Clippers discovering defense, but still learning
Shaquille O’Neal, ex-superstar-turned NBA-TV analyst: “The Clippers have always had a nonchalant culture. They’ve always been No 2 in the city. Doc (Rivers) is teaching them something they’re not used to doing, that they never wanted to do. The Clippers never wanted to stop you on defense. . . . With Doc in there, they respect Doc, but they’re still learning his system.”
Kobe Bryant told CNN that his comeback from Achilles surgery has its limits: “My game has to evolve. I’m not going to be as explosive as I was three or four years ago, or even last year, for that matter. But I’m willing to make those adjustments.”
Follow-up Question: How about a 20-pound weight adjustment?
Winslow prematurely counts out his own team
New York Jets tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. tweeted his playoff predictions and picked against his own team. He later tweeted that “twitter is very dangerous. I’m a fan of the game and thought we were out of it mathematically but we still got life so forgive me.”
Terry Blount, who covers the Seattle Seahawks for ESPN.com, was asked if the team “respects” the 49ers. “Publicly they will say they respect the 49ers. Privately, they can’t stand them, and respect just doesn’t enter the picture.”
Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson after a game in Baltimore: “They’ve got the worst fans in the NFL. Throwing snowballs the entire fourth quarter, like kids.”
David Cutcliffe said when he began coaching the Duke Blue Devils six years ago, he told them: “You’re the softest, fattest football team I’ve ever seen.”
Mandela really did use sports to bring people together
Mitch Albom of ESPN’s Sports Reporters recounted how Nelson Mandela in 1995 “appeared before the World Cup rugby final in Johannesburg wearing the uniform of South Africa’s team. The Spring Box were a symbol of a white elitist sport, the old South Africa. Mandela, with the new South Africa, was one year into his presidency. The ground was still shaky. But when he emerged in that uniform the crowd at first went silent, and then it started to applaud, and real life exceeded any movie moment.
“When the game ended the heavy underdog Spring Box had defeated New Zealand. And as one New Zealand player would later recall, ‘We felt the pressure because they had Nelson Mandela on their side.’ . . . A game truly had brought people together, an entire nation in fact. As the world mourns Mandela’s death, remember the day he made a sports cliché the real thing.”
ESPN’s Colin Cowherd sent a “Jack Hammer” down on Toronto mayor Rob Ford: “Lewd press conferences are fine. Running over old women in council meetings, that’s OK. Public urination? We’ve all done it. . . “ But Cowherd’s main complaint about Ford is that he allegedly “stole” someone’s seat at a football game. Cowherd’s advice: “Stick to being Chris Farley’s long lost brother.”
Football analyst Tom Waddle, appearing on Colin’s New Football Show, observed that Auburn in the SEC championship game passed six times in the first half, and coach Gus Mahlzan told a sideline reporter: “We need to get back to running the ball.”
Chicago Tribune poll: Forty-seven percent of Bears fans want Josh McCown to start over a healthy Jay Cutler.
And that was BEFORE McCown passed for 348 yards and 4 TDs to beat Dallas 45-28 on Monday night.
Eli Manning’s decline is due mostly to “an ineffective O-line and a nonexistent running game,” ESPN Magazine says in its Dec. 9 issue. “The Giants have constructed their offense around Manning dropping back a mile and staying in the pocket forever and hurling bombs. But this season . . . Manning, though resilient, is a sitting duck: He’s been hassled on 19.9% of plays, up from 15.4% the two previous seasons.”
Florida State’s soft schedule brings a hard landing?
Looking to the college football championship game, Tony Barnhart and Tim Brando of CBS Sports Network lean to Auburn, even though Florida State is favored by 8-9 points in the Vegas lines. “I’m going with Auburn,” Barnhart said. “Florida State looks better on paper, but nobody’s stopped that offense.”
Brando: “I think Florida State is in trouble in this game for the very reason I thought Ohio State would have trouble with Michigan State. They just haven’t been pushed. I think that’s going to be a problem.”
Brando’s feeling is that FSU’s Atlantic Coast schedule hurts in the end, because the team hasn’t been tested by the likes of Alabama, Missouri, Georgia.
Speaking of Florida State, its QB Jameis Winston abruptly ended a sideline interview with ESPN’s Heather Cox after the ACC Championship Game. She persisted in asking him about the investigation of an alleged sexual assault that ended Thursday with no charges filed. Cox’s final question: “How come you decided not to talk during the process and on Thursday?”
Someone, presumably working for FSU’s publicity department, tugged at the player’s jersey and he walked away from the reporter.
Winston’s attorney, Tim Jansen, later sent Cox a tweet: “Your actions after the game with my client were inappropriate and unprofessional”
Looks like someone doesn’t know much about the journalism profession.
As rumors continue about Nick Saban leaving Alabama for Texas, Bill Reiter of FoxSports.com said (on CBS Sports Network’s Rome): “Nick Saban I think is a great coach, but he’s a whack job, a crazy person. Part of what makes him brilliant is his competitive drive and his restlessness. He doesn’t like Alabama fans. . . I’ve watched him tell Alabama fans, ‘Settle down, I basically don’t like you.’ . . . If you forced me to bet, I’d bet he goes to Texas.”
ACL injuries rising; Simms blames rule changes
Rob Gronkowski became the 40th NFL player to have his season ended by a torn ACL. Last year the total number of players on Injured Reserve due to ACL injuries was 32. The rise in the injury rate, Phil Simms said, is partly attributable to “the spreading of the offenses, the passing game, all the rules that are helping it . . . making more collisions that are dangerous, because players are coming from farther distances to hit each other.”
Simms, speaking on CBS Sports Network’s NFL Monday QB, said, “The other thing that’s not talked about: off-season. Oh you can’t have these players at these complexes any more, weight-training and getting stronger ligaments, joints and tendons.”
On the same show, Rich Gannon pointed to the heavy fines for helmet hits. “They’re trying to lower the strike zone, so what’s happening now is the safeties are going low. . . taking out the knee.”
In fact, that was the case with Gronkowski, struck down by Cleveland safety T.J. Ward. “If I had hit him up high,” Ward said, “there’s a chance I was going to get a fine. . . . They forced our hand with this one.”