Category Archives: sports

Report details different kind of NCAA money trouble

8245360_web1_zagawebOnce upon a time Rick Pitino was a respected coach with NBA experience and a pair of national championships on his resume, then he was fired in 2017 after being caught up in a recruiting scandal that cost Louisville millions of dollars. His connection to a scheme in which prostitutes and strippers were hired gained more notoriety, but Pitino’s involvement in a similar effort to bribe recruits and cover up payoffs attracted the FBI’s attention. If the former Kentucky coach was a lone wolf the story would have ended with him. The implication of coaches, assistant coaches and athletic directors from Arizona and Miami to Auburn and Oklahoma State paved the way for a 52-page document colloquially known as the ‘Rice Report.’ It summarizes the findings of a ‘Commission on College Basketball’ focused on the current state of the amateur game, characterized by panel chairwoman Condoleezza Rice as a “toxic mix of perverse incentives to cheat.” What’s an athletic association to do? Continue reading

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May 2, 2018 · 1:12 am

Front office facing Clippers’ future after lousy season

1458527925962-press-conference-doc-160320-mp4-378998-3-576x324Vultures have been circling the Los Angeles Clippers franchise in a way familiar to viewers of nature documentaries like Planet Earth, though the bait was never the same…much like the predators. Jim Rome and Bill Plaschke were pressing for a breakup when the red-and-blue was a playoff team, Chris Paul was their starting point guard and Jerry West was working his magic in Oakland. Their good fortune ran its course in 2018 when a string of 50-win seasons ended and a corresponding run of six consecutive playoff appearances went with it. Fate was not kind to the Clippers in a season marked by the recurring appearence of new starters in key positions; injuries forced Coach Doc Rivers to conjure 37 unique lineups with rookies and G League players often included. Despite it all the former Celtics coach said he’s “never been more proud of a team that didn’t make the playoffs.” He knows how hard this team worked to stay in the playoff chase after April 1st. But that was last season. Continue reading

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April 23, 2018 · 12:29 am

Trusting management in La-La Land, with conditions

dm_170117_nba_one-play_lakers_randle_and_oneAfter several years of clumsy rebuilding at Staples Center, one mantra stood tall over the proceedings: a desire that fans “trust the process.” It was mostly implied, often relayed by writers and pundits without word from the front office, but the plea for patience persisted. Trust doesn’t come easy when progress was measured in half-steps before the first lottery pick and stalled when Julius Randle was lost for the entire season on opening night. A year later the purple-and-gold drafted D’Angelo Russell after one season at Ohio State; Earvin Johnson believed the team found a “future superstar,” then watched as the former Buckeye was taken out of the starting lineup. At the time Russell was a risk worth taking after earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors and being named to the Big Ten first team. It took a season or two and a new management team to decide Russell wasn’t in the Lakers’ future. Continue reading

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February 23, 2018 · 1:26 am

Staples Center’s newest pretty Hype machine

ar-170319878People around me who know I’m a Lakers fan have been razzing me for years about the team’s malaise. Once in a while they’ll suggest I become a Clippers or Warriors fan since they win more games, but I stubbornly refused. The reward was a team whose seasons ended with anxiety over the draft that led to a lottery pick and another Summer of high hope. Fear not, I heard, the purple-and-gold has a new coach or a new commitment to defense; this time they’ll finally turn it around. Whether mindful or cautious, the front office team avoided making big promises that would raise expectations. This began to change when Jeanie Buss deposed her brother then handed the team over to Ervin Johnson and Rob Pelinka. The new management started slow and shrewd, described what they found in February as unacceptable, then started making bold promises. The former agent gushed about coach Luke Walton’s “genuine honesty and coolness” and  found a way to attach the word “championship” to every aspect of the team’s culture. Continue reading

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October 25, 2017 · 11:08 pm

Clippers cruising into a Summer of change

doc-paul-griffin-20140512_5b7ea360820540349a9632e3065cc677By the time staffers at Staples Center started removing the Clippers’ logo from its hardwood floor and pulling down banners writers and pundits like Bill Plaschke and Jim Rome made it clear what management should do: break up a struggling team. The former San Diego franchise has been maddeningly inconsistent — they’ve lost five straight playoff series while giving up a one, or two, game lead and seen their star forward go home injured twice. But the Clippers also won 50 games in each of the past five seasons. They can handle challenges, like a seven game series against the Spurs in 2015, won on a last-second shot in a San Antonio by Chris Paul. The Clippers’ first round loss to the Jazz did more than remind fans and reporters of their weaknesses, it’s inviting speculation about how many players will leave Los Angeles via free agency and what management will do next. Continue reading

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June 25, 2017 · 1:11 am

ESPN surrendered to wild Twitterstorm

454343602When the Supreme Court was confronted with the Jacobellis v. Ohio case in the mid-1950’s they were asked to determine if a French film titled The Lovers was obscene. Potter Stewart’s standard wasn’t exactly clear; in a concurring opinion the associate justice referred to his own sense when he wrote that pornography was hard to define, but that “I know it when I see it.” The decades since have brought plenty of change with them. Public concern over obscenity is not what it was in 1964, or the late 1980’s when Tipper Gore and Jesse Helms were pressing the recording industry to put warning labels on rap records. There are other demons to chase now. Continue reading

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February 27, 2017 · 6:04 am

Lakers wandering the woods while seeking a Door

lakers-debuts-brandon-ingram-luke-waltonThis new season looked promising when the Lakers were standing at 10-10 after 20 games. Admittedly the definition is a bit different in Tinseltown after a 17-65 meltdown, but the excitement was nonetheless genuine before December arrived. The injury bug that seemingly left with Byron Scott in May returned after Thanksgiving, took down D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young, then the bus crashed. As a rookie head coach Luke Walton is not used to this kind of thing. His time patrolling the sidelines, whiteboard in hand, was spent overseeing a 24 game winning streak…not back-to-back losses where 19-point leads were surrendered. There remains little reason to doubt Walton’s state of mind, even after he was thrown out of a game in Sacramento for barking at officials when they missed an obvious call. He’s let it be known that the Lakers’ record and their place in the standings is not a particular concern; his first season is the beginning of a long-term rebuilding project and Walton knows there are no shortcuts to playoff redemption. I’m not so confident about the lady with season tickets and a seat in Section 117. Continue reading

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January 17, 2017 · 6:06 am