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ESPN straw poll gives Jokic edge over Embiid

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A recent ESPN straw poll shows Nikola Jokić with a widening lead over Joel Embiid in the MVP race.

A recent ESPN straw poll shows Nikola Jokić with a widening lead over Joel Embiid in the MVP race.
Image: Getty Images

This year’s NBA MVP Award has several contenders: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ja Morant, Devin Booker, Luka Dončić, etc. However, most fans and analysts would agree that the award is really a two-horse race between Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and the reigning MVP, Denver’s Nikola Jokić. It’s been that way for a few months now. The Greek Freak is there, but he’s a ways back of his competitors.

On February 17, ESPN released a straw poll indicating their unofficial picks for the MVP. As expected Embiid and Jokić led the way with 45 and 43 first-place votes each. That’s a very close race. In fact, the article itself claims that it was the “closest the top two spots have been over the nine iterations of this poll over the past six seasons.”

From a strictly basketball standpoint (more on what I mean in a moment), the narrative hasn’t changed much. Most fans would tell you that the MVP Award is still a toss-up between Embiid and Jokić, perhaps Embiid has a slight advantage, but nothing massive. ESPN disagrees. In their latest straw poll — released yesterday — Jokić received 62 of the 100 first-place votes, a huge jump from where he was just a month and a half ago.

But why? What has Jokić done since February 17 that Embiid hasn’t? Since that date, here are each players’ numbers:

Jokić: 27.2 PPG, 8.3 APG, 12.8 RPG, 1.6 STL, 1.2 BLK, .599 FG%, .224 3PT%, .818 FT%, 11-6 record in games played

Embiid: 31.4 PPG, 3.6 APG, 12.2 RPG, 1.5 STL, 1.4 BLK, .485 FG%, .373 3PT%, .823 FT%, 11-6 record in games played

Based on those numbers, you might give Jokić a slight edge, just on field goal percentage and assist numbers alone. However, these aren’t far removed from the numbers each of these players has posted all season long. If anything, each of them has stepped their game up the last five weeks. Basically, while you might look at these figures and think one player has a slight edge, but definitely not as big as ESPN’s latest straw poll would have you think.

The advanced analytics also favor Embiid. Since February 17, per every 100 possessions, the Nuggets have posted a +2.5 net scoring differential with Jokić on the floor. That’s pretty good. However, without Jokić on the floor, the Nuggets have recorded a +5.9 differential, meaning the team is more than three points better per 100 possessions without Jokić on the floor since the previous straw poll. Embiid, on the other hand, has made the Sixers much better in that span. With him on the floor, the team has a +6.9 net scoring differential. Without him, it drops to +0.8. Embiid has made the Sixers over the last five weeks. The same can’t be said for Jokić and the Nuggets.

Now here’s where we get into the non-basketball part of this. Even though Jokić’s numbers might be slightly better than Embiid’s, Jokić’s hit on Markief Morris in November that forced Morris to miss four months of the season should be enough to turn everyone away to the player with slightly worse numbers, no? Praising Jokić in this manner only promotes that terrible outburst from Jokić that seriously hurt another player. Look at the video if you haven’t seen it already. It doesn’t take much from Morris to make Jokić go mad. Yet, in the eyes of MVP voters, that’s alright apparently. “It happened in November after all. That’s so long ago. Give him a break.” How about no?

Perhaps the voters are giving the edge to Jokić because, unlike Embiid, Jokić doesn’t have a superstar teammate like James Harden to ease the load. True, but in case you haven’t been watching lately, Harden hasn’t exactly been playing well. In his last ten games, Harden is shooting an abysmal 37.7 percent on 14.6 field goal attempts per game. He’s still recording over 20 points per game, but his efficiency is in a massive slump, thus forcing Embiid to shoulder more of the scoring recently.

Then, of course, there’s also team success, which as I noted earlier, Jokić and Embiid have been equal in since February 17. That being said, Philadelphia has a better record for the season (AKA including the part before Harden became a Sixer) and ranks fourth in the Eastern Conference standings compared to Denver ranking sixth in the West. I understand that the West is deeper and more competitive, but it’s not Embiid’s fault that his conference isn’t as difficult. If that’s a determining factor for the voters then why are Embiid and Antetokounmpo still being considered at all?

This isn’t a shot at Jokić as a basketball player, but for two players who’ve been neck and neck in the MVP race all season, I find it shocking that Jokić would jump out to such an enormous lead given what Embiid did in the same time span, and that’s not even accounting for the massive foul Jokić committed on Morris near the start of the season. Embiid may not be the MVP, but it should be much closer than ESPN’s straw poll indicates. It might sound crazy, but Embiid deserves more respect than he’s getting.



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Chelsea FC: Brilliant Badiashile leading way for new signings as Thiago Silva partnership blossoms

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C

helsea have not conceded a goal in the first 270 minutes that Benoit Badiashile has been on the pitch since his £35million move from Monaco.

His promising early form at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea will hope, hint at better times to come through their new signings.

The arrival of French centre-back Badiashile at the start of last month kick-started a record January spending spree of more than £300m.

After Chelsea were sent spiralling into crisis with defeats by Manchester City and Fulham, Badiashile made his debut in a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.

After the Blues claimed a further two clean sheets in 0-0 draws away at Liverpool and at home to Fulham, he is building an impressive partnership with Thiago Silva.

Impressive start: Benoit Badiashile has formed a promising partnership with Thiago Silva

/ Getty Images

Badiashile was one of five new signings to feature in Friday’s 0-0 draw with Fulham. He started alongside £106.8m Enzo Fernandez, who started well but faded over 90 minutes, £89.5m Mykhailo Mudryk, who struggled over 45 minutes while carrying a cold, and £30m Noni Madueke, who was bright after being brought on at half-time.

“What a waste of money” was the regular chant from the Fulham fans in the away end.

That felt harsh in Badiashile’s case. With his size and speed, he looks like a perfect partner for 38-year-old veteran Silva.

In addition, he showed the ability to play brilliantly out of Fulham’s well-drilled press and he coped in his duels against Aleksandar Mitrovic.

There is still adaption to be done, as Graham Potter barked instructions about his positioning in relation to Silva.

However, using French to communicate with the former Paris Saint-Germain captain, Badiashile has helped steady the ship in the absence of the injured Wesley Fofana, and with Kalidou Koulibaly out of form.

While still only averaging just 1.05 goals per game in the Premier League, Chelsea will draw more than they win unless their new midfielders and forwards step up.

Arriving in the weeks after Badiashile, the likes of Fernandez, Joao Felix, Mudryk and Madueke have not had as much time to adapt to their surroundings.

With Chelsea still in 10th place and increasingly falling behind in the race to qualify for Europe, they must follow Badiashile’s lead and hit the ground running before time runs out.



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Reporter’s notebook: Jesse Marsch’s Leeds side showed encouraging signs at times but lack of points cost him his job | Football News

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Jesse Marsch was approaching his one-year anniversary as Leeds United head coach before the decision was taken on Monday to relieve him of his duties.

The defeat to Nottingham Forest a day earlier had been the final straw for the Leeds board, who were all aligned in the view that a change was necessary after almost three months without a Premier League win.

The recent statistics paint a grim picture for Leeds. Seven Premier League games without a win and just two wins in the last 17 league games. And against Forest, although they dominated in the first half and created the better chances, a worrying pattern had started to develop which had become a huge concern for fans. Leeds were producing performances with lots of positives, but not enough points.

There is little doubt that a large proportion of the fan base had lost patience with Marsch, and they made their frustrations clear at the full-time whistle on Sunday with calls for a change of head coach.

What is very evident is that Leeds have not kicked on this season. At times there have been really promising signs, but the fans and the board at Leeds wanted more. Marsch will feel that with time he could have delivered more, but he was also realistic enough to know that he was walking a tightrope.

I got to know Jesse well during his 12 months at Elland Road and it was abundantly clear he cared passionately about the club. He understood what it meant to be head coach of Leeds United and what the club meant to the city and the fans. And he has to be given great credit for keeping Leeds in the Premier League last season.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Nottingham Forest and Leeds.

Although it hasn’t worked out for Marsch this season, there is a strong argument to suggest that the next Leeds boss will be in a great position to move the club forward.

Patrick Bamford and Luis Sinisterra are now fit, and the January additions should make the starting line-up stronger. The club has also invested heavily in young players and one of those, Willy Gnonto, has emerged as one of the shining lights of the season.

Those factors have created an expectation that Leeds are better than their current league position, and that means a reluctance to accept another season fighting to avoid the drop. It also means that there are reasons to be optimistic about the future.

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Former Leeds United goalkeeper Paul Robinson believes sacking Jesse Marsch was the right decision as he was given enough time at the club.

The process of finding a replacement for Marsch is already underway and Leeds hope to make a swift appointment. A move for Marcelo Bielsa is highly unlikely, but West Brom boss Carlos Corberan, who worked under Bielsa, is a candidate, while Ange Postecoglou at Celtic has also been linked.

It is also worth noting Leeds have a track record of leftfield appointments, so as they work through their list of targets, there is a good chance that a candidate emerges that could surprise everybody.

In the meantime, Michael Skubala, Paco Gallardo and Chris Armas will take training at Thorp Arch, and will be in the dugout for Wednesday’s Premier League fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Leeds’ next Premier League fixtures

February 8: Manchester United (A) – kick-off 8pm

February 12: Manchester United (H) – kick-off 2pm, live on Sky Sports

February 18: Everton (A) – kick-off 3pm

February 25: Southampton (H) – kick-off 3pm

March 4: Chelsea (A) – kick-off 3pm

March 11: Brighton (H) – kick-off 3pm

March 18: Wolves (A) – kick-off 3pm



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Tom Brady in his underwear is taking over Twitter

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Um .. oh.

Um .. oh.
Screenshot: Twitter: Tom Brady

It’s Super Bowl week, and if you thought Tom Brady was going to let this week go by without being all up in your timeline…well. Just a week after announcing he’s retiring from football (you’ll never convince me he didn’t play an extra year just to stick it to Adam Schefter), Tom Brady has dropped his first thirst trap on Twitter. Or, attempted thirst trap. Actually, IS this a thirst trap?

As will many things Tom Brady, the attempt to be cool and edgy just winds up being sterile, boring, and kinda sad. A beige man in a beige room in beige underwear with a “pleass clap” look on his face.

And because OF COURSE:

Yes, Tom. We all knew the plug as coming. I’m not sure what color “heather crimson” is supposed to be, but I believe this is what we used to call “puce,” which… meh. The fact that there is something called the “Brady Boxer Brief” is enough to make me want to stick my head in the oven, because you know there are guys in New England burning up the internet right now to wear the same undies as their hero. And even more so because no amount of refusing to mask during COVID, vouching for Antonio Brown, stumping for Donald Trump, or getting a PPP loan during a nationwide pandemic is enough to get people to stop buying what this guy is selling. He’s even gotten to Jane Fonda, for crying out loud.

Of course, this entire thing was set up by Brady’s own brand:

So…whatever. It’s Super Bowl week and everyone is talking about Tom Brady, which is exactly how he wants it to be.



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