On Sunday afternoon, LeBron James offered another reminder of how silly it was to ever doubt his performance in the clutch.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iz-3ItHYeiQAfter the game, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst tweeted that James has now made more go-ahead shots at the end of playoff games than Michael Jordan. (It’s not the only area in which James is Jordan’s statistical peer in the postseason.)Windhorst’s definition for what constitutes a game-winning shot is as good as any — it covers all potential go-ahead field-goal attempts with five or fewer seconds remaining in the fourth quarter (or overtime) of playoff games. At Basketball-Reference.com, I was able to find 10 such attempts for James: five makes and five misses.1I’m not sure what accounts for the discrepancy with Windhorst’s numbers (he has James as 6-for-10), but for the remainder of this post, I will use Basketball-Reference.com as my data source. How does that stack up to other playoff performers over the years?Unfortunately, Jordan’s playoff career predates BBR’s shot-by-shot database by three seasons, but the site does have a record of every such shot attempted since the 2001 playoffs. And in those go-ahead situations (after accounting for the leverage of the game in which each shot occurred), nobody has a better record relative to expectations2As measured by points generated per shot above what would be expected from the distance of the shot. than James — particularly not his longtime nemesis Kobe Bryant, who sits at the opposite end of the list.Relative to the league-wide average, James generated 4.8 more total points than expected on his go-ahead shots, which translates to about one entire playoff win beyond what an average shooter would have contributed from the same field-goal distances. And those numbers become magnified when you consider that James’s average go-ahead shot came in a playoff game with championship implications 34 percent greater than the typical postseason contest. After we weight by the leverage of his specific game-winning shot attempts, James generated the equivalent3At normal playoff conditions. of 8.5 more points than expected, or roughly two playoff wins above average, with his clutch end-of-game shooting alone.(By contrast, Bryant generated 3.2 fewer points than expected and did it in games that were about 64 percent more important than the average playoff game, compounding the damage of his 1-for-10 performance.)So there’s no doubting James’s history of knocking down big playoff shots. But what’s also interesting about the list above is that the trailing section contains slightly better players, on balance; the bottom 10 players have tallied 1,090 wins above replacement (WAR), versus 987 WAR for the top 10.Granted, there’s essentially no relationship between career WAR and leverage-weighted net expected points for the entire sample of players … but maybe that’s the point. Role players can be called upon to hit huge shots with championship implications just as readily as stars. While James (and Dirk Nowitzki, and Chris Paul, to name a few) are all-time greats, the fact that the likes of Rashard Lewis and Metta World Peace also rank so highly — and Bryant fares so poorly — might speak as much as anything else to the unpredictability of who steps up and changes the course of NBA history with a clutch shot or two.One thing’s for sure, though: James has shown that he’s better at knocking down such consequential buckets than any other player of his generation.
A team led by former federal judge and FBI director Louis Freeh released a report today concluding that leaders at Penn State, including the late legendary football coach Joe Paterno, displayed “total disregard” for the children victimized by assistant coach Sandusky in order to prevent bad publicity in Happy Valley.“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” Freeh said at this morning’s press conference. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”According to Freeh, the senior officials in question “never demonstrated, through actions or words, a concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.”The report includes several email conversations between deceased former head coach Joe Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley, now retired university vice president Gary Schultz, and university president Graham Spanier.The Paterno family released a statement on Tuesday seeking to refute claims that Paterno helped shield his longtime friend from the consequences of his actions. “Joe Paterno did not know that Jerry Sandusky was a pedophile,” the family statement said. “Joe Paterno did not act in any way to prevent a proper investigation of Jerry Sandusky.”The report by Freeh says otherwise.“Although concern to treat the child abuser humanely was expressly stated, no such sentiments were ever expressed by them for Sandusky’s victims,” the report says.In 2001 Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant at the time, notified Paterno that he saw Sandusky with a teenage boy engaged in what appeared to be anal sex. Paterno then proceeded to alert Curley and Schultz, who decided not to alert law enforcement or child welfare authorities, as they were required by law to do.Both Curley and Schultz are awaiting trial on charges they lied to a grand jury that was investigating Sandusky as well as the aforementioned failure to report what McQueary told them.The report concluded “in order to avoid consequences of bad publicity, Curley, Paterno, Schultz and Spanier repeatedly concealed critical facts related to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities.”
Dante Martin was sentenced to six years in prison.Dante Martin was sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter and felony hazing in the death of Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion, but the victim’s family was dissatisfied with the punishment.“If people are not held accountable for what they are doing, then what is the system about?” Champion’s mother, Pam Champion, said. “That’s the key in sending a strong message. That’s what we’re missing here.”Prosecutors sought nine years in Champion’s beating death during a November 2011 band hazing incident. Multiple character witnesses and several letters of support persuaded Judge Renee Roche to give Martin a lenient sentence. She called him a “remarkable young man” and said she wanted him after prison to have a life he could develop.“Forgiveness doesn’t have a role in the legal system. The role of the legal system is punishment,” Roche said. “All other things are secondary.”Martin was convicted in October during a trial in which prosecutors said he was the ringleader of the ritual. Defense attorney Dino Michaels said he planned to appeal the sentence. Martin was the first of 15 former band members to stand trial in the death of Champion, who was from Decatur, Georgia, outside of Atlanta.The case crystalized the little-known culture of hazing in FAMU’s noted Marching 100 band, which was suspended for more than a year while school administrators worked to reset the program. Champion’s parents said a stiffer penalty for their child’s death would have served as a greater deterrent for future abuses. They also disagreed with the notion their son consented to hazing.Martin was visibly nervous at times during the hearing. He was remorseful in addressing Champion’s family. “This is something I will live with for the rest of my life,” Martin said.Previously, former band member Jessie Baskin received 51 weeks in county jail after pleading no contest to manslaughter charges. Several others have been sentenced to combinations of community service and probation. The final three former band members charged in Champion’s death have trials set for April.While they wanted a longer sentence for Martin, the victim’s father said he does not possess any disdain for any of the defendants.“This is a decision that [Martin] made,” Robert Champion Sr. said. “And sometimes you make a wrong decision; you have to pay the price for that.”
This part of the NBA calendar typically sees players changing addresses more often than team executives. So it’s an abrupt change of pace to see the Los Angeles Lakers name Magic Johnson their new president of basketball operations, thus pushing out general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss just two days before the trade deadline. The move has instant ramifications for how the Lakers will run their business, and may have even more drastic implications for the future of the franchise’s young players.It’s unclear exactly what sort of team president Johnson will make. But he’s laid out a few thoughts explaining his shortcomings, and how he may ultimately handle the job.Johnson, who once played for, coached and held ownership stake in the Lakers, acknowledged this month that he doesn’t have a firm grasp of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement or the salary cap. He added he’s been spending time getting up to speed. (Brushing up on tampering rules — which he violated last year— might be a good idea, too.)Johnson has also been clear in saying he’d like to recruit friend and fellow Lakers legend Kobe Bryant to join him in the front office. (There are reports circulating that Bryant’s player agent, Rob Pelinka, is the frontrunner to replace Mitch Kupchak as the team’s general manager.) He and the Lakers will need to walk a fine line if they make an untraditional hire like Pelinka, or someone else who’s never served in such a capacity. The struggling Knicks, currently led by ex-Lakers coach Phil Jackson, have learned the hard way that things can get bumpy when a pair of people at the top of the organization take jobs they’ve never had to do before.Whoever helps him run the team, they’ll be working with a team that finally stepped outside center ring of the NBA’s media circus. It wasn’t that long ago that former head coach Byron Scott was telling reporters he didn’t believe 3-pointers win championships, and Buss was elbowing his way into doomed free agent meetings. Over the last two seasons, though, and especially this season under Walton, the Lakers have fashioned themselves into a modern NBA team.In 2014-15, the Lakers attempted just 18.9 threes per game, which ranked 25th in the league. Last season, the number of attempts per game climbed considerably to 24.6, but largely because of the disintegrating husk of Kobe Bryant, which flung 7.1 threes per night (making just 28.5 percent). This season, they’re attempting 26.4 threes per game (13th in the league) and making 35.4 percent (19th). And after having the league’s second-worst offense on a points per possession basis last season, this season L.A. is… well, still not great, but improving. They’ve successfully worked themselves up into being an average team.But while the team has been moving toward basic competence, there’s some worry that “average” may be this group’s ceiling. And that may explain the move to bring in Johnson. These are the Lakers after all, and the Lakers run on stars.L.A. is stocked with young prospects, but haven’t yet unearthed a drop-dead star. Former No. 2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell is a hugely fun player, but he hasn’t progressed as quickly as many hoped he would after a tumultuous rookie season. Brandon Ingram, the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft, has been even worse. Ingram is averaging 8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 27.7 minutes per game on 36.3 percent from the floor, 30.4 percent from three and 65.5 percent from the line. (That’s a 45.1 true shooting percentage, if you were wondering.) Ingram is still valued by the franchise enough that L.A. reportedly would not consider trading him for DeMarcus Cousins, but his play so far this season has been a very bad sign. For instance, an updated CARMELO projection using his stats from this season now predicts he will produce about $34 million over the next five seasons. Coming into the season, those same five years were expected to be equivalent to about $121.3 million in value.Of L.A.’s young prospects, Julius Randle, the third-year power forward taken seventh overall in 2014, has fared the best. Randle’s per-game numbers haven’t budged too much, but Walton has run the offense through Randle for long stretches. Walton was a known Draymond-whisperer during his time as an assistant in Golden State, and it’s not hard to see Green’s imprint when Randle is running the break, hitting runners for easy baskets. Randle’s percent of possessions that end with an assist has nearly doubled, going from 11 last season to 20.2 this season, and the added touches have made him more patient with his own offense as well — his true shooting has crept up to a respectable 53.8, after posting a dismal 48.2 in his first full season. That’s good progress, but likely not at the level Johnson is thinking when he says his goal is to “return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions.”In a lot of ways, the Los Angeles Lakers’ prolonged absence from the national spotlight has been a positive indicator. Troubled franchises tend to make headlines only when something is going cosmically wrong, like the Sacramento Kings trading their best player for a crate of oranges, or the President of the New York Knicks engaging in a Twitter war with a star player who won’t allow himself to be traded. The Lakers’ return to the circus comes at a time when tactical decisions for the franchise’s immediate future are looming, but the basic culture and basketball sensibilities being built around the team are just as important.Johnson used to be part of that culture, and used to define those sensibilities. But shaping a team as a rookie executive is a very different proposition than doing so as a Hall of Fame player. Johnson has a lot of things working in his favor in Los Angeles, but what he won’t have is a player as good as Magic Johnson suiting up every night. It’s up to him to set that right.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer and director of player personnel Mark Pantoni added what they hope will be a new Buckeye tradition with the debut of the first annual Friday Night Lights, a one-day football camp for high school football players inside Ohio Stadium. OSU students, alumni and fans were granted free admission into Ohio Stadium Friday to watch more than 100 high school recruits run through drills with the Buckeyes coaching staff. Meyer and Pantoni created the Friday Night Lights camp in 2005 back when both held positions at Florida, and they decided to bring it to Columbus after its successful run in Gainesville, Fla. Some OSU fans like Andrew Warren, an OSU graduate, said they think the camp is another tool that could give Meyer an advantage when it comes to recruiting the top talent in the country. “Most of these kids have probably never worked out in a stadium this big,” Warren said. “I think just being here in front of all these fans will make some of these guys want to commit because it’s a memorable experience.” Clinton Bowman, stepfather of Trotwood-Madison High School running back Ashton Jackson, said that Friday Night Lights is a good idea, but recruiting ultimately leads back to Meyer’s reputation. “This camp, this stadium and these fans are all great but it comes down to coach Meyer at the end of the day,” Bowman said. “When you look at his track record, his two national championships at Florida, and his coaching style, that’s what kids want to be a part of.” The parents of the campers watched from the East side of the stadium, while the general public was permitted entrance to the West side of the stadium. Donte Horton, father of Lakota West High School running back prospect Mikel Horton, said the camp was just as exciting for the parents watching as it was for the campers participating. “It feels great to be out here in this atmosphere watching my son compete against some of the top high school talent,” Horton said. Horton also said the camp is a good experience that will be beneficial for his son going forward. “Now Mikel has a feeling of what is demanded from him on the college level,” Horton said. “I think this will prepare him and motivate him to be the best he can be.” Luke Fickell, co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, Mike Vrabel, defensive line coach, and Everett Withers, co-defensive coordinator, were among the OSU coaches present helping the kids through their drills. Meyer, who began his day at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago Friday morning, led drills and talked to players between reps. Jake Collier, an OSU graduate, said the camp overall was a success, but said there’s room for one improvement next year. “I think it would be helpful if they could pass out some printed rosters in the future so people can keep track of who is who,” Collier said. “Besides that, everything was great.” The camp was also a chance for OSU fans to be in the stadium before September 1, when the Buckeyes open up the season against Miami (Ohio). Kickoff is scheduled for noon.
The Ohio State men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams finished the OSU Invitational strong, with the men winning the invitational and the women placing third, behind Florida and Stanford. This contest marked the fourth-consecutive championship in which the No. 10-ranked men’s team finished with 300 or more more points than their competitors. “We really appreciate Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin and everyone else who came to participate in our meet because without great competition, there are not great races or opportunity to compete against good coaches and good programs,” said men’s coach Bill Wadley in a released statement. The men finished the invitational with 10 wins out of the 18 swimming contests the team participated in. Sophomore Steven Zimmerman achieved the team’s first victory in the 200 backstroke with a personal best time of 1:42.85. Senior Jason Schnur concluded the 100 freestyle with his season best time of 43.31 and his third event success at the invitational. Men’s diving junior Shane Miszkiel led the Buckeyes with a score of 363.10 to win the platform finals. The women’s team finished the invitational with a collective 589 points. Altogether, 22 Buckeyes received one individual NCAA “B” time standards and 18 swimmers finished one championship final. Freshman Annie Lazor seized a NCAA “B” time in the 200 breaststroke competition for a time of 2:13.16. Lazor came in sixth overall in the invitational and her time was a best on the season. Junior diver Cheyenne Cousineau earned the one-meter springboard title and placed fourth with 259.85 points in the platform finals. “I’m really pleased,” said women’s coach Bill Dorenkott said in a press release. “We raced tough and consistent for the most part. We got stronger each session, and also got to see a lot in terms of racing and relays.” The men’s and women’s team will compete in a co-ed invitational on Jan. 11, at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion against Wright State.
Following a 19-point loss on the road against Wisconsin Sunday, the Ohio State women’s basketball team is in the process of preparing for yet another stiff test against No. 8 Penn State. With a whole week to prepare for this Sunday’s matchup against the Nittany Lions, OSU coach Jim Foster said he is ready to move past the loss to the Badgers. “That was an effort that we had to address for really the first time this year, and it was addressed and that was it,” Foster said. “Now it’s time to move on and have good practices.” The task of beating Penn State, albeit at home at the Schottenstein Center, might be a tall order for an OSU (11-8, 1-5 Big Ten) squad that has struggled in Big Ten play. “Everybody has to play their role and people weren’t stepping up to the responsibility,” said senior guard Tayler Hill. “Talk is cheap we just have to play together, it’s as simple as that.” Meanwhile, Penn State (16-2, 6-0 Big Ten) heads to Columbus on a 10-game winning streak after defeating Minnesota, 64-59, Thursday. The Nittany Lions are 16-2 on the season and undefeated in conference play with a 6-0 record. In fact, Penn State hasn’t lost a contest since a 67-52 drubbing at the hands of then No. 2-ranked Connecticut. The Nittany Lions are led by junior guard Maggie Lucas, who is averaging 19.8 points per game, and senior guard Alex Bentley, who averages 12.9 points per game. “The nice thing is we have had a week to prepare versus preparing for two games in a week,” said OSU senior forward Emilee Harmon. “They have a great backcourt but so do we, so we just have to come out and take care of business like we know we have the ability to do.” OSU is set to tip off against Penn State at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Schottenstein Center. The game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.
Then junior midfielder/forward Ellyn Gruber (5) pushes the ball up the field during a game against Eastern Michigan Aug. 25, 2013. OSU won 2-1 in OT.Credit: Lantern file photoAfter ending its last two games with draws in double overtime, the Ohio State women’s soccer team looks to focus on the task ahead instead of dwelling on the past.“We’re working on getting our mindset right so we don’t go out on the field with a losing mentality,” freshman midfielder Sydney Dudley said. “We know that we can turn the season around but we have to start now.”The Buckeyes are 5-7-2 overall and 2-4-2 in Big Ten play after their latest contest against Maryland and the prior one against Minnesota ended with the score tied. OSU is scheduled to return to the field Thursday afternoon against Michigan State.Senior midfielder Ellyn Gruber said while the team wasn’t happy with the results, it has found ways to learn from them.“We’ve played really good soccer both games even though we didn’t get the result that we wanted,” Gruber said. “We’ve taken all the positives that we’ve learned and I think we’re ready for a turning point.”Senior forward Kayla Varner said the team has put the previous games in the past and has put its focus into becoming better during practice.“I think we just put the result behind us and we had a really good practice this week,” Varner said. “We’ve had some of our best soccer played at practice, so we’re moving forward.”Dudley said the team has been working on its defense this week in preparation for the Spartans. Dudley also acknowledged that closing in on opportunities while on offense is something the team wants to improve on.“We’ve tightened up our defense a lot and we’re cutting back on the mistakes we’ve been making,” Dudley said. “Our attack has gotten better but we still need to work on finishing.”Another problem that the Buckeyes could be looking to fix is limiting the number of mental errors on the field such as turnovers and deflected balls turning into goals for the other team. Gruber said the team can’t let fatigue distract them from the game.“You can’t take a break for a second,” Gruber said. “That helps by connecting with your teammates and knowing you’re not alone if you’re getting tired.”With an away record of 1-5-1, the Buckeyes are looking to make a change when they visit the Spartans.Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on in East Lansing, Mich. After the game, OSU is set to make the short trip to Ann Arbor, Mich., for a matchup with Michigan on Sunday at 2 p.m.
OSU then-redshirt junior shortstop Maddy McIntyre (30) throws the ball to first base against Ohio on April 21 at Buckeye Field. OSU defeated Ohio, 12-4. Credit: Lantern file photoThe Ohio State softball team’s 15th Annual Ohio Collegiate Charity Classic, which benefits the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research, is scheduled to host 22 teams from three different states on Saturday and Sunday at Buckeye Field and Fred Beekman Park.OSU softball coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly said it has been incredible to see the growth of the event since its start in 2001.“We want our players to be significant and to pay it forward,” she said. “Having these powerful women outside of our team join the fight to end breast cancer means a lot to the program.”The event has become one of the largest fundraisers for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in central Ohio, bringing in more than $200,000 for the Stefanie Spielman Fund over the past 14 years.Redshirt senior catcher and first baseman Erika Leonard said that raising awareness about breast cancer and research is extremely important to her.“My mom had breast cancer and is now going on to be a 17-year survivor,” Leonard said. “Without the advancements in research, my mom might’ve not been here today.”Entrance to the event is a $5 donation, with all proceeds from ticket sales and concessions benefiting the Stefanie Spielman Fund.Madison Spielman, a fourth-year in communications and daughter of the late Stefanie Spielman, said she is grateful for the effort to continue to fight the disease.“It’s a reminder that even after six years since her passing, our mom’s legacy still lives on,” Madison Spielman said. “It means the world to have the support from the school I love.”Redshirt senior shortstop Maddy McIntyre said it is a great feeling for the team to be part of something bigger than each individual.“My favorite part is when the Spielman family comes out and throws the first pitch of the tournament,” McIntyre said.After the first pitch from the Spielman family, OSU is set play against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday at 12:45 p.m.The following day, the team will split into two squads: OSU Scarlet and OSU Gray. Team Scarlet is set to face Northern Kentucky at 9:30 a.m. at Buckeye Field, while Team Gray is scheduled to play Toledo at 11:45 a.m.
OSU redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) scans the field after a snap during the 2017 spring game at Ohio Stadium on April 15. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo EditorThe last time the Ohio State football team touched the field at Ohio Stadium, they were joined by thousands of fans who jumped from their seats in celebration of former H-back Curtis Samuel’s walk-off touchdown in double overtime against the Michigan Wolverines. Little did players or fans alike know that — thanks to a 31-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Clemson Tigers on Dec. 31 — it would be the last Buckeye touchdown they would see in more than four months. However, at the 2017 spring game, it took just under four minutes for redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett to find redshirt sophomore tight end A.J. Alexander in the back of the endzone — the first sign of many in the afternoon that offseason changes might be paying dividends for the Scarlet and Gray offense. Co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who joined the team in the offseason, said the improvements seen in Saturday’s game were a direct result of spring practice.“We kind of did a lot of things we’ve been practicing,” he said. “We didn’t necessarily try to hide things. We didn’t try to throw everything out there. I thought we’d had a solid spring, lot of areas need improving, I just wanted — because we’re playing enough young guys — that when we came into the arena, they didn’t make all the good things I’ve seen in practice bigger than it looks.”Wilson, formerly the head coach at Indiana, was described by Barrett as a “competitor” who is “always in attack mode” and has helped the Buckeye offense find its past rhythm.“I think the thing about the Ohio State offense is we’re always on the attack and at times, I think we got away from that,” Barrett said. “But now, (Wilson’s) main focus is to make sure that we’re always on attack and that we’re beating the guy across from us.”While in the spring game the “guy across” was a familiar face, both Team Scarlet and Team Gray had success beating their defensive counterparts. Scarlet posted 460 offensive yards while Gray totaled 385. The majority of yardage for both teams came from the passing game, which was a sore spot at times for the 2016 team. Redshirt junior wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, who was a highlight for Team Scarlet with 108 yards and two touchdowns, described the passing game as “wonderful” and noted that the receiving group is full of playmakers. “(The offense) feels a lot better,” Dixon said. “We’re doing different things, and we’re attacking situations different. Everything we’re doing is working.”Barrett said this is the best spring he’s had for accuracy, but was quick to add there is still work to be done to become “competitively excellent.” Those areas, he said, include pass protection, downfield passing and finishing plays.“We’ve got to come out pushing and striving to make sure that when it comes to game time, everybody is on the same page and we get those three things accomplished,” Barrett said. “I think we’re on the right path for that, but to say we’re competitively excellent on the game plan? Not yet, but we have time to that we’re not playing the ball.”