Norfolk State’s Anthony Evans earned a raise.The most talked-about story of 2012 March Madness was historically black Norfolk State University, a 15th seed, knocking off No. 2-seed Missouri, 86-84 in the first round of the tournament. The Spartans from Norfolk, Virginia were on the minds of all college basketball fans around the country.This week, the school rewarded the orchestrator of the MEAC champions. Coach Anthony Evans received a thre-year contract extension will take him through the 2016-17 season, according to NSU athletic director Marty Miller.Evans led the Spartans to a school-record 26 wins, the MEAC Tournament championship and the huge NCAA Tournament win, the first in Norfolk State history.Evans, who is 78-82 record in his five seasons at Norfolk State, also received a $50,000 raise to $175,000. His contract was to expire after the 2013-14 season.After beating Mizzou, NSU lost, 84-50, to Florida in the next round.
The Toronto Blue Jays are inching closer to acquiring 2012 Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets, according to multiple sources.There were several other teams that were strongly interested in the services of Dickey, but the Mets decided to channel their negotiations with the Blue Jays and cut off all other discussions with the other teams, according to CBSSports.com.As of Saturday morning a major league executive aware of the negotiations told ESPNNewYork.com that both teams are working towards completing the trade.The Mets have discussed acquiring the Blue Jays top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, who they previously did not want to include, and center fielder Anthony Gose.Last season while playing in Triple-A in Las Vegas, the 23-year-old d’Arnaud had a batting average of .333, on base percentage of .380, a slugging average of .595 and 16 home runs.Dickey has yet to discuss extension talks, nor has he been asked to take a physical according to sources close with ESPNNewYork.com.The 38-year-old Dickey put together impressive numbers to win the 2012 Cy Young award. He led the NL with 233 2/3 innings pitched and finished second with an ERA of 2.73. He also led the league in strikeouts with 230 and owns a lifetime career ERA of 3.98 over 10 major-league seasons.Dickey, who is under contract with the Mets next season for $5 million, attempted to negotiate an extension with the club, but both sides were approximately $6 million apart. The Mets offered Dickey a two-year extension worth $20 million, while Dickey requested a two-year extension for $26 million.The knuckleballer made his frustrations known publically about the negotiations while attending a holiday party earlier this week at Citi Field for children affected by Hurricane Sandy.“In the context of the market, you want what you think is fair,” Dickey told reporters. “I feel like we’re asking for less than what’s fair because that’s how it’s been for me.”
Mavericks37234.132.7 Cavaliers477139.099.2 Lakers6714672.8471.7 Nets507163.874.9 Grizzlies2200.00.0 While he was playing, Tim Duncan lifted the San Antonio Spurs up the list of the most successful teams in NBA history. Now that he has retired, Duncan — thanks to his recently retired jersey — has also made the AT&T Center rafters among the most talent-filled in the league.To rank every team’s group of retired numbers, I grabbed data from Basketball-Reference.com’s franchise pages and then filtered out honored non-players — like longtime Los Angeles Lakers announcer Chick Hearn (who has a microphone-themed banner hanging alongside the jerseys of Magic Johnson and company) or the No. 6 in Orlando, which is retired “in honor of the fans.” (Because they’re the “sixth man.” Get it?) For each team, I added up the total amount of value above replacement (VAR)1A cumulative value statistic based on a combination of Player Efficiency Rating and Win Shares per 48 minutes. generated by those players, both over their entire pro careers (across all franchises)2For my purposes, ABA statistics were given the same weight as NBA ones, because most former ABA teams that joined the NBA have retired the numbers of their ABA-era stars. and during their time with the specific franchise in question. Here’s the list, ranked by the latter category, to avoid ridiculous situations like the Miami Heat’s getting credit for Michael Jordan, whose jersey the team retired even though he never played for it. 76ers6710502.2295.2 Jazz437277.6232.0 Kings679229.6173.4 Clippers4700.00.0 Before Duncan’s number was retired, the Spurs’ retired-jersey crew ranked ninth all-time; now it’s in fourth place, behind the Boston Celtics and the Lakers — no shock there — as well as the Philadelphia 76ers, who’ve had a surprising number of truly great players contribute for them over the years. But if San Antonio eventually retires the numbers of current Spurs Manu Ginobili (38.1 VAR with the club) and Tony Parker (37.0), the Spurs could pass the 76ers for third, particularly because the closest Philadelphia has to a jersey-retirement candidate is ex-Sixer (and current Warrior) Andre Iguodala (17.5) — and because Iggy was no fan favorite, I doubt he’ll even be considered for the honor.Duncan also gives the Spurs an average of 31.3 VAR per honored player, which ranks fourth among all franchises — and is higher than that of both Boston (24.6) and Philly (29.5). The gold standard in this department belongs to the Chicago Bulls (36.0), who’ve retired only four players’ numbers — Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and multi-time All-Stars Bob Love and Jerry Sloan. (Artis Gilmore and Chet Walker must be wondering what they have to do for their numbers to be taken out of circulation.) But the Spurs’ retired-jersey strategy has struck a nice balance between upholding quality and not being overly picky; San Antonio has discontinued a player’s number every 6.3 years, more than twice as frequently as Chicago’s 12.8-years-per-player ratio. (Duncan’s No. 21 became the eighth number the Spurs have retired.3At least, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Technically, Bruce Bowen allowed San Antonio to unretire his No. 12 for LaMarcus Aldridge to wear, although I still included Bowen in the Spurs’ VAR total.)Other teams have less lofty standards of inclusion. As part of their apparent plan to commemorate every single member of their Bill Russell-era teams, the Celtics honored “Jungle” Jim Loscutoff despite his career average of 6.2 points per game, to go with a miniscule 8.3 lifetime Player Efficiency Rating (15.0 is league-average) and .017 Win Shares per 48 minutes (average is around .100). (In fairness, Loscutoff’s number was later kept active for Dave Cowens, a much better player.) Utah enshrined Darrell Griffith, whose nickname (“Dr. Dunkenstein”) was far superior to his stats (14.6 PER, .049 WS/48), and Portland honored Lionel Hollins (13.0 PER, .059 WS/48) even without a cool moniker to point to. Nate Thurmond became a Hall of Famer because of his performance as a Warrior, but his number was retired by Cleveland even though he played fewer than 12 percent of his career games as a Cav.Of course, winning titles like the Spurs have (five since 1999) is a surefire way to grease the wheels of jersey-retirement. It’s no coincidence that the bottom seven teams in the list above have won zero combined championships, and they’ve only retired three jerseys in total: One for a beloved local legend who played for a different franchise in the same city, and two for players who died during their careers. (Meanwhile, take the Knicks as a counterexample: They’ve won only two titles, and seven of their nine retired jerseys honor a player or coach4Yes, 12 coaches have had their “jerseys” retired, with the number often taking the form of their coaching victory total with the franchise (i.e., the number 832 is “retired” for Phoenix in honor of Cotton Fitzsimmons’s 832 career coaching wins). from those championship squads.)San Antonio wasn’t scrounging for numbers to retire before Duncan came along — it had already raised George Gervin’s iconic No. 44, and David Robinson’s No. 50 was well on its way, to go with some of their less-heralded teammates. But like he did for the Spurs as a franchise, Duncan has now elevated their honorees to the upper echelon of the NBA.Check out our latest NBA predictions. Spurs508254.4250.7 Thunder506145.8100.8 Knicks678198.5162.9 Nuggets505165.8111.5 With Duncan, the Spurs have elite laundry hanging in the rafters COMBINED VALUE ABOVE REPLACEMENT OF RETIRED JERSEY PLAYERS Timberwolves2812.21.4 Wizards564103.379.4 Pacers504126.3111.0 Magic2800.00.0 1951 to present. Includes franchise lineages as defined by Basketball-Reference.com (e.g., the Oklahoma City Thunder entry also includes players whose numbers were retired by the Seattle SuperSonics)Source: Basketball-Reference.com Hawks675157.3131.8 Celtics6720521.8491.7 Heat293149.139.4 Raptors2200.00.0 Warriors676210.4133.7 Suns499266.1173.5 FRANCHISESEASONSPLAYERS W/ RET. JERSEYSCAREERWITH FRANCHISE Hornets1315.81.4 Trail Blazers4710181.0135.5 Bulls514153.2143.8 Bucks498313.6150.7 Pelicans29113.34.9 Rockets505224.7144.8 Pistons679252.2206.6
Ohio State coaches Mark Mitchell (left) and Kevin McGuff (right) watch OSU’s 82-63 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament. Credit: Kevin Stankiewicz | Asst. Sports EditorNot too long ago, the Ohio State women’s basketball team was a unit with all the answers.OSU had won 11 straight games, the outright Big Ten regular-season title was within its grip and at least a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament was nearly a lock, with a top seed a realistic proposal.Now, just a couple of weeks after those extremely positive outcomes of coach Kevin McGuff’s third season in Columbus seemed inevitable, all of those achievements have been entirely wiped out.With the Buckeyes losing three of their last four games, including an embarrassing 82-63 loss to Michigan State in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament, the one thing OSU needs before the NCAA tournament begins is what it had an abundance of when it last played in Columbus: an answer.OSU doesn’t have an answer as to what seed it will be when the NCAA tournament begins. It doesn’t have an answer as to how it came up empty-handed in the Big Ten regular-season title despite having a one-game lead with two games left to play. And it doesn’t have an answer as to what happened to one of the best offenses in the nation.The Buckeyes, who average 86.7 points per game, the third most in the country, had a season-low 20 points at the half against Michigan State in a game they trailed in by as many as 36 points.After the game, senior guard Cait Craft chalked much of that up to the ineffectiveness of fellow senior guard Ameryst Alston, who was held back by a sprained right wrist and didn’t score, but said there were still concerns about the way the team played as a whole.“Not having Ameryst hurt a little bit, but at the end of the day, we as a team didn’t come ready to play really until the last quarter,” Craft said. “Not having her does hurt, but it shouldn’t have been that detrimental to us. And I think we let that get in the way more than it should have, obviously.”McGuff said he doesn’t know what Alston’s status will be moving forward after the game, noting only the diagnosis of her injury and that he “hopes” she will be able to accelerate through her rehab and be good to go for the NCAA tournament.But missing Alston’s first-team All-Big Ten production was only a steep section of the mountain the Buckeyes were sliding down, not the point of departure from the top.The night before against Rutgers, in which Alston was perfectly healthy until the closing minutes, the Buckeyes only put up 26 points on the scoreboard at the half. They ended up winning the game 73-58 behind sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell’s tournament-record 43 points, but, especially after losing their previous two games, the concerns were already in the air before the seismic semifinal debacle.A lot of the Buckeyes’ issues in the tournament were inexplicable, such as junior Shayla Cooper, a steady contributor off the bench throughout the year, suddenly being largely absent from the offense.Cooper averaged 13.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game during the season, but against Rutgers she put up seven points on 2-of-10 shooting, and the next night she had just two points on 1-of-5 shooting through three quarters, including a second period absent from the floor.She ended up finishing off the night strong with 14 points in the garbage-time fourth quarter, hitting all six shot attempts. But Cooper has been one of the Buckeyes’ most valuable players all season long, and the need for her to step up inflated with Alston physically unable to shoot. Instead, she was nowhere to be found.After the Michigan State game, McGuff didn’t have an explanation or assessment for the sorry performance. He simply didn’t have an answer.“It didn’t have anything to do with effort or competitiveness,” McGuff said. “We have to learn from tonight that we’re going to hit some adversity again. I don’t know what it will be. Maybe it will be foul trouble, something. And how we react to it is going to determine everything.”Two weeks ago, OSU was a team that many were pegging as a Final Four contender. It had already beaten Maryland twice — the only two in-conference losses the Terrapins have had since joining the Big Ten — and had lost to powerhouses South Carolina and Notre Dame on the road by a combined 11 points.But now, the Buckeyes are trying to rebuild from the ground up with the NCAA tournament a week and a half away — trying to understand when it all turned around. “That’s the great thing about college basketball, you get a chance to tip it up again here before too long,” McGuff said. “And I think we have a great opportunity ahead of us. We just have to get back to the gym and kind of get back to being who we are.”The Buckeyes will learn their tournament seeding and opponent on Monday, and whether their first-round game will be set for March 18 or 19.
OSU then-sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell (3) goes up for a shot during a game against Northwestern on Jan. 28 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Lantern file photoOhio State junior guard Kelsey Mitchell is already one of the best players in women’s college basketball. But even she has room to grow.OSU coach Kevin McGuff pushed Mitchell to enroll in a leadership course this semester. Assuming a leadership role is new to the Cincinnati, Ohio, native.“I’m not one of those people that likes to tell people what to do, but coach McGuff has put me in that role,” Mitchell said. “I think that class has helped me become more vocal. I’m a little bit more outgoing.”Mitchell said she now has made it her goal to become more of a leader for the Buckeyes. McGuff has already seen improvements.“She’s talking more, she’s more engaged,” McGuff said. “She’s obviously a great kid, one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around, and she’s a fierce competitor. But she’s also got a really good feel for the game, and I think that you see her sharing that more with her teammates.”Out of Princeton High School near Cincinnati, Mitchell was a consensus five-star prospect and was considered by some as the No. 1 overall prospect in her class. She was the 2014 Gatorade Player of the Year in Ohio and was a finalist for the Naismith Girls’ High School Player of the Year award.Mitchell immediately found success at OSU. She was the unanimous Big Ten Freshman of the Year after becoming the first-ever freshman to lead the country in scoring at 24.9 points per game. Her 873 total points on the year set a school and Big Ten record, and she set NCAA records for most three-pointers in a season (127) and most consecutive games with a three-pointer (35).The guard didn’t slow down in her sophomore season. She broke her own school record for points in a season with 889 and scored the most points in a single game in OSU history with a 48-point performance against Michigan State on Feb. 27. She was a consensus All-American and finalist for several national awards, including Naismith Player of the Year.Mitchell now sits at 1,762 career points. She’s on pace to chase down former OSU forward Jantel Lavender (2,818 points) for the all-time school scoring record. With 253 made three-point field goals, Mitchell needs just 18 to surpass former guard Caity Matter for the OSU record.Mitchell’s accomplishments in her two years at OSU have led McGuff to believe that she is the best player he has ever coached.“She’s really special,” McGuff said. “She can really, really play and we’re really fortunate to have her here.”OSU junior guard Alexa Hart also believes Mitchell is a fantastic teammate, and has incredible basketball ability. For Hart, it’s the dedication that Mitchell brings to the game that puts her above the rest.“She comes in the gym when no one else is in the gym and just works hard,” Hart said. “She comes in any time of the day, whenever she can, and works out.”Mitchell is on her way to becoming one of best guards ever to come out of Ohio State, but that’s not something she thinks about too much.“I’m not really into that. I just come to the court, play and go to school,” Mitchell said. “There are so many great players that came through Ohio State, so to even be a part of that conversation is something that I’m really, really grateful for.”
Senior libero Valeria Leon goes through her service routine during a match against Nebraska at St. John Arena on Oct. 14. Credit: Jenna Leinasars | Assistant News DirectorNearly 15 years ago, 7-year-old Valeria León and her older sister, Karina, were on their way to volleyball practice in their hometown of Ponce, Puerto Rico. León’s grandfather took them to practice, as he did every day. León started to develop a passion for the sport of volleyball, and she began to sleep with her volleyball at night. She had no idea she’d be holding a place in Ohio State history just a handful of years later.Last week, senior libero León grabbed the title for most career digs in the women’s volleyball program during a match against Michigan State, but her journey to the top hasn’t always been easy. In fact, it’s been her against the world in many cases.León’s love for volleyball continued into high school at Colegio Sagrado Corazón De Jesús, where she was recruited by OSU coach Geoff Carlston. He said she stood out to him for a lot of reasons, but it was her determination that won him over.“She made hard stuff look easy and easy stuff look easy, but really I gravitated to her competitive aura and how she played the game,” he said. Coming to the United States for college wasn’t León’s first choice, but she said her mother wholeheartedly believed in her talent as a player and encouraged her to give it a try. “My mom used to tell me, ‘Just try it and if you don’t like it, I’ll be the first one to buy you a ticket to come back,’” León said. On her official visit to OSU, she immediately committed. She said she was blown away by the campus’ atmosphere. “I had other options, but I felt like Ohio State – it was the perfect one for me,” she said. At the time, León spoke little English, being a native Spanish speaker back in her Puerto Rican home. Everything was different in this new environment – communicating, learning and even some aspects of the game she had come to love were different. “I was dealing with so many outside things, like the language,” she said. “I had to go to tutoring for like eight hours every day because I couldn’t do the homework by myself.”Her team remembers it well. Being homesick while at college is one thing, but being homesick when your home is in another country is another. “She missed her family a lot. She missed home a lot. We all did, but it was different – she was in a completely new environment,” said senior middle blocker Kylie Randall. The team tried to support León in any way it could. Teammates walked her to classes, ordered food for her and took care of her like a sister, even though she had only been part of the OSU volleyball family for a short time.León could have given up and went back home where things were more familiar and comfortable, but she said when she finally decided to stick with it, she was thinking about more than just herself. “I had people behind me. They were excited and believed in me every single day, so I thought not giving up would make them proud,” she said. “People like my parents and my grandpa – he would go and drive me every single day to practice, and he never asked me for anything in return.”León also had her Buckeye family to rely on. Senior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe said she, Randall and fellow freshman Maggie Heim spent nearly every weekend with León during that first year, and they were able to bond outside of St. John Arena. Through the constant support of those close to her, León stayed with the program, and with time, she developed into one of the team’s strongest assets and a powerful leader. “She made it a point to make sure her voice was heard, even if she couldn’t say what she wanted to say,” Sandbothe said. Carlston said that, from a coach’s perspective, León is what holds the rest of his team together. “She does the maintenance. (She’s) the glue,” he said. “She does a lot of things for us.” León’s journey soared to a new level on Oct. 22 of this year when she broke the 12-year-standing record for most career digs in OSU women’s volleyball history with 1,586, a record set by National Player of Year Stacey Gordon. She said to see herself come this far is something she would never have dreamed of. “When you sign here and come here, you never think about stuff like that (breaking records),” she said. “Those are maybe goals or dreams someone has, but it won’t actually happen.” Grabbing the title was even more sweet for León because her family in Puerto Rico was able to see her do it. “What really hits me the most is that in that game (against Michigan State), my family was together back home watching. Bringing my family together is something really special for me,” she said. León’s mom and dad are able to come to the U.S. three or four times a year to watch her play. When they can’t, they watch her games online along with the rest of her extended family – which, she said, could be up to 25 people at one time. León isn’t the only Buckeye receiving international support. Freshman outside hitter Bia Franklin hails from Rio de Janeiro. León said she shares a special connection with Franklin because when she looks at her, she is able to see herself three years ago. “I love talking to her and telling her my story because, for me, it’s really important that she stays here and doesn’t give up,” León said. León’s team said that she is an inspiration to everyone she touches, and her journey has transformed her into not only a stronger volleyball player, but a stronger individual. Sandbothe said, “Seeing her accomplish these kinds of things … makes me trust in the journey and trust in the process and know that if you have people in your corner, you really can do anything.”León said she wants to see other players learn from her story. Carlston attributes that quality to her selfless and humble personality.“For me, it’s really important once I leave, I want (the underclassmen) to know how Buckeye volleyball does it,” León said. When her days donning the Buckeyes’ libero jersey are over, León hopes to keep playing the game she loves – but closer to those who inspired her to push through tough times. “One of the reasons why I want to play professional is my other family members who haven’t gotten the opportunity to watch me play,” she said. “They can watch me play (in Ponce), especially like my grandpa, he means the world to me.” There’s one thing Sandbothe said she has taken away from knowing León, and it’s the belief in achieving the seemingly impossible.“Someone who can have so many things against them and just being in really low points where you didn’t know if you could see the light or when it was going to get better, and she never gave up,” she said.
The path to what some fans hope will be a national championship season is now set in stone as Ohio State football finalized its 2013 schedule Friday. Fifteen days after Vanderbilt canceled its trip to Columbus for next year, the Buckeyes added San Diego State for a Sept. 7 contest against the Aztecs in Ohio Stadium. “San Diego State has a fine football program and we are happy to be able to add them to our schedule,” OSU athletic director Gene Smith said in a released statement. “We have had an excellent relationship with SDSU over the years with three exciting, competitive games since 2001.” The 2013 game will be the fourth time the two teams have met since 2001. The Buckeyes, which hold a 3-0 advantage in the series, have outscored the Aztecs, 70-31 over the course of contests in 2001, 2003 and 2005. SDSU, which finds itself currently a member of the Mountain West Conference, will move to the Big East next season a long with fellow MWC member, Boise State. Other non-conference opponents for the 2012 season include Buffalo, Florida A&M and California. OSU continues its 2012 campaign against Illinois Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.
Then-senior guard Aaron Craft attempts a layup during a game against Nebraska March 14 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. OSU won, 71-67. Lantern file photoAs the dust from the NBA Finals has settled, basketball fans have turned their attention to the much anticipated 2014 NBA Draft, and even more so, free agency.For basketball fans in the state of Ohio, two names will be watched closely: LeBron James and, for those in Columbus, Aaron Craft.James, who according to multiple reports will exercise his early termination clause with the Miami Heat, has Cleveland fans buzzing about the thought of seeing “the King” return to his home state and to the team that drafted him in 2003.The Cavaliers have been building, and tearing down at times, their team since James took his talents to South Beach, but with key pieces in place such as Kyrie Irving and Anthony Bennett (just kidding) along with the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s draft, Cavs fans can only dream for now.If James was to return to Cleveland, it would be the best move he will have ever made in his career.During his four seasons in Miami, James has been largely the victim of ridicule for how he left the Cavs in the summer of 2010, and rightfully so. As a Cleveland fan on vacation in Florida at the time of “The Decision,” I sat and watched Florida basketball fans celebrate in the lobby of my hotel. I sunk in my chair as all hope of bringing a championship to Cleveland was washed away in the Florida sun.Now, James can fix the broken bridges between he and Cavs fans if he makes his triumphant return home to a city which has not won a major championship since 1964. If in fact he does return, it will be to a better roster than the one he left back in 2010.Which brings me to Aaron Craft. How you may ask? Simple.While discussing sports at a summer job, a co-worker of mine and a fellow Ohio State student brought the following comparison to my attention.Remember James’ old teammate on the 2007 Cavs Finals team, Eric Snow? If you look closely at the similarities between Snow and Craft, you will see where I am going.Snow, a Michigan State grad out of Canton McKinley high school in Canton, Ohio, played four seasons in college, just as Craft did. Both Craft and Snow also put up comparable numbers in their college careers.Craft, who averaged 32.6 minutes per game in his college career also averaged just 8.9 points per game. How does that stack up to Snow? Snow played in just 25.2 minutes per game and averaged 5.9 points per game as a Spartan.While neither Craft nor Snow was a particularly good outside shooter, each shot around 50 percent in their careers. Craft finishing his career with a 45.9 percent career field goal percentage while Snow shot 52.1 percent.However, with every pro there is a con and with every similarity, there is a difference.Craft was clearly the better defender of the two, as he averaged 2.45 steals per game during his time at OSU, while Snow averaged just 1.3 in his time as a Spartan.In terms of passing, Snow was clearly better, however, as he averaged 5.3 assists per game including 7.8 his senior season. Craft never averaged more than five assists per game in a season.So what am I trying to say? Someone needs to take a chance on Craft.If Snow can get drafted (43rd overall) and have a 13-year playing career with three teams – the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and the Cavaliers – Craft can as well. The former Buckeye may not be the fastest, strongest or most athletic guy on the floor, but there is no one in this upcoming draft who will give you more effort than Aaron Craft.Enjoy Thursday’s draft and free agency season Ohio basketball fans, it could very well be a memorable one.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James is seen before tipoff of overtime of a game between the Cavs and the San Antonio Spurs. The Cavs beat the Spurs, 128-125. Credit: Courtesy of TNSIn the last 30 NBA Finals, eight teams have hoisted the trophy.Just think about that for a second. Eight teams in 30 Finals.Eighteen teams have won the World Series in that span (and there wasn’t even a Series played in 1994). Sixteen squads have won the Super Bowl since 1984, as well.But in the NBA, if you’re not the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat or Dallas Mavericks, you have not felt the thrill of victory since the season before Michael Jordan entered the league.This year, thankfully, it seems as though a ninth member will join this exclusive club.Of the four teams remaining — the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors and Rockets — only Houston has won it in the last 30 years. The Rockets appear to be the most unlikely team to make it to the Finals, having to face a lethal Warriors squad. In an ESPN.com poll, each of the 14 experts surveyed picked the Warriors to advance to the Finals.Of course, if the Los Angeles Clippers hadn’t collapsed and blown a 3-1 lead against Houston, we would already be guaranteed a fresh champion.But, nonetheless, if the Rockets fall to Golden State as expected, we will finally see someone new celebrating.It’s hard to call LeBron James in the Finals “new” — after appearing in the previous four Finals with the Heat, winning twice — but the Cavs, one of 13 teams to never win a championship, winning it all would certainly be something we haven’t seen before.The Warriors, meanwhile, won their last title in 1975, while the Hawks have the second-longest drought of any team — last winning in 1958 when they played in St. Louis. In fact, the Hawks have not even been back to the Finals since 1961, and never in Atlanta.So, with three of the 22 teams shut out from the last 30 years of parades still alive, you really couldn’t ask for more from a competitive standpoint.It truly is stunning when you look at that 22-of-30 figure. The simple explanation is the NBA is a league driven by the greats, and there are only so many of those to go around. Each of the last 30 champions, except for the 2003-04 Pistons, featured at least one player who can easily be categorized as one of the greatest of all time.With that in mind, LeBron and the Cavs would have to be considered the favorite as the only team to feature a true legend of the game.That’s not to mean any disrespect to the Warriors’ Stephen Curry, the league’s Most Valuable Player. While a strong case can already be made for him being the greatest shooter ever, he has a long way to go after really emerging this season before being classified as great.It’s also not to remove hope from the Hawks. As the Pistons showed in the 2004 Finals, you can win it all with a team full of good players, but no greats. It’s just really, really difficult.So, looking at the overall picture, it seems like, from a historical standpoint, the Cavs are the most likely team to win it all. LeBron winning his third title in five years also happens to be the least adventurous result — which seems to be the NBA way.Though, knowing the nearly impossible climb to becoming a championship team in the NBA, maybe the Rockets will find a way to add their third title since 1984 after all.
Sophomore Kyle Skinner gets ready to serve the ball against George Mason at the game on Jan. 18 at St. John Arena in Columbus. Credit: Ethan Clewell | Senior Reporter.After losing two straight matches without winning a set, having to face the No. 1 team in the country on their home court is not the best way to end a losing streak. The struggling Buckeyes (4-8) were able to keep sets close early, but couldn’t gain enough momentum to get back in the match as No.1 Long Beach State (12-0) cruised to a victory in three sets, 25-19, 25-18, 25-21. The Buckeyes took their first lead of the match in the third set after an attack error by Long Beach State gave them a 4-3 lead. Back-to-back aces by junior libero Chase Moothart bookended a three-point run that brought the Buckeyes over the 20-point threshold for the first time in the match. But a kill by senior outside hitter TJ DeFalco and an Ohio State service error closed out the third set, 25-21, handing the Buckeyes their third-consecutive straight-set loss. Ohio State was unable to establish a rhythm on offense in large part due to errors. The Buckeyes committed 33 errors on the night, 19 service and 14 attack, while the Beach had only 24, 16 service and 8 attack. Though the Buckeyes tallied 30 kills on the night, the 14 errors on 61 attacks limited them to a .250 hitting percentage. Freshman libero Parker Mikesch had 26 assists and two digs as he continues his campaign as the Buckeyes full-time setter while senior Sanil Thomas is injured. Freshman outside hitter Sean Ryan provided 10 kills for Ohio State, helping to fill in as a point finisher for the Buckeyes in the midst of sophomore opposite hitter Jake Hanes’ absence due to injury. Ryan got off to a hot start in the first set with two kills, helping the Buckeyes keep pace with the Beach. But a kill by senior opposite hitter Kyle Ensing and an attack error by Ryan gave Long Beach State a 4-2 lead, which they would stretch to as many as seven points en route to a 25-19 first set victory. Ensing and DeFalco combined for 21 kills, five digs, and an ace, leading the team to a .475 hitting percentage. Both teams had their share of success from the service stripe, as the Buckeyes totalled three and the Beach came up with five. After a close start to the second set, Long Beach used four Buckeye errors and an ace by redshirt senior middle blocker Nick Amado for five straight-points, taking a 16-9 lead. Though Ryan contributed five kills and sophomore libero Luke Meidel added an ace, Long Beach State used kills by Ensing and senior setter Josh Tuaniga to close out the set, 25-18. Ohio State returns to conference play against Lindenwood at 8 p.m. on Friday in Saint Charles, Missouri.
People thinking BBC has been hacked because of “Arabic” news alert -it’s actually Bengali & probably quite innocent! pic.twitter.com/a9E3jH5pEJ— Ryan Johns (@RA_Johns) September 2, 2016 “It was literally a human error and it has been corrected.”The BBC later tweeted: “Apologies to those who received an alert from @BBCBreaking. We haven’t been hacked.” A spokesman for the BBC said it had been sent by mistake by a World Service reporter and was taken down minutes later.”It was just an error, somebody tweeted from the wrong account,” he added. @Peston pic.twitter.com/bPJbBbHUc8— Alexander ✌️ (@AlexJames_11) September 2, 2016 BBC has just pushed this breaking news alert to my phone. Anyone know what it means? pic.twitter.com/fMS4JUrgdl— Robert Peston (@Peston) September 2, 2016 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. There were fears the BBC news website had been hacked on Friday after a story was posted in Bengali script.The article, about a police raid on militants in Dhaka, shot to the top of the list of most read on the site on Friday.It was also tweeted by BBC Breaking, which has around 24 million followers.
Heroin addicts who have been taking the drug since the 1970s and 1980s are dying in increasing numbers as they grow older and frailer.The purity of heroin reaching Britain’s streets has also increased after several years of bumper opium harvests in Afghanistan. The harvest in 2014 reached record levels according to the United Nations, after it recovered from crop blight in previous years. Vanessa Fearn, a research at the ONS, said: “Deaths involving heroin and morphine have more than doubled since 2012, partly driven by a rise in heroin purity and availability over the last three years. Drug deaths have reached record levels as cocaine and heroin becomes more pure and ageing addicts succumb to years of abuse.A total of 3,674 people died of drugs poisoning in 2015, the highest number since records began.Deaths from heroin and morphine have doubled to 1,200 since 2012, while deaths from cocaine have jumped from 112 to 320, according to new figures released by the Office for National Statistics “Age is also a factor in the record levels of drug deaths, as heroin users are getting older and they often have other conditions, such as lung disease and hepatitis, that make them particularly vulnerable.”Cocaine and heroin are often taken together, meaning increases in heroin purity could be leading to some of the deaths logged as due to cocaine.The ONS analysis said: “Since cocaine is often taken alongside heroin, it is likely that changes in the purity and availability of heroin, as well as increases in the purity of cocaine, are contributing to the rise in deaths involving cocaine in recent years.”Meanwhile ecstasy, or MDMA, was mentioned on 57 death certificates last year – the highest number in a decade.Earlier this year, the European Union’s drugs agency said the dance drug was making a comeback among young people in Britain.Figures from the Lisbon-based European monitoring centre for drugs and drug addiction estimated 2.1 million people aged 15-34 had used ecstasy in the last year, up 300,000 on the year before.The centre said dealers were aggressively marketing high dose pills and powder.Deaths linked to new psychoactive substances, once known as “legal highs”, have increased sharply, with 114 registered last year. New laws were introduced to clamp down on the substances earlier this year.The figures, taken from the results of coroners’ death certificates in England and Wales, do not include deaths from traffic accidents that may have involved drugs.A Department of Health spokesman said: “Any death related to misuse of drugs is a tragedy.”While overall drug use continues to decline, our approach is to get people off drugs for good, with decisions on treatment based on an individual’s clinical need.”An expert group has published its recommendations today to help curb the numbers of people dying from drug misuse.”We are also developing a new strategy which will include help to educate young people about the risks.” 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. Ecstasy deaths have also risenCredit:PA
If you ask the audience, they’d much rather have a short actor than other performers on their kneesWarwick Davies Pantomime company Qdos Entertainment admitted giving taller actors a special costume in a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to create the “illusion” of being smaller.Qdos said it is a “casting decision”.Warwick Davis, 46, who has stared in Harry Potter and Star Wars, told The Sun: “Some people say it’s a matter for political correctness but if you ask the audience, they’d much rather have a short actor than other performers on their knees.”Actor Mark Sealey added: “It’s a ridiculous thing to do. It’s called Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, not Snow White and the tall people.”It’s a clear cost-cutting exercise because they don’t have to pay as much.”Panto dwarf James Lusted, 28, said: “Qdos clearly have enough money to pay for dwarfs to perform in their shows.”When you’re on stage, the kids love it. It’s a great feeling to hear the gasps when they see us.”Bev Berridge, 50, who runs Spillers Pantomimes, insisted their productions still use dwarfs.But he said: “I know some of the bigger companies don’t. I know some of them use taller actors on their knees.”Qdos chairman Nick Thomas said: “The actors cast for our Snow White productions are selected for their physical and performance skills.” Britain’s panto dwarfs are grumpy at being frozen out by taller actors, it emerged today.Little actors warn cost-cutting theatre bosses are employing non-dwarfs to play their roles on their knees this Christmas.Dwarfs are paid around £1,200 a week – while taller stars may charge half that, it was reported on Monday. 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.
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. Two young boys will receive routine vaccinations, in spite of their mother’s wishes, after the High Court ruled that it would not be in the children’s best wishes to keep them from being vaccinated.The mother had told the court she objected to vaccinations because they were not vegan, and that her children’s bodies “are as free of toxins as I can possibly make them.” The boys’ father, who had applied for a court order so his sons could receive vaccinations, described the mother as “obsessive, over-protective and narrow in her views.”Moreover, he said, she had “a suspicion of conventional medicinal methods” and was “even suspicious about the administration of something like Calpol.” The mother, defending her stance at the Court of Protection in Lincoln, said: “Both children are thriving and have strong immune systems which definitely helps in protecting them from diseases.”No vaccine is vegan. No doctor will criticise the actions of a vaccine or he or she will be afraid of losing their job.”It is not natural to be injected with metal elements and as a vegan it goes against my beliefs for my children to be injected with something that is grown on animal cells or something that has been tested on animals.”However, the court ruled against the mother, and both boys will now receive vaccinations against diseases including measles, meningitis, polio and diphtheria. Judge Mark Rogers told the hearing he had “serious concerns as to [the mother’s] ability to look objectively and even-handedly” at the issue.”I am truly sorry that the mother will regard the decision as wrong,” he added. “but my objective duty is clear.” Lincoln County Court
A rider has died and another was seriously injured in two separate incidents at a quad and motocross event.Durham Police said they had “no choice” but to shut down the meeting on land next to Low Hardwick Farm, near Sedgefield, on safety grounds following the fatality and second injury.A spokesman said the first incident happened shortly after 1pm on Sunday when a male rider came off his bike and suffered critical injuries.He was taken by air ambulance to the James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, but was confirmed dead shortly after arrival.The spokesman said a woman was then hurt in a separate incident just before 2.10pm. The female rider, thought to be in her early 30s, was also taken by air ambulance to the same hospital with what are believed to be serious injuries.He said that officers took the decision to close down the privately-run event, which involved around 100 participants and 300 spectators, on safety grounds.Superintendent Mick Bird said: “We understand the formal investigation is likely to be led by the local authority but we are carrying out initial inquiries into the circumstances.”With two very serious incidents within little more than an hour, we felt there was little choice but to bring the event to a close.” 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.
Air travellers have been hit by delays at Stansted Airport after the runway was closed for repairs reportedly caused by a hole.Flights were diverted after officials shut down the landing strip between 5.30pm and 6.10pm on Sunday.Passengers reported being told by crew that the disruption was caused by a hole in the runway.The airport confirmed 11 flights had been sent to other hubs including Luton and East Midlands during the closure.BBC journalist Joe Lynam wrote on Twitter that his Ryanair pilot told passengers flights were being diverted due to a hole in the runway: After the closure, Stansted Airport posted a statement saying flights were now running again, but “some flights may be delayed or cancelled”.It added: “Our runway was temporarily closed between 5.30pm and 6.10pm to allow for minor repairs to be safely carried out and some arriving flights were diverted to other airports during the closure.”This temporary measure was deemed necessary for safety reasons and we would like to advise that the runway is now open and flight operations are back to normal.”Responding to the announcement, one user wrote online: “The hundreds of people who’ve been queuing at gates for 2 hours debate that news…” Images posted on social media showed sprawling queues as hundreds waited to board their flights. There’s a ‘hole’ in the runway at Stansted airport according to the pilot of my Ryanair flight from Italy which had to divert to Luton.— Joe Lynam BBC (@BBC_Joe_Lynam) August 13, 2017 London Stansted airport- big delays because of a hole in the runway pic.twitter.com/PlC3XkOpnl— Ryan Gardiner (@RyanGardiner36) August 13, 2017 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 Trust said: “Around 80 per cent of investments are held in restricted funds , meaning they can only be spent on specific places or purposes. The charity also has to keep a proportion of funds s general reserves… This is good governance.”The revelations come after the National Trust told hundreds of tenants in leasehold properties that they faced ground rent hikes of up to 10,000 per cent.One 87-year-old man was reportedly told his payments would go up from £148 to £15,000 per year.Meanwhile, the Trust is calling for cash support from the public for a series of “vital” restoration projects, such as the repair of the roof of a Tudor palace in Hampshire. The National Trust is sitting on reserves of more than £1 billion while it continues to plead for donations and hike rents for tenants, it has emerged.According to its latest accounts, the conservation charity boasted an investment pool of £1.008 billion in the year to February 2016.In that period, it received an income of £522 million, which included £51 million left in wills and £178 million in membership fees.The charity spent £540 million in the same 12 months, with a dozen staff earning six-figure salaries, the Mail on Sunday reported. 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.
Douglas Waters, Prof Lydon da Cruz, Freda Waters, and Odysseas GeorgiadisCredit:Matt Thackray Embryonic stem cells have the ability to become any cell in the body in the right environment 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. “They represent another step forward in materializing our hopes of clinical implementation of human embryonic stem cell based treatment of age-related macular degeneration in the not so distant future.”The trial results were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology. Experts said the treatment offered ‘real hope’ to people suffering from AMD.Professor Lyndon da Cruz, consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “The patients who received the treatment had very severe AMD, and their improved vision will go some way to enhance their quality of life.“We recognise that this is a small group of patients, but we hope that what we have learned from this study will benefit many more in the future.“The results suggest that this new therapeutic approach is safe and provides good visual outcomes.”The patch was grown on a thin plastic scaffold from human embryonic stem cells. Rather than replacing the damaged light-sensitive cells themselves, the sheet comprises of a single layer of retinal pigment epithelium, a specialist tissue which provides support for the light cells, keeping them healthy and promoting regeneration.Previously stem cells have been used to help AMD sufferers, but it is the first time a patch has been grown and transplanted. In a two hour operation, specialists inserted the patch under the retina of each patient, who were then monitored for a year. Both went from not being able to read at all, to reading up to 80 words-a-minute using normal reading glasses.Douglas Waters, 86, from Croydon, London, was one of two people who had received the treatment at Moorfields Eye Hospital. He developed severe wet AMD in July 2015 and received the treatment three months later in his right eye. Scans show new darker cells growing around hte patch after a year Credit:UCL/Moorfields Eye Hospital Dr Dusko Ilic, Reader in Stem Cell Science, King’s College London added: “Even though still in the experimental stage, encouraging results from the da Cruz team are reducing further safety concerns with the human embryonic stem cell based therapies. Douglas Waters who can read again after becoming the first person in the world to have a stem cell eye patch implanted Credit:Matt Thackray It is the first time an engineered piece of tissue has been successfully used to treat people with sudden severe sight loss. The new therapy will need to go through larger trials and then be passed by regulators, but researchers believe it could be available in eye clinics in as little as five years. Two patients suffering the most common form of sight loss in Britain can read again after a groundbreaking stem cell patch was transplanted into their eyes.An 86-year-old man, and a woman in her 60s, had both been diagnosed with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition which causes loss of central vision.AMD affects more than 600,000 people in Britain and occurs when the specialised light-sensitive cells at the very centre of the retina – a region called the macular – become damaged. Currently the only treatments available are injections into the eye, or laser surgery, which both slow the growth of blood vessels which harm the macular. However they only partially restores sight and do not work for everyone.Now scientists at University College London (UCL) and Moorfields Eye Hospital in London have shown sight can be restored using a patch of stem-cells which replenishes the damaged area. “I was struggling to see things clearly, even when up-close,” he said. “After the surgery my eyesight improved to the point where I can now read the newspaper and help my wife out with the gardening.“It’s brilliant what the team have done and I feel so lucky to have been given my sight back.” Professor Pete Coffey from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology said: “This study represents real progress in regenerative medicine and opens the door on new treatment options for people with age-related macular degeneration. “We hope this will lead to an affordable ‘off-the-shelf’ therapy that could be made available to NHS patients within the next five years.”Commenting on the research Dr Carmel Toomes, Associate Professor, Leeds Institutes of Molecular Medicine, said: These results give the many patients out there who suffer from AMD and other retinal degenerations real hope that stem cells replacement therapy may be a reality in the near future.“While this is only a very early clinical trial, the results are positive and show that the technology is moving along in the right direction.”
Such specimens can be sold for hundreds of pounds, But despite this, local restaurants have so far been among the main beneficiaries as part of an an effort to celebrate Monmouthshire’s role in Britain’s emerging truffle story.Mr Sims had already made history in 2016 by growing the first ever summer truffles in Wales, but the chances of successfully growing Perigords were always far slimmer.He began the project in 2008 as a means of putting spare to use, planting 4,800 summer truffle trees and 200 Milano oaks in a sunnier, elevated part of the estate as an experiment.”I have always been fascinated by fungus and mushrooms and all that sort of thing and back then I though if I start growing truffles now I could end up 10 years ahead of everyone else.”Truffles are very expensive and I thought it might be a very good return for the future.” After first making the soil less acidic by spreading more than 300 tonnes of chalk and lyme, Mr Sims settled back for a wait of several years during which he trained up his two dogs to search for truffles, Bella and his Jack Russell-Patterdale terrior-cross, which he named Truffle.The first sign that truffles may be growing came when Mr Sims noticed what is known as areas of brule, patches round the tree where other plants and grass are dying.While the ‘burn’t patch indicates the fungus from which truffles derive is active, it does not necessarily mean a truffle has fruited.”I was just walking the dog as normal and it started truffling. When I saw that the truffle was there I pulled the dog away. “It was fantastic. I gave my wife a ring to video me. It was quite a big moment. I knew straight way it was a Perigord as soon as I smelled it. “While the black Perigord truffle (Tuber malonosporum), from the area of the same name in Dordogne, are generally considered to be the finest examples of their kind in the world, many Italians consider the white truffle (Tuber magnatum) to be superior. In 2016 a large Italian white truffle sold for £45,250. Britain’s first crop of one of the world’s most sought-after truffles has been successfully grown by a Welsh landowner who is now giving them away for free to local restaurants.Matt Sims, with the help of his sprocker spaniel Bella, has now unearthed 25 of the valuabe Perigord truffles in his 11-acre plantation as a result of a 10-year project.Until now UK devotees of the pungent black delicacy have had to source them from abroad, mainly southwestern France.But Mr Sims, 49, says his groundbreaking success in the Monmouthshire countryside proves that, with the right skill, British soil can support Perigord growth.The businessman discovered his first Perigord in March last year, towards the end of winter truffle season, and had to wait for the following winter to find out whether the growth had been a fluke.However, he has since unearthed more than two dozen, including one more weighing more than 100g. 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. Mr Sims’ trufflesCredit:Jay Williams for the Telegraph Landowner Matt Sims Credit:Stephen Shepherd for the Telegraph
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. Seann Walsh will perform a quickstep to avoid a romantic dance with partner Katya Jones when Strictly Come Dancing returns.The comedian and his professional partner were pictured kissing and have been at the centre of a media storm around their behaviour, for which they have apologised.After the “dance of shame” Charleston, which avoided any romantic moves, the pair will continue the competition with yet another safe dance.They will be performing the high-tempo and light-hearted Quickstep to Lightning Bolt, by Jake Bugg.–– ADVERTISEMENT ––Walsh’s actions led to the break-up of his relationship with Rebecca Humphries, although his last dance was greeted with cheers from the Strictly audience on the weekend. Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton will attempt the Samba, Faye and Giovanni have the Foxtrot, while Kate Silverton and Aljaz Skorjanec will have the Viennese Waltz.Danny John-Jules and Amy Dowden have the Jive, and Charles Venn and Karen Clifton went for Couples’ a Street and Commercial with their couple’s choice.Graeme Swann and Oti Mabuse return this week with the Tango, with Joe Sugg and Dianne Buswell taking on the Waltz.Sign up for Ballroom Bulletin, your essential weekly companion to this series of Strictly Come Dancing. The average number of viewers was up 1.4 million from last week’s episode.Comedian Walsh and dancer Jones were scored 28 points for their performance, putting them in fourth place on the leaderboard.The pair had been surrounded by speculation that they would leave the show for the controversial kiss, for which they apologised.Walsh’s now ex-girlfriend Rebecca Humphries broke her silence soon after, claiming the kiss had happened on her birthday.In a withering statement, actress Humphries claimed that Walsh had called her “psycho/nuts/mental” when she suspected something was going on between him and Jones, who is married to Strictly dancer Neil Jones.Saturday’s Strictly barely made any reference to the furore around the stars’ personal lives, with Walsh and Jones ignoring it completely in their pre-recorded material.However, hosts Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly did make a light-hearted reference to it as they opened the show, quipping about the “odd headline” over the past week.Who is dancing what in week five of Strictly?Week five will also see Vick Hope and Graziano Di Prima dancing a Cha Cha to More Than Friends, by James Hype featuring Kelli-Leigh.Lauren Steadman and AJ Pritchard will be going Contemporary, Dr Ranj Singh and Janette Manrara will be dancing the American Smooth, and Ashley Roberts and Pasha Kovalev are attempting the Rumba. Seann Walsh and Rebecca Humphries pictured in 2015Credit:Getty Saturday saw Strictly score its highest ratings of the series so far as more than 10 million viewers tuned in to watch the “Dance of Shame”.All eyes were on the comedian and the dancer as they performed for the first time since being wrapped up in the controversy around their kiss.Viewers had to wait until nearly the end of the almost two-hour long broadcast to watch Walsh and Jones, the penultimate couple to perform.It peaked at 11.9 million viewers, had an audience share of 51.2 percent and was the most-watched show across all channels on Saturday, the BBC said.