Why JBilas (not BWalton) says college basketball ‘is brutal to watch right now’ (hint: it’s the refs)

Georgia Tech guard Chris Bolden reacts as time expires in the game against Clemson on Thursday in Atlanta. Clemson won 56-53. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton)

By Paul Newberry
AP National Writer

ATLANTA — There is dribbling, lots of dribbling, in college basketball these days. There is bumping and banging, lots of bumping and banging. Not to mention all the grabbing and tripping and colliding.

If this was roller derby, it would be OK.

But this is NCAA hoops, and it’s downright ugly.

There is little running the court, or soaring through the air, or crisscrossing through the lane, all the things that make this such a beautiful game. No, more often than not it’s just organized mayhem, with plenty of stalling thrown in for good measure, which not surprisingly makes everyone look like the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

The college game, quite frankly, is in need of a major overhaul.

“Our game is brutal to watch right now,” said Jay Bilas, an analyst for ESPN.

In case you haven’t noticed — and how could you not? — scoring hasn’t been this low since at least 1982, and one has to go all the way back to the early 1950s to find another season that beats this one for offensive ineptitude. Field-goal percentages are at 1960s levels. Three-point shooting has never been this bad since the long-range line was added in the 1980s.

Some people want to blame the players, saying they’re not as good as they once were, not as fundamentally sound, that the good ones don’t stick around long enough to make an impact on the game.

Hogwash. Continue reading

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Prime’s lame-duck year with the Dodgers begins …. kinda full of feathers and quack

A Dodger rubber duck, not so lame, available at www.lids.com/mlb

Considering it’s been established now that this will be the last year Prime Ticket carries Dodgers games, and considering that when FSWest realized it wouldn’t be doing Lakers’ games any longer it didn’t bend over backwards much to tend to their needs, we aren’t expecting a lot of extra special treatment for Don Mattingly’s boys club this season.

It wasn’t a surprise, then, when Prime Ticket’s original Dodgers spring training schedule didn’t exist — it wasn’t going to do any games — while  KCAL-Channel 9 (which will also be eliminated after this season) was set to do only three.

Apparently, someone talked to someone, and they’re been a slight alteration to those plans.

Prime will now do four games, the team (not Prime) announced today, and Vin Scully will be in Arizona to do them all. In addition to two other KCAL games, Scully will do six exhibition games in all — more than he’s done in the Cactus League Arizona-based schedule. And it’s been a while since he did that many games when the Dodgers’ springs were based in Vero Beach, Fla. Continue reading

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The most vegan-friendly of all NBA arenas? Staples gets the PETA seal of approval (or is it a sea otter)?

Because of its endless supply of vegan Sloppy Joes,  veggie burgers, vegan sushi, grilled veggie sandwiches and hummus-and-pita plates, the people-pleasing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have certified Staples Center as a “slam dunk for fans, no matter which team they’re rooting for.”

Translation: The place is No. 1 among NBA arenas on the PETA Top 10 rankings. Especially when the Lakers or Clippers are playing the Brooklyn Dolphin-Safe Nets. Continue reading

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The weekly media column, version 02.15.13

CBS cameraman Davey Finch, perched above the 18th fairway and green at Pebble Beach last week. (Photo by CBS/Jennifer Sabatelle)

What made it smoke this week: A look at how CBS’ esteemed cameraman, Davey Finch, has adjusted to his new perspective of Riviera Country Club — up from the 18th tower instead of down on the course chasing after Emmy-winning close-ups. It appeared online Thursday while we were out covering the first round of the Northern Trust Open (still can’t get used to calling it that,and definitely will NOT call it the “NTO.”) We also had a note we thought was important enough to get in there — have you heard disgraced NBA referee Tim Donaghy giving out gambling tips on a radio show that KLAC-AM (570) carries on Saturday mornings? Egads.

What didn’t make it into today’s column:

== CBS has Jim Nantz and one-time L.A. Open winner Nick Faldo on the 18th tower Saturday and Sunday from Riviera (noon, Channel 2), with Ian Baker-Finch is at the 17th hole. Gary McCord is at 16, and David Feherty is on the course. Peter Kostis is unable to be in L.A. this weekend to tend to a personal matter. Continue reading

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Walton vs. UCLA: Thursday and Saturday, ESPN2, set the DVR

If ESPN has no problem continuing to assign Bill Walton to its UCLA-related games, we have none either.

The former Bruins All-American, who has taken every opportunity to criticize coach Ben Howland, the team’s offensive play, the team’s defensive play, and the team’s home fans, will be on the UCLA game at Cal on Thursday (6 p.m., ESPN2). Then he jogs over to do UCLA’s game at Stanford on Saturday (1 p.m., ESPN2).

Dave Pasch is the play-by-play man asked to show the patience of Job while on this job.

Don’t just take our word for it. Walton’s “Good Day To Pound Hard Tour” has been going strong for weeks:
= USA Today
= The OC Register
= Bruin Nation and Bruin Nation
= And one more by Bruin Nation

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A more detailed look at the ’13 Tour of Cali course …. of course, without Lance tagging along

It’s not like the Amgen Tour of California is going backward in how it has laid out its 2013 version of the most popular U.S. cycling event of the year.

It’s just that the giant L.A. finish is no more — and instead, they’re giving the Golden Gate Bridge its time to shine for the big finale.

Tour officials released a more detailed look today at how the race, for the first time in the eight years, will begin with a far south stage — in Escondito, on Sunday, May 12 — and then head north about 750 miles.

The finish is at the top of Mount Diablo, the 3,864-peak in the San Francisco Bay area, followed by a loop in the final Stage 8 around San Francisco on Sunday, May 19.

Santa Clarita remains in the loop at the end of Stage 3 (with Magic Mountain Parkway as the finish line) and the start of Stage 4. There’s also a trip through Palm Springs and Murrieta included for the first time. The Inland Empire, which had been included in past races, will not be part of this one.

“We take great pride in creating challenging, beautiful Amgen Tour of California routes that attract top international riders and showcase the state’s amazing terrain and scenery,” said Kristin Bachochin, executive director of the race and senior vice president of AEG Sports.

“We also consider the many fan and rider route suggestions before we settle on a final course. This year will be not only the most competitive but the most spectacular with diverse California scenery, from coastal routes to mountain vistas.”

The 2012 Tour of California went to Robert Gesink’, while the final Stage 8 ran from Beverly Hills to L.A. Live. (Photo by Wil Matthews, www.bicycling.com)

Last year’s final stage started on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and ended at L.A. Live — right across the street from where the Kings were in a Stanley Cup playoff game at Staples Center.

Here’s how it lays out for 2013: Continue reading

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Five Things We Learned Last Weekend: Feb. 8-10

Another Grammy moment not worthy for TV: Brian Wilson (seated) is joined by Dennis Wolfe, Alan Boyd and Mark Linett for a backstage photo after winning “best historical album award” for “The Smile Sessions” deluxe box set at Sunday’s ceremony at Staples Center. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

Just a little help staying ahead of the sports world learning curve heading back into the work week:

The Grammy Awards never are lousy when a) Bruce Springsteen wins something and then b) Bruce Springsteen sings. So, judge for yourself how compelling it was Sunday night at Staples Center — a place that needs so much lead time to put on the concert of all concerts and inconveniences everyone else in the process. If we’re going to invest 3 1/2 hours into a glorified NBA halftime show, it’s gotta be more fun than fun. singing “We Are Young” again while making it rain. Which they didn’t even do. Justin Timberlake is back? Did he ever leave? Did Weird Al Yankovic win in his category again? Prince shows, but only to present? No Neil Young, Vince Neil or Neil Diamond? What did JLo win for that dress? What didn’t Beyonce win for that paints suit. And how did “Argo” not take any category?

Lil’ Wayne ought to stay in the moment and not keep getting kicked out of Heat games. Even if he says he was just rooting for the Lakers. LeBron James is doing stuff that must be seen. “He’s making greatness look easy,” Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after  James’ fifth straight game with at least 30 points – the last two contests coming against the Clippers and Lakers. On national TV. LSU football coach Les Miles live-tweeted the Heat-Lakers game, saying James is “more athletic in person.” From what we hear, James does have some college eligibility left if he ever wants to pull a Jordan and just chill out from NBA greatness for a spell. So apparently James tied some strange NBA record of scoring at least 30 points and shooting at least 60 percent in five straight games. More plays like the one he pulled off during the two-on-one break, where Steve Nash thought he’d do best to stop Norris Cole with the ball, only to see Cole lob it back to James for a dunk that pretty much finished off the Lakers in the 107-97 decision. Also note how the play started with D-Wade saving the ball from going out out bounds, flipping it behind him. The Lakers end the Grammy trip 4-3, and they’ve lost six of the last seven games against the Heat and they’re 9-18 on the road this year.

The kids at “Saturday Night Live” did an opening spoof about how CBS’ “NFL Today” crew stumbled through the 35-minute blackout during the Super Bowl, mostly hitting on the excessive “Two Broke Girl” promos and incessant Shannon Sharpe vamping. More hilarious would have been if someone just edited down the stuff CBS really did put on the air during that time. You’ve also gotta wonder if “SNL” would have been as harsh on NBC’s studio word fillers should they have been put in that same situation. Or if NBC’s crew of Dan Patrick, Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison, Bob Costas and Peter King would have been that inept at doing their job for such a long period of time without a script.

The Sports Illustrated 2013 Swimsuit cover – the 50th anniversary of the annual event — was supposed to revealed on Monday’s “Late Show with David Letterman.” But then SI tweeted it out Friday – exposing Kate Upton in Antarctica with the “Polar Bare” headline, nothing on underneath her parka. Someone at Huffington Post saw it on something called FashionCopious.com. But then Forbes.com credited a blogger named Pink Couture on TheFashionSpot.com for not giving us the spoiler alert. Then again, TMZ.com claims it had the scoop back in December. Forbes.com is already wondering if back-to-back covers puts the Upton girl into the ranks of the modeling elite. If Upton plays her cards right, she just might get to be on a Super Bowl commercial someday. And a “Saturday Night Live” spoof.

Dwight Howard’s dad makes a lot of sense. Time for Kobe’s dad to chime in.

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Play It Forward: Feb. 11-17

Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET

PGA Tour Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Thursday-Sunday:

In Couples, we trust. It wouldn’t be a PGA Tour stop in L.A. without the 1990 and ’92 winner Fred Couples, who’ll be making his 31st start – a record at the event. So what if it’s a sponsor’s exemption. The first time Couples played Riviera, Tom Watson outlasted Johnny Miller in an 1982 playoff when it was called the Glen Campbell L.A. Open. “I feel like I can play this course blindfolded,” Couples said two years ago when, by no fluke, he was in the hunt on the final day. The 53-year-old closing in on 120 competitive rounds at Riviera has five top 10s in the past decade.
Meanwhile, Corey Pavin, the back-to- back champ in 1994 and ’95, also has the sponsor’s blessing of making the field for the 29th time. The UCLA grad and former Ryder Cup captain has 10 top-25 finishes at Riviera. Fellow Bruin alum Patrick Cantlay also got a free pass to enter, joining Kevin Chappell, Brandt Jobe and John Merrick. USC’s lone rep is Kevin Stadler. Add to that a field that has the almost-defending champ Phil Mickelson (who lost in a playoff to Bill Haas),’12 rookie of the year John Huh, Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Keegan Bradley and Rickey Barnes. Tiger Woods will pass, which is par for the course. To the winner  goes $1.18 million out of a $6.6 million purse and 500 Fed Ex points. Golf Channel has Thursday and Friday (noon to 3 p.m.) as well as Saturday and Sunday (10-to-11:30 a.m.) KCBS-Channel 2 has the final two rounds Saturday and Sunday (noon to 3 p.m.)

BEST OF THE REST: Continue reading

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Q-and-A: Chris Nilan’s fight is to stay clean, sober and advocate anti-bullying in the aftermath of the documentary “The Last Gladiators”

Unless you were on the other end of one of his punches, you may not remember the name Chris “Knuckles” Nilan.

The Montreal Canadiens’ enforcer in a 15-season career that spanned the 1980s and into the ‘90s admits he “loved” fighting, amassing more than 3,000 penalty minutes in 688 games.

Some of his counterparts didn’t.

To shine a light back on what made brawling such a part of the NHL years ago is part of the documentary, “The Last Gladiators,” which finally reaches distribution in the U.S. after its release in Canada back in 2011 (It debuts on video on demand this weekend).

Former Kings toughie Marty McSorley is matched up again against Tony Twist, Todd Ewen, and even the late Bob Probert subjects of the movie made by Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney. But it’s Nilan’s storyline of prescription drug and alcohol addiction in his post career that leaves the most bitter aftertaste for viewers who may now have regrets for ever having cheered during a on-ice melee.

In today’s NHL, enforcers aren’t as sought after with smaller rosters and the need for a more a well-rounded skill set. Boston native and Northeastern University grad Nilan would like to think he could have survived in the game today because he did turn out to be a decent offensive player.

Nilan, who turns 55 today but may look and sound years older, is just glad to be alive, making himself available to speak to school children about how to stop bullying.

He came with an honest expression of gratitude when we talked recently about seeing his life played out on the big screen, and how Hollywood may be able to tell his story again soon:

Continue reading

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It’s Out of the Question: Average, or below average, with Superman?

The Lakers’ Dwight Howard, left, tries to defend on a dunk by Charlotte’s Gerald Henderson in Friday’s game. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

We’re not going to question Dwight Howard’s intestinal fortitude, moral fiber or mental machismo.

We’ll even cut him some slack in case he’s been a bit on edge lately because this has been a long road trip, and Melissa McCarthy could be  stealing his identity.

If there’s any question right now about The Man Who Used to Call Himself Superman, it’s this: Why does he even bother playing?

The numbers say when he sits, the Lakers have a better chance at winning. Continue reading

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