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Miguel Cabrera reaches 3,000
Add-On posted early Wed. a.m.
--Prior to Monday night’s Boston-Brooklyn game….
The last week it had seemed Ben Simmons was going to hit the court at some point in the Boston series, and then it looked like Game 4. But that was before Brooklyn went down 3-0, and then the team announced he was out.
Simmons hasn’t played since June 2021 with the 76ers. He never suited up for Philadelphia after reporting to training camp late, citing mental health concerns, before being dealt as part of a trade that sent James Harden to the 76ers.
On one hand, Simmons did act like he was targeting Game 4, but on the other, the Nets are down 3-0. It’s just weird he suddenly can’t play and Brooklyn goes into next season without ever having seen their prized return for Harden.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith was having none of it, blasting Simmons after he was ruled out for Game 4.
“I feel bad for anybody who was his teammate,” Smith said. “He quit on LSU. He quit on the Philadelphia 76ers. And now, he ain’t showing up for the Brooklyn Nets. We can point to all the excuses, all the rationale behind it that we want to. I do recall, despite him not playing, he still filed a grievance to collect $20 million that he has not earned.
“This is one of the most pathetic situations I’ve ever seen in my life. He ain’t going to war. He ain’t going into the octagon. He’s not going into the boxing ring. It’s pulling teeth to get this man to play basketball. It’s pathetic. It’s sad. And at the end of the day, when the NBA gets in the collective bargaining table, and they go after the players in terms of a pay for play stipulation in the collective bargaining agreement, it’s going to be called the Ben Simmons Rule.”
So then they played Game 4 at the Barclays Center.
Ian O’Connor / New York Post
“Remember the Brooklyn Nets as the worst team money could buy. Remember them as an ill-fitting set of big-name ballplayers who were expected to win a championship and then face-planted in the first round, failing to win even one playoff game.
“The Nets made the 2022 Celtics look like the 1986 Celtics. Boston made a mockery of the notion that, as a surging two-seed in the East, it got a most unlucky bounce by drawing what was advertised as the most dangerous seven seed in the history of American sports.
“Unlucky? Not exactly. That leprechaun Kyrie Irving stepped on last year got its sweet revenge this time around. The Nets weren’t just too small and too disorganized to avoid getting swept by the Celtics. By any fair measure of their own words, they also lacked the competitive heart worthy of a legitimate contender.
“Steve Nash said they didn’t have the necessary intensity in Game 2. Blake Griffin said they didn’t have the necessary spirit in Game 3. Nash said they didn’t have the necessary durability in Game 4.
“ ‘Maybe they ran out of gas,’ the coach said of his players.
“They ran out of answers too. What an epic disaster. What a fitting end to a New York basketball season that started with so much promise, and ended with this most resounding thud.
“A year after their stirring revival, the Knicks couldn’t even make the play-in tournament. A year after nearly reaching the conference final with one healthy star, the Nets couldn’t even make it to Game 5 in Round 1….
“The fallout from the Nets’ headache-for-headache trade of James Harden for Ben Simmons? That was on them. They acquired Harden knowing all about his high-maintenance ways, then couldn’t keep him happy enough for one full season.
“Of greater consequence, Irving could have met the city’s mandate and gotten vaccinated and played a ton more than the 29 regular-season games he played.
“And yet there was Irving on Monday night, after Boston’s clinching 116-112 victory, talking about how the season ‘was just a heavy lift for us’ and how ‘it’s hard to just turn the switch on and just be like, ‘All right, we’re a great team today.’ …Guys are in and out of the lineup.’
“Irving admitted that he felt he was letting down his team when he was out, but it’s too late for that regret now. He had control of how often he was in and out of Brooklyn’s lineup, and he made a choice that he can think about all summer.
“His employers have a lot to think about too, including whether to invest a crazy amount of money in a long-term Irving extension. Good luck with that. But owner Joe Tsai and general manager Sean Marks also have to examine their culture of player appeasement, and determine whether that needs to be dismantled….
“Brooklyn’s superstars didn’t want the ultra-competent Kenny Atkinson to be their coach, and Atkinson was made to disappear. Those same superstars, with Durant as lead advocate, wanted to put a novice, Nash, in charge, and Nash’s inexperience was a chief reason why Brooklyn was swept into oblivion.
“Irving had his personal reasons to take his various leaves over the past two years, including his opposition to the city’s mandate that initially cost him a chance to play all home games – at least until his bosses told him to stay home for road games too….
“But when facing a manpower shortage and a pressing need to win some games, the Nets exposed their soulless core by abandoning their stance and inviting Irving back to work. And a season after the Big 2 became the Big 3, a completely disengaged Harden effectively told the Nets they needed to trade him to Philadelphia or else. Voila, the Nets traded him to Philadelphia.
“This all traces back to the most overused word in sports – culture. Every big-league organization professes to have one, even though the true culture club over the years can be reduced to Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots, Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs, Steve Kerr’s Golden State Warriors and maybe a few others.
“The Brooklyn Nets are located a million miles south of that club….
“ ‘We didn’t make any noise,’ Durant said, ‘but we got to the playoffs.’
“Whoop-de-damn-do, to quote one famous Nets forward from the distant past. And good riddance to a basketball team that wasn’t worth the money or the hype.”
All you needed to know about Game 4 was that Nets center Nic Claxton set an NBA playoff record in missing ten straight free throws (1-11 on the evening).
A professional basketball player missed ten straight free throws.
--Uh oh…you know the deal of no team ever coming from down 3-0 in the NBA playoffs to win a series? It’s now 3-2, Philadelphia, heading back to Toronto for Game 6, after the Raptors won on the road Monday, 103-88.
Joel Embiid is playing with an injured thumb and it shows…just 20 points and 11 rebounds, while once again, James Harden was ineffective…15 points on 4-of-11 from the floor.
Sixers coach Doc Rivers is the only coach in NBA history to blow three 3-1 series leads.
--Last night, Miami beat Atlanta 97-94 to take their series, 4-1; Ja Morant’s twisting layup gave Memphis a 3-2 lead in its series with Minnesota, 111-109; and Phoenix is up 3-2 over New Orleans with a 112-97 victory.
--It’s virtually impossible keeping track of all the moves being made in the sport, between who is declaring for the draft, who’s returning, and who’s transferring.
But Caleb Love, one of the stars of the NCAA Tournament for the runners-up North Carolina Tar Heels announced he is returning, as he should, for his junior season.
But with Armando Bacot, Leaky Black, R.J. Davis and Love – four starters – all announcing a return to Chapel Hill, they are going to be your preseason No. 1.
--I did see that Saint Peter’s guard Daryl Banks III is transferring to St. Bonaventure. The kid clearly has game as we saw in the tournament and that’s a good fit for him.
I have no idea what all the ‘senior’ Bonnies are doing, and everything is still in a state of flux, for all programs, but I did see the Bonnies also got what seems to be another nice guard from Hartford.
--The Mets had a phenomenal win Monday night in St. Louis, down to their last strike in the top of the ninth, down 2-0, when they suddenly scored five for a 5-2 win that those of us watching will forever remember. It was also one of those games that the team, and fans, will point to IF we go on to make a run in the postseason…needing to get there first.
Mark Canha hit a slow grounder to third base in the ninth that should have been the final out, but 9-time Gold Glover Nolan Arenado took far too many steps until he unloaded the throw to first, airmailed it, and Eduardo Escobar scored the first run from second.
Jeff McNeil then doubled pinch-runner Travis Jankowski to third, and pinch-hitter Dom Smith hit a grounder behind first base, outrunning closer Giovanny Gallegos to first base, with McNeil and Jankowski scoring on the play…3-2 Mets. Brandon Nimmo then hit a 2-run homer on his first pitch, 5-2, and Edwin Diaz closed it.
A game the Mets had no business winning. It was terrific. Why it was A-MAA-ZING!
And the Mets are now 14-5 after Tuesday’s 3-0 win over the Cards (9-7), Chris Bassitt with six scoreless for New York.
The Mets have thus started the season winning their first six series for the first time in franchise history.
But last night, three more Mets hitters were hit by pitches, including Pete Alonso in the head for a second time this season, as the Metsies lead the majors in HBPs with 18. Bassitt blasted MLB, saying the baseballs were largely to blame.
Separately, the Mets received word on Jacob deGrom’s right shoulder injury and he has been cleared to begin ‘strengthening’ it, but he is not allowed to return to throwing just yet, so that’s a bit of a setback.
The MRI and CT scan revealed “considerable” healing of the stress reaction on his right scapula, but he will be re-imaged in three weeks after he has worked on building resistance in the shoulder. So June is not looking good for a return. We should be happy with July at this point.
--The Yankees are 11-6 after a 12-8 over the Orioles (6-11) at the Stadium last night.
In the offseason, Yankee fans were clamoring for the team to sign either Matt Olson or Freddie Freeman to play first, but they ended up with neither and gave Anthony Rizzo a 2-year deal instead.
Last night, Rizzo hit three dinky shots over the short porch in right, an average distance of just 350 feet, and he now leads the majors with eight home runs.
--The Angels are 11-7 with a 4-1 win over the Guardians (7-10) as Mike Trout is on fire, hitting his fifth home run, average at .347.
--Milwaukee’s Willy Adames was 4-for-5, two home runs, seven RBIs, as the Brewers (11-7) defeated the Pirates (8-9) 12-8.
--The Giants are 13-5 after an 8-2 win over the A’s, as Carlos Rodon threw six innings of one-run ball, 9Ks, to move to 3-0, 1.17.
--Walker Buehler pitched his first complete game shutout Monday in the Dodgers 4-0 against the Diamondbacks.
Buehler threw 108 pitches, struck out 10, surrendered just three singles and reminded everyone why he is the pitching staff’s ace.
Meanwhile, Trevor Bauer has sued the woman who accused him of sexual assault, along with one of her lawyers, for defamation.
The suit also claims the woman filed a false police report and conducted a “malicious campaign” that resulted in Bauer “losing opportunities to earn additional income and exercise rights provided by his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers” and “losing revenue and opportunities for revenue provided by his contracts and prospective contracts with sponsors and others.”
Bauer could still learn in the next few days whether MLB will suspend him – and, if so, for how long.
All about Thursday’s first round of the NFL Draft, and the second round, if you’re a Jets fan…the team with Nos. 4, 10, 35 and 38.
As for Deebo Samuel, San Francisco GM John Lynch said the team has no desire to trade him. We’ll see what happens Thursday.
Georgia defensive end Travon Walker appears to be the betting-line favorite over fellow DE Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan to be tabbed first overall, Jacksonville with the No. 1 pick.
North Carolina State offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu and Alabama OL Evan Neal are two others that are consensus top four or five.
But many prognosticators now feel the Jets will go with DE Kayvon Thibodeaux.
--Eamonn Lynch / Golfweek
“It’s performance review season in corporate America, when employees are either congratulated on jobs well done or held to account for shortcomings. If Greg Norman were disposed toward self-reflection (stay with me), he might feel relief that his Saudi-backed outfit isn’t held to such conventional standards on performance, or for that matter on commercial viability, ROI or morality.
“Norman was announced as the CEO of LIV Golf in October and has beclowned himself with his every public utterance since, cementing a reputation that will encompass not only his inability to finish big tournaments but his ineptitude in starting them too. What was promised as a seismic shake-up of global golf is looking more like a bonanza for washed-up also-rans. Consider what Norman has presided over since the Saudi ambitions in golf came into focus and all you’ll find is backtracking.
“Those 12-18 events they touted? Not happening.
“The league format? Same.
“An elite team concept? Nope.
“The best golfers in the world? Let’s hear it for Robert Garrigus.
“A fresh, engaging product for fans? See above.
“What’s left is eight lucrative tournaments that will showcase aging veterans who can no longer compete where it matters, career journeymen whose own caddies might struggle to identify them in a line-up, and amateurs, whose inclusion was presented as a ‘grow the game’ gesture rather than the act of desperation it is. (Next stop: PGA Tour Champions!) In short, Norman is serving a fetid platter of horseshit and claiming its boeuf bourguignon.
“The only entertainment guaranteed in this venture is an overdue comeuppance for the Great White Pilot Fish, whose tenure began with an interview in which he marveled at the sight of women dining in Saudi restaurants sans burkas. Later, he addressed the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. ‘What happened to Khashoggi was reprehensible. There’s not a person on this planet who would not agree with me,’ he said, perhaps forgetting that the Crown Prince who ordered Khashoggi’s dismemberment by bonesaw – the same man who pays Norman – might not agree with him. That he followed this declaration with ‘But…’ is damning enough without it being necessary to recount the chicken-hearted prevarications he duly offered.
“Norman has also shown the familiar maladroit touch with Augusta National that defined his playing career there. ‘We respect the Masters and we thought we’d let it go off before our announcements,’ he said last week.
“ ‘…we thought we’d let it go off…’
“Oh, to have been Fred Ridley’s watchful manservant when he read that over his morning coffee.”
--Meanwhile, Norman, 67, who hasn’t played a PGA Tour event since 2012, wants to play The Open Championship this summer at St. Andrews and is expecting an exemption, it seems.
The R&A has an age limit of 60 for The Open, and thus he’s seven years past the exemption threshold for former champions. The R&A did grant Tom Watson a special exemption in 2014 at age 65, but it seems clear the body doesn’t want to grant Norman one. And according to a spokesperson for Norman, he does not plan to attempt to qualify for The Open, but will submit a request for the exemption into the championship.
“I think I can still get in,” said Norman in an interview, even though he hasn’t played The Open since 2009 at Turnberry. “It’s the 150th. I’m a past Open champion. I love St. Andrews.”
No way he deserves an exemption…and no way he gets one, especially after all the LIV B.S.
Or as the above-noted Eamon Lynch puts it:
“There’s a better chance we’ll see Old Tom Morris tee it up for old time’s sake.”
So continuing with Lynch’s screed on the LIV Golf fiasco:
“Norman’s disregard for established rules and norms might endear him to his employers, but even the Saudis must now be weary of their water carrier’s unquenchable thirst for publicity, his intemperate and ill-considered public comments, his lack of peripheral vision, his unpopularity in the locker room and his stupefying ability to snatch defeat when victory seemed not only possible but likely….
“Despite all the bluster and promises of riches, the Saudis must finally understand their project is piloted by a man more inflated with hot air than the Hindenburg, and seems destined for the same fate, even as he artlessly tries to coax gullible passengers aboard. Someone with a larger-than-life bust of himself in his garden is obviously immune to embarrassment. The people who entrusted him with their billion-dollar business, not so much.”
Tuesday, word is 15 of the top 100 players in the Official World Golf Ranking have signed up for the inaugural LIV event, with a Telegraph report pointing to Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Louis Oosthuizen and Kevin Na as potential participants. Adam Scott is another possibility.
And Phil Mickelson, who has requested a release from the PGA tour to play in the LIV tournament in London in June. He also registered for the PGA Championship and U.S. Open. But his agent said Lefty hadn’t decided whether he will play in any of them.
Since the opening LIV event conflicts with the RBC Canadian Open on June 9-12, PGA Tour players need to be granted a release from the tour to compete in it.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan told players after the PGA Championship last May that anyone who joined the Saudi-financed league would be suspended and potentially face a lifetime ban from the PGA Tour.
--In College Golf, Wake Forest’s men’s team has won more ACC Championships than any other school, taking their 19th on Monday in the final match over Georgia Tech, 3-2.
But this was our first since 1989…first for Coach Jerry Haas, in his 24th season.
Alex Fitzpatrick, the younger brother of PGA Tour golfer Matthew Fitzpatrick, needed 21 holes to beat Benjamin Reuter of GT to clinch the match for the Deacs.
The men’s team followed up what the Lady Deacs had done earlier in the month, winning the women’s ACC championship.
--In the first leg of its Champions League semifinal, Manchester City defeated Real Madrid 4-3.
Liverpool takes on Villareal in the other semifinal today.
--Carolina clinched the NHL Metropolitan Division with a 4-3 win over the Rangers at the Garden last night. Drat.
--Cough cough…ahem ahem….ah, guys? Did you see the pictures of Paulina Gretzky from this weekend? [Of course you did.] She and Dustin Johnson did finally become husband and wife.
How long were they engaged? Try nine years! Goodness gracious.
Gretzky, 33, and Johnson, 37, were joined by family and friends for their wedding at Blackberry Farm, a five-star hotel and resort in Tennessee, according to People. The couple has two sons, Tatum, 7, and River, 4. River is known to go with the flow.
Your editor’s invite was lost in the mail, but I opted not to create a scene and just stayed home and watched the Mets.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.
Add-On up top by noon, Wed.
[Posted early Sun. p.m.]
Baseball Quiz: Name the five Hall of Famers from Mobile, Alabama. Answer below.
--Congratulations to Miguel Cabrera. The longtime Detroit slugger became just the seventh player in baseball history with 3,000 hits and 500 homers.
He got No. 3,000 in the first inning yesterday at home against Colorado’s Antonio Senzatela, a fellow Venezuelan. He would add a two-run single as the Tigers went on to win 13-0.
After reaching 2,999 hits Wednesday, Cabrera went 0-for-3 on Thursday against the Yankees and the hometown fans were incensed when he was intentionally walked in the eighth inning by the Yanks. Friday’s game was rained out and made up as part of a Saturday doubleheader.
The 39-year-old is the first Venezuelan-born player and seventh Latino to reach the 3,000-hit mark, a list that includes Roberto Clemente, Rod Carew, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Adrian Beltre and Albert Pujols. Luis Aparacio, the only Venezuelan-born player in the Hall of Fame, had 2,677 career hits.
Last August, Cabrera became the 28th member of the 500-home run club in August. Only six other players have 3,000 hits and 500 homers: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Pujols, Rodriguez and Eddie Murray.
Cabrera played his first five seasons in Florida, accumulating 842 hits (and a World Series ring his rookie year, 2003), before he was traded by the Marlins with Dontrelle Willis for six players, including Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin. Advantage Detroit.
Cabrera’s career has been in decline the last 5+ seasons, but the two-time MVP still has a .310 career batting average. He won four batting titles in a five-year span, 2011-2015.
--The Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox played a rather unusual game at Tropicana Field yesterday. The Rays won it on Kevin Kiermaier’s walk-off home run in the 10th inning. But that’s a small part of the story.
Employing the “opener” strategy they helped pioneer, six Rays pitchers combined to no-hit the Red Sox through nine innings.
But Boston’s pitchers were nearly as good, limiting the Rays to just two hits through nine. So they headed to extra innings, 0-0.
But thanks to MLB’s “ghost runner” rules for extra innings, the Red Sox exited the tenth with a 2-0 lead. And in the bottom of the tenth, Boston reliever Hansel Robles struck out the first two batters with the ghost runner at second, but he balked Randy Arozarena to third, and Arozarena scored when Red Sox second baseman Trevor Story threw away what should have been the final out.
Kiermaier then homered to win it.
--The Yankees had a nice win on Saturday, 5-4, against the Guardians, rallying for two in the bottom of the ninth at the Stadium to move to 9-6, as the struggling Gleyber Torres, 7-for-40 prior to start the season (.175) with two RBIs, singled in the winning run as a pinch-hitter.
Yankee starter Nestor Cortes, perhaps the most popular Yank these days, allowed just one hit in 6 1/3, but it was a 2-run homer to Josh Naylor. Cortes nonetheless has 25 strikeouts in his first 15 2/3 to start the year, an ERA of 1.15.
But the story ended up being the ending when Yankee fans in left field, and also right field, threw beer cans at the Cleveland outfielders in a despicable display of the worst of New York, and Yankee fans.
Guardians center fielder Myles Straw says the ‘fans’ crossed a line that never should be crossed in mocking an injured opposing player in the final stages of the game.
Straw was so angry that he climbed the left-field wall to confront a man who was ribbing Guardians left fielder Steven Kwan, who crashed headfirst into the left-field wall trying to make a game-ending catch on Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s game-tying double with two outs and two strikes in the ninth. [Kwan stayed in the game.]
Straw’s reaction led to a lot of boos and umpires walking him back to his position.
Then when Gleyber Torres delivered the game-winning hit, it wasn’t just one fan throwing beer cans and other objects, it was scores of them.
The Yankees were also upset and went out to calm the fans down.
Friday night, Aaron Judge hit two home runs and thew out a baserunner in the Yanks’ 4-1 over Cleveland. Reliever Michael King fanned eight in three innings for New York.
And today the Yanks moved to 10-6 with a 10-2 win, the Yanks sweeping the series as Gerrit Cole, who started the season with three crappy starts, looked like the guy they paid $73 zillion for…6 2/3, 0 runs, 9 Ks, as he lowered his ERA from 6.35 to 4.00. Aside from Cole, the Yanks have indeed been getting outstanding pitching, both starters and relievers, as the team ERA is the third best in baseball.
--My Metsies won another series, five straight of ‘em to open the season, now 12-5, after taking 2 of 3 in Phoenix, winning today over the Diamondbacks, 6-2.
As Ronald Reagan would have been commenting to Nancy Monday morning, while reading the sports page, Nancy preparing cream of wheat plus some toast, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
--The Cubs beat the Pirates 21-0 on Saturday, the team’s largest shutout victory since at least 1901, as Chicago pounded out 23 hits. Five Cubs players had at least three hits.
--Wednesday, Shohei Ohtani had a rather spectacular evening as the Angels beat the Astros 6-0.
Ohtani threw six innings of one-hit ball, striking out 12 (now 1-2, 4.40 ERA, 26 Ks in 14 1/3), while getting two hits and driving in two.
Saturday, the Angels had a bad loss, wasting two home runs from Mike Trout and another solid performance from Noah Syndergaard (5 2/3, 2 runs), as the bullpen blew it in a 5-4 loss, largely because of shoddy fielding.
Baseball fans want the Angels (8-7) in the playoffs to give Ohtani and Trout the stage they deserve. But this team isn’t going anywhere without a return to form from third baseman Anthony Rendon, who after an injury-riddled 2021, is off to another lousy start, .205 with just six RBIs and a costly error yesterday.
The Angels are on the hook for like $190 million the next five seasons with Rendon, including 2022, after signing him to a ginormous deal following the 2019 season.
--MLB extended Trevor Bauer’s leave, again, this time through April 29. He has now missed nearly 110 games since he was first put on leave last July and he could ask for that time to be credited against any suspension as part of a negotiated agreement, but Bauer has maintained he has done nothing wrong and should not be suspended. It’s expected a decision on his suspension will come down in the next few days.
The Dodgers have not said publicly whether they would reinstate Bauer after a suspension, or would do so if the league does not suspend him, but no one believes Bauer will return to the team.
--MLB and the Players Association agreed to test out pitch clocks in the minor leagues this season and in just three weeks, it has made a big difference.
Reminder: When no one is on base, the pitcher has 14 seconds to throw. With runners on base, it’s 18 seconds.
If the pitcher fails to throw a pitch on time, he’s assessed a ball. If a batter isn’t ready with nine seconds left on the pitch clock, he’s assessed a strike.
The Athletic reported that in 132 minor-league games with pitch clocks, there was a 20-minute decrease in game time, down to 2 hours, 39 minutes from 2:59 in minor-league games last season. Nine-inning MLB games lasted 3 hours, 11 minutes on average during the 2021 season.
It’s possible the majors could adopt it next year.
--In College Baseball…Mark R.’s top-ten Notre Dame Fighting Irish swept my Wake Forest boys this weekend…8-3, 21-3, 13-12…the Deacs falling to 10-11 in the ACC, which is not good, not good at all in terms of making the NCAA Championships. Ugh.
--What a choke job…the Brooklyn Nets, a preseason favorite to win the NBA championship, find themselves down 3-0 to Boston after the Celtics’ Game 3 win Saturday in Brooklyn, 109-103, as Boston continues to play masterful defense on Kevin Durant, who has a pedestrian 23, 27 and 16 points in the three losses, while Kyrie Irving is playing like s---, 16 and 10 points his last two on 10-of-30 shooting from the field, after a 39-point effort in Brooklyn’s Game 1 crushing 115-114 defeat at the buzzer.
Altogether now….no team has come from down 3-0 in the NBA playoffs to win the series, so stick a fork in the Nets.
There are all manner of reasons why Brooklyn finds itself in the position they are in. First, Durant is choking, coming up very, very small, after a superb season. It’s a mystery. He says he is overthinking things. That’s probably right. That’s also no excuse.
Second, the Nets wouldn’t be playing Boston this early if they had done better in the regular season and that is all on Kyrie Irving and his freakin’ vaccine stance. And now we learn from Coach Steve Nash that Irving fasted during Ramadan and has had no strength the last two losses! Can you believe that?! Geezuz, just shoot me. [But not until I see how the Mets do this season, and whether Wake Forest football can be a top 15 team this coming fall.]
Speaking of Nash, yes, you have to question whether he’s the right guy. And I agree with former Knicks player Charles Oakley, who said the beginning of the end for the Nets’ ‘dream run’ was trading for James Harden, the Nets giving up the likes of Jarrett Allen and Caris Levert, and all manner of draft picks, to get a guy who can be a terrific stat-sheet filler, but has never been a winner. It ruined the chemistry of the Nets, as they were beginning to develop up-and-comers like Allen and Levert.
Brooklyn’s window is closing quickly…like next year is it. Maybe Ben Simmons, who might play in Game 4 (might as well throw him out there), is the missing piece next season. But then maybe Kyrie will come up with another ‘life’ excuse to be less than what he is capable of.
One more. I don’t understand why James Johnson was released a few weeks before the regular season ended. I watched a lot of the Nets this season, mainly to watch former Demon Deacon Johnson, and I thought he more often than not was a big contributor off the bench. He seemed to be a good teammate. Maybe I’m missing something, but talk about ruining chemistry.
--Back to James Harden, he hasn’t done anything special as Philadelphia took a 3-0 lead over Toronto, before losing Game 4 yesterday, 110-102.
It hurts Philly that Joel Embiid has a right thumb injury that he is trying to play through. He was seen shaking his hand in pain several times Saturday, as the team says the injury can’t get worse, but Toronto is capable of being the first team to come back from 3-0 if Embiid isn’t 100 percent, let alone if the 76ers have to shut him down. He’s undergoing an MRI in Philadelphia on Monday, but will likely keep playing even if surgery is recommended.
As for Harden, he’s basically been your average Schmo thus far in the series.
Game 5 is back in Philly on Monday night.
--TNT analyst Charles Barkley let loose on the T’Wolves after they gave up a 26-point lead to the Grizzlies on Thursday enroute to Memphis’ 104-95 Game 3 victory.
“Tell you what though, one of my things that I always believe happened tonight,” Barkley said during the postgame show. “I don’t believe that there’s dumb kids; I think they just have bad parents. These Timberwolves are dumb because their coaches are dumb.”
Barkley also called the Timberwolves’ collapse “embarrassing for basketball.”
And there’s more.
“These dudes let a team have a 21-0 run and didn’t call a timeout,” Barkley said during first-half highlights. “I said it at halftime, this has got to be one of the dumbest teams. All that talent and they’re dumber than rocks.”
Well, after all this criticism, the T’Wolves won Game 4, 119-118, as Karl-Anthony Towns had 33 points and 14 rebounds. Ja Morant had 15 assists for Memphis, but Minnesota made it tough for him to score all night and the superstar finished with just 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
Meanwhile, a fan was removed from the game after a woman animal rights activist ran onto the court and disrupted play. It was the third fan protest at a Minnesota game this postseason, including during the T’Wolves’ play-in game against the Clippers.
Direct Action Everywhere has claimed the stunts are part of “ongoing efforts to get Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor to step down and return factory farm bailout money.”
I have to admit, I am not familiar with this issue and really couldn’t give a damn.
--Luka Doncic made his return Saturday for Dallas in a game against Utah in Salt Lake City, the all-star out the first three games with a strained calf injury, and Doncic had 30 points and 10 rebounds.
But the Jazz held court, 100-99, to even the series at 2-2.
--Friday night, the Bucks beat the Bulls 111-81 in Chicago to take a 2-1 series lead.
Phoenix also went up 2-1 with a 114-111 triumph over the Pelicans in New Orleans.
And the Hawks cut the Heat’s lead to 2-1 with a 111-110 win in Atlanta.
--So today, Sunday, the Bucks rolled again in Chicago, which must be a wee bit frustrating for Bulls fans who no doubt were shelling out big bucks for a playoff ticket, 119-95, as Giannis did his thing…32 points, 17 rebounds, 7 assists…Milwaukee up 3-1.
For the Bucks, Grayson Allen, that little Eddie Haskell-like pain in the ass, had another outstanding game off the bench with 27 points on 10-12 from the field, 6 of 7 from three.
And the Nuggets avoided a sweep vs. Golden State, holding on 126-121 in Denver…the Warriors nonetheless up 3-1.
--Toronto’s Scottie Barnes, the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft out of Florida State, was named the NBA Rookie of the Year, edging Cleveland’s Evan Mobley.
Barnes averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Mobley averaged 15 points and 8.3 rebounds.
College Basketball / Jay Wright
--Like everyone else, I was kind of shocked to see that Villanova coach Jay Wright, a man who I’ve long said had the world by the balls (sorry if that offends some of you), decided to step away at the age of 60. But when we learned he wasn’t doing it to finally take an NBA job (at least for this coming season), and that his intentions seemed very sincere, I’m like, ‘Good for him.’
Wright said at his press conference explaining his decision that he was finding himself on his smartphone while attending Mass.
“I’m hearing the homily and I’m texting our players about something that could help them,” he said. “Which is crazy! But it’s just the way you live (as a major college hoops coach). I look forward not to live that way.”
Wright choked back tears Friday throughout his explanation for his sudden retirement, saying he no longer had “the edge” he needed to continue coaching at a championship level, and some of his current players said they sensed that this past season.
That said, his final season the Wildcats secured the Big East Tournament title and a fourth trip to the Final Four under his watch, with the two titles.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said: “He has really achieved it all and done it all with class. It’s a big loss for the college game.”
Villanova hired Kyle Neptune, a former Wright assistant coach for eight seasons, who was the coach at Fordham this year, to replace Wright.
Neptune did a terrific job in his lone season with the Rams, taking a team that went 2-12 in 2020-21, with all manner of Covid issues, to a 16-16 mark.
John Feinstein / Washington Post
“There is a lot bad about college basketball these days. The team that just won the men’s national championship is potentially facing serious NCAA sanctions. The sport – all of college sports, really – is in the midst of chaos because of two policy changes that are absolutely fair but wreaking havoc: the name, image and likeness liberalization and, far more importantly, the transfer portal, which apparently is causing players to change schools if the day’s weather forecast proves inaccurate.
“Two of the best men to coach the sport – Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski – retired within the past year. Williams is 71 and Krzyzewski is 75; neither decision was a shock. But Jay Wright is 60, looks (maybe) 50 and had Villanova on the kind of roll few programs ever approach. The Wildcats won the national championship in 2016 and 2018 and reached this season’s Final Four. They have been to 16 of the past 17 NCAA tournaments….
“Wright is already in the Hall of Fame and deservedly so. To say he has nothing left to prove is a vast understatement. To say the sport will miss him is an even bigger understatement.”
--Not only is Armando Bacot returning to North Carolina, but Oscar Tshiebwe is coming back to Kentucky, as Tshiebwe, the 2021-22 National Player of the Year, like Bacot, is looking to avenge a disappointing end to the season.
He’s the first reigning National Player of the Year to return to college since Tyler Hansbrough in 2008, and Hansbrough and North Carolina won the title the following season.
Tshiebwe’s 15.1 rebounds per game were the most in more than 40 years, and he also added 17.4 points per game.
But Kentucky lost to Saint Peter’s!
Meanwhile, Paolo Banchero, as expected, is leaving Duke for the NBA, Banchero a consensus top three selection. Duke sophomore Mark Williams also declared for the draft.
I love how the Bancheros of the world always release a statement written for them by their PR machine on what a “great journey” it has been and how “I’m blessed to be a part of The Brotherhood for life.”
You played one freakin’ season in Durham, dude.
Other Dookies – Trevor Keels, AJ Griffin and Wendell Moore – will make NBA Draft decisions soon.
And, this afternoon, after I wrote the above, AJ Griffin announced he was headed out, saying, “It was a dream come true…and I am proud to know I will a Blue Devil for life.”
Whatever…Griffin will be a great NBAer.
It turns out, both Wendell Moore and Keels also declared. Such is college basketball these days.
--Last week the story before the NFL Draft, which begins next Thursday, was all about Deebo Samuel. He wants out of San Francisco, even though the 49ers want to pay him.
Supposedly, Samuel isn’t “comfortable” with the way the 49ers are using him. He doesn’t want to be used as a hybrid player, preferring to focus on just being a receiver, believing that if he keeps playing two positions, that could cut several years off his career, and he’s probably right. But if he gets the money he wants, after a trade, he’ll no doubt accept whatever role his new team asks of him.
So we’ll see if the 49ers do trade him, which brings a team like the Jets into the equation. Would they give up, say, their No. 10 first-round pick for Deebo in a draft rich with receivers.
As in, would you rather have Deebo, or an unknown quantity?
--The sport lost former Oakland Raiders quarterback Daryle Lamonica, who passed away of natural causes at the age of 80 at his Fresno, California home.
Lamonica started out his AFL career with the Buffalo Bills, serving as Jack Kemp’s backup, before he was acquired in a trade by Oakland and immediately became the starter for a highly productive six-year run, 1967-72, with a 62-16-6 record.
But more than being a winner, Lamonica became known as the “Mad Bomber,” using his big arm to team up with receivers such as Warren Wells and Fred Biletnikoff, turning the Raiders into a powerhouse. Oakland was 13-1 his first season and was AP AFL Player of the Year, leading the league with 30 touchdown passes. The Raiders went to their first Super Bowl where they lost to Green Bay 33-14.
In his six years as starter, Lamonica led pro football with 145 TD passes, and his 16,006 yards passing ranked third over that period. His 34 TD passes in 1969 still stand as the franchise’s single-season record.
In the playoffs, Lamonica had 18 TD passes in nine games with Oakland, including five in a win over Kansas City in 1968 and a record six the following season against Houston. Only Steve Young and Tom Brady have matched Lamonica’s six TD passes in a playoff game and only Patrick Mahomes and Kurt Warner have multiple games with at least five.
Lamonica also played a starring role in one of the most memorable games ever, especially for New York area fans of the Jets, throwing four TD passes, including the go-ahead score to Charlie Smith in a 43-32 late-season win over New York in a game that became known as the “Heidi Game,” because NBC cut away from the finish on the East Coast before the Raiders comeback to show the children’s movie.
Lamonica was replaced in 1973 as starter by Ken Stabler and finished his career in the World Football League.
The Mad Bomber’s 62-16-6 record as starter represents the best winning percentage for any starting QB in the Super Bowl era with at least 75 starts.
Lamonica was born in Fresno, CA, and played his college ball at Notre Dame.
--I have to admit I can’t get into the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, a team event, but it’s as important as any regular Tour outing for the players and after three rounds, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay were five shots clear of the South African duo of Branden Grace and Garrick Higgo.
And Schauffele/Cantlay won by two over the combo of Sam Burns and Billy Horschel; the fifth PGA Tour win for Schauffele, seventh for Cantlay.
--It was very cool that Bill Haas opted to choose to play this event with his father, 68-year-old Jay, rather than a contemporary. Bill, after all, is desperately trying to get back into the top 125 and the FedEx Cup playoffs to retain his status on tour. He’s been lost in the wilderness ever since a tragic accident at Riviera that claimed the life of his host for that week.
And out of nowhere, father Jay nailed a 4 ½-foot putt on 18, Friday, to ensure that Team Haas made the cut, Jay thus becoming the oldest player to make the cut in PGA Tour history. Sam Snead previously held the record, at 67 years, two months and 23 days old – and it should be noted that he reached the weekend alone in the 1979 St. Jude.
Bill could have asked any number of higher-ranked players to partner with and help his quest for the top 125, but he went with Dad, who has always been his chief adviser anyway.
Jay Haas also extended his own PGA Tour record of cuts made to 593, in this his 799th official PGA Tour start. He said earlier this week there’s “no chance” he’ll make it to 800, but the nine-time PGA Tour winner, 18-time Champions Tour winner, didn’t expect to be playing in New Orleans, so we’ll see if he gets one more start somewhere.
Back to Bill, he started the week 168th in the FexEx Cup standings, having now made seven cuts in a row, 9 of 10. But his best finish is a T25 and if you follow the standings week to week, you know you have to have some top 20s, and a top 10 sprinkled in here and there, to secure top 125 status. When Bill finishes like T50 in an event, he loses ground.
You look at the calendar and say, hey, it’s just April, but there are only 16 events left before the FedEx Cup playoffs, including this week and alternate events (like opposite the Scottish Open and The Open Championship) for someone like Haas to accumulate points. As in, each week is a tension convention, sports fans!
[Haas and Haas finished T36, Billy losing four spots in the FedEx Cup standings, from 168 to 172.]
--Robert Garrigus is the first PGA Tour player to seek permission to play in one of Greg Norman’s series of big-money events that begin in June.
Golfweek reported that Garrigus sought a conflicting event release, which is required by Tour members to compete in overseas events. The Tour has yet to comment.
Players are required to seek releases 45 days prior to the event (Norman’s first being in London, June 9-11). The Tour then notifies the player a minimum of 30 days in advance, which is May 10.
Garrigus, 44, has one career victory in 2010 and has limited status on the PGA Tour.
Oh yeah, this moves the needle! But, hey, it makes sense for Garrigus, with last place in the Norman/LIV Golf tournaments paying out $150,000.
--The Florida Panthers are en fuego…13 in-a-row, 57-15-6…120 points to lead the NHL. My Rangers had a tough loss yesterday to Boston and have little chance of overcoming Carolina for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, but a biggie with them Tuesday at the Garden. [The Panthers are playing the Lightning tonight.]
--Last Wednesday night, in a loss at Las Vegas in overtime, Alex Ovechkin tallied goal No. 50 on the season, becoming the oldest player to score 50 in a season and just the third (behind Gretzky and Mike Bossy) to score 50 goals nine times
--The great Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur passed away Friday at the age of 70. The longtime cigarette smoker died of cancer, having been diagnosed with lung cancer and then having heart surgery in 2019.
Richard Sandomir / New York Times
“Lafleur, known to fans as ‘the Flower,’ was a magician on the ice, a creative force who could deftly split defenses and whose offensive rushes prompted Montreal fans to chant, ‘Guy! Guy! Guy!’
“He was the first player in NHL history to score at least 50 goals and 100 points in six consecutive seasons – a streak that was topped by the 136 points (56 goals and 80 assists) he totaled in the 1976-77 season.
“ ‘He loved to shoot high on the glove side, and it was a dangerous shot, downright scary,’ John Davidson, a former goalie for the New York Rangers, said in a phone interview on Friday. ‘When he got the puck at the blue line at the old Montreal Forum and headed up the ice, you could feel the rush. You’d feel the people make noise, and that noise would get louder and louder, and the people would stand, whether he scored or not.’”
Geoff Molson, president of the Montreal Canadiens, said:
“Guy Lafleur had an exceptional career and always remained simple, accessible, and close to the Habs and hockey fans in Quebec, Canada and around the world. Throughout his career, he allowed us to experience great moments of collective pride. He was one of the greatest players in our organization, while becoming an extraordinary ambassador for our sport.”
Lafleur led the league in scoring three consecutive seasons, 1975-78, was a two-time MVP, and amassed 560 goals and 793 assists over 17 seasons, the first 14 in Montreal, 1971-85. He finished up his career with the Rangers and the Quebec Nordiques.
Lafleur also won five Stanley Cups, 1972-73, and then four consecutive years, 1976-79. During the 1976 playoffs, he was the subject of an alleged kidnap threat and protected by security. Lafleur amassed 133 points in 124 playoff games for the Canadiens.
Lafleur’s death comes just one week after that of Mike Bossy of the Islanders, two of the greats of all time.
Since Liverpool defeated Manchester United 4-0 last Tuesday to take the top of the PL….
Wednesday, Manchester City regained the lead with a 3-0 win over Brighton, while Chelsea lost to Arsenal, 4-2, as Arsenal moved into the fourth, and last, Champions League position.
Saturday, City beat Watford 5-1, Arsenal defeated Man U 3-1, and, in a killer, Tottenham managed only a draw, 0-0, against Brentford.
Today, Liverpool beat Everton 2-0 to remain a point back of City, Chelsea edged West Ham 1-0, and Burnley beat the Wolves 1-0, as Burnley moves into the 17-slot, with Everton shockingly now 18 and facing relegation for the first time ever in the Premier League.
Standings…Played (of 38) – Points
1. Man City…33 – 80
2. Liverpool…33 – 79
3. Chelsea…32 – 65
4. Arsenal…33 – 60
5. Tottenham…33 – 58
6. Man U…34 – 54
17. Burnley…33 – 31
18. Everton…32 – 29
My Spurs have a brutal three games coming up and they have to beat Leicester next, since they then face Liverpool before a showdown May 12 (game 36) against Arsenal. They must get four points out of the next two.
Burnley and Everton don’t face each other the rest of the way.
--Wimbledon barred players from Russia and Belarus from playing because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“On behalf of the All England Club and the Committee of Management of The Championships, we wish to express our ongoing support for all those impacted by the conflict in Ukraine during these shocking and distressing times,” the All England Lawn and Tennis club said in a statement.
“We share in the universal condemnation of Russia’s illegal actions and have carefully considered the situation in the context of our duties to the players, to our community and to the broader UK public as a British sporting institution…
“Given the profile of The Championships in the United Kingdom and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of Government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible.”
Sally Jenkins / Washington Post
“Wimbledon did exactly right. The ban that will prevent Russians and Belarusians from competing at the All England Club may seem unfair, given that players such as Daniil Medvedev have not personally contributed to the war in Ukraine. Yet it’s a necessary message: Even the most innocent Russians will be price-payers for the rapacious actions of Vladimir Putin’s regime.
“Young Ukrainians are being bombed, shot and orphaned, and they have not participated in the war or done anything to deserve their penalty, either. Nevertheless, they are part of the conflict. Why should Russian tennis players get a bye?
“Wimbledon’s sanctioning of athletes for Russia’s bloody state incursion is unpopular with tennis authorities because it takes aim at individuals such as Medvedev, a lithe and peaceable player ranked No. 2 in the world. Medvedev is of course blameless. So why should he be held responsible? This is a question that political philosophers teethe over constantly: ‘Are the citizens of a state liable for what it does in their name?’ Princeton professor and author Anna Stilz has asked. One way to start to answer it, she suggests, is to flip the question around: What happens if we treat state crimes as totally detached from individual citizens? Terrible things.
“Putin cultivates enormous domestic prestige from the success of Russian athletes, who he treats as elites and uses heavily in his triumphalist narrative to the Russian people. It was no accident that he held his March pro-war rally at Moscow Stadium flanked by half a dozen athletes. As chess grandmaster and dissident Garry Kasparov has said of Putin’s sports propaganda efforts, ‘They are an important part of his campaign of gaining influence.’ That he views Russian champions as explicit expressions of his belligerent ambitions was apparent in the irascible statements of spokesman Dmitry Peskov in response to Wimbledon’s ban, which will affect 20-some players.
“ ‘Making athletes hostages of some kind of political prejudices, intrigues, hostile actions towards our country, is unacceptable,’ Peskov said. ‘Considering that Russia is after all a very strong tennis country, our tennis players are in the top lines of the world ranking, the competition itself will suffer from their removal.’
“Hostages? Suffering? This is the supercilious and remorseless language of the Russian national spokesman about a tennis tournament at a moment when mass graves of bullet-riddled Ukrainian civilians are being uncovered in the tank-shredded mud around Kyiv. There is a bill that will come due for those graves, catastrophic consequences for all Russians. Sports ostracism is an effective way to penetrate Putin’s total control of the war narrative in Russia – and send notice of that unavoidable bill….
“The ATP’s criticism of Wimbledon’s policy as ‘unfair’ is language as grossly misapplied as Peskov’s. Unfair is not sitting out a tennis tournament in England. Unfair is a bullet in the head on the lip of a trench just for being a Ukrainian mayor. If ATP officials have an issue over fairness, it’s not with Wimbledon. They should take it up with Putin.”
Novak Djokovic, who grew up in war-torn Serbia, called Wimbledon’s decision “crazy,” saying the athletes had nothing to do with the ongoing conflict.
“I will always condemn war, I will never support war being myself a child of war,” Djokovic told reporters at the Serbian Open. “When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good.”
--WBC champion Tyson Fury produced a stunning one-punch stoppage in the sixth round of his fight Saturday at Wembley Stadium (a record crowd of 94,000 on hand) versus fellow Brit Dillian Whyte.
Fury dominated early and then unleased a vicious right uppercut. Whyte got to his feet within the count before staggering into the referee as the fight was halted.
“This might be the final curtain for the Gypsy King,” Fury said post-right.
“I will retire as only the second heavyweight in history, after Rocky Marciano, to retire undefeated. I was unbeatable at this game.
Fury – who also retained his Ring Magazine belt – is unbeaten in 33 bouts, while Whyte – suffering his third loss in 31 fights – fell short on his first attempt at a world title.
But if Fury does decide to hang up the gloves, the 33-year-old would miss out on an opportunity to fight for the undisputed crown – a fight which could potentially be staged later this year – and a chance to cement his status as Britain’s greatest ever heavyweight.
A reunification battle would be with the winner of the July 23 rematch between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua. It would be a bout that would crown boxing’s first undisputed heavyweight champion in the four-belt era.
Fury has battled back from a myriad of personal issues, and he’s been scrutinized for his links to Daniel Kinahan, who was recently sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department amid claims of drug smuggling and money laundering, the Kinahan family accused of heading up a global drug cartel.
Kinahan is wanted by both Irish and U.S. authorities and is supposedly hiding out in Dubai.
Fury grew defiant Tuesday when pressed about his connection to Kinahan during an open workout.
“That’s none of your business and none of anybody else’s business,” Fury said after being asked if he has broken ties with Kinahan.
--NASCAR…Ryan Chastain, and his no-name team, picked up win No. 2 on the season with a thrilling last-lap finish at Talladega in the past hour as I furiously try to finish the column.
Your editor won coin for the third time in five races with my DraftKings lineup. Very pleased. Massive party at the headquarters of S&N tonight…kind of getting ugly….police called. Uh oh.
--The airplane passenger who harassed Mike Tyson, causing Tyson to punch him a few times, Melvin Townsend III, has a long criminal record, being listed in 2019 as having “habitual felony offender status,” when he was sentenced to 25 months for grand theft.
Townsend, 36, also has been convicted of fraud by identity theft, trafficking in property known to be stolen, use or possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, court records show.
So I mention all this because the dirtball is suing Tyson. I hope it’s immediately tossed out.
Top 3 songs for the week 4/26/75: #1 (Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” (B.J. Thomas) #2 “Philadelphia Freedom” (The Elton John Band) #3 “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)” (Tony Orlando & Dawn)…and…#4 “Lovin’ You” (Minnie Riperton…chirp chirp…tweet tweet…) #5 “Supernatural Thing – Part I” (Ben E. King) #6 “Chevy Van” (Sammy Johns) #7 “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” (Freddy Fender) #8 “Emma” (Hot Chocolate) #9 “What Am I Gonna Do With You” (Barry White) #10 “Walking In Rhythm” (The Blackbyrds….B- week….)
Baseball Quiz Answer: Five HOFers from Mobile, AL. ….Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey, Satchel Paige, Ozzie Smith, and Billy Williams. [Williams is technically from ‘Whistler’ in baseballreference, but this was part of Mobile back in the day, and everyone agrees Williams is from Mobile.] There are more Hall of Famers from Mobile than any other city except Los Angeles and New York. Mets fans also always think of Tommie Agee and Cleon Jones when it comes to Mobile. Amos Otis is another.
Add-On up top by noon Wed.