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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Stories by Grey Papke:

Zion Williamson has funny response to Tacko Fall challenge

Zion Williamson

One of the developing NCAA Tournament subplots is Zion Williamson taking on Tacko Fall in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

On Saturday, Fall put down a marker, saying that he would not allow Williamson to put him on a poster. Williamson’s response was appropriately amusing.

As we’ve now seen, Williamson is one of the few players with the requisite size and skill to challenge Fall’s all-conquering height. They’re clearly up for the battle, and it will be an entertaining one to watch.

Wofford’s Fletcher Magee sets unwanted record in loss to Kentucky

It was widely expected that Wofford’s success or failure against Kentucky would hinge on Fletcher Magee’s shooting. That was correct, but not in the way he would’ve wanted it to be.

Magee, who set the all-time NCAA Division I record for made three-pointers in the first round win over Seton Hall, went 0-for-12 from distance in the Terriers’ 62-56 loss to Kentucky. Not only was that the difference in the outcome, but it was a record for most three-point tries without converting in tournament history.

John Calipari’s team played an exemplary game defensively, and Magee was relegated to playing heroball late. He missed a few open looks, too. Unfortunately for the Terriers, even an average game from Magee may have been enough to get by Kentucky if all else was equal. They’ll feel that this one was there for the taking.

Zion Williamson not worrying about ‘Zion Cam’ controversy

Zion Williamson

All eyes remain on Zion Williamson at the NCAA Tournament, but the man himself is keeping impressively calm under the circumstances.

The latest Zion-related firestorm is not one of his own making. CBS debuted “Zion Cam” in Duke’s first round win over North Dakota State, a camera that followed Williamson wherever he was on the court. Several NBA players were critical of the fact that CBS could do this, but Williamson couldn’t be compensated for anything as a college athlete.

Williamson’s take on that? It isn’t much of one.

It’s a really impressive quality that Williamson can remain so calm and relaxed with all eyes on him, and it’s one of the many things that makes him such a great player. His mindset looks good heading into the Blue Devils’ second round game against UCF.

Jacob deGrom less optimistic about new contract with Mets

Jacob deGrom

New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom had been optimistic about reaching a contract extension with the team before his self-imposed deadline. Now, that seems less likely.

On Saturday, deGrom said he was not as optimistic that the two sides could reach a deal before the end of spring training, at which point the pitcher will not engage in further discussions until the end of the season.

deGrom has two seasons left to go on his contract, but there is an eagerness to get something done now before it becomes a real distraction. Plus, there could be far-ranging ramifications on the field if deGrom and the Mets can’t come to an agreement this spring.

Robert Kraft issues statement in wake of prostitution allegations

Robert Kraft

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has spoken publicly for the first time since his alleged involvement in a sex trafficking scandal came to light.

Kraft kept it vague and did not explicitly admit to any wrongdoing, but apologized for hurt and disappointment he’d caused, and vowed to prove himself capable of doing better through his actions.

Kraft’s statement doesn’t really address the legal jeopardy he’s still in. He is still refusing to admit any guilt, perhaps in part because he wants to do everything he can to keep NFL-imposed discipline against himself or his organization to a minimum. In fact, his attorneys are currently trying a new approach in an effort to get the charges against him thrown out.

Reds’ Nick Senzel not blaming service time for losing outfield job

A day after his agent blamed service time manipulation for him not winning a roster spot, Cincinnati Reds top prospect Nick Senzel is refusing to take the same approach publicly.

On Saturday, Senzel simply credited teammate Scott Schebler for nailing down the team’s center field job, and wouldn’t go anywhere close to as far as his agent did.

Schebler hit .379 during spring, so keeping him on the roster is far from indefensible. Senzel wasn’t bad either, though, hitting .308.

Ultimately, Senzel’s agent has a lot more leeway to speak on this publicly than Senzel probably does, but he’ll probably earn points for his professionalism whether he feels it’s fair or not.

Adrian Peterson aiming higher after resurgent first season with Washington

Adrian Peterson

Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson surged to his first 1,000-yard rushing season in three years last season, but in his mind, it wasn’t nearly good enough.

In an interview last week with Kyle Stackpole of the team’s official website, Peterson said he thought he should have been closer to 1,500 yards, and aims to do much better this year.

“I feel like last year was just a decent season, like for me in my mind,” Peterson said. “People were like, ‘Wow, you did incredible, you had 1,000 yards.’ And I’m like, ‘Man, I should have had 15, 16 hundred yards.'”

Peterson has always held himself to a very high standard. Only twice in his career has he eclipsed the 1,500-yard mark, and those years came in his physical prime at a position not known for aging gracefully. Don’t expect him to use that as an excuse. He never has before.

Doc Rivers amusingly hints at Cavaliers’ tanking ambitions

Doc Rivers

The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a rough year in the first campaign of the post-LeBron James era, and there are a lot of people who think it may well be by design.

Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers is not necessarily one of those people. He’s also not denying it, either.

The Cavaliers are 19-54. That isn’t even the worst record in the East, however, as the team below them has had to answer tanking questions even more awkwardly and directly than the Cavaliers have. Cleveland at least has some bright spots, and they’ve even managed to win two of three, including a win over the Milwaukee Bucks.