Sunday, July 31, 2011

WooHoo, the lockout?s just about over! Let?s ? celebrate?

For all intents and purposes, the NFL lockout is over -- all that remains are formalities. Players will soon be back to work, owners can start making plans for the $200 million they won't be losing with a sacrificed week of the preseason, and the league as a whole will operate as if they didn't just spend 130 days holding a sharp stick to your eye.

That's good. I'm happy about that.

Cause for celebration, though? I don't see it as that, exactly.

The NFL has, for a long time, been something that the public treasures, nay, depends on -- for entertainment, for distraction, for a reason to spend time with friends or loved ones. Some people, like stadium workers and team employees, depend on it in more tangible ways.

An argument over money threatened to destroy all that.

Now, that might not be a tragedy. It's not some huge societal failing. We'd all survive without football, and everyone would be just fine. Enjoying NFL football is no one's birthright, and it's a private enterprise, run by profit-seeking men, none of whom are obligated to do the right thing by you, me, or anything other than their big fat bank accounts.

But none of them were going broke, either. Whatever the financial discrepancies that caused the lockout, there were still zero NFL owners who couldn't afford an appetizer and dessert at Denny's tonight. They were a group of men who had a product that the public loved and it wasn't hurting them to keep providing that thing to the public.

It seems to me that the decent thing to do in that situation is to keep providing that well-loved product. That's radically oversimplified, of course, but that doesn't make it wrong. I wouldn't expect any business man or woman to agree to lose money just because it's more convenient for me that way, but that wasn't the case here. No one was losing money. Everyone involved was still making giant piles of it.

Anyway, they figured it all out now, and we're back on track to keep enjoying this thing that we love. As I see it, we're back to where we should be. Getting back to where we should be, to me, is not a reason to pop the bubbly. Maybe it gets me to stop calling the people involved the most vile names I can think of, but that's as far as I'm willing to go.

Imagine someone built a big, beautiful, magical road in a place that had a crippling traffic problem. Ordinarily, it takes you 90 minutes to drive to work, and 90 more to drive home. And then someone builds this amazing private road, and it helps millions and millions of people travel more efficiently. It's a private road, and you have to pay a toll to use it, but it's worth it to you. It gives you more time with your family, less stress, and generally, a happier life. It does the same for millions and millions of people. You, and many others, come to depend on it.

Then, one day, the person that created and operates that road tells you he's going to shut it down. You ask the man why he would do such a thing -- is the road hurting someone? Is he losing money? No, he tells you, he just feels like shutting it down because, while it is making him money, he feels like he might be able to squeeze a little bit more money out of it, if he'd just agree to deprive a whole lot of people of something they really enjoy.

Eventually, he finds a way to get his money, and he re-opens his road. Yay for him?

I don't feel like applauding that behavior. I'm glad it's over, but my personal celebration will be pretty much non-existent.

There was a fight, and that fight's over now, but it's not like good triumphed over evil here. This wasn't a fight where someone was fighting for a moral cause -- it was just a fight. When it's over, no one really won anything. You just kind of look around, observe the damage done and the amount of blood lost, and you move on with what you're left with.

That's how I see this. Bring on the free agent bonanza, and I'll try to pretend no one just pointed a sharp stick at my eye for four months. That's the best I can do.


Don Hutson Eddie Arcaro Edwin Moses Elgin Baylor

All signs point to Tiger Woods being done for 2011

Two weeks ago, rumors started flying around that Tiger Woods would commit to playing this week's Greenbrier. He didn't. Then people starting to say they figured Tiger would make his third�reappearance of 2011 at the Bridgestone Invitational next week, on a course he's reigned victorious seven times in his career. No commitment yet from Team Tiger.

But swing coach Sean Foley did divulge this information to CBS Sport's Steve Elling on Tuesday night: Woods hasn't even started working out on the driving range.

"We have not hit any balls," Foley wrote Tuesday night. "And I have no idea what his plans are as far as when he plays again. It's up to the doctors."

When speculation started flying around after The Players Championship, when Tiger played only nine holes before withdrawing because of constant knee and Achilles problems, it seemed the U.S. Open or his own tournament, the AT&T, were his likely return dates. When those came and went, the British Open became the popular pick, but Woods still wasn't healthy enough to head across the pond to Royal St. George's. But almost everyone figured if he was taking this much time off from golf to get seriously healthy, he must have had the PGA Championship circled on his calendar as his return date. The problem is, if Tiger isn't even hitting range balls yet, and the PGA looms two weeks from Thursday, a return would be very Players-like for Woods.

Our guess? Tiger is done for the year. Why come back if he can't return for the PGA Championship? He won't be eligible for the FedEx Cup run, which kicks off in late August, and he normally treats the Fall Series like he treats three-putts, so those are out.

If Tiger wants to get serious about a second run in his career at majors and just flat-out competing, taking the rest of 2011 to work on everything, heal up better, and get far away from this game doesn't exactly seem like a poor use of judgement. Tiger needs to regain confidence, get well, and find happiness with this little white ball. He hasn't won a PGA Tour event since September of '09, and hasn't added to his major total since June of '08, so it seems time to make the tough present decisions to make the future more possible.

Golf will still miss Tiger, but we'd much rather seem him back at 100 percent than coming back with a multitude of question marks.


Johnny Unitas Josh Gibson Juan Manuel Fangio Julius Erving

Power Rankings: Nobody deserves to be No. 1

Time for our latest round of power rankings. Each week throughout the season, we'll size up who's rising and who's falling, based on current standings, behind-the-scenes changes, expected staying power, recent history and general gut feelings. And just when we got things sorted out, those wacky drivers had to go and turn everything upside down. Oh, this one's going to make you mad...

Kurt Busch1. Kurt Busch. This is a case where everybody deserves to be ranked about, I dunno, third through eighth or something. Nobody who was up at the top of the charts was particularly dominant; nobody who was dominant was high enough to charge all the way to the top spot. Anyway, Kurt led the second-most laps in Sunday's race, and briefly let Evil Kurt out to play when he screamed about his car being "junk." Last week's ranking: 3.

Carl Edwards2. Carl Edwards. Another lurktastic week for Carl, who hung around within sight of the lead pack for a long time before eventually fading to 13th. (A top 10 probably would've gotten you the top spot, Carl.) Aside: I gotta say, I dig the fact that Carl jumps from the car to the broadcast booth when he wrecks out, as happened in the Nationwide series. I would love to see the NFL do this any time a quarterback gets knocked out of the game with a concussion. It'd be more fascinating commentary than Joe Buck, that's for sure.� Last week's ranking: 2.

Jeff Gordon3. Jeff Gordon. A few weeks back, we indicated that Gordon's main problem was consistency. Now, he's posted a strong run of top-10 (or just outside) finishes, and while I'm not yet convinced he's a legit championship contender, I'm convinced he's on the right path. A good break here, an avoided wreck there, and Gordon could indeed be hoisting No. 5 this fall.� Last week's ranking: 7.

Kyle Busch4. Kyle Busch. It's probably not fair for Kyle to get so dinged for mechanical failure, but you know what? So be it. Stuff happens. Best moment of Kyle's Sunday was his declaration that he didn't want to participate in the manufacturing of a story by blaming the 88 for knocking him out of the race. You want a sign that he's starting to focus more on the track than creating drama off it, there it is. Last week's ranking: 1.

Jimmie Johnson5. Jimmie Johnson. Johnson's crew screwed him with a missed lug nut in one of the late pit stops, and he still managed a fifth-place finish. That's pretty good. In totally unrelated news, I sincerely hope that Johnson's nice-guy act to Golden Tate is a total act, and he'll get the mouthy Seahawks wide receiver in� a car at Bristol and run him till he pukes. Athletically.� Last week's ranking: 4.

Ryan Newman6. Ryan Newman. Oh, how the Rocket Man needed this. After such a strong start, he was fading, fading fast. Now, he's pretty much locked himself into the Chase. His killer qualifying efforts will help him out in the Chase, and if he can work out some kind of "free burritos for a win" promotion, he'll become America's sweetheart.� Last week's ranking: 10.

Tony Stewart7. Tony Stewart. Smoke apparently got into some kind of a snit with a media member after Sunday night's race over some kind of botched joke. As a veteran of a thousand press conferences, I can tell you this: It takes a special cat to pull off a good joke in a press conference (or a shareholders' meeting, or a funeral). It can be done, but you need somebody to give you that courtesy laugh to get you started. Smoke will not give you that courtesy laugh. Ever.� Last week's ranking: 9.

Denny Hamlin8. Denny Hamlin. Great finish for Hamlin, and strangely he's still sitting right on the edge of the top 10. Huh. He should be in regardless, but whatever. Anybody switch over and watch the end of that women's soccer game Sunday? Great stuff, huh? Tense and throat-clutching. How about a NASCAR equivalent? One lap, head-to-head, hit the start line side by side at full speed and go? I could get behind that.� Last week's ranking: 8.

Matt Kenseth9. Matt Kenseth. Not much to say about Kenseth's run; he was never higher than eighth, and finished 20th. He's in fine shape for the Chase; let's move on to another quick topic. I learned about this new iPad app called "Pit Crew Titans" from Brad Keselowski; you actually run a whole four-tire pit stop and try to get your car out of the pits as fast as possible. I've gotten out in 12.009 seconds; I forwarded my high score to Chad Knaus. � Last week's ranking: 6.

Kevin Harvick10. Kevin Harvick. Here's a great case of how a ranking can look much worse than it really is. Harvick is easily one of the best drivers in NASCAR, but right now he's not running particularly well; just two top 10s in his last five races. Plus, he's got to drive with those handcuffs on his hand around Kyle Busch. I feel a little sorry for him, don't you?� Last week's ranking: 5.

David Ragan11. David Ragan. It's looking more and more likely that The Thrilla from Unadilla (can you tell I love that nickname?) is going to make the Chase. Look, Ragan has been a punch line for so long it's tough to recalibrate our smartass meter and take him seriously, but if you aren't at least a little happy for this long-suffering guy finally seeing some sustained success, you, my friend, have no soul. Last week's ranking: 12.

Joey Logano12. Joey Logano. One pole, two top fives, three top 10s in the last five races. That's not so bad for everyone's favorite lil' pup. Funny how both Logano and Ragan are getting hot just as the seats beneath them are starting to warm up. I'm thinking that if we put drivers on race-to-race (or pit stop-to-pit stop) contracts, we'd see some great racing.� Last week's ranking: NR.

Lucky Dog: Bobby Labonte. A seventh-place finish for BLab? Impressive for a guy whom everyone had written off. One of the real shames of the contraction of teams is the fact that a guy like Labonte, who obviously still has some skill, can't get access to top-flight equipment.

DNF: Brad Keselowski. He needed a good finish to get into the top 20 and put himself into a Chase position. He got exactly the opposite, and now sits 25 points out of 20th.

Dropping out of the rankings: Dale Earnhardt Jr., who posted a fifth straight disappointing finish. Yes, he could have nailed down a top 10 had his tire changer gotten the tire out of the pits in time; yes, he fought his way from 33rd to 15th in impressive fashion at the end of the race. Doesn't matter; he's in free-fall now and desperately needs something good to happen, now.

Charging upward: Great effort by Kasey Kahne to post another top-10 finish. Logano beat him out for the 12th spot by a hairsbreadth, but Kahne is on the way up.

Next up: nothing! It's an off weekend, and nobody's going to lose points then, not even [insert driver here]. Send comments to us via Twitter at @jaybusbee, email by clicking here, and via Facebook at The Marbles page.

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Run for the hills, Charles Barkley?s golf swing appears to be fixed

Death, taxes, and the fact that Charles Barkley's golf swing will always look like someone froze the world like a scene from "The Matrix." Those are things I never thought would change in my lifetime. And while I wish the one on the list that did was taxes, it's Barkley's golf swing that looks to be hitch-less, at least for now.

Here is video of Barkley from the American Century Championship that took place over the weekend in Lake Tahoe (what, you were watching some other golf tournament instead of this one? For shame!), and well, it looks like a fairly normal swing for a weekend hacker.

Watch and be amazed ...

Yep, that looks like a golf swing, but just for fun, we might as well run an old video for comparison.

Yep, there it is. Good news for Barkley? He didn't even finish dead last this weekend in Tahoe! That has to be a first.


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Rory McIlroy isn?t a fan of bad weather at the British Open

We've come to expect interesting weather conditions at the Open. Driving rain, gusting winds, abundant sun, overcast skies; needless to say, players run the gamut at this major.

The entire field got just that this week, getting relatively pleasant conditions earlier in the week, before things turned sour over the weekend, forcing players to pull out their rain suits and change their game plans.

Some players were able to acclimate, but Rory McIlroy wasn't one of them. The favorite to win the Open at the beginning of the week, McIlroy was just four shots back of the lead going into Saturday, before a 4-over 74 in the third round all but ended his chances of taking home the Claret Jug.

He followed it up with a 3-over 73 on Sunday that included back-to-back bogeys to end his round, leaving McIlroy in a poor mood when he entered the press room.

"I'm not a fan of golf tournaments that the outcome is predicted so much by the weather. It's not my sort of golf," he said.

It's an interesting comment from McIlroy, especially since he grew up playing in these course conditions in Northern Ireland. But just like his third-round 80 at St. Andrews last year, McIlroy got the brunt of the bad weather this week at Royal St. George's.

The Open is a crapshoot when it comes to the forecast. Some guys get all the luck, while others, like McIlroy, seem to get stuck in the most brutal conditions of the week. And for the last two years, he's been in the bad weather camp.

McIlroy's past success in the Open Championship tells you he has the game to contend for the Claret Jug, but like seasoned links golfers, he's going to need to roll with the punches. Not every round he plays across the pond is going to have the perfect conditions he experienced at the U.S. Open.


Dwayne Bowe E.J. Henderson Jamaal Charles Jerod Mayo

Helton promises investigation into Kentucky traffic, mum on ?12

On Friday morning, NASCAR president Mike Helton took the stage in New Hampshire for a press conference that touched on a few topics, primarily the traffic debacle in Kentucky.

"We're sorry for the fans touched by this," Helton said. "We will not let this fall to the wayside." He noted that NASCAR and Kentucky have been in constant contact since the events took place, and NASCAR is seeking explanations for how a track that has operated just fine for 10 years had so many problems on the weekend it moved to the big leagues.

"We have had inaugural occurrences [at other tracks] that I wouldn't define as acceptable, but we have had them," he said. "This was not our first race at Kentucky. We've had several years of Nationwide and Trucks races there." Helton indicated that NASCAR is questioning whether "overconfidence" on the part of the track could have contributed to the problem.

He noted that Kentucky presented very detailed entry and exit traffic plans, with indications that the entry plans were mailed to ticket holders and the exit plans were also available leaving the track. The question now, Helton indicated, is how well those plans were followed.

While NASCAR considers events like this to be primarily the responsibility of the track, obviously NASCAR itself suffers from the negative publicity. For that reason, Helton said, the investigation into what exactly happened, and how it could be prevented, will continue for some time.

One element of the press conference that could raise an eyebrow or two: when asked directly if the traffic issues put Kentucky at risk of losing its 2012 date, Helton didn't exactly offer a ringing endorsement of the Bluegrass State: "I don't want to speculate, but you look at the history of our sport, we've had issues that happen and we generally figure out how to work through them," he said. "Where we are now is to figure out what happened in Sparta."

Certainly, in all likelihood the race will return to Kentucky without incident, but that non-answer answer has to leave Kentucky Speedway advocates' stomachs in knots.

Overall, however, Helton indicated that he believes the incident at Kentucky will be a minor blip on an otherwise strong NASCAR season. And without a doubt, this issue isn't over from NASCAR's perspective.


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Phil Mickelson gets in position for a best-ever Open finish

Maybe it's the double-glove thing.

Phil Mickelson and the British Open generally go together like Phil Mickelson and sensible, conservative shotmaking. In all his long, illustrious and probably Hall-of-Fame career, Mickelson has exactly one more top 10 in the British Open than you do, a third-place finish at Troon in 2004.

For the first third of Saturday, it looked like more of the same for Mickelson. Three over after six holes, he looked like he was headed for yet another disappointing trip across the pond.

But then the weather turned, and so too did Lefty's fortunes. He finished the final eight holes in two under to end up even par, five strokes behind leader Darren Clarke.

"It was a fun day," he said afterward. "It was certainly challenging with the rain. We got lucky. I think the guys that played late got really lucky, myself included, that it went away right around the turn, and we went from really fighting for pars on every hole to thinking birdies on some."

It's a long way for Mickelson to go; he's got some of the world's best players around and ahead of him. But this is a weekend that he could win. His most effective moments have come when no one expected anything out of him, and the 2011 British Open would certainly qualify as that.

It's all out there for Phil to grab, whether or not he uses both gloves.

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Raiders newest cheerleader is a grandmother

That's right, move over Betty White, Susie Sanchez is here!

The Oakland Raiders have hired Sanchez, who is a grandmother, to be one of their sideline cheerleaders for the 2011-12 season.

While Susie is technically a grandmother, she might not be cut from the mold that pops in your mind when you hear that word. Susie is 37, a mother of three and grandmother of one, and after multiple auditions to pom-pom it up on the sideline, she finally got the call.

From the Hollister Pinnacle ...

Sanchez again impressed the judges with her dancing ability, skill and presence later that week ? she had been dancing since she was 8, after all ? and she can now safely say she is the oldest member of the Raiderettes as well.

"I just started crying," she said after she heard her number called ? lucky No. 45. "It was like, 'wow.' I was overwhelmed with emotion ? just never give up."

[Related: The oldest cheerleader in the NFL]

While I'm sure a lot of people are currently thinking up their best Al Davis/old jokes, we must point out that Susie isn't the first grandmother to make the cheerleading squad for the Raiders. That honor goes to Kathy Ferrin, who was pinned a Raiderette back in '03-04, but still, a pretty impressive feat considering most cheerleaders barely look old enough to vote.

So congrats to Susie. Many people give up on their dreams long before they hit 30, no matter if that is a basketball player or doctor or even cheerleader, but it seems she's kept trying and finally landed it. While it may seem strange, we can all probably learn a lot from the grandmother in Oakland.

But does this make Susie the oldest cheerleader in the NFL? Sadly, no. That honor rests with the Bengals' Laura Vikmanis, who is 42 and still going strong.

More photos of Susie after the jump ...

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Rothwell interview: ?It?s not a comeback. It?s an unveiling?

Walking into Roufus Sport Academy in Milwaukee, I crossed paths with a man who resembled UFC heavyweight Ben Rothwell, but this one looked slimmed down from the man who beat Gilbert Yvel in a decision at UFC 115. Rothwell sustained a knee injury in that fight, and has been rehabbing his knee since.

This same Rothwell-lookalike made his way through a killer sparring practice, followed by a conditioning session where coach Duke Roufus bounced up and down on this fighter's abs as he did crunches.

Turns out that this was Rothwell, and he's looking at his UFC 135 bout to show how he's improved during the layoff.

"I've really worked hard on myself. It's not a comeback. It's an unveiling," Rothwell told Cagewriter. "I have been off for more than a year, and instead of using it as a layoff I've used it as a huge building block. I posted a few pictures, and people said, 'Whoa, this guy ain't the same.' When I came back to Duke, he said, 'People who are off because of an injury usually gain 20 lbs. You look like you've lost 20 lbs.'

Rothwell has 37 fights under that belt, and he sees that experience as an asset in preparing to end the layoff in a bout with fellow veteran Mark Hunt.

"I've been fighting for so long, and I've had layoffs, I've been out. I think I'm one of the few guys who can come back from such a long layoff and not look like I've missed a beat. I'm really banking on that fact. As far as Americans go, I'm one of the most experienced guys in the sport. I've been fighting the longest. I'm 31-7, and I've gone through a lot, inside and outside the Octagon."

He hurt his knee in the first round of the bout with Yvel, but is proud that he was able to complete the fight with a victory.

"It was a big challenge for me because I knew my knee was hurt, right at the beginning of the fight. I was in a must-win situation. I'm known for having exciting fights, and it wasn't one of my more exciting fights. Unfortunately for the crowd, they didn't like it, but for me, it was a tremendous mental victory because I knew what I was up against. I was on the brink of defeat, and I fought through and I won. I went through a three-round bout on one leg and won."

Back for a title run

Now, Rothwell wants to make a run for the title, in part because he isn't happy with the way other fighters have acted towards fans.

"A lot of these guys, especially champions, I see how they act, and it enrages me. It's not right. It's not fair," he said. "I fight for the fans because without them, I wouldn't be able to do this. A lot of guys talk the talk, but people know when they meet me, I smile in my pictures. I love giving autographs because I am very thankful for everyone that's made the sport possible. That motivating factor has made me who I am now, and it's time to go out and take what's mine."

He wants to be the kind of champ that fans deserve because MMA, and all the people involved in the sport, made such a marked difference on his life.

"When I was 17, 18 years old, I was on a path of destruction. I had no guidance. I had a gorilla on my shoulder. It wasn't even a chip. I was very lost. The sport has completely changed me. It's made me a far more humble person. It showed me the truth about a lot of people, and it showed me the truth about myself. The sport has given me a reason to be a good person. I have a lot that I fight to protect, and this sport gave me all that. I am forever indebted to it."


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Saturday, July 30, 2011

In radio interview, Mike Modano sounds like retirement is coming

Three weeks ago, Mike Modano told a reporter before a celebrity baseball charity event that he expected to make a decision on his future in "two to three weeks" time.

Friday hits the three-week mark and appearing Thursday on the Bob and Dan radio show on 1310 The Ticket in Dallas, the future Hockey Hall of Famer sounded an awful lot like a guy who's made up his mind to retire.

When asked if he will play again, Modano told the hosts, "I don't know. I think that was the swan song."

Later, when asked if he wanted to make his retirement announcement right then and there on the show, Modano's reply was, "Not yet."

We were sort of down this road with Modano a year ago, except the only major change this time around is the number of interested teams. Last summer, the Dallas Stars decided they would not bring back the face of their franchise in late June opening the door for a hometown return to the Detroit Red Wings, which the 41-year-old said it was Motown or retirement and he would have regretted passing up the opportunity to play there.

In early August that signing became reality, but after a year in which Modano played 40 games for the Red Wings in the regular season, two in the playoffs and missed time with a severed tendon in his wrist, the retirement question was going to be inevitable this summer.

The conversation went forward into Modano's future after hockey and he said he wanted to stay in the game in some capacity, but not in a coaching, management or personnel role. So "Ambassador of Fun" like Brett Hull was? "No," said Modano.

The topic of getting into ownership was brought up and Modano did say he's had some talks with a group that's looking at the Stars and even gave his personal critique of the franchise at the moment.

"It's a mess here. The lenders ... You've got a team that's way overvalued and they don't know anything about hockey and they don't know how it's going to unfold.

"There's a lot of stuff to fix once you kind of pull back the layers on it."

The sale of the Stars is still ongoing and numerous parties have been kicking the tires recently, but once a new group is in charge there needs to be a Chicago Blackhawks-like renaissance as Modano brought up.

"There's a lot of wounds that probably need to be healed with a lot of corporations, a lot of sponsors, a lot of season-ticket holder people, and that will take time."

The interview ended with Modano telling the hosts, "See you in a couple weeks for the big announcement."

Given Modano's tone throughout, it's hard to pick up any ounce of sarcasm in his goodbye and it appears the NHL will lose another great veteran before summer's end.

Stick-tap Defending Big D for the audio

Photo credit: Getty Images


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C-a-C: Martell Webster?s lockout job hunt is getting desperate

"Hey ? Steve Ballmer, right? From Microsoft? Hey! Hey! I'm Martell Webster ... yep, yep, the one from the Minnesota Timberwolves who's left you all those voice mails! Just wanted to check: Did that Texas rodeo munchies executive basket make its way to you all right? ... No, huh? Hmm. I know it shipped. That's a shame. You might want to keep a closer eye on that assistant of yours! Melanie ? oh, yeah, we talk like every day ? she may be a bit of a 'snack interceptor.' Also, I think she's telling people your schedule's booked solid when really it isn't.

"Anyway, no big deal! Listen: I'm kind of 'in between gigs' at the moment, and if you've got a minute, I'd love to tell you why I think I would be a great fit at your computer-making factory. If you give me that minute, I promise I'll put a shirt on and stop touching your arm! Hahahahahahanoiwontimneverlettinggohahahahaha!"

Best caption wins the polite smile of a terrified man. Good luck.

In our last adventure: INTO THE PAST! Del Harris and Don Nelson like to keep things light on the Dallas Mavericks' bench.

Winner, Rudy, The Balls: "The whole team's wearin' 'em. Turns out, Ginobili is terrified of clowns."

Runner-up, Roger Mason Jr. = Hero: Now, Mr. Biedrins ... Andris ... show us where the clown touched you.

Second runner-up, Mark M: Del Harris: "Are these the noses that the owners are wearing to the CBA meetings?"

Don Nelson: "Yeah, they were all out of Pinocchio noses."

NOTE: On one hand, this does strain time-space C-a-C credulity a bit; as a result, in the future, we might have to view this third-place winner as non-canonical. On the other: How's your BURN, NBA owners? Might want to rub some cooling aloe vera lotion on your scorched skin.


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We may finally see a slimmer Renardo Sidney next season

When talented but troubled big man Renardo Sidney promised Mississippi State fans in March that he would return to school next season, the rising junior also pledged to come back in much better shape.

Sidney hasn't reached his target weight yet, but he's pleased with his progress.

In a conversation with Mississippi State beat writers in Starkville on Monday, Sidney revealed he's spent the past two months in Houston working on his conditioning with former NBA player John Lucas. Sidney has lost 23 pounds so far, down from the 320 he weighed when he arrived in Houston yet still well over the 270 pounds that Mississippi State somewhat laughably listed as his playing weight last year.

"We did a good job on the weight, but I'm still working on my conditioning and just eating right," Sidney said. "We did some basketball skills too, but the whole idea was just lose weight and get in condition. The basketball game is there."

It has to be refreshing for Mississippi State fans to hear Sidney speak as though he's serious about shedding weight since his attitude and work ethic have been criticized for years. In addition to sitting out the first nine games of the season last year as a result of NCAA violations and two more games for his role in a brawl with a teammate, Sidney wasn't in good enough shape to efficiently run the floor or to play more than a few minutes at a time.

If Sidney can begin the season trim enough to take advantage of his diverse skill set, Mississippi State could easily be one of the SEC's most improved teams next season. The Bulldogs will have Sidney and point guard Dee Bost for a full season next year and will add UTEP transfer Arnett Moultrie and promising incoming freshman Rodney Hood.

"I think I have a lot to prove about my attitude, my game and my conditioning," Sidney said.

That's certainly true, but for the first time, it sounds like Sidney's making legitimate progress.


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Green Bay 7-footer Alec Brown primed for a breakout season

The first time Green Bay coach Brian Wardle noticed a change in sophomore Alec Brown's mindset came during a youth camp two weeks ago.

Having been out-muscled by the bigger, stronger centers at the Amar'e Stoudemire Skills Academy in late June, Brown returned resolute in his desire to pack more weight onto his spindly 7-foot frame this summer. As a result, Brown approached Wardle and asked to take a brief break from running drills for the campers because he hadn't eaten in a few hours and he needed to maintain his six-meal-a-day schedule.

"I looked at him, smiled and said, 'Absolutely. You go get whatever snack you want,'" Wardle said Tuesday by phone. "That's something Alec had never really done before. He's really taking it upon himself to be really responsible in that area. That right there is a sign of why he's put on weight since the Amar'e camp and will continue to from here on out."

The five pounds Brown has gained in the three weeks since the Stoudemire camp is just one of the ways the Minnesota native benefited from the experience. Brown also gained confidence from following up a promising freshman season by holding his own against a handful of future lottery picks.

At a camp that featured 10 other elite college big men including All-American hopefuls Jared Sullinger and Thomas Robinson and top incoming freshman Anthony Davis, Brown was the lone mid-major player. Nonetheless, he overcame a jittery first day to showcase the soft touch and smooth high post game that helped him average 10.2 points and 5.6 rebounds as a freshman and earn a place on the Horizon League's all-newcomer team

"Playing against the best big guys in the nation, it helped me a lot," Brown said by phone. "The biggest thing I got out of it was something I already knew I had to do, which was gain weight and get stronger. This camp helped reinforce it in my mind that it's what I have to do and it's what I have to commit to."

It's remarkable that Brown earned an invitation to such a prestigious camp considering how few major-conference programs had any interest in him the previous year.

A below-the-radar recruit most of his career at Winona High, Brown began drawing interest from a handful of programs after a late growth spurt elevated him from 6-foot-5 entering his junior year to 6-foot-10 by the following summer. Scholarship offers from Green Bay and Loyola-Chicago soon followed, but more established programs strung him along deep into his senior year as they waited for higher profile prospects to select a school.

In mid-April 2010, Wardle ascended from Green Bay's top assistant to head coach and instantly made landing Brown his foremost recruiting priority. He visited Brown and his family at their home, winning them over by pointing out that the raw 7-footer might develop faster by playing immediately at Green Bay rather than redshirting or sitting behind upperclassmen at a larger program.

"I could tell I fit in well here," Brown said. "Some of the bigger schools talked to me, but none of them ever fully offered me. They just said to wait while they got an answer back from somebody else. That's why I went with someone I could trust."

Brown quickly validated Wardle's recruiting pitch by earning a starting job immediately,� scoring the most points of any Green Bay freshman in the past 10 years and shattering the school record for blocked shots with 66. The 7-foot-1 big man weighed just 206 pounds by the end of the season, yet he still managed to score at least 10 points in 10 of Green Bay's final 12 games.

Whereas the focal point of last season's Green Bay team was senior guards Rahmon Fletcher and Bryquis Perine, Wardle says the Phoenix will play through Brown in the post next year. In reality, Green Bay has little choice considering Brown will be one of the few proven players on a roster loaded with freshmen and sophomores.

To prepare for that challenge, Brown will attempt to bulk up to about 224 pounds by October by lifting weights 3 to 4 times per week and eating nutritious meals at least once every three hours starting at 6 a.m.. And in the gym, Wardle has Brown focused on honing his post moves, keeping the ball high and doing everything in his power to exploit his height advantage over smaller opponents.

"Our goal last year was to get him 12 to 15 touches and good things happened for us, so next year hopefully we can get even more touches for him," Wardle said. "He's a very talented young man, he's a great person and his work ethic is really good right now. People are going to really enjoy watching him grow. I think the sky's the limit for him."


Outside linebacker Peyton Manning Randy Starks Roman Harper

The Berba would not be denied by the bar in the MLS All-Star Game

For the second straight year, Manchester United faced the MLS All-Stars and for the second straight year, they made easy work of the hastily assembled squad.

With Man United already up 2-0, our dear friend Dimitar Berbatov showed off some of his effortless yet oddly sticky brilliance by chasing down a ball and chipping it over Houston Dynamo keeper Tally Hall. Instead of nestling inside the goal, however, the ball bounced off the crossbar. But The Continental is never one to be denied, so he displayed some of his trademark persistence, chested the ball up and volleyed it into the net from point-blank range.

"I always tend to think my goal are beautiful," says Dimitar. And I'm sure the Berba-babes will all agree. Ha-HA!


Randy Starks Roman Harper Ryan Kalil Shaun Phillips

The Shutdown Corner Scouting Report: Sidney Rice

With Santonio Holmes heading back to the New York Jets, the most intriguing receiver on the free-agent market is Minnesota Vikings wideout Sidney Rice. When Brett Favre signed with the Vikings in 2009, he found that Rice was an ideal target for the offense run by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Rice became one of the NFL's best receivers that season, but things took a downturn in 2010.

Favre got hurt and lost his effectiveness, and Rice suffered a hip injury that limited his time on the field. Early Wednesday, reports out of Minnesota indicate that the Seattle Seahawks (Bevell's new team, where he's already been reunited with backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson) are looking hard at Rice to be their No. 1 receiver ? pending a physical ? and the Vikings may be outbid.

What would a healthy Rice bring to the Seahawks, or any other NFL team? Here's the tale of the tape.

Sidney Rice

Drafted: Second round, 44th overall, 2007 NFL draft [Minnesota Vikings]

Career Stats: 146 catches in 247 targets for 2,129 yards, 14.6 yards per catch, 18 touchdowns

2010 Stats: 17 catches in 42 targets for 280 yards, 16.5 yards per catch, 2 touchdowns

Release: Quick off the line -- can get past slower corners in off coverage, but he's more inclined to use routes to beat intermediate coverage. Very quick in his cuts either inside or outside, and he can stutter-step well at the line to gain advantage.

Hands: Great hands-catcher, especially in traffic ? he's able to high-point in double coverage, adjust his body to catch errant throws, and beat physical coverage for the ball.

Route running: �Runs tight, compact, short-to-intermediate routes in a way that makes him an ideal receiver for a West Coast offense. Works great slants, outs, comebacks and other zone-busters to perfection. Because of his route consistency, he's able to develop a rapport with quarterbacks he hasn't often worked with. Sits in zone very well and forces enemy defensive backs to constantly adjust to his routes.

After the Catch: Physical receiver who will fight for extra yardage even as he's being tackled. Will break arm tackles and head quickly downfield; it's a must to wrap him up downfield. Not a big-body guy per se, but is very willing to knock heads and extend his body near the first-down marker and in the red zone.

Blocking: Rice lines up wide most of the time, so he's not generally asked to be an inline blocker. His job is to keep coverage deep and take defenders away on running plays. When he does block downfield on longer running plays, he's more pesky than powerful ? he doesn't always hit his target straight on and he'll whiff outright at times. Has the athleticism to be a better blocker in a different system if need be.

Conclusion: The hip injury that cut Rice's 2010 season short left him with an incomplete on-field resume. However, watching tape of him in 2009, when he was perhaps the league's most efficient receiver, leaves tantalizing potential on the table. At his best, Rice presents a skill set not far off from what Larry Fitzgerald offers a team ? he's a legitimate�No. 1 receiver in any system, and his lack of elite top-end speed is more than mitigated by the ways in which he dominates coverage and forces coverage breakdowns. Sidney Rice will make a lot of money in free agency, and if he's healthy, he'll be worth the high price.


Eddie Arcaro Edwin Moses Elgin Baylor Emil Zatopek

More links! And Becks saying that City will never be Man Utd!

All the stuff being covered outside the unfriendly confines of the award-winning Dirty Tackle...

Is this even controversial? I mean, the guy named his kid after the number he wore while playing for Man United. Surely City fans aren't getting worked up over this...right? [101gg]

The new orange Nike Superfly IIIs are very orange. [TBG]

Micah Richards plays FIFA 12 as Arsenal. At a Man City event. [KCKRS]

Corinthians, Man City and Brazi's economic boom. [IBWM]

Carlos Tevez and the brave new world of football "agency." [The Score]

The New York Cosmos named their roster for the Scholes testimonial. Sadly, about half are kids from their academy. [Kickette]

Premier League hopefully of goal line technology for 2012/13 season. [Guardian]

Baseball player Evan Longoria has taken an interest in Alex Morgan. [With Leather]

"Please don't ruin this for all of" world urges Uruguay. [The DA]


CC Sabathia Joakim Soria Rafael Soriano Matt Thornton

NCAA dings Georgia Tech basketball for recruiting violations

Even though the NCAA committee on infractions saved its most serious penalties for the Georgia Tech football program, the Yellowjackets basketball team also absorbed a glancing blow.

The NCAA restricted the number of in-person recruiting days and official visits Georgia Tech basketball will be allowed the next two years as a result of violations stemming from youth basketball tournaments held on campus in May 2009 and 2010.

A graduate assistant broke NCAA rules when he helped administer both tournaments and evaluated prospective student-athletes there, making 28 calls to two assistant coaches during the 2010 event. Furthermore, an academic adviser interested in one day becoming a coach tried to prove his worth by attending the tournament and emailing the staff with his thoughts on five of the prospects.

All of the violations took place during the tenure of coach Paul Hewitt, who was fired after the 2010-11 season and has since been hired at George Mason. Georgia Tech argued that the transgressions should be secondary in nature, but the committee on infractions ruled the Yellowjackets were guilty of major violations.

They were not isolated because the violations occurred over two academic years and involved members of the men's basketball staff. They were also not inadvertent, as the institution and head men's basketball coach were aware of its staff members' involvement in the tournament, which had occurred on the campus for a period of 10 years. Further, the institution and the head men's basketball coach had adequate notice that involvement in the event was in direct violation of the Board of Director's October 29, 2009, actions.

The violations provided the men's basketball program more than a minimal recruiting advantage. Members of the men's basketball staff were not only present during the nonscholastic event but conducted evaluations of the prospective student-athletes participating in the event outside of a designated men's basketball evaluation period. The recruiting advantage obtained by the institution is also reflected in the fact that four prospects from the AAU team sponsoring the tournament ultimately became men's basketball student-athletes at Georgia Tech.

Ultimately, despite the slight recruiting advantage Georgia Tech might have gained, the NCAA's penalties were appropriately minor. Two less in-person recruiting days won't impact new coach Brian Gregory all that much, nor will only being able to bring in 10 recruits for official visits.


Alex Mack Antoine Winfield Arian Foster Brian Waters

Phil Mickelson?s rollercoaster week ends with missed cut

Phil Mickelson rarely deviates from his yearly schedule on the PGA Tour, so when he decided to add the Greenbrier Classic and mix things up a bit, people figured there was a good reason he decided to add the event with the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational next week, and the PGA Championship the following week.

On Friday afternoon we got our answer: It was a chance for Mickelson to show that his second place finish at the Open Championship wasn't a precursor to a run of stellar golf leading up to the final major of the year.

Mickelson missed his first cut of the season with a 3-over 73 on Friday, including a stretch of seven holes that saw him make four bogeys and submarine his chances of playing the weekend.

Sure, it won't be much fun watching the final two rounds of the Greenbrier without the tournament's marquee name in the field. But based on the way Mickelson played, maybe it's a good thing he'll have a couple extra days to practice before heading to Firestone.

Despite Mickelson saying he wasn't unhappy with his play, it's hard to find a silver lining in his week. His opening round included five birdies, but he negated every one of them with five bogeys. And Friday's second round was more of the same -- another rollercoaster round from Mickelson that saw him lose ground on the field and then try and make it back up.

Should we look at the missed cut as a sign he won't be ready for the PGA Championship? Probably not. Phil has played poorly leading into major championships and won before, but the thing that worries me about Lefty is how he deviated from his successful game plan at the Open Championship.

After playing conservative and posting the best Open finish of his career, he reverted back to "Phil the thrill" at the Greenbrier, continually missing greens and relying on his short game to keep him in the tournament. It makes you wonder which one of his alter egos will show up in Atlanta.

For now it's just a missed cut for Mickelson, but if he shows up and plays the same way next week at the WGC, you can be sure people will start to wonder if he can win at Atlanta Athletic Club with an erratic game.


Bill Tilden Billie Jean King Bob Cousy Bob Gibson

For Cutler and Cavallari, the wedding?s off

You've heard of the phrase, "outkicking your coverage" as it doesn't apply to football, right? If not, it's one way to describe that interesting phenomenon in which a guy somehow manages to become involved with a lady who's decidedly out of his league. Happens all the time, as it did to Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, when he hooked up with MTV/UPN/straight-to-DVD television personality Kristin Cavallari in the fall of 2010.

After a whirlwind courtship, the couple got engaged in April when Cutler popped the question in Mexico.� Things appeared to be moving along very well. The NFL lockout certainly gave the two more time to be together, and according to People magazine, Cavallari was busy planning the wedding that was supposed to happen soon.

However, we now have a sad update: Per that very same fountain of celebrity information, the wedding's now canceled, and it was Cutler who broke it off.

"She got dumped," one source told People. "She's absolutely devastated. She can't believe this is happening. "She was planning her dream wedding, the date was set, the location ? everything was set. She's in shock that the dream wedding she was planning is going to end this way."

Just last week, Cavallari tweeted this bit of excitement about her engagement party:

For those interested in the registry, the couple was set up at Crate and Barrel, as well as Williams-Sonoma.

For wedding guests willing to dig a little deeper, the soon-to-be newlyweds are also asking for a Williams-Sonoma copper stockpot ($429.95), a Williams-Sonoma 19-piece knife block set ($2,799.95) and a Breville smart oven ($249.95). For those who can't splurge, a $2.95 Crate & Barrel teabag rest plate shaped like a teapot also made the cut.

And then, out of nowhere, whammo. People also reported that Cavallari was spotted at The Beverly in Los Angeles on Saturday night, commiserating with friends and very much without her ring.

We dare not speculate what happened, but from Cutler's standpoint, this isn't just outkicking your coverage ? it's punting to Devin Hester at the same time. A very strange occurrence, so close to the event.


Roger Staubach Rogers Hornsby Sam Snead Sammy Baugh

Friday, July 29, 2011

Citi Shuffle: K-Rod to Milwaukee; Parnell, Isringhausen left over

Most of the baseball world spent Tuesday night following a game that doesn't matter much. Then the Mets and Brewers gave us something to talk about, at least in the fake-baseball atmosphere that we call home.

New York shipped closer Francisco Rodriguez to Milwaukee late Tuesday night, along with cash considerations. The Mets will get two players to be named later, most likely marginal prospects. New York's incentive is painfully obvious in this swap: the club gets out from under the whopping $17.5 million option that Rodriguez receives if he finishes 55 games this season. He's at 34 games finished through 56 percent of the season, well on pace to get the money.

The Brewers already have a solid closer in John Axford (47-for-52 the last two years), so we can logically assume they'll slot K-Rod in a set-up role. (Agent Scott Boras doesn't agree, of course, given that he represents Rodriguez. But Axford has done nothing to lose the gig, and the Brewers would be foolish to pitch Rodriguez into that gigantic vesting option.)

Wednesday Update: Brewers manager Ron Roenicke says he'll use both Axford and Rodriguez in the ninth inning. Alrighty then. You can bet your Bernie Brewer Bobblehead that the club will make sure Rodriguez doesn't close enough games to kick in the vesting option.

Our next mandatory assignment is to guess how the Mets will handle their closing situation going forward. Bobby Parnell has been talked about in many circles as the team's closer of the future (Rodriguez was one of the Mets promoting Parnell), but veteran Jason Isringhausen can't be discounted either.

On paper Parnell looks like a better fit for the job, owning a fastball in the 96-97 range and a ground-ball rate around 50 percent. He's struck out 30 batters in 24.2 innings (along with a solid 2.92 ERA) and he's just 26, compared to the 38-year-old Isringhausen. One school of thought says the Mets should figure out as soon as possible if Parnell can handle the bright lights of the ninth inning.

There's a case to be made for Isringhausen too, however. Although his strikeout rate is much lower than Parnell's and his ERA is slightly higher, Isringhausen does have the tidier WHIP (1.19 to 1.34). And Izzy has been the man used as the eighth-inning bridge for Rodriguez virtually all season, en route to 15 holds (Parnell has four). In many instances, the understudy from the eighth inning is the man who inherits the ninth. And perhaps the Mets will note Isringhausen is close to 300 saves (he's at 293) and toss him a milestone-chasing bone.

I'm assuming GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins will organize their new bullpen for us when they address the media Wednesday. All we can do in the overnight is speculate. If I had to add a New York reliever right this second, I'd go with Parnell first and Isringhausen second, with Pedro Beato as the Hail Mary choice. I have no say in the matter, and no inside information that you don't. I'm just reading the tea leaves as I see them.

More Mets deals should be coming in the next few weeks, of course. Carlos Beltran will be on the market all month. Isringhausen might be an interesting trade chip. The team has to decide how it wants to handle Jose Reyes, though my gut feeling is that he's going to stay in New York. Should be a fun summer.

Endorse your favorite Mets closing option in the comments, gamer.


Image courtesy Associated Press


Jonathan Broxton Matt Capps Chris Carpenter Yovani Gallardo

Kaufman tears apart Carmouche?s face at Strikeforce Challengers 17

Liz Carmouche shocked the world by hanging with Strikeforce champion Marloes Coenen, but she couldn't catch Sarah Kaufman off-guard. The former champ was prepared to stuff Carmouche's takedown game and worked beautifully behind a jab on her way to an easy unanimous decision victory, 30-27 on all cards, at Strikeforce Challengers 17� in Las Vegas.

Kaufman (14-1) lost her title to Coenen last October. Now she'll wait to see what happens on the next Strikeforce card in Chicago. At the end of the month, Coenen defends her title against Miesha Tate. Unless there's a controversial decision in that one, requiring a rematch, one would think Kaufman gets the next shot to get her gold back.

"What I need to happen is Marloes Coenen to defend that title. I need to be the next fight in there," Kaufman told Showtime announcer Mauro Ranallo. "I want to take the title back, I want to avenge my loss and I hope the fans want to see that."

If she boxes the way she did tonight against Carmouche, any fight fan will enjoy Kaufman in the cage. Carmouche has only been a pro since early 2010 and it showed. Her aggression cost her throughout. She'd charge into the pocket to throw a right and leave her left hand too low. Kaufman nailed her throughout with short rights inside. The real damage was done by the volume of Kaufman jabs. By the middle of the second round, it appeared that Carmouche nose was busted. At the end of the round, there was blood splattered all over her face and shoulders.

"I feel pretty good about the win. I know Liz, even though she doesn't have a large record, is very tough, very strong. And she puts up a good fight. She's in here to fight," said Kaufman.

Kaufman was also brilliant with her takedown defense. Getting the fight off the feet was the only shot Carmouche had in the fight, but she was thwarted on all but one takedown attempt. Even in that case, Kaufman rose to her feet within 10 seconds.


Matt Light Matt Ryan Michael Griffin Miles Austin

Brazil shirts banned from Velez Sarsfield?s training complex

Ahead of its Copa America semifinal against Peru, Uruguay moved training base to the home of Argentine clausura champions Velez Sarsfield -- a complex that apparently has a very strict dress code. The only football shirts that visitors are allowed to wear at the facility are those of Velez or Argentina's national team. All others (especially Brazil's) are prohibited.

Exceptions are made for teams participating in competitions or anyone on official business. But if you show up wearing, say, a Kaka shirt just for the fun of it, they will shoot you on sight.

OK, they probably won't shoot you. But prolonged torture seems like a strong possibility.

Photo: Globoesporte


Emil Zatopek Eric Heiden Gordie Howe Hank Aaron

Butler guard Ronald Nored trades his hightops for a clipboard

Whereas most coaches enter the profession only after they're unable to play basketball at a high level anymore, Butler guard Ronald Nored didn't have the patience to wait that long.

The senior-to-be has begun preparing to enter the college coaching ranks after graduation by spending part of the past two offseasons coaching an Indianapolis-based 17-and-under summer basketball team.

It might seem daunting for a Division I college athlete to balance academics, playing a sport and coaching a youth team, but Nored swears he's enjoying himself. He inherited the desire to help people from his pediatrician mother and his pastor father. And he fostered a lifelong passion for basketball playing for renowned Alabama high school coach Tim Shepler and for Butler coach Brad Stevens.

Nored's team won't be landing an invite to any of this week's prestigious AAU tournaments in Las Vegas since it only has one potential Division I player, but he's nonetheless excited about the progress his players have made under his tutelage. He joined me by phone this week to discuss how his team is faring, why he wants to go into coaching and what he's learned from Stevens about the profession.

JE: I know your team struggled in April but has surged lately. How gratifying is it to see their improvement?

RN: I was burnt out in April. We were losing pool games and getting knocked out in the first round of bracket play by 20. That was really hard to swallow. We got a new guy in May who has been really good for us and we started playing better. Earlier this month, we lost the first game in the Hoosier Shootout by seven, then won six in a row by 20 or more to win the Silver Bracket championship. It was the best we've played since I've been coaching. It was really good for me to see because I could see the growth my team has made since when I started.

JE: How did you get started coaching your team last spring?

RN: I contacted [Team Truth founder] Mark Schlafer on Facebook. I'd met him previously, so he had no hesitation in saying, "Let's get this done." We had to check with our compliance office here at Butler and with the NCAA to make sure it was OK. We didn't want to be in that gray area where there was a chance at a violation. They were fine with it as long as I don't promote Butler and I understand that because Butler employs me during the summer for a camp, none of my players could be recruited to Butler. Those were the stipulations to me being able to coach.

JE: Were the families receptive to having a coach who hadn't even graduated from college yet?

RN: The parents were actually really great about it. At the first practice I had last year, I sat the parents down and talked about my beliefs about the game and about how important it was to me to do my best to make their child better, to make their child understand what it was to be a part of a team. My goal was more to make them better for their high school years than to try to win every game over the summer. We don't have a team made up of eight Division I athletes. When I started, a lot of my guys were playing JV and one or two of them were playing varsity.

JE: You're already balancing basketball, school and a social life. Why add another huge responsibility to your plate rather than waiting until after you graduate?

RN: I want to be a college coach, so it was a no-brainer for me. I didn't really care how much time it took or if it was going to pull me away from that social life or from something else. I wanted to do this for myself and for other people. I coached a sixth-grade AAU team when I was in high school, so it was kind of something I'd already done and I wanted to get back into it.

JE: Where do you think your passion for helping people comes from?

RN: From my dad and mom for sure. My parents sacrifice anything at anytime for anyone. I grew up in that environment. My dad was a pastor. My mom works at a pediatric practice. But they were always doing stuff for other people and always finding ways to be positive influences on other people as well as my brother and I. So that's my foundation as well as my Christian background. We believe our gifts are not only our own but used to help other people. When you put that and my love of basketball together, you get coaching. The fact that I grew up with an awesome high school coach and played for an awesome college coach, it's a no-brainer that this is where I see my life going.

JE: What's the most difficult aspect of balancing coaching and everything else you do?

RN: We played during the NCAA tournament last year and this past year. I would play Thursday-Saturday, come home and run practice on Sunday. We were doing all our preparation for the AAU season during the NCAA tournament. But we didn't find the right combination of players during that time and I think I actually overloaded them with things to do. In July, we've simplified everything we're doing and made each players' role more specific. We've made it a lot easier and better for them in July.

JE: Who are your greatest influences as a coach?

RN: Coach Stevens and my high school coach, Tim Shepler. They're both Christians and live their lives the way I try to live mine. Their philosophies of coaching are pretty similar, and they've helped me grow up a lot as a person. I really enjoy the way coach Stevens goes about things. It's been fun to be able to grow up as a young man in this environment with him at the top.

JE: Do you ask coach Stevens and his staff for advice on how to run your team?

RN: They always want to know how we did at a tournament, but I actually really don't talk to them that much. It's pretty much all stuff that I've picked up from them as a player and I've retained.

JE: Specifically what have you learned from playing under coach Stevens that you can incorporate into your coaching?

RN: One thing we focus on here is winning a possession as opposed to winning the game. We focus on what can we do to win this possession. We take it one possession at a time, and that's kind of the mentality I've taken to my team. When you break it down like that, you're setting yourself up to do some good things later on in the game. Another thing I've picked up is his quote, "control what you can control." It sounds really easy, but when you think about it, there's so much stuff that goes on in a game and in life that we spend so much energy and time worrying about. But when you control what you can control, it makes it a lot easier and you worry a lot less.

JE: Did you consider that playing for coach Stevens could benefit your coaching career when you signed with Butler?

RN: I thought that more than anything I'd be able to play for an awesome guy and an awesome staff, and I really didn't think of it that way. I've just been blessed to be able to learn from him as I'm playing. It's been awesome. I think I've learned so much already, and I have at least another year to learn before I have to move on.

JE: How have you improved as a coach since you began your stint with your AAU team?

RN: I think understanding my players' strengths. That's not something I really focused on last year or early this year, but I think I've done a lot better job putting my players in positions where they have a lot better chance to be successful. That's been fun to see too -- how they're attacking offensively or guarding defensively based on the matchups.


Ubaldo Jimenez Heath Bell Jonathan Broxton Matt Capps