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Jon Rahm with a Win for the Ages
Add-On…early Tues. p.m.
***We lost StocksandNews’ Dr. Bortrum early Monday morning. I will have a tribute to him in my next “Week in Review” column.
U.S. Open final thoughts….
Jon Rahm -6 (67 final round)
Louis Oosthuizen -5
Harris English -3 (68) …talk about sneaking in for solo third!
Guido Migliozzi -2
Brooks Koepka -2
Collin Morikawa -2
Branden Grace -1
Xander Schauffele -1
Rory McIlroy -1 …thought he’d grab this one after solid start Sunday
Daniel Berger -1
Paul Casey -1
Scottie Scheffler -1
T26 Bryson DeChambeau +3 (77)
It really is amazing to think about the rollercoaster of emotions Jon Rahm has experienced in the past few weeks. But he produced a soaring finish to claim his first major title in the 121st U.S. Open.
The Spaniard birdied the final two holes at Torrey Pines to close the deal, a shot ahead of hard-luck runner-up Oosthuizen.
It was sweet redemption for Rahm after the positive Covid test after the third-round of The Memorial, six-shot lead, $1.7 million already pocketed…until it wasn’t.
It’s just a super sports story, when you think about it. The only way you overcome what happened at Jack’s Place was to handle the situation with a sense of perspective, and Rahm did just that, defending the PGA Tour’s Covid protocols and noting that he had positive memories of his form at Muirfield Village to build on.
“I’m a big believer in karma and after what happened a couple of weeks ago I stayed really positive, knowing big things were coming,” Rahm said.
“I didn’t know what it was going to be but I knew we were coming to a special place, I knew I got my breakthrough win here and it’s a very special place for my family.
“The fact my parents were able to come, I got out of Covid protocols early, I just felt like the stars were aligning.”
You don’t win an Open without a bit of luck and for Rahm in the final round it was on the 9th hole, when he looked to be in danger of being out of bounds after a wild drive. But he was entitled to a free drop away from a fence and, after hitting his second shot down the fairway, spun his approach to within a few feet of the hole to set up an unlikely birdie.
But after seven straight pars, Rahm still trailed Oosthuizen by one as he reached 17 and 18, and then he birdied both…two clutch 25-feetish putts.
He was only the fourth player in U.S. Open history to birdie the final two holes to win it – joining Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.
--Oosthuizen has been playing some superb golf this year and this represented his sixth runner-up in a major championship, trailing only Phil Mickelson (11) and Tiger Woods (seven). Nothing wrong with being mentioned in this conversation.
His last five events on the PGA Tour, Louis has gone 2, T8, T2 (PGA Championship), T18, 2 (U.S. Open).
--DeChambeau refused to call his Sunday back nine performance a meltdown.
But how else do you describe having a one-shot lead at the turn, at 5-under par, only to shoot an 8-over 44 on the back and finish 3-over?!
“I didn’t get off the rails at all,” DeChambeau said. “It’s golf. People will say I did this or did that, and it’s just golf. I’ve had plenty of times where I hit it way worse than today and I won. It’s just one of those things where I didn’t have the right breaks happen at the right time.
“I could have easily gotten to 7-, 8-under today. I just wasn’t fully confident with the golf swing and just got a little unlucky in the rough and a couple other places. Nobody understands, at least if you play professional golf, major championship golf, a lot of it is luck. I can’t tell you how many times I hit shots this week into bad lies and good lies, and they played out 50-50 this week. I caught the bad lies in the back nine today.”
Oh, stop. You royally choked, Bryson.
--After I posted Sunday, I settled in to watch Game 7 of Hawks-Sixers in Philadelphia and what a pathetic performance by Philly, losing 103-96.
Sixers point guard Ben Simmons was the key. Despite 13 assists, he played scared, taking only four shots from the field, quickly passing off so that he wasn’t fouled, Simmons being downright embarrassing at the foul line.
Simmons is a career .597 free-throw shooter, .520 in the playoffs, and in the Atlanta series he was absolutely dreadful, hitting 15 of 45, .333. Think about that. This is your point guard?
Well, 76ers coach Doc Rivers has been thinking about Simmons and the point. After the game, he just flat out said he doesn’t know if the guy could be the point guard for a championship team.
“I don’t know the answer to that right now,” Rivers said.
Simmons was so timid that at a critical point in the game, instead of going in for a wide-open dunk shot that would have tied the game at 88, he passed off to Matisse Thybulle, who was fouled and hit just 1-of-2 from the line. Soon after, Atlanta led 93-87. Joel Embiid called the sequence the game’s “turning point.”
Consider that Simmons attempted 14 shots from the field in 99 minutes over the final three games.
But the guy is under contract through 2024-25.
Meanwhile, I must say I have gained newfound respect for Embiid this year. He’s just a beast, and always seems to play hard, none more so than in these playoffs where he played despite a small tear in his meniscus. Embiid apologized to the fans via Twitter after that he wished he had been 100 percent, but he needn’t have.
“We lost, it sucks,” Simmons said. “I am who I am, it is what it is, it’s not easy to win. …First thing I’m going to do is clear my mind and get my mental right.”
First thing you should be doing is packing your bags because you’ll be playing elsewhere next season, Mr. Simmons.
And as for the Sixers and their so-called “Process,” a term the franchise first started using in the 2013-14 season, a scheme designed to eventually collect championship-level talent, it’s been a failure.
Philadelphia was bad on purpose for four seasons in order to collect as many first-round draft picks as they could and ended up with Embiid and Simmons as the cornerstones of the franchise.
Meanwhile, the Hawks made the Eastern Conference finals with an overachieving roster. And General Manager Travis Schlenk selected John Collins and Kevin Huerter in back-to-back years with the No. 19 draft pick. Plus they drafted Trae Young. Collins and Huerter combined for 41 points and 23 rebounds on a night when Young struggled. That’s what it takes to win in the playoffs, others stepping up. Simmons, on the other hand, crashed and burned.
Stanley Cup Playoffs
--What a disaster for the Islanders as they traveled to Florida for Game 5, the series with Tampa Bay tied 2-2, and then the Lightning annihilateds the Isle 8-0. Good lord!
Now New York faces elimination in their semifinal as they head back to the Nassau Coliseum for Game 6 Wednesday night.
--Sunday night, the Vegas Golden Knights evened their series with the Canadiens at 2-2, winning 2-1 in overtime in Montreal, as a change in goal to Robin Lehner, who started in place of Marc-Andre Fleury, paid off.
--Canada’s border chief said on Sunday that the U.S. border is unlikely to be completely reopened until 75% of Canadians are fully vaccinated, fueling mounting impatience in both countries at the restrictions.
The world’s longest undefended border has been closed to most travel since March 2000, and you’ve seen the impact on Canadian sports teams, like with the Toronto Blue Jays and the Toronto Raptors playing their games in the U.S.
But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government approved a travel exemption for NHL teams for the final round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Only the decision backfired when the Montreal Canadiens head coach tested positive in Las Vegas after travelling while only partially vaccinated, according to a statement from the NHL.
--As the Mets were playing a doubleheader Monday night against the Braves, Jacob deGrom, despite his latest injury scare, was back on the mound, right on schedule, and he threw five more innings of shutout ball, one hit, six strikeouts, as the Mets won 4-2, before losing the nightcap 1-0.
DeGrom has now thrown 30 consecutive scoreless innings and his ERA is 0.50. Shockingly, he’s also now 7-2. The Metsies are managing to score a few runs, finally, for the best pitcher on the planet.
But because of the start of the game, 5:00 p.m., deGrom became the first pitcher under MLB’s new rules to be stopped coming off the mound after retiring the side in order in the first, chuckling as he handed his glove and cap over to the home plate umpire for inspection. The Mets ace then undid his belt buckle as requested, showing there was no goop there either.
No big deal. All the pitchers across major and minor league baseball were checked in basically the same manner Monday.
But the Mets received more devastating injury news Monday, as three of their pitchers are out, two of them for extended periods.
Starter Joey Lucchesi, who has been superb recently in his fifth starter role, will have to undergo Tommy John surgery after it was discovered he had a significant tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. Lucchesi had a 1.19 ERA in his last five starts.
Key bullpen piece Robert Gsellman has a lat injury, which could keep him sidelined for months.
And reliever Jeurys Familia has a right hip impingement, forcing the team to put him on the IL.
--I liked what reader Jim D. said on the topic of cheating, as I addressed last time, the likes of Trevor Bauer weighing in on the new rules.
“Am I missing something? A pitcher acknowledges he cheats while slamming the cheat police for lack of integrity?
“…and so it goes…”
--In the College World Series, Sunday night, Mississippi State beat Texas 2-1, and then Monday North Carolina State beat Vanderbilt and projected top-five draft pick Jack Leiter 1-0, despite Leiter fanning 15.
The Wolfpack have knocked out the No. 1 national seed in Arkansas, and SEC pitcher of the year Kevin Kopps, in their regional; beat Pac-12 pitcher of the year Brendan Beck in their CWS opener Saturday; and then beat Vandy and Leiter. Overall, N.C. State (37-18) has won 33 of 42 since starting 4-9, 1-8 in ACC play. As Larry David would say, “Pretty, pretty good…”
I should note Wolfpack starter San Highfill was rather good himself, limiting the No. 4 national seed Commodores to two hits through 7 1/3. Terrell Tatum’s fifth-inning home run was the difference in the game.
N.C. State, off now until Friday, needs one more win to reach the best-of-three finals for the first time.
Vanderbilt will play an elimination game against Stanford on Wednesday, the Cardinal eliminating Arizona yesterday, 14-5.
--Las Vegas Raiders defenseman Carl Nassib has become the first active NFL player to come out as gay.
Nassib, 28, made the announcement in a video posted on his Instagram account.
“Just wanted to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now but I finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest,” he said.
“I really have the best life, the best family, friends and job a guy could ask for.”
Nassib added: “I actually hope that one day videos like this and the whole coming out process are just not necessary, but until then I’m going to do my best to cultivate a culture that’s accepting and compassionate.”
Nassib also said he was donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention service for LGBTQ youth in America.
Raiders owner Mark Davis told the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “These are personal decisions. It’s 2021, and he’s a Raider. If he’s happy, I’m happy. It takes courage.”
The Supreme Court Unanimously Rules Against the NCAA
Louise Radnofsky and Laine Higgins / Wall Street Journal
“The National Collegiate Athletic Association once had the tightest of clamps on college athlete compensation, maintaining a strict stance that any form of benefit that rewarded players for their participation would wreck a so-called ‘amateur model’ that it had relied on for decades.
“As the NCAA meets on Tuesday to determine a new vision for college sports, however, its ironclad hold on athlete compensation has been broken – and it has little leverage to retake control of the matter.
“The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Monday that the NCAA had violated antitrust law in a case about the range of permitted education-related benefits that college athletes can receive. In the future, the NCAA will now be subject to the same kind of scrutiny as other entities as to whether its rules unlawfully suppress competition. It can’t fall back on arguments that maintaining an amateur model is crucial to its product….
“The decision marks a historic loss of control for an organization that for decades has maintained a narrow view of how athletes are compensated for playing college sports – and wielded a powerful enforcement club at those who violated them. It held the power to vacate titles and remove wins….
“On its own, the Supreme Court decision will not stop the NCAA from continuing to make rules, which the association noted in a brief statement on Monday. But the association has already lost control of the debate going forward. That is because it also faces a wave of state laws that address far more sweeping compensation for college athletes than what is addressed in the Supreme Court ruling – the rights to own their name, image and likeness and sign endorsement deals with third parties.
“At least seven of those laws are due to come into effect July 1.”
So we’ll see what the NCAA comes up with at its meeting today. It definitely will be amending its bylaws to grant some name, image and likeness rights to college athletes.
One huge issue is now you’ll have states vs. states. Those with favorable rules for players will obviously get the top athletes in football and basketball, the only two sports that really matter with regards to significant compensation. That’s where schools in states without new laws will suffer. California, for example, has been aggressive in allowing athletes to earn endorsement and sponsorship money. Florida is among others also passing laws on endorsement rights.
The recruiting wars will intensify.
Meanwhile, for now, Justice Brett Kavanaugh published a concurring opinion that suggested the NCAA’s rules that restrict any types of compensation – including direct payment for athletic accomplishments – might no longer hold up well in future antitrust challenges.
“The NCAA is not above the law,” Kavanaugh wrote. “The NCAA couches its arguments for not paying student athletes in innocuous labels. But the labels cannot disguise the reality: The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America.”
“All of the restaurants in a region cannot come together to cut cooks’ wages on the theory that ‘customers prefer’ to eat food from low-paid cooks,” Kavanaugh continued. “Law firms cannot conspire to cabin lawyers’ salaries in the name of providing legal services out of a ‘love of the law.’ Hospitals cannot agree to cap nurses’ income in order to create a ‘purer’ form of helping the sick. News organizations cannot join forces to curtail pay to reporters to preserve a ‘tradition’ of public-minded journalism. Movie studios cannot collude to slash benefits to camera crews to kindle a ‘spirit of amateurism’ in Hollywood. Price-fixing labor is price-fixing labor.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) has been one of the NCAA’s most outspoken critics on Capitol Hill.
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling highlights just how much the tide is turning against the NCAA and its unfair treatment of college athletes,” he said. “The status quo on ‘amateurism’ is finally changing and the NCAA no longer has carte blanche to control athletes’ livelihoods and monopolize the market. This is the kind of justice, and basic rights, college athletes deserve.”
--We had a shocker in the U.S. Olympic track and field trials last night in Eugene, Oregon. Donavan Brazier, previously the best 800-meter runner in the world, finished last in the 800 final. The last 200 meters his legs refused to kick it into gear.
“This is the first time I couldn’t really bring it in,” Brazier said. “The first one in a couple years, for sure. It just was really bad timing, I guess, right?”
As Adam Kilgore in the Washington Post notes:
“The U.S. trials are unforgiving. Other nations pick their teams based on season-long success, ensuring none of their best will be left home. The United States forces them to finish in the top three on one day. It does not matter if you are a world champion, or shoe companies design campaigns around you, or NBC produces a feature on your favorite hobby. Sorry, too bad. Wait another four years. Brazier is the latest cruel testament that, on that one day, anything might happen.”
So Brazier is not representing his country in Tokyo, but 2016 bronze medal winner Clayton Murphy is, running the world’s best time this year at 1:43.17 Monday. Bryce Hoppel and Isaiah Jewett are the other two joining Murphy.
One more on what an upset this was. Brazier had been No. 1 in the 800 official rankings for 89 consecutive weeks.
--But Sunday night after I posted, my girl, Allyson Felix, qualified for her fifth trip to the Olympics by finishing second in the 400 meters with a final kick for the ages.
The 35-year-old mom rallied from fifth at the start of the homestretch to grab second, which earned her a chance to win a 10th Olympic medal and break a tie with Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey as the most decorated female track athlete in the history of the games.
You go, Girl!
--Meanwhile, Olympic organizers in Tokyo will allow up to 10,000 domestic spectators at each venue, or 50 percent of the site’s capacity, whichever is smaller.
But spectators could still be banned entirely, depending on the state of the coronavirus in the area when the Games begin on July 23.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday.
[Posted Sunday p.m. There will be a brief Add-On up top sometime Tuesday, or earlier.]
Folks, if you’ve been following the situation with your editor and our Dr. Bortrum, I saw him today and let’s just say I’m waiting for a final call. Ordinarily, we’d be watching the Open together. The only way to cope is to keep working.
Baseball Quiz: I was watching Craig Kimbrel get career save No. 367 the other day against the Mets, and that tied him for tenth on the all-time list with Jeff Reardon. Name the nine in front of him. Answer below.
--After two rounds at Torrey Pines in San Diego, we had a great story, with 48-year-old Englishman Richard Bland in the lead, tied with 3-time PGA Tour winner Russell Henley. Bland is the oldest ever with the 36-hole lead.
Louis Oosthuizen -4
Matthew Wolff -4
Bubba Watson -3
Jon Rahm -3
Bland, a veteran of the European Tour, had played 477 Euro events and never won once, before in his 478th start, he won at the British Masters this May, which vaulted him 100 spots up the world rankings (to 134) and more importantly qualified him for the U.S. Open.
So how does a guy stick through 477 losses over 20-plus years?
“Golf is all I know,” Bland said. “When times got tough and I lost my [European Tour] card two or three times, I think, ‘What am I going to do, go and get an office job?’ I’m not that intelligent, I’m afraid.”
This is a guy who was wearing a cap from the club he belongs to back in Britain, not a sponsor’s cap. He said, “I don’t have a hat kind of deal at the minute. So if anyone is offering…”
But after his opening 70-67, Bland faded badly Saturday, shooting a 77 to finish T21 at +1.
Instead, Canadian MacKenzie Hughes shot a 3-under 68 to share the 54-hole lead with Oosthuizen and Henley.
After three rounds….
Rory McIlroy -3…after a 67, best of the day along with Paul Casey
Bryson DeChambeau -3…68 Saturday
Scottie Scheffler -2
Among those at -1 and very much in the hunt are Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa.
Just a fascinating, delicious leaderboard.
Rory’s and DeChambeau’s confidence levels have to be sky high, for starters.
Well after the first few holes of the fourth round….
Wow. Just a wee bit of firepower behind the first three, not to disparage major champion Oosthuizen, who would be a deserving winner.
And then….on the par-3 No. 8, DeChambeau then nearly aces the hole, literally an inch from the cup. He becomes your leader at -5. Reminder, he’s the defending Open champion from last fall at Winged Foot. This would only enhance the Koepka-DeChambeau ‘feud,’ which is great for the sport.
So then it was….
DeChambeau -5…thru 8
McIlroy -4…thru 7
Morikawa -4…thru 9
Oosthuizen -4…thru 6
Koepka and Rahm at -3.
DeChambeau -5…thru 10
Oosthuizen -5…thru 9
McIlroy -4…thru 9
Koepka -4…thru 15
Rahm -4…thru 10
Morikawa -4…thru 12
Hughes -4…thru 9
Double wow. But then Koepka bogeys the par-3 16th. And Bryson bogeys No. 11.
But Oosthuizen birdies No. 10 to go to -6 for a two-shot lead!
Rahm -4…thru 12
Hughes -4…thru 10
Rory bogeys No. 11 to go -3.
Hughes then puts it in a tree on No. 11…and the ball doesn’t come down, a one-stroke penalty. He ends up doubling it.
DeChambeau has bogeyed Nos. 11 and 12 to fall to -3.
And the big collapse continues…McIlroy doubles No. 12, suddenly -1.
Oosthuizen -5…thru 11
Rahm -4…thru 13
DeChambeau -3…thru 12
Koepka -3…thru 17
Harris English -3…F…after a 68, birdieing 17 and 18.
And then Koepka bogeys 18. Bye bye.
Is Harris English in this thing? Goodness gracious. Suddenly we had a veritable chokeathon! It’s the pressure of the U.S. Open, sports fans!
DeChambeau doubles No. 13, now -1!
Rory birdies 13, his eagle putt just missing, to get back to -2.
Oosthuizen with a clutch par putt on 13
Rahm birdies No. 17…now -5!
Oosthuizen with a great par at 14, also -5.
Rahm -5…thru 17
Oosthuizen -5…thru 14
Rahm then birdies 18…-6…he has the lead. America’s males are commenting, to themselves, not out loud, over Rahm’s wife. Being single…I merely mused, ‘Holy [Toledo]'.
Oosthuizen clutch par putt on 16 to stay at -5.
DeChambeau quadruple bogeys No. 17 to move to +3, +8 on the back nine! Look above. He was in the lead after 10.
Oosthuizen then hits a drive on 17 that ends up in a penalty area! Unreal. Falls to -4.
He birdies 18 but falls one short.
Jon Rahm, who had victory taken away from him two weeks ago when he tested positive for Covid-19, though he was vaccinated, only he hadn’t been through the two-week period after his shot, a fact we learned after as many of us criticized him unnecessarily, then turns around and wins his first major. I’d say he’s made of steel. He handled the Covid issue and losing out on $1.7 million beautifully and it paid off.
Rahm is the first Spaniard to win the U.S. Open. Good on him!
I’ll have some commentary from others in my Add-On Tuesday.
--It’s over for the Brooklyn Nets, losing 115-111 to the Bucks in overtime at home in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last night. After a season in which the Big Three – Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving – played in about 10 regular season games together due to injuries and off-the-court issues, the latter in the case of Irving, this goes down as an almighty ‘bust.’
But you also have to be fair. The Nets played the last few games of the series without Irving, and/or Harden, and while Harden returned for the last three, he was playing on one leg, as Irving had to sit them out with a badly sprained ankle. Brooklyn has a good excuse. But the bottom line is this team was put together to win a championship this season, not next.
After the game, Kevin Durant, who had 48 points in defeat, said:
“Yeah, we want to win. We want to win every game we play; we want to win a championship every year, just like every team, so the last game of the season, we lost [it hurts]. But the beauty of our profession is get up and we get up and keep going. Everybody on this team has worked extremely hard. They care about the game. So we get ready for next year.”
Harden had 22 point, nine boards and nine assists, but this was not the All-Star we are used to seeing and he confirmed he was dealing with a Grade 2 hamstring strain.
“S---, honestly, so many emotions,” Harden said. “Just me personally, it’s frustrating for myself, just being durable and being myself for the last so many postseasons. Just dealing with this particular hamstring, it’s just frustrating. I’m frustrated. We did everything we could towards the end. Just frustrated.”
The Nets led 101-96 with four minutes left after Harden pulled up for a bank 3, but then the Bucks went on an 8-0 run.
The Nets trailed 109-105 with 1:05 to play. Durant then hit two clutch shots down the stretch to tie it at 109-109 and send the game into overtime.
But after Brooklyn’s Bruce Brown scored on an offensive rebound to open the extra period, the Nets didn’t score again and the Bucks prevailed.
Giannis had 40 points and 13 rebounds for Milwaukee, who now await the winner of Hawks-76ers and their Game 7 tonight.
I do have to go back to Game 5, however, as I was unable to write earlier of it. The Nets, the series at 2-2, welcomed back Harden, but Kyrie was out. Harden, it was clear from the start, was a mere shell of his All-Star self and would go 1 of 10 from the field, 0 of 8 from three.
But they had Kevin Durant who truly had a game for the ages, playing all 48 minutes, 49 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals and two blocks, as he single-handedly led the Nets from down 17 points to a 114-108 win that temporarily put them up 3-2. This is why the Nets were aggressive in signing the lad, despite an Achilles injury…moments like this. Alas, they needed all of the Big Three on the court at the same time to beat the Bucks in the end and that wasn’t to be.
--As for Hawks-76ers, which I’m posting before tipoff, on Wednesday, Atlanta pulled off an epic 26-point comeback from about the 8:30 mark of the third quarter, taking Game 5 109-106 in Philadelphia.
Trae Young had 39 points for Atlanta, while for the Sixers, Joel Embiid had 37 and Seth Curry 36 (7 of 12 from three).
But then Philadelphia took Game 6 in Atlanta, 104-99, Seth Curry with another big game from downtown (6 of 9, 24 points in all), setting up tonight’s Game 7.
--Out West, today we had Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, the Clippers against the Suns.
L.A. is in the conference finals for the first time in franchise history. Remember, the Clippers have been in existence 51 seasons (the first 14 as the Buffalo Braves and then San Diego Clippers).
L.A. wrapped up their semifinals on Friday night with a 131-119 win over Utah to take the series 4-2. Before I called it a night, I saw the Jazz were up 72-50 at the half, as the Clippers were playing without star Kawhi Leonard for a second consecutive game with a knee injury.
Yet they wiped out a 25-point third-quarter deficit behind the sensational play of Terance Mann, the second-year player out of Florida State who subbed for Leonard.
Mann went off for 39 points on 15 of 21 shooting from the field, 7 of 10 from three. Paul George chipped in with 28 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists.
In a critical Game 5 in Utah, George stepped up in Leonard’s absence with a 37-point, 16 rebounds effort in the Clippers’ 119-111 win.
Understand, Utah had taken the first two of this series.
Meanwhile, the Suns swept the Nuggets in four behind Chris Paul’s terrific play.
But in today’s Game 1, the Clippers were again without Leonard. And Chris Paul was out due to Covid protocols! He entered the health and safety protocols Wednesday, and he has not said if he was vaccinated, which he had commented was a “personal-type decision” back in March. No word on when Paul will be available.
The Suns took it, 120-114, as Devin Booker had a spectacular triple-double…40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. Paul George had 34 for the Clippers, but was 10 of 26 from the field.
--Two weeks after replacing Danny Ainge as president of basketball operations for the Celtics, Brad Stevens made a big move in his new role.
Boston sent All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, the 16th pick in this year’s NBA draft and a 2025 second-round selection to Oklahoma City for Al Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second-round pick.
The Celtics gained significant financial flexibility as Stevens attempts to retool around young stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Walker is owed roughly $73 million over the next two years, while Horford is owed $53 million - $41 million guaranteed – over the same two years.
Boston wants the ability to re-sign guard Even Fournier, whom they acquired at this year’s trade deadline and who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, while also reuniting the Celtics with Horford, who spent three years with them before signing his current deal with Philadelphia in 2019.
But get this. Oklahoma now has 18 first-round picks over the next seven drafts, including three in this year’s draft.
--The Dallas Mavericks have had front-office executive Donnie Nelson with the team since 1998, and Rick Carlisle has been the coach since 2008; the franchise a model of stability. Mark Cuban has been owner since 2000.
But this week the Mavs parted ways with Nelson and Carlisle decided to walk away from a team that features an MVP-caliber star in 22-year-old Luka Doncic.
So now Cuban has to hire a new basketball operation chief and a new coach while keeping Doncic happy, and Luka was upset with the departures.
--The Washington Wizards parted ways with coach Scott Brooks after five seasons, and a 183-207 record. Brooks and the team could not come to an agreement on a new contract, his original deal over.
Stanley Cup Playoffs
--Montreal is taking on Las Vegas in Game 4 of their semifinal tonight, the Canadiens up 2-1 after back-to-back 3-2 wins, including Friday’s overtime contest. Goalie Carey Price continues to be the key, as Montreal continues to carve out a helluva story.
Montreal’s interim coach Dominique Ducharme tested positive for Covid-19 prior to Game 3. In his place, assistant Luke Richardson coached his first game in the NHL…in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
--In the other semifinal, the New York Islanders evened things up at 2-2 with a 3-2 win Saturday over Tampa Bay in The Barn out on the Island.
--The New York Rangers hired a new coach since I last posted, veteran Gerard Gallant. It is the 57-year-old’s fourth NHL head coaching job after stints with the Blue Jackets, Panthers and Golden Knights. He was coach of the year in 2018 after leading Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final in its inaugural season, but was fired midway through the 2019-20 season. A solid choice for us Rangers fans.
--The Angels beat the Tigers Saturday, 8-3, to move to 36-35! How significant is that? They were 18-22 when Mike Trout went out with an injury and have gone 18-13 since (17-8 last 25), a huge accomplishment.
Shohei Ohtani (and Jared Walsh) have led the way, along with an improved starting staff. Ohtani has five homers in his last four games to give him 22 on the season, tied with Fernando Tatis Jr., one behind MLB leader Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Ohtani, by the way, threw six innings of one-run ball in the Angels’ 7-5 win over the Tigers on Thursday, improving to 3-1, 2.70 in 53 1/3 innings. It was his third six-inning outing in his past four starts.
--Walker Buehler is the best starter on the Dodgers’ staff and after throwing 7 1/3 of 2-run ball on Saturday in a 9-3 win over Arizona, Buehler, who struck out 11 and flirted with a no-hitter, is now 7-0, 2.38, for the 43-27 Dodgers.
But can we talk about the Diamondbacks, as much as their fans don’t want to these days, or months!
Saturday marked their club-record 16th straight loss. They also broke the major league record for consecutive road losses this week at 23! They are 5-39, after starting out the season 15-13.
The D’backs 23-straight road losses is one more than the 1963 Mets and 1943 Athletics.
L.A. extended Arizona’s misery today, Sunday, with a 9-8 win. 17 straight.
--The Marlins beat the Cubs 10-2 and 11-1, Friday and Saturday in Chicago, as Adam Duvall had back-to-back two-homer games, just the third Marlin to do so. Duvall now has 16 home runs and 52 RBIs, despite his .220 batting average.
--As for the Mets, who’ve been struggling some but remain in first place in the N.L. East, it’s all about the health of Jacob deGrom.
DeGrom threw just three innings, striking out eight of the nine batters he faced, leaving Wednesday’s start against the Cubs with shoulder soreness. This was his third ‘minor’ injury this season, the others involving his right forearm and flexor tendinitis. All three are said to be ‘isolated.’
An MRI on Thursday was clean and as of today, deGrom, having thrown a bullpen session Saturday, appeared on track for a start in Monday’s doubleheader against Atlanta, which would be rather remarkable. Mets fans will again be on pins and needles with every pitch.
Our superstar lowered his ERA Wednesday to 0.54, giving up only four earned runs all year in 67 innings with 111 strikeouts.
The Mets, going against past form, have also actually won his last six starts.
Meanwhile, as for the team in action now, the Metsies had won 8 of 10 to move to 35-25, super given all their serious injury issues, but after today’s 5-2 loss to the Nationals in Washington, New York had lost 4 of 5 in desultory fashion, just nine runs scored in the five, including being shutout in two consecutive games, just two hits in each.
Today, Kyle Schwarber ripped three home runs (18 on the season now), after two in the second game of a doubleheader yesterday. Manager Davey Martinez made a brilliant decision in recently moving Schwarber to the leadoff spot.
--After losing 13 of 18, there were calls for the heads of Yankees manager Aaron Boone and GM Brian Cashman, certainly at least Boone’s.
But the two have been granted a reprieve after the Yanks have taken 5 of 6, including today’s 2-1 win over the A’s at the Stadium. The game ended on a triple play…the Yanks’ third in 31 days, and the first game-ending triple play since 2009. Pretty remarkable.
In the old days, George Steinbrenner would have definitely pulled the trigger. Today, Hal Steinbrenner is far more laid back and patient.
Frankly, Aaron Boone isn’t the issue. It’s the awful contracts Brian Cashman has saddled the team with that’s the real problem.
--Under the new policy commencing Monday, pitchers will be ejected and suspended for 10 games for using illegal foreign substances to doctor baseballs in MLB’s crackdown.
The commissioner’s office, responding to record strikeouts and a league batting average at a more than half-century low, said last week that major and minor-league umpires will start regular checks of all pitchers, even if opposing managers don’t request inspections.
Repeat offenders will receive progressive discipline, and teams and club employees will be subject to discipline for failure to comply.
Rosin bags will continue to be allowed but rosin cannot be combined with sunscreen or other substances, and pitchers are being told not to use sunscreen after sunset in outdoor stadiums and not to use it at all in indoor ballparks. Umpires will inspect rosin bags before games to make sure they are standard.
Commissioner Rob Manfred in a statement said:
“After an extensive process of repeated warnings, without effect, gathering information from current and former players and others across the sport, two months of comprehensive data collection, listening to our fans and thoughtful deliberation, I have determined that new enforcement of foreign substances is needed to level the playing field.
“I understand there’s a history of foreign substances being used on the ball, but what we are seeing today is objectively far different, with much tackier substances being used more frequently than ever before. It has become clear that the use of foreign substance has generally morphed from trying to get a better grip on the ball into something else – an unfair competitive advantage that is creating a lack of action and an uneven playing field.”
So a number of pitchers immediately started bitching. In a Twitter thread, Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow blamed MLB’s crackdown on foreign substances after he was diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament and a flexor tendon strain.
Glasnow said, in advance of MLB’s initiative he did away with using sunscreen – the only foreign substance he said he has ever used – two starts ago and felt sore the next day due to needing to adjust his grips. He did the same in Monday’s outing against the White Sox and then felt something “pop” in his arm.
“I switched my fastball grip and my curveball grip,” an animated Glasnow said on a videoconference with reporters. “I had to put my fastball deeper into my hand and grip it way harder. Instead of holding my curveball at the tip of my fingers, I had to dig it deeper into my hand.
“I’m choking the s--- out of all my pitches.”
Glasnow left Monday’s game after four innings.
Glasnow and others understand trying to crackdown, but to do it on all substances in the middle of a season is to them unfair.
Dodgers right-hander Trevor Bauer, always outspoken on any topic, responded to Gasnow’s comments by tweeting his own criticism of the crackdown.
“They’ve knowingly swept this under the rug for 4 years. Now they implement a knee jerk reaction to shifting public perception. Hard to hear them talk about ‘competitive integrity’ when they have no integrity to begin with,” he wrote.
He added: “To be clear, the memo is fine long term, and it will serve to level the playing field. That is a good thing. But to implement it mid season when for 3 months you’ve promised players and teams that nothing about your chosen enforcement of the rules would change this year and actively encouraged players to continue playing how they have in the past, that’s a lie. There’s no integrity in that. So save it with the integrity bulls---.”
--We had the start of the College World Series in Omaha this weekend.
Stanford, North Carolina State, Arizona, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas and Mississippi State.
Good to see the ACC well represented.
In the first two games Saturday of this double-elimination tournament, N.C. State beat Stanford 10-4, while Vandy edged Arizona 7-6 in 12 innings. I just watched the video recap of the Vandy game and talk about great stuff.
Today, Virginia shutout Tennessee 6-0.
--We had a sad development in the world of college baseball this week as it was announced that a freshman pitcher for George Mason University, Sang Ho Baeck, a Maryland native, died of complications following Tommy John surgery. He was just 20.
The team is devastated, and as head baseball coach Bill Brown said in a statement, “Right now, our thoughts are with Sang’s family at this unbearably difficult time.”
There are no details and I won’t comment further until we receive them.
--Shockingly, Christian Eriksen surprised the Denmark team with a visit in the middle of a training session Friday and then gave everyone a hug, his teammates said on Saturday.
Eriksen was discharged from a Copenhagen hospital on Friday and immediately went to see his teammates at their European Championship base camp outside the capital.
Pretty amazing, having undergone cardiac arrest. Eriksen was fitted with a heart starter (ICD), the national team doctor confirmed.
Dr. Morten Boesen said: “This device is necessary after cardiac attack due to rhythm disturbances.”
It is far too early to determine if Eriksen will ever play again. His club team, Inter Milan, as well as that league, would have to weigh all kinds of legal implications.
--I have not been following Euro 2020 action, but in Group Play, Tuesday, France had a big 1-0 win over Germany, though Germany bounced back Saturday with a 4-2 win over Portugal.
Friday, England and Scotland played to a 0-0 draw.
--Premier League club revenues fell for the first time ever during the last financial year, according to a report from Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, and The Athletic, which analyzed accounts for the 2019-20 financial year and reported a decline of 13 percent in revenues across the division from $7.18bn (based on today’s exchange rate) to $6.22bn.
To a large extent this was due to Covid, the 2019-20 season curtailed in March 2020 and not resuming until that June. The remaining matches were played behind closed doors. Matchday revenue fell by 13 percent as a result.
Some of the revenue was deferred into the 2020-21 financial year, including broadcast revenues, which dropped 24 percent. But for much of 2020-21 there were also no fans, except a brief window when some restrictions were lifted before Britain locked down again.
But all-in-all, Deloitte said the Premier League has been amazingly resilient and being able to play the matches and finish both 2019-20 and 2020-21 has been “a great boost to the public and valuable content for broadcasters,” as the report put it.
--We had the Katie and Katie show Saturday night at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials. 24-year-old star Katie Ledecky won the women’s 800 freestyle, but 15-year-old Katie Grimes, in finishing second, qualified for the Tokyo Games.
Ledecky has won four events at the trials, becoming the winningest woman in U.S. swimming trials history with eight titles, behind only Michael Phelps with 16.
Yes, it seems that come hell or coronavirus, the Tokyo Games are taking place.
I’ve caught some of the action from the track and field trials and this coming week is packed with action. It’s taking place at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, your editor having attended three of them over the years. I miss not being there. Just a great ten days (with the two-day break in between, which I used to go to Newport, Oregon, on the beautiful coast…best walking beach in the world).
Friday night, Ryan Crouser set a world record in the shot put trials, 76 feet, 8 ¼ inches. Understand the record was set 2 ½ years before the 28-year-old Crouser was born. The record of 75-10 had been held since May 20, 1990, by American Randy Barnes.
The 6-foot-7, 320-pound Crouser scarfs up 5,000 calories a day. His diet consists of two big breakfast burritos in the morning, a pound of ground beef for lunch and three of the four portions from a meal delivery service at night. Not sure what happens to the fourth.
With late-night options limited after his performance in Eugene, Crouser said, “I’ll probably go for a big, old double-double hamburger somewhere.”
--Wimbledon will be without two of the biggest stars in the sport as Naomi Osaka and Rafael Nadal announced plans to skip the tournament.
Osaka, who dropped out of the French Open citing mental-health concerns, said she would return to the court at the Olympics.
Nadal said he won’t play Wimbledon and the Tokyo Games, following his first defeat on the clay courts of the French Open in five years. Rafa said he wanted to better pick his spots in order to stretch his twilight atop the tennis world.
“The goal is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy,” he wrote. “That is to compete at the highest level and keep fighting for those professional and personal goals at the maximum level of competition.”
Nadal’s exit from the summer’s biggest tournaments certainly clears the way for Novak Djokovic in his quest for the calendar year Grand Slam. If he also won the Olympics, that’s the “Golden Slam.” The only singles player in tennis history to achieve it remains Steffi Graf in 1988.
And he’s just that one slam away, at 19 overall, from the 20 won by Nadal and Roger Federer.
--The Boston Globe’s David Abel had an extensive story on the tale of lobsterman/diver Michael Packard and the humpback whale.
Josiah Mayo, Packard’s mate and driver, along with another fisherman witnessed the hard-to-fathom drama off Herring Cove beach in Provincetown about ten days ago. “We all saw the whitewater, the whale, and Michael shoot out of the water.”
He added: “Michael has a reputation that’s unimpeachable.”
“These whales are lunge feeders,” said Iain Kerr, chief executive of Ocean Alliance, a nonprofit in Gloucester that studies whales. “They open their huge mouths and…engulf a dense swarm of prey. In those last few seconds, they are probably blind, literally and proverbially, to all that is going on and just focused on the food.”
Before everything went dark, before he lost his regulator and his legs were squeezed by what felt like a vice, Packard was on his third dive of the morning to bag lobster a half-mile offshore.
Packard is one of the last remaining commercial lobster divers in New England and has fished these waters for decades. He often wears special electrodes to protect against the swelling ranks of great white sharks off Cape Cod.
On that morning, Mayo watched Packard disappear into the dark depths in his black dry suit and tracked the bubbles from his scuba gear as Packard made his way to the bottom.
It was shaping up to be another good catch, at a time of favorable prices for lobster, when the bubbles became a kind of roiling cauldron.
“From where the bubbles were, there was a major eruption, a major slash of whitewater,” Mayo said. “There was a huge commotion just under the surface.”
When he was about 10 feet from the bottom (of 45 feet of water off Race Point), Packard suddenly couldn’t see, hear, or breathe, as his regulator disappeared from his mouth.
In a frantic search, he found the respirator suspended in the water, blowing bubbles just a few inches from his face, and grabbed it.
Able to breathe again, his next thought was that he had been swallowed by a shark. But when he didn’t feel any teeth chomping him, he guessed that a whale had engulfed him. Pressed between what he believed was the roof of the whale’s mouth and his tongue, he began to struggle.
But after about 30 seconds after the ordeal had begun by his count, the creature breached the surface and ejected him into the water.
Now I believe the story. Packard said he’s been overwhelmed by the interview requests from media around the world, and so far has agreed to just a few. Among them: talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, who is flying Packard and Mayo to Los Angeles this week to appear on his show. Afterward, he plans to tell his story to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who he notes is a fellow diver.
Packard also plans to resume lobster diving.
--I didn’t have a chance to note the passing of actor Ned Beatty, the terrific character actor whose first film role in 1972’s “Deliverance” launched him on a long, prolific and accomplished career. He was 83 and died of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles.
After years in regional theater, Beatty was cast in “Deliverance” as Bobby Trippe, the happy-go-lucky member of a male river-boating party terrorized by backwoods thugs. The rape scene in which Trippe is brutalized became the most memorable in the movie and established Beatty as an actor whose name moviegoers may not have known but whose face they always recognized.
“For people like me, there’s a lot of ‘I know you! I know you! What have I seen you in?’” Beatty remarked without rancor in 1992.
Beatty received only one Oscar nomination, as supporting actor for his role as corporate executive Arthur Jensen in 1976’s “Network,” but he contributed to some of the most popular movies of his time and worked constantly, his credits including more than 150 movies and TV shows.
It was after years in regional theater in the Washington, D.C. area, that Beatty took a train to New York to audition for director John Boorman for the role of Bobby Trippe. Boorman told him the role was cast but changed his mind after seeing Beatty audition.
Top 3 songs for the week 6/17/67: #1 “Groovin’” (The Young Rascals) #2 “Respect” (Aretha Franklin) #3 “She’d Rather Be With Me” (The Turtles)…and…#4 “Release Me (And Let Me Love Again)” (Engelbert Humperdinck) #5 “Somebody To Love” (Jefferson Airplane) #6 “Little Bit O’ Soul” (The Music Explosion) #7 “Windy” (The Association) #8 “All I Need” (The Temptations) #9 “I Got Rhythm” (The Happenings) #10 “Mirage” (Tommy James and the Shondells…A- …..)
Baseball Quiz Answer: Top ten all-time in saves.
1. Mariano Rivera 652
2. Trevor Hoffman 601
3. Lee Smith 478
4. Francisco Rodriguez 437
5. John Franco 424
6. Billy Wagner 422
7. Dennis Eckersley 390
8. Joe Nathan 377
9. Jonathan Papelbon 368
10. Jeff Reardon 367
10. Craig Kimbrel 367
Kimbrel then got No. 368 today.
I’ll have a brief Add-On Tuesday. Otherwise, the next full Bar Chat is Sun. June 27.