Happy Presidents' Day, all. Hope you enjoyed (or are still enjoying) your weekend.
Let's get right to it.
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Good morning to everyone but especially to...
STEPHEN CURRY, LeBRON JAMES AND TEAM LeBRON
There's not a lot Stephen Curry hasn't accomplished in his basketball career, but somehow he managed to add another accolade last night. The Warriors superstar scored 50 points -- fueled by an All-Star Game record 16 threes -- to earn his first All-Star Game MVP as Team LeBron beat Team Durant,163-160.
It was a dazzling display from the all-time 3-point king. LeBron James couldn't help but be blown away but what he witnessed.
- James: "This guy is from a different planet. He literally has an automatic sniper connected to his arm and, when he lets it go, not only himself but everybody on the floor, in the stands, on TV, on their phones, whatever you're watching on, you think it's going in every time. And nine times out of 10, sometimes 10 times out of 10, it does go in. So to be out there and watch that kid from Akron as well shoot the ball the way he shot it, it was unbelievable. It was pretty cool."
While Curry stole the show for most of the night, it was the team's namesake -- James -- who sealed the deal in his homecoming, knocking down a long turnaround jumper to reach the target score of 163. James is now a perfect 5-0 since the league instituted the All-Star draft.
By the way, the Elam Ending -- where teams play to a target score rather than until time runs out -- is such a good way to end games. For the second time in three years, it created a thrilling last few moments of the All-Star Game instead of the dragged-out free-throw fest we get in so many actual games. So good morning to the Elam Ending, too.
- The 2022 Winter Olympics are officially over, and the United States claimed 24 medals -- its most since Turin 2006.
- Obi Toppin won the Slam Dunk Contest, Karl-Anthony Towns won the 3-Point Contest and the Cavaliers won the Skills Challenge at the NBA All-Star Weekend.
- Here were Saturday's winners (and losers) on a huge day of college basketball.
- Agents representing over 150 draft prospects are organizing a boycott of the NFL Combine over the event's "bubble" restrictions.
And not such a good morning for...
JUWAN HOWARD AND GREG GARD
On Sunday afternoon, Michigan lost a key game. Then Juwan Howard lost his composure, and may have cost himself -- and his team -- even more going forward.
The Michigan head coach open-hand slapped Wisconsin Badgers assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft after a handshake line confrontation, setting off a full-out brawl between the Wolverines and the Badgers. Here's how we got there:
- With 48 seconds left, Wisconsin led 76-57. With the victory in hand, head coach Greg Gard brought in his little-used players.
- However, Howard had his players full-court press the Badger reserves.
- With 15 seconds left, leading by 15, Gard called a timeout to help his team avoid a 10-second call, which upset Howard.
- Wisconsin finished things off, 77-63. In the postgame handshake line, Gard put his hand on Howard, who then put his hand on Gard and pointed a finger in his face. Howard said postgame, "I thought it was time to protect myself."
- Then came Howard slapping Krabbenhoft, and a brawl unlike any in recent college basketball memory.
There is nothing wrong with playing your starters and trying to win until the very end, even with the result no longer in doubt, as Howard did. But if you're going to do that, there's also nothing wrong with the other coach helping his/her team, too, as Gard did. If Howard is going to coach until the clock reads 0:00, he can't be upset about Gard doing the same.
In the end, Howard is certainly at fault for escalating the situation, but he's hardly the only one to blame, writes our college basketball reporter Matt Norlander:
- Norlander: "[Howard will] be the biggest part of this story, the focal part who will probably receive as harsh a punishment as anyone. He should. That's fair. ... It will be important to learn what Krabbenhoft may have said or done to cause Howard's reaction. The footage we have does not make that part of this story clear. Krabbenhoft isn't immediately absolved of this, and neither is Wisconsin coach Greg Gard... If the Big Ten handles this as it should, the punishments and blame will not lay solely at Howard's feet."
The Big Ten is still assessing the altercation.
Not so honorable mentions
- Chris Paul is out at least 6-8 weeks with a fractured thumb.
- Condolences to Kevin Durant, who did not attend the All-Star Game after his grandmother died.
- Donovan Mitchell also missed out on the All-Star festivities with a non-COVID illness.
Austin Cindric, a rookie, wins Daytona 500 🏁
Welcome to the winner's circle, Austin Cindric. You picked one heck of a way to get there.
Cindric, a NASCAR rookie, won the Daytona 500, fending off Bubba Wallace, Chase Briscoe and Ryan Blaney in a thrilling checkered-flag finish. Cindric came in just .036 seconds ahead of Wallace, making it the third-closest race since electronic timing began in 1993.
With the win, Cindric shows he's way ahead of schedule, writes our NASCAR expert Steven Taranto:
- Taranto: "By no means was Austin Cindric being competitive in 2022 going to be a shock. As the driver of the No. 2 for Team Penske, Cindric was in one of the top cars in the field, and his pedigree from Xfinity Series competition suggested that he would be a contender on ovals and especially road courses. Cindric winning the Daytona 500, though, is a major surprise. Sunday marked the eighth start of Cindric's Cup career after a limited schedule of seven races in 2021."
Joaquin Niemann becomes second-youngest Genesis Invitational winner ever ⛳
Start strong and never look back. That was Joaquin Niemann's plan at the Genesis Invitational, and it worked out pretty well. The 23-year-old Chilean earned his second career PGA Tour win, beating Collin Morikawa and Cameron Young by two strokes.
In the process, Niemann became...
- The youngest winner of the event since its first year, 1926, when it was the LA Open.
- The fourth player to win the event wire-to-wire (and first since 1969)
- The third-youngest wire-to-wire winner on the PGA Tour since 1970, behind only Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy
Niemann fired 63s on Thursday and Friday before going 68-71 on the weekend. It's Niemann's most impressive professional performance, and to do it at a place like Riviera Country Club was proof he's one of the game's true rising stars, writes our golf reporter Kyle Porter:
- Porter: "This win was merely validation of what everyone inside of golf has known for a while: Niemann is a world-class talent when it comes to hitting the ball and can move it any way you want anytime he pleases. 'Deserve' is a bad word in golf (and probably sports), but if certain players deserve to win at certain courses, Niemann and Riviera made a great match. Grade: A+"
PGA Tour -- not Super Golf League -- picks up commitments from superstars 🏌
While that Niemann win was huge, there's also another big story happening in the golf world.
The PGA Tour is facing an unprecedented challenge. The Saudi Arabia-sponsored Super Golf League is hoping to bring the world's best golfers -- potentially led by Phil Mickelson -- to its circuit, promising huge paydays, lighter schedules and events around the world.
If the past few days are any indication, though, the momentum is on the PGA's side.
- First, it was stars Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa and Rory McIlroy (the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5 players in the OWGR, respectively) speaking out against the SGL.
- Then came Dustin Johnson saying he is "fully committed to the PGA Tour" in a statement released by ... the PGA Tour itself.
- On Sunday, Bryson DeChambeau expressed a similar -- though not the exact same -- sentiment, saying in part, "As long as the best players in the world are playing the PGA Tour, so will I."
Those five have combined to win five of the last seven majors. Add in that Tiger Woods has stated his allegiance to the PGA Tour, and it seems like the best players in the world are indeed going to continue to play on the PGA Tour.
This will be worth monitoring in the days, weeks and months to come, but the latest comments from the top players have given real momentum to the PGA Tour.