IBF heavyweight champ Anthony “AJ” Joshua and former champ Wladimir Klitschko will step into the ring at Wembley Stadium in London on April 29th. The young British champion faces his toughest test, battling the veteran, in front of 90,000 of his fellow countrymen. Tuesday afternoon was the United States press conference, held at Madison Square Garden.
As is typical of boxing press conferences, the promoters were full of hubris when referring to their respective fighters. But there was also a tone of respect between both camps. Joshua and Klitschko were sparring partners a few years back when the young Brit was coming up. In the past, and at Tuesday’s press conference, Klitschko referred to AJ as the future of the heavyweight division. In a long winded intro, Klitschko remarked on AJ’s exceptional abilities. In perhaps a little gamesmanship he also mentioned the talk within the boxing community that perhaps AJ is too young and not ready for a fight of this magnitude. Employing a little psychology, Klitschko switched his tone at the end of his opening remarks saying that he might be too old to be fighting the young and supremely talented athlete.
In contrast, AJ’s opening remarks were short and to the point. He referenced “mind games” and the mental side of the sport. At which point Klitschko interrupted jokingly and said:
“I am not playing mind games AJ. What you see is what you get.”
Klitschko even made it a point to tell a reporter, that he is not playing mind games. Whether he is or isn’t doesn’t really matter. In boxing you need to make sure your mind is right well before you get into that ring. AJ appeared very poised and focused during the presser, all his responses were about his preparation (mental and physical) and handling what is directly in front of him and what he can control.
I got a chance to ask AJ specifically about being mentally prepared for what is essentially a “home match” for him. See video of his answer below:
Boxing more than most sports goes through periods of bounty and drought in terms of its popularity, specifically here in America. If AJ successfully defends his title and continues to win against quality opponents, he has the charisma and the “it” factor to become a big star.
ESPN’s Nick Friedell posted a quote in which Wade gives his full support for LeBron James ripping Charles Barkley. Wade said:
Thank God [James] finally said something. LeBron, a lot of guys take a lot of shots at him, for whatever reason. He’s always been [a focal point like], all of the great players in the game. He just has kept his mouth closed, continued to focus on what he need to. But it’s about time he said something. Guys ride him, especially ex-players. When you got a history, when you can go and google your history, you need to be a little careful with what you say. Sometimes when guys get on a microphone in front of their face they just talk and talk and talk and forget about their history. We all make that mistake, but especially that guy on TV. He acts like he just walked on water. I like the fact that Bron called him out and told him about it hisself a little bit. Humble yourself. LeBron is who he is. We all have flaws, but when your flaws are a little bit more then you should shut up. So I’m glad LJ finally said something and stood up for himself from that standpoint He said there’s a new sheriff in town so I’m excited to see what’s next.
Wade and Bron are close, like brothers. He knows the “ghosts” Bron is chasing. Bron is playing for legacy right now. He wants to go down as the greatest to ever play the game and he knows time is of the essence and he has to win more rings. Any slight that comes his way, he is going to react. Barkley has been talking slick about this generations stars for quite some time now. Most guys shrug it off and keep moving. But again, Bron is playing for something different and he had to let Chuck have it. Look back at Bron’s comments, he mentioned not letting Barkley “disrespect his legacy.” This is a man that is going for greatness and like those before him he will not let anything or anyone stand in his way.
The interesting thing about this generation is their willingness to support one another. It’s not that Wade isn’t competitive with Bron or anyone else but there is a kinship and a bond. The banana boat crew especially are willing to really go to bat for one another.
Monday was Super Bowl 51 media night. The Patriots arrived in Houston and made the first of many media rounds scheduled this week. All world quarterback Tom Brady, as per usual, had a large crowd of media around his podium. The future Hall of Famer answered an array of questions in usual Patriots speak. But, there are certain questions Brady will not answer. Presumably because he is not qualified…
SB Nation tweeted a quote from Brady’s media availability.
Brady is not required to answer any questions outside the realm of the game, so he is well within his right to not discuss anything he does not want to. However, Brady is being naive and disingenuous regarding “what’s going on the world.”
Let’s start at the beginning. Brady opened himself up to this line of questioning by having a Trump “Make America Great Again” hat prominently displayed in his locker at Gillette Stadium. Whether he “believes” it or not he made a statement. Truthfully, it does not matter if he is a Trump supporter or not, but he opened the barn door on that line of questioning. Now, by ducking and refusing to answer questions and act incredulous as to why people care about his relationship with Donald Trump, he is only making it worse.
Super Bowl media week is unlike any other media week, and Brady knows this as a veteran of seven Super Bowls. There will be media members there who only care about the game and the stories related to the game. But there is a whole other group of media members who don’t care about the game and will ask all kinds of questions, and some will be out of left field. While other questions will be asked with the goal of acquiring social commentary from highly visible athletes.
Brady can duck all he wants, but the questions will be asked all week and he can’t skip these mandatory appearances. He can continue to refuse to answer, but it will only fan the flames and fuel speculation. Not to mention a President Trump interview will air on the pregame show and media members know it. The President will probably mention the Patriots and his relationship with Brady at least once during the interview. As he clearly has no problem with his relationship to the star quarterback. The question remains why Brady is unwilling to address or acknowledge? Well, as he says, he’s a positive person. Maybe he doesn’t want to link himself to anyone controversial. But then that would mean he is aware of what’s going on in the world…
The Washington Post published a feature today on DeMaurice Smith and the NFLPA developing a proposal that will take a much broader look at marijuana use by league players. The area where Smith and other NFLPA leaders will address centers around the definition of “recreational use.” In a conversation with media members, Smith said:
I do think that issues of addressing it more in a treatment and less punitive measure is appropriate. I think it’s important to look at whether there are addiction issues. And I think it’s important to not simply assume recreation is the reason it’s being used.
Does this quote by Smith sound familiar to any of you? It’s the same rhetoric being used more broadly by government to handle the opioid epidemic. I’m in no way suggesting that the league has a marijuana epidemic. But what I am saying is, it is worth looking at how and why governments and governing bodies choose to view certain situations.
It’s no secret that playing football is extremely dangerous and the long term effects are catastrophic and often fatal. Many players use marijuana for pain management because in order to do their job every week, they need to find some way to deal with the debilitating pain.
The NFL, a conservative organization in every respect, takes and adopts a lot of its policies and rules from conservative government. Marijuana use is currently banned by the NFL and positive or missed tests result in fines and suspensions for players. Like most societal laws, around drug use, the prescription is treat the “offender” like a criminal and punish. That will solve the problem. We know that is not true and has been proven over time.
Not only is the league conservative it is also hypocritical in how punishments and detrimental conduct are determined. It takes four missed or positive tests to trigger a four-game suspension without pay. An initial violation results in referral to the substance abuse program. A second violation is a fine equivalent to two game checks for the player and a third violation is a fine equivalent to four game checks. A fifth violation results in a 10-game suspension and a sixth violation results in a one-year ban. This is a pretty clear path to a suspension, not a lot of room for ambiguity. Meanwhile, known domestic abusers and players accused of sexual assault are on active rosters and don’t face similar penalties. Their path to punishment is a little less clear. How does the league justify that?
Crimes that involve the legal system add an additional layer of complexity sure. But, right is right. If zero tolerance, and moral values are more than just words the league likes to throw around then there needs to be transparency on all issues that the league considers detrimental to its image. This of course isn’t Smith’s focus but it warrants mentioning in the larger context.
What Smith is proposing would allow a more nuanced look into why certain players are choosing to use marijuana. He continued:
We have to do a better job of knowing if our players are suffering from other potentially dangerous psychological issues like depression, right? So if I look at this myopically as just a recreational use of marijuana and miss the fact that we might have players suffering from depression, what have I fixed? Worse yet, you may have solved an issue that gets the steady drumbeat in a newspaper but miss an issue like chronic depression . . . where a person theoretically might be able to smoke more weed because it makes them feel better but it’s not curing their depression.
We tend to look at these athletes and sports leagues as something outside of normal life. In some respects that is true, whatever “normal” means. What is forgotten by many is that these are human beings with problems and fears just like everyone else. Sure they perform feats of athletic achievement that causes our jaws to drop and wonder in amazement, but that’s what they do for a living. It does not make them immune from “normal” life. Like everything else in society, and sports is no different, we need to examine and look into reasons as to why. Because it is when we understand, appropriate measures can be taken to rectify.
LeBron James is not a happy camper right now. After the Cavs loss to the Anthony Davis less Pelicans, the King went off. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, Bron has been grumbling for weeks about the team’s lack of a backup point guard, saying:
Get me more help. We need more playmakers. We need a backup point guard.
The Cavs are a roster largely “constructed” by Bron (defacto GM) with David Griffin (actual GM) executing the moves. The team recently traded for sharp shooter Kyle Korver which helps with their spacing issues but not when it comes to playmaking. As the roster currently stands, Bron and Kyrie are the only two playmakers on the court. We all know Kyrie, while improved at playmaking, seeks his own shot first.
The Cavs have lost five of seven with Bron in the lineup and when asked about the roster and the front office, he didn’t hold back, saying:
I ain’t got no problems with the front office. I told (Griffin) to his face, so it ain’t like I’m telling y’all to put it on record. I see Griff all the time. One thing about me, if I got something to say, I’m going to tell it to your face. We need a f—— playmaker. I’m not saying you can just go find one, like you can go outside and see trees. I didn’t say that.
Unfortunately, despite the league’s rising salary cap the Cavs are a top heavy roster. When most of your money is tied up in Bron, Kyrie, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson that doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for depth and the ancillary parts that make a team championship worthy.
The Cavs won last year but it took a monumental comeback and Bron playing at an apex level (plus a Draymond Green suspension). There are not a whole lot of options available and Bron is going to have to roll with the team he has. But Bron is a smart player, he knows what is and isn’t available. This could be one of his not so subtle messages to the rest of his squad to elevate their game to another level. For his teammates, that’s the price you pay when you play with a man chasing all time greatness.
See video of Bron’s postgame comments below.
In a larger story about the New Orleans Pelicans, ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported the Hawks and Pelicans held preliminary trade talks and the centerpiece of the deal was Dwight Howard. Yes, the same Dwight Howard the Hawks just signed in the offseason to a free agent deal worth $70 million over three years. The trade talk remained talk as the Pelicans were unable to generate unanimous support within the organization to acquire Howard. Pairing Dwight with Anthony Davis might have been a good thing, if Dwight was willing to accept his role as a rebounder, defender and rim runner.
What has happened to Dwight? This is a guy who led the league in rebounding just four seasons ago and took the Orlando Magic to the Finals in 2009. Yes, he has been injury prone the last few years, but it seems he has become a pariah in league circles. The Hawks just acquired him this past offseason and are already looking to offload him. Curious as to why the Hawks want to trade Dwight. We haven’t heard about any issues with Dwight in Atlanta. He’s averaging 14 points and 13 rebounds per game. He has been consistent.
The rumors about Dwight being a fake tough guy, the incessant whining, and his on court antics, are apparently reasons many of his peers seemingly dislike him. Maybe it’s also due to his unwillingness to accept who he is as a player. This was a man that used to be among the NBA’s most popular players both by fans and peers and now he is radioactive. Maybe it was the way things went in Orlando or Kobe disliking him during his time in LA. Who knows. But, I do know this. Perception unfortunately is reality, and in NBA circles people feel a certain type of way about Dwight. If he can’t find a way to change that perception, his days in the league might be numbered.
Nike will be making the NBA’s uniforms beginning with the 2017-2018 season. The Swoosh has stated they will not produce any sleeved jerseys. According to The Wall Street Journal’s Sara Germano, Nike said it doesn’t plan to produce sleeved jerseys, a style debuted by Adidas in 2013 that received mixed reviews from players and fans. Mixed reviews is putting it kindly. When the jerseys debuted several of the leagues players, including LeBron James, voiced their displeasure. James and others complained it restricted their shooting motion. Currently 19 of the league’s 30 teams have a sleeved jersey as an alternate uniform option.
The question you have to be asking, is what was Bron’s role, if any, in this? Bron is Nike’s top basketball guy. His latest deal with the Swoosh is worth more than $1B over its lifetime. You have to imagine he has some influence inside the multi-billion dollar company. If your #1 guy hates sleeved jerseys, how difficult is it for you to just not introduce it as part of your collection?
While I believe Bron had some influence it wasn’t the ultimate deciding factor. The sleeved jersey was introduced by Adidas, a rival company to the Nike throne (though Under Armour is the true #2 in this triumvirate). The people at Nike are competitive and would never want to be seen as a company riding off the coattails of any other company, especially Adidas. Nike sees themselves as innovators in the space. So while they will undoubtedly scrap the sleeved jersey, which will satisfy Bron, the Swoosh will not miss out on a revenue stream. Look for the Swoosh to introduce its own innovative alternate jersey. As for what it might look like, time will tell.
Sunday’s NFC Divisional round playoff game between the Packers and Cowboys was a good one. The Cowboys mounted a furious comeback, but with the game tied at 31 the Cowboys left Aaron Rodgers with just enough time to pull off a magic trick. But, according to Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb, you won’t find that play in the team’s playbook. Rodgers drew it up in the huddle, like a game of backyard football.
As reported by Yardbarker, with twelve seconds left in regulation, Rodgers rolls out of the pocket to his left and fires a dart on the sideline to tight end Jared Cook. The throw and catch are a thing of beauty. See the video below.
As I’ve written before, in my opinion, Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in football. The way he can move and manipulate the pocket with his legs and throw accurate darts while on the move is amazing. The fact that he is so confident (read: cocky and arrogant) in his abilities that he can draw up a play and freelance in the huddle at the end of a playoff game is the stuff of legend.
NFL fans everywhere rejoice. You get another week of Aaron Rodgers and we inch closer to that colossal quarterback matchup everyone wants to see in the Super Bowl.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson is officially out for Sunday’s divisional playoff game versus the Cowboys. Immediate reactions are, this is a huge blow for the Packers and it will make their job against the Cowboys that much harder. Nelson is Rodgers’ favorite receiver and the two have an undeniable chemistry. There is no way to sugarcoat this is a major loss for Packers.
It’s true the Packers were not great last year when he was hurt and Rodgers wasn’t great last year or at the beginning of year when Nelson was still recovering, but you have to take into consideration the roll Aaron Rodgers is on right now.
Tom Brady may be the most decorated and statistically the best quarterback left in the playoffs, but the most dangerous quarterback left in the playoffs is Aaron Rodgers, and as stated he is hot right now. During last week’s game against the Giants top tier defense, Rodgers shredded them for 362 yards, 4 td’s and no interceptions after a very slow start and he did this the majority of the game without Nelson.
Rodgers was at his elusive best, buying time sliding his feet, stepping up subtly, avoiding the Giants pass rush and delivering bullets to receivers that found their way open. Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Jared Cook were more than enough to make up for Nelson. But, The Cowboys have the advantage of knowing that Nelson will be out and plus they are playing at home. It is easier to overcome setbacks at home than on the road, plus the Cowboys are fresh and healthy, while the Packers are banged up across the board.
The Packers offensive line is playing better, and Rodgers’ jersey is staying relatively clean. If he is able to avoid the Cowboys pass rush like he did with the Giants last week (particularly in the second half), Jordy Nelson’s absence can be mitigated. You give an all pro like Rodgers six or more seconds and he is impossible to beat. In last Sunday’s game Rodgers had as many as nine seconds to throw the ball on several plays. If he and the line can manufacture that amount of time, the Pack will be advancing to the NFC Championship.
All of that is easier said done, but not impossible.
The Brooklyn Nets are 8-28 and sit at the bottom of the eastern conference standings. Despite playing relatively well at home, and holding second half leads against some of the best teams in the league, they have been unable to convert the leads into wins. This isn’t breaking news, but the Nets aren’t making the playoffs and need to figure out where the franchise goes from here.
Injuries have played a part in the teams struggles and there are a lot of young players that need NBA reps in order for coaches to determine strengths and weaknesses. Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead seem like good young players, so that’s a positive. As the Nets play out the rest of the season, GM Sean Marks will be holding workouts, tryouts, experiments, and roster moves. One roster move he should consider seriously is moving leading scorer and all-star center Brook Lopez.
Yes, Brook is the team’s best player and leads all NBA centers in made three pointers. Excellent points. But, what are his stats accomplishing for this team? His value may never be higher than it is right now. He has two years left on his contract and will make just under $22 million this season. With the cap spike, a team that is a playoff contender might want to part with draft picks and roll the dice on Brook Lopez as the missing piece. Or a team that is in the bottom third of the playoff race may want to acquire Lopez with the hopes that it will push them into a top 4 seed. Either way a Lopez move should net two first round draft picks. Given the Nets current and future draft situation, the team could use the additional picks.
Again, will any of these things work? Nobody can tell for sure. The one certainty Marks and Nets brass should know is that if you want to change the fortunes of your franchise you need assets. More importantly, you need the right mix of young, talented cheap assets. If the Nets can turn an expensive talented asset with a known ceiling for the chance to draft and develop two young assets with team friendly contracts and higher upsides; they should do it.