College Blog Blog Network

Charles Barkley: It was ‘uncomfortable’ to watch Isaiah Thomas cry on sideline one day after sister’s death

04.16.17 at 9:57 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 33 points Sunday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 33 points Sunday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas decided to play Sunday one day after his younger sister was killed in a one-car crash. On TNT’s “Inside the NBA,” analyst Charles Barkley implied he thinks it was a mistake.

Prior to tip-off in Game 1 of the Celtics’ first-round playoff series against the Bulls, TNT showed footage of Thomas crying on the sidelines next to Avery Bradley, who was consoling him. Barkley said he thinks Thomas appeared too distraught to play.

“I’m not feeling comfortable with him sitting on the sideline crying like that. That makes me uncomfortable, because that tells me he’s not in shape to play” the outspoken commentator said. “I don’t know how this night is going to turn out, but to be sitting on the sideline a few minutes before the game, crying, that makes me uncomfortable for him. That’s just not a good look, in my personal opinion.”

Thomas’ 22-year-old sister, Chyna, died around 5:00 a.m. Saturday when her 1998 Toyota Camry veered off an Interstate in Federal Way, Wash. and crashed into a barrier. When the starting lineups were announced Sunday, Thomas received an emotional welcome from the T.D. Garden crowd. The All-Star point guard led all scorers with 33 points in the Celtics’ 106-102 losing effort.

Shaquille O’Neal, who hosts with Barkley, offered a different viewpoint on the subject. He said he went through a similar situation in his career after his grandmother had passed away, and originally didn’t think he would be able to suit up. But a conversation with his parents changed his mind.

“I didn’t feel like doing anything. The Magic said, ‘Take your time, we don’t need you to come back.” he explained. “I was just traveling. I was in New Jersey, I just drove to Atlanta, drove to Savannah, drove to Dublin. But then my mom and dad said, ‘OK. She’s in a better place, she’s watching you. You need to continue what you do. She’ll be proud of you; she’ll be watching.’ That’s why I played.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Charles Barkley, Isaiah Thomas,

Thinking out loud: Division I college recruiting game is crap-shoot

04.14.17 at 6:00 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to my favorite Centerfold?

— The Division I college recruiting game is such a crap-shoot. Sure, coaches scout and recognize talent, then try to convince a 17 or 18-year-old kid that his (or her) school is the place they should spend their formative years. And if the kid doesn’t end up meeting the coaches’ expectations?

— Nothing, really. The kid gets a free ride to school, and if the coach misses on more than they correctly guess upon, the coach is often looking for another job. 30, 40 and 50+ year old adults constantly, year after year, put their fate squarely on the shoulders of 18-year-old kids who have a hard-enough time deciding between burgers at In-N-Out and Shake Shack.

— What does this say about coaches? And for the record, I’ll take In-N-Out, animal style. But Shake Shack is coming on strong.

— At any rate, Providence received a verbal commitment from a pretty good basketball recruit this week, 6-2 point guard Makai Ashton-Langford. The “experts” say he’s one of the best in the country at his position, and that he could be the best player to pick PC since Kris Dunn (and Ricky Ledo) chose the Friars in 2012.

— Sounds great, amiright? If, of course, he lives up to the heavy burden of expectation which is presently being placed upon his shoulders. Fair or not, that’s what happens when kids hyped-up by these so-called adult experts eventually land on a campus. Not everyone winds up living happily ever after.

— But Friar fans could also end up being very happy that Ashton-Langford landed on THEIR campus, after once telling UConn he was first headed to Storrs. Time will tell, of course.

— What’s the trickle-down effect? More (and better) recruits coming your way is what a program hopes for. But unless you’ve been one of the true blue-bloods of the college game, where your brand and logo mean as much as your talent level, it’s difficult to maintain a competitive advantage when everyone has playing time to sell to elite athletes.

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Aaron Hernandez acquitted in 2012 double murder case

04.14.17 at 3:17 pm ET
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Aaron Hernandez. The Sun Chronicle/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

Aaron Hernandez was acquitted Friday in 2012 double murder case. The Sun Chronicle/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

A jury cleared Aaron Hernandez Friday of his role in a double murder. The former Patriots tight end was accused of killing two men, Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, in a drive-by shooting in Boston’s Theatre District in July 2012. He’s already serving a life sentence for the Odin Lloyd shooting in June 2013.

Unlike the Lloyd case, where there was an abundance of tangible evidence that tied Hernandez to the crime, the prosecution was forced to rely on a flawed eyewitness during this trial. The defense characterized Alexander Bradley, an admitted drug dealer who says he was in the car when Hernandez shot and killed the two victims, as untrustworthy. He’s currently serving a four-year prison sentence in Connecticut for shooting up a Hartford bar in 2014.

According to Bradley’s testimony, Hernandez became enraged when de Abreu spilled a drink on him and didn’t act apologetically afterwards. Later in the night, when they spotted de Abreu and Furtado in an SUV, Bradley says Hernandez pulled up next to them and fired five bullets into their car. The prosecution contested Hernandez’s body tattoos commemorate the killings.

Though video from that night shows Hernandez and Bradley entering the silver SVU that used during the shooting, there’s no clear evidence Hernandez pulled the trigger. Baez said last week Bradley had an “incentive to lie,” since he was offered immunity to testify against his former friend. Bradley also says Hernandez shot him in the face during a dispute months after the murders. The jury also found Hernandez not guilty of witness intimidation and all other charges except illegal possession of a firearm. He was sentenced four to five years for that offense.

Bradley’s inconsistencies, such as his refuted story about Hernandez getting angry when Abreu spilled the drink on him, appeared to be too much for the jury to overlook. There’s also no DNA evidence that links Hernandez to the crime.

Despite the not guilty verdict, Hernandez will head back behind bars. He intends to appeal the Lloyd murder conviction.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez,

Happy 10-year anniversary to the ‘Fenway Pizza Throw’

04.14.17 at 2:44 pm ET
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There have been many great moments in Fenway Park history: Dave Roberts stealing second base, Carlton Fisk’s ‘shot heard ’round the world,’ numerous David Ortiz walk-offs. But perhaps nothing compares to April 16, 2007, when somebody threw a pizza.

The Red Sox were leading the Angels 7-1 during their annual Patriots’ Day matinee when J.D. Drew stepped up to the plate in the seventh inning. He popped a foul ball into the left field stands, and it ricocheted off the hands of a fan back onto the field. At first glance, the event appeared to be an ordinary occurrence. But replay showed it was anything but.

As it turns out, somebody hurled a slice of pizza at the fan who was trying to catch the foul ball. Jason Sole, the victim, was allegedly heckling the assailants, Matt Madore and Danny Kelly, for bringing an entire pie into the section. Madore told the Boston Herald his buddy tossed the pizza at Sole for retribution.

“Next thing I know, there’s a fly ball to left field and it goes foul and my buddy says, ‘You want some pizza now?’ And he hits him right in the face,” Madore said. “Hey, the guy wasn’t paying attention. When you’re in the stands you’ve got to be ready for anything—a foul ball, a flying slice of pizza, everything.”

Once NESN broadcasters Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy saw the footage, they couldn’t control themselves for the rest of the half-inning. Since the 10-year anniversary of the incident is coming up this weekend, this is the perfect time to re-watch the carnage. The glorious footage is below:

Read More: Fenway Park,

Watch Jet the producer take on Alex Reimer in arm wrestling match

04.14.17 at 10:39 am ET
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Jet the producer took on Alex Reimer in an arm wrestling match for the ages Friday morning on the Kirk & Callahan show.

Check out the video below.

Jose Fernandez should not be honored with a statue

04.14.17 at 10:06 am ET
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ESPNThe mixed legacy of Jose Fernandez will include a bronze statue on the plaza at Marlins Park.

The Marlins are planning a memorial to their late ace that will stand at least 9 feet high, team president David Samson said Thursday.

Fernandez and two others died in a boat crash last September. The Marlins decided to go ahead with the statue even after a state investigation determined Fernandez was the probable operator of the boat, and had he survived the crash he could have been charged with multiple crimes, including boating under the influence manslaughter.

In an unfiltered discussion, the Marlins owner goes deep on the pain of losing Jose Fernandez, selling his franchise and the idea of promoting baseball in France as a potential U.S. ambassador.

“It doesn’t change the legacy of Jose in our view,” Samson said. “It is very disappointing. It’s a tragedy. But it doesn’t change our love for him or the fact we want him to be memorialized here at Marlins Park, because he is forever a Marlin.”

The statue will be sculpted by William Behrends, who was responsible for the Willie McCovey and Willie Mays statues in San Francisco, and won’t be finished for at least six months, Samson said.

Miami owner Jeffrey Loria chose the image for the statue, which wasn’t disclosed, and hired Behrends.

“It’s something Jeffrey wanted to do personally for Jose and his family and his fans — to have something that would permanently represent what Jose was,” Samson said.

Jose Fernandez does not deserve this statue.

This article pretty much explains why: If he had survived the boat crash, he would have been charged with manslaughter. But because he could throw a baseball pretty well and now never will again because of terrible decision he made, he gets a statue.

Even knowing his girlfriend was pregnant with his child and he had a whole promising baseball career ahead of him, he chose to drink and use cocaine and drive a boat. Fernandez was a charitable person who did some good, but he was also incredibly irresponsible. It was his fault two people died and he gets a statue because he also died.

It’s fine if the Marlins want to consider him a Marlin forever but they should not be giving him a statue.

Read More: Jose Fernandez,

Friday’s Morning Mashup: Mariners reveal bronze Ken Griffey Jr. statue; Lou Brock diagnosed with cancer

04.14.17 at 8:19 am ET
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Good morning! Here is your Friday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

MLB: Pittsburgh at Chicago Cubs, 2 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: St. Louis at NY Yankees, 7 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Tampa Bay at Boston, 7:10 p.m. (NESN)
NHL: Columbus at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. (NHL Network)
NHL: NY Rangers at Montreal, 7 p.m. (USA)
NHL: St. Louis at Minnesota, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
NHL: San Jose at Edmonton, 10:30 p.m. (NBCSN)


— The Mariners unveiled a statue in a ceremony on Thursday honoring Ken Griffey Jr. outside of Safeco Field. The bronze likeness of the Seattle legend captures his familiar home run swing.

“One of the things I’m known for is my swing and I think it was pretty much going to be a given (that would be the pose),” Griffey Jr. said during the ceremony. “They pretty much nailed it. It was overwhelming to see something like that.”

The statue is seven feet tall and includes a patch honoring the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball. Griffey Jr. helped lead the campaign for all major leaguers to wear Robinson’s No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day once a year.

Last year, Griffey Jr. became the first Mariners player to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and the team retired his No. 24 last season.

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Read More: Ken Griffey Jr, Lou Brock,

Documents show Eli Manning and Giants collaborated on scheme to sell fake game-used gear

04.13.17 at 5:56 pm ET
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Eli Manning was allegedly at the center of a memorabilia scam. (Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports)

Eli Manning was allegedly at the center of a memorabilia scam. (Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports)

Emails show Eli Manning was at the center of a scam to sell fake game-used gear.

According to documents obtained by the New York Post, Manning’s marketing agent, Alan Zucker, asked the Giants quarterback in April 2010 to send two game-used jerseys and helmets to the memorabilia dealer Steiner Sports, per a contractual agreement between the two sides. After Manning received the request, Giants equipment manager, Joe Skiba sent the two-time Super Bowl champion an email saying he would “try to get something down” for him.

Manning allegedly replied from his personal AOL account, saying “2 helmets that can pass as game used. That is it. Eli.”

Three memorabilia collectors are suing the Giants, Manning, Skiba, Steiner and Giants CEO John Mara for conspiring to sell the fraudulent items. The team previously failed to disclose the emails, even though it has a “no document destruction” policy.

A spokeswoman for the Giants denied the claims in a statement to the New York Daily News.

“The email, taken out of context, was shared with the media by an unscrupulous memorabilia dealer and his counsel who for years has been seeking to leverage a big payday,” Karen Kessler. “The email predates any litigation, and there was no legal obligation to store it on the Giants server.”

Author’s note: this post was updated to add the Giants statement. 

Read More: Eli Manning, New York Giants,

New York Times apparently just discovered Boston sports teams are good

04.13.17 at 4:33 pm ET
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Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski celebrated the Patriots' fifth Super Bowl title at Red Sox Opening Day this year. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski celebrated the Patriots’ fifth Super Bowl title at Red Sox Opening Day this year. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: It’s a good time to be a Boston sports fan.

The New York Times published a trend story Thursday about the success of Boston sports teams in the 21st century. WEEI’s own Gerry Callahan dubbed the city “Loserville” in 1999, because the outlook appeared so bleak way back then. But just three years later, the Patriots hoisted their first of five Super Bowl championships. It started a run that continues today, in which the four major professional teams have won 10 titles in 15 years. Let’s allow the Paper of Record™ to take it away:

“In the 21st century, it has been all Boston,” writes Victor Mather. “The Patriots have five titles since 2000, the Red Sox three. The Celtics won it all in 2008 and the Bruins did so in 2011. Though the Revolution have not won the Major League Soccer playoffs, they have made the final five times in the century.”

The Red Sox’s 2004 World Series win, by the way, ended an 86-year drought. That story has been a little bit underplayed.

Over the last decade and a half, there have been numerous opportunities to pen articles about the good fortunes of Boston sports fans. But curiously, the events of Wednesday night were the genesis for the Times feature. The Bruins won an opening round playoff game against the Senators and the Celtics clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference with a regular season victory over the Bucks. The Red Sox were also in action, but they lost to the Orioles.

While it was an enjoyable night of sports, there have been plenty of other days that better encompass the athletic dominance of Boston. The date Oct. 13, 2013 comes to mind. On that day, the Patriots defeated the Saints after Tom Brady threw a late game-winning touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompson, and David Ortiz smacked a game-tying grand slam in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Tigers. The Red Sox won the contest on a walk-off hit in the ninth.

The fact that Wednesday, which did feature two important wins from the hometown teams, seemed so routine is an embodiment of the success Boston teams have enjoyed recently. Maybe that’s the message the Times was trying to convey.

But given the piece is essentially a straight recap of the last 15 years, it doesn’t appear that’s the case. It seems like the Times just discovered Boston sports teams are good.

Read More: New York Times,

In chummy CNBC interview, Bill Belichick shows his fondness for celebrity

04.13.17 at 2:28 pm ET
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Bill Belichick, pictured here with Bon Jovi, appears to enjoy his celebrity.  (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick, pictured here with Bon Jovi, appears to enjoy his celebrity. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick may put on a dour demeanor during press conferences. But the truth is, he seems to relish his celebrity –– as long as the pesky Patriots media isn’t asking him questions about his football team.

In a lengthy sit-down interview with CNBC’s Suzy Welch, the wife of retired business executive Jack Welch, Belichick didn’t exhibit any of his gruff tendencies. He smiled, spoke in complete sentences and even laughed a couple of times. It was quite different from how he acts when a reporter asks him about the injury report. That’s for sure.

Take a look at the transcript of Belichick’s game of word association with Welch, for example. If a beat writer were to ask him about Deflategate or Aaron Hernandez, his answers would probably be a bit more curt:

Football: More sport than business. But it is a business. That I respect the game for the game and the sport.

The Media: It is how a team connects to its fans.

Winning: The goal. There’s no medals for trying. This isn’t like eighth grade where everybody gets a trophy. We are in a professional sport, and it is competitive to win. That’s what we do.

Deflategate: Ridiculous.

Aaron HernandezTragedy.

Perfect day: Nantucket.

Now, compare that to Belichick answering a question in a postgame press conference.

Few people use the media better than Belichick. More times than not, it doesn’t benefit him to answer questions about roster construction or coaching strategy, so he abstains. But on occasions in which he wants to get a message out there, such as Deflategate, he’s informative and transparent. Following a rocky press conference from Tom Brady shortly after the scandal broke –– he rambled on about how he prepares his “balls” –– Belichick shifted the narrative. He explained the Ideal Gas Law at a surprise presser two days later, absolving Brady from blame in the process.

Belichick, a known history buff, understands the importance of his legacy. It benefits his reputation to answer softball questions on CNBC or hobnob with Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show.” He shows a different side of himself to a national audience, softening his image in the process.

But there’s likely another reason why Belichick opened up to Welch for an NBC feature in the middle of an Annapolis-based BBQ restaurant: it’s fun. Previewing an upcoming opponent in the bowels of Gillette Stadium to an assortment of grubby beat writers isn’t nearly as glamorous.

Belichick may have no use for the annual AFC coaches photo, but he’s willing to pose for pictures with Kid Rock at Tiger Woods’ restaurant in Florida. The typically brusque head coach also enjoys a longstanding bromance with Jon Bon Jovi. During the AFC championship game, Belichick even took some time to sing along to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” while the rocker led a singalong from a luxury box.

“We’ve shared a lot of great moments together, including the 1990 Super Bowl [with the Giants] in Tampa, where he was in the locker room after the game still taking crazy pictures and stuff like that; great memories from there,” Belichick told ESPN afterwards. “It was great to have Jon here, and I always appreciate his great support. Yeah, it was quite a moment, one that you usually don’t see at a professional football game. It was special.”

The only person who Belichick speaks more glowingly about is President Donald Trump. On the night before the election, Trump read aloud a flowery endorsement letter from Belichick.

“You have dealt with an unbelievable slanted and negative media and have come out beautifully. You’ve proved to be the ultimate competitor and fighter,” it read. “Your leadership is amazing. I have always had tremendous respect for you, but the toughness and perseverance you have displayed over the past year is remarkable. Hopefully tomorrow’s election results will give the opportunity to Make America Great Again.”

Belichick, who’s a paying member at Trump’s luxury resort, Mar-a-Lago, appears to be the polar opposite of the president. He’s involved in every facet of the Patriots’ organization, even showing up at pro days across the country . Trump, meanwhile, once said he skips intelligence briefings because he’s, “like, a smart person.”

Then again, it’s apparent there are multiple layers to Belichick. Inside of Gillette Stadium, he’s a football cyborg. But once he leaves Foxborough, and heads to his $4.6 million estate in Nantucket, he morphs into a star-chaser.

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots,