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The PGA Tour's Big Changes, Kitayama wins at Bay Hill
Add-on posted very early Wed. a.m.
--I’m writing this at around noon on Tuesday, franchise tag deadline day, which is 4 p.m. ET, and in the quarterback carousel, many of us Jets fans are upset we lost Derek Carr to the Saints, a four-year, $150 million contract. The Saints benefit in that $70 million is guaranteed and they can part with him after two years if they want. [Saints coach Dennis Allen was involved in the selection of Carr in the second round of the 2014 draft by the Raiders and made the decision to start him right away as a rookie. The two still have a strong relationship.]
Geno Smith also came off the free-agency board, as he and the Seahawks agreed to a new three-year, $105 million deal, avoiding the franchise tag designation. Good for Seattle.
Aaron Rodgers still hasn’t clarified what his plans are…stay in Green Bay to finish out his career, let the team trade him to the Jets or Raiders, or retire. If the Jets don’t get Rodgers at this point, then 100 percent of the fans will be upset.
I’m on record as saying I don’t want Rodgers, I wanted Carr. I don’t know where the Jets would go if they don’t get Rodgers. Jimmy Garoppolo? Eh. Ryan Tannehill? Ugh. Daniel Jones?
Daniel Jones? Lots of talk the last few weeks in these parts that if the Giants and Jones don’t reach agreement on a contract, and don’t want to franchise tag (which fits better with Saquon Barkley), then Jones could walk across the street, in essence, and sign with the Jets.
Meanwhile, we’re waiting on Lamar Jackson, and whether he reaches a long-term extension with the Ravens, is franchise-tagged, or traded.
And you also have the draft….and consensus is forming that four QBs could be in the top ten…Bryce Young (Alabama), C.J. Stroud (Ohio State), Anthony Richardson (Florida) and Will Levis (Kentucky).
We now advance to later in the day…and the Ravens placed the franchise tag on Lamar, taking him off the free agent market…perhaps.
The two sides were unable to reach a long-term deal, but Baltimore used the ‘nonexclusive tag’ on Jackson, meaning Jackson can engage in contract talks with other teams. If Jackson signs an offer sheet with another team, Baltimore has the right to match the offer to keep him or take two first-round picks as compensation. The nonexclusive tag is just $32 million this season – while the ‘exclusive’ tag is projected at $45 million, which would have allowed the Ravens to control his rights this year.
Baltimore and Jackson have until July 17 to work out a long-term deal. If they can’t, a new deal can’t be signed until after the season.
And right at the deadline, the Giants signed Daniel Jones to a four-year, $160 million deal, $82 million guaranteed, and this thus gave them the opportunity to tag Barkley for $10.09 million, also nonexclusive.
So the perfect conclusion, Giants fans sleeping comfortably Tuesday night.
Lastly, as I go to post, the Jets are talking to Aaron Rodgers in California, owner Woody Johnson with key staff members.
--New AP Top 25 (records thru Sun.)
1. Houston (58) 29-2
2. UCLA (3) 27-4
3. Kansas 25-6
4. Alabama 26-5
5. Purdue 26-5
6. Marquette 25-6
7. Texas 23-8
8. Arizona 25-6
9. Gonzaga 26-5
10. Baylor 22-9
11. UConn 24-7
12. Kansas State 23-8
13. Virginia 23-6
14. Miami 24-6
15. Xavier 23-8
16. Saint Mary’s 25-6
17. Tennessee 22-9
18. Texas A&M 23-8
19. Indiana 21-10
20. San Diego State 24-6
21. Duke 23-8
22. TCU 20-11
23. Kentucky 21-10
24. Creighton 20-11
25. Missouri 23-8
--Sunday night, Rutgers put a nail in their own coffin, again at home, falling to Northwestern (21-10, 12-8), 65-53 (RU 2 of 17 from three), the Scarlet Knights now 18-13, 10-10, losing six of eight down the stretch, their last three at home. From 8-4 in the Big Ten and solidly in the NCAAs, to 10-10, tied for ninth with Penn State. They need to win three games in the conference tournament, starting with Michigan on Thursday. At least so says moi, even though the likes of Joe Lunardi have them an 11-seed play-in as I write.
--Among the teams punching their tickets into the Big Dance the last few days were UNC Asheville (27-7, 16-2), Big South; Bradley (25-9, 16-4), Missouri Valley Conference; and Kennesaw State (26-8, 15-3), ASUN, making its first appearance ever and a team that was 1-28 just three years ago. Remarkable.
Monday, Furman won the Southern Conference championship, 88-79 over Chattanooga, and the Paladins are going dancing for the first time since 1980.
Furman has had some very good teams recently, but they just haven’t been able to win the conference tourney.
Back in the early 1970s, when I was beginning to think of colleges, I was influenced by what we had available on television, probably courtesy of Eddie Einhorn, and aside from the local college hoops action I told you about a few weeks ago, Davidson and Furman games were on now and then. Both were good, and in the case of Furman, they went to the NCAAs six times in ten years, 1971-80, Clyde Mayes their big star.
Anyway, those were the first two schools I began looking up in the reference books we had back then. Small, southern, conservative, with at least a big-time hoops program. Then I ended up settling on Wake Forest.
So Go Furman.
Louisiana punched its ticket Monday as well, winning the Sun Belt tourney.
Tuesday, Charleston, with its gaudy 31-3 record, earned its way into the Big Dance, CAA Champ; while Northern Kentucky won the Horizon League tournament.
And 9 Gonzaga whipped 16 Saint Mary’s for the West Coast Conference title last night, 77-51, so a potential 2-seed for the Zags.
--The All-ACC first team:
Isaiah Wong, Miami…player of the year
Armando Bacot, UNC
Tyree Appleby, Wake Forest*
Hunter Tyson, Clemson
Jamarius Burton, Pitt
*This is the official writers and ACC coaches award. The AP awarded Appleby POY.
Pitt’s Jeff Capel was named ACC Coach of the Year.
Duke’s Kyle Filipowski earned Rookie of the Year honors.
--Texas Tech suspended men’s basketball coach Mark Adams through the Big 12 tournament, the school announced Monday. Assistant coach Corey Williams was named interim coach, the Red Raiders tipping off Wednesday against West Virginia.
Adams was suspended from the program Sunday after the team’s regular-season finale when athletic director Kirby Hocutt was made aware that he made an “inappropriate, unacceptable, and racially insensitive comment” to a player.
“Adams was encouraging the student-athlete to be more receptive to coaching and referenced Bible verses about workers, teachers, parents, and slaves serving their masters,” the athletic department said in a statement.
The statement said that the coach apologized, but Adams said he explained his intentions and “didn’t apologize.” Adams said he was quoting scripture.
Adams guided Texas Tech to the Sweet 16 last season, after replacing Chris Beard in April 2021, and received a contract extension through the 2026-27 season.
--I expressed my opinion on 14-19 Detroit Mercy gaining an invitation to a minor postseason tournament, only so Antoine Davis could break Pete Maravich’s all-time scoring record, and it was that such a move would be outrageous.
Well, USA TODAY’s Dan Wolken is in agreement, writing Monday, “Records are made to be broken, but they’re not make to be pursued to the point of disrespect and farcicality.
“There are more important things to worry about than Pete Maravich remaining college basketball’s all-time scoring leader or whether Antoine Davis passes him to become one of the great niche sports trivia answers in history.
“But statistical records, for all their flaws and lack of context, can help tell the story of the sport. And Maravich’s 3,667 points scored in three years at LSU tell a very specific story about a uniquely gifted player who did things nobody else before or since has done on a college basketball court. It doesn’t mean Maravich’s record must stand forever, but it should be treated with reverence.
“And with Davis coming up three points shy of tying Maravich last week as his Detroit Mercy team lost in the Horizon League quarterfinals, any further pursuit of Pistol Pete would fall squarely into the category of crass record-chasing for no other purpose than to take down one of the most memorable marks in sports….
“(For) Detroit Mercy to take this any further would be artificial. Extending a season solely for the glorification of one player would make a previously hallowed record seem like a mockery of the sport. It would feel wrong….
“Though the CBI has invited teams with losing records before, there is no competitive reason to include a Detroit Mercy team that finished tied for eighth in the 11-team Horizon League…. Had Davis set the record because his team advanced in the conference tournament and earned more opportunities for him to play, that’s one thing. But being gifted a spot in a second-rate tournament just so he can break it looks cheap and unworthy of the career Davis has had.
“Even now, three points shy of Pistol Pete, that career should be able to stand on its own as something great. But if the CBI and Detroit Mercy take it any further, they’ll turn one of the unique records in sports into a sham.”
--What a game Sunday night in Boston for Knicks fans, New York winning its ninth in a row, 131-129 in double overtime. All nine wins are over teams currently in a playoff-play-in spot.
With Jalen Brunson out, Immanuel Quickley stepped up and had the best game of his career, 38 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, 2 blocks…and he played 55 minutes. One turnover. Julius Randle had 31, with some big threes, and RJ Barrett was solid, 29 points, 11 rebounds. And center Mitchell Robinson and Josh Hart continue to play solid, Hart now 9-0 as a Knick.
But then last night, the Knicks, seemingly cruising at the half, 66-50 over Charlotte, fell apart in the second half, the Hornets outscoring New York 62-39 for the 112-105 victory, streak over, Knicks falling to 39-28.
--Brooklyn, with its new lineup, has now won three straight to get to 37-28 after beating the lowly Rockets (15-50) 118-96 in Houston.
--The Lakers, sans LeBron, are suddenly back in a play-in spot at 32-34 after beating the Grizzlies last night in L.A., 112-103, Anthony Davis with 30 points and 22 rebounds.
6. Golden State 34-32
7. Minnesota 34-33
8. Clippers 34-33
9. Lakers 32-34
10. New Orleans 31-34
11. OKC 31-34
12. Portland 31-34
13. Utah 31-35
--Sunday, Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins said Ja Morant would be out “at least” two games, which means he could return for Thursday’s game against the Warriors, but that doesn’t seem likely, especially now that police said they are investigating the incident.
The Athletic reported Monday night that the Grizzlies recently held a team meeting, led by veteran Steven Adams (one of the coolest guys in the league), that specifically addressed going out on the road. It was clear the meeting was intended for Morant. And this was before Morant went to a club, turned on Instagram Live and flashed a gun.
Mark Giannotto / USA TODAY / Memphis Commercial Appeal
“What in the world was Ja Morant thinking?
“That had to be everyone’s first thought when they woke up Saturday morning and saw the video making the rounds on social media.
“Maybe Morant thought it would be funny to film himself on Instagram Live apparently holding a gun shirtless in a nightclub during the wee hours of Saturday morning. Maybe he thought it would be ironic in light of all the negative headlines generated recently by several off-court incidents involving him.
“He’d show all those people who’ve been picking on him, right? He sure did.
“Morant showed them he’s acting like a petulant child right now. A petulant child so divorced from the real world that he had no idea how brazen his behavior has become. A petulant child who’s risking everything in order to prove he’s something that he’s not….
“(Morant) is a basketball superstar unlike any Memphis has had before, with a lucrative long-term contract that should keep him here for years to come. But this is also the NBA, where superstars of Morant’s talent level often dictate the terms and can demand a trade at a moment’s notice.
“It’s presumably why the Grizzlies have, until now, mostly stayed out of the fray publicly when it was reported that Morant beat up a 17-year-old at a pickup basketball game at his house and allegedly threatened a mall security guard last summer. It’s why the franchise stood behind him when the Indiana Pacers accused Morant’s associates of threatening them with a laser they thought was from a gun last month at FedExForum….
“But this punishment, and the reaction to what Morant did, only underscores just how ridiculous and juvenile this latest stunt came off. There is no defending this, or explaining it away. There’s no one from Morant’s inner circle to put the blame on. This was all Morant, right down to the Instagram account he used to broadcast himself so flippantly brandishing a gun.
“This was someone who couldn’t be told how to act, who was so consumed with the image he’s trying to project that he didn’t realize nobody believes he’s the person he’s trying to be.”
--The World Baseball Classic is about to start and that means managers are going to be worrying endlessly about the players who are not under their control for as long as their nation stays in the tournament.
As Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post put it, Braves manager Brian Snitker took some comfort in that Ronald Acuna Jr. (who convinced the team to let him play) and Eddie Rosario are in good hands with Venezuela and Puerto Rico, respectively, because Snitker knows the managers they’ll be playing under and they are “people I really trust to take care of them.”
Janes: “But trusting that a manager will be careful with a player does not mean trusting that players will be careful with themselves – or that this fickle sport will not take its toll in early March just because the regular season does not start until the 30th. The easiest way to protect stars from injury is not to let them participate in the once-every-four-year tournament, though many consider it a once-in-a-lifetime honor.
“For example, the Braves initially did not grant Acuna permission to play. He missed their 2021 World Series run with a torn ACL. He limped into last year’s postseason with lingering knee pain. Better safe than sorry.
“But Acuna wanted to play. He said so publicly all winter. So eventually, Atlanta let him. Teams need to keep their stars happy. Stars need to play in the still-young tournament to provide long-term interest and viability. But MLB teams need their stars to make the championship runs their team owners pay for, their fans invest in and on which everyone’s jobs depend.”
Think about the Angels. Mike Trout is captaining Team USA. And Shohei Ohtani leads Japan.
Angels GM Perry Minasian said: “Guys can get hurt just as easy in a spring training game as they can in the WBC.”
Yeah, but a spring training injury is understandable. A WBC injury isn’t.
The Mets’ starting infield and closer Edwin Diaz are playing in the WBC. Fingers crossed.
So the Mets then received potentially awful news when newly signed starting pitcher Jose Quintana, who was slated to play in the WBC, took himself out after an inning of an exhibition game and was found to have a small stress fracture on the fifth rib of his left side, which could keep him out until about July, given past history with such injuries.
--Boston’s Justin Turner is one lucky dude today. In a game Monday against Detroit, Turner was hit in the face with a pitch thrown by right-hander Matt Manning. Turner was bleeding and had a towel on his face but was able to walk off the field.
We then learned he had 16 stitches, but no fractures. His wife posted that he was being monitored for a possible concussion.
Turner, 38, signed a $15 million, one-year deal with the Red Sox in the offseason.
--The NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at Las Vegas finished after I posted and for the record, William Byron led a top-three sweep for Hendrick Motorsports…Byron, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman in their Chevrolets. It was Byron’s fifth Cup Series win.
Bowman won last year’s March race at the same track.
Bubba Wallace had a nice race, finishing fourth.
Meanwhile, Chase Elliott, who was injured in a snowboarding accident last Friday in Vail, Colorado, where he owns a home, suffering a fractured tibia, has returned home to Dawsonville, Georgia, but there’s no timeline on his return.
--Novak Djokovic had to withdraw from the BNP Paribas Open, i.e., the iconic Indian Wells tournament, marking the fourth consecutive year he will not play.
Djokovic said he had applied for a waiver to bypass a mandate in the United States that all foreign travelers flying into the country be vaccinated for Covid-19. The mandate is set to expire May 11. Waiver denied.
Rafael Nadal withdrew from the event on Feb. 28 due to a leg injury he suffered at the Australian Open, which Djokovic won to tie Nadal at 22 Grand Slam titles.
I agree with John McEnroe that “it’s a complete joke that he’s not allowed to play.”
I castigated Djokovic before on his vaccination stance, but that was a different time. President Biden is only waiting until May 11 to end all Covid mandates for financial reasons, and various programs in place, not for health reasons.
Obviously, Djokovic will be eligible for the U.S. Open.
--We note the passing of Gary Rossington, the last surviving member of the original Lynyrd Skynyrd, the quintessential Southern rock band.
After a plane crash in 1977 killed three of its members, Rossington was a key figure in the group’s eventual rebirth.
From Neil Genzlinger / New York Times:
“Growing up in the Jacksonville, Fla., area, Mr. Rossington got the rock-star bug when a friend, Bob Burns, was given a drum kit in the summer of 1964. The two teenagers decided they would become rock drummers.
“ ‘The practical limitations of forming a band with only two drummers soon became apparent,’ Mr. Rossington’s biography on the band’s website notes, ‘and Gary gravitated toward playing the guitar.’
That same summer…another teenager, Ronnie Van Zant, was playing in a baseball game when he hit a foul ball that struck a spectator, Mr. Burns. Mr. Van Zant, too, had rock-star aspirations, and the three began playing together, adding other members and trying out group names – the Wildcats and Sons of Satan were among those considered.
“Eventually they settled on Lynyrd Skynyrd, a bastardization of Leonard Skinner, a gym teacher who had hassled them in high school because of their long hair.”
Eventually, the band evolved into seven pieces, with three guitars, backing Van Zant’s vocals. Rossington wasn’t sole lead guitar, as the three took turns, but he is forever known for his slide guitar solos on “Free Bird.”
The October 20, 1977 plane crash claimed Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and Cassie Gaines, Steve’s sister and a backup vocalist, along with the band’s road manager, the pilot and co-pilot. The 20 other passengers were injured, including Rossington, who sustained numerous broken bones.
After a few years to recover, both physically and psychologically, Rossington and guitarist Allen Collins formed the Rossington Collins Band.
In 1987, the 10th anniversary of the crash, Rossington helped bring about a tribute tour, reuniting surviving members, with Van Zant’s younger brother, Johnny, taking over as vocalist.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.
[Posted early Sunday p.m.]
Add-on up top by noon, Wed.
NBA Quiz: The other day, Portland’s Damian Lillard completed a 12-game stretch averaging over 40 points per game. Only seven others in NBA history have had such a stretch. Name them. [Only one of the seven is active…and it’s not LeBron.] Answer below.
--In games of note Saturday….
2 Alabama (26-5, 16-2) fell to 24 Texas A&M (23-8, 15-3), 67-61, as Brandon Miller was just 7 for 23 from the field, 2 of 12 from three. But Bama is still SEC regular season champ, with A&M a surprising second.
3 Kansas (25-6, 13-5) is Big 12 champ despite losing to 9 Texas (23-8, 12-6), 75-59, the Longhorns finishing second in the conference.
4 UCLA finishes the regular season 27-4, 18-2, beating 8 Arizona (25-6, 14-6), 82-73, the Bruins first in the Pac-12, Arizona tied for second with USC.
7 Baylor (22-9, 11-7) lost to Iowa State (18-12, 9-9), 73-58.
West Virginia (18-13, 7-11) beat 11 Kansas State (23-8, 11-7), 89-81.
12 Tennessee (22-9, 11-7) fell to Auburn (20-11, 10-8), 79-70, the Vols having lost point guard Zakai Zeigler for the season to a torn ACL, a huge blow; Zeigler averaging 10.7 points and 5.4 assists, as well as being one of the better defenders in the country.
In the ACC, Miami (24-6, 15-5) won a share of the ACC regular season title (along with Virginia) with a 78-76 win over Pitt (21-10, 14-6), the Panthers stumbling a bit heading into the ACC Tournament.
Virginia, however, is the second seed in the tourney having lost its only game to Miami.
North Carolina’s NCAA tournament hopes were dealt a potentially fatal blow, losing at home to Duke (23-8, 14-6), 62-57, as the Tar Heels, a miserable 5 for 23 from three, a pattern all season, fell to 19-12, 11-9. They now must win the ACC Tournament.
Wake Forest (18-13), once 6-2 in the conference, ends up 10-10, 72-63 losers at Syracuse (17-14, 10-10). These two now match up again in the ACC Tournament on Wednesday. Oh joy. Just get into the NIT, Deacs, and win a few games there.
I do have to note that Syracuse center Jesse Edwards, who averaged a double-double this season, 14.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, had a monster game…27 points, 20 rebounds, five steals and two blocks. Wake’s Tyree Appleby became the first player in ACC history to lead the league in both points and assists, but it’s a very hollow award, unless he were to lead us to a shocking ACC tourney performance. The guy has been a turnover machine.
Two others from Saturday…Fordham improved to 24-7, 12-6, with an 87-60 win over Duquesne (20-11, 10-8); the Rams finishing tied for second in the A-10 behind leader VCU.
[Pssst….my Fordham source who spent a lot of time with a legendary former coach last weekend, and I’m not talking Digger, said this coach, a longtime friend of Rick Pitino’s, said the only big program he sees Pitino being able to go to should he leave Iona would be St. John’s…which seems to me like the perfect final job. Pitino’s Iona Gaels finished the MAAC regular season first at 24-7, 17-3, but he’ll need to win the conference tournament to go dancing.]
Speaking of dancing, Fairleigh Dickinson, about 30 minutes from here, qualified for the NCAAs by reaching the championship game of the NEC tournament, to be played Tuesday. At 19-14, 10-6, FDU is second in the conference, but the team they face for the title, Merrimack (17-16, 12-4) is ineligible for the Big Dance.
Merrimack is still in the midst of its four-year reclassification process from Division II to Division I, making them ineligible for the NCAA tournament. The NEC had announced last summer that it would allow the school to participate in the conference tournament this season.
--Sunday, No. 1 Houston (29-2, 17-1) held on, on the road, defeating Memphis 67-65. The Tigers will go dancing at 23-8, 13-5.
Pete M.’s Colgate Red Raiders are on to the Patriot League final, Wednesday, after beating Army 91-74; Colgate 25-8, 17-1. They face the winner of Lafayette-American. A 14-seed is in their future should they seal the deal.
--Rutgers did it again. The Scarlet Knights on Thursday suffered a staggering 75-74 loss to last-place Minnesota, blowing a 10-point lead in the final 75 seconds, so Rutgers is back on the bubble at 18-12, 10-9. They host Northwestern (20-10, 11-8) on Sunday night…an absolute must ‘W’.
--Detroit Mercy star Antoine Davis scored 22 points in a 71-66 loss to Youngstown State in a Horizon League quarterfinal, which put him at 3,664 points for his career – three short of Pete Maravich’s all-time Division I record.
Davis missed four 3-pointers in the final two minutes of an intense game where Youngstown State double-teamed him throughout. He was just 7 of 26 from the field overall, 4 of 16 from three.
So that should be it, and Maravich remains on top, as it should be, since at 14-19, the Titans aren’t making the NIT.
But it will really suck if Detroit Mercy, because of Davis, gets invited to the CBI or The Basketball Classic, two tournaments no one gives a hoot about except for the players’ families (and even they may not care). Any points Davis gets goes on his career mark. I’ll be incensed.
--Lastly, I lived for 16 years in next door New Providence, N.J., and I give out scholarships each year, through the charity organization I belong to, to New Providence High School seniors, so I have to note that the NP girls basketball team routed Secaucus for the Group 2 state championship yesterday, 55-32.
Pretty, pretty good. And I imagine I’ll be awarding a scholarship to one or two of the team members in a few months.
--Knicks fans are pinching themselves, as Friday night they defeated the Heat in Miami, 122-120, on an outrageous 3-pointer from Julius Randle; off-balance, left-corner step-back, with 1.1 seconds to go, the Knicks win streak at eight, 38-27. Randle had 43 in the game.
--Brooklyn staged the biggest comeback of the NBA season on Friday, and against Boston at TD Garden no less.
Trailing by 28 in the second quarter, the Nets went on a 51-19 blitz that spanned intermission and ended up winning, 115-105. Mikal Bridges, part of the Kevin Durant trade, poured in 38 and grabbed 10 rebounds.
--Going back to Thursday, Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic became the first Mavs teammates to each score at least 40 points in the same game as they powered Dallas to a 133-126 win over Philadelphia.
Doncic had 42, Irving 40, with the two combining for 13 for 21 from three.
So that made the Mavs 2-4 with Doncic and Kyrie on the floor together.
And then this afternoon, Dallas (33-31) hosted Phoenix (35-29), the Suns 2-0 with Kevin Durant; Durant with 23 and 20 efficient points in wins over Charlotte and Chicago.
And the Suns won it, 130-126. Durant had another super game, 37 points on 12 of 17 from the field. Devin Booker, 36 points and 10 assists.
Kyrie had 30, Luka 34, but Doncic was just 1 of 9 from three.
--Saturday, Philadelphia snapped Milwaukee’s 16-game winning streak, 133-130, as Joel Embiid made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 41.4 seconds left and the 76ers erased an 18-point deficit late in the third quarter. So Philly, which received 38 points, 9 rebounds and 10 assists from James Harden, is 41-22, while the Bucks fall to 45-18, still first in the East.
Harden has been playing well.
--Tonight, the Knicks are at Boston.
--Memphis point guard Ja Morant displayed a gun while at a nightclub early Saturday morning via his Instagram Live video, prompting an investigation from the NBA.
“We are aware of a social media post involving Ja Morant and are investigating,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said.
Morant began his Instagram Live session at 5:19 a.m. ET, hours after the Grizzlies’ 113-97 loss to Denver. The All-Star was shirtless and rapping along with the music, and he could be seen holding up a handgun with his left hand.
Earlier in the week, the Washington Post reported that Morant had been investigated by police in separate cases of threatening a mall cop and assaulting a teenager last July, but he wasn’t charged in either case.
The fight with a 17-year-old boy at Morant’s Memphis home was first reported by TMZ in January. That report centered on a civil lawsuit filed by the teen’s mother, but the criminal investigation was not public knowledge until Wednesday’s Post report.
After the fight, which occurred during a pickup game, the teen said Morant went into his house and came out with a gun. Meanwhile, Morant said the teenager left while shouting, “I’m gonna come back and light this place up like fireworks.”
Four days before the fight, police also investigated Morant for an incident at a Memphis mall, according to the Post. A mall cop told police that after a shouting match with Morant and his friends, the NBA star said, “Let me find out what time he gets off.”
The security guard “felt threatened by the statement from Ja Morant,” according to a police report. One of Morant’s friends was also accused of shoving the man.
No arrests were made following that incident either.
You also have the postgame confrontation back on Jan. 29 between acquaintances of Morant and the Indiana Pacers’ traveling party after a Grizzlies’ home win.
It’s become very clear that Ja Morant has become nothing but a punk…a little hoodlum.
The Grizzlies then announced Saturday that Morant “will be away from the team for at least the next two games.”
Morant then issued a statement saying he was taking some time away from the court “to get help.”
“I’m going to take some time away to get help and work on learning better methods of dealing with stress and my overall well-being,” he said, deactivating his Twitter and Instagram accounts after issuing the statement to ESPN and The Athletic.
“I take full responsibility for my actions last night,” Morant said in his statement.
I’m underwhelmed. He has his posse, and they have a hold of him. He won’t be able to just cut them loose, at least not easily. This is what happens when you surround yourself with bad people.
--The PGA Tour announced its new schedule for 2024, which includes fields reduced from the current 156, 144 or 128 to between 70 and 78 players in certain new “designated events” open to the elite few who are ranked highly enough. Those events will be played without traditional 36-hole cuts.
Yes, a year ago, the PGA Tour and its stars were mocking LIV Golf for its reduced fields and no cuts.
LIV Golf tweeted from its official account: “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Congratulations PGA Tour. Welcome to the future.”
Rory McIlroy said, “I think it makes the tour more competitive. It’s trying to get the top guys versus the hot guys,” he added. “I think that creates a really compelling product.”
There will be eight “designated events” with the reduced fields. The three playoff tournaments, the Players Championship and the four majors would be considered designated events, as well, for a total of 16. There will still be 36-hole cuts at the majors and the Players.
To qualify for 2024’s designated events, there are a few pathways. Finish in the 2023 top 50 of the FedEx Cup standings, or be in the current top 10 of the standings, or top 30 in the World Ranking, win a tournament in the current year (like Chris Kirk at the Honda Classic), or nab one of the five spots allotted for success in the most recent standard events.
I’ve been talking all year about the excitement that will build to be in the top 70 of the FedEx Cup standings in order to get into the playoffs. But now, the first playoff event, the FedEx St. Jude Championship, will be super intense because you will have a cut down to the top 50 for the next playoff, the BMW, and it’s those top 50 who are qualified for designated events in 2024. Talk about a tension convention.
And I’ve also been talking about the big names off to poor starts, with really not that many tournaments left before the playoffs start in August.
This format is going to be terrific for the fans, and the elite players will make boatloads of money…and I’m saying the ‘standard’ events will do just fine. A lot of big names are going to be playing in them because they aren’t top 50, or top 30 in the World Ranking. Recent major champions will, however, have a leg up.
The goal, as Commissioner Jay Monahan said, is to have a cadence to the calendar that would see two designated events followed by three non-designated tournaments, then two designated. The top five point-earners from the three non-designated stops would earn their way into the next designated events.
So on to Bay Hill and the Arnold Palmer Invitational…44 of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking teeing it up, a big purse, and after two rounds, Kurt Kitayama had a two-shot lead over Jordan Spieth at -9, three up on Xander Schauffele and Corey Conners.
World No. 1 Jon Rahm started off with a 7-under 65, but then stumbled to a 4-over 76 in round two. He’s trying to fend off both Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy to stay No. 1.
Kitayama then hung in there Saturday, Bay Hill playing like a major, and after three rounds….
Kitayama -9…seeking his first PGA Tour title
Viktor Hovland -8
Tyrrell Hatton -7
Harris English -6
Jon Rahm has shockingly imploded, shooting another 76 on Saturday for T44, +1.
Sunday, the early story was Jordan Spieth, birdieing four of his first five to get to -9.
Kitayama, however, got it to -11, two-shot lead, only to hit his drive on the tough ninth out of bounds and he ended up triple-bogeying to fall to -8.
It was then….
Spieth -9 thru 12
And then suddenly….
McIlroy -9…after four birdies in five holes…thru 13
And then Rory, Jordan and Tyrrell made a bunch of bogeys and we had….
Kitayama -8…thru 14
Seven at -7
English -8…thru 16
And in the end, Kurt Kitiyama went to 18, after birdieing 17, with a one-shot lead, put his drive on the par-4 18th in the rough, but got his second on the green, 47-feet away, and hit a spectacular lag putt, an inch from the cup, and secured win No. 1, against a loaded field.
Great stuff. Clearly a good guy…yet another to root for.
Rory and English finished one shot back, Scheffler two off after bogeying 18, and I think Rahm, who finished T39, remains No. 1 in the world.
Next week, The Players….oh baby.
--Among those missing the cut were Collin Morikawa, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose and Billy Horschel.
--In the opposite field event in Puerto Rico, 28-year-old Colombian Nico Echavarria won his first PGA Tour title.
I was pleased to see Bill Haas not only make another cut, but finish T11. It’s a long road back, but you gotta start somewhere.
--Tuesday is franchise tag deadline day, 4 p.m. ET, and as of Sunday afternoon, the Giants hadn’t reached a new contract with quarterback Daniel Jones, which means they would have to tag him for $32,416,000, and then work out a longer-term deal with him by July.
But that then precludes the Giants from tagging Saquon Barkley for $10,091,000.
The Giants want to tag Barkley and sign Jones, but Jones, who recently changed agents, wants a deal worth $45 million a year, which is frankly absurd. But he has them over a barrel.
There are various reports out there…one has the Giants close to a $40 million per deal, another saying they refuse to pay more than $35 to $39 million per.
--As for my Jets, there are reports that Derek Carr is ready to sign with New Orleans, and that would really, really suck. I want Carr, not Aaron Rodgers, plus Rodgers is jerking the whole league around with his infantile behavior.
--Former Georgia star Jalen Carter, a consensus top three in next month’s NFL draft, if not the top pick, was charged with reckless driving and racing in connection with a crash that killed a teammate and a recruiting staff member, hours after a celebration of Georgia’s national title.
The Athens-Clarke County (Ga.) Police Department alleges Carter was racing his 2021 Jeep Trackhawk against the 2021 Ford Expedition driven by the recruiting staffer, 24-year-old Chandler LeCroy, which led to the Jan. 15 wreck.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Carter was present at the scene of the crash and later provided shifting accounts of the wreck to police. He left the scene before police or emergency personnel arrived. But then he returned to the scene less than two hours later, according to the paper, which reported that he was asked by police whether he had been racing the vehicle that crashed. That’s when he gave conflicting statements.
The Journal-Constitution obtained surveillance video footage from multiple downtown locations in Athens the night of the crash, and Carter’s Jeep is shown with LeCroy’s Ford and a third car driven by Bulldogs linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson.
Devin Willock, an offensive lineman for the Bulldogs, and LeCroy were killed in what police initially reported as a single-vehicle accident.
Carter has been in Indianapolis at the NFL scouting combine. He then returned to Athens to answer the charges against him and returned to the combine.
Carter said in a statement he expects to be “fully exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing.”
Police investigators have determined that “alcohol impairment, racing, reckless driving, and speed were significant contributing factors to the crash.” A toxicology report indicated that LeCroy’s blood alcohol concentration was .197 – more than twice the legal limit in Georgia – at the time of the crash.
The SUV driven by LeCroy was traveling about 104 mph shortly before impact.
Coach Kirby Smart said in a statement Wednesday: “The charges announced today are deeply concerning, especially as we are still struggling to cope with the devastating loss of two beloved members of our community.”
Back in September, Carter was ticketed for driving 89 mph in a 45-mph zone. Now the revelation he may have left the scene of a fatal crash is poised to overshadow whatever hype he generated as a superb football player.
[Kirby Smart said he wasn’t aware of the 89 mph incident.]
--On a brighter note regarding the NFL Combine, Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson was already rocketing up the draft board and then his performance Saturday no doubt shoots him another few slots higher, now a consensus top-ten, it would seem.
Richardson, who measured at 6-4, 244 pounds, recorded a 40.5-inch vertical jump, 10-foot, 9-inch leap, and a 4.43 time for the 40-yard dash, fourth fastest for a QB since 2003.
As a redshirt sophomore, Richardson started 12 games for the Gators, throwing for 2,549 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions, adding 654 yards and nine TDs on the ground.
Richardson has christened himself “Cam Jackson,” combining Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson.
--One other college note…UCLA coach Chip Kelly signed a contract extension through 2027, the school announced Friday, the Bruins finishing 9-4 last season, losing to Pitt in the Sun Bowl. The program has been improving over his five seasons.
--The Washington Commanders announced in early November that owner Daniel Snyder was exploring the possibility of selling the franchise, and here we are in March and nothing is certain. The key is an NFL team owners meeting later in the month, which was thought to be when a deal with a buyer could be formalized.
But while two potential buyers have submitted bids, Snyder has made demands of the league and other team owners for legal protections that would extend beyond him selling his franchise, according to the Washington Post, who talked with people with direct knowledge of the NFL’s inner workings. “And with the league’s second investigation of Snyder and the team’s workplace entering the 13th month, some owners leaguewide are angry enough about those demands to renew their consideration of taking a vote to remove him from ownership if he refuses to sell.”
The owners are confident that any vote to force Snyder to sell his franchise would withstand a legal challenge.
Moreover, Snyder has refused to entertain a bid from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, out of “spite” over The Post’s coverage of Snyder and the team, according to one person with knowledge of the process.
So picture the other owners. Bezos can pay top dollar, but not allowing him to do so impacts the owners whose teams are valued based on the most recent sale.
The Commanders are expected to go for about $5.5 billion, with the record price for an NFL franchise being $4.65 billion that a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton paid for the Broncos.
--Thursday night, the surging Boston Bruins became the fastest team in NHL history to reach 100 points in beating Buffalo 7-1.
Boston improved to 48-8-5 in its 61st game, besting the Montreal team from 1976-77 that reached 100 points in 62 games when there were regulation ties and no extra points for overtime or shootout victories. So not apples to apples, but a helluva mark.
--Meanwhile, also on Thursday, the Rangers unveiled Patrick Kane, who received a huge ovation from the Garden faithful, but they lost 5-3 to the Senators.
So Saturday afternoon, New York (35-18-9) took on the Bruins in Beantown in a big test for the Blueshirts, and it was a desultory performance, a 4-2 loss, making it six losses in their last eight after their 7-game winning streak.
Arsenal stayed on top, 3-2 winners over Bournemouth Saturday, while Manchester City defeated Newcastle in a biggie, 2-0.
Tottenham suffered a pathetic 1-0 loss at Wolverhampton.
Today, Liverpool hosted Manchester United at Anfield and it will be a game that few Liverpool, or Man U fans, let alone fans of the Premier League overall, won’t soon forget.
Liverpool led 1-0 after a terrific first half, and then the Reds went off for six goals…six…final score 7-0, Man U’s worst defeat since losing to Wolverhampton in 1931 by the same score, and the worst-ever loss to Liverpool.
Astounding, and now Liverpool is on the march…just three points out of fourth and the Champions League, with a game in hand.
Standings 24/26 of 38…Played – Points
1. Arsenal 26 – 63
2. Man City 26 – 58
3. Man U 25 – 49
4. Tottenham 26 – 45
5. Liverpool 25 – 42
6. Newcastle 24 – 41
--Missing from this weekend’s Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was star Chase Elliott, who underwent surgery on his left leg after suffering an unspecified leg injury in a snowboarding accident Friday while on the slopes in Colorado. Team owner Rick Hendrick gave no details about Elliott’s condition or the accident, other than to say the surgery “went well.”
Saturday, though, we learned Elliott is out indefinitely after a fractured tibia. Josh Berry is driving the No. 9 Chevrolet in place of Elliott in Las Vegas.
They had the first race of the season today in Bahrain and it’s been all about Red Bull Racing.
First off, last year’s final standings…
1. Max Verstappen…Red Bull
2. Charles Leclerc…Ferrari
3. Sergio Perez…Red Bull
4. George Russell…Mercedes
5. Carlos Sainz…Ferrari
6. Lewis Hamilton…Mercedes
It’s so much about the teams, as you’ve been seeing in extensive articles in places like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal heading into the new season.
1. Verstappen – RB…his 36th career win
2. Perez – RB
3. Fernando Alonso – Aston Martin…a big upset to get on the podium…good for the sport
4. Sainz – Ferrari
5. Hamilton – Mercedes
6. Lance Stroll – Aston Martin…my brother was just telling me it’s Stroll’s father, Lawrence, a Canadian billionaire, who is fronting the team…so good start…
Twenty-three races on the season, and for the first time, three in the U.S. …Miami, Austin and Las Vegas, which will garner lots of press.
--Mikaela Shiffrin, with a fifth in a downhill in Kvitfjell, Norway, locked up her fifth overall World Cup title.
But she’s still one win shy of Ingemar Stenmark’s 86, with a few opportunities coming up in her best disciplines…slalom and giant slalom. [She finished seventh in today’s super-G.]
But Saturday’s downhill was won by Kajsa Vickhoff Lie, her first World Cup victory. However, I was shocked to read she became the first Norwegian woman to win a downhill in the 56-year history of World Cup skiing.
You think about all the Norwegian men winning downhills*, but no woman, until now, and at home…good for her.
*Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won a downhill Saturday in Aspen.
Soffia Goggia won the season-long downhill title again, her fourth downhill globe.
Back to Shiffrin’s five overall titles, she is one behind the six won by Annemarie Moser-Proell in the 1970s. Shiffrin also has a record seven slalom season titles.
--I didn’t have a chance in my last Add-on to note the huge accomplishment of Jessie Diggins, who at the Nordic ski championships in Planica, Slovenia, became the first American to win gold in an individual race at the championships, taking the 10 kilometer event. She added bronze with teammate Julia Kern in the team sprint.
Previously, Diggins, 31, earned a team gold at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics, one of three Olympic medals for her.
--We’re starting the season for the big Derby prep races for Churchill Downs and Saturday, Forte proved he’s the favorite…like just book it. The 2-year-old champ calmly took the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. There were other races yesterday, but I don’t see a challenger. Railbird Johnny Mac and I are in agreement. But we’ll keep watching the other races to come. It’s just March.
--Actor Tom Sizemore, Sergeant Horvath in “Saving Private Ryan,” died after suffering a brain aneurysm at home. He was just 61.
Sizemore, born in Detroit, Mich., rose to prominence in the 1980s on the show “China Beach,” but was best known for his performance in Steven Spielberg’s WWII epic.
--The Washington Post’s Diana Duran had a piece on Pablo Escobar’s hippos.
It was in the late 1970s that the billionaire Medellin Cartel kingpin acquired four hippopotamuses, reportedly from Africa or the United States, to go with the elephants, giraffes and antelopes at the private zoo on his estate in western Colombia.
When Escobar surrendered to authorities in 1991, the government seized the estate and allowed the animals to roam free.
“Big mistake,” Duran writes.
“In the 30 years since, the original hippos – three females and a male – have multiplied to more than 130. Hippos aren’t native to South America. Without natural predators, the aggressive, territorial animals have settled into the Magdalena River in central Colombia.
“Now the insatiable herbivores are devouring plant life, crowding out native animals, polluting soil and water, and threatening people. (Hippos are among the world’s most dangerous animals, capable of killing a human with a single bite, responsible for an estimated 500 deaths each year.)
“You’ve heard of Cocaine Bear… These are Escobar’s cocaine hippos: bigger, more numerous, deadlier. The Environment Ministry here last year labeled them an ‘invasive species’ and banned their reproduction and commercialization. But the debate over whether to conserve or kill them goes back decades.
Some locals see the hippos as “roguish folk heroes.” But “just wait and see,” said David Echeverri, from the regional environmental agency Cornare. “Once they start attacking and killing people, it’ll all change.”
By 2040, if the hippos are left alone, the population could reach 600.
Authorities are now hoping to capture 70 and send them to sanctuaries in India and Mexico.
But the cost to ship the hippos is enormous, with the special wooden crate alone costing $10,000, and a flight to India $900,000.
Top 3 songs for the week of 3/7/81: #1 “I Love A Rainy Night” (Eddie Rabbitt) #2 “9 to 5” (Dolly Parton) #3 “Woman” (John Lennon)…and…#4 “Keep On Loving You” (REO Speedwagon) #5 “The Best Of Times” (Styx) #6 “Celebration” (Kool & The Gang) #7 “Crying” (Don McLean) #8 “Giving It Up For Your Love” (Delbert McClinton) #9 “The Winner Takes It All” (Abba) #10 “Hello Again” (Neil Diamond…B week…)
NBA Quiz Answer: Other seven aside from Damian Lillard to average 40 points per game over a 12-game stretch…James Harden, Wilt, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Kareem, Rick Barry and Elgin Baylor. It’s easy to forget how great Barry was.
Brief Add-on up top by noon, Wed.