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The Demise of LeBron and the Lakers
[Posted Wed. a.m.]
Los Angeles Lakers Quiz: L.A. last made the playoffs in 2012-13. Name the three coaches that season. Answer below.
AP Poll (March 4)
1. Gonzaga (42) 29-2
2. Virginia (21) 26-2
3. North Carolina 24-5
4. Duke (1) 25-4
5. Tennessee 26-3
6. Kentucky 24-5
7. Michigan 26-4
8. Texas Tech 24-5
9. Michigan State 23-6
10. LSU 24-5
11. Purdue 22-7
12. Houston 27-2
17. Nevada 26-3
19. Buffalo 26-3
22. Wofford 26-4
25. UCF 22-6
--So Monday, post-release of the poll, Virginia beat Syracuse on the road, 79-53, continuing their stellar play of late, the Cavaliers hitting a school record 18 threes, Kyle Guy with a career high eight; Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter having five apiece as Virginia’s Big Three had 62 of the 79. [The three average a combined 44 of 72 points per game, and more than that, recently...kind of worrisome come tournament time.]
Also Monday, the two leaders in the Big 12 both won. 8 Texas Tech (25-5, 13-4) defeated Texas 70-51, while 18 Kansas State (23-7, 13-4) beat TCU.
--Tuesday, completing the action in the Big 12, No. 13 Kansas will not be the Big 12 regular-season title winner for the first time in 15 seasons, after losing at Oklahoma (19-11, 7-10) 81-68, the Jayhawks falling to 22-8, 11-6.
Saturday, Texas Tech is at Iowa State, and K-State is at Oklahoma.
In the SEC, 5 Tennessee will be gunning for a regular-season title after a 71-54 win over Mississippi State (21-9, 9-8), the Vols now 27-3, 15-2.
Tennessee will play at Auburn, while 10 LSU (24-5, 14-2) plays at Florida tonight, and then hosts Vanderbilt Saturday.
6 Kentucky will need lots of help after an 80-76 win at Ole Miss (19-11, 9-8), the Wildcats 25-5, 14-3.
In the Big Ten, 11 Purdue (22-8, 15-4) was upset at Minnesota last night, 73-69, the Golden Gophers 19-11, 9-10. Purdue plays Northwestern Saturday.
9 Michigan State (24-5, 15-4) is now tied with Purdue after a 91-76 win over Nebraska (15-15, 5-14).
So this sets up a dramatic contest between 7 Michigan (26-4, 15-4) and Michigan State Saturday night for a shot at a share, or better, of the Big Ten title, depending on what Purdue does.
In the ACC, 3 North Carolina is 25-5, 15-2, after a 79-66 win at Boston College (14-15, 5-12), the Tar Heels remaining tied with Virginia atop the conference.
In the other biggie Tuesday, 4 Duke stayed in the hunt in edging Wake Forest (11-18, 4-13) at the buzzer, the Deacs missing a gut-wrenching put-back that rolled around the basket and out.
Duke, 26-4, 14-3, now faces North Carolina in another major tilt Saturday, with a chance at a share of the ACC crown.
But as for the Deacs, Monday the school introduced the new athletic director, John Currie, who is replacing Ron Wellman, who had been at the helm 27 years. I watched it all, and I need to be fair to Wellman. Over his tenure, Wake Forest did achieve a lot of success, but in non-revenue sports like men’s soccer and tennis. It’s great, but it’s not basketball. [Wake football, on the other hand, has generally been a pleasant surprise, especially recently.]
So the elephant in the room was the status of Danny Manning and as long as Wellman was around, it seemed Manning was secure, owing to his outrageous (rumored) $18 million buyout.
But with a new AD, it’s expected Manning will be gone. We’ll see what happens after we flame out early in the ACC Tournament.
--Monday night, the Lakers lost to the Clippers, 113-105, heaping more dirt on the 30-34 team’s coffin. I kind of love it...the LeBron angle, that is.
Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times
“The biggest bust of a season in Lakers history essentially ended Monday night, 18 games early and one superstar late. Dagger, administered by this city’s most stable NBA organization. Dagger, a 113-105 defeat at Staples Center at the relentless hands of the Clippers.
“LeBron James was booed. Jeanie Buss was heckled. The Clippers flexed. The fans fled. The numbers chilled.
“The Lakers five-year playoff drought will soon be a horrific half-dozen, as the loss dropped them 5 ½ games out of the final playoff spot with 18 games to play.
“This is bad. This is real bad. In six short months, the NBA’s marquee franchise has become the butt of its jokes and the focus of its most puzzling questions. The Lakers brought in the greatest player on the planet to eventually lead them to a championship, yet James can’t even lead them into the playoffs? The Lakers have spent two years selling fans on bringing postseason basketball back to Staples Center this spring, and the only place they’re going is the lottery?
“ ‘We’ll keep playing until the end and see what happens,’ James said afterward.
“Except on Monday, they didn’t keep playing until the end, their season epitomized by a sequence early in the fourth quarter when the Clippers’ Lou Williams stole a James pass and raced down the court for a layup with only Josh Hart giving chase. Hart blocked the shot, but still no Lakers showed up, and Williams followed it with an uncontested layup to give the Clippers a 12-point lead.
“It turns out that James’ arrival last summer didn’t make things better, and disillusioned fans may already be tiring of his presence judging from the response to a missed layup late in Monday’s game. Yeah, you read it right, he was booed.
“It also turns out that all of Magic Johnson’s and Rob Pelinka’s renewal promises will have to be put on hold, their celebrated construction of a title team crumbling before our eyes, and they’ve now run the joint for two years with little to show for it.
“And, finally, it turns out that since Buss took control of the team from her brothers two years ago, the only consistency has been chaos....
“The disappointment starts with James. Face it, he has barely been here this season, both physically and emotionally. He sat out 18 games because of a groin injury that proved to be an ominous sign of the wear that is suddenly evident on his 34-year-old body. He also failed in his backroom attempt to remove Walton and trade the team’s young stars for Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans.
“He has recorded his usual strong statistics, but they’ve been mostly empty numbers, as he has often whiffed on defense and missed big free throws.
“Combined with his teammates’ failure to trust him in the wake of all that trade talk, his personal storm has turned him into a basically ineffective superstar. And you have to wonder, how much has he been distracted by all of his movie, television and recording projects, at least three of which have either launched or been announced during the season?....
“Yeah, things are pretty messy around Los Angeles’ most celebrated sports franchise these days, the dagger on the 2018-19 season officially administered Monday night when Patrick Beverley flexed his biceps and glared into the crowd.
“Clipper Strong. Lakers Done.”
--Us Mets fans know one thing. The N.L. East is going to be a total bitch this year. We could have a ‘great’ season and win just 85 games. The Phillies, Nationals and Braves could easily finish ahead of us, but what is going to be fun, at least as long as the Metsies are competitive throughout, is the games within the division. Each one is going to be critical, a tension convention.
So the Phillies signed Bryce Harper, and have acquired/signed J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura (the sleeper in the division to me, among the new players for each team) and reliever David Robertson.
The Braves, already with a terrific young core, added Josh Donaldson and former Atlanta catcher Brian McCann.
The Nationals added lefty starter Patrick Corbin to a rotation headed up by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, while adding pitchers Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal; catchers Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki; and second baseman Brian Dozier.
The Mets have added stud closer Edwin Diaz and second baseman Robinson Cano, catcher Wilson Ramos, and brought back former closer Jeurys Familia, while adding infielder Jed Lowrie, among others, for depth.
Bottom line, FanGraphs, per Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post, has the Nats at 90 wins, Braves 85, Mets 84 and Phillies 83 (after adding Harper). I can’t argue with that...I’m hoping the Mets win 84-85. That means meaningful baseball in September, at least.
BUT...if one of the teams signs closer Craig Kimbrel, which would be either the Nats, Phillies or Braves (not the Mets), that’s a potential difference maker.
Kimbrel’s camp, though, is supposedly looking for six years, $100 million, which is absurd.
--The Yankees received a real scare when ace Luis Severino, who had recently signed a four-year, $40 million extension, warmed up for his first spring start and experienced shoulder discomfort. Thankfully, an MRI revealed it was an inflammation and nothing more serious, but it is highly likely he’ll start the season on the disabled list.
Which leaves the Yanks very thin in the starting rotation and much in need of signing Dallas Keuchel, though the team is insisting at least for today they have internal options.
--As feared, the Royals have lost All-Star catcher Salvador Perez to Tommy John surgery and he’ll be out the entire 2019 season, a huge blow.
--Kind of funny that I wrote about UMass receiver Andy Isabella last time, noting his speed in the combine, and ten hours later (I noted the time stamp), Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY had the following:
“It’s not quite like breaking the color barrier, but Andy Isabella is a walking distinction that just might make some people think twice. The University of Massachusetts receiver is believed to be, well, the first white player to post the fastest 40-yard time at the NFL scouting combine.
“Isabella blazed to a 4.31-second mark on Saturday, which matched Ohio State receiver Parris Campbell at the top of the chart through Sunday’s combine performances. Stunned?
“Isabella isn’t. He won the Ohio state championship in the 100-meter dash [Ed. I didn’t know this] while at Mayfield High and has become used to turning heads because he might not fit the prototype – or stereotype – given that sprint titles and combine footraces are often dominated by African-Americans.
“That made me curious to get Isabella’s take on his rep as a blazer.
“ ‘I watched the Jackie Robinson movie,’ Isabella told USA TODAY, seemingly acknowledging a certain social sensitivity. ‘It doesn’t feel like that, but almost like an outlier.’
“Outlier. That’s a good way to put it for Isabella, the 5-9, 188-pound dynamo who was partially trained for the combine by Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss.”
Well, then, Jarrett Bell, who I’ve quoted extensively in the past, gets into a rant on African-American receivers not being recognized as much as they should because of football’s color barrier, back in the day. And he’s right. It sucked.
But I wanted to point out that I had identified Isabella, last fall, without knowing of the dude’s speed.
--The Giants are taking heat for letting All-Pro safety Landon Collins just walk, opting not to even franchise tag him, and the Odell Beckham Jr. trade rumors continue. Not a good look for Giants management, as in the team’s fans are left shaking their heads.
It’s also not clear they will draft a quarterback, which they desperately need to do.
--Des Bieler / Washington Post
“Just when it seemed that consensus around the NFL had solidified on Kyler Murray being the heavy favorite to go No. 1 overall in April’s draft, along came Charley Casserly. The NFL Network analyst and former general manager took to the airwaves Tuesday to deliver a scathing summation of Murray’s performance at the league’s recently concluded scouting combine.
“Casserly wasn’t talking about how the Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner fared in on-field drills, because Murray did not take part in any of those at the combine, preferring merely to have his physical measurements taken. Those were enough to boost his stock in a big way when the undersized star reassuringly checked in at a shade above 5-foot-10.
“Murray at least sat for interviews with a reported 10 NFL teams, and it was during at least a few of those sessions that he came up, well, very short. That’s according to Casserly, who claimed the feedback he got from teams amounted to ‘the worst report I’ve ever heard on a top-ranked quarterback from the interview part of it.’
“ ‘These were the worst comments I ever got on a top-rated quarterback, and I’ve been doing this a long time,’ said the 70-year-old Casserly, who spent three decades in the NFL as a scout and a personnel executive with the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans. ‘Leadership – not good. Study habits – not good. The board work – below not good.
“ ‘Not good at all in any of those areas, raising major concerns about what this guy is going to do,’ Casserly continued. He added that Murray ‘better hope’ Arizona Cardinals Coach Kliff Kingsbury, whose team has the No. 1 pick and who asserted last fall that he would use just such a selection on the ex-Sooner, follows through on that, ‘because this was not good.’”
--Mark R. predicts the Steelers will trade Antonio Brown to the Raiders and he’ll end up loving the Strip (once the team moves to Vegas, which could yet be this fall in a temporary venue) so much, he’ll be suspended within 18 months.
--Uh oh...here we go again...another Tiger Woods injury, though I’m keeping my fingers crossed he’s just doing the right thing by pulling out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which he has won eight times, because of a neck strain, while protecting himself for The Masters, and hopefully The Players in ten days.
Tiger tweeted his surgically repaired lower back is fine and there are no long-term issues, but this is 43-year-old Tiger we’re talking about. Four knee operations. Four back surgeries, and all kinds of other stuff.
Tiger said, “I’ve been receiving treatment, but it hasn’t improved enough to play....I hope to be ready for The Players.”
With the compressed schedule this year, Tiger’s big challenge is deciding how much he needs to play in preparation for the majors, and can he put himself in a place where he has enough in the tank for the three-week FedEx Cup grind.
--I need to note that last weekend, after I posted, Mark O’Meara won the Champions Tour event, the Cologuard Classic (don’t collect a sample if you have diarrhea, they say), O’Meara’s first senior win since 2010, when he won his only other two Champions Tour events. Pretty good for a 62-year-old.
O’Meara also won by four strokes over Willie Wood, Scott McCarron, Kirk Triplett and Darren Clarke. Good to see Clarke out on the Tour. He has a little juice in terms of bringing out the fans.
But John Smoltz, yes, that John Smoltz, appeared in his first Champions Tour event and he went 73-74-73, T-53...tied with Billy Andrade and Carlos Franco, among others. Hey, that’s highly respectable for the righty.
--In a stunner in Champions League play, 13-time European champions Real Madrid, winners of the last three CL titles, was knocked out by Ajax of the Dutch football league, 4-1 in Madrid, 5-3 aggregate after losing the first leg at home 2-1, which had never been done before.
Six of the Ajax starting side are aged 22 and under.
--My Tottenham Spurs reached the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time since 2011, 1-0 at Borussia Dortmund, 4-0 aggregate. So despite the Spurs’ recent Premier League troubles, this is a helluva accomplishment.
Manchester United plays Paris Saint-Germain today, down 2-0 from the first leg. Manchester City and Liverpool play their second legs next week. The draw for the quarterfinals is Friday, March 15.
--The problems at Santa Anita continue. The track announced Tuesday it was suspending racing at least through the weekend – the announcement coming hours after the 21st horse fatality at the track since Dec. 26.
Chief Operating Officer Tom Ritvo of the Stronach Group, which owns and operates Santa Anitan, said, “In the whole, we feel confident in the track and we’re just being very proactive. We need to do all the testing that needs to be done.”
Two major races are being postponed as a result, including the San Felipe Handicap, a major prep race for 3-year-olds trying to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.
Tuesday, a 4-year-old filly was euthanized after injuring her right front leg in training.
--I didn’t have a chance to note that Joey Logano hung on in the final turn at Las Vegas to defeat teammate Brad Keselowski to win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race, the third of the year. For Logano it was his 22nd career win.
But, boy, Jimmie Johnson’s slump continues. He hasn’t won a race since 2017 and he’s finished 9th, 24th and 19th (this past week) thus far in 2019.
--Ted Lindsay, the Hall of Famer and all-time Detroit Red Wings great, died at the age of 93 on Monday.
Lindsay, nicknamed Terrible Ted, played 17 seasons in the NHL, 14 of them with Detroit, and was the first player in league history to play 1,000 games. Lindsay was an All Star eight times, scoring 379 goals, with 472 assists in 1,068 regular-season games. When he retired in 1965, he was the highest-scoring left wing in history, playing much of the time alongside Gordie Howe at right wing and Sid Abel at center (the “Production Line”.)
All three were elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and all three honored with oversize jerseys hanging from the rafters of the Little Caesars Arena (as they were at the Joe Louis Arena before then).
Lindsay also attempted to form the first players union, but he was unsuccessful in this regard.
--Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sold his collection of memorabilia for over $2.9 million, proceeds of which go to his Skyhook Foundation charity that helps kids learn about science, technology, engineering and math, which is very cool of Kareem. The lots included four of his six NBA championship rings. One of the rings went for $398,937, another for $343,000.
A signed ball from his final regular-season NBA game in 1989 sold for $270,000!
--We note the passing of WWF legend King Kong Bundy (Christopher Pallies), who rose to fame during the heyday of the sport in the 1980s. He was 61, cause unknown as he was looking forward to some appearances in the near future.
Pallies was born and raised in South Jersey, attending Washington Township High School in Gloucester County, where he racked up a pair of regional wrestling titles.
He would go into professional wrestling, working his way up the ladder in the World Wrestling Federation, beginning in 1981. In 1985, at 6-foot-4 and 458 pounds, known as the “walking condominium,” he feuded extensively with Andre the Giant. This went on for months, including a tag-team match where Bundy and Big John Studd faced off against Andre and Hulk Hogan.
King Kong Bundy then had his biggest moment when he faced off against Hogan, and lost, in the main event at WrestleMania 2 in 1986.
Bundy then feuded with Hogan, alternating victories, before leaving the WWF in 1987. He returned in 1994, joining Ted DiBiase’s “Million Dollar Corporation,” where he feuded with the Undertaker.
--Brad K. passed along a story from the Daily Mail of a man being mauled to death by a pet lion he kept illegally caged in his back garden in the Czech Republic. The victim “kept the lion for breeding along with a lioness, which lived in a separate cage.”
“Last summer, Michal Prasek made news when a cyclist crashed into his lion while out walking on a leash.
“The cats were shot dead by police called to the scene in the village of Zdechov.”
The police said the shootings were necessary to get to the victim.
--Actor Luke Perry died of a stroke at the age of 52. As heartthrob Dylan McKay on “Beverly Hills, 90210, he helped build the Fox network, along with “Married With Children” and “The Simpsons.” Perry proved to be the template for a brooding, Gen-X hero that kind of epitomized what Fox wanted to define itself as.
Luke Perry did have that James Dean look, as many said of his ‘coolness,’ Dylan McKay’s corner of “90210” like “Rebel Without a Cause.” But at least in this case, Perry got to grow old.
I have to admit I didn’t watch “90210,” it being beyond my era at the height of its popularity. When I had time to watch a comedy back then, it was “Friends” and “Seinfeld.”
--I did watch Sunday’s first part of “Leaving Neverland” and was sickened, especially by the story of the one family, and the mother, Joy Robson, should have been investigated long ago for letting her son stay with an adult like Jackson for a week as the rest of the family went off to the Grand Canyon, which was the worst of it.
But now what....
Mikael Wood / Los Angeles Times
“If our perception of Jackson is changing, then, what do we do with his music? I don’t mean strictly in a moral sense, though that’s certainly part of it. In the streaming era, when every play on Spotify or Apple Music is worth a few fractions of a penny, listeners must accept that interest is tantamount to support – a real shift from the days when problematic figures could be examined (as they should be) without being slowly enriched.
“But for Jackson the question is also an aesthetic one: How do we hear his music outside the framework of his untouchability?
“So much of Jackson’s catalog is rooted in the exceptionalism of a man who was groomed from childhood for superstardom – and who later, after he’d achieved it, seemed to take on some of the very qualities he’d grown up resenting in his domineering father.
“Try to listen to a song like ‘Unbreakable,’ that defiant ‘Invincible’ cut, while thinking of Jackson as someone bound by conventional notions of right and wrong. It doesn’t make any sense; the song presupposes that the singer occupies his own moral plane.
“In a way, though, the same is true of a much older song such as ‘Rock With You,’ which practically glows with an ebullience simply out of reach for any of Jackson’s peers. The song is magic of a kind, and it’s not as though Jackson had only one trick up his sleeve; the guy made dozens of tunes that seemed to stand apart from the rest of pop, including ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,’ ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,’ ‘Beat It,’ ‘Billie Jean,’ ‘P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),’ ‘The Way You Make Me Feel,’ ‘Smooth Criminal’ and ‘Remember the Time.’
“To hear any of them is to be reminded of the others, and therefore of the singularity of Jackson’s career. And to consider his career is to acknowledge the outrageous leeway we felt his work entitled him to in his personal life. ‘Leaving Neverland’ may not prove Jackson’s guilt or innocence. But it demands that we start listening to him as a man, not as an icon.”
--On a lighter note, I saw the new “Game of Thrones” trailer yesterday and Denise D. tells me George R.R. Martin was in her offices the other day. Needless to say this created quite the buzz.
GoT fans can’t wait for April 14.
Top 3 songs for the week 3/5/66: #1 “The Ballad Of The Green Berets” (SSgt. Barry Sadler) #2 “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” (Nancy Sinatra) #3 “Lightnin’ Strikes” (Lou Christie...song sounds as good today as it did then...)...and...#4 “Listen People” (Herman’s Hermits) #5 “California Dreamin’” (The Mamas and The Papas) #6 “Elusive Butterfly” (Bob Lind) #7 “My Love” (Petula Clark) #8 “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” (Stevie Wonder) #9 “Working My Way Back To You” (The 4 Seasons) #10 “My World Is Empty Without You” (The Supremes...even better than last chat’s list...A++...)
Lakers Quiz Answer: Three coaches in 2012-13, the last season they made the playoffs. Mike Brown (1-4), Bernie Bickerstaff (4-1), Mike D’Antoni (40-32). They were then swept 4-0 in the first round by San Antonio.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.