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Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green had a March worthy of No. 1 and No. 2 picks



Cade Cunningham (l.) and Jalen Green

Cade Cunningham (l.) and Jalen Green
Photo: Getty Images

Showing out in the NBA in March is not quite like hitting beautifully straight drives on the practice range, but it’s close. When there’s no pressure and fewerless consequences, it’s easy to swing free. That’s exactly what Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green did last month, giving their fans a taste of why they were the first two picks in the 2021 NBA Draft.

On paper, Detroit’s 6-10 record and Houston’s 5-12 mark last month aren’t that impressive. However, when you consider each team only won 15 games over the other fourth-and-a-half months preceding March, it technically qualifies as improvement.

It’s easier to see the progress of the two rookie guards, though. If you include Cunningham’s numbers from March — 23 points, seven assists, and six rebounds on 48/32/83 shooting splits — he was still five points, 1.5 assists, and half a rebound better than his season stats. With Jalen Green, his 21 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.4 assists on 48/40/77 shooting splits last month are four points, .3 rebounds, and an assist above his totals on the year. Both hit a level we hadn’t seen yet while making me look like a fool for ragging on them in my Power Tankings rankings.

Green topped Cunningham for March Rookie of the Month honors, and set the record for made 3s (50) in a month by a rookie, so my mea culpa will start with him.

Jalen Green

Green was labeled as an athletic pure scorer coming out of the G League, and he’s got a young Ray Allen vibe to him. It’s not just that he shot 40 percent from deep and broke records in March, it’s how comfortable and smooth he looks pulling up from everywhere.

There were multiple buckets in his 32-point performance against the Lakers where he confidently stroked a shot from the midrange, the corner, a step inside the arc, etc. He only made four 3s that game and, ideally, he’ll learn the spatial awareness to shoot a 3 over a long 2. That said, whenever I’m trying to discern if a guy is a pure shooter and not just a 3-point specialist, I look to see how comfortable he is hoisting from anywhere, and Green looks to be pretty, pretty relaxed wherever he’s shooting from on the floor.

His jumper isn’t as pretty as Allen’s probably still is, but that’s to be expected because only one person can paint Starry Night. Also, people often forget that Allen had bunnies early (and occasionally late) in his career. They won’t forget that about Green if he keeps baptizing centers like he did Jakob Poeltl.

The Rockets need to figure out how and who to surround him with in order to avoid Green putting up a ton of empty numbers during his tenure in Houston. A pick-and-roll partner would be nice, and a point guard who can show him how to run one would be even better. I look at how rounded Devin Booker’s game has become since Chris Paul got there, and the Rockets remind me of those aimless, pre-CP3 Suns teams right now.

I had Green’s team as the No. 1 tanking team, solely because career loser Christian Wood and desperately-in-need-of-a-good-situation Kevin Porter Jr. should never “lead” a team. The good thing about both the Pistons and Rockets sucking so much early in the season is their five- and six-win months didn’t ruin their lottery odds, as they each remain in the bottom three of the league. Houston should have a top three draft pick again and one of a trio of highly talented players headlining the 2022 class. They’ll need more than that to maximize Green, though.

Cade Cunningham

Detroit has less of an issue with team morale, and that’s largely because Cunningham is already the Pistons’ leader. I think the reason he hasn’t made a legit run at the ROY is because he’s not wired to try to get 30 every night. He tends to do what the team needs, and that’s how you should want your point guard to operate.

If you swapped him out for fellow extremely-coachable rookie Scotty Barnes and let him run the show in Toronto, I think the Raptors would probably have a similar record, despite the positional fit. (That’s also a credit to Masai Ujiri’s knack for building a roster and Nick Nurse’s malleability as a coach.)

Everyone talks about opponents’ inability to speed up Cunningham, and that’s certainly a great asset for such a young player. What stands out to me when watching him is not only can you not rush him, but he already has a lot in his bag to counter defenses and create open looks for himself off the bounce.

A lot of guards see Atlanta’s backcourt as an all-you-can-score buffet, and the young hooper out of Oklahoma State was no different when he went for 28 points, 10 assists, and a six boards in a W in early March.

He gets you on his hip and uses his handle to get to the bucket and his athleticism to finish, or he hits you with a half-spin turnaround hook shot, or finger rolls in a layup with his off hand, or goes right down the lane and punches it. He’ll need to improve his shooting — dropping that 32 percent 3-point shooting percentage in his stats earlier stands out for the wrong reasons — to keep teams honest when he’s off the ball and prevent defenders from sagging off of him when he has it. (He has the highest usage rate of all rookies, so he has the rock a lot.)

I don’t quite have a comp for him, rather a grab bag of skill sets and assets from other players. His measured approach is like if Brandon Roy was pass-first, and his shifty driving and finishing around the rim reminds me of that guy at the Y who runs the court for a couple hours and never repeats the same move. Unfortunately, like homie at the Y, he can’t get a foul call, either, and his jumper needs some work, too.

The best thing you can do is surround Cunningham with guys he can play off of, and like Houston, Detroit should be able to get one of the three tall, talented players at the top of the draft board in June to put next to their promising, soon-to-be sophomore.

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Pedro Porro speaks about Tottenham for first time as flight and medical booked




ncoming signing Pedro Porro has spoken publicly for the first time about his move to Tottenham ahead of boarding a plane to London.

Standard Sport understands the right-back will complete a £39million move from Sporting later on Tuesday, the final day of the January transfer window.

The move was thrown into doubt on Monday after Sporting reneged on the deal by asking for more money, despite Porro having said his goodbyes and with a medical in London booked.

Further talks have revived the transfer and Porro, who was absent from training and understood to be distraught by the hold ups, will now finalise the move on Deadline Day. He spoke to reporters at Lisbon airport on Monday evening.

He told CMTV: “I’m grateful to Sporting, I love the club.

“I didn’t train as I was only focused on the transfer to Spurs but I will always be thankful to the club.”

Porro is expected at Hotspur Way on Monday evening, where he will stay overnight before becoming a Spurs player on Tuesday.

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Derby 0 – 2 West Ham



West Ham booked a fifth-round FA Cup tie at boss David Moyes’ former club
Manchester United with a comfortable 2-0 win at Derby.

Jarrod Bowen’s third goal in two games gave the Hammers a first-half lead and Michail Antonio headed home their second five minutes after break.

The Londoners made it back-to-back wins after beating Everton 2-0 to climb out of the Premier League’s bottom three nine days go and rarely needed to hit top gear as they halted League One side Derby’s 19-game unbeaten run.

West Ham's Michail Antonio, left, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the English FA Cup 4th round soccer match between Derby County and West Ham at Pride Park stadium in Derby, England, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Michail Antonio also got on the scoresheet for the Hammers

West Ham boss Moyes now faces a reunion with former side Man Utd at Old Trafford in the last 16 after being drawn to face the Red Devils in the draw just before Monday night’s routine win at Pride Park. The match will take place in the week commencing February 27.

How West Ham eased past Derby

Paul Warne’s side are flying high in fourth place in the third tier and there were high hopes of an upset among the home faithful before kick-off in a Pride Park crowd of 25,308.

Derby forward Tom Barkhuizen wasted no time in breaching West Ham’s defence, scampering clear in the opening minute before his cut-back was scrambled clear.

Bowen shot tamely at Derby goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith soon after, but was not so wasteful in the 10th minute.

Antonio’s ball over the top caught Derby flat-footed and Bowen volleyed home Tomas Soucek’s neat headed pass from six yards.

Derby’s best move of the half saw James Collins volley just off target after Barkhuizen had run on to Craig Forsyth’s dinked pass to pick out the Derby striker with a fine cross.

Barkhuizen and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing offered Derby’s best hopes of getting back on level terms before the break, but they had no shots on target in the first period.

The good news for Rams fans at the break was their side were still in the tie against a top-flight side who were not at their best.

But five minutes into the second period the home side fell 2-0 behind. Derby skipper Curtis Davies’ sliced clearance span into Bowen’s path down the right and his cross was headed in at the far post by Antonio after deflecting off Forsyth.

Warne sent on four substitutes – Eiran Cashin, Liam Thompson, Lewis Dobbin and Tony Springett – soon after and their fresh legs gave Derby a lift.

Haydon Roberts was an inch away from connecting fully with Dobbin’s excellent cross, but the Rams were soon back-pedalling again.

Bowen was denied in quick succession by Wildsmith’s point-blank save and Cashin’s last-ditch tackle before Ben Johnson’s angled drive was kept out by the Derby goalkeeper.

The Rams were full of endeavour until the final whistle and Dobbin was close to being rewarded for an impressive cameo display when shooting straight at Alphonse Areola, but on the night County could not bridge the gulf in class.

Bowen: You’ve got to beat the best to win the cup

Jarrod Bowen said “to be the best you’ve got to beat the best” after West Ham were drawn to face United in the fifth round.

“I found out (about the draw) on the bench. We’ve got Man Utd away so listen it’s never easy and if we want to be successful in these competitions we’ve got to beat the best teams,” Bowen told ITV Sport.

“With respect to Man United they’re a top top team but we’ve been there plenty of times before and you’ve got to beat the best to be the best.”

Bowen added: “It was nice to score against Everton and tonight as well. I think the situation that we’re in, any sort of confidence from any player…

“The last two to be involved with was very good for me but I think for us, two wins on the bounce as well, two good results for us and it’s all about momentum in this game and I think we can use this going forward.”

Warne: We can’t knock the lads

Derby manager Paul Warne told ITV Sport: “In fairness West Ham played a professional performance, at times I thought we went toe-to-toe but I don’t think we did enough to score unfortunately.

“We can’t knock the lads tonight, we asked them to be the best versions of themselves against a Premier League team so not bad.

“But we probably didn’t have enough graft in the final third but I can’t really knock them and we know West Ham haven’t got an easy draw next but I wish them a sincere good luck.

“I thought the lads gave a good account of themselves at times and at times they were punching.”

What’s next?

Derby return to League One action on Saturday at home to Morecambe – kick-off 3pm – before travelling to Wycombe on Saturday February 11; kick-off 3pm.

West Ham’s next game is away to Newcastle in the Premier League on Saturday, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 5.30pm.

Saturday 4th February 5:00pm

Kick off 5:30pm

The Hammers then host London rivals Chelsea on Saturday February 11; kick-off 12.30pm.

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NFL’s ratio of Black QBs to Black head coaches is all wrong



Jalen Hurts

Jalen Hurts
Photo: AP

Marlin Briscoe is smiling in heaven. Doug Williams probably has a huge grin on his face. The first Black starting quarterback in NFL history — Briscoe — and the first Black quarterback to start and win Super Bowl MVP — Williams — are the giants whose shoulders Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts are standing on. And between Rihanna’s halftime performance and the fact that we’re about to watch history made as two Black quarterbacks take center stage in sports’ biggest game — you could make the case that it’s destiny, given that it will all take place during Black History Month.

But, don’t let this moment distract you from the fact that Black coaches are still getting a raw deal at a time in which Black quarterbacks are being elevated like never before. Two things can be true at once, this is why this moment is such a joyous, yet infuriating one.

Sixteen years after we watched Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy make history as the first two Black head coaches to appear in the Super Bowl, we’re watching Mahomes and Hurts do it for Black quarterbacks. But since that February day in 2007, things for Black coaches have seemed to fall apart as they’ve improved for Black quarterbacks.

Eleven Black quarterbacks started Week 1. Now compare that to the three Black coaches who had jobs when the season began — Mike McDaniel doesn’t count, as he chooses to identify as a human being with a Black dad.

When Lovie Smith got fired in Houston, three became two. And as we wait for the remaining hires to be made, there isn’t a track record or feeling that anything will be done in the next few weeks to greatly improve these dismal numbers. We’re at a point in which the league, the owners, and fans are fine with having a Black man be their quarterback — but not their coach.

Over the years, the trajectory for Black quarterbacks has steadily risen in a way that hasn’t happened for Black coaches. By the time we reach kickoff, it will mean that eight Black quarterbacks have started in the Super Bowl. It’s a direct result of evolution over the years. What was started by Fritz Pollard, Briscoe, and Williams led the way for Michael Vick to be the first Black quarterback drafted No. 1 and for Steve McNair to be the first Black quarterback to win MVP — which was followed by Mahomes and Lamar Jackson.

Progress on the field, not on the sidelines

This type of progress isn’t something we’ve seen with Black coaches, though. At roughly this point last year, there were only two Black head coaches in the league — Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh and David Culley in Houston. As we know, Culley would get fired after one season by the Texans and would get replaced by Smith, another Black coach that would be fired after a lone year on the job. Brian Flores’ class-action lawsuit (which was joined by Ray Horton and Steve Wilks) is still hovering over the league. But, you wouldn’t know it the way that Wilks wasn’t able to keep his interim tag — which is a death sentence for Black coaches — with the Carolina Panthers despite doing a wonderful job.

In 2000, Dennis Green (Minnesota) and Dungy (Tampa) were the only two Black full-time head coaches in the NFL. Twenty-three years later, we’re in the same place, but worse. The XFL is just weeks away from rebooting and their eight-team league already has four Black head coaches. It’s a jarring stat that embodies just how big this problem is, despite what Todd Bowles thinks.

“I think the minute you guys stop making a big deal about it, everybody else will as well,” one of the two Black coaches in the league had the audacity to say earlier in the season.

In less than two weeks, a league that’s majority Black will make history when two Black quarterbacks play in a game that will feature entertainment before the game and during halftime from Black performers in a month that’s dedicated to recognizing the contributions to what Black people have made to this country. It will be a joyous occasion.

However, while you’re enjoying the game, I beg of you to ask one question to the company you’ll keep on that day. “If the NFL, America and the world can accept all this Blackness, then why won’t they accept Black coaches?” And while you’re waiting for people to answer that question, realize that “End Racism” was etched on the field all season. 

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