Issue XCVI

21 OCT 2016

Sports

06/26/2015

Soaking wet amid cheers, Rozier gets drafted

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CLEVELAND -- The crowd of family and friends who came to the sprawling, immaculate home of Terry Rozier's agent to watch Thursday's NBA draft couldn't handle the tension any longer.

They had gathered around a television by the backyard pool, and Rozier's agent, Aaron Turner, told them to tuck away their phones. Good news was coming any minute, he said.

They went silent, save for the dozen or so children who buzzed around the yard in the midst of an intense game of keep-away.

Then NBA commissioner Adam Silver came on the TV screen and changed their lives.

Rozier, a 6-foot-1 guard who played two years at the University of Louisville, had been selected by the Boston Celtics with the 16th overall pick in the first round of the draft, far earlier in the night than most draft analysts expected.

Pandemonium broke out.

The crowd mobbed Rozier, who couldn't stop smiling. His mother, Gina Tucker, shouted through tears, "We're going to be Boston fans!" Turner bounced around the backyard, a grin on his face.

Rozier, as he walked over to Turner, who had Celtics president Danny Ainge on the phone, hollered, "Second round? Yeah, right."

"Unbelievable feeling, just to see the looks on everyone's faces," Rozier said. "I've got little brothers, little cousins here. They're happier than I am. I can't explain this feeling."

Tucker, still wearing a shocked face, said the nervousness and uncertainty of what would happen had consumed her right up until her son's name splashed across the screen.

Rozier's house party in suburban Cleveland erupted when his name was called.

"I totally did not know they were going to call his name," she said. "I'm just happy for him — very, very happy."

Someone identified as Rozier's aunt drew a circle seven- or eight-deep around her and shouted a prayer into the night, praising God for his glory and for his blessings of her nephew, amens from the crowd accentuating each sentence.

Moments later, Rozier popped open a champagne bottle and sprayed the crowd — twice. A half dozen of his friends and cousins jumped into the pool, and Rozier, wearing the suit that one of his agents bought him, hopped in too.

This is what it's like to be drafted, to be one of the 60 players chosen. First-round selections get guaranteed, two-year contract deals, with a third-year option.

For comparison, the 16th pick in last year's draft,...


Celtics unable to make a splash at NBA Draft

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BOSTON – There were so many interesting proposals and all sorts of speculation floating in the air concerning the Celtics in recent days.

Trade rumors had them moving into the top 10 of the NBA Draft to grab a player capable of filling a glaring need in a quick amount of time.

The name of Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins even popped up as a trade possibility.

In the end on Thursday night, however, the Celtics had a rather ho-hum draft experience at their Seaport Hotel headquarters.

They made a rather shocking pick at No. 16, taking Terry Rozier of Louisville, adding a 6-foot-1 guard to an already crowded backcourt.

Then they took the all-time leading scorer at Georgia State, R.J. Hunter at No. 28, giving the school its first draft pick since 1983.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge was simply unable to put together an attractive enough package to lure a top-10 team to move down, leaving the Celtics in the stand-pat mode.

“I’m not disappointed,’’ said Ainge. “We tried. It just didn’t happen. Listen, it all comes down to how good the players are that we have. We’ll just wait and see how good they are.

“We like the guys we have and I think our fans are going to enjoy them. I did say we would try to move up. The price was way too high.

“There’s so many rumors out there, so many things being said and written that aren’t even close to being true that are just made-up stories, no sources, made-up sources. (Fans) get caught up in these rumors and their expectations grow even higher.’’

The only big splash of the night came when fully clothed Rozier jumped into a swimming pool after learning he had been taken by the Celtics.

Where Rozier fits with his new team remains to be seen since the Celtics already have Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, with Evan Turner being used in the backcourt as well.

The Celtics were thought to be interested in forward Bobby Portis of Arkansas, but chose Rozier, a pick that was not received warmly by season-ticket holders at the draft headquarters.

“That’s a great question,’’ said coach Brad Stevens when asked about having so many guards. “The first question I ask when I’m doing the draft for the first time is, do you draft based on need or draft on best player available. The consensus is you draft the best player available.

“You hope they can complement each other in a...



06/01/2015

Maria Sharapova loses to Lucie Safarova at French Open

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Sharapova's exit blows open the bottom half of the women's draw, anchored by No. 7 seed Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 champion here. Ivanovic is into her first quarterfinal here since that championship run seven years ago.

The loss locks in Serena Williams, the top seed, as the strong favorite. She plays later Monday against fellow American Sloane Stephens in a fourth-round match. No. 4 seed Petra Kvitova remains in Williams' half of the draw, as well.

Sharapova will fall to No. 4 in the rankings with the loss. Safarova, meanwhile, meets Spain's Garbiñe Muguruza in the quarterfinals, the same player who shocked Williams here a year ago.

How it happened: Safarova didn't back down in this match, the left-hander hitting toe-to-toe with the Russian from the baseline. She gave up a break lead late in the first set, but then played through the tiebreaker with more consistent tennis, going up a set against the world No. 2 in front of a dazed crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Sharapova could never fully get settled, falling down 3-0 in the second before rallying, serving to stay in the match at 4-5. But Safarova didn't blink, and blasted a forehand winner on match point to launch her into the quarterfinals, marking just her third win over a top-two player.

"I felt like I had small openings, and I just wasn't able to … I just wasn't able to keep that level up today," said Sharapova, 28. "She was the much more aggressive player. She took the time away from me, created her angles and I didn't. That was the difference today, in my opinion."

Key stat: Safarova owned this match, cracking 34 winners, including 20 off her forehand side. Sharapova wasn't up to the task, but this was a match where Safarova took the opportunity by the throat and didn't let go. Safarova hit four aces and was helped along by five double faults from Sharapova, who also committed 26 unforced errors (to 18 from Safarova).

What they said: "I knew Maria is an amazing player," a smiling Safarova said on court."I needed to play aggressive and come forward in the points. I'm really happy. It's amazing."

Sharapova, who had been suffering from a cough earlier in the tournament, didn't attribute the loss to her illness. "Just a tough day and a match that I lost," she said. "My opponent was at a much higher level more consistently than I was, and that results in a...


French Open 2015: Maria Sharapova knocked out by Lucie Safarova

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Almost certain to surrender the world No 2 ranking to Safarova’s compatriot Petra Kvitova with the 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 defeat, Sharapova stalked from Court Philippe Chatrier after a terrible serving performance.

Safarova’s quarter-final opponent is Spanish 21st seed Garbine Muguruza, who dispatched Italian veteran Sara Errani 6-3 6-4.

Having struggled with illness throughout the first week amid rumours her relationship with Grigor Dimitrov has ended, Sharapova appeared a shadow of her usual self.

The Russian’s second serve was plundered by 13th seed Safarova, who had lost her 18 matches in a row against top-10 opposition.

Sharapova’s exit extends the poor record of women’s defending champions at Roland Garros.

No woman has successfully defended the title since Belgian Justine Henin in 2007.

A Wimbledon semi-finalist last season, Safarova has always been a rich, if unfulfilled, talent with wins over Henin and Caroline Wozniacki.

Inflicting only the sixth defeat on Sharapova in the Russian’s last 72 claycourt matches, Safarova virtually guaranteed Kvitova will rise to No 2 if she also reaches the last eight.

Safarova was undaunted by Sharapova’s power, securing the first set in 61 minutes.

Profiting from the Russian’s sloppiness and increasing anxiety, the Czech swept to a 3-0 lead in the second set after Sharapova had double-faulted to lose serve.

Serving for a 4-1 buffer, Safarova blundered with a match-turning double fault to allow Sharapova back into the contest.

But poor serving again exposed Sharapova to the worst in the 10th game and, having blown her first match point with a wild forehand, Safarova atoned the second time with a cold winner down the line.

Former world No 1 Victoria Azarenka has been fined $7000 for audible and visible obscenities following a poisonous third round loss to Serena Williams.

The Belarusian’s anger boiled over when she incorrectly lost a crucial point to Williams after a line-calling dispute.

TV replays proved Azarenka was right, but her gesturing and language en route to a three-set loss drew the biggest fine of her career.



04/14/2015

Pittsburgh Penguins Will Face a Tough Task in Shutting Down Rick Nash

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The Pittsburgh Penguins are going to face a huge challenge as they’re tasked with shutting down Rick Nash in the first round of the playoffs. Nash is coming off a 42-goal performance in the regular season, which is a career-high. He also tallied 27 assists while tying his career high in points with 69.

The biggest issue that I see with facing Nash is Mike Johnston’s player usage. The Pittsburgh Penguins have a few solid shutdown forwards, but they haven’t been used in the right combinations. Secondly, Pittsburgh’s injury depleted defensive corps will also struggle if found in the wrong matchup.

The most glaring case of misusage is that the Penguins see Brandon Sutter as a defensive Center. However, against talented opponents he has been exactly opposite of that. My biggest fear is that he’ll be force-fed a Rick Nashmatchup that will prove to be detrimental to Pittsburgh’s hope of limiting his production.

So far this season Sutter has faced Nash for 20:08, which leads all Penguins forwards. That’s a clear indication that Mike Johnston is pushing for this matchup.  However, while possession numbers such as corsi tilt in Sutter’s direction, Nash has three goals and seven shots versus Sutter and his comrades.  Essentially, in the span of one period’s worth of play Rick Nash has a hat trick and seven shots. That is the most productive he has been against any individual player so far this season.

Which line has been the most effective against the big power forward? Evgeni Malkin’s.

Nash and Malkin have been on the ice together for a hair over fourteen minutes. During that time frame Rick Nash has a corsi-for of 35.7 and only one shot on goal. He also has zero points. However, you’re obviously not going to look to Evgeni Malkin to play the role of shutdown Center.  He does that circumstantially by living in the opponents territory.

Ideally, you want your third line to be the shutdown trio. If I’m Mike Johnston, my lineup change for this series is to run with a bottom-6 such as the one listed below.

Winnik – Spaling – Comeau
Lapierre – Sutter – Downie

Daniel Winnik’s TOI with Nash is 14:01, with Nash posting a dismal 25.0 corsi-for and one shot on goal. He did manage to get an assist during that time, but Winnik is clearly a great matchup option.  Also, consider that Winnik plays Left Wing and will...


Nash Will Need to Bring More Offense This Post-Season

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Last year one of the main stories around the New York Rangers playoff run was Rick Nash not being able to score. Heading into the Post-Season this time around the Rangers are hoping that Nash could get the monkey off his back and start to find the back of the net.

Last year the Rangers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Final with Rick Nash recording just 10 points in 25 games. Even though he wasn’t scoring, the big winger was working relentlessly by clogging up lanes, finishing his body checks, and going hard to the net. Still, the Rangers went out to and got Nash hoping that he could be an offensive force that could win them games when they mattered most, and this year he gets another chance to prove he could get the job done.

Rebound Season

Nash came into the 2014-2015 season like a man on a mission. Alain Vigneault told Pat Leonard of the Daily News about Nash coming into camp back in September, “Rick’s come in here, every practice he has been focused, paying attention. He’s paying attention to the details on the ice, working extremely hard. This camp, compared to the one he had last year, I’ve had him twice, night and day.”

Nash ended the season by posting 69 points in 79 games played, and for a while was chasing Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead in goal scoring. Nash was a force all over the ice for the Rangers this past regular season. He ended the year a +29, he tied for second in the league in short handed goals with 4, and he finished the year with 32 even strength goals, good for 1st in NHL. Nash has helped the Rangers on several fronts,which is why he won the Rangers team MVP award.

What to Expect

Nash steps up his physical play during the playoffs, last year in 25 playoff games Nash threw 45 hits, to put that in perspective, Nash has thrown 45 hits in 79 games this season. He’s no Dustin Brown, but he certainly uses his frame well. The Rangers gave Nash games 81 and 82 off to get some energy back for what the Rangers hope is a long playoff run. So don’t expect his physical play to diminish.

The Rangers will take comfort in knowing that even if Nash isn’t scoring, he will help however he can, Rangers Coach Alain Vigneault told Dan Rosen of NHL.com back in June of 2014, during the Stanley Cup final, about Nash’s well rounded play, “Rick has been playing some real good hockey…He’s...



03/30/2015

Duke Defeats Gonzaga to Advance to Its 16th Final Four

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HOUSTON — Every day for the last two years, Quinn Cook has thought about one game, and it is not a game that he enjoys reliving. He remembers the confetti falling and Louisville celebrating and his Duke teammates consoling one another. Their faces, the sadness, he will never forget.

When he went to the bench in the final seconds of the Blue Devils’ 66-52 victory over Gonzaga on Sunday, he was greeted with a warm embrace by Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who shared a few words that Cook did not recall.

“I don’t know,” Cook said. “I was crying.”

He fell sobbing into the arms of the assistant Nate James before joining the celebration. Cook was the first player to hold aloft the South Regional trophy, and he conducted interviews at his locker afterward with one of the nets around his neck. When Duke arrives in Indianapolis this week in advance of its national semifinal against Michigan State, Cook may still be wearing it.

Until Sunday, when the top-seeded Blue Devils (33-4) advanced to their first Final Four since 2010 and their 12th over all under Krzyzewski, Cook was the rare Duke senior whose memories of playing in the N.C.A.A. tournament unspooled like D’s on a report card, unsatisfactory marks for one of college basketball’s premier programs: first-round upset losses to Mercer last year and Lehigh in 2012 bookending the loss that tormented him most, that regional final loss to Louisville in 2013.

Cook is one of the few holdovers from that team because Duke is now loaded with freshmen. Not just any freshmen, but four McDonald’s all-Americans, three of whom start for what Krzyzewski said was the youngest team he had coached in his 35 seasons at Duke.

“The way he’s treated the freshmen has changed our season,” the assistant Jon Scheyer said of Cook.

The glue: That was what one of those freshmen, Justise Winslow, called Cook. Winslow scored 7 straight points late in the second half to turn a close game into a rout, denying second-seeded Gonzaga (35-3), which had set a program record for victories, its first berth in the Final Four.

With its rotation thinned to eight scholarship players after Rasheed Sulaimon was kicked off the team in January, Duke won 16 of its next 17 games, a stretch that has continued into the tournament. Along with Krzyzewski, Cook instructed teammates not to worry, they would be fine.

His nurturing guidance, coaches said, could be felt most with Tyus...


Gonzaga denied 1st trip to Final Four by 66-52 loss to Duke

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HOUSTON — Gonzaga's offense stalled against Duke, and it cost the Bulldogs a trip to the Final Four.

Kyle Wiltjer scored 16 points, but Gonzaga was held without a field goal for the final 6:37 of Sunday's 66-52 loss to the top-seeded Blue Devils in the South Regional final.

"That was a tough way to end it with those empty possessions," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "But by and large, those are the possessions that we've converted all year."

Przemek Karnowski, who scored 18 points and dominated inside in a win over UCLA in the regional semifinal, got into foul trouble and never really got into a rhythm, finishing with four points and five rebounds.

"We have all the confidence in the world that we belong in that Final Four," said Wiltjer, a transfer from Kentucky. "We just weren't able to get there. That's the tough thing about sports, somebody's got to lose. Hopefully we all learn from this."

Justise Winslow and Matt Jones scored 16 points apiece for Duke (33-4), which led 31-26 at halftime. Tyus Jones scored 15 points, and Jahlil Okafor had nine points and eight rebounds.

The Blue Devils led by seven with about 7 1/2 minutes left when Gonzaga (35-3) scored the next five points to close to 53-51 with under six to play. Wiltjer had a wide-open layup a few seconds later that would have tied the game, but he missed it.

"There were a lot of missed shots in that game and I missed it," Wiltjer said of the shot.

Winslow took over after that, scoring the next seven points to push Duke's lead to 60-51, all but wrapping up the victory for the Blue Devils.

It was a difficult finish to Gonzaga's 17th straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, its second trip to the Elite Eight and the first since 1999, which was the year before Few moved from an assistant to head coach.

While stung by the loss, the Bulldogs were encouraged by their accomplishments this season.

"This is definitely not how we planned it to go," senior Byron Wesley said. "(But) we have so much to be proud of and no reason to hang our head. There's only been one other team to make it this far in Gonzaga history; to be a part of history at such a prestigious school is really something special."

It was the final game for Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who had both played at least 135 games for Gonzaga. They were a combined 4-of-14 shooting for nine points.

"We accomplished a lot and...



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