#DigSportsDesk - The Lede

Notes & Quotes on the Tour

Afternoon "T" at the Deutsche Bank Championship

By TERRY LYONS
 
NORTON, Mass - Surprise leaders Russell Henley and Billy Horschel are atop the Deutsche Bank Championship leaderboard as final round play was underway Monday morning in Boston where the PGA Tour's FedExCup playoffs continue on a busy sports holiday weekend in the USA.  The more familiar names of Rory McIlroy, the soon-to-be-crowned 2014 PGA Player of the Year and Aussie long-baller Jason Day are two strokes back from the lead. Day was in control after 54 holes at last week's Barclays championship but fell two strokes shy of Hunter Mahan's winning score. Mahan came to Boston as the FedExCup points leader after being rewarded with 2,500 points and vaulting from 62nd to first place on the leaderboard, besting PGA player of the year Rory McIlroy.
 
ON to DENVER: The top 70 players on the FedExCup points list will travel to Denver, Colorado for next week's BMW Championship, the semi-finals of the annual PGA Tour countdown to the season finale TOUR Championship at East lake CC near Atlanta, Georgia. ... Here in Boston, the top 100 players advanced to play but only 22 were eliminated after the cut and another seven players were shaved from competition yesterday evening after a rare modified cut-line was established to get the field of play down for Monday's final round. One of the players cut, Patrick Reed, shot an unspeakable 82 on Sunday after openings rounds of 68-68. Reed was No. 8 on the FedExCup points standings list coming into Boston. Reed is projected to drop to No. 14 after the rough round at TPC Boston.
 
BACK 9 NETWORK? - Jason Day has played the front 9 at the TPC Boston at -12 but the back nine at 2-over. "The front fits my eye," said Day on Sunday. "I like the front nine. The back nine, you've got to pay a little more respect, because it's a little tougher. Throughout the PGA Tour, normally, the harder holes are towards the end of the round. With that said, I feel I need to play the 18th hole a little better."
 
RYDER on the HORIZON: Although the PGA Tour playoffs are in full swing, the golf world seems to be more focused on the upcoming Ryder Cup tournament featuring the best players from Europe versus the USA in match play. Largely because the Ryder Cup is played every two years, the special nature of the tournament takes precedent over the regular season and playoffs in golf, much like the World Cup in soccer seems to dominate the news over the top European leagues. Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy tries not to get caught up in the mix. "I won;t say I haven't thought about it," said McIlroy. "I'll think about it more the week before, maybe the weekend before we get there. Right now, I'm thinking about myself. I've got (this tournament in Boston), and then two very important weeks to think about before I pay any attention to the Ryder Cup."
 
TOUGH COMPETITORS: Billy Horschel is known on the PGA Tour as a tough-minded competitor who might be playing his way on to the USA Ryder Cup team as a Captain's pick. Horschel was asked if it was a surprise to see R3 leader Russell Henley and himself atop the leaders going into the final round. "I'm not surprised to be here," he said. "If people are surprised that I'm in second place, then they must not know what kind of person I am. Obviously, my season hasn't been anywhere as good as last year, but I'm a guy that's going to keep working hard, keep grinding until they tell me the season is over and I can't play anymore. I've put a lot of time in the last few months, and it's just now starting to pay off. ... On Russell Henley: "He's a guy who comes from a basketball background. He's like a three-point shooter, he's going to keep shooting, and they're going to start falling sooner than later. That's his kind of mentality. I like that. He's a guy who is never going to give up."

Saturday's Alright in Boston

Notes & Quotes on DBChampionship

By TERRY LYONS
 
THE DAY BEFORE MOVING DAY:  At PGA Tour events around the world, Saturday is fondly called "Moving Day," as the tournaments are almost always scheduled to run Thursday-Friday (then a cutdown) with Saturday and Sunday as the third and final rounds, respectively. Here at the Deutsche Bank Championship, held over the Labor Day holiday in the USA, the tournament begins a day later than usual and, thus, Saturday's round leads to the cut and Sunday's round is "Moving Day," a term the players use to note the clutch play to move into contention for a tournament win.
 
PALMER on PALMER: Ryan Palmer jumped to the lead at the DBChampionship, held at the TPC-Boston, a course originally designed by Arnold Palmer. Initially, the design and layout of the course drew criticism from the golf world, mainly because of its structure for long hitters but also because of poor, unforgiving greens. After a re-design and, quite frankly, the power of mother nature over time, the greens settled in and the course was tweaked to become one of the favorites on the annual PGA Tour schedule. A rather dry month of August in the suburban Boston area has resulted in firm greens at the TPC Boston which should increase as the tournament proceeds. Ryan Palmer has experienced some success at the DBC, with a T-11 in 2010 after shooting a first round 64 (-7). He bested that number in R1 on Friday with a (-8) 63, two strokes ahead of New England bred Keegan Bradley.
 
Palmer has a new caddie this week, as his regular partner, James Edmondson, is home in Texas on a personal matter. Brett Waldman, the regular caddie for David Toms, is stepping in for Palmer this week in Boston.
 
KEEGAN'S BLUFF: In 2012, Keegan Bradley, a native of nearby Vermont, shot a 71-73 to barely make the cut at the Deutsche Bank Championship. However, he made good use of "Moving Day" and shot an 8-under 63 in R3 to help him finish T13 for the tournament. He is in the midst of his fourth consecutive start at the DBC and has made it to all four events on the PGA Tour's FEDEXCup playoffs every year since joining the tour in 2011. Coming into the week, Bradley was ranked #13 in USA Ryder Cup points and is an odds-on favorite to be a captain's choice for the USA team in 2014. A strong finish at the DBC will most likely lock him in to be one of Tom Watson's three choices, to be announced this Tuesday, Sept. 2.
 
LEFTY: At Fenway Park in nearby Boston, right-handed hitters have an advantage when staring down the Green Monster. However, a left-handed hitters, like Carl "Yaz" Yastrzemski and David "Big Papi" Ortiz have made quite a statement at Fenway to become two of the three greatest Red Sox batters of all-time. While there's no "Green Monster" at the TPC-Boston, left-handed PGA Tour great Phil Mickelson has had his share of success in Boston, winning the 2007 Deutsche Bank Championship and capturing a Top 15 in each of the FedExCup standings over the past seven seasons. Mickelson struggled in his R1 this year, shooting a (+3) 74, hitting only half of the 18 greens in regulation. His group shot a collective (+16) in R1, with Justin Hicks (77) and Ryo Ishikawa (78).
 
PLAYER NOTES in GENERAL: Defending DBC winner, Henrik Stenson, shot a (-1) 70 as he tries to become only the second player to win multiple Deutsche Bank titles in Boston. Vijay Singh is the only player to win the tournament twice, in 2004 and 2008. ... Jim Furyk opened with a (+1) 72 came into the weekend as the sixth highest FedEXCup points scorer. He finished in 8th place at The Barclays last weekend, his 13th Top-10 finishin FedExCup events, tying Steve Stricker who is not playing in Boston this week. ... World #1 golfer, Rory McIlroy, enjoys significant support from the large Irish community in Boston. McIlroy won the DBC in 2012 but finished a distant T-47 in 2013 and T-37 in 2010.

Tee-Off Day at DBChampionship

Notes and Quotes on the 2014 Deutsche Bank Championship:

By TERRY LYONS

NORTON, MA, August 29, 2014 -- The Deutsche Bank Championship - @DBChampionship - is the second of four events of the PGA Tour's FedExCup Playoffs. After the full PGA season, the top 125 players qualified for The Barclays tournament, held last week in northern New Jersey. The top 100 players after The Barclays qualified for this week's tournament in suburban Boston. Ninety-three players are teeing-off on Friday, a day later than usual first-round play as the DBC tournament wraps around the Labor Day holiday in the USA. Notable PGA Tour players, such as Tiger Woods (DNQ-injuries kept his FedEx Playoff points total down), Jason Dufner (neck), Dustin Johnson (leave from PGA Tour) are not playing while Graeme McDowell and Paul Casey are taking a week off with personal time to witness the birth of their children. Casey's decision will cost him the opportunity to advance to the third round of the FedEx Playoffs in Denver. Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose each took the week off but at 15th and 20th, respectively, on the PGA's FedEx Cup listing, he will advance and is expected to play the final two rounds. Tim Clark (elbow) withdrew from the tournament on Thursday.
 
Tourney Sites: The DBC Championship at the TPC in Boston (Norton, Mass) and the Tour Championship (East Lake CC in Atlanta) are the two constant sites for the PGA Tour playoff system. The BMW Championship, to be held next week in Denver, rotates through various courses in the Midwest and The Barclays, the first-round tourney, is staged at the premier courses in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, some of the best courses in the Continental USA.
 
Pay the Man: The Tiger Woods Foundation is the host charitable organization for the DBC within the PGA Tour's season-long commitment to local and national charitable efforts. Overall, the PGA Tour has donated more than $2 billion to charity with $133 million donated in calendar year 2013. Tiger Woods' foundation concentrates its efforts on youth and breaking cycles of poverty through college-access programs for children of low-income families. Significant efforts are made in the area of mentorship, professional development and providing four-year scholarships to many first generation scholars. ... On the player's side, a purse of $8 million is on the line at the DBC with $1,440,000 going to the winner and $864,000 for the runner-up. Overall, the FedExCup playoffs has a $10 million dollar bounty awaiting the season champion with the top five players at the Tour Championship being in the best position to gain the lofty prize.
 
Hunter, the hunted: Hunter Mahan vaulted to the top of the FedExCup points list with his win at The Barclays in Ridgewood, NJ last weekend, shooting 68 and 65 to close out the tournament. "Jumping to "No. 1" and securing my spot in Atlanta, it feels good having done that," said mahan when he met the media after the Thursday Pro-Am outing. "I want to be the FedEx Cup champion. I was close a few years ago (2011 when he finished 2nd). "Golf is all about winning. Top-5s are great, Top-10s are great, but if you don;t win, you're not making an impact in the game. Winning is the most important thing and it's heavily favored in this format. I think it's fun for our sport to have a "winner-take-home" (all) kind of mentality, since we don;t have that in golf, kind of a finale. I think it's pretty neat with so much on the line."
 
Defending Champ: Henrik Stenson, the 2013 DBC Champion, is teeing-off as No. 66 on the FedExCup list after serious moving-up exercises at the PGA Championship where he tied for third place and his T38 at The Barclays last week. In doing so, he moved from No. 92 to 66 and is now in place to possibly defend his title. Last year, Stenson overcame a two-stroke deficit to Sergio Garcia to card a 5-under 66 to outpace Steve Stricker on a rain-soaked Labor Day, The 38-year old Swede became the fourth international golfer to win the DBC, joining Adam Scott (Australia, 2003), Vijay Singh (Fiji, 2004, 2008) and Rory McIlroy (No. Ireland, 2012). Stenson recorded scores in the 60s in each of his four rounds, becoming only the seventh player to do so.
 
Said Henson when he met the media in Boston: "It's great to be back at a venue where you've done well in the past or won in the past," he said. "I need some sort of result this week to carry on to Denver (BMW Championship). I don;t need any miracles, but if I want to make it to Atlanta, I have to have a good showing this week or next week. I'd rather do it this week than to wait to the last minute. I'm trying to move on and it would be a shame not to make it to the Tour Championship and defend my title."
 

Red Sox Win Castillo Sweepstakes

BOSTON, August 23, 2014 - The Boston Red Sox signed Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo on Saturday and he was on the field at Fenway Park before their game and then met with Boston GM Ben Cherington and the media after Boston's 7-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners.

"He is someone we've watched from his games in Cuba and international play and in recent weeks we've been getting to know him better," said Cherington, who likes Castillo's bat speed and power and "the way the ball comes off his bat."

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    The Red Sox signed Castillo to a seven-year deal worth $72.5 million. According to ESPN.com, he will earn $100,000 for the rest of this season; a base salary of $10.5 million in 2015-17; $11 million in 2018-19; and $13.5 million in 2020. He also gets a $5.4 million signing bonus.

    The $72.5 million terms are a record number for a free-agent amateur, according to multiple media reports.

  • "This is a dream come true," said Castillo when he met with a packed media room at Fenway Park late Saturday afternoon, noting the recent success of fellow Cuban players in Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreau and new teammate Yoenis Cespedes who was recent;y acquired from the Oakland A's in a trade deadline blockbuster for former Boston ace Jon Lester.

    "He's going through the final stages of a full exam here," manager John Farrell said. "There's still a number of administrative things that he's got to go through -- work visa, all that type of things. As far as a timeline, that'll be determined a little bit later."

    The club hopes to get Castillo some at-bats with one of their minor league affiliates before he joins the big league club this season.

    "I did get a chance to sit with him and talk with him this morning," Farrell said. "He's excited to be here. Glad the process has moved along to this point and excited to get started when that day comes. There's still some things he's got to work through."

    Farrell said Castillo's body type reminds him of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, another Cuban star.

    "He's obviously a very strong-looking athlete. Maybe a little bit shorter version of (Puig)" Farrell said. "You get a similar proportion to that type of body. What that means performance-wise, we'll see. We're confident in the athleticism and the overall strength."

  • Cherington said that the club's primary concerns will be to file for a work visa for Castillo, then have him work in Ft Myers on a program that will hopefully move him to game action before the end of the 2014 season. Cherington noted that, depending on the schedule for Red Sox minor league teams, Castillo might get work in the minors before playing at the MLB level.

  • Both the AAA Pawtucket PawSox and AA Portland Sea Dogs play regular season games through Sept. 1 but post season playoff schedules are yet to be determined.


When the Game Stands Tall

By TERRY LYONS (Special to Digital Sports Desk)

During these past few lazy days of summer, there's been a lot going on in the New England sports scene. The New England Patriots are firing up their preseason engines with coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady leading the way. The Boston Bruins and Celtics are scouring the earth for some added scoring, as each approach the 2014-15 season on opposite ends of the projected ladder. Over on Yawkey Way, Ben Cherington, the GM of the Boston Red Sox orchestrated a midseason coup, trading pitching ace Jon Lester and a slew of role-playing World Champions for some hope and home runs as a strategic first step in the re-engineering of the BoSox. One of Cherington's bosses, Tom Werner, is on the short list for consideration as Major League Baseball's new Commissioner. And, speaking of Commissioners, over in the western portion of the Commonwealth, the Basketball Hall of Fame is staging its annual tribute and the inductee of honor is former NBA Commissioner David Stern.

With all of that going on, I thought it was time to step back, maybe escape a bit from the reality that I won't be watching late October baseball at Fenway. So, with that in mind, there was one reliable ole' friend I could reach out to, in order to set my mind on a clear path from the Mass Pike of the depressing local sporting news, so I could look toward the future.

My inside source to all things sports - historical and soon-to-be imagined - provided some fan-friendly perspective as a real New Englander, one with appreciation of the past and the ability to see the future. Fittingly, like Stern, he was someone who had the credentials of a Commissioner but, they were mixed with the passion of a sports fan.

I needed to speak with Michael Chiklis, the actor.

Chiklis was born in Lowell, Mass, and gained wide notoriety as an actor when, from 1991-96, he played Tony Scali - 'The Commish.' Since that career-breaking role, he went on to star in "The Shield," and even played Curly in "The Three Stooges.” More recently, Chiklis starred in "The Fantastic Four" and he is currently filing FXs "American Horror Story: The Freak" in New Orleans. However, it was Chiklis' previous casting that was the more appropriate subject of discussion when we spoke by phone this past weekend, catching up as though we were old friends sitting in my West Village studio watching his "Commish" reruns, but talking about his soon-to-be-released film role, the portrayal of Terry Eidson an assistant coach to Bob Ladouceur in the true story of (Concord, California’s) De La Salle High School's 151-game winning streak, the backdrop for “When The Game Stands Tall,” a SONY Pictures release, hitting theatres nationwide on August 22.

First, Chiklis was sure to set the record straight when I brazenly asked if he continued to have ample time to follow sports, and in particular, Boston sports while he was so busy with life as a famous actor and jaunts between New Orleans and Los Angeles.

"I still am, and will always be, -- until my last breath -- an avid Boston sports fan," said Chiklis with an emphasis that might've been taught in drama class by Kurt Douglas. "I think one of the single greatest things about my celebrity is that it’s gained me access to my beloved Boston teams."

Where you at Fenway last fall, I asked?

"I was there.  I was at Game 6.  My wife and I went with my dear friend and his wife.  We were there for the celebration, and we ended up going to the owner’s box after the game and had the greatest time in the world.  It’s been wonderful. And, one of the most special things was that I lived out a "Jimmy Fallon moment" (noting the motion picture, Fever Pitch) when Curt Schilling brought me out onto the field right after we won in ’07 in Colorado.  I was right on the field right after the win.  To be that close in proximity to those guys, right there. I was standing there, literally, right with Mike Lowell’s brother while they gave him the MVP trophy on the field, I mean that’s incredibly special, it was insane.  You’re right there, it’s historic stuff that’s happening, and you’re privy to it."

Chiklis then opined on the sport of football, being that the role of assistant coach Eidson was fresh in his mind.  What is it about football, anything with the Patriots that made you particularly insightful to your role in the movie?

"Look," Chilkis said. "I’ve always grown up with the mentality that I’d rather be a good player on a championship team than the "franchise" player on a lousy team.  When you see the way Coach B (his nickname for Belichick) coaches the team and the way he picks players, he’s never been about stars.  One of the goose-bump moments of my life as a Patriots fan was in 2001 at the Superbowl when they introduced the (St. Louis Rams) 'Greatest Show on Turf' player by player.  And then, after all of that fanfare, they went 'introducing the New England Patriots.' and they came out just as the Pats team. Every hair on my body stood up and I thought, 'we are winning this game.' Something about being a New Englander, we love the idea of a team, as opposed to the individual.

"We don’t like blow hards much."

"It’s about the way we’re raised, I guess," he continued.  "In New England, if you get too far ahead of yourself, you’re going to get brought down to earth really quickly.  When I was growing up, it was really instilled in me that it’s just a better experience in life to be yourself and not be a narcissist, but rather to be a part of a community.  And our teams are like that.  You look right and left of you and you feel that bond between the people. It’s an incredibly special thing, and you’ll get a feel for it in this movie, When The Game Stands Tall.  You’ll see that camaraderie, that brotherhood that happens on a team.  And you can see that in real life with the Patriots and Belichick when he speaks to the players coming into this team he says, 'You want to succeed? You want a ring on your finger? Then, you’re gonna plug into this system, we’ll all pull our weight, we’ll all do this together.'"

Chiklis was quick to put two-and-two together.

"Of course, superstars have emerged (in the New England Patriots' system) due to their level of commitment and play," said the actor. "Tom Brady couldn’t be a better example of a guy who’s all class, who never would say disparaging words about another player.  But, it’s not about the other guy.  It’s about his personal execution as it relates to the guys right and left of him and his commitment to them as a team.  He knows that they can be relied upon.  These guys can rely upon each other.  They have each other’s backs.  And that’s the kind of thing that makes your chest swell when you’re watching this movie.  You can see that in the context of the picture.

"When you’re watching movies like 'Remember the Titans' or 'Rudy' or 'Miracle,' you’re always threatened by that fine line between 'too corny' and something that doesn’t make a mark. But, what I love about this movie is that it's not about the cliché version of 'two seconds left on the clock and he scores and the game’s over and we win.'  The film we're so proud of doesn’t take it from that place. The De La Salle high school football team won 151 games in a row in twelve years which for anybody who knows sports, that’s ridiculous.  It just doesn’t happen.

"There’s a reason why their formula was successful and they kept winning," noted Chiklis.  "Sure they want to win their games, but the onus and the focus wasn't on winning games. It’s on making these boys into young men.  They are conscionable, responsible, credible human beings and you rely upon them.

"I’m very passionate about the movie, I’m a supporting player in this movie, When the Game Stands Tall, but I love what it says."

You will too.


USA Basketball Moving Forward After Crisis


(From Staff and Wire Service Reports)

NEW YORK, August 6, 2014 -- Four more players will be cut from the 16-man Team USA roster established Monday before the preliminary rounds of the FIBA World Cup begin in Spain at the end of the month.

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    “This phase of the selection process was extremely difficult and very thorough, and it’s worth again mentioning that we are looking to select the best team, which are not necessarily the best players," said Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball general manager.

    Previous gold medal winners and perennial MVP candidates such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant declined to play for Team USA. Kevin Love, the All-Star power forward in trade talks that could send him to the Cleveland Cavaliers from the Minnesota Timberwolves, left the team just before Las Vegas training camp began. Paul George, an MVP candidate last season who suffered a severe leg injury last Friday in a team scrimmage, is also not playing in the World Cup games.

    George suffered a leg injury backpedaling on defense when his leg buckled in the ankle area. Some suggested the stanchion was too close to the court, but Colangelo tried to dispel that argument.

    "The NBA All-Star Game was played on that court with those stanchions. The NBA Summer League is played there," Colangelo said Tuesday in a conference call. "The stanchion is not the issue here. Some people want to make it an issue, but it's not."

    Coach Mike Krzyzewski said he had planned to play George significant minutes. Without the 6-foot-8 small forward and one of the team's top defenders, Team USA is likely to get smaller.

    Krzyzewski has gone that route before, playing Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook at shooting guard with Chicago Bulls' guard Derrick Rose at the point. Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard could also work into that mix of starters with Kevin Durant becoming the "4" in a smaller lineup.

    "We have to look at how we will do the perimeter, and it means that some of the guys who play the two will have to play the three. We will be a little smaller without Paul," Krzyzewski said Tuesday.

    Colangelo said USA Basketball is not concerned the George injury will create "a shortage of players that want to play."

    One option that isn't in play is Love, even though he could be traded to the Cavaliers or another team by Aug. 24, one week before the prelim round begins.

    "Chances are ... that won't happen," Colangelo said.

    Still, Love did not "disqualify himself" by leaving the team before training camp, Colangelo said. Team USA would need to weigh a "fairness factor" in deciding whether to allow Love to play after not participating in camp.

    Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge also withdrew from Team USA.


NBA International Intrigue

By TERRY LYONS, Editor-in-Chief
 
Indiana's Paul George had yet to be wheeled into the operating room, and the naysayers/slash/sports pundits were speculating as to the response of the Pacers' Larry Bird and his fellow NBA front office cohorts. The media speculation ran from comments from basketball operations types to team ownership and the viewpoint that everyone knew might come with the most punch was from Dallas Mavericks team owner Mark Cuban, a longtime opponent of allowing NBA players to participate in events run-for-profit and sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and international basketball federation (FIBA).
 
Cuban did not disappoint, and he lobbed his first salvo fewer than 24 hours after George's horrific leg injury, suffered in a televised intra-squad scrimmage between USA Basketball's "Blue vs White" teams of roster players seeking a spot on the senior men's national team scheduled to compete in the FIBA World Cup of Basketball late this summer.
 
"The [International Olympic Committee] is playing the NBA. The IOC is an organization that has been rife with corruption, to the point where a member was accused of trying to fix an Olympic event in Salt Lake," said Cuban to Marc Stein of ESPN.com. "The IOC [pulls in] billions of dollars. They make a killing and make (fictional HBO organized crime drama character) Tony Soprano look like a saint. The pros in multiple sports are smart enough to not play when they are eligible free agents. But teams take on huge financial risk so that the IOC committee members can line their pockets. The greatest trick ever played was the IOC convincing the world that the Olympics were about patriotism and national pride instead of money. The players and owners should get together and create our own World Cup of Basketball."
 
First-off, Cuban should've noted it would have to be considered the second greatest trick, because his timing of a multi-billion dollar sale of Broadcast.com to Yahoo will rank numero uno in most debates.
 
But, taking that aside, let's get back to the international basketball debate currently on a low boil after Bird and the Pacers front office took the righteous and classy step to stop the finger-pointing, take any pressure off USA Basketball and the basic concept of whether to participate in the event or not?.
 
"We still support USA Basketball and believe in the NBA's goals of exposing our game, our teams and players worldwide," Bird said in a prepared statement. "This is an extremely unfortunate injury that occurred on a highly visible stage, but could also have occurred anytime, anywhere."
 
If taking Bird's viewpoint as the general guideline as the key starting point is the foundation, then framing the debate is rather simple.
 
Does a players participation in an international sporting event, representing his country, benefit the player and the NBA team paying his guaranteed contract enough so that the player should risk injury and put his body through the training, lead-up and event itself?
 
Much of the answer to that question cannot be measured on a balance sheet, as Cuban suggests. If it were to be about the money, the answer would be a resounding "No" and the debate would've never begun. The fact is, the debate is not about money and it's not about a measurable outcome. It's not about two basketball tournaments (FIBA World Cup and the Olympic Games), either. The benefits of playing international basketball come from all corners of the earth and from all levels of the game. You cannot ask whether Paul George, Kevin Durant or Lebron James should play for the USA without also wondering if Yao Ming, Serge Ibaka or Dirk Nowitzki would've ever "made it" to the NBA if it weren't for the grassroots national team (and local club) investments poured into the game years and years ago. It's not about "just" the senior men's level, either, it is about men's and women's basketball at all levels, cadet through juniors, Olympics through continental tournaments.
 
Cuban cannot have it both ways.
 
He cannot criticize the IOC/FIBA on one hand but then reap the benefits of the talent of German-born and bred Nowitzki on the other. He can not ask OKC Thunder fans and single out Kevin Durant's participation for the USA without considering whether OKC would be a contender without Ibaka, a mainstay of the Spanish national team. He cannot cash his check on the NBA China investments and praise the NBA's overall international popularity without thanking his lucky stars for a 7-foot-4 Yao Ming who timed his NBA career for the league's coffers and overall global tv resume almost as well as Cuban timed his exit before the dotcom bust.
 
On the USA side of the ledger, you might surmise that Lebron James matured mightily through his USA Basketball experience to help him become a better overall team player and certainly a better overall person, via the first class experience brought forth by USA Executive Director Jerry Colangelo and national team head coach Mike Krzyzewski and their staffs. While contemplating that thought, please remember that the likes of Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and certainly Lisa Leslie are frequently quoted on their sentiment that the Olympic experience was, by far, the best sporting experience of their careers, and you might get a few international players to agree, especially the likes of Argentina's Manu Ginobili and Spain's Pau Gasol (who broke his leg in the 2006 World tourney in Japan and missed 22 NBA games the following season).
 
So the issue is solidly framed for more debate. On August 4, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver spoke with ESPN.com's Stein in reaction to the Cuban story he generated on Saturday.
 
"Without a doubt, basketball has grown tremendously since 1992, when NBA players began playing in the Olympics," Silver said to Stein, a veteran chronicler of international basketball. "Also, it's important to note the [improvement] many of our players have made in terms of ability, leadership and passion for the game by playing for their home countries. Injuries can happen anyplace at any time. The experiences our players have enjoyed by participating in their national teams, however, are ones that are unique and special in almost every other way. At this point, I don't anticipate a major shift in the NBA's participation in international competitions.
"It seems clear, however, that this will be a topic at our next NBA competition committee meeting in September and our board of governors meeting in October. And, of course, we will continue to evaluate the pros and cons of participating in international tournaments."
 
In doing so, the razor sharp Silver needs to invoke the testimony of everyone involved, but he might simply start with Charles Barkley and Manu Ginobili and save us all some time.

Pack to Honor Favre

GREEN BAY, August 4, 2014 -- Brett Favre is heading home.

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  • The Green Bay Packers will announce Monday that they will induct the quarterback in the team Hall of Fame and retire his No. 4 jersey, the Green Bay Press Gazette reported Sunday.

    According to the newspaper, the Hall of Fame induction will occur in 2015, and the uniform-retirement ceremony also will happen in a future year, not 2014.

    Brass from the team as well as the Packers Hall of Fame will make the announcement formally in a Monday media event at Lambeau Field. Favre is expected to participate via phone.

    The honors seemingly were delayed because of friction between Favre and the team (and the team's fan base) after he concluded his career away from Green Bay.

    Favre started an NFL-record 297 consecutive games, 253 of them with the Packers from 1992-2007. He spent 2008 with the New York Jets before playing two years for the Packers' rival, the Minnesota Vikings.

    An 11-time Pro Bowl performer, Favre holds the NFL records for pass attempts, 10,169; pass completions, 6,30; passing yards, 71,838; and touchdown passes, 508. He also is the record holder for the most times sacked (525) and the most fumbles (166).

    Favre began his career with four games (two starts) for the Atlanta Falcons, who made him a second-round draft pick in 1991.


Pacers Paul George Breaks Leg in Freak Injury

LAS VEGAS, August 2, 2014 -- Indiana Pacers All-Star Paul George underwent surgery late Friday night after suffering a broken tibia and fibula during Team USA's showcase game Friday night on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. George was sprinting down court early in the fourth quarter to defend a layup attempt by Houston's James Harden when he landed awkwardly on his right leg, causing his leg to buckle and snap above his ankle. Reports said he suffered a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula. Surgery was expected to last until early Saturday morning. Doctors were expected to place a pin in his leg.

After his successful surgery to repair the break, George is expected to remain in a Las Vegas hospital for two to three days. His recovery time before he can return to playing basketball is estimated to be at least 12 months.

Just after midnight, George tweeted: Thanks everybody for the love and support.. I'll be ok and be back better than ever!!! Love y'all!!

As medical personnel attended to George, players including Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose and fans inside the Thomas & Mack Center, were visibly upset. George's parents, who were in the arena, rushed to their son's side. A sobbing Kyrie Irving was consoled by his father. Harden appeared to be in shock. Saturday was supposed to be a cut-down day for Team USA as the 20-player pool was expected to be reduced to 14 or 15 players, but those plans are on hold after George's injury.

"Everything's on hold, and it should be," Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "It would be so inappropriate for us to talk about anything else when there is an injury like this."

 Players from around the league reacted with shock and many, including LeBron James, said they would say a prayer for George.

 Praying for @Paul_George24 for not only the player he is but the person he is. Injuries are thee toughest part of sports, James tweeted.

 Fellow USA teammate Harden, who George was trying to guard when he was injured, tweeted: Prayers go out to @Paul_George24 and his family! Keep ya head up G!

 Oklahoma Thunder star Kevin Durant also took to Twitter and tweeted, God bless u my brother @Paul_George24. Im hurt, praying for you. Praying for peace. Praying that God heals you in a supernatural way.

 George, 24, is a two-time All-Star who averaged 21.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game last season for the Pacers. Friday's game was canceled after George was treated on the court in front of a stunned and silenced crowd before being removed on a stretcher.

 "There's no way the game could have gone on under the circumstances," Colangelo said. "Our first concern, our primary concern is Paul George. I want to reach out to the Indiana Pacers organization ... this is a tough blow not only for USA Basketball but the Indiana Pacers."

  NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement Friday night.

  "It was difficult to watch the injury that Paul George sustained tonight while representing his country. The thoughts and prayers of all of us at the NBA are with Paul and his family."

  Krzyzewski, who witnessed a similar horrific injury when Duke was playing Louisville in the 2013 NCAA Tournament and Cardinals guard Kevin Ware suffered a compound fracture of his leg, said the team's prayers and thoughts were with George and his family.

 Colangelo said the injury is a very "tough blow" and a first for USA Basketball.


Johnny Bye-Bye

BOSTON, July 31, 2014 -- Boston Red Sox left-handed ace Jon Lester was traded to the Oakland A's Thursday morning as Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane continues his all-in push for a World Series and Boston's hierarchy continues to dismantle the surprise winners of the 2013 World Series.

For Beane to acquire Lester, the A's part with All-Star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, a 28-year-old who served as the big bat in the middle of Oakland's balanced offense. Minus Cespedes, the A's might be required to make another move to bolster the offense. Lester gives Oakland a nearly unrivaled one-two punch at the top of the rotation. Beane acquired ace right-hander Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs and the rotation also includes Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir, who could be frontline starters on other teams. The trade will send Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes to the A's. Lester is ticketed for free agency at the end of the season, as is Samardzija. The A's approach of building from within was tossed out of the window with two blockbuster trades in the past 26 days.

Lester, 30, is 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 149 strikeouts against 32 walks in 143 innings this season. He was scratched from his scheduled start Wednesday in anticipation of a possible trade after the two sides publicly discussed calling off contract negotiations until the offseason. Boston will be short on starting pitching, especially lefties, and the club's 2015 projected depth chart shapes up as a mystery.

Lester was having a career year in his contract season. The St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers were known bidders for Lester. Lester said last week he would consider returning to Boston if he was traded away, but the Red Sox have not shown an interest in paying what is market value for their home-grown ace. Lester reportedly turned down a four-year contract worth more than $17 million per season in spring training.

The Red Sox will have Cespedes under contract for $10.5 million in 2015, the final year of his current deal. In his third major league season, Cespedes is batting .256 with 17 home runs and 67 RBI, and is a strong defensive outfielder. Plate discipline -- his on-base percentage was below .300 last season -- has been the biggest knock on Cespedes.

Gomes, 33, is hitting .234 with six home runs. He played for the Athletics in 2012, hitting .262 with 18 homers in 99 games.

The deal could signal a full-blown sell-off for the Red Sox, who traded right-handed starter Jake Peavy to the Giants last week and would be willing to move John Lackey's contract before Thursday's 4 p.m. ET deadline. Jason Hammel, also acquired in the deal with the Cubs, is having a tough go in the American League and could be moved if the A's aren't confident in their outfield depth. Beane's approach has almost always been anchored by the belief that pitching wins, dating to the high-profile starting rotation that included Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson.


Baseball Hall of Fame Cuts Eligibility Window

COOPERSTOWN, NY - July 26, 2014 -- The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced Saturday that it is cutting the number of years that a player can remain eligible for induction from 15 years to 10 years.

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  • That means players including Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa will have less time to remain on Hall of Fame ballots.

    The Hall of Fame is also installing a new balloting and registration process for Baseball Writers' Association of America voting members.

    "The Board is committed to keeping the policies and voting procedures of the Hall of Fame relevant," Jane Forbes Clark, Chairman of the Board of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, said in a statement. "We believe the BBWAA has done an excellent job of honoring the criteria advanced by the Hall of Fame -- player's record, contributions to the teams on which the player played, character, sportsmanship and integrity -- to determine individuals who belong in the Hall of Fame by the highest threshold, a 75 percent majority. The Board believes these changes are necessary to ensure the integrity of the voting process moving forward."

    The changes are effective immediately and will reflected voting in 2015. It is the first time since 1991 and second since 1985 that the Hall is implementing new voting rules.

    The names of BBWAA members casting ballots will be made public with the election results. However, an individual's ballot will not be revealed by the Hall of Fame. Voters must also complete a registration form and sign a code of conduct.

    Three players with 11 to 15 years are still on ballots and will remain eligible: Don Mattingly (15th year in 2015), Alan Trammell (14th) and Lee Smith (13th).


You Deserve a Break Today?

NEW YORK, July 27, 2014 -- By virtue of his actions surrounding the Donald Sterling controversy, his stance on NBA Players Association issues, his frequent references to the NBA Players as the "partners" of team owners, Adam Silver is establishing himself as "The Player's Commissioner."  The latest example?

The NBA is considering extending the All-Star break to seven days beginning this season, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

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  • The NBA is using a week-long All-Star break as its model while it completes the schedule for this season.

    However, the league may decide to continue its traditional four-day break before officially releasing the schedule.

    One of the parameters of the week-long All-Star break is that each team would have to take on at least one additional back-to-back set of games.

    Cleveland Cavaliers star forward LeBron James is among several players who have lobbied for a longer break. Silver told assembled media at the league's last All-Star game in February that he met with James and others to discuss the issue.

    "One of the issues LeBron raised is a break during All-Star (Weekend)," Silver said. "(For) a guy like LeBron, All-Star Weekend is not a break for him in any way. He's going around the clock with a combination of things the league is asking him to do, personal commitments, and I think it makes sense if we can work in the schedule a few days so the All-Stars can get a break as well."

    Silver also said that such a change in the schedule would require negotiating with the NBA players union.