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#pounditThursday, August 13, 2020

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Joe Kelly blasts ‘snitch’ Astros, explains why he hates them

Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly became the first pitcher this season to draw a suspension for blatantly throwing at Houston Astros players, but his motivation for sending a message may be a bit surprising to some.

Kelly, who was not with the Los Angeles Dodgers when Houston beat them in the 2018 World Series, discussed his disdain for the Astros during a recent appearance on “The Big Swing” podcast with teammate Ross Stripling. The right-hander said the way Houston players got immunity in MLB’s investigation of their sign-stealing scheme and ratted out their coaches bothered him way more than the cheating itself.

“The people who took the fall for what happened is nonsense,” Kelly said, as transcribed by ESPN’s Buster Olney. “Yes, everyone is involved. But the way that (sign-stealing system) was run over there was not from coaching staff. … They’re not the head boss in charge of that thing. It’s the players. So now the players get the immunity, and all they do is go snitch like a little b—-, and they don’t have to get fined, they don’t have to lose games.”

Kelly was initially suspended for eight games for throwing near the heads of both Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa. The podcast was taped before his suspension was reduced to five games, but we doubt Kelly feels any differently now.

Former Astros bench coach Alex Cora was Kelly’s manager with the Boston Red Sox, and Cora lost his job over the Astros scandal along with general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch. Kelly said Cora hasn’t explained his side of the story “because he’s a respectable man” and blasted Astros players for “ruining other people’s lives.”

“Maybe they have called AC (Cora) and said, ‘Hey, I’m sorry.’ Or called Luhnow and said, ‘Hey, I’m sorry.’ Or called Hinch, and (Carlos) Beltran. … If they had said, ‘Hey, I’m super-scared, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t want to lose money, I had to rat.’ … Grow a pair of balls and say that,” Kelly said.

Kelly’s suspension was criticized by several MLB players as being too harsh, and the way he taunted Correa became a viral meme. While most have focused on the sign-stealing itself, Kelly clearly believes the Astros players’ worst infraction was not holding themselves accountable.

Steph Curry has FOMO over not being part of NBA restart

Steph Curry

The NBA playoffs nearing usually means it is time for Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors to shine. This year, they are nowhere to be found, and that is unusual for Curry.

At 15-50, the Warriors had the worst record in the league when the NBA shut down in March. They were one of eight teams not invited to participate in the league’s resumed season in Orlando.

In an interview with The New York Times’ Marc Stein, Curry said he’s had FOMO (fear of missing out) over not being part of the restart

“Obviously I was happy to see basketball back on TV, but that first week I had major FOMO,” Curry told Stein.

Curry also said that once he started seeing his peers compete in games, he began to miss the competition badly.

Now 32, Curry only played in five games this season due to a hand injury suffered in October. His Warriors had a losing season for the first time since 2011-2012, which was also the last time they did not make the playoffs. The extra time has allowed Curry to enjoy some special events. Similarly, his teammate, Draymond Green, did some TV commentary recently, which got him in trouble.

ESPN reporter explains controversial reason for voting LeBron MVP over Giannis

LeBron James

Many people view Giannis Antetokounmpo as worthy of winning his second straight NBA MVP award, but ESPN reporter Ramona Shelburne says she voted for LeBron James instead.

Why did Shelburne vote for James? She shared her reason during a Tuesday appearance on ESPN’s “The Jump.”

“I did not vote for [Giannis Antetokounmpo] for MVP. I voted for LeBron James because I tend to be more of a narrative-based voter. I feel like LeBron James took a Lakers team that had missed the playoffs six years in a row up to the stop spot in the West after all the dysfunction the summer before. So I think he gets credit for that as well,” Shelburne explained.

Shelburne’s explanation mostly centers around preferring the story of what James has done over the story of what Antetokounmpo has done.

That’s tough for many to accept when Antetokounmpo is ascending and averaging a career-high 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 1.4 three-pointers made per game. He’s also averaging 5.6 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per game for Milwaukee, which maintains the best record in the NBA.

James is leading the league with 10.3 assists per game but trails Giannis in every other statistical category, including team record. One could also argue that Anthony Davis’ arrival is more responsible for the Lakers’ turnaround than anything else. Comparatively, the Bucks lost Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic and still have posted an even better winning percentage this season.

An unofficial tracker seems to show Antetokounmpo will win the MVP award for the second year in a row, with James finishing a distant second. Shelburne would be one of a few voters to rank James ahead of the Bucks star this year. Giannis is probably more focused on something else anyway.

Angels’ Griffin Canning wonders if he was tipping pitches

Griffin Canning took a pounding on Wednesday, and now he is wondering if he may have been tipping off the opposition somehow.

The Los Angeles Angels righty, who was tagged by the Oakland Athletics for four runs (including three home runs) in four innings, said after the game that he was concerned that he had possibly been tipping his pitches.

“Honestly I felt like I had some of the better stuff I had this year,” said Canning, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. “I thought they did a really good job of laying off some good sliders that were down and away.”

He specifically addressed whether or not he may have been tipping pitches.

“I think it’s just something you consistently have to be on the lookout for … I felt like my stuff was really good today. It could just be a product of them being Major League Baseball players they get paid a lot of money too. They just could have gotten out there and just really executed a game plan really well. Or there could be something there. I don’t know.”

The Angels, who were at home on Wednesday, fell to 7-12 on the year with the 8-4 loss to Oakland. Canning, for his part, is still winless on the season (0-3) and now has a 4.42 ERA in 18.1 innings pitched thus far.

The 24-year-old recently overcame a throwing elbow scare, so to feel good physically but still get rocked has to be discouraging for him. If the issue for Canning is indeed tipping off his pitches, perhaps he can learn something from this fellow hurler.

Ryan Day does not want you referring to rival Michigan by name

Ryan Day

Ryan Day takes Ohio State’s rivalry with Michigan seriously. Very seriously.

Day held a press conference via Zoom on Wednesday and spent under an hour answering questions from reporters. One reporter compared the challenge of trying to play/prepare for a season amid the pandemic to preparing for a game, such as one against Michigan.

After the question was completed, Day corrected the reporter and let her know they refer to the Wolverines as “the team up north.”

Day is very much following after Urban Meyer, who made this a rule, following the tradition inspired by legendary former Ohio State coach, Woody Hayes.

Meyer enjoyed what he saw from Day and called it “awesome” over Twitter.

Day taking the rivalry that seriously and not even joking about it on the call shows just how important the matter is to him and the program. This helps explain why Justin Fields said what he said upon joining the Buckeyes last year.

Kyle Kuzma admits Blazers would be tough matchup for Lakers

Kyle Kuzma

The Portland Trail Blazers have officially climbed to the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference for the time being, and their potential opponents in the first round of the playoffs are taking them seriously.

Addressing the media Wednesday, Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma said that he was not afraid of seeing Portland in the opening round but did admit that it would be a “tough matchup,” per Lakers reporter Ryan Ward.

The Blazers have gone 5-2 in the bubble to jump the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 8 spot. Indeed, their high-scoring backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum would be difficult for the Lakers to contain without their top perimeter defender, Avery Bradley. Meanwhile, Portland’s trio of seven-footers in Jusuf Nurkic, Hassan Whiteside, and Zach Collins could counter the bigs of the Lakers, who are one of the league’s top rebounding and shot-blocking teams.

While the Blazers still need to win a play-in series to even get to the Lakers in the first place, they are playing with a real swagger right now, and that will make them a challenging out for any team they face in the playoffs.

Raiders’ new practice facility is impressive

Raiders logo

The Raiders are beginning to work out at their new home in Las Vegas, and their facilities are looking high quality.

Media members were invited to watch practice on Wednesday at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center, the team’s new headquarters in Henderson, Nev., for the first time. Most media members seemed impressed by the facility, which was built for the Raiders’ arrival in the city.

The training facility with the Raiders turf in the middle is especially sharp.

Some people may be used to facilities that look that modern and nice, but for the Raiders this is something noteworthy. Remember, they were playing at the Oakland Coliseum, where the facilities were problematic. The move to Las Vegas immediately has boosted the standards of the Raiders and the franchise’s value.

Allegiant Stadium, the Raiders’ home stadium, is located further north from the team’s Henderson headquarters, but it is equally nice. The Raiders are coming off a 7-9 season and have gone 11-21 in two seasons under Jon Gruden.

Mick Cronin believes some sort of March Madness will take place

Mick Cronin

Mick Cronin is maintaining optimism about a college basketball season.

The UCLA Bruins head coach said on Wednesday that he is 100 percent confident there will be an NCAA Tournament next year. Cronin believes the schedule will be flexible about whether the event is in March like usual, or maybe pushed back. He also said that there will be many different options available for a schedule.

Cronin’s bold stance comes despite the Pac-12 announcing on Tuesday that they canceled sports through 2020. That means men’s basketball, which typically starts in early November, will not be played until January at the earliest.

Cronin may have confidence about a season taking place, but there are no guarantees. This year, March Madness was canceled due to the coronavirus, and there is no way to say the same thing won’t happen next year too, though a lot can change in the coming months.

Cronin is entering his second season as UCLA’s head coach and went 19-12 last season.

Report: Tyronn Lue expected to be leading candidate for multiple head coaching jobs

Tyronn Lue may find himself in pretty high demand come this offseason.

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated reported on Wednesday that the LA Clippers assistant is expected to be a leading candidate for what could be several head coach openings. While Mannix’s report does not explicitly link Lue to any particular job, it does mention Brooklyn, New Orleans, Houston, and Philadelphia as teams that might have potential head coach vacancies.

The 43-year-old Lue is now back on Doc Rivers’ staff after serving as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2016 to 2018, including winning the NBA championship in his first season at the helm for the team. He almost became coach of the Los Angeles Lakers last summer before talks fell apart over a dispute in contract length.

Lue may want one of those aforementioned jobs in particular, but he should have plenty of options to choose from in the next few months regardless.

Video: Clippers, Nuggets warm up to Damian Lillard song

Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard asked for some respect on his name, and he’s getting more than his share of it.

The Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers warmed up prior to their game on Wednesday in Orlando, Fla. to one of Lillard’s songs. ESPN reporter Dave McMenamin shared the video on Twitter.

Beyond his role as a star guard for the Portland Trail Blazers, Lillard is also a rapper under the name “Dame D.O.L.L.A.” and has released three albums. “Goat Spirit” is the name of the song the teams were playing, which is a single he released this year.

Lillard is coming off a 61-point game in Orlando and is getting some serious respect, just like he wanted.