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Remembering an NBA Legend
[Posted early Tuesday p.m.]
Gonzaga Quiz: 1) Who did Mark Few replace as coach (a highly successful one)? 2) How many consecutive 20+ win seasons do the Zags currently have? 3) How many straight years has Gonzaga been in the AP Final Top 25 poll…though top ten? 4) Since 2000, the following Zag players have been consensus first-team All-Americans, as defined by the NCAA. I’m giving you their initials. Name ‘em. [D.D., R.H., A.M., K.O.] Answers below.
The Madness Continues….
It’s been a super tournament, and now we just have to keep everyone safe and away from each other for a full week to get it down to four after next Tuesday.
First, to wrap up the action in the first two rounds….
--After I posted early Sunday evening, we had a slew of games and 10 Rutgers came up very small against 2 Houston, losing in crunch time 63-60. Let’s face it, Rutgers royally blew this one.
The Scarlet Knights led most of the second half, including 50-40 with 10:57 to play.
But then Houston cut the lead to 58-56 with 2:39 remaining. A Geo Baker layup for Rutgers and Houston free throw made it 60-57, 1:48 left. RU coach Steve Pikiell called a timeout, Baker missed a layup, center Myles Johnson’s putback attempt was off the mark, and Houston’s Quenton Grimes hit a free throw making it 60-58.
But then Rutgers guard Jacob Young, a fifth-year senior, turned the ball over, and Houston’s Tramon Mark put back a missed jumper from DeJon Jarreau, with Baker fouling him on the play, Mark hitting the free throw putting Houston ahead 61-60 with 24.1 seconds remaining.
Pikiell called another timeout, but Rutgers never got a shot attempt to regain the lead as Baker was stripped of the ball, and Houston’s Marcus Sasser was fouled, converting his two free throws to make it 63-60. Ron Harper Jr.’s 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 3 seconds remaining missed and that was all she wrote. A devastating defeat. RU gave it away.
Lousy coaching and poor execution. Pretty simple.
But then we had another shocker from 15 Oral Roberts, 81-78 over 7 Florida. Just the second 15-seed to advance to the Sweet Sixteen…the other being Florida Gulf Coast in 2013, which that year beat 2 Georgetown and 7 San Diego State.
Johnny Mac’s favorite player, and clearly the MVP of the first two rounds, junior Kevin Obanor, had 28 points and 11 rebounds, plus 4 steals, while guard Max Abmas, the regular season scoring champ, had 26 points and 7 assists, plus he was 12 of 12 from the foul line.
5 Villanova ended 13 North Texas’ Cinderella dreams, 84-61. I talked about Loyola’s Porter Moser as being an outstanding coach last time, but what about ‘Nova’s Jay Wright, he of the two titles, 2016 and 2018, and the designer suits. He could have gone to the NBA (the Sixers, specifically) a number of times, and knew the grass was not necessarily greener. Major respect for Wright. And this is a team without Big East player of the year Collin Gillespie. That’s coaching.
It also helped Villanova was 15 of 30 from three.
Speaking of guys who can coach, how about Jim Boeheim, who is taking another so-so Syracuse team (talent wise) to the Sweet 16, this time as an 11-seed, after holding off 3 West Virginia 75-72. In 2016, Boeheim took a 10-seed Orange to the Final Four.
In fact, Boeheim has taken 20 of his 45 teams to the Sweet 16. As Ronald Reagan would have told Nancy while reading the Monday morning sports pages, Nancy trying to hide the fact she was only getting Ronnie cinnamon Pop Tarts because she was late to see an old Hollywood friend, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
And not for nothing, but coach’s son, Buddy Boeheim, has developed into one helluva college player.
Then the Beavers of 12 Oregon State came out on top, upsetting 4 Oklahoma State 80-70, the Beavers paddling the Cowboys into submission, holding OK State to just 18 of 65 from the field, 27.7%.
The presumed first overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham, had his second straight poor game, going 6 of 20 from the field, though he had 24 points.
3 Arkansas hung on for a 68-66 win over 6 Texas Tech, as Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman has become a hot commodity (fans in Indiana wanting him to just stay in Indy when his team’s run is over and move over to coach the Hoosiers). Recall, Musselman took Nevada to the Sweet Sixteen in 2018.
So Monday, the 7-seed Oregon Ducks (quack quack) took on 2 Iowa and another Big Ten team bit the dust, 95-80, as the Ducks were a sizzling 38 for 68 from the floor (55.9%), plus 25 assists.
For Iowa, Luka Garza finished up his college career in style, 36 points, but fifth-year senior Jordan Bohanon, who I praised during the season, sucked. Like really sucked. In other words, he came up really small.
And the No. 1 seed overall, Gonzaga, beat 8 Oklahoma 87-71, as Drew Timme had 30 points and 13 rebounds.
11 UCLA, however, continued the amazing success for the Pac-12, easily handling 14 Abilene Christian to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
Ditto 5 Creighton, and beleaguered coach Greg McDermott, as the Bluejays beat 13 Ohio 72-58.
No. 1 Michigan then upheld the honor of the Big Ten, 86-78 over 8 LSU, as former Wake Forest player, Chaundee Brown, a key transfer after last season, came off the bench Monday for 21 points. Brown was a solid player, and would have meant at least three more wins for the Deacs this season had he stayed in Winston-Salem, but, as Tony Soprano would have said, ‘whaddya gonna do?’, and Chaundee is in the Big Dance.
And then 4 Florida State upheld the honor of the ACC, 71-53 over 5 Colorado, the Pac-12’s first loss.
In the last two of the night, 2 Alabama was too much for 10 Maryland to handle. Both teams hit 53% of their shots from the field, but ‘Bama outrebounded the Terps 40-19, 15 off the offensive glass.
And then 6 USC mauled 3 Kansas 85-51, the Trojans holding the Jayhawks to a miserable 18 of 62 (29%) from the floor.
Once again, Kansas coach Bill Self came up small in the big time, especially as they were playing terrific coming into the tournament, though to be fair, this Jayhawks edition has nowhere near the talent past ones have had.
And it also meant the 2020-21 season was the worst ever for college basketball’s blue-blood programs. Duke and Kentucky missed the NCAAs altogether, Covid part of the equation in the case of Duke. And North Carolina, an 8 seed, was ousted in the first round by 23 points against Wisconsin.
--It’s been the Pac-12 Story and good for them. The Big Ten, on the other hand, has put on a performance of historically dismal proportions.
The Power Six
Big Ten…9 in…7-8…1 in Sweet Sixteen
Big 12…7 in…7-6…1 in SS
ACC…7 in…4-5…2 in SS
SEC…6 in…6-4…2 in SS
Pac-12…5 in…9-1…4 in SS
Big East…4 in…4-2…2 in SS
Next Sat. …winners squaring off Mon.
1 Baylor vs. 5 Villanova
3 Arkansas vs. 15 Oral Roberts
8 Loyola Chicago vs. 12 Oregon State
11 Syracuse vs. 2 Houston
Next Sun. …winners squaring off Tues.
1 Gonzaga vs. 5 Creighton
6 USC vs. 7 Oregon
1 Michigan vs. 4 Florida State
11 UCLA vs. 2 Alabama
We are almost certain to have a true Cinderella, 11 seed or higher (plus Loyola), in the Final Four the way things are set up.
And how about the state of Oregon and the city of Los Angeles. Fans in both are duly pumped. Great story in L.A. [And bad for Arizona and Arizona State, among others, when it comes to future recruiting out of the metropolis, I imagine.]
In terms of the matchups in the Sweet Sixteen, I’m particularly looking forward to Loyola-Oregon State and Michigan-Florida State.
--Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving is taking a three-game road trip off while he deals with a family matter, the team announced Monday. The 29-14 Nets, in Portland late tonight, are already without Kevin Durant who has been out since Feb. 13 with a hamstring strain.
But you really get tired of Irving’s act. He’s played in only 31 of the first 43 games. He missed two weeks in January for a personal absence, and then while away, broke the league’s Covid protocols.
--Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, having an outstanding rookie season, is out for the remainder of it, it seems, with a fractured right wrist that he injured on a fall in a loss to the Clippers on Saturday.
Ball, the third overall pick in the 2020 draft, has averaged 15.9 points, 6.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds.
--In another crushing loss, this time to the Sixers on Sunday in overtime, 101-100, the Knicks’ Julius Randle was again bitching up a storm. Randle had forced OT with a 3-pointer near the end of regulation, but he was called for what he thought was a “blown call” and a “f---ing ridiculous” loose-ball foul away from the play – leading to go-ahead free throws by Tobias Harris in the closing seconds.
Randle also missed an 18-foot jumper as time expired.
Days earlier Randle was furious with a late call against him in a loss to Brooklyn.
He’s been a stellar player this year, a deserved All-Star, but he has to stop crying with each tough loss. S--- happens. Especially these days. Deal with it.
--Atlanta had its eight-game winning streak under interim coach Nate McMillian snapped last night in Los Angeles, the Clippers defeating the Hawks 119-110.
--The NBA lost all-time Lakers Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor Monday. He was 86. The Washington, D.C.-born Baylor was the No. 1 draft pick in 1958 out of Seattle University and NBA Rookie of the Year in 1959. Spending 14 seasons with the Lakers, he also is considered one of the greatest players never to win a championship.
The 6-foot-5 Baylor was a gifted shooter and rebounder who holds the record for most individual points in a single game in the NBA Finals, scoring 61 against the Lakers’ archrivals, the Boston Celtics, in 1962.
“Elgin was THE superstar of his era, his many accolades speak to that,” Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss said. “He was one of the few Lakers players whose career spanned from Minneapolis to Los Angeles,” Buss added. “But more importantly he was a man of great integrity, even serving his country as a U.S Army reservist, often playing for the Lakers only during his weekend pass.”
Magic Johnson tweeted: “Before there was Michael Jordan doing amazing things in the air, there was Elgin Baylor.”
Baylor was an 11-time All-Star and 10-time All-NBA selection during his years with the Lakers from 1958 to 1971. For his career he averaged a double-double, posting 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds per game.
Alas, while Baylor made eight NBA Finals appearances, he never won a title, losing seven-game series to the Celtics on three occasions.
Thomas Boswell / Washington Post
“Every NBA highlight that you see on ESPN every day – every impossible, twisting, hang-in-the-air shot in the lane; every rim-shaking dunk off a fast break; every fluid, high-leaping outside jump shot – was invented by Elgin Baylor. Not some of them. All of them.
“Since Baylor retired almost 50 years ago, nothing much truly new has been done with a basketball, except perhaps learning how to take five steps without being called for traveling – an edge Baylor never needed.
“Baylor, at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds and able to stay in the air for an hour and a half, begot Julius Erving, who begot Michael Jordan, who begot Kobe Bryant, who begot LeBron James. Elgin is the prototype of the most exciting of basketball styles: the acrobatic midair athlete, whether a scoring guard or a small forward, who makes our hearts leap higher than any 7-foot center, double-digit-assist guard or fundamental craftsman ever has or will.
“Baylor is the player whom we, as children, in every generation since his arrival in the NBA in 1958, have been in our dreams – even if we couldn’t jump over the morning newspaper once we woke up.
“Drive the baseline, come up and under the basket, windmill one-handed dunk – Baylor.
“Drive, triple-pump in the lane, then flick, finger-roll or bank it in after everybody else comes down – Baylor.
“Soar above 7-footers for an offensive rebound, then head-fake, neutralize them with a shoulder to the chest and beat them back to the rim and draw the foul, too – that was ‘Rabbit’ (for his leaping), and that was ‘Mr. Inside’ (for his ability to dominate bigger players).
“Quickest to the floor, best at reading the ball’s flight and the best defensive-rebounding small forward in NBA history by the width of North America, that was Baylor, too. He still ranks 10th in rebounds per game at 13.55 and once averaged 19.8 in a season. If Charles Barkley could jump a foot higher, he would be Elgin Baylor….
“His most important stats stack up with anyone’s. Baylor’s 27.36 points per game are the third highest in NBA history, behind only Michael Jordan (30.12) and Wilt Chamberlain (30.07). Add in 13.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists – and factor in his end-to-end, all-gifts style, from sweeping the defensive glass to filling the land on the fast break and finishing with a dunk – and he’s near the top of the best the NBA has ever seen….
“The great Boston Celtics dynasty and the best defender in history – Bill Russell, the only man who could seriously bother Baylor and his Lakers mate Jerry West – prevented Baylor from ending up with several rings, let alone just one. But we should never worry that Baylor’s memory and legacy will ever be disregarded. Elgin Baylor plays every night in every gym in the world. His game – his style of play – became The Game, the modern, jazzed-up, rock-the-roof version that didn’t exist before his arrival in the NBA. Maybe it was born on playgrounds, even D.C. playgrounds. Surely, over the years, Baylor cited those whose moves he mimicked or modified.
“But none of them averaged 38.3 points, 18.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists, as Baylor did in 1961-62. No one before him forced every teenager like me in America to circle those nationally televised Lakers games, when our eyes wouldn’t leave Baylor except to rivet on West.
“Since then, the game has borne his mark and, whether every child who gets a basketball for their birthday knows it or not, they dream of being Elgin Baylor – or his latest marvelous modern replicant.”
Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times
“For years it was the saddest sound in Los Angeles sports, the public greeting of the retired Elgin Baylor at a Lakers home game.
“The ovation given other Lakers legends was absent. The affection showered upon all former Lakers was missing. Nobody stood. Nobody cheered. Nobody loved.
“For 22 years, this cold shoulder was mostly because Baylor was a Clippers executive. Then, after Baylor finally left wretched owner Donald Sterling, the Lakers fans just never seemed to notice him.
“The first great Los Angeles Laker was the most forgotten Laker.
“Baylor deserved better.
“ ‘I’ve always said he was one of those players who never got enough credit,’ Jerry West told The Times’ Broderick Turner. ‘He never really talked about it.’
“The quiet Baylor truly never complained; he was a kind and gentle soul who never wanted to call attention to himself. But as the Lakers and the NBA meteorically soared from a winter distraction into a worldwide brand, his was a legacy lost.
“He was a pioneering Laker in a town with short memories. He was a champion Laker who never won a championship. He was the flashiest of athletes in an era from which there is scant video evidence of his greatness. He was a social justice fighter who never got his day in court.
“He would outjump you, outplay you, outsmart you, but he never allowed himself to outshine you. He was always just Elgin….
“Baylor was the Laker who bridged the gap between Minneapolis and Los Angeles…yet he was overshadowed in that era by West. He played in seven NBA Finals without winning a title, then knee problems forced him to retire nine games into Los Angeles’ first championship season in 1971-72…with the team embarking on its historic winning streak the very next game.
“ ‘When he retired, we won 33 straight games. I wonder what he felt like,’ West said by phone. ‘With me, I would have probably felt like, ‘Oh, my God, how can I be just this incredible player and without me, we win 33 straight games and win a championship?’ I could never bring myself to ask him that. Never.’….
“ ‘I really believe he was the first Showtime,’ Magic Johnson told Turner. ‘He was Showtime before Showtime.’”
Baylor was pilloried by Lakers fans later on, however, because of his 22-year job in the Clippers’ front office. But it was one of the few management opportunities available to a black man in sports in that time.
“You don’t understand,” he would say. “This is something I have to do.”
“After he was forced out in 2008, Baylor’s pain came pouring out when he filed a racial and age discrimination lawsuit against (Donald) Sterling. He accused Sterling of saying he wanted to fill the team with ‘poor Black boys from the south and a white head coach.’ He charged that Sterling once said of Danny Manning, ‘I’m offering a lot of money for a poor Black kid.’
“At the time of the suit, I publicly wondered why Baylor would have remained in such an oppressive environment for so long. In reflecting back on his comments at the time, I have since come to understand. He chose to fight injustice quietly and steadily, from the inside, acting as a daily example of strength.
“ ‘I don’t think I ever heard anyone say a disparaging word about him,’ West said. ‘He was just good. I don’t think there was a mean bone in his body, I really don’t.’ ….
“Few realize it, but he is currently as much a part of the Lakers as the shirts on their back.
“The Lakers’ blue ‘City Edition’ uniforms this season were designed in Baylor’s honor, as throwbacks to when he first arrived here with the team from Minneapolis.
“When fans finally are allowed inside Staples Center, here’s guessing those uniforms will get a standing ovation.
“Maybe, hopefully, somehow, Elgin Baylor will hear it.”
As I go to post, I’m watching the intros for the Knicks-Wizards game tonight and Madison Square Garden just had a nice tribute to Baylor. He deserves it as much as any opponent who has played there. Actually, he torched the Knicks for 71 points once.
--The season starts a week from Thursday, incredibly, with no major Covid issues thus far, though Cincinnati’s Joey Votto just returned to camp after a 12-day absence due to the disease, Votto refusing to discuss his experience. There are going to be issues from time to time, no doubt, it’s just you want only a few individuals being impacted at a time, not an entire team. Once the season starts, traditional baseball fans, such as moi, will be into it.
I just wish my Mets would sign Michael Conforto and Francisco Lindor to the long-term deals they are (rightfully) asking for. You want a happy clubhouse, Uncle Stevie! Now open up your wallet.
--The legend of Shohei Ohtani is growing bigly this spring. On Sunday he was the Angels’ leadoff hitter and had two hits and a walk. He was also the starting pitcher, with five strikeouts in a one-run, four-inning outing, topping out at 101.9 mph with his fastball.
In the last 105 years of MLB, no player has batted first and pitched multiple innings as the starter in a regular season game. Yes, this was an exhibition contest, but Ohtani has been broadening the possibilities and has fans of the sport buzzing (you better be…baseball needs this guy!)
--Six more lawsuits alleging sexual assault and inappropriate conduct were filed against Deshaun Watson on Monday, including one that alleges he sexually assaulted a woman this month.
Attorney Tony Buzbee has filed 13 lawsuits against Watson since last week.
Tuesday, lawsuit No. 14 was filed, this one by a woman in California.
Actually, I see it’s now 16!
--The Giants just signed free agent cornerback Adoree Jackson to a 3-year, $39 million deal, with incentives that can take it to $44 million. Jackson gets a $13.5 million signing bonus as part of the contract.
I don’t get it. To me his track record is so-so in his four years at Tennessee. But it ain’t my money, sports fans.
--JuJu Smith-Schuster is returning to the Steelers on a one-year, $8 million contract.
College Sports Rankings
Some sports, like soccer, are now in the midst of renewed play. All have been dealing with Covid, of course. So I thought I’d catch up a bit…all the latest rankings I could find.
NCAA Baseball [3/21]
3. Mississippi State
4. Ole Miss
6. Texas Tech
8. East Carolina
USCHO College Hockey [3/22]
1. North Dakota
T2. Boston College
5. Minnesota State
9. Minnesota Duluth
10. Boston University
12. Omaha…awesome zoo [Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium]
United Soccer Coaches Poll [3/23]
3. Oregon State
6. Wake Forest…Go Deacs!
8. “We Are”…Marshall
10. Missouri State
15. Seton Hall
Golfweek Men’s Rankings [3/15]
2. Wake Forest…Go Deacs!
3. Florida State
7. Arizona State
8. Texas A&M
--Brooks Koepka had surgery on his right knee the other day and is undecided if he will compete in the Masters in two weeks, he confirmed to Golfweek on Sunday.
“Whatever my body says, I’m going to listen,” he wrote.
--What an awful story out of El Salvador, where the nation’s top surfer and an Olympic hopeful, Katherine Diaz, died after being struck by lightning while training on a beach.
The weather was supposedly clear, when a series of lighting storms quickly popped up and she was struck while in the water, close to shore.
The 22-year-old was a chef who had opened her own restaurant. Sounds like an amazing woman. RIP.
--Years ago a friend and I were hiking in Acadia National Park in Maine, a beautiful place, and we’re on this one trail and I still think back and wonder how we survived because we were idiots. There was a point where you had to climb a rock wall using the metal rails bolted to the rock and let’s just say, us amateurs shouldn’t have been taking it on, especially in the shoes we were wearing.
I thought about this because last Saturday, two hikers traversing the Dorr Mountain fell about 100 feet to their death. Granted, it was ice covered. The 28-year-old man and 30-year-old woman, both from Rutland, Mass., had arrived in Bar Harbor on Tuesday, were reported missing Friday, after they failed to check out of their hotel as scheduled, and the next day found only through thermal imaging technology on a Coast Guard helicopter.
Acadia is truly lovely and there are many less dangerous options for hiking if you’ve never been there.
And you have the lob-stuh angle!
Top 3 songs for the week 3/25/67: #1 “Happy Together” (The Turtles) #2 “Dedicated To The One I Love” (The Mamas and The Papas) #3 “Penny Lane” (The Beatles)…and…#4 “There’s A Kind Of Hush” (Herman’s Hermits) #5 “Baby I Need Your Lovin’” (Johnny Rivers) #6 “Sock It To Me Baby!” (Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels) #7 “For What It’s Worth” (The Buffalo Springfield) #8 “My Cup Runneth Over” (Ed Ames) #9 “Love Is Here And Now You’re Gone” (The Supremes) #10 “Ruby Tuesday” (The Rolling Stones…A- week…)
Gonzaga Quiz Answers: 1) Mark Few replaced Dan Monson after the 1998-99 season, Monson having taken the Zags to the Regional Final. 2) Gonzaga has 24 straight years with 20+ wins. 3) The Zags have been in the AP Final Top Ten poll five straight seasons. 4) The four consensus first-team All-Americans since 2000. Dan Dickau (2002), Adam Morrison (2006), Kelly Olynyk (2013), Rui Hachimura (2019).
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.