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Dwight Howard joins list of great players to win first NBA title late in their career

The Los Angeles Lakers have closed out the Miami Heat to be crowned 2020 NBA Champions, meaning centre Dwight Howard has finally earned his first championship ring.

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It’s been quite the journey for the veteran who signed a one-year, non-guaranteed deal with the Lakers this past offseason. Each side agreed to put their past behind them to try and help this team get back to title contention, and it ended up being the perfect match as Howard was able to thrive in a reduced role for a championship team.

The eight-time All-Star, eight-time All-NBA, five-time All-Defensive Team and three-time Defensive Player of the Year selection was well on his way to the Hall of Fame even without a title, but finally achieving the highly-coveted championship ring puts a bow on Howard’s decorated career.

In a similar career-arch to 1970s star and Hall of Fame centre Spencer Haywood – who had an equally as decorated career earning an MVP, five All-Star appearances, five All-NBA/ABA selections and other awards such as Rookie of the Year – who had been without a title entering his 30s just like Howard. Electing to join a loaded Lakers team with the likes of rookie Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Haywood also flourished in a reduced role to earn the first championship of his career.

Point being: Howard is not the first great player to latch on to a championship-calibre team and give them key minutes to help earn a title, and he certainly won’t be the last in an age where this is becoming more and more common.

In the 2000s alone, we’ve already seen a few great examples of this. Take a look at some other NBA stars who took the same late path Howard did to the first NBA title of their career.

2020: Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers



Dwight Howard


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Dwight Howard

Experience prior to first title:  15 years in NBA, 34 years old

Resume prior to first title : 8x All-Star, 8x All-NBA, 5x All-Defence, 5x Rebound Champ, 3x Defensive Player of the Year, 2x Blocks Champ, All-Rookie

Howard was widely renowned as one of the best centres in the NBA in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Leading the Orlando Magic to The Finals in 2009, it would have been hard to guess that he’d go another 11 seasons without winning an NBA title.

Putting his pride aside, Howard played a vital role off the bench for the Lakers all season. His efforts on the defensive end and on the glass earned him a spot in the starting lineup down the stretch of their 2020 championship run as Howard was able to embrace a lesser role and make the most of limited minutes.

2019: Marc Gasol, Toronto Raptors



Marc Gasol


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Marc Gasol

Experience prior to first title: 11 years in NBA, 34 years old

Resume prior to first title:  3x All-Star, 2x All-NBA, 1x Defensive Player of the Year, 1x All-Defence, All-Rookie

Gasol’s

Icebox, ‘Valorant’s’ new map, is a test for players and Riot

As later maps came along, the developers introduced elements that upturned tradition. Split retained a mid lane, but angled the map such that attackers were always engaged in a literal uphill battle, with defenders perched in higher ground. Bind scrapped the idea of mid entirely. Now, instead, there were two big sites, connected by a market area through which attackers — or wily flanking defenders — could rotate, and teleporters that bound (get it?) the sites together. Haven upped the ante by adding a third site.

So on Oct. 13, when “Valorant” becomes a game with five maps, what exactly will Icebox, the fifth entry, bring to the table?

“Something that we’re really trying to do is for each map to push the game in a different, unique direction,” said Salvatore “Volcano” Garozzo, level design lead at Riot and a former professional “Counter-Strike” player. “Generally speaking, it’s that premise that comes first: Okay, let’s find this thing about the map that we want to ask players and teams to strategize around.”

The obvious, standout addition is the horizontal zip line that cuts across one of the bomb sites. But the real change, the thing players will feel even if they don’t exactly notice it, is the change in scale. There are longer sight lines. There are tighter corners, and more of them, with little pieces of cover strewn across the map. And, crucially, there are more elevated positions — shipping containers, unnameable hollow metal obelisks, overlooks and rafters — perfect for vertically-inclined agents like Jett, Omen or Raze. And as a result, the new map will test a different skill set than any of those already in rotation.

“When we set out to create Icebox, one of the things we really wanted to try to do is to create this feeling of like, I was thinking almost paintball arena,” said Garozzo. “It does end up being a bit more about adaptive play or quick aim because there’s more verticality to the spots [where] enemies can be, there’s more ways they can sneak around and have creative timings and pathing to catch you off guard.”

“Valorant,” which has been out for roughly five months now, already has a compelling esports scene, and is among the most popular games on Twitch. Its players seem to be quick learners, with conventional wisdom around strategies, gun buys and lineups for ability use already solidifying. And Riot has responded, aware of the fact that the fans want more.

It’s a priority right now to get more maps out quickly. Icebox coming out a few months early is evidence of that,” said Garozzo. “That being said, maps are a lot of hard work and they take a lot of time. So we’re doing our best. But ideally, what we feel right now from talking to a lot of players and pro players and, you know, designers internally and the rest of the team internally, we feel like seven is a pretty sweet spot for the

Pac-12 football players lead way as college athletes speak out

It was a rare and dramatic power play from a group of organized college athletes. But how it was delivered to reporters was noteworthy, too. The message came from the Gmail account of Valentino Daltoso, an offensive lineman at the University of California-Berkeley, and offered the personal email addresses of the other players so reporters could contact them.

“The interests of athletes aren’t always in line with the institutions and coaches,” said Andrew Cooper, a Cal cross-country runner who helped organize the effort. “It was important that we talked directly to the media.”

As college sports navigate their returns, enveloped by issues of racial justice, safety and amateurism, athletes have advocated for themselves this year in unprecedented ways. That’s including how they have delivered their messages.

Many college athletic departments prohibit players from talking to journalists without team permission. Some team handbooks urge players to not speak to the media at all. Others, including University of Alabama and University of Georgia, have policies against freshmen speaking to the media during the regular season. And many schools have policies that monitor or even restrict players’ social media accounts.

But in their efforts to advocate for change this year, players have increasingly cut out their athletic departments. The Pac-12 players maintained correspondence with reporters over several weeks about their negotiations with the conference. When Florida State’s head football coach said in an interview that he was having one-on-one conversations with players about George Floyd and racial justice, defensive lineman Marvin Wilson tweeted that it wasn’t true. Clemson’s football program recently eliminated a long-standing rule barring players from using social media, after star quarterback Trevor Lawrence tweeted about players’ rights and the return of the season over the summer.

As games are canceled and some universities withhold information about positive coronavirus tests in football programs, it’s especially critical that players are allowed to speak out, said Frank LoMonte, the head of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida.

“We need to hear the voices of those most affected, who are putting their health and safety at risk to entertain us,” LoMonte said, calling schools “unduly secretive.” “It’s interesting to hear from athletes in normal times; it’s more important now.”

Some of those policies may even be unconstitutional, LoMonte said. Last month he wrote an article published in the Nebraska Law Review arguing that any restriction of speech for college athletes at public universities violates their constitutional rights.

“Anytime a government agency imposes a blanket restraint that you’re not allowed to be heard, it will be almost impossible to justify that restraint constitutionally,” said LoMonte, who previously headed the Student Press Law Center in Washington.

At least one school has, in fact, walked back its policy for fear of legal consequences. After a union drive by its football team, Northwestern University changed its team handbook in 2016. “You should never agree to an interview unless the interview has been arranged by the athletic communications office,” it once read. Now:

Three University of Michigan players selected in 2020 NHL Draft

Michigan’s 10-member freshman class should be one of the most exciting in college hockey this season.

Three were selected in the 2020 NHL Draft, which began Tuesday night and concluded Wednesday.

Forward Brendan Brisson was drafted in the first round (29th overall) by the Vegas Golden Knights, becoming the 25th player in program history to be selected in the first round – an NCAA record. Forward Thomas Bordeleau was taken by the San Jose Sharks in the second round (38th overall), while defenseman Jacob Truscott was a fifth-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks (144th overall).

Meanwhile, defenseman Ethan Edwards, who is committed to Michigan for the 2021-22 season, was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the fourth round at 120th overall. He will play next season with the Sioux City Musketeers in the United States Hockey League.

Brisson was named the United States Hockey League Rookie of the Year last season after recording 24 goals and 35 assists in 59 games for the Chicago Steel. He is Michigan’s fifth first-round pick in the past four years.

The 5-foot-9 Bordeleau, whose father and grandfather both played in the NHL, led the U.S. National Team Development Program U-18 team in goals (16) and assists (30) last season.

Truscott was Bordeleau’s teammate with the NTDP, finishing with 21 points in 47 games in 2019-20.

But those three aren’t the ONLY NHL prospects in the freshman class. Defenseman Owen Power and forwards Matty Beniers and Kent Johnson are projected to be first-round picks in 2021, while goalie Erik Portillo was a third-round pick in 2019.

Plus, Michigan’s two first-round picks in 2019 – defenseman Cam York and forward Johnny Beecher – are returning for their sophomore seasons.

NCAA players can sign pro contracts at any time during their college careers.

The Wolverines, who finished 18-14-4 in 2019-20, will open the season next month after the Big Ten announced Tuesday that it will begin as soon as Nov. 13. It was supposed to begin in early October, but the Hockey Commissioners Association announced Sept. 10 that the start of the season would be delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Monte Lynch reveals racist abuse from players and supporters during playing career

Former England international Monte Lynch has become the latest player to reveal that he experienced racial abuse during his time in county cricket.

Lynch, who was born in what is now known as Guyana but moved to London as a 13-year-old, enjoyed a long country career with Surrey and then Gloucestershire. He also played three ODIs for England in 1988 and, since his retirement as a player, has enjoyed a secondary career as a coach.

Now, in an interview with The Cricketer magazine, he has claimed he was abused by both fellow players and spectators during his playing career and that he intends to release a tell-all autobiography in 2021.

“Racist notes were slipped under my hotel [room] door,” Lynch said. “My coffin was filled with orange juice and milk. There were lots of issues.

“At Headingley, when I played the ODI, three Yorkshiremen walked past and said: ‘We are going to give you black ***** a good ******* hiding tomorrow.’ We were often called ‘chocs’ and referred to as ‘you lot’.”

Lynch’s comments are the latest in a series of such revelations that have rocked English cricket this year. Perhaps inspired by events in America, and the death of George Floyd in particular, a series of former players have come forward with details of their own struggles with racism in cricket.

Among them, Michael Carberry suggested “cricket is rife with racism”, and Azeem Rafiq suggested Yorkshire, as a cricket club, was “institutionally racist”.

Meanwhile, Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent provided compelling experiences of their own on the issue for both ESPNcricinfo and on Sky.

As a result, Yorkshire has called for an investigation into the allegations while the ECB is in the process of setting up a Diversity and Inclusion taskforce.

“Sky asked me on with Ebony Rainford-Brent and Michael Holding,” Lynch added. “But I did not want to air my views nor reveal what happened to me on TV.

“People keep asking why I haven’t said anything but it will be in a book I plan to bring out next summer. It will cause a stir. It will say it all.

“Years later former players hugged me and said that they wished they had done something to help me.”

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Why these top men’s college basketball players could see their 3-point accuracy improve this season

The NCAA moved the 3-point line back from 20 feet, 9 inches to 22 feet, 1¾ inches last season, and across Division I, accuracy from beyond the arc fell from 34.4% in 2018-19 to 33.3% in 2019-20. One possibility for this coming season is D-I teams will record a similar conversion rate for a second straight year and, indeed, for several years to come.

That’s what happened the last time the line was moved back, prior to the 2008-09 season. (The 3-point line had been 19 feet, 9 inches.) It’s conceivable that the sport’s 3-point success rate has been, in effect, reset at a slightly lower level. What could change this season, however, is which players are faring poorly from beyond the arc, even as the overall bottom line stays more or less the same.

For a few years now, I’ve kept my eye on “bad” 3-point shooters who meet certain thresholds. Players who attempt more than 100 3-pointers in a season, shoot under 30% from beyond the arc and are either freshmen or sophomores on major conference teams qualify as players of interest in my real-world experiment.

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