Month: September 2019
A lot of things have to break just right for a team like the Boston Celtics to be this good. After losing Gordon Hayward to injury in the first game of the season and starting 0-2, the Celtics have run off 14 straight wins — including a win Thursday over the reigning champion Golden State Warriors — on the strength of a suffocating defense and surprising contributions from young players like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. But while Boston’s success on defense has been a collective effort, the other side of the ball has in large part been buoyed by a single player. It just may not be the one you think.Kyrie Irving makes the Boston offense go. He leads the team in scoring, assists and usage percentage. He drives and dishes and shoots the Celtics back into games they ought to be losing, and he provides the piercing thrust to an offense that is long on shooters but short on shot creators. When the offense looks right, it’s usually Irving at the wheel. But as good as Irving has been, he isn’t the Celtic who’s had the biggest impact on the offense. That would be Al Horford. Related: The Lab Horford’s individual numbers don’t look much like a superstar’s. He averages 15.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. His shooting percentages are way up this season — 44.4 percent from 3 with a 68.1 true shooting percentage, both certain to cool at some point — but that doesn’t really account for his outsize effect on the team. The Celtics’ offense is 12.7 points per 100 possessions worse when Horford leaves the floor, more than six times the difference when Irving sits. That’s not just early-season noise: Horford affects the game in subtle but pervading ways, improving the outlook of plays in which he may never touch the ball.Absent box-score evidence, in the past these skills would be dropped into the catch-all of “making teammates better.” But today we can track how well players perform when Horford gets involved.For instance, Irving is by far the most effective pick-and-roll ball-handler on the roster, generating 98.8 points per 100 chances, according to data from Second Spectrum — far more than Marcus Smart (79.2) and Terry Rozier (83.2). But if we turn that around and look at how effective pick and rolls are based on who’s setting the screen, we can see Horford’s effect: When he sets the pick, Boston scores 103.7 points per 100 chances; with any other screener, it’s just 81.1. Horford’s numbers with Irving are great, as you would expect, but he also elevates Smart, Rozier and anyone else who can fog a mirror.This holds up away from the ball as well. While the Brad Stevens offense is known for its off-ball movement, Boston scores just 91.7 points per 100 chances created by off-ball screens, according to Second Spectrum — a good but not outstanding number. When it’s Horford setting the screen, though, that shoots up to 106.6 points per 100 chances. Compare that with Aron Baynes or Daniel Theis, the two Celtics who set the most screens aside from Horford, and it’s no contest. Baynes’ screens result in the Celts getting 79.1 points per 100 chances; Theis’s aren’t much better, at 88.8. In other words, it isn’t a system thing — Horford is producing this effect.What sets Horford’s screens apart is how long they last. He doesn’t simply brush up against the defender and sprint off to his spot on the floor — he maintains contact as long as possible, turning, bending and reaching to stay in the defender’s way, then beginning his roll to the rim while the defender is still on him, often dragging him along for a step or two. These aren’t exactly moving screens (at least not all of them), but Horford gets in the way and stays in the way. Couple that with the attention his shooting demands this season, and Boston guards either have a clear path to the rim or can kick out to one of the best floor-spacers in the game.This has a cascading effect. Irving and Smart have both created high-value shots for teammates this season, but both are aided by defenses scrambling to catch up to cutters or drivers sprung by screens. Yet when Horford makes the pass himself, teammates have a 51.3 effective field goal percentage — lower than might be expected. His overall effect on teammates’ shots isn’t as strong as Irving’s or Smart’s, though his numbers are weighed down by being unable to pass to himself and by passing to Smart, who is by many standards the worst shooter in the NBA today. (Irving has passed to Smart for a shot just four times this season.) Irving has a 65.5 eFG on passes from Horford, up from 48.5 percent overall; Brown and Tatum remain about the same, while Smart’s ridiculous 37.5 eFG when Horford gets him involved is an improvement on his heinous 32.4 mark overall.Of course, this early in the season it’s hard to say how much of this will last. Tatum and Irving are making difficult shots at a rate that’s hard to imagine them maintaining; Horford is shooting like Kyle Korver for the first time in his career; and even the vaunted defense is built on a little more luck than it may let on.(The Boston defense is allowing just 97.2 points per 100 possessions, putting it in hailing range of the 2003-04 San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons for best full-season defense in the modern era.1Excluding lockout-shortened seasons. Its defensive effective field goal percentage is a league-low 47.7 percent. According to Second Spectrum’s quantified shot quality, which takes into account shot location and distance, proximity of defenders and other variables, the Celtics allow opponents the lowest value shots of any team in the league. But Boston’s opponents’ shots are depressed event further, by the second-highest rate in the league. That could be thanks to the aggressive challenges Boston makes along the perimeter, but it could just as easily be a fortunate run to start the season.)At age 31, Horford is oldest member of a Boston roster built for the future. There’s no guarantee he’ll remain this effective by the time Brown, Tatum and the rest of the young team come into their primes. But windows of contention can be forced open earlier than expected if the young bucks can fill their roles and a few key veterans hold down the rest. So far, Horford has been up to the task.Check out our latest NBA predictions. Can The Celtics Keep On Winning?
New York Yankees1998-01AL East27.410 Atlanta Braves1996-99NL East31.05 Cleveland Indians2016-19AL Central+44.64 yrs TeamElo RatingWinsLossesRun Diff.Make PlayoffsWin DivisionWin World Series Indians15549567+13378%68%9% It will come as no surprise to anyone following baseball that, when we ran an early preseason version of our 2019 MLB projections, the Cleveland Indians came out as heavy favorites to win the American League Central.Cleveland has won the Central in each of the past three years, by a comfortable margin of 12.7 games on average. Part of this is not the product of Cleveland’s talent but rather the lack thereof among the rest of the teams in the division. In fact, the rest of the division has done so little to try to close the gap that the Indians were openly shopping some of their veteran stars this winter, in part to cut costs, while still intending to win the division. Although some of the bigger rumored deals haven’t actually happened, this type of “have-your-tank-and-beat-them-too” mindset could be an innovative model for top teams trying to retool on the fly in a division laden with rebuilding clubs.Ordinarily, ace pitcher Corey Kluber is the last player a team would want to part with, having ranked second the majors — behind Washington’s Max Scherzer — in pitching wins above replacement (WAR) over the past five seasons. He’s also under contract for 2019, with team options in both 2020 and 2021. But the Indians would owe Kluber $52.7 million across all of those seasons, assuming both options are picked up. With Cleveland’s seasonal payrolls ballooning from $59 million the year before its streak of division titles began to $143 million last season, Indians brass reportedly put Kluber on the trade block in an effort to slash spending.Kluber wasn’t alone. The team was also rumored to be shopping around Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Yan Gomes, Jason Kipnis, Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso, all of whom combined with Kluber to produce nearly half (23.0) of the Indians’ 50.4 total WAR last season. Eventually Cleveland was able to offload Alonso, Encarnacion and Gomes (to the White Sox, Mariners and Nationals, respectively), while Carrasco signed an extension. All of those machinations helped free up enough money for the Indians that a Kluber trade no longer sounds likely, at least for the time being. But Kluber and Kipnis still have club options coming up after the season worth $34 million in total, and Bauer has another arbitration year remaining after 2019 (and he won his arbitration cases in each of the past two winters).In other words, the Indians will still be a team to watch on the trade market — even if nothing else about their team fits the profile of a traditional “seller.”Typically, teams load up on talent when trying to win a World Series (duh), and they shop their high-priced veterans only when their window to contend is closing. The World Series is so difficult to win — the best team in a given season has only about a 15 percent chance — and the pull of regression is so strong that when a team has a chance to go for a title in the here and now, it makes sense to acquire Cy Young-caliber pitchers, not dangle them in trades.Kluber, Bauer and Carrasco were all part of a starting corps that ranked first in the majors in WAR last season, edging out even the obscenely stacked Houston Astros rotation that some were calling the greatest of all time. With needs in the bullpen and outfield, and a relatively thin market of free-agent arms available, the Indians weren’t crazy for at least exploring trade offers for Kluber, a pitcher who will turn 33 this season.But another aspect of what the Indians were doing is an interesting bit of needle-threading made possible by their unusually entrenched position atop the division. Including our preliminary look at 2019, (which is unlikely to change even if, say, Bryce Harper were to sign with the White Sox), this will be the fourth consecutive year that Cleveland is favored to win its division, according to our Elo ratings. Royals14557191-9474<1 White Sox14567191-9574<1 Twins15068478+2436212 Cleveland Indians1996-99AL Central30.47 How did the Indians end up with so few challengers? Cleveland happened upon its divisional stranglehold by filling a void that formed after the Kansas City Royals’ mini-dynasty ended after 2015. It was a great case of a team ascending at exactly the right time and place.The Royals’ core eroded following back-to-back World Series appearances, with the team bidding farewell to many of the key players from those rosters, and a rebuilding project soon commenced in K.C. At the same time, the Detroit Tigers’ own run of contention with Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and company was winding down. Detroit had won the division four straight seasons from 2011 to 2014, but an 86-win second-place finish in 2016 was its last gasp before starting a rebuild of its own. And the Chicago White Sox are very far removed from their mid-2000s championship heyday, with no season cracking .500 since 2012.The Minnesota Twins appeared poised to rise up and confront the Indians after winning 85 games in 2017 with a young core of position-player talent (led by center fielder Byron Buxton) and an improving 23-year-old ace in Jose Berrios. But Minnesota backslid to a 78-84 record last season, and our projections give them only a 21 percent probability of overtaking Cleveland this year. Projected front-runners can still run into unexpected threats — just ask the 2018 Dodgers (who barely scraped past the Rockies) or 2018 Astros (who barely scraped past the A’s) — but it would take a big upset for Cleveland to lose its perch atop the Central.Not that the Indians didn’t flirt with making that upset easier by shopping all those big names this winter. It was an uncommon approach that tried to simultaneously build for the future (not entirely unlike the underlings of the division) while keeping enough talent to win in the here and now. To even entertain the notion, it requires the kind of historically unique cushion Cleveland has enjoyed the past several seasons. Although it would take lots of guts to execute — severely reducing a team’s margin for error in the event of an injury or letdown performance — we might see more of this kind of mentality as tanking becomes more prevalent across MLB. Going back to the dawn of divisional play in 1969, only 14 teams have been favored to win a division in at least four consecutive seasons (led by the Yankees, who were favored in the AL East an incredible 10 straight seasons from 1995 to 2004). And the Indians’ preseason Elo margin in those four seasons — 44.6 points better than the next-best team, on average — is the highest of any team in any four-season streak as division favorites:(Interestingly, the second- and third-most lopsided streaks as division favorite are also active in 2019, featuring the Astros in the AL West and the Dodgers in the NL West.1Simulations were run prior to Friday’s news that Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw is resting his arm indefinitely. That’s probably no coincidence, since MLB has gotten very top-heavy in recent seasons, making it easier for heavy favorites to emerge.) Houston Astros2016-19AL West40.04 Overlapping parts of the same larger streak as favorite are included as separate entries. TeamYearsDivisionAverage Elo LeadEventual Streak Length Based on 100,000 simulations of the 2019 MLB season.Sources: Baseball prospectus, Fangraphs, Clay Davenport, Caesar’s Palace Tigers14476993-11453<1 The Indians have been very comfortable division favoritesLargest average margins between second-ranked teams in the division and teams with streaks of at least four straight seasons as a division favorite according to FiveThirtyEight’s preseason Elo ratings, 1969-2019 Avg. Simulated SeasonChance to … Cleveland Indians1997-00AL Central26.67 Will it be another year of smooth sailing in Cleveland?FiveThirtyEight’s preliminary Elo ratings and forecast for the 2019 AL Central race Oakland Athletics1972-75AL West27.16 New York Yankees1999-02AL East29.210 Los Angeles Dodgers2016-19NL West35.34 New York Yankees1997-00AL East27.610
According to our projections, the San Antonio Spurs currently have an 87 percent chance to make their 22nd consecutive playoff appearance. But only two months ago, our projections gave them just a 4 percent chance of making the postseason while they were struggling with new players and a bad defense. In the video above, Chris Herring walks through what’s changed for San Antonio and where things stand for the franchise as we march toward the playoffs.
Mike D’Antoni has seen a number of close misses throughout his career, with his teams coming up just short of clearing the highest bar to claim an NBA championship.Having been through that pain before, the Rockets coach knew that this most recent playoff exit — in which Houston lost to Golden State in six games — would rank right up there with the other heartbreaks. “This one’s gonna leave a mark,” he said shortly after his club was ousted on Friday by the Warriors, who took the series despite playing the final five quarters without injured superstar Kevin Durant. “This is not just something you get over with. I’m definitely not gonna get over it in this press conference, or tomorrow, or the next day.”Regardless of how long it takes D’Antoni and the Rockets to move on from their playoff elimination, at some point Houston will have to decide whether it’s time to try a different route — in either strategy, roster construction or both — or to simply stay the course.Some will undoubtedly argue that Houston is due for a change at this point, after having been bounced from the playoffs by the Warriors for the fourth time in five seasons. After all, the Rockets have long been the NBA’s biggest outlier in terms of strategy. No offense takes more 3-pointers, and no defense is more liberal in how often it switches — a strategy that hurt Houston on the defensive glass in Games 5 and 6.But for as unsatisfying as it sounds in the wake of yet another loss to the same team, there may not actually be anything intrinsically flawed about the Rockets’ construction. They lost this year’s series by a total of 11 points over six games, with every game decided by 6 points or fewer — the first series in NBA playoff history to hold that distinction. Along the way, the Rockets also got to the line more often and snagged more rebounds. Houston shot more efficiently than Golden State and limited the Warriors’ fabled shot-making ability for most of the series. As much as James Harden and Co. are hearing it for not “stepping on the throat” of the Warriors late in Games 5 and 6, Houston played Golden State relatively evenly during these past couple weeks. The Rockets were just a few toss-up plays away from wins that would have left us with a totally different narrative about their season.The challenge for general manager Daryl Morey — perhaps one he is uniquely suited to face — is figuring out how much of the Rockets’ playoff malaise is simply an artifact of winning bias (our tendency to explain things through the lens of the final outcome) and how much of Houston’s actual process does need to be changed. The cruelly ironic way the team lost last season, when the most prolific 3-point shooting team in NBA history missed 27 consecutive threes in a Game 7, already put to the test any belief that Houston’s luck would eventually even out. (We estimated the odds of that cold streak at 1 in 72,000.) Then there’s the seeming improbability of a player as great as Chris Paul — who, for the record, played a terrific game Friday — making only one conference final (and no NBA Finals) in his career. At a certain point, you have to wonder whether this is simply the unluckiest team ever or if variance ceases to be an adequate explanation for a team repeatedly coming up short.After this latest crushing loss, there are a few factors that might be legitimate areas of concern for the Rockets. For one thing, the rate at which Harden gets to the free-throw line has declined in each of his past four postseason runs, by an average of 17.1 percent, even as the league’s free-throw rate has increased in the playoffs by an average of 5.4 percent in the same span. 2017-18.502.345-220.127.116.1176.0 2015-16.518.450-13.1%.276.283+2.5% 2016-17.575.528-8.2.271.2855.2 Harden still scored a ton of points this postseason, but with his trademark ability to draw fouls lessened, he went from an otherworldly combination of offensive efficiency and volume to a more terrestrial class of Hall of Famer.Relatedly, the Rockets may also need to take a hard look at how backcourt-centric their offense has become. They got 79 percent of their scoring from guards or guard-forwards against Golden State, with $90 million big man Clint Capela notching only 8.8 points per game and rarely justifying his presence on the floor. (His plus/minus per 100 possessions in the series was -15.2.) The rigidity of Houston’s roles makes it easier for the team to fill a roster around the famously ball-dominant Harden, but it may also make the Rockets more susceptible to matchup difficulties in the playoffs. It doesn’t help matters when those supposed 3-and-D role players, who helped fill out a top-10 defensive unit during the regular season, can’t do much to slow down the opponent at the other end of the court — which was certainly the case in the fourth quarter of Game 6, in which Stephen Curry logged 23 points.Houston suffers from its lack of bench depth, which could get even worse next year if Austin Rivers signs with a team that has more financial flexibility. Then there’s perhaps the most obvious issue: that the Rockets may need more creativity and firepower than Harden and an aging Paul can provide on their own as efficient 1-on-1 specialists. Houston tried to address this by signing Carmelo Anthony, but that experiment lasted only 10 games before the front office decided to cut bait. Still, finding a third high-level player who can create his own shot — or a fourth, depending on how you feel about Eric Gordon — would make a world of difference. But the Rockets likely lack the cap space or assets to obtain one.Because of these deficiencies, it might feel futile for the Rockets to simply run it back again with a similar group and a similar game plan. But if they do, as things stand now,1We still have to see what the L.A. teams do with all their cap space. The Lakers could become interesting if they sign a star free agent to pair with LeBron James, while the Clippers — who have no All-Stars on their roster — have a good thing going and plenty of cap space to offer, too. the Rockets would probably remain the Western Conference team with the best chance of knocking off the Warriors next season. The team doesn’t have much financial wiggle room to improve around its core, having committed $107 million to its top four players — Paul, Harden, Capela and Gordon — for 2019-20. But one underrated advantage of staying the course for Houston is that Golden State itself could be weakened if Kevin Durant leaves via free agency this summer. Even for a dynasty with unusual staying power, the Warriors can’t dominate the West forever.For now, however, the Rockets are looking like this decade’s version of the ’90s Utah Jazz, a talented team that couldn’t quite get over the hump against an all-time dynasty. And the fear of that close-but-no-cigar stagnation continuing figures to leave both D’Antoni and Morey thinking of tweaks that would allow Houston to take the next step.Check out our latest NBA predictions. Harden FT rateNBA FT rate Harden’s foul-drawing prowess is muted in the playoffsChange in free-throw rate (FTA/FGA) between the regular season and playoffs for James Harden and the entire NBA, 2015-19 Source: Basketball-Reference.com Avg..511.424-17.1.265.2795.4 2018-19.449.371-17.4.259.2808.1 YearReg SeasonPlayoffs% ChangeReg SeasonPlayoffs% Change From ABC News:
Ohio State redshirt junior guard Kam Williams (15) and sophomore guard C.J. Jackson (3) walk down the floor late in the second half against Nebraska on Feb. 18 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorSomehow it just keeps getting worse.Ohio State Athletic Director and Senior Vice President Gene Smith backed basketball coach Thad Matta on Wednesday morning amid a tough stretch, but the encouraging words were not enough to inspire the Buckeyes that evening.OSU lost in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament to Rutgers 66-57, and looked every part of the team that struggled to find its way during conference play.Rutgers redshirt junior guard Nigel Johnson was a difference maker for the Scarlet Knights, racking up 21 points and going 3 of 6 from 3-point range. OSU junior forward Jae’Sean Tate did his best to keep the Buckeyes conference tournament dreams alive, picking up 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field.However, Tate had the turnover bug, giving the ball away seven times. Redshirt junior center Trevor Thompson, OSU’s bright spot throughout the season, struggled with early foul trouble, but still managed eight points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.OSU started the game out hot, jumping ahead with an 11-3 run, before Rutgers reeled the Buckeyes back in prior to taking the lead on a Johnson jumper with 9:16 remaining in the first half. OSU fired frequently from deep, but struggled to find the mark, going just 4 of 12 from outside the arc.Neither side mounted much offense, combining for 17 turnovers in the first. After OSU regained the lead with 2:47 left in the first on a 3-pointer by redshirt sophomore guard C.J. Jackson, the Buckeyes held onto the lead heading into halftime.Jackson was a key offensive proponent in the first, knocking down three shots from deep and racking up four assists. The Buckeyes help a slim 32-29 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.Coming out of the gate in the second half, Rutgers quickly tied the game before grabbing a six-point lead. The Buckeyes responded with a six-point run, tying the game at 39 before either side traded shots for the lead.Tate continued his effort to put OSU over the top, but another six-point scoring outburst by Rutgers, capped off by a layup by junior forward Candido Sa, gave the Scarlet Knights enough momentum to stay out in front.OSU needed a big boost from senior forward Marc Loving and sophomore guard JaQuan Lyle, two Buckeyes with some of the best scoring ability. However, they were nearly nonexistent in the box score, tallying just five points apiece.A deep Johnson 3-pointer with 2:18 gave Rutgers a 58-53 lead, and seemed to take the life out of the small Buckeye crowd that traveled to Washington. More late turnovers by the Buckeyes allowed the Scarlet Knights to comfortably wrap things up.Coming into the game, Rutgers was ranked 347th in the nation in free throw percentage, but knocked down four straight to seal the deal, and move on to the second round of the conference tournament.Rutgers will face Northwestern following the Iowa-Indiana matchup on Thursday. OSU will now wait to see where it ends up, but a National Invitational Tournament berth seems likely.
Ohio State freshman running back Demario McCall (30) runs in a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Rutgers on Sep. 30. Ohio State won 56-0. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorThree days after Ohio State defeated Rutgers 56-0 in Piscataway, New Jersey, redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, a few of his teammates and three assistant coaches spoke to the media. Here are four things we learned.Defensive ends taking snaps at middle linebackerEarly in the Buckeyes’ shutout of Rutgers, redshirt junior defensive end Sam Hubbard sprinted onto the field late, lined up at middle linebacker and forced a fumble. That might have been chalked up to miscommunication, but it happened a second time. Early in the third quarter, freshman defensive end Chase Young lined up on the second level of the defense, between outside linebackers Jerome Baker and Malik Harrison, and blitzed up the middle.Ohio State junior defensive end Sam Hubbard (6) goes head to head with a Scarlet Knight in the first quarter against Rutgers on Sep. 30. Ohio State won 56-0. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorDefensive line coach Larry Johnson did not deny this as a scheme Ohio State hopes to use in the future.“We’re just trying to build our package in our Rushmen package,” Johnson said. “We’re just trying to change it up so teams don’t get a feel for what we’re doing. So, it’s just part of what we’re doing right now.”In the past, Ohio State’s Rushmen package has featured four defensive ends — Nick Bosa, Jalyn Holmes, Tyquan Lewis and Hubbard — in likely passing situations. In spring and fall camps, the Buckeyes discussed potentially using Hubbard as a de-facto linebacker and playing Bosa, Lewis, Hubbard and Holmes along with defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones together in certain packages. But no one ever mentioned playing five defensive ends at once.For a team like Ohio State, there is no better time to experiment with plays and different lineups than against overmatched opponents such as Rutgers, UNLV and Army. Of course, the Buckeyes might just be showing this wrinkle to future opponents, such as Penn State, so the offense has more schemes to prepare against.“We try to make sure teams work on what we’re doing, so we’ll give them something to work on during the week,” Johnson said. “That’s always part of the process.”Ultimately, will this package, which adds a fifth defensive lineman onto the field, actually be used in future games?“We hope so,” Johnson said.Why hasn’t Demario McCall played more?Sophomore H-back Demario McCall took an opportunity and ran with it Saturday as he played his first extended snaps of the season. Though he didn’t play until the second half when the game’s outcome was not in doubt, McCall led the Buckeyes with 11 carries for 103 yards and a touchdowns. He also snagged a 35-yard touchdown reception.After the impressive performance, head coach Urban Meyer said he still did not believe McCall was fully healthy yet and was missing some of his explosion. Running backs coach Tony Alford agreed with Meyer.The Buckeyes celebrate freshman running back Demario McCall (30) after running in a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Rutgers on Sep. 30. Ohio State won 56-0. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor“He’s pretty close. You’d have to ask him, but I think he’s coming along pretty well, but he’s not all the way back,” Alford said.Though Alford said McCall was playing more H-back in fall camp after bouncing back and forth between the hybrid position and running back, the sophomore was used mainly out of the backfield Saturday. “He’s still battling, he’s got to get better,” Alford said. “He’s still a little small in comparison to those guys and we’ve got to still work on some things as far as pass pro and some things like that. And he’s still trying to get back healthy.” The 5-foot-9, 195-pound McCall is not only the shortest running back listed on Ohio State’s roster, but also the lightest. With H-backs Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill succeeding in the hybrid role and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber at full strength, McCall’s playing time might be sparse until he’s fully healthy and earns it with more success in garbage time. Former highly-rated prospects easing into college gameYoung, a former five-star prospect, has made a good impression on the coaching staff over the past few games as he has played meaningful snaps, including some first-team reps against Rutgers. Young has picked up nine tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss, this season. Johnson believes the 60 plays he has played in the last two games will be invaluable to Young’s development.Ohio State freshman defensive end Chase Young (2) waits in between plays in the fourth quarter of the Ohio State- UNLV game on Sept. 23, 2017. Ohio State won 54- 21. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor“This is about a growing process, just learning how to play, get them on the field, how to play at maximum speed at this level,” Johnson said. “And [Young has] done a great job. There’s some growing pains he’ll go through, but so far, so good.”Though Young is physically imposing and listed as 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, do not expect him to play extensive snaps. Johnson likes to be cautious with his freshman linemen. Even if the Buckeyes’ foursome of starting defensive ends was not ahead of him on the depth chart, Young likely would not play much. “The thing I don’t want to do with freshmen is put them in a situation he’s given a chance to fail,” Johnson said. “I want him to have success every time he hits the football field and I don’t want to put him in situations that the game is on the line and he is in the game. I don’t want to do that right now. His time will come.Freshman wideout Trevon Grimes, a former four-star prospect and the highest-rated receiver to commit to Ohio State in his class, caught passes against Army and UNLV, but has not played substantially.“He’s getting there, he’s developing,” Dixon said. “Coming in as a freshman, it’s kind of hard to pick up the college game. But he’s coming along.”Terry McLaurin block justificationIn the second half of Saturday’s game, well after the game was out of reach, redshirt junior wide receiver Terry McLaurin delivered a crushing block on junior linebacker Deonte Roberts, earning an unsportsmanlike penalty and a targeting penalty, the latter of which was rescinded.Ohio State junior wide receiver Terry McLaurin (83) runs the ball in the third quarter against Rutgers on Sep. 30. Ohio State won 56-0. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorIf the officials agreed the hit was targeting, McLaurin would have been prevented from playing in the first half against Maryland. Despite that, Meyer did not seem overly concerned as he honored McLaurin as a “champion” on Monday for his effort against Rutgers. Meyer said though he does not condone the hit and had a “little talk” with the wideout, a Scarlet Knights player took a cheap shot on McLaurin earlier in the game and the Buckeyes wide receiver “carried it with him for a while.”His teammate, redshirt junior wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, agreed with the assessment.“I thought it was a clean hit, I thought it was a real good hit,” Dixon said. “The guy cheap-shotted him earlier in the game. Something happens like that in the the game, you kind of feel disrespected as a man. It was a clean play to me. He did what he’s supposed to do.”
Ohio State junior guard C.J. Jackson (3) talks with head coach Chris Holtmann during a timeout in the first half of the game against Radford on Nov. 12. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Managing Editor for DesignA day after the men’s basketball team hosted an open practices for fans to come out and get a look at the team without star forward Keita Bates-Diop, the Buckeyes will be travelling to Spain to face professional-level talent in Europe.The outcomes of those games may not matter much, but for head coach Chris Holtmann, a successful trip is about making sure his players stay healthy and continue growing as a group.“Health, coming back healthy and a great educational experience and then obviously a chance for us to get to know each other,” Holtmann said. “That’s really what we’re hoping to get out of this trip.”The team will be in Europe until Aug. 11, and will play opponents in Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia.Holtmann said the games are important, but, when looking at things off the court, he said he was excited about how the players will do when put in a new situation.“It’s a little bit like you’re going on a trip with your kids and you’re kind of anxious to see how they respond to seeing a different place,” Holtmann said. “Seeing how our guys, that maybe haven’t been out of the country much or at all, kind of respond to it a new environment.”Holtmann said that the team is a “full go” for the trip, except for Florida State transfer guard C.J. Walker, who will not play this season due to transfer rules.“He and I talked and, it’s a situation where, you know, he’s not playing on this year’s team, so I just said, ‘hey, why don’t you go kind of enjoy some time with family,’” Holtmann said. “He’s not going to be able to play for us even though he is a big part of our team.”After such a successful year in Holtmann’s first season as Ohio State’s coach, expectations continue to be high that he can bring the Buckeyes back to the NCAA Tournament, even without the help of Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate and Kam Williams.Still, Holtmann said that this team is much younger, that he still has a lot to learn about them and that this Spain trip may help with some of the learning.“You really did kind of have some guys [last year] that you said, unless something crazy happens those guys are going to start,” Holtmann said. “We certainly have some returning guys with experience, but I think there maybe are still things that need to be evaluated more with this group.”
Head football coach Urban Meyer will be suspended through Sept. 2 and for the first three games of the season without pay, Ohio State University announced Wednesday.Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith will be suspended without pay through Sept. 16.A two-week investigation found that Meyer and Smith “failed to adhere to the precise requirements of their contracts when they concluded that they needed to await a law enforcement determination to file charges before they reported the otherwise disputed claims of spousal abuse against [former assistant coach] Zach Smith.”“I want to apologize to Buckeye Nation,” Meyer said. “I followed my heart and not my head. I gave the benefit of the doubt to Zach Smith.”Smith said he supports the findings of the report and the actions the university has taken.“I understand I could have done a better job in this instance,” Smith said.The summary of investigative findings and university actions also states though Meyer made misstatements about the allegations made against Zach Smith at Big Ten Media Days, he was not a part of a “deliberate coverup” to keep the former assistant coach on staff.Investigative team leader Mary Jo White said Meyer and Smith both knew about the 2015 events regarding the former assistant coach, saying that they both “did not report” to compliance.When asked if he felt the suspension was fair, Meyer said “I trust and support our president.”After a 14-day investigation that ended Sunday, the Board of Trustees met in an executive session on Wednesday to discuss the results and decide the future of Urban Meyer with President Michael Drake.The Board came to the decision after 12 hours of deliberation at the Longaberger Alumni House.“We looked at the findings and then we considered the range of options that might be available,” Drake said. “Then we worked hard to find a place that was just, fair and appropriate.”Meyer arrived for the meeting with the Board of Trustees at 9:45 a.m. and was later joined by his wife, Shelley Meyer, and Smith.Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave on Aug. 1 after former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy first published the allegations of domestic violence by former Ohio State assistant coach Zach Smith in both 2009 and 2015.Smith was fired from the university on July 23 after his ex-wife filed a domestic violence civil protection order against him.At Big Ten Media Days in July, Meyer said he was aware of the incident in 2009 and believed it had been resolved, allowing Zach Smith to continue to coach on his staff at Florida. However, when asked about another incident from 2015, said, “I can’t say it didn’t happen because I wasn’t there. I was never told about anything.”On Aug. 3, Meyer released his first statement after being placed on paid administrative leave, saying he has “always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures” when learning about domestic violence incidents and “did so regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015.”Meyer also said he was “not adequately prepared” for the questions about the allegations against Smith at Big Ten Media Days in July, saying his intention was not to be misleading or inaccurate.When asked what he would say to Courtney Smith, Zach Smith’s ex-wife, after the suspension was given, Meyer said: “Well, I have a message for everyone involved. For everyone involved in this, I am sorry we are in this situation. I am just sorry we are in this situation.” While offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day served as the acting head coach, Ohio State closed all practices to the media. The university formed an independent board to work on the investigation of Meyer.Through six seasons as the head coach at Ohio State, Meyer posted a record of 73-8, winning the first College Football Playoff in 2014 and giving the school its eighth national championship.With a career record of 46-3 in conference play, Meyer led Ohio State to six Big Ten East titles and two Big Ten championships. In six bowl games, Meyer posted a 4-2 record for the Buckeyes, including a win over USC in the Cotton Bowl.Over the past four years, Ohio State, under Meyer, has produced 26 NFL draft picks, including seven first-round selections. Meyer also coached six consensus All-Americans while he was with the Buckeyes, including defensive end Joey Bosa, who was named an All-American twice.Updated on Aug. 7 at 12:15 a.m. with quotes from the press conference.
A blind D-Day veteran has received a set of replacement medals after his own went missing at a motorway service station.Alfred Barlow, 96, from Stockport, was returning home last month from a pilgrimage to Normandy when the medals were lost.His wife Masie and his grandson noticed they were missing after he visited the gents at Norton Canes services near Walsall on the M6 Toll on June 8.Crimestoppers has offered £5,000 and actor Hugh Grant an additional £1,000 to reunite Mr Barlow with the 1939-1945 Star, the France & Germany Star, the 1939-1945 War Medal and the Palestine Medal.But on Wednesday, he was presented with replacements by Alan Walker, 58, a fellow blind veteran from Hassocks, West Sussex, who was so moved by reading his story that he went out and bought four more medals from a specialist dealer. Mr Barlow, who served with 3rd (Royal Northumberland Fusiliers) Reconnaissance Regiment, and landed on Sword Beach at 10am on D-Day, June 6, 1944, said he was “bitterly disappointed” when he realised the medals were missing.”I’ve got some replacements now. It’s not quite the same, but nevertheless I have got some medals that I have earned.”And that’s the annoying part. I earned those medals during the war for my part on D-Day, going through Europe and chasing the Germans back into Germany.” Speaking at a ceremony organised by Blind Veterans UK at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, Mr Barlow said: “Today has been overwhelming and I never expected all this fuss.”He said: “I am so grateful to all the people who have been kind to me and who have been to see me.”People who don’t know me from Adam and yet they’ve been to see me in my home, I am very grateful to them.” Anyone with information about the lost medals is being asked to call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, or the Blind Veterans UK hotline on 0800 389 7979. Blind D-Day veteran Alfred Barlow, 96, who lost his medals at a motorway service station, with his wife Masie, with replacements that were presented to him at a ceremony at the Hampton Court Flower ShowCredit:Steve Parsons/PA Blind D-Day veteran Alfred Barlow (right), 96, who lost his medals at a motorway service station, is presented with replacements by fellow blind veteran Alan Walker at a ceremony at the Hampton Court Flower ShowCredit:Steve Parsons/PA Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Photo of the lost medalsCredit:PA Mr Barlow, who started receiving support from Blind Veterans UK after losing his sight through macular degeneration, said that he had lost hope of finding the original medals.He added: “I have had offers of medals from other people’s fathers.”One in particular came from Stockport and he offered me his father’s medals.”That’s fantastic. But I wouldn’t want a son of mine giving my medals away just like that.”Nick Caplin, chief executive of Blind Veterans UK, said: “People across the country have been in touch with us, wanting to offer support to try and help Alfred to find his medals again or indeed find replacements.”Just looking at Alfred’s face when he had his medals on his chest again and just talking to Alfred about how much his medals mean to him, is so meaningful.”
She wrote: “What kind of ‘man’ does this on his daughter’s birthday? Unless he stops telling lies about my family we will have to start telling the truth about him.”Stunt used his Tatler interview to declare that he is “as rich as ever”, boasting of owning 200 cars and gambling up to £5 million per night.He also discussed his links both to the notorious Adams crime family and to the Royal family, showing off correspondence with the Prince of Wales and claiming that he dated “a very famous member of the Royal family” for four years but managed to keep it out of the public eye.Stunt said his self-made businessman father, Geoffrey, does not blame Petra for the divorce but “he definitely does blame that dwarf Bernie” for interfering in the marriage.During the marriage, the couple divided their time between a Grade II-listed home in Chelsea, said to be worth £100 million, and a £158 million mansion in Los Angeles that featured 27 bathrooms and a room reserved for wrapping presents. The 87-year-old business magnate went on to say that it is a “pity” that Stunt had insulted the Ecclestone family, adding: “He was a nice guy when he got married.”Writing on Instagram, Petra’s older sister Tamara, 33, criticised Stunt for making the jibes “on his daughter’s birthday”. James Stunt and Petra Ecclestone Stunt arrive at LouLou’s restaurant in Mayfair in 2014 Credit:Keith Hewitt Bernie Ecclestone has hit back at James Stunt for badmouthing his ex-wife. The former Formula One tycoon has criticised Stunt after he claimed that his public image went downhill when he married “a C-list celebrity’s daughter”.Stunt’s six-year marriage to Petra ended in an acrimonious divorce battle last year, in which it was alleged he made a gun gesture at Ecclestone. In an interview with Tatler magazine, Stunt took aim at his former in-laws, referring to Bernie Ecclestone as “that dwarf Bernie”, while calling his wife Slavia “Lady Macbeth”.On Tuesday, Bernie Ecclestone suggested that drugs were to blame for the breakdown of his daughter’s marriage to Stunt.“He got heavily into drugs and that has changed him and they have taken their toll. It is a great shame as James was a nice man when he got married,” Bernie Ecclestone told Mail Online. “I hope he stands out as an example to young people who can see the damage that drugs can do.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. :: The full interview with James Stunt is in the April issue of Tatler, on sale from Thursday