Barkley tweets back, calls Morey an analytical ‘idiot’
Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey started a tweet war with Charles Barkley when he accused the TNT analyst of “spewing misinformed biased vitriol disguised as entertainment.” The Chuckster dismissed Morey as “one of those idiots who believes in analytics. . . . I never mention the Rockets as legitimate contenders, because they’re not.”
Curtain of Distraction works for Arizona State
In recent decades Arizona State has not attracted much attention for its basketball program. But that is changing, as its “Curtain of Distraction” is the sport’s latest sensation. When opponents are about to shoot free throws, a black curtain by the basket opens and a “distraction” emerges. It could be a twerking unicorn. It could be a beautiful woman in a bikini. It could be three fat men in bikinis. It could be just about anything. Whatever, it seems to be effective. Opponents are missing a few more free throws, and the student section is growing with full-throated fans. The Sun Devils are 11-3 at home this season, 1-6 on the road. “I think the Curtain of Distraction is like religion to the basketball team and the student section,” said ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici. “You want to go to the games to see who is jumping out of that curtain next.”
South-side Little Leaguers stripped of national title
The Jackie Robinson West Little League team from Chicago’s South Side was stripped of its national championship. It was penalized for using players who were living outside the geographic boundaries of the area the team represents. The team’s manager, Darold Butler, has been suspended from Little League activity. The title that was originally won by Robinson West has been transferred to Mountain Ridge Little League from Las Vegas. President Barack Obama, who is from Chicago and hosted the Robinson team at a reception in the White House, said he’s still proud of the players, who apparently had no knowledge of the transgression. The president blamed “dirty dealing” by adults.
Iowa’s McCaffery brushes off queries about eye-pokes
Fran McCaffery did not think it newsworthy that one of his Iowa Hawkeyes poked an opponent in the eye for the third time this season. When asked about a flagrant foul called on center Adam Woodbury for jabbing a forefinger to the eye of a Maryland guard, McCaffery said, “Next question. Ask an intelligent question.” Next question, from another reporter: “Why was that not an intelligent question?” McCaffery replied: “Because I said so.” From replays you can see why he wants to stay away from that topic. The eye-poke looks anything but accidental.
Between the Lines: Contrast McCaffery to Dean Smith, Hall of Fame coach who died last week at 83, after four years of suffering from Alzheimer’s. Smith, who coached in 11 Final Fours and won two national titles, politely answered reporters and did not dodge controversy, off the court as well as on. He took his North Carolina Tar Heels on a field trip to Death Row to make a point about law-breaking and another about the arbitrariness of capital punishment.
Syracuse self-punishment may be insincere
Syracuse University has ruled itself out of postseason men’s basketball tournaments this year because of past NCAA rule-breaking. The administration cited academics violations which it reported in 2007, triggering an NCAA investigation. School officials insist no misdeeds occurred after 2012 and that no current players were involved. Prior to the 2012 NCAA Tournament, Syracuse declared center Fab Melo ineligible. Also in 2012 the university self-reported violations of drug policy by former student-athletes that the NCAA was investigating. Coach Jim Boeheim is scrambling to reassure recruits that the postseason ban will not affect them. However, some are wondering if the admission was designed to cool off the NCAA investigations which could result in stiffer penalties any day now. Just two years after making the Final Four, the Orangemen are 15-7 and struggling with injuries. They’re a long shot to make the NCAA Tournament. Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News asked: Why did Syracuse wait until February to withdraw from postseason eligibility? . . . If these actions are taken during the offseason the affected players can decide to transfer.”
Between the Lines: This was all about timing. Wait long enough to keep players from transferring. But wait any longer, and the NCAA bloodhounds might catch them.
LeBron tweets about Love, then denies it
LeBron James used social media to challenge Kevin Love, and then later denied he was referring to his teammate, who had complained to reporters that a support role behind James on the Cleveland Cavaliers “is definitely frustrating, one of the most difficult things I’ve had to deal with.” James then tweeted: “Stop trying to find a way to FIT OUT and just FIT IN. Be part of something special. Just my thoughts.” James claimed the tweet was not about Love or the team but “was more about people in general.”
Lynch considering retiring at 28?
Marshawn Lynch, the most powerful running back in football, and also the most taciturn, may retire at 28 rather than return to the Seattle Seahawks next year. General manager John Schneider said on ESPN 710 Seattle: “Whether or not he wants to play next year, I can’t answer that. I don’t know if he knows at this juncture.” Lynch rushed for 1306 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2014 despite numerous nagging injuries. He is not under contract for next season, and Schneider has said the team hopes to re-sign him.
Falcons admit using artificial noise at Georgia Dome
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank admitted in an interview with ESPN that employees of the team pumped artificial crowd noise into the Georgia Dome’s speaker system in order to interfere with communication by opposing teams as they huddled and lined up. “I think what we’ve done in 2013 and 2014 was wrong,” he said. “It doesn’t represent our culture and what we’re about.” He said he has punished the offenders but is withholding information until the NFL completes its own investigation. The Falcons are in danger of losing draft picks because of this misdeed.
Between the Lines: Not that integrity is expected when sound is emitted from speakers in public arenas. Is the singer really singing the national anthem, or is it a recording?
Indian tribe pays homage to advocate of genocide
The Native American tribe heading the effort to change the name of the Washington Redskins is opening a casino in Chittenango, N.Y. The Oneida tribe plans to name it ‘Oz’ to pay homage to a former resident of the village, L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Only one problem: Besides producing one of the most beloved of children’s tales, Baum wrote this, in 1890: “The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are the masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians.”
Dear Oneida Nation: History has not done you well. Keep ignoring it.
Manfred considers legalized betting on baseball
Rob Manfred, the new commissioner of Major League Baseball, favors “fresh consideration” of a practice that for almost a century has been anathema for the sport. Ever since the Black Sox scandal, when a group of Chicago players conspired to throw the 1919 World Series, MLB has staunchly opposed gambling on its games. The all-time Hit King, Pete Rose, was banned from the Hall of Fame for betting on baseball, though no one said he bet against his own team. But now, with commissioner Adam Silver encouraging legalized betting on NBA games, Manfred is thinking his sport should not be left out of a potentially huge revenue stream. He noted that gambling is becoming more socially acceptable, that he intends “to deal with the owners on this topic.” As for possible reinstatement of Rose, he said, “It’s a conversation I’m expecting to have.”
Tiger’s back goes out again, Masters in doubt
Tiger Woods’ surgical spine is giving him problems. He withdrew from the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines after suffering spasms in his lower back following a two-hour delay because of fog. “It never loosened back up again,” he said. “It just got progressively tighter.” The back issues keep him from driving the ball effectively, but Woods, 39, has suffered a decline in his short game that does not seem injury-related. He’s not chipping anywhere near his peak form. He ranks 154th among PGA players this year and is a doubtful competitor for the Masters in April.