Serena: ‘I will need a little more time’
Williams won’t defend her title at the Australian Open
12:03 AMSerena Williams announced on Thursday that she’ll skip the 2018 Australian Open, just a year after she won the 2017 event while eight weeks pregnant.
And for tennis fans who expect dominance from the best women’s tennis player, that’s probably a good thing.
Based on Williams’ play during a three-set loss to Jelena Ostapenko at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi last week, it was clear that she wasn’t ready to compete for a major title, and Williams admitted as much in a statement she released via the Australian Open:
“After competing in Abu Dhabi I realized that although I am super close, I’m not where I personally want to be. My coach and team said ‘only go to tournaments when you are prepared to go all the way.’ I can compete — but I don’t want to just compete. I want to do far better than that and to do so, I will need a little more time.”
A loss to Ostapenko shouldn’t be a complete disappointment — the 20-year-old native of Latvia won the 2017 French Open and was ranked as high as No. 7 in the world last year. Williams looked a little sluggish as she played her first competitive match in nearly a year. She gave birth in September 2017 to Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.
“I don’t think I’m going to rate my performance,” the 36-year-old Williams said after the match last week. “I have plenty of comebacks, from injuries, from surgeries, but I’ve never had a comeback after actually giving birth to a human being.”
It would have been an incredible story for Williams to defend her Aussie championship just one year after winning it while pregnant. Williams said she spent part of the exhibition match against Ostapenko worried about her 4-month-old daughter.
“I was a little worried out there, and looked at my camp and I was like, ‘Is Olympia OK?’ But it’s really good,” Williams said during her postmatch interview.
There was already a sign that Williams might not play in Melbourne: It was announced in December 2017 that she was booked to be the closing keynote speaker at a conference in Florida on Jan. 23. That event is happening during the Australian Open quarterfinals.
The absence of Williams leaves yet another Grand Slam event wide-open. After Williams took a leave after winning the 2017 Australian Open, three women won the next three Grand Slam events, capped by Sloane Stephens winning the U.S. Open in September, her first major title.
Williams now gets to spend more time with her daughter and husband, Alexis, whom she married last November.
Her likely return: sometime before the French Open in May. Williams would be seeking her 24th career Grand Slam singles title at Roland Garros.
Giannis Antetokounmpo leads all players in first returns of All-Star fan vote
Bucks forward is ahead of LeBron by 7,336 votes
9:40 PMIn the words of Tarlaysia Hatch, the daughter of hip-hop artist Lil Boosie: I told y’all.
On Thursday evening, the NBA released the first returns of fan voting for the 2018 All-Star Game, and lo and behold, who was the No. 1 vote-getter?
The Milwaukee Bucks forward, who is second in the league in points per game (29.1), received 863,416 votes during the first 12 days that fan ballots were open. That total is 7,336 votes higher than the closest player, Cleveland Cavaliers forward and four-time MVP LeBron James (856,080) and 96,014 votes higher than the Western Conference leader, Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (767,402), a regular-season and Finals MVP.
Warriors guard Stephen Curry (735,115), a two-time MVP (and the first unanimous selection in league history), Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (438,469), last season’s MVP after averaging a triple-double, and Houston Rockets guard James Harden (602,040), this season’s MVP favorite, all received fewer votes than Antetokounmpo.
Which is to say the 23-year-old, backed by American and Greek voters (and possibly those from Nigeria, the birthplace of Antetokounmpo’s parents), is quite possibly the most popular player in the NBA. Who would have thought?
But to remain objective (still read The Undefeated’s season-long series on Antetokounmpo’s MVP candidacy), other players also received votes:
The #NBAAllStar Voting First Returns for Western Conference players!
— 2018 NBA All-Star (@NBAAllStar) January 4, 2018
The #NBAAllStar Voting First Returns for Eastern Conference players!
— 2018 NBA All-Star (@NBAAllStar) January 4, 2018
For this year’s All-Star Game, the top vote-getter from the Eastern Conference and Western Conference will each serve as a captain and choose from a pool of the other players voted in for each team. As was the case last year, fan voting accounts for 50 percent, while current players and media members account for 25 percent each.
Starters and captains will be revealed on Jan. 18, with reserves announced on Jan. 23. Two days later, on Jan. 25, rosters will be revealed, leading up to the All-Star Game on Feb. 18 in Los Angeles.
The Plug, ‘Happy New Year’ (Episode 4): with special guest co-host Mike Golic Jr.
Isaiah Thomas’ comeback on deck and the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl recaps
Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | RSS | Embed
After taking time off for the holidays, it’s back to business for The Undefeated’s newest podcast, The Plug. Our country cousin Mike Golic Jr. fills in for me this week after being officially reported in the box score as “DNP — SUNBURNS” while having a tad too much fun in Colombia on vacation.
Regardless, as they say in the industry, “the show must go on,” and it absolutely did. The quartet chopped it up on a multitude of topics, including Isaiah Thomas’ long-awaited comeback, the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, one of the most provocative stories in sports right now — UCF’s undefeated season (no pun), and should they have been in the College Football Playoff — this weekend’s slate of opening-round NFL playoff games and the NBA All-Star Game rules changes.
As always, subscribe to The Plug on the ESPN app! See you all next week!
Oklahoma’s Trae Young is having one of the best seasons in college basketball history
Point guard is averaging 29.4 points and 10.6 assists per game
12:17 PMOn Wednesday night, Oklahoma’s phenomenal freshman Trae Young scored 27 points, dished out 10 assists and grabbed nine rebounds en route to a 109-89 victory over Oklahoma State. Even though the 6-foot-2 guard came up one rebound shy of a triple-double, which would’ve been just the fourth triple-double in school history, Young has been putting on a clinic all season for the seventh-ranked Sooners despite being the No. 23-ranked freshman in the nation coming into the season.
His mix of creativity at the rim, crazy handles and I-don’t-care attitude behind the 3-point line makes him a natural comparison to two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry, who lit up the nation during the 2008 NCAA tournament. But Young, through just 13 career games (three against Top 25 teams), is doing things even Curry couldn’t.
Young is averaging 29.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 10.6 assists per game. According to ESPN Stats & Information, since the 1983-84 season, the first year individual assists were tallied, only six players have averaged at least 10 assists a game. Of those six players, three (Southern’s Avery Johnson, Bradley’s Anthony Manuel and LIU Brooklyn’s Jason Brickman) also averaged better than 10 points a game. Manuel, whose 12 assists per game in 1987-88 were the second-highest total in NCAA history, averaged just 12.1 points per game that season (nearly 18 points fewer than Young), the most of the three.
Young is having one of the best seasons ever for not only a point guard (The Ringer’s Mark Titus illustrates how he has surpassed every other point guard who has won the Wooden Award) but for any player in the past two decades.
Over the past 20 seasons of college basketball data, here’s how the rest of Young’s numbers stack up (data courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information):
- His 10 assists in five straight games are tied for the longest streak (Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams, 2012-13) within a season by a major conference player
- His combined 43.9 points, assists and rebounds per game are the most for any player
- His 12 consecutive games with at least 20 points are the most in Oklahoma history
- His 27 points and 10 assists versus Oklahoma State on Wednesday was his sixth 25-point, 10-assist career game, the most by a major conference player
- His 22 assists against Northwestern State are tied for the most in Division I history
- His 32 points and 10 assists against North Texas on Nov. 30 made him just the second player in Big 12 history to finish with at least 30 points and 10 assists. Young’s done it twice since.
And just for fun, only three NBA players — Russell Westbrook, Oscar Robertson (five times) and James Harden — have averaged at least 29 points, 10 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game in a season. So, in short, the 19-year-old Young may be the best college basketball player we’ve seen in decades, and we may not have not seen anything yet.
Shakyla Hill gets first quadruple-double in women’s D-I hoops in almost 25 years
The Grambling State point guard is first HBCU player to finish with the stat line
2:06 AMIn the waning moments of Grambling State’s 93-71 win over Alabama State on Wednesday night, the Tigers’ Shakyla Hill solidified her place in NCAA women’s basketball history.
With Hill’s assist to Monisha Neal for a 3-pointer, Hill became the first player to finish with a quadruple-double in almost 25 years, as well as the first player (male or female) from a historically black university and the fourth woman overall to complete the feat. The junior guard finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals.
Hill helped push the Tigers’ (5-8, 2-0 Southwestern Athletic Conference) 40-33 halftime lead to double digits against the Hornets (2-11, 0-2) with her 11 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 6 steals after the break.
Arkansas State’s Sonja Tate was the last woman to record a quadruple-double when she amassed 29 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals against Mississippi Valley State on Jan. 27, 1993. On Jan. 14, 1991, Lamar’s Ramona Jones had a quadruple-double — 10-10-10 and 12 steals — against Central Florida.
Two years earlier, on Jan. 14, 1989, Veronica Pettry of Loyola Chicago finished with the first official quadruple-double in women’s Division I history with her 12 points, 10 rebounds, 22 assists and 11 steals.
And unofficially, Louisville’s Jackie Spencer finished with the very first quadruple-double in Division I NCAA history with her 12 points, 12 rebounds, 14 assists and 10 steals against Cincinnati on Feb. 2, 1985. It would take two more years for steals to be considered an official NCAA stat.
Shani Davis qualifies for fifth straight Winter Olympics
Speedskater was first African-American to win an individual gold medal at Winter Games
9:28 PMSpeedskater Shani Davis, the first African-American to win an individual gold medal at the Winter Olympics, qualified for Team USA on Wednesday, marking his fifth straight appearance at the Winter Games.
Davis finished second (1:09.23) in the 1,000-meter race at the Olympic trials in Milwaukee, solidifying his spot on the team ahead of February’s games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Joey Mantia, a 2014 Olympian, came in first (1:09.15), and two-time Olympian Mitch Whitmore rounded out the top three (1:09.31).
A Chicago native, Davis began roller skating at 2 years old, eventually leading to his making the U.S. junior national team in 1999 at age 16. In 2002, he made his first Olympics as an alternate for the short track team. Four years later, he placed first in the men’s 1,000 meters, becoming the first black athlete from any country to win an individual gold medal at the Winter Olympics, and second in the men’s 1,500 meters. In 2010, he won another gold (1,000-meter) and silver (1,500-meter) medal, and Davis is a seven-time world champion in both events.
Davis is one of the best-known black Winter Olympians, joined by bobsledder Vonetta Flowers, the first black Olympian to win a gold medal (in a team event), and figure skater Debi Thomas, the first African-American to medal at the Winter Olympics.
Other black athletes joining Davis in Pyeongchang will be hockey player Jordan Greenway, the first African-American to play for Team USA; the Nigerian women’s bobsled team, the first team from an African nation to qualify in the event; and fellow American speedskater Maame Biney, 17, who in December became the first black woman to qualify for a U.S. speedskating team.
Davis, who turned 35 in August, recently told the Team USA website that he plans to continue racing until he can no longer skate.
“I just don’t recover the same,” he said. “But I still love the sport of speedskating and I always find a challenge in competing and trying to be the best I can be. So as long as I have that in me, age doesn’t mean a thing.”
Art Dorrington, the first black professional hockey player in the United States, dies at 87
Rangers signee dubbed the ‘Jackie Robinson of hockey’
4:13 PMArt Dorrington, who signed with the New York Rangers organization in 1950 to become the first black professional hockey player in the United States, died on Dec. 29, 2017, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Dorrington played for the Atlantic City Sea Gulls, Johnstown Jets, Washington Lions and Philadelphia Ramblers after moving around the Eastern Hockey League (EHL), Eastern Amateur Hockey League (EAHL) and International Hockey League (IHL). He was drafted into the Army in 1956 and spent 22 months overseas before briefly returning to hockey. A broken leg ended his career. He never got called up to the Rangers. The NHL wouldn’t see its first black player until Boston Bruins forward Willie O’Ree broke the color barrier in 1958.
Dorrington was born in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada, and rose onto the Rangers’ radar thanks to his high-scoring ability. He signed his pro contract the same year the NBA welcomed its first black players. He tallied 163 goals and 157 assists in 345 EHL, EAHL and IHL games.
Dorrington was pegged as the “Jackie Robinson of hockey” on a trading card.
“He was a true champion. He had a major impact on this city,” Dorrington’s daughter, Judah, told The Press of Atlantic City.
Dorrington joined the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office after retiring from hockey. In 1998, he and his wife founded a nonprofit program, Art Dorrington Ice Hockey Foundation, that provides low-income children the opportunity to learn life skills through hockey. For every hour the youths were on the ice, they spent an hour in the classroom. Dorrington’s mantra was “On the Ice – Off the Streets.” The Dorringtons’ foundation received the support of the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone.”
In 2012, Boardwalk Hall’s ice hockey rink was named after Dorrington, and three years later, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian proclaimed March 15 as Art Dorrington Day.
“What he did for the community is second to none,” Stefan Rivard, a member of the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies East Coast Hockey League team from 2001-04, told The Press of Atlantic City. “Art’s thing was always to perform in the classroom and then sports were after that.”
Jordan Greenway set to become the first African-American to play for Team USA Hockey at Olympic Games
Boston University standout is one of four collegiate players on the team
1:31 PMJordan Greenway, a forward for Boston University and a 2015 second-round draft pick of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, will be the first African-American to represent Team USA in hockey at the Winter Olympics.
Greenway made the cut this week as the U.S. announced its men’s and women’s rosters for next month’s Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The 20-year-old is one of four collegiate players who will represent the country.
Out of 1,690 men’s Division I college hockey players, only 13 have identified themselves as black.
“Even starting in 1960 when we had the amateurs playing in the Olympics and we were able to get the gold medal there, and then most recently in 1980, just being able to build on that legacy is an unbelievable feeling for me, and I’m happy I’m able to get this opportunity now,” Greenway told the Sporting News. “I’ve been able to accomplish a lot of good things and just allowing a lot of African-American kids who are younger than me who see kind of what I’m doing, I hope that can be an inspiration for them.
“Go out and do something different against the typical stereotypes that most African-Americans play basketball, or whatever the case is.”
Greenway’s selection was propelled by a stellar performance in the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Canada. Greenway had three goals and five assists in seven games for the gold medal-winning U.S. team. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound junior from Canton, New York, has amassed seven goals and 10 assists in 19 games with Boston University this season.
Years of self-determination led to this moment for Greenway. When he was 12, he went to his mother about going to a hockey prep school and getting out of Canton. She told him to research the top five programs and fill out the applications. As a family they would visit the schools, but Greenway’s mother told him he needed to take the lead on the process.
The deal she struck with Jordan and his brother, James, was that if she paid for prep school, they’d have to earn scholarships for college.
Jordan Greenway was teammates with Auston Matthews, Noah Hanifin, Zach Werenski, Matthew Tkachuk and Clayton Keller on the United States National Development Team Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan, after playing three years at Shattuck St-Mary’s School in Faribault, Minnesota, the top prep hockey program in the country.
James Greenway, who also went to Shattuck St-Mary’s, is a sophomore on the Wisconsin men’s hockey team and a 2016 third-round draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“There’s like one Walmart, and that’s where you get your food or whatever the hell you need for your house,” Jordan Greenway said of his hometown, where only 4.7 percent of the population is black. “It’s cold as hell. There’s a lot of farmland, so a lot of people hunt, and everyone plays hockey. That’s how I got into it.”
For the first time in 30 years, the NHL won’t send any of its players to the Olympics, so the U.S. roster is mainly composed of overseas, minor league and retired talent.
Should the Raiders get a pass on the Rooney Rule?
Tell us what you think
12:22 PMAfter I wrote a commentary Tuesday critical of the Oakland Raiders, who have seemingly gone around the Rooney Rule to pursue a reunion with former head coach Jon Gruden, several people on Twitter went at me about the franchise’s groundbreaking hiring record.
Al Davis, the Raiders’ longtime principal owner and general manager until his death in 2011, was definitely a champion of diversity. In 1979, Davis promoted assistant Tom Flores, who is Latino, to head coach making him the league’s first minority head coach to win a Super Bowl and then a second one.
Then in 1989, Davis made Art Shell, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman with the Raiders, the first black head coach in the modern history of the NFL. In 1997, Davis appointed Amy Trask the team’s CEO. Until she resigned in 2013, Trask was a member of a very rare club as one of the most powerful women in professional sports.
Davis was a maverick. He also was a trailblazer among owners when it came to hiring.
Davis’ son, Mark, hired Reggie McKenzie, who’s African-American, to be the team’s general manager. Yep. The Davis family has been much more progressive than other owners.
And that has absolutely nothing to do with the current situation.
Both things are true: Flores, Shell and Trask were impressive hires. The Raiders also have skirted the Rooney Rule to rehire Gruden, a move that appears imminent. Sure, the Raiders will likely interview a candidate of color, but that candidate has a zero percent chance of getting the job. That’s making a mockery of the rule.
On Tuesday night, Trask took to Twitter with her position on the issue. The past has nothing to do with this week’s events, she wrote.
Many have asked me whether I think OAK should be required to comply w/Rooney Rule or whether OAK should be given leeway b/c of Al’s legacy. If OAK opts to comply, it should do so honestly and in good faith. If OAK does not wish to do that, it should (1/2)
— Amy Trask (@AmyTrask) January 3, 2018
(2/2) be forthright and choose to pay a fine. But I don’t believe that Al’s legacy should be used as justification for non compliance – Al hired Tom and Art and me – and Al would be the first to be saddened if it was.
— Amy Trask (@AmyTrask) January 3, 2018
Should the Raiders get a pass on the rule because of their hiring history? Tell us what you think.
Hue Jackson is spared, Jim Caldwell is not, now Jackson needs to win some games
Browns plan to bring back coach after 0-16 mark; Lions fire coach after winning season
9:09 AMOne has to look hard to find anything positive in the winless Cleveland Browns’ season, which mercifully ended Sunday after a 28-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cleveland joined the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only NFL teams to finish 0-16.
The Browns were a complete mess from start to finish. Former general manager Sashi Brown, who was fired Dec. 7, paid the price for this season’s ineptitude. But front-office makeovers are nothing new for this franchise.
What is surprising, however, is that the Browns don’t plan to make a coaching change. Head coach Hue Jackson, who’s African-American, will return next season, the team says. During two seasons with the Browns, Jackson is 1-31. His only victory came in Week 16 last season against the then-San Diego Chargers.
Compare that to the Detroit Lions, who on Monday fired Jim Caldwell, who is also African-American. Caldwell was let go despite posting a winning record in three of his four seasons with the Lions. Detroit made the playoffs twice under Caldwell, going 0-2, and missed the postseason this year at 9-7.
Considering the dearth of head coaches of color in the league – the number fell to seven with Caldwell’s firing – it’s good that the Browns appear to be giving Jackson every opportunity to prove he’s the right man for the job. And Jackson still has a lot to prove.
Sure, the Browns’ player personnel department has made some colossal errors. Remember: Cleveland passed on star quarterback Carson Wentz. Still, it’s hard to go winless during a 16-game schedule, as evidenced by the fact it has only happened twice.
It’s fair to say that Jackson needs to show a whole lot next season. He has to win some games.