Veteran center Jason Collins announced his retirement Wednesday, officially ending his 13-year NBA career.Collins last took the court as a member of the Brooklyn Nets a season ago, when he became the first openly gay active player in the history of North America’s “big four” professional sports leagues.“It feels wonderful to have been part of these milestones for sports and for gay rights, and to have been embraced by the public, the coaches, the players, the league and history,” Collins wrote in Sports Illustrated this week.Collins’s most important legacy will be as a trailblazer for the LGBT movement, but his retirement also deserves a footnote for his status as one of the first “hidden” stars of the NBA’s advanced stats movement.In 2005, Collins headlined a group of unsung players whose value was only beginning to emerge via a new metric known as adjusted plus/minus (APM). Controlling for every other player on the court (for both teams), APM attempted to determine how much effect an individual had on his team’s per-possession scoring margin. And Collins, whose meager per-game averages would normally render him invisible to statistical analysts, had a far greater one than his conventional stats would suggest.“According to [APM expert Dan] Rosenbaum’s calculations, Collins is not a stiff at all but one of the NBA’s premier defensive centers: the fourth-most effective in the league over the last three seasons,” SI’s Chris Ballard wrote before the 2005-06 NBA season. “Over the last three seasons the Nets have been remarkably more effective at the defensive end with Collins in the lineup; they foul less, allow fewer free throws, rebound better and allow fewer points. ‘He’s very consistent and consistently very good,’ says Rosenbaum, ‘meaning he’s either the luckiest center alive and teams just fall apart when he’s on the court, or he’s doing something.’”According to regularized APM (RAPM), a Bayesian version of APM that forms the basis of ESPN’s new Real Plus/Minus stat, Collins continued to be an above-average on-court presence for one more season. (Then, the negative effect of his nonexistent offensive contributions began to outweigh his elite defense.) But over the 2001-2014 period for which Regularized APM can be calculated, Collins came out as a net positive (+1.6 points per 100 possessions) relative to the average NBA player.For a player who averaged merely 3.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game over his career — with a lifetime player efficiency rating (PER) of 7.0 — that’s an astonishing accomplishment. If we map every player’s RAPM (minimum 10,000 minutes played) against that which we would expect solely from his PER, a useful per-minute proxy for the conventional statistical perception of a player, Collins comes out as the NBA’s most underrated player of the past decade and a half.For more reasons than one, Collins was a player whose impact on the NBA can’t be divined from the box score alone.
The Sacramento Kings fired their head coach, Mike Malone, on Sunday after the team got off to a sub-.500 start this season. If that doesn’t sound earth-shattering, it’s because the Kings have been lousy for a while. They haven’t finished a season above .500 since 2006 and have had seven head coaches (including Malone and his interim replacement, Tyrone Corbin) over that span. Yes, the Kings fired another coach. So what?The Kings’ abrupt decision to fire Malone is a big deal because it flies in the face of what tends to keep coaches employed. In April, FiveThirtyEight’s editor in chief, Nate Silver, looked at NBA coaching dismissals and found a strong relationship between firings and whether the team underperformed the preseason Las Vegas over/under win totals. Win just 41 games with a team expected by Vegas to win 50? There’s a roughly 50 percent chance you’ll get fired after the season. (Sorry!) But win 41 games with a team Vegas expects to win 30? Nate’s model says there’s just an 8.2 percent probability of being canned for that performance.The latter is what Malone was on pace to do. In October, the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino listed the Kings’ over/under as 30.5 wins, while the offshore sportsbook Bovada set that number at 29.5 wins. (Our projections also called for 29 wins.) In other words, the Kings were essentially expected to be a 30-win team. And yet Basketball-Reference.com’s playoff forecast projects them to win 41.2 games by the end of the season, based on a combination of their point differential, schedule strength and remaining opponents.(It’s also worth noting that the past nine games of Malone’s Kings tenure were spent without his best player, DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins was having a lights-out season before coming down with viral meningitis in late November. It’s likely the Kings’ win projection would be even stronger had Cousins been active in the team’s most recent games.)Piloting a team with 30-win talent to 41 wins typically earns a head coach job security 92 percent of the time, but that wasn’t enough for Malone. Of course, this eventuality is built into the model, which would be wrong if 8 percent of coaches who exceeded expectations, like Malone, didn’t get the ax. That 8 percent can, in part, be explained by other aspects of a coach’s performance that don’t involve simply winning more than was expected.For instance, the Kings’ brain trust (owner Vivek Ranadive and general manager Pete D’Alessandro) reportedly took issue with some of Malone’s stylistic decisions, such as the pace at which the team played and the emphasis on defense over offense. Some have even suggested that Malone’s not having been hand-picked by D’Alessandro hurt his cause substantially.For what it’s worth, I couldn’t find a statistically significant effect for how being hired by a different GM affects coaching dismissal rates. Using Basketball-Reference’s database of NBA executives, I looked at everyone who was an NBA coach (but not in a dual role as GM and coach) to begin a season since 1985-86, setting up a regression to predict whether someone would be fired before the following season began. As Nate found in his research, wins against expectation (in this case, set using a regressed-to-the-mean version of the team’s Pythagorean record from the previous season) was a highly significant predictor of employment. But a dummy variable for whether the team’s current GM was the same GM who originally hired the coach was nowhere near significant.In any event, Malone’s firing was nothing if not an outlier, according to the metrics that tend to predict whether a coach will hold onto his job. It goes to prove that, in the NBA, no job is truly safe.
Jack JohnsonWhen he beat Tommy Burns for the world heavyweight championship in 1908, Johnson became the first Black man to hold the title that Mike Tyson decades later accurately called the “baddest man on the planet.” After Johnson came many other Black champs in the weight class once considered the most exciting in the sport.
The year: 776 B.C. The place: Olympia, Greece.Under a banner of truce, the greatest athletes in the land gather together to glorify their deities in contests featuring feats of strength, speed and skill. Coroebus, a cook by trade, from the nearby city-state of Elis, was crowned the first Olympic champion after having won a footrace that spanned 210 yards. He was awarded a crown of olive wreathes.Flash forward to the year 2010 in Vancouver, British Columbia, on the western coast of Canada. American figure skater Johnny Weir takes to the ice wearing an outfit adorned with faux fox fur and enough shiny sequins to guide a mariner back to port on a dark night in choppy waters.To an Athenian warrior displaced in time, these winter Games would seem far removed from the original spirit of the Olympics. In fact, Weir and the rest of his figure-skating and ice-dancing ilk would probably have been the ones the ancient Greeks abandoned at birth to perish from exposure.And lest someone accuse me of ulterior motives in singling out the figure skaters, I assure you that by the end of the page, there will be enough mockery spread around for all. For these 2010 Winter Olympic Games are rife with mockable moments.It starts with the biathlon. While perhaps trying to recapture the martial spirit of the original Olympics, someone somewhere came up with the brilliant idea to simply introduce gunfire to an existing winter sport; namely, cross country skiing. Biathletes ski around the course, pausing at regular intervals to fire off some shots with the rifles they have strapped to their backs. Because skiing without guns is like, I don’t know, grocery shopping without guns. It doesn’t sound as ludicrous as it actually is until you try to envision Usain Bolt stopping between legs of the 4×400 relay to squeeze off a few rounds at some skeet.There is no shortage of jokes to be made at the expense of frozen shuffleboard, also known as curling. The first time I tried to watch this silly spectacle, I had to spend several moments trying to figure out if it was the German men’s or women’s teams competing. To the eternal sorrow of German men everywhere, it was the women.Then there are the sledding events. Don’t get me wrong, I fondly recall sledding as something fun to do at Blendon Woods when school got canceled. That does not mean that I can envision Leonidas’ mighty 300 clinging tightly to one another, luging their way two-by-two into the Hot Gates of Thermopylae to stave off Xerxes’ mighty Persian hordes.Or that those rugged Spartans would have welcomed into their midst the Olympic snowboarding contingent. It’s tough to imagine a Spartan unit led by Shaun “Flying Tomato” White or Scotty Lago, with their free-wheeling, Red Bull-drinking exploits.I enjoyed a personal moment of mean-spirited mirth Sunday evening when the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team defeated our 51st state, known in some circles as Canada. I reveled in the absolute devastation on the faces of the Canadian faithful as their “big brothers” to the south beat them down at their own game while mom and dad weren’t looking.Their pained expressions seemed to say, “You already have straight bacon and policemen who don’t look like Ronald McDonald on horseback; can’t we have anything for ourselves? We already gave you Celine Dion and Martin Short.”And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the interesting dress code for this year’s games. It can be summed up in one word: tacky. It’s bad enough that one of the ice dancers looked like he was actually wearing a dead, black swan for a costume. It was as though his dance partner had shoved him inside the swan to keep him warm from the ravages of the western-Canadian cold, a scene eerily reminiscent of Han Solo shoving Luke Skywalker inside the guts of a Tauntaun on the frozen ice-world of Hoth.But someone actually had to explain to the Russian ice-dancing duo that it might not be in good taste to dress up in fake-Aboriginal costumes with foliage stapled to them.You might be wondering where all the vitriol is coming from and why I don’t get caught up in the nationalistic fervor that generally accompanies the Olympic Games. Well, I’m willing to admit to the fact that my dabbles with winter sports have always ended in humiliation.The first time I was able to successfully ski down Mad River Mountain’s bunny hill, I nearly killed a woman by neglecting to learn how to stop. I once had to be helped from the ice skating rink at the Chiller by a magnanimous 7-year-old.But the fact remains that some of these farcical Olympic “sports” are more like hobbies and less like athletic competition. I remain steadfast in my belief that a small cadre of ancient Greeks could conquer all of the Olympic village.At least until they come to the hockey villas.
For a player who played two years of college basketball, former Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger’s rÃ©sumÃ© is hard to top. Sullinger was an All-American in each of his two seasons at OSU, averaging 17.3 points per game and about 9.7 rebounds per game over the course of his collegiate career. As a freshman, he led the Buckeyes to a 34-win season which ended in a Sweet 16 loss. As a sophomore, he led OSU to the Final Four, where their run ended against Kansas. Wednesday, Sullinger announced that he would declare for the 2012 NBA Draft. He is a skilled post player who managed to average 17.5 points per game for his sophomore season, even though he faced double-team or triple-team defense nearly every time he touched the ball in the paint. He was able to do this because of his impressive array of post moves – no player in college basketball last season was better at using the hook shot to score over multiple defenders. Sullinger’s post scoring and rebounding abilities make him a likely top-10 draft selection, but there are many deficiencies in his game that he must overcome to be successful at the professional level. Sullinger stands at 6-foot-9, which is slightly short for an NBA power forward. The bigger problem for Sullinger, however, is that he will be a subpar athlete by NBA standards. He does not have an impressive vertical leap, and lacks the ability to play “above the rim” that most NBA forwards can. Dunking the basketball often looked like a struggle for him during his college career, a skill that comes easy for most NBA power forwards. Additionally, his lack of athleticism will hurt his ability to be an NBA shot-blocker. He averaged less than one block per game over his two-year OSU career, so that has never been a strength of his game. He is a well-built, 265-pound power forward, but even this past season, he often looked like he was still getting used to his body. He has the physical strength to physically dominate opponents in the paint, but his play could often be characterized by a lack of aggressiveness and shying away from contact. He must be more aggressive against NBA big men to make up for his lack of athleticism. Sullinger is often compared to Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love. In some facets, this comparison makes sense. Love is slightly taller at 6-foot-10, but like Sullinger, he lacks the height and athleticism of top NBA big men. Love only played one season of college basketball at UCLA, but had similar statistics to Sullinger, averaging 17.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Both players were among the best players in college basketball based on their technical skill sets, even though they lack elite athleticism. Comparing Sullinger to Love now, however, is giving Sullinger too much credit. Love, in his fourth season in the NBA, has emerged as one of the league’s best power forwards. As of Monday afternoon, he ranked 4th in the NBA with 26.5 points per game and 2nd with 13.5 rebounds per game. In addition to the skills Sullinger has, Love is a terrific 3-point shooter, a skill unlikely to translate to the next level for Sullinger. Although Sullinger did shoot 40 percent from beyond the arc in his sophomore season, he only attempted 40 3-point shots. He is a good mid-range field goal shooter in the NBA, but will have to become a more consistent shooter to be successful shooting from beyond the NBA-range 3-point arc. By looking at his statistics and achievements on paper, Sullinger appears to be a very good NBA prospect. However, having watched him over the course of two seasons at OSU, he was not physically impressive enough to convince me that his game will translate to NBA success. Sullinger’s post moves and rebounding ability should make him a productive professional player, but his lack of athleticism, aggressiveness and ability to make plays away from the basket are serious detriments to his NBA potential.
hat perhaps was expected to be an easy win for the Ohio State men’s lacrosse team Saturday might have proved more challenging than originally thought. The Buckeyes (9-3, 4-2) had to overcome a halftime deficit to earn a 10-9 victory at Air Force Saturday, which stumbled into the contest with a 1-4 Eastern College Athletic Conference record. Now on a three-game winning streak, OSU has secured a playoff spot by guaranteeing at least a top-four finish in the ECAC. The Buckeyes are tied for third in the ECAC standings heading into their regular season finale Saturday. No matter what happens during the final weekend of the season, OSU will be joined by Loyola (Md.), Denver and Fairfield in the conference tournament, since Fairfield clinched its playoff spot Saturday with a 10-9 overtime victory at Denver. OSU jumped out to an early 2-0 lead Saturday against Air Force (6-7, 1-5), but let the Falcons climb their way back into the game, finishing the first quarter tied at four. The Falcons, though, took a one-point lead into halftime, 7-6, before conceding three straight goals in the third quarter and falling behind for good. Co-captain and senior attacker Logan Schuss continued his run of good form, scoring four goals for the Buckeyes, including the series of three in the third quarter, and added one assist. It was his third consecutive game where he scored at least five points, bringing his career total moves to 216, 11 back of second place on the Buckeyes’ all-time points list. Co-captain and senior midfielder Dominique Alexander added a career-high five points, including two goals, and senior midfielder Trey Wilkes won 15 of 21 faceoffs. Having missed the last two games due to injury, junior goalkeeper Greg Dutton made his return for OSU in outstanding fashion on Saturday with a career-high 15 saves against the Falcons. The losses to Denver and Loyola earlier in the year mean that the Buckeyes will finish third in the ECAC with a win over Fairfield Saturday but will drop to fourth with a loss. The Buckeyes are set to close the regular season and celebrate their Senior Day at home against Fairfield on Saturday at 1 p.m.
The Jane and Walt Dennis Golf Performance Center allows OSU’s golf programs to practice year round, no matter the weather.Credit: Whitney Wilson / Lantern reporterAbout a year after opening, Ohio State’s $6.3 million state-of-the-art golf facility is paying dividends in more ways than one.Not only are the current OSU golfers able to practice regardless of weather, but the indoor facility is helping the coaches bring in future Buckeyes as well.“It has allowed us to recruit kids from all over the country now, where before most of the kids we were recruiting were from the Midwest or from cold weather climates,” men’s golf coach Donnie Darr said. “That stigmatism of not being able to develop your game in the Midwest because it’s cold is gone now because we do have a place to practice.”The Jane and Walt Dennis Golf Performance Center was named a Design Excellence Recognition Program Award recipient by the American Society of Golf Course Architects earlier this year. The university’s golf programs received the 20,800-square-foot facility in February 2014.Darr said the facility has benefited his players enormously in terms of practicing, in addition to the help in recruiting.“The biggest advantage the facility offers us is that we have the opportunity to develop our skills year-round and we don’t have to take that break for a couple months like we’ve had to do in the past,” Darr said. “In the past, we’ve had four months where other teams were getting better and we weren’t and so we were falling further behind.”Women’s golf coach Therese Hession said players benefit the most when it comes to the finer portions of the game.“The biggest asset has been to our short game, a lot of putting practice, and a lot of short-game chipping and putting,” Hession said. “The facility aids us in putting too, having greens with different surfaces and speeds. Where we were in California (for the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge), greens were really fast, so we were able to adjust to them quicker, whereas in Peoria, Arizona, (for the Westbrook Spring Invitational), it’s a lot slower, so I think speed control has been good for us.”Women’s golf assistant coach Lisa Strom said the facility has also provided a place for players to spend their spare time.“The facility has provided a great environment for not only golf but also the camaraderie between the teams and also amongst ourselves,” Strom said. “You find that the team members come in here a lot more to study and lingering to practice on their own.”Darr said while it is difficult for his team to develop a playing mentality after practicing indoors for half of the year, the players have found a way to get a match mindset.“The playing mentality is hard,” Darr said. “One of the things we do is we try to simulate games. We will simulate a round of golf when they’re hitting balls, we’ll visualize, ‘OK, I’m going to hit the first tee shot at the next tournament’ and they’ll work their way through 18 holes. That’s the best way of getting back into playing again.”Darr said his players are not limited in terms of practicing with specific golf clubs, showing appreciation for the team’s spacious facility.“Mostly the building was designed for chipping and pitching and so we’ve been able to do that a lot in here,” Darr said. “You can also hit golf balls in the building, you can hit it 50 yards before you get to the other end, where there is a net. We also have a net that comes down in the middle of the building, so if we do want to hit pitching wedges or 8-irons inside the building, we can do that as well.”Darr said the building has required little upkeep thus far, sustaining excellent condition.“From a maintenance standpoint on the building, you do have to do a little bit of maintenance to the turf but it’s nothing in depth,” Darr said. “There’s a bunker in there that you’ve got to rake and maintain, but for the most part, it’s fairly common sense practices.”The Buckeyes are set to continue practicing in the facility until traveling to Scottsdale, Ariz., for the Desert Mountain Intercollegiate, scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
Zach Farmer’s No. 34 is written on the mound at Bill Davis Stadium after his passing on Aug. 4, 2015. Credit: Ryan Cooper / Sports EditorStay strong, don’t give up and keep fighting.Those are the words Zach Farmer lived by throughout his battle with cancer; and although the former Ohio State pitcher may have lost his battle with acute myeloid leukemia, he is still inspiring his teammates and coaches to live their lives to the fullest.OSU baseball coach Greg Beals said that Farmer’s legacy will live on well past his 21 years of life.“We learned a lot from Zach and his positive outlook, just that attitude that he was going to make it all good, was absolutely one of his strongest characteristics, no doubt,” Beals said Tuesday afternoon. Farmer passed away earlier that morning.OSU held a memorial service in honor of Farmer’s life at Bill Davis Stadium, where Farmer’s No. 34 was added to the pitcher’s mound in tribute. Beals said he knows Farmer will be watching over his former team.“We’re certainly going to have a guardian angel,” Beals said. “He’ll be there for our pitchers and our whole team. Today, I just felt it was proper to put his number on the mound. We’re going to light this stadium up tonight and keep the lights on tonight, so he can look down on us.”Beals said that Farmer’s fight has brought the team closer, reminding them to hold every day precious.“We talk about brotherhood,” Beals said. “It’s not an opportunity we’re certainly looking for, but it does present an opportunity for that brotherhood to strengthen and grow and that’s what Zach would want, no doubt about it. Not for it to benefit us as a team, but to benefit each of us as individuals, to take advantage of our opportunities, not to take things for granted, that life is precious and we need to attack every day like Zach did.”Adam Niemeyer, a rising redshirt sophomore pitcher for the Buckeyes, said he and his teammates are supporting each other through this tough time.“We’re all just there for each other, helping each other through it, talking to each other and just really praying for Zach’s family because that’s the most important thing right now,” Niemeyer said.Niemeyer said the last time he saw Farmer was when a group of players visited Farmer at his family’s home last week in Piketon, Ohio.“We just hung out with him,” Niemeyer said. ”It was actually during the Hall of Fame induction ceremony when Randy Johnson gave him a shout out. It was pretty cool to be there with him watching that stuff all happen, and we just hung out like it was a normal day — it was a good day.”Then-freshman pitcher Zach Farmer throws a pitch against Toledo on April 2, 2014. Farmer passed away on Tuesday from a second bout of leukemia.Credit: Lantern file photoFarmer was considered a professional prospect before arriving to OSU, but Niemeyer said his attitude didn’t give off the slightest bit of arrogance.“Zach was a great kid,” Niemeyer said. “Great teammate, very unselfish person. He was a very touted recruit out of high school, had the opportunity to get drafted out of high school, but just knowing Zach, you never would’ve known that just from talking to him. He was a very humble kid, good kid, a great teammate, and we’re going to miss him.”In Farmer’s one season at OSU, he compiled a 6-4 record with a 3.28 ERA before being diagnosed with leukemia. Farmer fought hard and initially thought he had beaten the illness — announcing he was cancer free just a couple of months after the diagnosis — but his victory was short-lived as the cancer returned after his body rejected the bone-marrow transplant — a condition known as graft-versus-host disease.Farmer opted to go through a second chemotherapy treatment — which was not compatible with the treatment for GVHD — to try to fight off the cancer, but it was too late, as his lungs began to fail him.Before he passed, Farmer married his girlfriend of four years, Kelsie Mays, who took his last name after marriage. They had their reception in the gymnasium of Farmer’s former school — Piketon High School — on July 19, just days after he learned of his fatal diagnosis.His former teammate Niemeyer said Farmer’s life and death will provide extra motivation for the Buckeyes this upcoming season.“It’s definitely going to be something to play for, it’s always going to be on our minds,” Niemeyer said. “You can never really take anything for granted. It really puts things into perspective, and it will give us something to play for this spring.”Was privileged to know the person behind the pitcher. Gone too soon but his inspiration & love will live on.God bless the Farmer family #RIP— Nick Sergakis (@SurgieeBaby) August 4, 2015Lost a brother today. I will never forget how Zach Farmer inspired me and so many others with his battle. Rest easy Farm Boy #ZF11— Pat Porter (@Pat_Porter3) August 4, 2015
The Airlander 10, part plane, part airshipCredit:Chris Radburn Chief executive Stephen McGlennan said he thinks there will be plenty of customers for the vehicle – both civilian and military – because of its potential to gather data and conduct surveillance for days on end.”What it does now, and will do, is fly, point to point, a bit like a giant helicopter, taking bigger loads, longer distances, cheaper, safer and crucially, without the same damage to the environment,” he said.The aircraft was initially developed for the US military, which planned to use it for surveillance in Afghanistan.The US blimp programme was scrapped in 2013 and since then Hybrid Air Vehicles, a small British aviation firm that dreams of ushering in a new era for airships, has sought funding from government agencies and individual donors.The vast aircraft is based at Cardington, where the first British airships were built during and after World War I. The stately aircraft performed a circuit of the area – watched by hundreds of local people who had parked their cars around the perimeter of the airfield – before touching down about half an hour later as dusk fell.The Airlander is designed to use less fuel than a plane, but carry heavier loads than conventional airships.Its developer, Hybrid Air Vehicles, says it can reach 16,000 feet, travel at up to 90 miles-per-hour and stay aloft for up to two weeks. A blimp-shaped, helium-filled airship considered the world’s largest aircraft flew for the first time on Wednesday with a short but historic jaunt over an airfield in central England.Engines roaring, the 302-foot Airlander 10 rose slowly into the air from Cardington airfield, 45 miles north of London.A hybrid of blimp, helicopter and plane, it can stay aloft for days at a time and has been nicknamed the ‘flying bum’ because of its bulbous front end. The Airlander 10Credit:SOUTH BEDS NEWS AGENCY 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.