More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Hot Takedown Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (April 12, 2016), we explore the pain of Jordan Spieth’s collapse in the final round of the 2016 Masters with Golf Digest’s Shane Ryan, we argue about Sam Hinkie’s legacy with the Philadelphia 76ers and ask whether his resignation is a referendum on tanking in the NBA, and we preview the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Plus, a significant digit on the Detroit Tigers fan who caught five foul balls at a home game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.Stream the episode by clicking the play button, or subscribe using one of the podcast clients we’ve linked to above. Links to what we discuss are here:ESPN’s Ian O’Connor says Jordan Spieth’s collapse was the most shocking in golf’s history.Neil Paine explains why Spieth’s choke also required a great comeback from Englishman Danny Willett.Here is Sam Hinkie’s 13-page letter to the Philadelphia 76ers’ investors.And here’s Albert Burneko of Deadspin telling us why Hinkie’s words are self-congratulatory and borderline incoherent.On the other side, 76ers’ blogger Andrew Unterberger says Hinkie gave Philly hope.The Washington Post’s Fancy Stats blog outlines the fatal flaws of this year’s NHL playoff teams.And Kevin Allen in USA Today says there are no favorites on the way to the Stanley Cup.Significant Digit: about 1 in 262 trillion. That’s the estimated likelihood of catching five foul balls at the home of the Detroit Tigers, Comerica Park — a feat achieved by Tigers’ fan Bill Dugan at a game on Monday. Embed Code If you’re a fan of our podcasts, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave a rating/review. That helps spread the word to other listeners. And get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments. Tell us what you think, send us hot takes to discuss and tell us why we’re wrong.
It’s been a good nine months for Leicester City Football Club. So good that on Monday the team overcame 5,000-to-1 preseason odds to clinch the Premier League title — its first. Forbes reports that the title is worth more than $100 million to the club, and it’s been nothing short of magic for the club’s fans in that otherwise “unglamorous city” in the Midlands of England.For a long time, it’s been received wisdom that no team outside of a “Big Four” — Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United in its current iteration — has any real hope of a league title. The very few exceptions only helped bolster the rule. In the mid-1990s, Blackburn Rovers, bankrolled by local steel magnate Jack Walker, were promoted from the second tier and then took the title in 1995. Since then, only two other teams outside that quartet — Newcastle United and Liverpool — have managed to finish as high as runners-up in the 20-team field.1This year’s runner-up hasn’t been determined.And upsetting the logjam at the top of the league table is only getting harder. In recent years, only five or six teams have tended to find themselves in the Premier League’s top four at season’s end. Here’s the rolling number of unique top-four teams seen in the preceding five years:2The charts, and many of the figures, in this story are based on a historical soccer data set compiled by one of this article’s authors (James), which can be found here. Champions tend to come from the top of the previous year’s table. Until this season, every team that has won the title in the Premier League era (which began with the 1992-93 season) finished no worse than third in the Premier League the year before. Of the 70 top-tier league championships since World War II, only six were won by teams that did not finish in the top half of the division the year before. Three times, teams promoted from the second tier went on to win the top tier the next season (Tottenham in 1951, Ipswich in 1962 and Nottingham Forest in 1978). And three winners had finished in the bottom half the year before — Arsenal were 12th in 1969-70 and 13th in 1946-47, and Manchester City finished 15th in 1966-67.Last year, Leicester finished 14th out of 20. They averaged just 1.08 points per game (a win is three, a draw one, a loss zero) and were in last place as late as April. Coming into this season, there was no indication of a turnaround, and most predicted that Leicester would be relegated — demoted to the second tier of the English system.Team manager Nigel Pearson had just been fired, and the club had lost its best midfielder, Esteban Cambiasso. The likable Claudio Ranieri took charge, but he had never won a league title before, and his most recent job was a disastrous spell in charge of the Greek national team, overseeing the squad’s embarrassing losses to the Faroe Islands. Leicester had no marquee stars. The Leicester team was a blend of aging players who had spent most of their careers in the lower leagues and overseas players from lower-level foreign leagues. Famously, its leading scorer and this year’s Football Writers’ Player of the Year, Jamie Vardy, was playing non-league football just four years ago.Even family members of current Leicester players claimed greater success than the whole team. Peter Schmeichel, the father of Leicester goalie Kasper Schmeichel, had more Premier League hardware (five titles) than the entire squad combined (31-year-old Robert Huth and 43-year-old backup goalie Mark Schwarzer both won with Chelsea in minor playing roles).But something magical happened. Leicester started winning, and kept winning. This season, Leicester has been averaging 2.14 points per game. It’s the single biggest year-over-year increase for a league champ since World War II.3Three teams — Spurs in 1951, Ipswich Town in 1962 and Nottingham Forest in 1978 — won the league after being promoted from the lower tier the year before. Points in this analysis are calculated with a win worth three points and a draw one point, the system introduced in the 1981-82 season.But this amazing change in fortune really began years earlier, in the 2008-09 season, when Leicester were dwelling in the lower, far less glamorous third tier of the English football pyramid, known as League One.Since World War II, only one team — Ipswich Town, the 1962 top-flight champs — has had such a long climb over seven years to win the league title. And no team aside from Ipswich then and Leicester now has climbed two tiers so quickly before winning the title.In the chart below are the seven-year histories leading up to every top-flight English football championship since World War II. Only eight times from 1950 through 1980, and only twice from 1981 through 1995, had a team risen from a lower tier in the seven years before to claim the title. But Leicester’s rise is especially remarkable in the modern Premier League era. A deluge of money into the league has led to increasing inequality and stratification among teams with cash to burn and those without, which makes a rise of this sort into a billion-dollar-Powerball, Donald Trump-is-the-GOP-nominee-level outlier. Even still, Leicester’s wage bill this season was relatively low. The club spent only 48.2 million pounds on wages, fourth-least in the Premier League. Manchester United has spent more money on new players in the last two years than Leicester has spent in the 132 years it’s existed.Leicester’s title is being trumpeted as “the most unlikely feat in sport history.” Unlikely? Absolutely. Leicester’s rise has been exceptional, no question, and all the more impressive in a climate where dollars, like heat, tend to rise to the top of the table. But unprecedented? No. English football, with its meritocratic system of promotion and relegation, at least makes Cinderella runs like Leicester’s possible — but there hadn’t been a ball in quite some time.
He carries the monicker “Money,” and it is for good reason. Floyd Mayweather moves the boxing financial meter like no one else in the game.The numbers for pay-per-view of Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto are in and they tell a make-it-rain story: The junior middleweight championship fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas generated a whopping 1.5 million pay-per-view buys and $94 million in domestic pay-per-view revenue, HBO Sports announced Friday.The performance ranks as the second-highest grossing pay-per-view for a non-heavyweight fight in history.No. 1 all-time remains Mayweather’s 2007 victory against Oscar De La Hoya, in which he also claimed a junior middleweight belt. That fight generated all-time records for any weight class with 2.46 million buys and $137 million in pay-per-view revenue.And guess what? “The 1.5 million number is actual reported numbers,” Golden Boy CEO Schaefer, who promoted the fight, told ESPN.com. “The final number will definitely be bigger than what it is now.”Check out these numbers: In nine HBO PPV main events, Mayweather has generated 9.6 million buys and $543 million in television revenue, according to HBO.“Floyd Mayweather’s numbers are getting bigger and bigger and this number shows you the kind of draw he is,” Schaefer said. “He’s a superstar and able to capture the interest of a large audience. He has broken out of the boxing following and now has a mainstream following that is unmatched in the sport. The numbers keep getting bigger and bigger.”HBO will replay Mayweather’s decision victory against Cotto on Saturday night, along with junior middleweight titlist Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s decision win against Shane Mosley, which was the co-feature of the card.
B.J. Upton signed the richest contract in Atlanta Braves history Wednesday, a five-year, $75.2-million deal that initiates what promises to be an active free-agent season in baseball.Upton, whose father Manny and uncle Bill Upton, were baseball stars at Norfolk State University in the 1980s, refused a one-year, $13-million offer from his old team, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to test the open market.The Braves swooped in, as they were intent on filling the position vacated by free agent Michael Bourn, whose asking price would likely been too expensive for Atlanta’s budget. Upton’s contract easily eclipses the Derek Lowe’s four-year, $60 million deal as the Braves’ largest ever contract.Upton, 28, whose younger brother Justin is a star with the Arizona Diamondbacks, had spent his entire career with the Rays and hit .246 with a career-high 28 homers along with 31 stolen bases in 2012 — an off year for him. He will provide the Braves a some right-handed power in the middle of the lineup and pair with right-fielder Jason Heyward to give them two-thirds of a strong outfield.Inking Upton allows the Braves to move on to fill other needs, most notably left field. Once, Upton had the speed to be a leadoff hitter, but no more. Now, they are, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constituion, considering Minnesota’s Denard Span, who could play left field and be the leadoff batter that Bourn was last season.A source close to the situation told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Upton wanted the Braves over the Philadelphia Phillies, and his agent, Larry Reynolds, and the team worked long and hard to come to an agreement.Upton actually sought a sixth-year contract, but the Braves would not go that far.On the field, Upton has increased his home-run totals each of the past four seasons, and has 51 homers and 159 RBIs over the past two years.
Charles Barkley (Twitter/Screenshot)Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley’s views on race relations may be problematic, but the retired athlete recognizes the importance of donating to historically Black colleges. On Tuesday, Nov. 29, he gave back to two in a huge way.As part of the Giving Tuesday campaign, which encourages charity on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Barkley awarded $1 million to Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta and another $1 million to Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, Alabama. Barkley announced the donations on the “JOX Roundtable” radio show in Birmingham, Alabama.Charles Barkley just announced on our show he is donating $1 Million to both @aamuedu and @CAU. Always a generous guy.— JOX Roundtable (@JOXRoundtable) November 29, 2016CAU President Ronald A. Johnson welcomed Barkley’s donation. In a statement, he said the HBCU felt “delighted to receive this generous gift.” The contribution significantly boosted the university’s #GivingTuesday social media campaign.“This gift reflects Charles Barkley’s tremendous heart and his desire to make a significant, positive and lasting difference in the lives of others,” Johnson said. “It is a testament to the importance of the transformative impact of CAU on its students, surrounding community, the nation and beyond.”Barkley’s gift comes at a time when HBCUs have faced decreased funding. Because of that, Atlanta Black Star reported schools have resorted to opening their doors to non-Black students based on lowered budgets and dwindling enrollment. Additionally, beginning in 2009, the Obama administration announced it would cut HBCU budgets by as much as $85 million. Then, during Obama’s second term, changes in guidelines for receiving Plus Loans led to HBCUs losing $160 million.The combined $2 million donations Barkley awarded CAU and AAMU give the historical schools the chance to continue to educate Black students.However, while Barkley’s donations are celebrated, he continues to receive backlash over his comments regarding race.In July, while calling into “The Dan Le Batard Show,” Barkley cited the supposed lack of respect among Black people as the reason why Blacks “can’t demand respect from white people and the cops.” More recently, during a Nov. 21 meeting at a church in Baltimore, Maryland, Barkley sparked outrage for suggesting the community, which has been ravaged by police brutality, should express sympathy for deceased officers.
FiveThirtyEight Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (May 30, 2017), we discuss the final rounds of both the NBA and NHL playoffs. First, we break down this year’s Warriors-Cavaliers NBA Finals, discussing how likely the Cavs really are to repeat as champions and whether parity will return to the NBA anytime soon. Next, Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post’s Fancy Stats blog joins us to discuss the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators’ fight for the Stanley Cup. Has Preds’ goaltender Pekka Rinne peaked? Will the Penguins pull off an improbable repeat championship? We investigate. Plus, a significant digit on Mike Trout’s injury.Here are links to stories we discussed:You can continue checking FiveThirtyEight’s NBA predictions, updated after every game, through the rest of the Finals.Our founder, Nate Silver, wrote this weekend about how LeBron James destroyed our Elo ratings — but can he beat the Warriors again?Guest Neil Greenberg joined our hockey conversation, and he also did this analysis of parity in the NBA and found that until further notice, the NBA is a two-team league.This year’s Stanley Cup Final is between the title holders and the league’s trendiest team, according to The Ringer’s Katie Baker.FiveThirtyEight’s Neil Paine argues that the march of the Pittsburgh Penguins to another Stanley Cup victory shouldn’t be this difficult.Significant Digit: 2.2, the projected number of wins above replacement that Sunday’s injury to Mike Trout will cost the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Trout will be out for six to eight weeks. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Embed Code
13Miami Dolphins8-869.3 This is particularly relevant to Minnesota, since the youngest 20 percent of the teams in the study averaged 6.9 wins (the Vikes won 7 a year ago) and had an average age of 26.2 (Minnesota’s was 26.3). The next year, those teams won an average of just 7.7 games — slight progress, but nothing as dramatic as Vikings fans are hoping for. 2nd Best302.94.12.3 30Indianapolis Colts11-553.2 Youngest656.926.27.7 In preparation for the 2015 NFL season, FiveThirtyEight is running a series of eight division previews, each highlighting the numbers that may influence a team’s performance (including projections and rankings based on ESPN’s preseason Football Power Index). To start things off, we head to the NFC North, a division that’s still the Packers’ to lose — but one that could get interesting if the Lions’ defense stays elite, the youthful Vikings improve or the Bears repair their once-proud D. 8St. Louis Rams6-1072.0 32Tampa Bay Buccaneers2-1446.1 6Atlanta Falcons6-1072.8 21Arizona Cardinals11-559.8 10New England Patriots12-470.9 29Chicago Bears5-1154.1 Oldest618.104.22.168 2Pittsburgh Steelers11-585.1 22Detroit Lions11-558.3 12Carolina Panthers7-8-169.8 14San Diego Chargers9-767.3 25New York Giants6-1056.5 3Dallas Cowboys12-479.9 2nd Youngest667.026.97.5 26Jacksonville Jaguars3-1356.2 18Buffalo Bills9-762.4 20New York Jets4-1259.9 Worst30-2.54-0.3 Green Bay Packers2014 Record: 12-4 | 2015 Projected Wins: 10.6 | Playoff Odds: 83.5%Offensive Rank: 1st | Defensive Rank: 23rd | Special Teams Rank: 28thAn anomaly within the NFL, Green Bay is known as the only small town with a pro football team. And given the provincial nature of small towns, perhaps it’s fitting that the Packers of recent vintage boast a roster with few interlopers from other teams.Last year, only two of the Packers’ regular starters — outside linebacker Julius Peppers and defensive lineman Letroy Guion — had begun their NFL careers outside of Green Bay. Fullback John Kuhn, who began his career with the Steelers, is the only other player who started a game for last year’s Packers after playing for a franchise other than Green Bay.Using the Approximate Value (AV) metric developed by Pro-Football-Reference.com, we can try to quantify exactly how “homegrown” a team is relative to the rest of the NFL. For example, the Packers produced 249 points of AV last year, only 18 of which came from players who did not begin their career with the club.To put that another way: 93 percent of Green Bay’s AV last year came from players who began their NFL careers in Green Bay. That was the highest percentage in the NFL; Pittsburgh was the only other team with more than 80 percent of its AV classified as “homegrown”: GROUPTEAMSWINS, YEAR NAVERAGE AGEWINS, YEAR N+1 DEFENSIVE SRS 11San Francisco 49ers8-869.9 Middle222.214.171.124 2nd Worst300.24.11.4 28Oakland Raiders3-1354.6 4Cincinnati Bengals10-5-177.9 16Baltimore Ravens10-663.3 GROUPTEAMSPREVIOUS 2 YEARSPEAK YEARNEXT YEAR 2nd Oldest6126.96.36.199 TEAM2014 RECORDPERCENT HOMEGROWN Detroit Lions2014 Record: 11-5 | 2015 Proj. W: 7.8 | Playoff Odds: 29.6%Off. Rank: 13th | Def. Rank: 15th | S.T. Rank: 32ndThe “D” in Detroit doesn’t usually stand for defense. In the 30 seasons leading up to 2014, no NFL franchise allowed more points than the Lions, with the team’s defense finishing below average by Pro-Football-Reference.com’s Simple Rating System (SRS) in each of the final 13 years of that three-decade block. As a result, Detroit fans may have been the most surprised of all by their team’s excellent defense last year:In 2014, the Lions ranked among the NFL’s top five defenses according to DVOA,3This stands for defense-adjusted value over average. Expected Points and SRS — a stunning break with the franchise’s dismal tradition. But the pressing question for Detroit now is whether its defensive makeover can persist.To help answer that, I looked at all teams since 1970 with defensive SRS ratings roughly similar to the Lions’ +5.2 mark last year.4Specifically, ratings between +3.2 and +7.2. Then I broke those teams into five groups based on their aggregate defensive SRS ratings in the two seasons before their strong defensive year. (For Detroit, these seasons would be 2012 and 2013, when the team posted a putrid -2.5 defensive SRS.) Historically, how did teams with similarly meteoric defensive improvements fare the next season? Minnesota Vikings2014 Record: 7-9 | 2015 Proj. W: 7.5 | Playoff Odds: 24.3%Off. Rank: 17th | Def. Rank: 19th | S.T. Rank: 20thIf you want optimistic predictions for the 2015 Minnesota Vikings, don’t look to traditional sources. Summer power rankings from both ESPN and NFL.com peg Minnesota for the bottom half of the league, as does the most recent set of Las Vegas win totals. It’s not hard to see why, either: Over the past two seasons, Minnesota has endured the 10th-worst record in football.But others think the Vikings can be a sleeper playoff pick — if not more. For instance, after taking stock of Minnesota’s “wave of young talent and a promising head coach-quarterback combination entering its second season,” the statistical website Football Outsiders projected the team to rank sixth in the league in DVOA, a metric that measures team performance on a play-by-play basis.Here’s another quantitative reason to think the Vikings could be on the verge of a breakout: Minnesota had the NFL’s fourth-youngest team last year. Between 22-year-old quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and an emerging defense whose best performers5Namely Sharrif Floyd, Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr and Xavier Rhodes. were taken in the first rounds of the past few drafts, Minnesota might be poised for a big improvement this season as its players mature.The history of similar teams, though, appears to be more in line with the traditionalist predictions. I looked at all teams since 1978 that finished 6-10, 7-9 or 8-8,6The NFL adopted a 16-game regular season in 1978. This gives us 328 team-seasons, excluding 1981, 1986 and 2014 because the data for the following season was either disrupted by labor strife or does not exist yet. grouping them into five tiers based solely on age.7Specifically, Approximate Value-Adjusted Age, as described here. In general, the relationship between age and improvement is loose: 24Kansas City Chiefs9-756.7 This isn’t exactly a new development for the Packers. In every season since 2008, when they traded away Brett Favre and installed Aaron Rodgers as starting quarterback, at least 85 percent of Green Bay’s team AV has come from players who began their career with the Packers.Not much will change in 2015, either, as Peppers, Guion and Kuhn once again figure to be the only notable Packers who started elsewhere.A team has to draft well to achieve Green Bay’s level of success without acquiring many players from other teams. Between Rodgers and Clay Matthews, the Packers have done that in the first round, but they’ve also found a lot of value deeper into the draft. For instance, they’ve snagged elite skill-position talent in the second round1Wide receivers Jordy Nelson in 2008 and Randall Cobb in 2011, and running back Eddie Lacy in 2013. and quality offensive linemen in the fourth.2Three of the Packers’ O-line starters were drafted in that round: left tackle David Bakhtiari and guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang.It may not be a sustainable strategy for every team, but the Packers have used it to build the most homemade — and, arguably, best — roster in football. 19Philadelphia Eagles10-660.7 7Minnesota Vikings7-972.5 31Tennessee Titans2-1452.2 Best304.94.22.6 Not well, as it turns out. The worst group of teams in defensive SRS over the previous two years — i.e., the cohort most similar to the 2012-15 Lions — regressed significantly the next year. In Detroit’s case, there are additional reasons to expect a defensive regression, between an aging secondary and a handful of important personnel losses headlined by the departure of DT Ndamukong Suh, who signed with Miami as a free agent.After more than a decade of ugly defenses, Detroit fans finally got to watch a first-rate defense last year. But the Lions’ chances of repeating that feat likely left with Suh. 9Houston Texans9-771.5 23Denver Broncos12-458.0 27Washington Redskins4-1255.8 17Cleveland Browns7-962.8 15New Orleans Saints7-963.7 1Green Bay Packers12-492.8% 5Seattle Seahawks12-476.0 Middle667.327.37.7 Chicago Bears2014 Record: 5-11 | 2015 Proj. W: 6.5 | Playoff Odds: 11.5%Off. Rank: 18th | Def. Rank: 31st | S.T. Rank: 7thThe Chicago Bears are a franchise defined by defense.The team’s last two championships, in 1963 and 1985, were earned on the backs of historically dominant defenses. Eight of the franchise’s top nine players (according to Pro-Football-Reference.com’s Approximate Value) are defenders. And — at least through the 2012 season — Chicago had allowed the third-fewest points per game of any NFL team in the Super Bowl era,8Which began in 1966. trailing only the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys.9Among the 28 teams in existence during the majority of that period.In the two seasons since 2012, though, the Bears have fielded arguably the worst two defenses in franchise history. Over that stretch, they ranked 31st out of 32 teams in yards allowed and dead last in points allowed, reaching historic levels of futility against both the run and the pass.In 2013, the Bears allowed 2,583 rushing yards — the most in team history10Granting that, on a per-game basis, the 1973 rush defense was even worse.; 5.4 yards per rush — the most by any Bears defense since 1951; and 22 rushing touchdowns — the second-most in franchise history.11Trailing only the 1975 team. Then, last season, the pass defense fell apart, as Chicago opponents set new franchise highs for completion percentage (66.8%), passing yards (4,230) and passing touchdowns (34).By SRS, Chicago’s defense was 5.8 points per game worse than average over the past two seasons. Never before in its history had the franchise produced a defensive SRS so poor in a two-year span:This season marks the 30th anniversary of the fabled 1985 Bears, winners of the franchise’s only Super Bowl title. That year, Chicago’s defense allowed 65 fewer points than any other team in football, still the largest gap between the top two teams in points allowed in any season since 1970. Whenever a “best defense of all time” ranking is constructed, whether subjective or objective, it’s a good bet that the ‘85 Bears will show up at or near the top.Unfortunately, Chicago’s 2015 defense bears little resemblance to that team, or even the last good Bears defense. In 2012, Chicago ranked third in points allowed, and the only defensive starter remaining from that team — cornerback Tim Jennings — was just released. And if the Bears’ defensive ranking of 31st in ESPN’s preseason Football Power Index is any indication, this will be another trying year for a franchise that badly needs a return to defensive glory. Read more: How The Salary Cap Is Shaping The Falcons, Saints, Panthers and Buccaneers
Just before the start of free agency last June, Los Angeles Lakers President Magic Johnson made a relatively blunt declaration when he said he’d willingly step down from his post if he failed to sign star players. So it was a legitimate jaw-dropper when Johnson, just nine months after landing the world’s best player, opted to resign Tuesday during a tearful, impromptu press conference in the bowels of Staples Center prior to the team’s season finale.Yes, this was a trying year for Johnson and the storied franchise, which fully expected to return to the playoffs after getting LeBron James. But the playoffs didn’t happen, and while Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka deserve a lot of the blame for why things went wrong, no one thought it would result in this — at least not this soon, and certainly not in the bizarre manner in which it played out.In the coming weeks, there will be ample opportunity to analyze what comes next for the Lakers, who still have LeBron, a young supporting cast and enough cap space to make the kind of signing that could make them an actual contender again out West.Normally, we’d be prone to view a team president’s sudden resignation as a sign of enormous trouble for a franchise. The fact that we aren’t talking about how much this will damage Los Angeles speaks volumes about Johnson and how ill-prepared he was for the front-office job in the first place.Team owner Jeanie Buss, who got wind of the resignation after reporters did, now has an enormous task. She has to tap the right person, but based on her hiring of Magic — a choice she made based on trust and their almost 40 years of friendship after contentiously ousting her brother in 2017 — we don’t know yet who she’ll get or what level of experience that person will carry.Nonetheless, that role is vital, both to restoring the franchise to its rightful place — this 37-win season marked a Lakers’ record sixth-straight year with no postseason — and obviously for maximizing the 34-year-old James’s window for championship contention.What we do know now is that Johnson, an all-time great on the hardwood and one of the more personable businessmen in America, simply wasn’t prepared for the cutthroat front-office life, an issue we touched on briefly back when he was hired. Johnson himself says that leaving the role of president will make him happier, as it will allow him to return to his old life, away from the sourced reporting that, to him, likely felt like anonymous backstabbing. And back to a life where he can freely mentor and tweet to congratulate players leaguewide — something he couldn’t do as an executive, because of the tampering rules.From the outset, Johnson struggled with how to play inside those rules. Even more concerning about his front-office tenure: He often struggled to properly assess the value of players and what they brought to the table. Months after taking the gig, he traded a young, talented point guard in D’Angelo Russell to get Brook Lopez and his expiring contract, as well as the pick that would become Kyle Kuzma.1The move also gave L.A. the ability to dump Timofey Mosgov’s hefty contract. While Kuzma has been fine for a young player, Russell has since become an All-Star who has led Brooklyn back to the postseason. And Lopez — whom L.A. let walk in free agency last summer — has been one of the NBA’s best floor-spacing bigs, giving Milwaukee exactly what this shooting-starved Lakers club needs.2On a cheap, $3.3 million contract, too.Similarly, 24-year-old Julius Randle had a career year (21 points, 8 rebounds a game) in New Orleans after the Lakers let their former No. 7 overall pick go in free agency despite his relatively modest price tag.3He signed a two-year, $18 million deal with New Orleans. Instead, L.A. followed up on its LeBron move by then agreeing to deals with Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson, leaving it woefully deficient from a perimeter-shooting standpoint. The head-scratching decisions weren’t limited to the perimeter, though: The Lakers also offered talented big man Ivica Zubac to their Los Angeles counterparts at the deadline, reportedly befuddling the Clippers by trying to unload a solid young player unnecessarily.None of this even gets into the fact that Johnson and the Lakers took their sweet time — waiting until it was likely too late — to try to deal for a second star, which was borderline malpractice considering James’s age. Depending on how you look at it, the failed play to acquire Anthony Davis at the trade deadline was either just the Pelicans being stubborn or them being realistic — and smart — after realizing that the youngsters L.A. was offering in return weren’t good enough (particularly when James was injured) to justify dealing away a franchise player.But that doesn’t excuse the Lakers not being more aggressive two summers ago, when they could’ve made a play for Paul George, who’d made it clear that L.A. was his destination of choice before Oklahoma City gambled on a deal for him. Nor does it explain why the Lakers didn’t do more to engage the Spurs for Kawhi Leonard (and pair him with LeBron) before he was ultimately sent to Toronto. In either case, having a second star likely would’ve provided L.A. with the insulation it needed to withstand a James injury and make the playoffs regardless.And there were the problematic mixed messages that Johnson sent: the preseason comments about how new LeBron teams always take a while to find their stride and the need for patience, but then the reports about him going off on coach Luke Walton just weeks later, apparently for not meeting the expectations he’d just tamped down. Then there was his suggestion that the young players who’d heard their names rumored in potential Davis deals simply needed to be hugged and nurtured after the whole ordeal, which he followed, one day later, by saying that those same players needed to be treated like men, rather than babied through the media.Had Johnson remained on the job, his next true test as team president was a decision about Walton’s future. Johnson told reporters Tuesday that he’d been given the authority to fire Walton, who has history with the Lakers as a former player and still has a good friendship with Buss. But Johnson said he didn’t want to pull that trigger and instead opted to step down himself.Now, it’s Buss’s turn to make a decision again. And while the stakes are incredibly high, with the team at an important crossroads, the Lakers can take solace in the fact that they’re almost certain to now get a more analytical, experienced front-office type than they had in Magic, who was never really meant for the unforgiving nature of an NBA job like this to begin with.
Junior defenseman Dani Sadek carves through the ice with the puck vs Penn State on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. Credit: Courtesy OSU AthleticsThe offseason in any sport has its drama, and that’s certainly the case for the Ohio State women’s hockey team. Coming off a disappointing 10-25-1 season in 2015-16, OSU bid adieu to three transfers — including its captain Alexa Ranahan, and top scorer Claudia Kepler — and its head coach whose job was terminated amid NCAA violations.On Friday, the Buckeyes are looking to close that chapter and start anew, taking on Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, in two games this weekend to ring in the new season.On Sept. 10, OSU named Nadine Muzerall its third coach in as many seasons. Although she hadn’t been on the ice yet with her team, Muzerall will be in New York to coach her new team. Redshirt sophomore goaltender Kassidy Sauve said that the offseason made the team grow up a bit.“As a whole right now, we’re just trying to come together and play Buckeye hockey,” Sauve said. “This is a new era for us. Having everyone rolling on the same page is really important for us right now.”Suave started 20 games her freshman year before suffering an injury. She sat out last season — earning a medical redshirt — following double-hip surgery. Sauve said that each hip took about six to nine months to recover and return to action.“It’s been 581 days since my last game,” she said. “Not that I’ve been counting.”As for the Buckeyes opponent, RPI has already played a pair of games in the 2016-17 campaign, splitting a two-game set with the University of Maine. Similar to OSU, RPI experienced a difficult season, finishing the year with a 10-17-7 record. The Engineers ranked 29th out of 35 teams in the NCAA in goals scored, compared to OSU’s finish at third-most goals allowed last year.RPI senior forward Laura Norwood leads her team with 12 shots through two games. She notched a goal and an assist in the team’s 3-1 win in its season opener. To stop her and the rest of the Engineer attack, the Buckeyes will welcome back redshirt freshman defenseman Jincy Dunne who sat out last year after suffering two concussions in a short period of time.Dunne came into OSU as a highly-touted recruit. She has experience on the international level, playing for U18 Team USA at the International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship, winning silver medal in 2014 and claiming gold in 2015. Although she has yet to see her in game action, sophomore defenseman Lauren Boyle is excited to see her classmate besider her on the ice.“I think (Jincy) is one of the best passers I’ve ever played with,” Boyle said. “She has so much composure and poise on the ice that it’s fun to be out there with her and it’s fun to watch.”OSU was voted to finish second-to-last in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association preseason poll. Last year, Boyle said there wasn’t a lot of emphasis on winning games early, rather than hitting their stride late in the season. That stride never fit, so OSU is attempting to jump out to a quick start in Muzerall’s first season as head coach, along with still working in a new system.But the Buckeyes seem to believe they are mentally prepared after the program changes that occurred in the offseason.“I think going forward this year, it’s going to help us when things get tough and things aren’t always going to go the way we want them to in game situations,” said Lauren Spring, OSU junior forward. “Having to go through adversity early on can be a good thing for teams.”OSU will likely undergo a learning process with a new coaching staff, but two wins this weekend is definitely on the minds of the team.“I think it would put a lot of confidence behind us and have a little more trust in the process of placing the staff and getting the whole program going in the right direction,” Boyle said. “It kind of all depends on how the team all clicks together. We’re all learning new systems.”
After running through the tunnel of pride for the first time this year, senior wide receiver DeVier Posey was welcomed by dozens of fans crying his name. He then knelt on the field, taking a moment to pray and soak in what was his first and last football game as a senior in Ohio Stadium. “I just thanked (God) for allowing me to be here,” Posey said. “I just kissed the field and I talked to the stadium for a little minute. I said ‘I miss you.’ It’s just a great place to play and I just love this place.” Returning from two five-game suspensions for selling OSU football memorabilia, receiving improper benefits and being overpaid for work he did not do at a summer job, Posey made his season-debut against Penn State Saturday. Talk of his return was ubiquitous leading up to the game, and he was embraced by what was easily the loudest cheer when his name was called during the pregame senior ceremony. Posey said he was excited to get back on the field to do what he was “born to do.” “I feel normal,” Posey said. “I felt like 10 weeks have been the oddest feeling not playing, so it felt pretty normal to be out there and be with the guys, I was just real excited.” Posey showed that his skill did not diminish during his time off the field, as he led the Buckeyes with four receptions for 66 yards total in the game. His first catch of the year came in the first quarter when he received a pass from freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, giving OSU a first down. The 39-yard reception was the Buckeyes’ second-longest pass completion this season. Posey said the catch was “just routine.” “I understand the kind of quarterback Braxton is. The play is never over,” Posey said. “I just tried to find an open space and hopefully he kept his eyes down field and he just caught me.” Posey said he was honored to play with Miller for the first time. “To be honest, I’m honored that I got to be on the field with him, cause I really feel like he’s gonna be a great player,” Posey said. “I feel like he has the right people around him to be a great quarterback.” In the second quarter, Posey continued to make an impact on the game when he caught a pass from Miller for a gain of 18 yards. Posey’s block contributed to Miller’s touchdown run and the Buckeyes’ first score in the game. But the catch of the game arguably could have been Posey’s one-handed snag after a deep pass by Miller, giving OSU a first down at the start of the fourth quarter. Mike Jurek, a fourth-year in accounting, said he thought Posey had a solid comeback. “I think his performance was pretty great,” Jurek said. “That (one-handed catch) was probably the best moment of the game for him.” Despite missing 10 games this year, Posey said he can’t let himself feel missed by team, and he has learned from his actions in the past year. “God doesn’t make mistakes, and that’s what I truly believe,” Posey said. “I feel like this needed to happen for the boys and it needed to happen for me, and I’ve learned a lot from this.” Posey said playing his first game all year was “the best I’ve felt in 2011,” and he is ready to move on from the past. “I really don’t want to do too much of thinking about the past. I really want to move forward and look forward to going up and beating Michigan,” Posey said. Jurek said he thinks having Posey back for the game against Michigan will be beneficial for the team. “Having a proven deep threat, we have a lot of young receivers but to have someone who you can trust to run deep and catch the ball pretty much every time is a great asset to have,” Jurek said. In the post-game press conference, Posey spoke multiple times about how grateful he was for the opportunity to play again. “I thank God for the opportunity that He allowed me to go through these hard times so I can learn things,” Posey said. “I know it’s been hard on Buckeye Nation, with all the suspensions and everything, but you can’t really test God’s will. You just gotta let it be done.” Senior offensive tackle Mike Adams said it was great to have Posey back on the field. “(Posey) was really hype. He was excited. He was ready to play. I think he showed that,” Adams said. “It’s just great to have a guy like that back, you know, just another leader back in the game.” Before and during the game, Posey said he wasn’t concerned with hearing cheers or boos from the crowd. “I’ve already heard enough negative things from you guys and trust me, it’s made me stronger,” Posey said. “And I wasn’t hearing the cheers and I wasn’t hearing the negative things, you know, it’s all the same. To me, it’s just what I love to do and nobody’s going to deter me from that.” While Posey hasn’t played in the last 10 games, he has not been completely absent from the football team. He said he has continued to practice to get better and teach the younger players on the team. “(I) tried to pass all the tricks that I had onto the young guys and try to show them my approach and how I prepare,” Posey said. “And who knows, maybe me coming back was just for those guys, to serve those guys, to show them how to do it.” After receiving his first five-game suspension, Posey had the choice to stay at OSU. “I vowed to come back when we did our apologies because I wanted to be around these guys, and I wanted to be at this place and I wanted to graduate,” Posey said. “And selfishly, I could’ve left and packed my stuff and did whatever, but that’s just not who I am as a person. I feel like you need to go through things to be a man.” Following the issuing of NCAA suspensions Dec. 28, the five Buckeyes suspended — Posey, Adams, former quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Daniel “Boom” Herron and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas — issued apologies for their actions. When walking off the field after the game, Posey turned around and took a last look back at the field and stadium. “I just wanted to see the stadium and never forget what it looked like, because this place has molded me into a man,” Posey said. “And it’s just a beautiful place, I’m just honored to say that I’ve been a Buckeye.”