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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Stories by Grey Papke:

Photos of UCF’s Tacko Fall go viral

Tacko Fall, the tallest man at the NCAA Tournament, got a lot of viral attention when his UCF Knights took on the VCU Rams in Friday night’s first round matchup.

Fall stands at 7-6, and looked every bit of it when he was interviewed by CBS’s Tracy Wolfson, who’s a good two feet shorter than he is.

Fall towering over a reporter is one thing. Fall being about as tall as one of his opponents while on his knees is even more hilarious. For context, Marcus Evans, the VCU player standing next to Fall, is listed at 6-2.

The internet loves tall people next to short people, and Fall really fits the bill. Expect him to garner a lot of attention when he goes up against Zion Williamson and Duke in the second round.

Lonzo Ball breaks ties with Big Baller Brand co-founder after $1.5 million goes missing

Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball has severed ties with one of the family’s close business advisers over $1.5 million in missing money.

According to Ramona Shelburne and Paula Lavigne of ESPN, Ball has severed all ties, “effective immediately,” with Alan Foster, a business manager and co-founder of Big Baller Brand, the Los Angeles Lakers guard said in a statement.

Foster has known LaVar Ball for a decade and is said to be the man who convinced the Ball family patriarch to form his own shoe brand instead of signing an established deal. The discrepancy came about last fall, when Lonzo Ball’s financial adviser was unable to account for $1.5 million.

In their reporting, ESPN discovered that Foster was convicted of money laundering in 2002 as part of a fraud scheme and spent time in prison, which the Ball family was unaware of.

This is not the first time Big Baller Brand has come in for some public scrutiny, but this is pretty damaging for Lonzo personally. It appears he’s taking aggressive steps to weed out the problem.

NBA players chime in on unfairness of CBS’s ‘Zion Cam’

Zion Williamson

Zion Williamson will take center stage when Duke opens its NCAA Tournament run on Friday night, and CBS is planning to put the spotlight on him.

The Sporting News reported that CBS had brought in a “Zion Cam” for Friday’s game, even hiring an extra cameraman and bringing in more equipment to make it happen. The camera will follow Williamson on the floor in isolation for the entire game.

That didn’t impress NBA players Frank Kaminsky and Bobby Portis, both of whom were quick to remark that despite all this, Williamson himself wouldn’t see a penny at the college level.

The point being made is that, despite being the main attraction for a TV network that will roll in the money with their Williamson-centric telecast, the player himself can’t profit. Kaminsky went further, debating with a fan who argued that all the attention would be good for Williamson’s brand once he entered the NBA.

This isn’t the first time Williamson’s presence in the college game has sparked a discussion about paying college athletes. It probably won’t be the last time, either.

Florida State coach compares Ja Morant to NBA legend

Ja Morant

Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton is trying to prepare his team for the Ja Morant show in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and he’s doing it with some pretty high praise.

Hamilton compared Morant to a series of NBA icons, even name-dropping Magic Johnson in comparing their ability to find joy in creating scoring opportunities for teammates.

“What I notice is he’s one of the most exceptional players that I’ve had a chance to watch play,” Hamilton said Friday, via Myron Medcalf of ESPN. “He’s kind of a throwback to guys who have the ability to score points. But [he] also has the passion and the excitement about creating opportunities for his teammates, guys like a Nate Archibald who can lead the NBA in scoring and lead in assists at the same time. A guy like Magic Johnson, who got so much joy making the game easy for his teammates. Even a player like Muggsy Bogues, who has an uncanny way of making things easy for his [teammates].”

Obviously, Hamilton isn’t saying Morant is the next Magic. But given how much he influenced Murray State’s first-round upset of Marquette with his passing and creating, there is something to be said for their comparative impact on the teams they played on. Oh, and he can dunk, too. The Seminoles, despite being favorites, will have their hands full with Morant and company on Saturday.

Report: Braves, Brewers final suitors for Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel Red Sox

It appears that closer Craig Kimbrel may be inching closer to finding a home for the 2019 season.

According to David O’Brien of The Athletic, the Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves are the main suitors for Kimbrel barring an unexpected late contender.

The Brewers had been thought to be the frontrunner, and may have a glaring need due to a potential health issue in the back of their bullpen. Kimbrel knows the Braves well, having been drafted and developed by the organization while playing five seasons there.

There’s no indication of how close any deal is, but with Opening Day less than a week away, any team would probably like to get him signed as quickly as possible so he can be put on a program to get fast-tracked onto the MLB roster.

Michigan State’s Aaron Henry clarifies his relationship with Tom Izzo

Tom Izzo restrained

Michigan State freshman Aaron Henry was the victim of one of the more over-the-top coaching tirades from Tom Izzo, which led to a lot of questions about whether Izzo went too far.

On Friday, Henry offered some clarification regarding his relationship with his coach, and it doesn’t sound like a bad one despite what viewers saw during Thursday’s first round game.

For better or worse, it’s the kind of treatment players seem to expect and have grown comfortable with coming from coaches like Izzo. Henry, it seems, is not going to complain about it, and as far as he’s concerned, the issue appears to be settled.

Twitter reacts to Virginia’s slow start against Gardner-Webb

Tony Bennett

After what happened last year, more eyes than usual fell on the Virginia Cavaliers when they kicked off their matchup against 16th-seeded Gardner-Webb on Friday. And once again, the Cavaliers did not look ready to play.

The Cavaliers fell early and were still 10 points behind Gardner-Webb with four and a half minutes left in the first half. At one point, they trailed by as much as 14 — and Twitter noticed immediately.

Perhaps the best reaction came from UMBC’s Twitter account, the 16-seed that knocked off Virginia last year.

It’s very early, but it’s not too early to dream. What will Tony Bennett say this time? How would Virginia ever recover from this happening two years in a row? They still have 25 minutes to render these questions moot, but the pressure will only increase the longer Gardner-Webb stay close or in front.

Report: Astros could re-sign Justin Verlander on short-term deal

Justin Verlander

There had been some talk that Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros may struggle to agree to terms on a short-term deal, but there may be a better chance of it than previously anticipated.

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, it is at least “possible” that the Astros would be willing to go north of $60 million on a two-year deal to keep Verlander. Houston is an analytical organization that some believed would be hesitant to offer that kind of money to someone who will be 37 in 2020, especially with Verlander eager to set a new average annual value record for a pitcher.

Verlander has said he’d be willing to go short, but the caveat was that he added it would only happen if the value was right. That’s going to be the sticking point in any negotiations, and they could be fruitless if the Astros aren’t willing to push $35 million a year.