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#pounditWednesday, February 8, 2023

Stories by Dan Benton:

Joel Embiid responds to criticism from Hakeem Olajuwon

Joel Embiid in a Sixers jersey

Jan 6, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) looks on during the second quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid isn’t interested in hearing advice or criticism from the NBA’s greats. That includes Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon.

Olajuwon told Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard earlier this week that he loves Embiid’s game but doesn’t understand his hesitancy in the paint. He questioned why the 7-foot, 280-pound Embiid is more apt to settle for a three-point shot over taking his chances inside.

“He’s got all the moves, but leveraging the moves is different. Why would he be shooting threes?” Olajuwon questioned. “He has the advantage every night, and if I have the advantage, I’m going to wear you out.”

Olajuwon feels that launching up three-pointers is settling and gives away the advantage.

“That’s settling! When I’m tired, I settle. You don’t settle when you’re trying to win. You don’t start the game settling!”

Embiid took exception to Olajuwon’s criticism and went as far as to question his basketball IQ. Legend or not, Embiid feels the previous generation of player is out of touch with the current reality.

“From the time that (Doc Rivers) got there, the first thing he told me was that I need to figure out where I want the ball. Obviously, before, it was in the post, but like I mentioned in the past, posting up and posting all game long is easy to double,” Embiid said, via The Athletic’s Rich Hofmann. “It’s funny when you’ve got these old guys always talking about posting up, ‘You need to spend time in the paint,’ and all that stuff. You can’t win this way anymore. It’s not the fricking ’90s or ’80s like it used to be. So, they must not have any basketball IQ.”

The game of basketball has evolved and Embiid’s style change has paid off. He won the NBA’s scoring title last year and is second only to Luka Doncic for that honor this season.

Peyton Hillis received visit from legendary RB in hospital

Peyton Hillis holding the ball

October 2, 2011; Cleveland, OH , USA; Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis (40) rushes the ball during the second quarter against the Tennessee Titans in the game at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric P. Mull-USA TODAY Sports

Retired NFL running back Peyton Hillis remains hospitalized after suffering lung and kidney injuries while saving his children from drowning back on January 4.

After the kids were caught in a riptide, Hillis jumped into the ocean and helped them all back to shore. In the process, Hillis inhaled significant amounts of seawater and was promptly treated by lifeguards at the beach. He was later airlifted to a local hospital and was put on a ventilator in the ICU.

With the ventilator recently having been removed and Hillis on the mend, visitors have begun to stop by. This past Thursday, the guest list included retired Dallas Cowboys running back and Pro Football Hall of Famer, Emmitt Smith.

“I had the opportunity to visit a recovering hero this week, Peyton Hillis,” Smith wrote. “Stay strong Peyton! Praying for you, your family and wishing you a speedy recovery.”

The 36-year-old Hillis played in the NFL from 2008-2014. He was a 7th-round pick of the Denver Broncos and also spent time with the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants. He was the Madden cover athlete in 2011 after rushing for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns the year prior.

Hillis retired in 2015 due to a history of concussions and the potential for future injury.

Patriots QBs had great nickname for Bill O’Brien

Bill O'Brien on the sideline at Alabama

Alabama Offensive Coordinator Bill O’Brien during warm ups before the 2021 College Football Playoff Semifinal game at the 86th Cotton Bowl in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas Friday, Dec. 31, 2021. Credit: Gary Cosby Jr./USA TODAY NETWORK

Bill O’Brien has always had a fiery personality. His hot-headed ways were on display back in 2011 during his time with the New England Patriots. Fans may be able to recall a screaming match between he and quarterback Tom Brady that quickly went viral.

Brady dismissed the verbal altercation at the time and that was par for the course. Patriots players recognized that O’Brien would fly off the handle from time to time and they accepted it. But not without having a little fun at his expense.

Brady and fellow Patriots quarterback, Brian Hoyer, gave O’Brien a fitting nickname due to his temper. They called him “teapot” and Hoyer even purchased a literal teapot that would serve as a historical record of O’Brien’s blow-ups.

“Basically, any time we felt it was justified, we’d put it on the teapot like it was the Stanley Cup,” Hoyer once told MassLive. “I brought a teapot in one day. Tom and I thought it would be funny to just keep adding to the story. At a certain point, I started writing them down in my notebook. Finally, when we brought the teapot in, we started wrapping them around and eventually it was pretty full.”

Brady and Hoyer would decide what went on and into the teapot but on occasion, O’Brien would object.

“Billy would always say, ‘That doesn’t qualify,'” Hoyer said. “Tom and I would be like, ‘It definitely qualifies.’ Definitely some good times, it was pretty fun.”

O’Brien could return to the Patriots in 2023 as their offensive coordinator and that would make for some interesting viewing. Much like Brady before him, current Patriots quarterback Mac Jones is a pretty fiery guy himself. There would no doubt be some sideline blowups and reason for the teapot’s return.

Heat showing interest in point guard

D'Angelo Russell warming up

Mar 1, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell (0) warms up before the start of the third quarter during a game against the Dallas Mavericks at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Timberwolves point guard D’Angelo Russell is no stranger to trades or rumors regarding a possible trade. Each year when the NBA trade deadline comes around, his name makes headlines.

2023 appears to be no different. As the February 9 deadline approaches, Russell is once again subject to those rumors. This time, Jake Fischer of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Miami Heat have “registered interest” in Russell.

“Yeah, it’s my life,” Russell said of the trade rumors. “That’s it. Just be conscious of it.”

Russell, who is currently on an expiring deal, is making $31.4 million this season and seems like an obvious trade piece. However, in order for the Heat to acquire the former All-Star, they’d likely have to include guard Kyle Lowry in the swap. He’s on the books for $28.3 million this season and has an additional year ($29.7M) attached to his contract. That makes any such deal “unlikely,” Fischer added.

There are others around the league who have pondered the exact same trade.

“Could [the Wolves] call Miami and get Kyle Lowry,” ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst asked on the Hoop Collective podcast last week. “Because he’s the type of veteran guy who I think would really help them. And I think that the Heat might be interested in getting out from that contract.”

But like Fischer, Windhorst got hung up on the financial details and expressed doubt Minnesota would be willing to take on Lowry’s contract.

“I don’t know if they’re in position to do that with where their salaries are at,” he added. “But I’m also not sure they’re going to re-sign Russell unless he takes a significant paycut — and that was going to be a challenge before this year, even if everything was going well.”

The Timberwolves have $119.8 million on the books for next season (for 10 players) and they’re likely more interested in shedding salary than adding it or swapping for a similar amount.

Report shares how Ole Miss landed Alabama DC Pete Golding

Lane Kiffin wearing a headset

Oct 15, 2022; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin walks off the field during a timeout during the first quarter of the game against the Auburn Tigers at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

After working alongside Nick Saban for five years at Alabama, including the last four as defensive coordinator, Pete Golding is leaving for another program.

It was revealed on Friday that Golding would replace Chris Partridge as defensive coordinator at Ole Miss. Those close to Golding say his decision to leave Alabama was his own and in the best interest of his family, and that he was not forced out.

But how did Lane Kiffin steal one of the country’s better defensive coordinators from Alabama, who had offered him a raise? By simply offering him a little more, reports Football Scoop.

After a week of pursuing Golding, Kiffin and Ole Miss stepped up to the plate and offered a three-year deal worth more than $2 million per season. That was slightly above the $2 million that Saban is rumored to have offered him to stay.

Although Saban and Kiffin clearly view Golding as a top-end coordinator, Crimson Tide fans seem to be thrilled by his departure. Much of their criticism seems centered around the team’s tackling issues, penalties, and inconsistent run defense. But it also ignores the reality that Alabama finished the 2022 season with the fifth-best defensive efficiency in the NCAA, which is made more impressive given their lacking personnel.

Meanwhile, at Ole Miss, Golding will be Kiffin’s third different defensive coordinator in three years.

Motocross legend will attempt to qualify for Daytona 500

Travis Pastrana in sunglasses

Nov 16, 2013; Homestead, FL, USA; NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Travis Pastrana prior to the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Travis Pastrana is a RallyCross and motocross legend. He’s also known for driving both Pastrana 199 and Nitro Circus for Monster Jam, as well as taking part in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series over the years.

Pastrana quit NASCAR back in 2013 citing the lack of sponsorship but left the door open to a future return. At the time, he expressed a desire to run in the Daytona 500, which is one of the few automotive events that have eluded him.

Fast forward 10 years, and Pastrana may finally have that opportunity.

Jordan Bianchi of The Athletic reports that Pastrana will attempt to enter the 2023 Daytona 500. In order to do so, he’ll need to claim one of four available spots open to drivers who do not run the Cup Series full-time. That means he would need to finish with one of the two fastest qualifying times among drivers with non-guaranteed spots, or finish one of the two qualifying races ahead of all other drivers who are not guaranteed starting spots.

Pastrana will run as part of the 23XI team, which is co-owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan and three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin.

In addition to Pastrana, 23XI team members include Bubba Wallace, Kurt Busch, and Tyler Reddick. Both Wallace and Reddick and guaranteed starting spots in the Daytona 500. Busch will miss the race due to injury.

The Duels at Daytona qualifying races will be run on Thursday, February 16. The Dayton 500 will be run on Sunday, February 19 at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Only 2 NFL players were unanimous picks for All-Pro team

Roger Goodell at the podium

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks with the media. Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Associated Press announced their 2022 All-Pro Teams on Friday, and just two players were unanimous picks: Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

Jefferson and Kelce were each voted First-Team All-Pro on all 50 ballots. Three other players fell just short with 49 of a possible 50 First-Team votes.

The 23-year-old Jefferson led the league with 128 receptions for 1,809 yards to go along with eight touchdowns. His 128 catches broke a franchise record held by Cris Carter (122) and his yardage total also surpassed a franchise record previously held by Randy Moss (1,632).

Meanwhile, the 33-year-old Kelce closed out the regular season with 110 receptions for 1,338 yards and 12 touchdowns. Those numbers topped all tight ends across the league and his 12 touchdowns were second only to Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams (14).

For Jefferson, this marks the third time in his career he’s been named an All-Pro. It’s the seventh such honor for Kelce.

In addition to being named unanimous First-Team All-Pros, Jefferson and Kecle were also voted to the 2023 Pro Bowl Games.

Fans wondering if 1 notable prospect will declare for NFL Draft

CJ Stroud ready to throw

Apr 17, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback CJ Stroud (7) drops to throw during the first quarter of the annual spring game at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Ohio State Buckeyes have seen most of their eligible players declare for the 2023 NFL Draft, but there is one notable exception: quarterback CJ Stroud.

It’s long been expected that Stroud would move on to the NFL after three seasons at OSU, but suddenly there seems to be some question. With just days remaining until the deadline, the two-time Heisman Trophy finalist has yet to make a call.

Stroud is widely considered one of the top-three draft-eligible quarterbacks, joining Kentucky’s Will Levis and Alabama’s Bryce Young. Many mock drafts have him going No. 1 overall or, at worst, No. 2 overall. Those projections often include trade-up scenarios, which demonstrates how valuable Stroud is viewed among analysts and scouts alike.

But Stroud’s extended deliberation is not unprecedented. Throughout the years, there have been several top quarterbacks that waited until the last moment or opted to return to school. Peyton Manning did it at Tennessee in 1997 and Andrew Luck did it at Stanford in 2011. More recently, Justin Herbert returned to Oregon in 2019.

The difference in Stroud’s scenario is that he wouldn’t necessarily lose a year of income. Thanks to NIL deals, players can return to college and still make money via endorsements. It’s not NFL-level money, but it’s more than enough to potentially give them pause if they don’t like how the draft order has shaped up.

That’s not to say this is the case with Stroud, who could still decide to declare. But it’s certainly something worth watching over the next 48 hours.

Trevor Bauer not expected to be signed?

Trevor Bauer walks off the mound

Mar 6, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer against the San Diego Padres during a Spring Training game at Camelback Ranch Glendale. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Dodgers designated pitcher Trevor Bauer for assignment on Friday, making him subject to waivers.

The decision came after Bauer’s 364-game suspension under the MLB’s domestic violence policy was overturned by an arbitrator last month. But the Dodgers maintain that the accusations are serious enough that they don’t want the 31-year-old to be a part of their organization.

“The Dodgers organization believes that allegations of sexual assault or domestic violence should be thoroughly investigated, with due process given to the accused. From the beginning, we have fully cooperated with Major League Baseball’s investigation and strictly followed the process stipulated under MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy.

“Two extensive reviews of all the available evidence in this case – one by Commissioner Manfred and another by a neutral arbitrator – concluded that Mr. Bauer’s actions warranted the longest ever active player suspension in our sport for violations of this policy. Now that this process has been completed, and after careful consideration, we have decided that he will no longer be part of our organization,” the team said in a statement.

If Bauer clears waivers, he will become a free agent eligible to sign with any team. However, there are those around the league who believe he’ll remain unsigned for the foreseeable future.

“I don’t expect anyone will sign him,” one anonymous GM told ESPN.

Though one general manager doesn’t believe Bauer will be signed, some acknowledged that all it takes is one team to feel differently.

If Bauer remains unsigned, the Dodgers will be on the hook for $22.5 million of his 2023 salary. But if he does land with another team at a minimum deal, Los Angeles will save $720,000.

Jim Harbaugh in trouble for lying about hamburgers for recruits?

Jim Harbaugh in Michigan gear

Aug 31, 2019; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh before the game against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan football program and head coach Jim Harbaugh are currently under investigation by the NCAA. They face four Level 2 violations for alleged in-person recruiting contacts during the COVID-19 pandemic, and one Level 1 violation for non-compliance or misleading NCAA investigators.

How, exactly, did Harbaugh mislead NCAA investigators?

Chris Balas of The Wolverine reports that Harbaugh allegedly bought recruits a couple of hamburgers at The Brown Jug in Ann Arbor.

According to the NCAA, when presented with the receipt, Harbaugh said he “didn’t recall” making those purchases.

The horror!

In the age of NIL deals, it’s surreal to think a college coach could face a violation for shelling out $3 on a hamburger. Imagine the NCAA’s fury if they found out the pattie came with a side of fries and a small soft drink.

“We received draft allegations from the NCAA regarding our football program. We have cooperated and will continue to cooperate with this investigation. Out of respect to the NCAA’s enforcement process, we will not offer further comments,” Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said, via ESPN.

Buying a recruit some food would constitute a violation if done in an impermissible manner. But the violation raised to becoming a Level I infraction because Harbaugh allegedly lied or misled investigators about the hamburger purchase.

Harbaugh, who has said he intends to return to Michigan in 2023 despite rumored NFL interest, faces a possible suspension if the NCAA determines he violated their rules.

H/T Barstool Sports