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John Wall vs. Rajon Rondo: Addressing Weakness Differently

John Wall and Rajon Rondo squared off last night, which is more fun for me than it is for the Wizards.

This is not because I’m a Boston guy–I loathe the cradle of U.S. liberty just like any right-thinking American sports fan does. It’s that this is a battle of similar players, expressed through different means.

This is not a matchup of clones so much as it’s a matchup of say, twins who were raised apart from one another. And yes, Wall is a bit larger than Rondo, with better hops. Rondo has a better handle and a better sense of pace and place, for now. They are not exactly the same in innate ability, but both can race with the ball faster than your vision can process, and both are transition assassins that can’t shoot worth half a damn.

So, they share elite skills and this particular, glaring flaw. Wall just shoots incorrectly, objectively. His dominant elbow juts out in the shape of a shark’s nose, and his off hand plants on the back of the ball’s top, like a balding man’s strategically placed yarmulke. This is more the “safety” symbol in football than proper jumper form. I’m thankful it shanks, because if it didn’t my sense of order would be compromised. It would be like watching a juggler juggle his own arms.

Rondo may just have an intrinsic issue to grapple with. His hands are thought to be too large for a normal form, and perhaps that excuses the mess. Rondo’s elbow is jutted even more acutely and the ball is held directly in front of his face. From the back angle, it looks like the least majestic solar eclipse ever.

If both are embarrassed by this, then only Boston’s guard goes through significant measures to avoid embarrassment. And this is the difference, this is where paths diverge. Rondo rarely, if ever, shoots a jumper, slinging two fewer from between 10-23 feet per game than Wall does (both avoid threes like they count for negative points).

Rondo’s “strange” stat lines are as attributable to this reckoning with weakness as they are to his top-level strengths. In a Friday loss to the Sixers, he attempted five shots and had 17 assists. In Sunday’s victory over the Wizards, he again attempted five shots, and this time totaled 11 dimes.

Yesterday, John Wall was content to keep firing. He shot 17 times and missed on all but five tries. Wall might be a hideous shooter, but he’ll shoot when open. Many possessions are sacrificed to the ugly monster known as “John Wall’s jumper.”

So it seems, prima facie, that Rondo’s way is better. He maximizes his points of strength, minimizes his points of weakness. If only it were that simple. Rondo’s unwillingness to hoist makes him—and by extension his team—predictable to play. Even if Wall would have made William Tell’s kid sweat the apple off his head, the defense has to honor a shooter.

With 7:36 left in the third quarter of Wizards, Celtics game, Wall is freed by a Jordan Crawford screen above the arc, as Rondo tries to do something between flop and go “over” the pick. Paul Pierce recovers while leaving Jordan Crawford (his guy), and does a strong contest of the jumper Wall shoots off the dribble. In this moment, Crawford is open and Paul’s lunging contest has opened some floor space. The result is a miss, and a lucky Kevin Seraphin put back. 

On the next Celtics possession, Pierce sets a screen near the elbow, hoping to free Rondo from Wall. Wall simply sags under the screen, making it easy for Crawford to quickly “show” and get back on Pierce. Rondo does not shoot the open jumper. No one is open. With his hand forced, Rondo dribbles at Wall, attempts an errant, Ewing-style runner that the Wizards recover. 

There are situations in which a team would have played Wall like the Wizards played Rondo, and situations where a team would have played Rondo like the Celtics played Wall. But I cite the consecutive possessions because they demonstrate how “acting as if” can change how a defense addresses you. Wall acts as though he should be shooting and Rondo does not. In part due to this, Wall has 2.8 fewer assists, but defenses often play him differently, in a way that opens up more space for his teammates. 

So which point guard is better right now? I’d favor John Wall, though it is difficult to call this one way or the other. Both are going about being the same in a different way. 

Follow @SherwoodStrauss

John Wall vs. Rajon Rondo: Addressing Weakness Differently

John Wall and Rajon Rondo squared off last night, which is more fun for me than it is for the Wizards.

This is not because I’m a Boston guy–I loathe the cradle of U.S. liberty just like any right-thinking American sports fan does. It’s that this is a battle of similar players, expressed through different means.

This is not a matchup of clones so much as it’s a matchup of say, twins who were raised apart from one another. And yes, Wall is a bit larger than Rondo, with better hops. Rondo has a better handle and a better sense of pace and place, for now. They are not exactly the same in innate ability, but both can race with the ball faster than your vision can process, and both are transition assassins that can’t shoot worth half a damn.

So, they share elite skills and this particular, glaring flaw. Wall just shoots incorrectly, objectively. His dominant elbow juts out in the shape of a shark’s nose, and his off hand plants on the back of the ball’s top, like a balding man’s strategically placed yarmulke. This is more the “safety” symbol in football than proper jumper form. I’m thankful it shanks, because if it didn’t my sense of order would be compromised. It would be like watching a juggler juggle his own arms.

Rondo may just have an intrinsic issue to grapple with. His hands are thought to be too large for a normal form, and perhaps that excuses the mess. Rondo’s elbow is jutted even more acutely and the ball is held directly in front of his face. From the back angle, it looks like the least majestic solar eclipse ever.

If both are embarrassed by this, then only Boston’s guard goes through significant measures to avoid embarrassment. And this is the difference, this is where paths diverge. Rondo rarely, if ever, shoots a jumper, slinging two fewer from between 10-23 feet per game than Wall does (both avoid threes like they count for negative points).

Rondo’s “strange” stat lines are as attributable to this reckoning with weakness as they are to his top-level strengths. In a Friday loss to the Sixers, he attempted five shots and had 17 assists. In Sunday’s victory over the Wizards, he again attempted five shots, and this time totaled 11 dimes.

Yesterday, John Wall was content to keep firing. He shot 17 times and missed on all but five tries. Wall might be a hideous shooter, but he’ll shoot when open. Many possessions are sacrificed to the ugly monster known as “John Wall’s jumper.”

So it seems, prima facie, that Rondo’s way is better. He maximizes his points of strength, minimizes his points of weakness. If only it were that simple. Rondo’s unwillingness to hoist makes him—and by extension his team—predictable to play. Even if Wall would have made William Tell’s kid sweat the apple off his head, the defense has to honor a shooter.

With 7:36 left in the third quarter of Wizards, Celtics game, Wall is freed by a Jordan Crawford screen above the arc, as Rondo tries to do something between flop and go “over” the pick. Paul Pierce recovers while leaving Jordan Crawford (his guy), and does a strong contest of the jumper Wall shoots off the dribble. In this moment, Crawford is open and Paul’s lunging contest has opened some floor space. The result is a miss, and a lucky Kevin Seraphin put back. 

On the next Celtics possession, Pierce sets a screen near the elbow, hoping to free Rondo from Wall. Wall simply sags under the screen, making it easy for Crawford to quickly “show” and get back on Pierce. Rondo does not shoot the open jumper. No one is open. With his hand forced, Rondo dribbles at Wall, attempts an errant, Ewing-style runner that the Wizards recover. 

There are situations in which a team would have played Wall like the Wizards played Rondo, and situations where a team would have played Rondo like the Celtics played Wall. But I cite the consecutive possessions because they demonstrate how “acting as if” can change how a defense addresses you. Wall acts as though he should be shooting and Rondo does not. In part due to this, Wall has 2.8 fewer assists, but defenses often play him differently, in a way that opens up more space for his teammates. 

So which point guard is better right now? I’d favor John Wall, though it is difficult to call this one way or the other. Both are going about being the same in a different way. 

Follow @SherwoodStrauss

McDonald’s All American Game 2012: All Eyes on Shabazz Muhammad

The 2012 McDonald’s All-American game is filled with the best high school talent in the nation. Among them is one shining star that will have far more attention paid to him, and that is Shabazz Muhammad. 

As we all prepare to watch the Final Four and a possible Kentucky championship, we consider one young man that may very well be featured at the Big Dance next year. 

It’s surprising that we have enough time to appreciate the here and now because we are always on the look out for the next big thing. There is no player bigger or badder than Shabazz Muhammad, who is the No. 1 overall prospect in the nation. That, of course, means every last reporter and coach at the game will be filled with anticipation of where this young man will go. 

That is precisely what makes the McDonald’s All-American Game so fantastic. The future stars of the sport are put on display, leaving us to wonder who the next Anthony Davis might be. 

There is no better player to have us begin and end on this question than Muhammad. The 6’6″ small forward can dominate the wing and enjoyed high school glory, as his Bishop Gorman High School won the Class 4A state championship. 

His winning ways and the fact that he averaged 30 points and 10 rebounds in 2011-12 means that he will be the most highly coveted young man at the famed prospect exhibition. 

Inquiring minds want to know, and the fact that Muhammad has yet to declare where he will take his talents makes him a superstar this week. 

So far, Muhammad has limited his choices to matriculate to UCLA, UNLV, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and USC. Any one of those colleges would be instant contenders with a player like Muhammad on the roster. He is a game-changing player who would invigorate a program.

Which brings me to the intriguing fact that Kentucky is also on the list. John Calipari has his eyes on yet another No. 1 draft class and a player that may in fact solidify another deep NCAA tournament run. 

We are all waiting for the Final Four, but we could very well be looking at the next star of March Madness in Shabazz Muhammad. 

 

Follow @gabezal

McDonald’s All American Game 2012: All Eyes on Shabazz Muhammad

The 2012 McDonald’s All-American game is filled with the best high school talent in the nation. Among them is one shining star that will have far more attention paid to him, and that is Shabazz Muhammad. 

As we all prepare to watch the Final Four and a possible Kentucky championship, we consider one young man that may very well be featured at the Big Dance next year. 

It’s surprising that we have enough time to appreciate the here and now because we are always on the look out for the next big thing. There is no player bigger or badder than Shabazz Muhammad, who is the No. 1 overall prospect in the nation. That, of course, means every last reporter and coach at the game will be filled with anticipation of where this young man will go. 

That is precisely what makes the McDonald’s All-American Game so fantastic. The future stars of the sport are put on display, leaving us to wonder who the next Anthony Davis might be. 

There is no better player to have us begin and end on this question than Muhammad. The 6’6″ small forward can dominate the wing and enjoyed high school glory, as his Bishop Gorman High School won the Class 4A state championship. 

His winning ways and the fact that he averaged 30 points and 10 rebounds in 2011-12 means that he will be the most highly coveted young man at the famed prospect exhibition. 

Inquiring minds want to know, and the fact that Muhammad has yet to declare where he will take his talents makes him a superstar this week. 

So far, Muhammad has limited his choices to matriculate to UCLA, UNLV, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and USC. Any one of those colleges would be instant contenders with a player like Muhammad on the roster. He is a game-changing player who would invigorate a program.

Which brings me to the intriguing fact that Kentucky is also on the list. John Calipari has his eyes on yet another No. 1 draft class and a player that may in fact solidify another deep NCAA tournament run. 

We are all waiting for the Final Four, but we could very well be looking at the next star of March Madness in Shabazz Muhammad. 

 

Follow @gabezal

Miami Heat’s Tribute to Trayvon Martin Shows Radio Host Dan Graca’s True Colors

The Miami Heat‘s photograph tribute to Trayvon Martin was one of the most moving images in recent memory. Not everyone appears to understand what the team was trying to do, or why the Martin case has captivated the nation.

Dan Garca of Sirius XM radio said over the air on Saturday that if Martin wasn’t wearing a hoodie, he would still be alive. 

I guarantee you one thing, is that, if Trayvon Martin that night was not wearing a hoodie, I bet you dollars to donuts he’s still alive today, okay? Because no hoodie means no warrant for suspicion.

Later, he also talked about the Heat posing for a team photo wearing hoodies as a way to send a message and how he doesn’t understand what they were doing. 

And by posing in these hoodies, they’re making it a black-white issue, instead of supporting the family, or—calling for justice.

What they’re doing is not going to bring the victim back alive.

He says that the Heat are just doing this “for their own publicity.” How cynical can one man really get?

Here is a gesture from one of the biggest sports franchises in this country that is supposed to be about letting the world know that they support this young man, but Garca wants to say that they are not doing anything to help the issue. 

Yet in his infinite wisdom, Garca decides to compound the issue by saying that Martin was killed for wearing a hoodie. 

If Garca really wanted to add anything to this whole messy situation, he should pay attention to what he is saying and why he is saying it. If he just wants to be like all those other radio hosts who say something just to get their name out there, mission accomplished. 

But what Garca should be concerned about is trying to figure out why this young man was killed and praising the Heat for showing their support for Martin.

It’s not like Garca has done anything that would come close to constituting a show of support for Martin or his family. No, he’s too busy running with conspiracy theories about why Martin wearing the hoodie was the real problem. 

 

Follow @adamwells1985

Connie Marrero Finally Gets His Pension After Retiring in 1954

The date was Apr. 21, 1950. The New York Yankees were leading the Washington Senators 12-7 in the bottom of the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium.

Joe DiMaggio was on third base, Yogi Berra was on first and there was one out. Senators manager, Bucky Harris, who had managed the Yankees to the 1947 world championship, once again trudged to the mound. He brought in Connie Marrero to pitch. It was Marrero’s major league debut.

It was recently announced by the Major League Baseball Players’ Association that Marrero will finally receive the pension that he should have started receiving when he was 62-years-old.

Marrero will be 101 April 25th.

Marrero returned to Cuba after he retired, where he has remained to this day. When the Cuba embargo was enacted after the Castro revolution, money couldn’t be transferred from the U.S. to Cuba. Marrero, who was unaware that he had earned a pension, slipped through the cracks.

Bill Madden of the New York Daily News reported that Marrero, who is the oldest living major leaguer, shares a two-bedroom apartment with five relatives in Havana. He is almost blind and recently suffered a broken hip, but he still follows baseball by listening to games.

In his major league debut against the Yankees, Marrero retired Billy Johnson on a ground out that scored DiMaggio and moved Berra to second. Hank Bauer singled Berra home and then Marrero retired Jerry Coleman for the third out.

Marrero was a “junk ball” pitcher that relied on keeping hitters off stride. According to legend, the first time Marrero faced Ted Williams was during spring training in 1950.

The bases were loaded with Boston Red Sox when Marrero was summoned from the bullpen. When he arrived at the mound, Marrero called catcher to the hill. He wanted to be certain that the hitter really was Williams. Marrero told Evans that if it wasn’t Williams, he wouldn’t give him his best pitch.
 
Evans confirmed Williams’ identity and told the 39-year-old rookie to throw him nothing but fastballs on the outside. Marrero struck Williams out on four slow curve balls.

Marrero will receive about $10,000 a year.

2012 NFL Draft: Why Browns Should Go with Trent Richardson, Not Justin Blackmon

The Browns have the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft and while they have a plethora of directions they could go in depending on their selection, Alabama running back Trent Richardson offers them the biggest payoff.

Cleveland president Mike Holmgren recently said that he was leaning toward committing to Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace, which would seem to eliminate quarterback Ryan Tannehill from contention. Holmgren also added that he is disenchanted by the prospect of trading down, and one particular thing he told the News-Herald‘s Jeff Schudel seemed to allude to the idea that that the team is leaning toward Richardson:

The other plan we talked about was to use those draft picks to make our football team better immediately … to help our quarterbacks on the team, or anybody else who would come on the team, be better because we’ve surrounded the position with better players.

Though the team is also reportedly considering Oklahoma State wideout Justin Blackmon, Richardson—who has been heralded as the best running back to hit the draft since Adrian Peterson—seems to fit Holmgren’s description perfectly.

When he finally stepped out of the shadow of Mark Ingram as a junior, Richardson rushed for 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns—an impressive feat in the nation’s top defensive conference—en route to a national championship with the Crimson Tide. He’s also a threat as a receiver out of the backfield, where he made 29 receptions for 338 yards and three TDs last season.

Scouts say his breakaway speed is impressive, and he’s already played in a pro-style offense under Nick Saban at Alabama, removing some of the adjustment time.

NFLdraftscout.com analyst Rob Rang told the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s Mary Kay Cabot:

If I were operating that club, I’d take Trent Richardson ahead of Blackmon. He has the best tape of any player in the draft, and you can make the argument he’s the best player in the draft.”

Richardson is far and away the best backfield prospect in this year’s draft and he dispels the notion that teams shouldn’t expend early picks on running backs. If Holmgren is truly looking for someone to step into this offense immediately and make a big difference, Richardson is his guy.

Weight-loss surgery cut blood sugar more than drugs

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Weight-loss surgery did a better job of controlling type 2 diabetes in overweight and moderately obese patients than the most advanced medical treatment for the disease, researchers said on Monday. The study, conducted at the Cleveland Clinic and presented at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology in Chicago, showed that patients who underwent surgery were more than three times more likely to gain control over their diabetes after one year than the group that was treated with drugs. …

Weight-loss surgery cut blood sugar more than drugs

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Weight-loss surgery did a better job of controlling type 2 diabetes in overweight and moderately obese patients than the most advanced medical treatment for the disease, researchers said on Monday. The study, conducted at the Cleveland Clinic and presented at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology in Chicago, showed that patients who underwent surgery were more than three times more likely to gain control over their diabetes after one year than the group that was treated with drugs. …

Science Reveals Why Airplane Food Tastes So Bad



Hugh Pickens writes “Jad Mouawad writes that at low elevations, the 10,000 or so taste buds in the human mouth work pretty much as nature intended but step aboard a modern airliner, and the sense of taste loses its bearings. Even before a plane takes off, the atmosphere inside the cabin dries out the nose, as the plane ascends the change in air pressure numbs about a third of the taste buds, and at 35,000 feet with cabin humidity levels kept low by design to reduce the risk of fuselage corrosion, xerostomia or cotton mouth sets in. This explain why airlines tend to salt and spice food heavily. Without all that extra kick, food tastes bland. ‘Ice cream is about the only thing I can think of that tastes good on a plane,’ says Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. ‘Airlines have a problem with food on board. The packaging, freezing, drying and storage are hard on flavor at any altitude, let alone 30,000 feet.’ Challenges abound. First food safety standards require all meals to be cooked first on the ground. After that, they are blast-chilled and refrigerated until they can be stacked on carts and loaded on planes. For safety, open-flame grills and ovens aren’t allowed on commercial aircraft so attendants must contend with convection ovens that blow hot, dry air over the food. ‘Getting any food to taste good on a plane is an elusive goal,’ says Steve Gundrum, who runs a company that develops new products for the food industry.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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