Phil Mickelson sends a text from the fairway


Phil Mickelson sends a text from the fairway

From Comcast SportsNet
DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) -- The biggest distraction Jack Nicklaus ever faced on the golf course was from a helicopter. It's an old story, but Nicklaus chuckled while recalling the time he lost his concentration when a chopper flew over Cherry Hills in the 1960 U.S. Open and he three-putted for bogey. Two years later, Nicklaus had gone three rounds without a three-putt in the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont when a helicopter approached as he played the first hole of the final round. "I reverted and thought right back about it," Nicklaus said over the weekend. "It was the only three-putt I had in the whole tournament." The issue at Memorial was cellphones, which contributed to Phil Mickelson withdrawing after an opening round of 79. Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler mentioned the vast number of fans taking pictures with their phones, to the point players had to back off their shots. Mickelson is not afraid to send a message to the tour -- in this case, literally. According to four people with direct knowledge, Mickelson sent a text message to PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem from the sixth fairway at Muirfield Village suggesting that a lack of policing fans with cellphones was getting out of hand. Mickelson withdrawing for what he called "mental fatigue" is not a tour violation. Players can withdraw for any reason after completing a round. Using a phone to send the commissioner a text is another matter, though the tour doesn't disclose any disciplinary actions. If nothing else, one official said it got the tour's attention. Mickelson doesn't mind taking criticism, even for pulling out of Nicklaus' tournament. He skipped the Tour Championship during a debate over the length of the PGA Tour season and decided not to play a FedEx Cup playoff event in the inaugural year to protest the inequity of the pro-am policy. Those close to the tournament host said Nicklaus wasn't bothered by Mickelson's decision to leave and never brought it up. Last year, the tour began allowing fans to bring phones to the tournament so long as photos weren't taken during competition. There are designated areas to make calls. That's not going to stop fans from taking pictures, and most annoying are the people who don't switch the phones to silent. Banning the policy isn't an option. The tour is moving forward in the digital age with programs to enhance the gallery's experience. Plus, the increase in attendance has been tangible this year. Nowadays, if fans can't bring their phones, they're more likely not to come at all. The solution is to add security or volunteers to the two or three marquee pairings, and to take away phones from fans caught taking pictures (giving them a claim check to retrieve the phone at the end of the day). That's what happened on Friday, and there were no big incidents the rest of the way.

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Making the case for Bradley Beal's All-Star ascenion under Scott Brooks

Making the case for Bradley Beal's All-Star ascenion under Scott Brooks

The early indications for Bradley Beal, who signed a $128 million max deal this summer while never averaging 20 points or more per game in four seasons, is that Wizards coach Scott Brooks will institute changes that’ll make him a first-time All-Star.

In the Wizards’ last preseason game, the shooting guard had 19 points in 28 minutes. He also had nine assists and no turnovers, attacking the basket off the dribble when the defense attempts to close him out on the open shot.

Center Marcin Gortat had this detailed observation that will be a good jumping off point: “I mentioned to a few other guys on the team, this is what I’d like to see from Brad. We all know that he’s a very great talent. He’s on the way to being a great player, too. But we need see more than just 20 points in a game. We need to see 20 points and six or seven rebounds, six or assists. Just because he’s a shooter and he doesn’t handle the ball as much as John (Wall) doesn’t mean he can’t have six, seven, eight assists a game. If we can add another guard with six or seven assists on our team, that’s going to be great. It’s going to open up a lot of things for him because he’s not only going to create shots for himself but he’s going to create shots for everybody else. People are going to be like, ‘I’m not helping from the big,’ and he’s going to have a layup. It’s better if Brad is going to try to do something 1-on-1. Automatically Brad is going to be able to beat his man. That’s what I like to see from Brad more, creating more than 20 points in a game that we all know he’s capable of doing.”

Brooks, who took over for Randy Wittman after he was fired following a 41-41 season, is giving him the tools to do it:

Triangle principles

When the Wizards are running floppy actions for Beal as he comes off screens to get the open jumper, they’re flowing into “triangle” when that gets taken away. The handoffs from Gortat or other bigs in the high post give him options other than simply standing on the weak side and waiting for the skip pass from Wall. Beal can maneuver around the big to create room from a jumper, or he can draw the defender out and blow by him to get into the lane to finish or kick to the corner for the shooter.

The offense has evolved into all five players touching the ball –- a huge upside of using triangle and something they didn't do under Wittman –- to make them more difficult to defend. The Wizards don’t call it triangle, but some of those principles are built-in and Beal can benefit quite a bit from them. The key in all of this is proper spacing which is the biggest issue for the Wizards to grasp until it becomes second nature.

Freedom to run offense

Letting Beal be on the ball instead of putting 99.9% of the burden on Wall is designed to help both. Beal showed to start the third quarter vs. Toronto that he can be efficient. Three of the Wizards’ first four baskets were the product of assists from Beal.

Wall has worked on his catch-and-shoot threes and looks more comfortable spotting up in the corners. There are times when Beal over-dribbles and passes up on a good look for a tougher shot but he’s living in the paint. Gortat is able to clean up misses because the bigs are coming over to help seal Beal’s penetration. It’s a trickle-up effect.

“We don’t want him to just be a jump shooter,” Brooks said. “We don’t want him to be a one-dribble pullup guy. We want him to attack the basket, not only for himself but for the bigs.”

Post-up chances

On inbound plays or after timeouts when the Wizards can get Beal on a small guard – this happened in the preseason finale vs. the Raptors but it wasn’t the only time in the seven exhibitions – he got a matched with an undersized point guard in Kyle Lowry who is about five inches shorter. The entry pass went to Beal under the rim and that forced center Jonas Valanciunas to help. Otto Porter popped to the short corner for the pass and made a wide-open three-pointer. This is another way Beal can better his assist numbers (3.0 per game for his career). If there’s isn’t any help, he’s at the rim for the easy finish. Wall, who at 6-4 has good size and strength at his position, will benefit from doing this, too.

Off-ball action

In the NBA, the weakside is where so much happens to create the open look. In the past, Beal has fallen into standing and waiting for the pass rather than moving which has caused the offense to stagnate in the half-court. By making the best shooter a screener (see Kyle Korver) on the weakside of the floor, defenses can have communication hiccups. Beal is getting layups off slip passes while defenses ball watch, particularly Wall because he commands so much attention. He's getting bigs on him 25 feet from the basket on switches and is breaking them down off the dribble.

“We know we can score in a variety of ways. That’s just another way to get easy points, just constantly moving without the ball,” Beal said.

Porter is the best player at moving off the ball and sees the benefit of what’s happening with Beal. If Beal isn’t scoring from his off-ball movement, he’s making defenses pay for ball-watching when he has possession. It’s a side benefit of the best shooter on the team running the offense more.

“Everybody is keying in on him,” Porter said. “With him creating for others, it opens up cutting lanes, driving lanes for everybody and it definitely helps the flow on offense.”

Free-throw bump

All of these new wrinkles should translate into more trips to the charity stripe, an area where Beal has been shockingly inefficent. Beal has played 63 games in which he hasn't attempted one free throw

Brooks hasn't finished installing his entire arsenal. He'll add in things as the season progresses. Will Beal run more two-man game with a big or some elbow-gets that Brooks used with James Harden when he'd run the offense for the Oklahoma City Thunder?

"I’m still figuring out where everybody wants the ball, likes the ball and where they can be successful with the ball. With Bradley, he has the ability where we can spray his offense all around the court," Brooks said. "Not just at top, at the elbow, at the nail, on the side or on the baseline. I think he can do it all and I’m going to keep challenging him to be that type of complete offensive player. With all the guys. John is the same way. He’s been so dominating with the ball and rightfully so, he makes great decisions, one of the best passers in the game. But I’d like for him to be off the ball because when you get off the ball on those kick outs to him it’s going to be hard to catch his speed when he’s attacking the basket and it’s going to allow him to get to the free throw line which is what we need for both guys to get to the line more.


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Former Raven Vonta Leach critical of NFL's double-standard in regards to Josh Brown, Ray Rice

Former Raven Vonta Leach critical of NFL's double-standard in regards to Josh Brown, Ray Rice

Former Ravens' fullback Vonta Leach wants to why.

Leach, who paved the way for the Ravens run game from 2011 to 2013, wants to know why Giants kicker Josh Brown remains in the NFL while Ray Rice still struggles to find work.

Brown did not travel with the Giants to England for their Week 7 game against the Rams due after new information related to domestic violence against his then-wife came to light this week. Brown was placed on the commissioner's exempt list, and according to an ESPN source, the Giants are all but done with him.

Rice, who was teammates with Leach for three seasons, was essentially excommunicated from the Ravens and the NFL after a 2014 video tape was leaked showing Rice strike then-fiancee Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator.

Leach wants to know why Brown, who admitted to numerous incidences of domestic violence, has yet to be given the same sort of punishment Rice received.

Rice has made every effort possible to atone for his sin. He has spoken to numerous youth, high school and college teams about the treatment of women, and has shown great sorrow and remorse in the wake of his actions. One would think Rice has done enough to deserve a second chance.

But the issue here is two-fold.

First, Rice is a 5-8 running back who was already nearing a decline at the time of his suspension. Teams don't rely on running backs in the same regard as a few years ago, and while Rice deserves a second chance, he just simple isn't a desired commodity.

Secondly, the video evidence changed the entire perspective. The initial video of Rice dragging his unconscious fiancee out of the elevator was leaked on February 19. Rice was issued a two-game suspension by the NFL four months later. On September 8, video of Rice striking Palmer was leaked. On the very same day, Rice was released by the Ravens and issued an indefinite suspension by the NFL.

There is no tangible evidence against Brown, although it should not make a difference.

Domestic violence is domestic violence regardless of video evidence. But the swift handling of Rice in wake of the second video set a dangerous precedent.

Leach is right. Brown admitted to abusing his wife several times. The discrepancy between the handling of Rice and the handling of Brown should not be this vast. 

While the NFL is attempting to do due diligence, the precedent they set with Rice has made it nearly impossible for them to do the right thing, and they have only themselves to blame.

They also owe Leach — and all of us — an answer.