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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Stories by Larry Brown:

Dirk Nowitzki embarrassed by having street named after him

Dirk Nowitzki

Plans are in the works to get a street near American Airlines Center in Dallas renamed after Dirk Nowitzki. While that is a great honor, the modest Nowitzki unsurprisingly feels somewhat embarrassed about it.

Nowitzki joined the Dennis and Cowlishaw show on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM recently and talked about the street.

“That’s almost a little embarrassing for me, it’s almost too much,” Nowitzki said. “I came and I wanted to do my job every day, and that’s entertaining people and winning and enjoying doing it, so I’m really appreciative and humbled that people enjoyed that and liked what they saw.”

The plan is to rename a stretch of Olive Street that runs near the arena “Nowitzki Way.” The measure still has to be approved by the Dallas City Council, which could happen within the next few months.

A letter by the city councilmen who brought up the idea shares why they wanted to make the move.

“He demonstrates the highest levels of compassion, honesty, teamwork, respect and integrity in both his personal and professional life, and he has served as a global ambassador for the City of Dallas throughout his 21 years with the Mavericks,” the letter reads.

Dirk retired at the end of the season after 21 seasons in the NBA. He was a first-round pick in 1998 and played his entire career for the Mavericks, bringing them a championship in 2011. He is a former league MVP, Finals MVP, and 14-time All-Star. In addition to all of his honors, he is a lock for the Basketball Hall of Fame. Getting a street named after him would be well-deserved.

Michigan baseball coach Erik Bakich shares his approach on building diverse roster

Michigan baseball

The Michigan Wolverines on Monday shutout Florida State 2-0 at the College World Series in Omaha to ensure a spot among the final four teams in the tournament. Tommy Henry pitched a complete game shutout with 10 strikeouts, while Jordan Nwogu and Jesse Franklin scored the team’s two runs.

This is the Wolverines’ first time playing in the College World Series since 1984, and they’ve already had a great showing. One thing that stands out about the Wolverines’ roster is how much diversity they have compared to many of their competitors. A number of their players are black, including three student-athletes from Chicago.

During the team’s game against the Seminoles, head coach Erik Bakich was asked about building a diverse roster and told ESPN they target a lot of inner-city kids on purpose.

“We want to have a diverse roster, and we want to provide an opportunity for kids all over the country that we can,” Bakich said.

Bakich isn’t the first person to point out how the expenses associated with travel ball and showcases have made it seem like you have to be rich to play. But that isn’t the case, and Bakich aims to prove that.

In MLB, as of 2017, fewer than seven percent of players in MLB were African American. Michigan’s baseball team appears to have around triple that mark.

“You know, the first year I was here, there were no minority players on our team,” Bakich said for a February article in the Michigan Daily. “Maybe this is just a personal philosophy or preference, but I just feel that at this school, especially given its legacy, our roster should look like the United States of America.”

Michigan was once coached by Branch Rickey, the general manager who signed Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier in MLB. Bakich is trying to carry in that tradition.

Why is it important to have diversity on a team and in baseball in general? Those concerned about the health and appeal of the sport — which all fans should be — should want the best and most exciting athletes in the world playing baseball so that the level of competition is elevated. Top athletes need to feel welcome in the game in order to play it and pursue careers in it. If you’re an African American athlete and you don’t see fellow African Americans on rosters, you might not feel the sport is meant for you. Bakich is doing his part to change that — and he is enjoying success as a result.

Baker Mayfield teaches Texas kids ‘Horns Down’ gesture at football camp

Baker Mayfield throat

Baker Mayfield is getting kids everywhere hooked on the Oklahoma Sooners, even some in Texas.

Mayfield hosted a football camp last week at his former high school, Lake Travis High School outside of Austin in Texas. According to the Austin American-Statesman’s Brian Davis, Mayfield greeted the campers with a “Boomer Sooner!” and Horns Down gesture.

Mayfield began his college career at Texas Tech before transferring to Oklahoma, where he went on to become a Heisman Trophy winner and the eventual No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. He has disliked the Longhorns for a while and said of them in an Instagram post last year, “can’t stand them.” He even went so far as to taunt a Texas signee last year.

The Horns Down hands gesture has long been viewed as a disrespectful symbol towards Texas, one the Big 12 has even cracked down on, much to the unhappiness of their opponents. Mayfield is going to keep the gesture alive in any way he can.

Hyun-Jin Ryu extends incredible pitching streak for Dodgers

Hyun Jin Ryu

Those who follow the stats in MLB know that league ERA leader Hyun-Jin Ryu is having a stellar season for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Korean southpaw lowered his ERA to 1.26 with seven innings pitched against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday night where he allowed two runs, neither of which were earned. Though he took a no-decision in the outing, he is 9-1 on the season and leads the National League in wins.

What’s truly incredible about Ryu this season is how absurd his control has been. He has 85 strikeouts and just five walks on the season. Five. Five walks. That’s in 100 innings over 14 starts.

He has not allowed more than two runs or one walk in any of his starts this season. He extended that streak to 14 starts with Sunday’s outing. No pitcher in the last 110 years of MLB history has done that for more than 10 straight starts.

One of the main objectives of a starter is to give your team a chance to win every time you take the mound. This streak is the epitome of doing that at an extremely high level.

The Dodgers have gone 10-4 in Ryu’s 14 starts this season. He’s easily the favorite for the Cy Young award at this point.

Raptors fans camp out a day early ahead of championship parade

Toronto Raptors We the North

The extent to which Toronto Raptors fans are falling in love with the team continues to astound.

The Raptors are celebrating their first NBA title in franchise history with a championship parade on Monday. As of Sunday, fans had already begun camping out for it, as video from Sportsnet’s Faizal Khamisa showed.

Toronto is already preparing for 1.5-2 million fans to attend the championship parade and is looking forward to the greatest party the city has ever seen.

The Raptors were setting TV records throughout their championship run, which culminated with Game 6 of the NBA Finals drawing a staggering 82 share in the Toronto market.

Australian league trying to sign LaMelo Ball

LaMelo Ball

LaMelo Ball is narrowing down his options on where he will play ball next season, and Australia’s biggest league apparently is in pursuit of him.

The New York Times’ Marc Stein reported on Sunday night that Australian’s National Basketball League is trying to sign Ball to a “next stars” contract. That is their program where they try and attract NBA prospects who are considering a year of pro ball rather than college before entering the NBA Draft.

Stein specifically says the Illawarra Hawks have been connected to Ball.

LaMelo is the youngest of LaVar Ball’s three sons. Lonzo, the former No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft, is being traded by the Lakers to the New Orleans Pelicans. LiAngelo Ball enrolled at UCLA but was pulled out after a theft scandal in China. LaMelo and LiAngelo then went to play in Lithuania briefly. LaMelo was originally committed to UCLA but eschewed that plan to begin his pro career before going back to play for the Spire Institute in Ohio.

LaMelo is currently playing in the famed Drew League in Los Angeles. He said on Instagram that a decision on his future was coming soon.

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Decision Coming Soon…

A post shared by LaMelo Ball (@melo) on

LaMelo will be eligible for the 2020 NBA Draft.

Why date Anthony Davis trade is executed matters for Lakers

Anthony Davis wingspan

The Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans agreeing to a trade involving Anthony Davis is a big step, but there is still one extremely important detail that remains that will affect the Lakers’ ability to build the rest of their roster. That is the date the trade is executed.

The amount of salary cap space the Lakers will have available when free agency begins depends on the day the trade is executed, as well as whether Davis receives his trade bonus.

– If the trade is executed on July 6 and Davis receives his $4.1 million trade bonus, the Lakers would have $23.6 million in salary cap space
– If the trade is executed on July 6 and Davis waives his trade bonus, the Lakers would have $27.7 million in salary cap space
– If the trade is executed on July 30, the Lakers would have $32.5 million in cap space

The Lakers Review adds that if the Lakers trade Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga, they would free up additional cap space.

The reason for this difference in available cap space money — aside from Davis’ trade bonus — has to do with a cap hold due to the Lakers holding the No. 4 draft pick. Part of the salary cap space they have available is set aside to account for the signing of the No. 4 pick, which they’re planning to trade as terms of their deal with New Orleans.

As of now, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski says the date of the trade is expected to be July 6. That would impact the Lakers’ ability to sign a player to a max free agent deal.

The Lakers were said to be targeting Kemba Walker, but they might not be able to offer him the kind of money he could see elsewhere, especially from Charlotte. They may be best served trying to sign several players with the available money they have rather than locking up one major free agent given all the holes in their roster.

Gary Woodland and wife Gabby expecting twins two years after tragedy

Gary Woodland wife Gabby

Gary Woodland’s win at the US Open on Father’s Day Sunday comes with very special meaning.

The 35-year-old golfer and his wife Gabby were expecting twins two years ago — a boy and a girl. They lost the girl in a miscarriage, and the boy, Jaxson, was born 10 weeks premature.

Jaxson has continued to grow since then and is doing well. He’ll soon be joined by siblings.

The Woodlands are expecting twins again as Gabby is due in August.

Winning the US Open marked Woodland’s first career major. He has been coming on strong lately, as he finished tied for sixth at the PGA Championship last year and tied for eighth at the PGA Championship this year and now has his first major. It’s a big one, especially coming after the family tragedy.