that moves like Milwaukee does.gfoster: Hayward only had a 16 percent usage rate in the first round, so he’s not a huge part of the offense at the moment.chris.herring: I think it could be a great series.tchow: It’s kinda strange we’ve gone this long without even mentioning Kyrie.gfoster: I feel like if you are in the middle of the regular season and draw Giannis, it’s a nightmare. But if you give Brad Stevens four to seven straight games to plan a way to limit him or his teammates, maybe things change? (Or maybe I’m just too high on Stevens’s impact.)chris.herring: There’s been so much talk this year about Stevens and whether the media crowned him too quickly.gfoster: <—media idiotchris.herring: It seems like it’s been a real challenge for the Celtics to jell this season. They never really hit a true stride. And even their sweep over Indiana wasn’t the most convincing.natesilver: In some sense, I guess Stevens is a victim of his own success, because last season raised expectations so much.chris.herring: I’m just not sold on the Celtics. Which is saying a lot, because I picked them as my preseason NBA champs.tchow: Bold pick, Chris.chris.herring: It just seemed like there wasn’t a real answer for how to shake them out of their funk this year.natesilver: I mean, I don’t quite get the notion that the Celtics were huge juggernauts.They probably only have one top-25 player (Kyrie).chris.herring: I get it. They were a win shy of making the NBA Finals last year without two max players. Then they added those guys back in, and you figured you’d get the maturation from the youngsters who were so impressive in the playoffs.natesilver: Well, with a full-strength Hayward, it’s a different case, although even at his best he was also in the top-25-but-definitely-not-top-10 discussion.chris.herring: Absolutely. But their growth hasn’t been linear at all. Terry Rozier was pretty bad this season. Horford looked at least a half-step slow at times. And as you said, Kyrie is the only star who’s truly on a lot of the time. Hayward’s recovery and rehab into the player he was before still isn’t fully complete.natesilver: I’m just saying when you rely on grit and teamwork and so forth, sometimes those teams actually have limited upside because it implies they don’t have all that much talent.tchow: The leap, or lack thereof, of Jayson Tatum and Brown has also challenged those high expectations.chris.herring: Hence the “Is Brad Stevens the best coach in the league?” talk, which also seemed really premature.gfoster: Part of that narrative is people watching him take Butler University to the NCAA title game twice.natesilver: Yeah, this season was toward the lower end of expectations for Tatum. Some of that was probably because he was freakishly good (43.4 percent) on threes as a rookie, which really inflated his metrics. But it’s also not totally unusual for a guy who was perceived as overachieving in year one to regress a bit in year two.gfoster: OK, let’s talk about the West. The Warriors series was supposed to be over. It’s not. Is anyone a bit worried about them (not against the Clippers)? It seems like we are waiting for the switch to be flipped.chris.herring: Not worried, no. It may show us that when a team is giving everything it has — and is good, like the Clippers are — that’s enough to beat the Warriors. I don’t think there’s any indication that the Warriors would take a team like the Rockets for granted. And that may be all that matters once Golden State finishes this series.tchow: I’m still not worried, but maybe I should be? It’s still tough to bet that they won’t win it all, though.natesilver: At times during Game 5, it looked like they were ready to flip the switch and just didn’t have the energy for it. But, yeah, I’m with Tony that the question is less about whether they’ll beat the Clippers than what it says about the road ahead.chris.herring: Their defense is the real concerntchow: Yeah, if they advance (and our model gives them a 98 percent chance of doing so), I’m expecting them to be highly motivated against Houston. I don’t think you can say they were against LA.chris.herring: Lou Williams has been amazing, and they just haven’t had an answer for him in late-game situations.tchow: Lou is playing out of his mind.chris.herring: I will say this about the Warriors: I don’t know what it is, but Steve Kerr seems like he’s reaching a breaking point.natesilver: What do you think that means, Chris? That he knows this is the last run for the team as currently constructed? That it’s his last run?chris.herring: I just think the annoyances have built up to a level that they’ve never reached before. tchow: Kerr has talked so much about how tough it is to three-peat, mentally. I don’t think he was exaggerating.chris.herring: The video I posted is a small thing. But earlier in the season, there was the video of Kerr in which many people though he had mouthed that he was sick of Draymond Green. There was the stuff with Draymond and Kevin Durant. There’s the stuff with KD potentially leaving. The gap between the Warriors and other teams has closed. We haven’t even mentioned the DeMarcus Cousins thing much, because there’s still this perception that they should win anyway. And, as Tony said, it’s really hard to three-peat, and Kerr knows that better than anyone.natesilver: I feel like the Warriors sort of benefit from the fact that their two toughest series are in the second round and the finals and the Western Conference finals matchup might be comparatively easy. You bear down to beat Houston, and then you get another break where you can play not your best for a game or two and then still beat Portland or whatever. And then you can bear down again in the finals. That seems easier than having to play 12 or 14 really tough games in a row.chris.herring: I think the odds of them doing it without being truly pushed by someone in a series are slim at this point. Yeah. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t even think it’s a given that they get past Houston. Will they? Probably! But Houston had them on the ropes last year.And I’m amazed at how quickly we seem to write that off.gfoster: It’s odd that GSW seems to be a worse team at Oracle.natesilver: Oh, of course not. I’m not sure they’re particularly heavy favorites against Houston and didn’t mean to imply otherwise.chris.herring: I’m guilty of it, too, at times.natesilver: We now show Houston with almost a 40 percent chance of winning that series.chris.herring: It’s also amazing that the Clippers have beaten them twice — at Oracle, as Geoff mentioned — and we aren’t even slightly worried that it could become a series again.The Warriors can’t do anything to impress us anymore (not that this series would be a sign that we should be impressed). I think that expectation has to weigh pretty heavily on them at some point. But all of that said: If they come out dull in Game 6 — and particularly if they lose — the noise will reach a fever pitch. And I’d go as far as to say that Houston would be favored by a lot of people in the next series. Maybe they should be if they have that much rest.tchow: The Warriors are like sound mixers on films. You’re never impressed or notice sound mixing when everything sounds right, but the moment something sounds off, it’s all you can focus on. I don’t know if that analogy really works, but I’m running with it.natesilver: I was in San Francisco for the NBA Finals last year — not actually for the finals, I just happened to be there when Game 1 was being played — and the atmosphere was awfully nonchalant for it being a major pro sports championship. I went to the game, and inside the arena, it was better — although it’s a weird arena — but I don’t think it’s one of the bigger home-court advantages at this point.chris.herring: Thank goodness we’re doing this chat from our offices/homes, because Nate’s last message would have Warriors fans coming after us with pitchforks.tchow: Nonchalantly though. Coming after us, nonchalantly, with pitchforks.gfoster: Imagine what it will be like when they move to actual San Francisco. My understanding is that many Oakland residents resent the Silicon Valley scene their games have become.natesilver: It was a weird crowd. Everyone was either like a super awesome old-school die-hard fan or like a Rich Venture Capital/Tech Bro who whined about how unfair the refs were being to Golden State, without a lot in between.chris.herring: !!!gfoster: That sounds like 1990s Madison Square Garden. But bankers instead of Tech Bros.chris.herring: I love Oracle and will miss the roar that you hear when Steph or Klay goes nuts. And I feel for the folks in Oakland who feel like their team is being gentrified/taken away. (I honestly empathize with that part. Seriously.) But on a lighter note, as a journalist, I won’t miss the awful Wi-Fi or being shoulder to shoulder.gfoster: Lastly, we have a Game 7 on Saturday. Hooray! We still have Denver at 58 percent to make the conference finals. That seems high. Unlike Portland, the Nuggets still have a game to win to get into the semifinals.tchow: Our model still down on Portland.natesilver: Our model doesn’t really like any of the teams in this part of the bracket, so if it’s high, it’s not because it loves the Nugs so much as that it isn’t that enthralled with Portland. Or San Antonio, for that matter.chris.herring: I don’t feel particularly great about anyone on that side of the bracket, either. But I am kind of loving this “why not us?” mentality that Damian Lillard and his team have. They really shouldn’t be here. Extreme failures in their past. A first-round sweep to an underdog last year. Injury to arguably their second-best player this year, right at the end of the season. But here they are. And Lillard has been the best player this postseason, hands down.gfoster: After that performance, I’m officially on Team Dame in next round.tchow: These playoffs gave us that Dame stare-down meme. Whatever happens the rest of the way, it’s already been a great postseason.natesilver: Denver’s advantage in that series, according to our model, is all about (1) Jusuf Nurkic being out and (2) home-court advantage (the Nuggets have a big one). It’s not like they’re really a better team per se. But Portland is forced to either play a ton of Enes Kanter or some very strange lineups. And they have to win at least once at 5,280 feet. And those things aren’t easy.gfoster: Colorado’s venues need to be moved to sea level in all sports.chris.herring: Who knows if Denver even gets there? Jokic had the game of his life in Game 6 — one of the most sound NBA games ever — and it wasn’t enough. Although I did see that a No. 7 or No. 8 seed has never won a Game 7 before. Which is kind of a nitpicked stat, since seeds that low have won winner-take-all Game 5s before. But still.natesilver: Yeah, I’m being presumptuous, I guess. Our model would have Portland as like 2:1 favorites or better against San Antonio, which seems like exactly the kind of series that would boil down to “Portland wins because Dame Lillard is by far the best player on the court.”chris.herring: At this point, Portland and Golden State would be the most fun matchup we could ask for. Golden State seems to enjoy putting Denver in its place, whereas Lillard has shown that he’s not afraid and that he can dominate a series. I think round 2 is fascinating because Houston and Golden State will almost certainly meet then. But for the sake of spreading out the best series, I wish the Rockets had finished as a No. 2 seed instead. Because the East will be more than enough entertainment already, but I feel like we’re already somewhat down on the WCF.tchow: This is just more fuel for Dame’s fire, Chris.gfoster: All right, enjoy the second (and the rest of the first) round! We will be back next week to discuss each series.Check out our latest NBA predictions. read more

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New golf coach looks to start his own legacy at OSU

It had been 36 years since the Ohio State men’s golf team introduced a new head coach. With the retirement of legendary coach Jim Brown, however, the program has ushered in its new leader, Donnie Darr.Darr, an Ohio native and all-conference golfer during his college career at Kent State, spent time coaching Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Akron and his alma mater prior to coming to Columbus. He is only the tenth head coach in the program’s history and his hiring has served as a homecoming of sorts.“This is a huge opportunity for me,” Darr said. “To come home and coach Ohio State is my dream job, and not many people get to experience their dream job.”For Darr, a father of four, the job represents more than just career advancement.“More than anything, it’s great for my family,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for me to raise my kids near family.”Darr’s job comes with great responsibility and, perhaps more importantly, some big shoes to fill. His predecessor, Jim Brown, who had been the head coach since 1973, left as the most tenured coach in the program’s 88-year history.“Anytime you follow someone so great it’s tough,” Darr said. “But you can’t worry about it too much. I try not to get caught up in all of that. The key is to respect the history and the tradition, but to move on, work hard, and just do the best you can.”In a program that has been absent of change for so long, the entrance of a new head coach has brought drastic difference to the team. For Brad Wright, a senior and a team captain, the differences have not gone unnoticed.“[Brown and Darr] are 100 percent opposites,” Wright said, “Not to say one is better than the other, but they are certainly very different.”Wright began his college career in Akron where Darr was coaching at the time. Prior to the 2007 season, when Darr left for Oklahoma State, Wright made the decision to transfer to Ohio State. He then redshirted the season because of an NCAA rule regarding transfers, and played one year under Brown before being reunited with Darr.“I was thrilled when coach Darr got the job,” Wright said, “He is in my opinion, if not the best, one of the best coaches in the country. I couldn’t have scripted it any better. To begin and end my career with coach Darr is great.”Wright points to Darr’s motivation abilities as his biggest asset as head coach.“Coach Darr is the most competitive person I’ve ever met and, as a team, we feed off that,” he said, “He finds a way to always get the most out of his players and teaches them to carry themselves as champions on and off the course.”Wright, who played in every round of the 2008-2009 season, had a very important role on last year’s team that qualified for the NCAA championships. Following last season’s success, Wright has high expectations for this team and it all begins with his coach.“We hope to win the Big Ten without a doubt,” Wright said, “Coach Darr will be such a huge asset for us and, talent-wise, there isn’t a team in the conference that will be any better than us.”As for Darr, he says he’s thinking more “big picture” with his goals, but he’s certainly expecting success and hopes to put his stamp on the program.“I don’t think we need some big list of goals,” Darr said. “We just need to do the right things and recruit the right kids. We want good students, good players, guys who love Ohio State and, most importantly, have a passion for the game of golf.”If the track record of head coaches is any indication, Darr will certainly have plenty of time to make his mark on the program. read more

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Ohio State field hockey grabs wins against Michigan State Ohio over weekend

OSU field hockey players gather in a huddle during a game against Iowa on Oct. 19, 2014 at Buckeye Varsity Field. OSU lost, 4-2.Credit: Lantern file photoThe Ohio State field hockey team walked away from the weekend with its third and fourth consecutive wins after topping Michigan State and Ohio.Sophomore back Caroline Rath scored the game-winning goal near the end of the first period against the Spartans (3-5, 0-1) in the Big Ten field hockey opener, which ended with a final score of 2-1.The Buckeyes started strong when sophomore forward/midfielder Maddy Humphrey scored less than four minutes into the game by converting off a penalty corner with an assist from senior back Emma Royce. Just nine minutes later, the score was tied up 1-1 after Michigan State senior forward Mallory Tyler scored off a short pass in front of the cage with the help of teammate Heather Howie.The offensive action continued throughout the first half when Rath bobbled off a penalty corner and hit a hard shot to the cage past Spartans goalie Sierra Patton with an another assist from Royce 32 minutes in.OSU used its strong defense to its advantage as the team held the lead through the second half. Sophomore goalie Liz Tamburro had three saves in the half, two of which occurred with less than 15 minutes left to give her a game-ending total of four saves.Despite being outshot 13-7, OSU had five shots on goal, while less than half of Michigan State’s were on target.The women of the field hockey team returned to the home turf Sunday at Buckeye Varsity Field against Ohio University (3-4), pulling ahead in the second half after a slow start for their fourth win in a row.Senior forward Peanut Johnson, last week’s Big Ten Player of the Week, brought her offensive A-game by taking part in all three of the Buckeyes’ goals with two scores and an assist. The final goal was scored after she dribbled the ball into the circle and converted from five yards out. Ohio started strong, scoring the first goal seven minutes into the first half thanks to a shot off a penalty corner by Clarissa Leikly with assists from Kristen Buchanan and Adele Sammons. The Bobcats held the lead until Johnson dashed past her opponents 23 minutes in for a backhanded shot past Ohio goalie Lina Trucco.As the opening weekend for Big Ten play, Johnson said both her focus and determination were at an all-time high — specifically after the slow first half.“Big Ten games are just extra competitive, especially because we all have the championship in the back of our minds,” Johnson said. “(Going into the second half) our whole attitude changed — we looked at it as a new game and said losing can’t be an option.”The Bobcats took the lead again rounding off the first half with a goal from Maria Russel, but the Buckeyes gained momentum during period two. Nearly 40 minutes in, Royce tied up the score at 2-2 off a penalty corner with an assist from Johnson. OSU coach Anne Wilkinson said the team came back with much-needed aggression and a winning outlook during the second half.“The focus was we need to fight for every ball, and not sit back and give Ohio any opportunities. To me, we were not competing in the first half,” Wilkinson said. “When things started to go our way in the second half, we started to get our rhythm; we stepped up, gave a lot more effort and generated more chances.”Royce said her drive to make the most of her senior season gave her even more determination to fight for the win.“We, especially the seniors, put a little extra pressure on ourselves to just go out and execute when we had opportunities, and luckily we ended up doing that,” Royce said.With the game tied up at 2-2, Johnson’s swift control of the ball gave the Buckeyes the winning goal with only 10 minutes remaining and gave her the team lead of 15 points on six goals and three assists.Looking forward to the rest of the season, Wilkinson said she hopes more than anything the team brings its drive to the field every time.. “I like our fight. If they can go out there and play tough, the results will come,” Wilkinson said. “If they don’t, at least they know they fought hard … I prefer that over anything else.”The Buckeyes are next set to head to Oxford, Ohio, on Wednesday at 5 p.m. to face off against another in-state competitor, Miami University. read more

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Womens Hockey No 8 Ohio State shuts out No 9 Robert Morris

Ohio State then-redshirt sophomore goaltender Kassidy Sauve stares down a rolling puck against St. Cloud State on Feb. 4 at the OSU Ice Rink. Credit: Lantern File PhotoThe Ohio State women’s hockey team (14-5-4, 8-2-4 WCHA) opened a two-game home series against the Robert Morris Colonials (12-5-3, 6-2-2 CHA) with a 5-0 shutout victory Friday night at OSU Ice Rink.Ohio State redshirt junior goalie Kassidy Sauve stopped all 34 shots that came her way, claiming her seventh shutout of the season.Sophomore forward Rebecca Freiburger opened up the scoring frenzy for the Buckeyes seven minutes into the game, with assists from junior forward Grace Zarzecki and senior defenseman Liv Halvorson. The goal was Freiburger’s third of the season.With less than two minutes left in the opening period, freshman forward Tatum Skaggs gave Ohio State a two-goal cushion and scored her first goal of the game off assists from senior forward Julianna Iafallo and junior defenseman Lauren Boyle, sending the Buckeyes into the second period with a 2-0 lead.Sauve said while crucial for the team to get an early lead, it didn’t mean the Buckeyes could play less aggressively.“It’s just one of those things where no matter what the circumstances, you have to battle and work hard,” Sauve said. “Whether you’re down one or up one, the whole team has to come together and play as one.”The Buckeyes entered the second period eager to give their lead some insurance. Freshman forward Emma Maltais was quick to answer Sauve’s desire for more goals and scored one minute into play. The goal was her ninth of the season.Skaggs found the back of the net again less than three minutes later, scoring her 15th goal of the season and increasing the Buckeyes’ lead to four. Head coach Nadine Muzerall said it was important for the team to remain level-headed in order to maintain the lead in the third period.“We’re really big on just maintaining the composure,” Muzerall said. “We say sometimes, ‘Put a stick of gum in your mouth and just relax.’ We got that from one of the parents… and I loved it because it’s just saying, ‘Relax. You know what to do.’”Junior forward Maddy Field scored the Buckeyes’ fifth goal 38 seconds into the third period to give the home team a 5-0 lead, which it would hold for the remainder of the game. Despite having three power plays in the third period, one of them being a three-versus-five advantage, the Colonials’ efforts weren’t enough to get the puck in the back of Ohio State’s net. The Buckeyes skated away from the game with their 14th win of the season.Ohio State will have the chance to sweep the weekend series Saturday, something it has not done since mid-November.“I think the challenging piece is to repeat and see if you can do what you did all over again, because that’s the hardest part, “Muzerall said. “It’s always harder on Saturday than it is on Friday.”The Buckeyes and the Colonials will conclude the two-game series at 3:07 p.m. Saturday at the OSU Ice Rink. read more

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TV presenter Charlie Webster was told by Rio doctors she was dying

first_imgA big thank you to the doctor’s in Rio and to the exceptional NHS and all the wonderful staff at St James for literally saving my life.— Charlie Webster (@CharlieCW) September 9, 2016 Hey, guess who?! After 5 weeks, I’m out of hospital, alive and finally recovering (even my kidneys have started to slowly improve)!— Charlie Webster (@CharlieCW) September 9, 2016 The former Sky Sports presenter has now spoken about her diagnosis, saying: “I went into shock. Words can’t describe the pain I was in.” One doctor even told her: “We don’t know what is wrong yet, but we need you to know that you are dying.”She was placed om an induced coma in the Rio hospital to improve her chances of survival. Speaking to the Sun, she said she had a “conversation with Death” and at first gave into it because she felt: “I’m happy to die because I just couldn’t do it any more.” But she quickly decided to fight. “The last thing I thought was that I haven’t made a will, I need to make sure my money goes to my family,” she said.  Credit:Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA She had contracted a rare form of malaria, but it took some time for doctors to realise what was wrong with her. The presenter, who used to date actor Downton Abbey actor Allen Leech, is still yet to regain full kidney function.But she described her recovery so far as a “miracle”. A TV sports presenter who was hospitalised with malaria in Brazil has spoken about how medics told her she was dying of a mystery illness.Charlie Webster, 33, was taken ill during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony after contracting the mosquito-borne disease. She had recently completed a 3,000 mile charity bike ride from London to Rio. After a stay in intensive care in Brazil she was flown back to the UK at the end of August, where she remained in a serious condition at hospital in Leeds, before eventually being released last Friday night. Webster with her ex-boyfriend Allen Leech “I also remember a promise I made to my mum that I wouldn’t leave her, weirdly enough, before I set out on the cycle ride. She had a feeling that something was going to go wrong before the race. “So I said, ‘I’ve only come so far in the mission of what I want to complete in my life. I’ve got to do this. I’m not dying. No chance’.”She added: “The doctors said they’ve never met anyone with such fight and that my heart was a perfect heart, that’s what kept me alive.” 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.last_img read more

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Stunning photo of rare moonbow captured in night sky

first_imgEarlier this year, a blood red moon over New York was captured in these spectacular photos. Meanwhile, can you spot the planets in this stunning photo of the Milky Way?  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. A photographer captured an amazing photo of a rare ‘moonbow’ illuminating the night sky in North Yorkshire.Ben Gwynne (@159photography) took the photo on the Yorkshire Dales at the weekend and shared it on his Facebook page.“I have never seen this before! A moonbow. Taken between Keighley and Skipton at 7.40PM. Very odd and very cool!” he wrote.Night-time rainbows are created as a result of the light from the moon instead of sunlight reflected by raindrops.He was taking photos of the supermoon when he captured the moonbow. Mr Gwynne told the BBC: “We’d gone into the Dales to take pictures and stopped on the way back to photograph the moon over some trees.“I’d never seen one before and getting to photograph it was amazing.”Time and Date explains: “Moonbows or lunar rainbows are rare natural atmospheric phenomena that occur when the Moon’s light is reflected and refracted off water droplets in the air.“Moonbows are rarer than rainbows because a variety of weather and astronomical conditions have to be just right for them to be created.”last_img read more

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