Michigan State’s Lourawls Nairn Jr. goes up to dunk during practice for a game in the NCAA Tournament last week. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT FINAL FOUR: DUKE vs. MICHIGAN STATE KENTUCKY vs. WISCONSIN Details/TV: At Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Saturday at 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.:
A one, a one, a one and … a seven? Michigan State’s belated RSVP to the Final Four as the second team out of the Big Ten to quality could have taken a lot of college basketball followers by surprise. But as long as Tom Izzo is in charge, why would it really be such a thing seeing his seventh-seeded team in the East Region squirm past a No. 2, 3 and 4 seed to get to the seventh Final Four in his career? Now that we’re somewhat up to speed with Magic Johnson’s latest dream team, having seen the senior leadership of guard Travis Trice and forward Brandon Dawson, plus junior guard Denzel Valentine, we’re looking down this roster and we see … this 5-foot-10 freshman named Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr.
Where did the name come from?
Michigan State’s Lourawls Nairn Jr. (11) and Gavin Schilling (34) react during the second half of their East Regional final win against Louisville in Syracuse. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)
His father, of course – Lourawls Nairn Sr., a construction worker in the Bahamas, whose parents named him after the singer. His nickname is a reference to the youngest brother of the “3 Ninjas” movies who was known for his ability to eat over anything else. His mom, Monalisa McKinney, was a bartender who had sickle cell disease and was told she’d never have kids. But she did. Narin Jr. didn’t start playing organized basketball until he was 12, having learned to play while shooting at crates nailed to wooden backboards that were hung from trees. He left home to play at a Christian prep academy in South Florida, then matriculated to another Christian school in Bel Air, Kansas before he found his way to East Lansing, Mich. When Izzo finally put him in the starting lineup on Feb. 10, the Spartans have gone 12-3. He may have only played 19 minutes and scored but three points with one assist in the Spartans’ OT win over Louisville in the East Regional final, but his teammates wouldn’t have it any other way than with him starting now. “If there’s somebody that you want to go to war with … he’s somebody that you want to go to war with,” says Spartans forward Marvin Clark Jr.
THE REST OF THIS WEEK:
Dodgers coach Steve Yeager signs a baseball for a fan prior to a spring training exhibition game against the Giants on Sunday in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
A five-game road trip ends for the Kings in Chicago (Monday, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN) … Bob Baffert’s Dortmund will likely go off as the favorite in the 78th Santa Anita Derby (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., TVG) … The Clippers’ meeting at Staples Center against Golden State (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. TNT) may be more important but it will not draw as much attention as their contest against the Lakers (Sunday, 6:30 p.m., SportsNet L.A. and Prime Ticket) … The Dodgers-Angels Faux Freeway Series goes to Angel Stadium (Thursday and Friday, 7 p.m.) before landing at Dodger Stadium (Saturday, 6 p.m.) to close the exhibition season … Find more at this link.
There was less than two minutes left in what was already an unexpectedly extended season for UCLA’s basketball season Friday night in Houston when the CBS cameras fixed on Chris Roberts.
“He’s something else,” remarked Jim Nantz, as Roberts stayed focused on listening to partner Tracy Murray as they described to the KLAC radio audience what remained of the Bruins’ 12-point loss to Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.
“A legend out there in Los Angeles,” Nantz added.
“Great guy,” chimed in Bill Raftery. “I’ve got to know him over the years and he said it’s either Yellowstone or Rome on his first trip. I said, ‘Try Rome’.”
Actually, the first trip for Roberts on the first day of the rest of his life was flying back from Texas on Saturday morning and then settling into his Glendora home, where he continued to sort through texts, tweets and Facebook posts that had been forwarded to him.
Not that he could read the original versions. He’s not a big social media hound.
“I was flabbergasted, you know?” he said of the face time and accolades he received from the CBS crew. “I just get zoned in when I’m doing games and maybe it was better that I didn’t know the camera was there. I was still into the game, even at that point.”
But at this point, as Roberts’ 23-year-run as the Bruins’ radio voice of football and basketball coming to an official end with a mutually agreed-upon retirement, is it really the end?
Chances are that UCLA play-by-play man Chris Roberts finishes his run either after calling tonight’s Bruins game against Gonzaga in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Sweet 16 from the South Regional in Houston. Or it could come Sunday if the Bruins advance to the Elite Eight.
A Final Four appearance? Let’s not get greedy. Let’s just try to capture what this extended period has meant for Roberts, as well has his broadcast partners, one step at a time.
Other news of note from the week to catch up on:
== There’s the Charles Barkley who can’t figure out where the NCAA Final Four is being played this year — Indianapolis or “In The Annapolis” — during a credit card commercial with Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson navigating. That’s a spoof. Playing off his intelligence. Done for laughs.
Then there’s the Barkley whose mere presence in the studio for the NCAA tournament for CBS and Turner apparently means that he can’t be corrected when he blatantly tries to pretend he knows what’s going on in a game right before him and is completely off base.
Barkley’s comments about Kansas freshman Cliff Alexander “playing pretty good” in Sunday’s contest when, in fact, Anderson hasn’t played in a game since late February, got a lot more run than might have been expected, opening the wounds for those who believe Barkley has no business lending his “Barkleyisms” to this particular event. Mark Heisler, the current NBA columnist for the L.A. News Group, took the apparent acceptance of the Barkley “B.S. meter” in a piece for Forbes.com that came under the intriguing headline: “Putting Madness In March: CBS Sells Out NCAA Tourney Coverage, Lives To Regret It.” The bigger problem, as Heisler points out, is the NBA game is different from college, and putting NBA analysts on the college games isn’t such a clean transition. Still. Heisler pointed out that the worst fears of Billy Packer back in 2011 are being realized.
The New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman points out “there are two sets of rules for analysts: One for Barkley and one for everybody else. That’s why they call it Madness.”
“Live TV is difficult,” wrote Jason McIntyre for TheBigLead.com. “Want to chalk this up to a slip of the tongue? That’s fine. But nobody on the set bothered correct him.”
Now, about Barkley telling a TMZ reporter that he’s tired of critics calling out President Obama for filling out a publicized bracket, and they’re only doing so “because he’s black …”
== It must be noted — if only for amazement purposes — that Barkley a previous winner, was nominated again for a Sports Emmy Award in the “Outstanding Sports Personality — Studio Analyst” category, with the Pac-12 Network’s Rick Neuheisel (now at CBS) and the MLB Network’s Tom Verducci and Harold Reynolds.
Reynolds also somehow got an Emmy nomination for his game analysis work on Fox and the MLB Network. His competition includes Jon Gruden (ESPN), Cris Collinsworth (NBC), Jeff Van Gundy (ESPN/ABC) and Kirk Herbstreit (ESPN/ABC).
Also worth glossing over from release of other nominations for the 36th annual event:
= There are 40 categories, and 190 nominees, guaranteed to fill the ballroom with optimism when they’re finally given out on May 5.
= ESPN/ABC (57) and NBC Sports Group (42) were the only networks/organizations with more than 40 nominations.
= The XXII Winter Olympics had 15 nominations for NBC and its broadcast partners, while the ESPN2 program “E:60″ had seven nominations — the same as Fox Sports 1′s new “Fox Sports Live” show and ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
= The “Outstanding Sports Documentary” category may be four pieces you’ve never seen: “McConkey,” about extreme freeskier Shane McConkey and aired on Starz; “Payne,” about golfer Payne Stewart that was on the Golf Channel; “SEC Storied: It’s Time” on the SEC Network (from ESPN Films), and “We Could Be King”, which aired on ESPNews.
= Four of the five nominees for “Best Sports Journalism” are from HBO’s “Real Sports.” = The list of “Outstanding Sports Personalities — Studio Host” includes NBC/MLB Network’s Bob Costas, NFL Network/DirecTV’s Rich Eisen, TNT’s Ernie Johnson, ESPN2′s Keith Olbermann, the MLB Network’s Matt Vasgersian and the late ESPN anchor Stuart Scott.
= The play-by-play nominees somehow did not include Al Michaels. They are, instead: Bob Costas (MLB Network), Mike Breen (ESPN/ABC), Ian Eagle (TNT/TBS/CBS), Mike Emrick (NBC) and Dan Hicks (NBC/Golf Channel).
= They do recognize “Outstanding Reporting.” With that, comes someone who’ll win that category from Ken Rosenthal (Fox/MLB Network), Holly Rowe (ESPN), Lisa Salters (ESPN/ABC), Michele Tafoya (NBC), Tom Verducci (MLB Network) and Tracy Wolfson (CBS/TNT/TBS). Sorry, Erin. And Pam. And anyone else on Fox NFL coverage.
== One can speak with more authority and with a clear path about the ridiculous conflicts of interest that exist in today’s media and the teams they cover — particularly when their media employer no longer has an obvious conflict (ie: The Dodgers were once owned by Fox).
“It’s such a big business that everyone is in bed with everyone else — which is really bad,” Katie Nolan boiled it down on a recent episode of her Sunday show “Garbage Time” on FS1.
“So what’s the solution? I’ll be honest, I have no idea. … But at this point, no one’s even acknowledging this is really a problem, so I think that’s a start. …. Somebody get working on that. Not me. I’m very busy.”
A start? Not to expose a lack of a simple Google search as in-depth research, but there have been plenty addressing this particular issue. Here, for at least the last 30 years.
Acknowledging that might be a healthy start.
== “Do you know who W.C. Heinz is?” Buzz Bissinger once looked his nose down at Deadspin.com editor Will Leitch during a pannel discussion on an HBO show called “Costas Now” back in 2008.
“Did you ever read him?”
Well, did you? Leitch, in fact, did. Which only seemed to upset Bissinger even more. Now, you can read W.C., too. To avoid the complete dumbing down of today’s society, as Bissinger would have you know it.
The new book by the Library of America, “The Top Of His Game: The Best Sportswriting of W.C. Heinz” was released recently, edited by Bill Littlefield.
“The work that appeared in the (New York) Sun under the byline of ‘W.C. Heinz’ can be categorized as ‘human interest stories’ in the same sense that the work of William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Kurt Vonnegut and Ernest Hemingway can be so categorized,” Littlefield writes in the introduction.
“Like Faulkner, Bill (which was W.C.’s nickname for his friends) Heinz understood the significance of place. For him the place was not an imaginary county in Mississippi but a real boxing gym on Eighth Avenue, or a racetrack in the rain or a tavern in the middle of a clumsy hold-up.
“Like O’Connor, he understood that the people at the edges of any endeavor offered, by necessity, original perspectives on a culture into which they would never fit.
“Like Vonnegut, he wrapped his darkest observations in humor. Often the humor was exceptionally gentle.
“Like Hemingway, he never wasted a word.”
Pick up this one and find out that, even with 576 pages, not a word, or sentence, or paragraph, or Littlefield selection, is wasted.
== With the North Carolina Tar Heels making an appearance in the NCAA West Regional at Staples Center, thanks again to Showtime for releasing the documentary, or “hourlong Valentine” on the late Dean Smith that debuted Wednesday and has upcoming showings on Sunday (9 a.m.) and Monday (9:30 p.m.) on various Showtime channels.
== Vin Scully’s one-and-only Arizona tuneup game comes Friday when the Dodgers face San Francisco at Camelback Ranch, with a SportsNet LA start of 7 p.m. The plan is for him to also call the three Freeway Series games against the Angels next weekend.
== A special commemorative edition of The Sporting News, celebrating 125 years of baseball with “The Game We Love” edition on newsstands now, names Scully tops on a list of the 10 best announcers of all time.
There’s nothing in the paragraph justifying his No. 1 status that you already don’t know.
The rest of the list: 2. Jack Buck; 3. Mel Allen; 4. Harry Kalas; 5. Ernie Harwell; 6. Red Barber; 7. Curt Gowdy; 8. Harry Caray; 9. Bob Uecker and 10. Jaime Jarrin.
Later in the magazine, they’ve decided to name an “all-time franchise team” for everyone. The Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers’ right fielder: Matt Kemp.
“Kemp is a debatable selection,” they allow, “but he produced one of the best seasons every by a Dodger outfielder in 2011, batting .324 with 39 homers, 126 RBIs and 40 steals.” No mention of how many errors. Duke Snider is the center fielder, with Zack Wheat in left.
== A reminder: Former L.A. Daily News baseball writer Lisa Nehus Saxon and columnist Ron Rapoport are part of a panel discussion on Saturday called “Turning Back the Clock: Baseball In Los Angeles,” sponsored by the Pasadena-based Baseball Reliquary. The 2 p.m. gathering at the Arcadia Public Library (20 W. Duarte Road) also features Howard Cole, the founding director of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, and Randy Kerdoon, the KNX-AM (1070) sports anchor.
== What’s a new program director to do at The Beast 980? Tom Lee, who helped launch Fox Sports Radio in 2000, was given that task this week. And do something fast, or …
“Tom has achieved some of the highest ratings of all sports stations across the country,” said Diane Sutter, Trustee for KFWB Asset Trust, said in a statement. “Our listeners will benefit from Tom’s invaluable skills in producing relevant content, top-notch talent and his experience in working with sports teams.”
Lee, who starts Monday, added: “Los Angeles sports fans are the greatest and perhaps the most underrated in America and their passion, the distinct L.A. attitude and our great sports teams will all be represented by The Beast 980. I’m very excited to get back to L.A. with the opportunity to program the only radio station uniquely built for home town fans.”
Or maybe raising a sports-talk station from near oblivion in the monthly ratings would be a job better suited for someone who has absolutely no knowledge of corporate radio experience.
Like, say, me.
I actually sent in an application for this position. I didn’t get a call back for even a cursory interview.
That fact will not haunt the station for the rest of its existence.
== The return of California Chrome at the Dubai World Cup has coverage on Fox Sports 1 (Saturday at 9:30 a.m.) with Simon Bray, Greg Wolf, Richard Migliore, Andy Serling and Alyssa Ali covering it.
== If you’re going to Las Vegas to watch the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquaio fight on May 2, apparently you need a ticket to the event, or a room at the MGM. But no where else in the city can they show it, TMZ Sports reports.
== The ladies and ice dance competition from the World Figure Skating Championships in Shanghai make it to NBC on Saturday (8 p.m., Channel 4, delayed), with the men’s and pairs competition on Sunday (3 p.m., Channel 4, delayed). Terry Gannon, Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski do the commentary from the NBC studios, while Tracy Wilson is actually at the event reporting in Shanghai.
== Highlights from the lineup for Time Warner Cable’s coverage of the CIF state high school basketball finals from Berkeley (with all games streaming live on www.twccommunity.com): Friday’s games:
== Boys Div. V: Sierra Canyon vs. University, TWC Sportsnet at noon, with Steve Quis, Mary Murphy and Drew Shiller
== Boys Div. III: Damien vs. Campolindo, TWC Community Channel at 4 p.m., with Barry Tompkins, Casey Jacobsen and Kelli Tennant
== Girls Div. I: Serra vs. McClatchy, TWC Community Channel at 6 p.m., with Barry Tompkins, Casey Jacobsen and Kelli Tennant
== Boys Div. I: Chino Hills vs. San Ramon Valley, TWC SportsNet at 8 p.m., with Barry Tompkins, Casey Jacobsen and Kelli Tennant Saturday’s games:
== Girls Div. IV: Sierra Canyon vs. Brookside Christian, TWC SportsNet at 10 a.m., with Steve Quis, Mary Murphy and Drew Shiller
== Boys Div. IV: Crespi vs. Capital Christian, TWC SportsNet at noon, with Steve Quis, Mary Murphy and Drew Shiller
== Girls Open Division: Mater Dei vs. St. Mary’s, TWC Community Channel at 6 p.m., with Barry Tompkins, Casey Jacobsen and Kelli Tennant
== Boys Open Division: Mater Dei vs. Bishop O’Dowd, TWC SportsNet at 8 p.m., with Barry Tompkins, Casey Jacobsen and Kelli Tennant
More info at www.twcsportsnet.com.
Also, for those who have access to DirecTV Channel 698 – Comcast Bay Area — you may find all the state final games there as well.
== A 13-part series called “Championship Moments” from the Kings’ 2014 Stanley Cup run, produced by the team’s KingsVision group, will be available to buy online starting Monday for $26. The purchase at LAKings.com/moments will benefit the Kings Care Foundation. The team says the limited-edition DVD/Blu-Ray, if still available by April 11, will also be sold in the Team LA Store at Staples Center. The series was featured during the Kings’ games on Fox Sports West this season.
UCLA’s Tony Parker, left, and Kevon Looney go after a shot by SMU’s SMU’s Ben Moore in last Thursday’s NCAA Tournament second round game in Louisville, Ky. UCLA won 60-59. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET: NO. 1: COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MEN’S NCAA TOURNAMENT SWEET 16:
SOUTH REGION SEMIFINALS: UCLA vs. GONZAGA Details/TV: At NRG Stadium in Houston, Friday at 4:15 p.m., Channel 2
WEST REGION SEMIFINALS:
WISCONSIN vs. NORTH CAROLINA
Details/TV: At Staples Center, Thursday at 4:45 p.m., TBS ARIZONA vs. XAVIER
Details/TV: At Staples Center, Thursday at approx. 7:20 p.m., TBS
Alabama-Birmingham forward Tosin Mehinti shoots over UCLA forward Tony Parker in Saturday’s NCAA Tournament third round game. UCLA won. (AP Photo/David Stephenson)
In short, we’re baffled by what’s going on with this latest fashion statement forced onto the UCLA basketball program. Again, the marketing Mensas at Adidas who want to establish a fresh, cutting-edge, sellable image for today’s game are hip-deep in the middle of this issue. As for the tops going with script, linking letters across the chest – a lot like the football team’s helmets – instead of the classic block letters … OK, fine. But after that, are the players wearing a weight belt, a fanny pack or a cumber bun around the middle? This is gut-check time. We’re all for making Tony Parker look more imposing in the paint, but this just doesn’t pass the eye test as well as the Bruins apparently did with the NCAA selection committee, which must be feeling a bit full of themselves these days for simply allowing the school to be in the field. So what if other Adidas clients are made to conform as well to this so-called “Made in March” collection – Wisconsin, Louisville and Kansas, for example. Granted, it’s a huge improvement over the camouflage, Zumba-wear stuff that was forced upon a few teams, including UCLA, back in 2013.
UCLA guard Isaac Hamilton shoots as Colorado forward Wesley Gordon, left, defends in a game at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 31. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
But what would have been so wrong if UCLA was allowed to break out the 1965-style unis that they actually wore for game against Colorado this season? Go back and look at the yellow “BRUINS” tops with the blue trim on the white jersey, and the shorts with yellow and blue piping. It would be a sweet addition for a Sweet 16 team that’s in a strange position to raise the bar as it is making its 46th tournament appearance. Now comes a rematch with a Gonzaga team that, a week before the Bruins’ embarrassment against Kentucky, dinged them for an 87-74 loss at Pauley Pavilion in mid-December, igniting a season-worst five-game losing streak. Kyle Witjer scored 24 points and USC-transfer Byron Wesley had 20 for the Zags, who improved to 9-1. Bryce Alford had 23 for the Bruins, who couldn’t even get a shot off in the last 2:09 of the first half when they had a then-season-low 27 points at intermission and trailed by 11. The Tony Parker factor: He was the only UCLA starter not in double figures – five points, nine rebounds and four fouls. Let’s see how much of a short-term memory the fans have about that one, while trying to figure out which shorts the Bruins will come out with for this appearance. A win here against Gonzaga would put them in the Sunday regional final against either Duke or Pac-12 rival Utah (who face each other Friday at approx. 6:45 p.m., Channel 2).
Meanwhile, the West Regional continues to give Southern California a connection with the event. If Arizona and Wisconsin survive and conquer, they’ll meet in this regional final for the second year in a row, this one scheduled for Saturday. The Badgers pulled out a 64-63 overtime win against the Wildcats at the Honda Center in Anaheim in 2014.
ALSO THIS WEEK:
The Kings ice crew understands their responsibilities between time outs during the team’s game at Staples Center last Saturday against Vancouver. The Canucks won 4-1. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Do these Kings really get the point at this point in the season? With 11 regular-season games left, the defending Stanley Cup champs need at least to come away with a point a game the rest of the way to avoid the mess of missing the playoffs. This stretch of five of them in a row on the road starts with back-to-backs in New Jersey (Monday, 4 p.m., FSW) and the N.Y. Rangers (Tuesday, 4 p.m., NBCSN) … The Clippers have three on the road, starting in New York (Wednesday, 4 p.m., Prime Ticket), and the Lakers have a road path that begins in Oklahoma City (Tuesday, 5 p.m., TNT) … The rest of the week will be at this link.
In 2010, President Barack Obama joined CBS’ Clark Kellogg and Verne Lundquist during a college basketball game between Georgetown and Duke at the Verizon Center in Washington DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Verne Lundquist, the minimalist maestro of play-by-play, could have run out of words by the time Thursday night staggered into Friday morning.
He had finished captioning back-to-back-to-back-to-back second-round games of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament from Louisville, Ky., during a 12-plus hour stretch as part of the CBS/Turner TV coverage, and he wouldn’t get to bed until 3 a.m.
“Our producer, Craig Silver, just told us at that point: Sleep until you wake up (on Friday),” said Lundquist.
But the soon-to-be 75 year-old broadcaster with 50-plus years experience in TV has learned about self-preservation. It’s just that a case of chronic bronchitis left him sounding worse for wear just before he circled back Saturday morning to call the UCLA-UAB and Kentucky-Cincinnati third-round games.
In between, he submitted himself to a Q-and-A that was completely unnecessary in his prep work for the rest of this tournament, which might necessitate a trip to L.A. to cover the West Regional semifinals and finals at Staples Center this coming week:
Verne Lundquist and Jim Spanarkal are teammed up for the 2015 NCAA Tournament, calling UCLA’s first two contests.
Q: Does the recovery process from four games in one day ever get any easier?
A: I can certify that it does not. The first time I had to do this kind of thing with a crew was 1999. At the end of the day, that last half of the fourth game you pray that it’s competitive because then that gets you energized.
Q: You may not have any buckets to empty at that point?
A: The buckets are gone. And they’re not even a quarter full.
Q: How do you wind down from such a long process?
A: We didn’t really limp out of the arena until 1 o’clock (Friday morning) because after the last game is over, we have to do a dot-com report, a summation of all four games. And at that point, you almost can’t remember who played in the first game.
Q: That’s today’s media, always bleeding you to do something more for another platform.
A: That’s it. And we’re servicing them all. So then our production supervisor arranged a meeting room for the crew to gather, and we had a little pizza, some beer and wine, just to come down from the day. Again, it’s not just me, Jim Spanarkel and Allie LaForce, but the guys in the truck have been as every bit busy. Think of the camera guys. There’s one – the midcourt mini-camera position– who sits in a chair to the stage manager’s right and shoots all four games carrying that heavy equipment. For all 70 of us, or how many there are, once you’re finished, that’s decompression time. Continue reading →