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The night the 3’s rained down at Oracle

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By Travis Duncan

—Oakland, California, double-overtime, the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors combined to shoot 88 three-pointers. Perfectly, symmetrically divided in half, 44-attempts per team.

Golden State, the creme a la creme of modern long distance shooting, made 12, two less than Houston. The Warriors are hard to beat at Oracle, and it took two overtimes for the Rockets to pull off the feat and for one Rockets player to declare post-game “this shows we can compete with anyone.

It became the first time that two NBA teams each attempted 40 or more three-pointers in a single game.

Of course, there’s a philosophical angle.

Charles Barkley said on Inside the NBA on TNT postgame, “The analytics guys will love it.”

The reasoning is not complicated. You shoot more threes you make more threes. You get a chance for offensive rebounds. Also, there’s one fundamental truth: Three is more than two.

There’s also a fundamental debate about what “pretty basketball” is. The grind it out, physical boxing matches, that highlighted the 90s (Think New York Knicks Anthony Mason era) had a certain toughness to them. The modern game (Think Steph Curry and the G’dubs) is so much based on one-on-one and the high-ball screen. The pro game also features at least three to four, if not five players on the floor at all times who will jack of a three point shot. Make no mistake about it though, the three-point shot is dominating all levels of the sport of basketball.

Perhaps one day that thrill will go away, but for now, shooting and making three-pointers is an exciting brand of basketball, even for the NBA.


Kevin Wilson out at Indiana: Life, Physicality, Grit, Toughness and other College Football things

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—Kevin Wilson “resigned” as the head football coach at Indiana University on Thursday.

It was not due to wins and losses. In fact, strictly by wins and losses Wilson had taken the Hoosier football program places it had not been in several decades.

Indiana defensive coordinator, Tom Allen, whose acronym L.E.O. (short for “love each other”) spread across social media as word broke he would be taking over as the head coach,  is more of a family guy, more of an Indiana guy. He was born and raised in Indiana. Wilson was not.

Indiana athletic director Fred Glass stated that Wilson resigned after a meeting. Before the announcement, it was assumed Wilson was fired.

The end result is the same.

Glass stated it was due to philosophical differences which had crept up before but again reared their ugly head in recent weeks. Glass cited differences in “leadership” philosophy.

Social media and a report by ESPN tell a different story.


Kevin Wilson was aggressive. If a player complained he was hurt, Wilson let them know about it. If a trainer said a guy was hurt, Wilson gave them an earful of expletives, allegedly.

Wilson’s job at Indiana was not simply just to coach football and make everyone happy. His job was to recruit as hard as he could, take players with lesser talent and get them ready to play a violent sport against some of the best football players on the planet in the Big Ten. It appears it the leadership style that Wilson employed more often than not, which cost him his job, is that he pushed his players beyond their physical limit. Even when injured.

As reported by ESPN.com:

Earlier Thursday, however, a former Indiana player’s father told ESPN that his son suffered a concussion in practice shortly before the 2015 season and was rushed back to workouts, causing his symptoms to intensify.

“He was out about a week and they started a normal concussion regimen, in which he was allowed to work out for about 20 minutes and gradually increase it,” the former player’s father said. “But after he worked out for 20 minutes, they had him run about 6 miles. After that, my son was feeling fine. But when he went home, he started throwing up and his symptoms went haywire.”

Indiana’s AD stated the NCAA won’t be involved. There will be no medical or legal matters to deal with, however the school employed an independent law firm to review the football program and found enough of a problem to warrant a change.

This is not the era in football to have guys grind it out. This is not the era in college athletics to have any hint that a coach abused or took improper measures or anything. Some say it’s a sign of the times that everyone is getting softer, and we’re training our kids to be pampered and self-centered.

But Kevin Wilson lost his job because he wasn’t quite aware or failed to fully realize what type of environment he was really working in.

The Detroit Pistons will truly be the Detroit Pistons starting in 2017 with move to the city

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If you’ve ever been up to the Palace at Auburn Hills, you know its nothing like Detroit. It follows a long road that leads to the Palace, a unique artifact of its own day.

For the hardest hit city in America, Detroit, good news is coming. The bet is that having a downtown arena for a premier sports city will have a good positive economic effect, as it has in other places, like Cleveland’s “The Q”, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, and so on.


Tuesday, the Pistons announced they would begin play at Little Caesars arena in downtown Detroit starting in 2017. It is a big to-do. NBA commissioner Adam Silver was on hand, and it really is grand news in terms of the NBA and Detroit and the Pistons.

Although there is a good deal to be skeptical about, and many other deeply rooted social, political and economic issues, there’s something to be said about the Pistons plan to build 60 basketball courts in Detroit in the near future as part of the announced “move to the city.”

Other initiatives reported by the Detroit Free Press include guaranteed construction jobs for Detroit residents, a new practice facility, and 20,000 in free game tickets for Detroit youth.

What would be even better is if the Pistons had a product that returned to the former glory of the Bad Boys or even Bad Boys part II, the Rasheed Wallace and Rip Hamilton days. Currently the Pistons sit at 6-9 on the young 2016-2017 basketball season. A move to Detroit is nice, but there is nothing like a winner to bring in the green dollar.




Harbaugh’s boys show a weakness for the first time in 2016

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Call it overconfidence. The Juggernaut that is Michigan Football in 2016 is not.

When Michigan arrived at Kinnick Stadium the equipment staff mercilessly revamped the famed pink-walled visiting locker room with Jordan logos and UM pride. By the time it was over Saturday night, Michigan left in shock, losing 14-13. The Wolverines, no longer perfect, with doubts now for the lock that was the college football playoff.

Michigan faces Indiana next week, which likely will result in a win, then play at Ohio State Nov. 26th, which likely may decide their college football playoff chances.

“We’re all going to to our jobs,” Jim Harbaugh said after the game.

“That’s part of my job. I’m not the only one, but a big part of my job is to make sure we respond.”



The Cubs: lovable losers to lovable champs

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There is a small sense somewhere deep inside the cynical mind that this Cubs team was built as a juggernaut, unlike many past Cubs teams built on a hope and a prayer and devoid of real talent at so many positions-including manager.

Joe Maddon is from Pennsylvania and earned things the very hard way, 30-years plus in the Angels organization as a coach. Theo Epstein is a Boston native, and a Yale graduate. Cubs owner and chairman Tom Ricketts is an Omaha, Nebraska native but attended college at the University of Chicago.

There’s an outside nature to the men who brought and steered the Cubs to the World Series victory Wednesday night in Cleveland, but none the less, the Cubs classic blue and red identity is still the same, the immortal Wrigley field still looks basically the same after over 100 years of existence. The Cubs needed outside help when the Tribune Company put the team up for sale and a savior with deep pockets came along and saw a cash cow, not a billy goat.


And so the Cubs of the lovable losers days are gone. The ‘hay day’ in the 1980’s with teams just good enough or simply really bad, where you could have a beer and a hotdog and lose the game and still have a great day, are gone. Gone is Harry Carry shirtless in the bleachers drinking a Budweiser. Gone is Ron Santo. Gone is Ernie Banks. Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson are guests of the team. Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, the list goes on and on, heroes of the World Series. A roster chocked so full of talent you can’t really say one is a bigger star than the other.  Now you have a beer and a hotdog, pay a lot for a ticket and the Cubs very likely will win. And win for the foreseeable future.

But the fans haven’t changed. The Cubs fans are still there. Some may have taken a backseat here or there in their devotion but we all stumble many times and show a lack of faith. When the door to the promised land opened, millions of Cubs faithful lined up.

Bill Murray, who notably has been a Cubs fan for way back, 30 years or more, and he said it best, “I hope we can be as lovable winning as we were losing” as he drank champagne still in shock that it had actually happened. Dreams do come true he said.

Was it the greatest baseball game ever played? Probably not. There have been so many baseball games played and the definition of greatness varies depending on the emotional investment of the participants and on-lookers.

The measure of a sporting event, more often than not involves the broad appeal to the general public. Whether it be a cinderella, the most famous athletes, a spectacle, we judge my mass appeal. The greatest game could happen in a little league game somewhere in Idaho, but it doesn’t mean anything beyond those onlookers and participants in Idaho.

Was Game 7 and the Cubs win the best game and the most exciting with the most at stake in the modern sport? Yes. I’ll leave the pre-1960’s teams out of it-the comparison isn’t fair and there aren’t enough still alive to be able to compare the two in amicable fashion. The only real comparison might be the late 90’s early turn of the century Yankees teams.  When Boston started winning again it was big. The Mets in 1986. The only real comparison might be the late 90’s early turn of the century Yankees teams.  When Boston started winning again it was big. The Mets in 1986 was big. The Big Red Machine of the 70s was big. But within the scope of the 21st century, a different time, with may more distractions and heartaches, and an influx of huge money into the game, it’s hard to argue that Wednesday night’s game wasn’t the biggest of the modern baseball era. Fox Sports reports that over 40 million people tuned in. That sort of stuff doesn’t happen anymore for a baseball game. America doesn’t just gather around the TV set in unison, for something unless it’s really big anymore, there are way too many entertainment options, but they did Wednesday night.

And so the Cubs get to enjoy this, they really get to enjoy this for five months. Bask in the limelight and the fun starts all over again, fresh with new hopes and new dreams and high expectations next April on the north side of Chicago.

The Cubs are a critical, commercial and emotional success. The Cubs are the kings of the sports world, at least for now.


Daily Buzz: Cubs Game 7, Bob Knight, College Football Playoff Rankings Snub, Hulu for Sports

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-Perhaps the most anticipated World Series game in the post-strike era and certainly in the last 20 to 30 years. The Cubs and Indians will play for it all tonight at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

As Cubs pitcher John Lackey said, via Bob Nightengale of the USA TODAY, this is not just another game.

“People trying to say it’s just another game,’’ Lackey said after Game 6 in Cleveland, “they’re lying to you. It’s not a normal game. I’ve been there. You’re going to wake up and feel different for sure. You’re going to feel different emotions. You try to use those and channel them in the right direction.’’

Joe Buck and John Smoltz will have the call for FOX at 8 p.m ET.

-Former Indiana University team doctors who served during the Bob Knight era, refute claims of former player Todd Jadlow, who recently wrote a memoir in which he alleged physical abuse at the hands of the legendary basketball coach.

Per the Indianapolis Star, “In a letter signed by Drs. Larry Rink, Brad Bomba and Steve Ahlfeld, and trainer Tim Garl, all four say, “Todd Jadlow’s comments went far beyond the truth.”

“We never witnessed the grabbing of players’ genitals or the closed-fist punch in the head of a player by Bob Knight,” the letter reads. “Additionally, no player ever reported to us of seeing or being subjected to such actions.

-The first College Football Playoff Rankings were released yesterday. Alabama, Clemson, Michigan all undefeated, make the Top 3, but the fourth team included Texas A&M at 7-1 is fourth, with a perfect 8-0 Washington getting the snub outside of the Top four coming in fifth.

Top 25 CFB Playoff Rankings, USA TODAY

-Hulu will join the growing list of streaming TV services. Tuesday the company announced it has signed deals with Disney and Fox which will give the service some of the most coveted for sports fans, including the ESPN family of networks and FS1 and Fox regional sports networks.

Per TechCrunch.com, “In terms of sports, the two deals will include Fox Sports networks (Fox Sports 1 and 2), BTN, ESPN networks, including ESPN1, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPN-SEC, and Fox’s regional sports networks in dozens of markets.”

Josh Tomlin’s start tonight at Wrigley will be very special

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Josh Tomlin, known as a crafty, not overpowering, artist of a baseball pitcher will be making a historic start at Wrigley Field Friday night in Game 3 of the World Series for the Cleveland Indians.

At age 32 it’s never too late to realize your dreams.

Hey, it’s the World Series, and perhaps one of the biggest games in the history of the sport. For Tomlin, it has altogether different meaning. He’s a grinder. He’s come and gone from the Indians rotation this season. But more than anything it’s who will be watching tonight at Wrigley.

Tomlin’s father, Jerry, will be at Wrigley tonight in a wheelchair. The elder Tomlin, age 57, late this summer became paralyzed as a result of a disease known arteriovenous malformation which affects the spinal chord.

Tomlin was just released from the hospital in the last couple of weeks and will be at the game tonight in Wrigley.

Per Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com

On the day the Indians secured their first World Series berth in 19 years — also Tomlin’s 32nd birthday — his father was released from the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation. A little more than a week later, he’ll venture to Chicago, with his wife, Elana, and Tomlin’s aunt and uncle.

“He’s one of the toughest individuals I’ve ever met in my life,” Tomlin said. “He never shies away from anything.”

They’ll spend time together Thursday night, when Tomlin’s family arrives and checks in at the same hotel. The next evening, Tomlin will stand, his right heel brushing up against the pitching rubber, and look to Perez for a sign. Perez won’t be sitting on a bucket. The bases might not be loaded. Tomlin likely won’t make it to the bottom of the ninth.

But he’ll be pitching in a World Series game, with his dad in attendance, in a wheelchair. That moment of elation, with their gloves soaring through the air, will come to life.



ESPN re-ups with Kornheiser and Wilbon for PTI

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In a world of rapid talent movement at the mothership, there are few constants, one is the shining light that is PTI, one of the first, and pioneers of the TV sports debate genres.

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon both celebrated sportswriters in previous’ lives, host the half-hour program daily at 5:30 on ESPN. The show has been a respite for the American sports fan for the last 15 years.

There have been small murmurs on social media about the demise of PTI as ratings have dropped an alleged 30% recently, but it’s all amongst those who follow that sort of thing. PTI remains a jewel for ESPN daily.

This week ESPN announced it has signed both Kornheiser and Wilbon to multi-year extensions and that the pair will “continue to work together” and contribute to other ESPN platforms.

According to ESPN, PTI is the most viewed ESPN studio product with about 1 million viewers daily if you count the re-air on ESPN2 at 6:30 as well. PTI is also ESPN’s most DVR’d studio show as well .

Hottest Ticket in Sports: NLCS Cubs Tickets at Wrigley

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—For a potential Game 6 or 7 at Wrigley Field this Saturday or Sunday in Chicago, it will cost between $300-$400 just to get in the door, and that’s without a seat.
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The lowest priced ticket for Saturday’s potential Game 6 (Los Angeles leads 2-1 at the time of this article was published) is $315 for a standing room only ticket according to StubHub. The lowest priced seat for Saturday’s potential Wrigley field matchup is $400.

For a potential winner-take-all Game 7 at Wrigley this Sunday, the lowest priced ticket on StubHub comes in at $394. The lowest price seating for the game comes in at $425.

By comparison, in Los Angeles at Dodger the lowest priced ticket on StubHub for Wednesday’s Game 3 comes in at $103 for standing room only and $105 for a seat.


The NLCS has been good for FS1 and Fox Sports

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The ratings for the first two broadcasts of the National League Championship Series between the Dodgers-Cubs on FoxSports1 have shown good signs. The numbers are good, not mind-blowing but very good.

What’s more,  America seems to like the John Smoltz Joe Buck pairing. Perhaps Smoltz wasn’t brought to life the way he ought to be with his temporary partner Matt Vasgersian or perhaps it’s just a bigger stage and more people are criticizing and yes watching and paying attention.

For Saturday’s Game 1, Fox drew a 3.9 overnight rating with 5.9 total viewers. Game 2 numbers really spiked with 7.2 million viewers and a 5.0 rating according to Fox Sports PR. Likely its the highest viewed event in FS1’s very brief history.

The numbers are good, not off the charts in comparison to what TBS drew a year ago when it had the NLCS. Also Chicago and L.A. as top markets boost the overall number. But it serves a bigger purpose in the FOX Sports stratosphere.

For FOX it serves as a vehicle into non-stop, and rightful, promotion of its new ESPN competitor FS1. Fox’s talent grab from ESPN includes Skip Bayless, Colin Cowherd, NBA reporter Chris Broussard, studio host Mike Hill among others.

Game 3 of the NLCS airs tonight on FS1.

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