Remember when Luka Dončić was overweight, complaining to officials too much, and the Dallas Mavericks’ record was under .500? That was the story of Dončić and the Mavericks in December. Four months — and a Kristaps Porziņģis trade— later, the Mavericks are one of the hottest teams in the NBA. They are 19 games over .500 with three more to play and earned one of their best wins of the season against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks had won 11 games in March, including consecutive road victories against the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, last week. At home against the Mavericks they ended up losing, 118-112. Dončić led the way with 32 points, eight rebounds and 15 assists. His percentages from the field and the 3-point line were below his usual standards, but he took over the game in the fourth quarter.
In just over two minutes of game action, he scored or assisted on every Mavs basket once he reentered the game early in the fourth quarter. That stretch took the Mavs from being down one to up eight. The Bucks were not able to reduce the deficit any lower than six points for the rest of the game.
Dončić only made one field goal in the fourth quarter, but still was able to control the game. He got to the free throw line, set up his teammates, grabbed rebounds, and showed that not all 9-22 shooting performances should be viewed equally. His fingerprints were all over that game, and most of the Mavs’ in the second half of this season. They are currently the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference, and only one game behind the Golden State Warriors for the No. 3 seed. Dončić’s early season woes have to be held against him in the MVP race, so Nikola Jokić and Antetokounmpo should finish the season ahead of him in the voting. However, while Dončić won’t win the MVP, he is gaining ground on becoming the best player in the NBA.
On the season, Dončić is averaging 28.3 points per game on 45.6 percent shooting. Since the Mavericks started rolling in January, he’s averaging 29.7 points per game on 46.2 percent from the field. In February he averaged 34.7 points per game while shooting 41.2 percent from the 3-point line. Last month Dončić averaged a shade under 30 points per game, 29.9, while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from three.
He has been unstoppable and been doing whatever he wants on the court. Look at this clip from yesterday of him isolated one-on-one against Giannis. This is a 7-foot player who is bigger, faster, stronger, and longer than him, along with being one of the best defensive players of his generation. Dončić basically did to Antetokounmpo what Allen Iverson did to Michael Jordan, except he buried a 3-pointer. Look at the bench reaction. If this happened during an episode of Streetball everyone would’ve rushed the court.
Also, his assists are getting ridiculous. He had a season-high 15 yesterday, and threw just about every pass in the book. Dončić was going behind the back, across the court, beating Antetokounmpo on lobs, and throwing it way down court on the break. The passing display that he put on against the Bucks was spectacular and it’s becoming more and more commonplace for him. Check out this no-look pass that he threw to Maxi Kleber last week. Dončić was almost at the rim and not only did he flip it back to the three-point line, he threw the pass over his opposite shoulder.
However, as great as he has been, it’s not fair to the players who have been on their game all season to give him that reward. Jokić has been on an advanced analytic rampage all season, while holding the Denver Nuggets together without Michael Porter Jr, and Jamal Murray, and keeping the team out of the play-in. Antetokounmpo kept the Bucks afloat while they dealt with injuries throughout the season, including one that resulted in Brook Lopez being out for most of the season, and almost got them the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference — they could still technically get it but their 2.5 games out with only four left to play. Also, even though the Philadelphia 76ers are struggling as of late, do not forget that Joel Embiid is playing the best basketball of his career, averaging 30.2 points on 49.3 percent from the field and has played in the most games in a season of his career, all while holding the 76ers together during the Ben Simmons drama.
None of those players should have their performances overlooked for Dončić’s half of a season, but these four and Kevin Durant are the top five players in the NBA. Yesterday, Luka Dončić put on the type of performance on national television that is befitting of the best player in the league. So while he doesn’t deserve a place in the MVP conversation, not only does he deserve a place in the one about best player, he might need to be the person that conversation revolves around.
Chelsea FC: Brilliant Badiashile leading way for new signings as Thiago Silva partnership blossoms
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.
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.
Reporter’s notebook: Jesse Marsch’s Leeds side showed encouraging signs at times but lack of points cost him his job | Football News
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.
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.
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.
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
Tom Brady in his underwear is taking over Twitter
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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