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NBA injects some life into All-Star Game

You got your five?

4:52 PMThe season has already gotten off to a different start in the NBA. The preseason started earlier. There are company logos on the uniforms. Now, the best change yet has been made official: They’re going to a playground pick ’em-style setup for the All-Star Game. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

Remember last year, when people wondered what Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook would do playing alongside former teammate Kevin Durant, who’d just gone to Golden State? Turns out it was nothing, as they still had to be on the same squad playing for the Western Conference. Sure, we all joked about how awkward it could be, but now they’ll legitimately get to play AGAINST EACH OTHER in an exhibition game. Never mind the Kyrie/LeBron bad blood.

The NHL adopted this format a couple of years back, and the resulting events were spectacular. The squad selection ceremony is one of the most fun televised productions of the year. And while the NBA doesn’t lack in personality, or connectivity with fans that an event like that would help foster, that’s not the point. Turn a room full of NBA players loose to pick teams on national television and you’ve got instant gold. The game might be fun, but watching these guys politic with their friends about who’s on whose team would be incredible.

Plus, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Shaquille O’Neal and Ernie Smith on the commentary? This is the free-for-all event the NBA needed, not the awards ceremony after the season is already over.

According to the league, nothing will change about the actual selection of the players to the rosters themselves, it’s just a matter of who plays with whom when they tip off. The 67th All-Star Game will be played at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 18 at 8 p.m. Eastern and will air on TNT.

Daily Dose: 9/29/17

NBA commissioner expects players to stand for anthem

6:35 PMHey gang, Friday’s another double dip for me. I’ll be doing Around The Horn at 5 p.m. and, through the magic of television, also hosting #TheRightTime on ESPN Radio from 4-7 p.m. EST. Here’s Thursday’s show.

A lot of people are looking to get to Mars. There are long lists of folks who’ve signed up to get on a rocket ship and head to the red planet, knowing full well they’d never come back. But, with Elon Musk’s dream of landing people across the galaxy, he’s also got a plan to evolve that mission. He wants to create rockets that can take you various places across the globe in a matter of minutes. Like, the U.S. to China in half an hour. I can barely even get my mind around the concept, but, hey, we’re all for it.

If you’re wondering how Russian hacking may affect you, now you know. A new CNN report says that outside agencies were using fake black activist accounts to stoke racial tension before the last presidential election, which is fascinating. Not because they were disseminating false information — they weren’t — but because they were trying to increase turnout to many previously organized events, to naturally increase division among American citizens. In short, other nations are using are own racism against us, and it’s working.

What if I told you … that three presidents showed up at a golf tournament together for one of the greatest photo ops of all time. In case you don’t know, the Presidents Cup, the competition in which the United States faces off against the rest of the world, is underway. Presidents Obama, Bush (43) and Clinton all graced New Jersey’s Liberty National Golf Club with their presence. This whole situation should instantly be made into a 30 for 30 film. I can’t imagine a more star-studded lineup for a more mundane tournament.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is trying to get ahead of any national anthem controversies. But it won’t be easy. Mind you, the NBA does have a rule that players are to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but also, this is a league that’s seen quite a few pregame protests in its day. Not to mention that the WNBA has been at the forefront on these public displays for some time. Now, Silver is saying he expects players to stand during the anthem, which seems to be a step backward in wokeness.

Free Food

Coffee Break: You might not be focused on what’s happening in Calgary, Alberta, but it’s worth noting. Basically, in the fight for a new arena deal in town, the NHL and a big company have inserted themselves into the mayor’s race, which is an awful precedent and development.

Snack Time: I don’t mean to be the guy making a big scene every time Ta-Nehisi Coates writes something, but that’s where we are these days. Check out his latest for The Guardian, about what we should have seen coming.

Dessert: Ladies and gentlemen, meet Petie Parker.

 

Daily Dose: 9/28/17

Adidas and Nike are both getting subpoenaed

2:04 PMHef has left the building. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died Wednesday night at the age of 91. While Hefner was best known for his men’s magazine, with its nude centerfolds and … ahem … titillating bunny costumes that helped spearhead the sexual revolution of the 1960s, he was also a champion of liberalism (abortion rights, marijuana legalization), most noteworthy a donation to black comedian Dick Gregory in 1964 to help find murdered civil rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner. While Hefner will be lauded for that work, alongside helping make sexuality mainstream, he also has one glaring stain on his legacy. Since 2016, Hefner’s been involved with comedian Bill Cosby’s highly publicized sexual assault allegations, with two women accusing Cosby of raping them at the notorious Playboy Mansion, with Hefner allegedly being complicit in one of the assaults.

Nike is in some stuff now, too. The large shoe brand company has been pulled into the ongoing federal investigation of corruption in college basketball. According to ESPN and ABC News, a division of the Nike basketball department has been served with a subpoena by the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York as federal prosecutors look into sports brand companies paying college athletic programs to steer high-profile high school basketball players to Adidas-brand schools. For a company that has been accused of running illegal sweatshops, violating child labor laws and outsourcing American jobs to poorer Asian countries, it’s doubtful that Nike did anything wrong.

Speaking of which, the jig is up for Rick Pitino. The Louisville men’s basketball coach has been identified in the federal prosecution of college programs as “Coach-2,” who according to court records, helped funnel $100,000 to the family of a recruit and spoke directly with an Adidas executive just days before said recruit committed to Louisville. Had this been Pitino’s first infraction, he’d be given the benefit of the doubt. But the 65-year-old coach was caught up in a federal extortion case in 2010 for having sex with a woman who was not his wife for, in his own words, 15 seconds, and caught up in a NCAA investigation in 2015 for overseeing a program that offered strippers and escorts to recruits. And for all that hard work, Louisville risks vacating its 2013 national championship and on Wednesday lost two ESPN top 50 commits and a top 5 recruit cut the Cardinals from his school list.

Ray-Ray tried to have it both ways. Retired former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis tried to have his cake and eat it too when he confusingly dropped on two knees rather than the customary one during the national anthem Sunday, joining 13 Baltimore players in what they called a protest of President Donald Trump’s recent comments on anthem demonstrations. He later told Showtime’s Inside the NFL that he “dropped on two knees — both knees — so I can simply honor God in the midst of chaos,” when he simply could have A) not been on the sideline for a team he doesn’t play for anymore, B) not try to make a show of “unity” about himself or C) simply not put one or two knees on the ground if he didn’t agree with players not standing for the national anthem. Playing both sides of the field has made more than 50,000 people call for the removal of Lewis’ 3-year-old statue outside M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

Daily Dose: 9/27/17

Getting these tweets off is now a longer process

4:25 PMAlas, I didn’t get a win on Around The Horn on Tuesday, but Friday is another day. I’m sending out my NHL fantasy league draft notices on Wednesday, and I’m really excited about it.

Twitter might have ruined itself. On Tuesday, the company announced that some select users will be able to expand their tweets to 280 characters. Why? LORD KNOWS. The entire living reason why the site was so good was that everyone had to work within the limitations to communicate, and we all eventually got used to it as the one thing that was worth it: brevity. By moving to 280 characters, visually and in practice, the entire platform changes. Remember this day in the internet universe. We are forever changed.

The national anthem at sporting events is driving people mad. Now it’s become this thing that basically allows folks to make any random statement, no matter what it may be. Colin Kaepernick’s initial efforts to draw attention to police brutality in America have now been completely co-opted by the league. Now, a combat veteran who won a contest to be the Baltimore Ravens’ national anthem singer is resigning. In addition, Northwestern football has randomly decided to lock arms before their next game. Meh.

Smoking kills. We all know that. But that doesn’t mean that plenty of people don’t do it. And if you know black folks, you know that we like menthol cigarettes. They’re more harmful, and for quite some time tobacco companies have been accused of targeting the black community. Now in Minnesota, leaders are asking convenience stores to ban the sale of menthols, thinking that will help curb the sale of the items to minors, which is a big problem.

Don’t think that NFL players don’t know what their owners and fans think. And for the Carolina Panthers, that situation is more prevalent than most. Their owner is a former NFL player, and North Carolina is a state with quite a few military families and thus military bases. As a result, players were afraid to express themselves surrounding the national anthem. The team and management are now trying to ease tensions, and that season is officially off the rails.

Free Food

Coffee Break: There’s nothing cool about getting dragged off a plane. It’s embarrassing, often physically injurious and emotionally demoralizing. But if someone has an allergy to a dog that they can’t provide documentation for and those dogs are on the plane? Tough situation.

Snack Time: I don’t have kids. Which means I don’t have to deal with little things that you only use for babies then never again. But, if you’re in the world of sports bottles, you might hate that world.

Dessert: Yep. This is funny.