By Colby Cosh - Saturday, February 2, 2013 - 0 Comments
Phil Birnbaum, who along with “Tom Tango” is probably one of Canada’s two great gifts to quantitative analysis in sports, has been studying the NHL over the past few weeks. It was only after a second or third reading of his series breaking down luck versus skill in the NHL standings that I was able to really grasp what he was saying. I’m a fluent speaker of basic stats-ese, but not a native. Phil is a pretty approachable explainer of things (including some of the things devised by Tango), so usually I don’t have to bash myself over the head too hard with his findings. But I didn’t see how interesting the message was until now.
Probably all hockey fans know instinctively that the introduction of the shootout has injected a fair amount of randomness into the year-end NHL standings. Birnbaum, looking at the shootout-era data, has now shown just how much. In the old NHL that still had ties, it took an average of 36 NHL games for a team’s actual talent to become as important to its standings position as sheer randomness. “Talent” is defined here as repeatable ability, ability relevant to prediction: after 36 games, your team’s distance in the standings from .500 would be about half luck and half “talent”, and that would be reflected in your guess as to how they would do in the next 36 games (assuming nothing else about the team had changed). Over a full season, we could be confident that there was little randomness left in the ordering of the teams in the league table.
But in the new post-ties NHL, Birnbaum notes, the standard deviation of standings points has shrunk from about .2 per game to .15. Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Monday, January 7, 2013 at 8:56 AM - 0 Comments
The conventional wisdom on the NHL lockout, usually delivered with a sneer, is that Canadian hockey fans will belly-crawl back to the league uncritically now that all the bickering and all the tantrums have ended. Like all conventional wisdom, it is conventional because it is quite a safe bet. I know I’ll crawl with everyone else: I’m capable of intellectually segregating my fondness for the game of hockey from my loathing of the existing institutions of hockey. (It’s not all that difficult! Nor is it shameful!) What’s different about this lockout is that in the meantime I took the bait of regular-season NBA basketball with enthusiasm for the first time ever. Continue…
By Jason Parker Quinton - Friday, April 20, 2012 at 2:29 PM - 0 Comments
A six-foot-four guard is Burlington, Ont.’s best hope for a future NBA star
Every spring, campuses are full of students anxious to return home, and Brady Heslip is no exception. What is exceptional is how he spent this spring: tromping through the NCAA tournament, flashing his signature “3 point goggles” salute, winning academic awards, and emerging as Burlington Ont.’s best chance at a future NBA star. The 21-year-old, six-foot-four Baylor Bears guard deftly abides pressures of school and basketball, and then takes the long trip home from Waco, Texas, to the suburban house he shares with his mom, where he’ll kick back and bake banana bread (seriously, his mom swears it’s true).
Heslip’s Mom, Jodi Triano, is excited for the arrival of her boy, who will breeze into the house with his “too many clothes and shoes that spill out into all the rooms.” Accustomed to the company of sportsmen (her brother Jay is a former Olympian and the first Canadian-born coach in NBA history), she says that her son, “lights up the house, and it’s great to re-connect with his gaggle of friends.” She adds, “I am most proud that he has stayed so level-headed. He hasn’t let the hype disrupt his focus.”
When throwing up his trademark “goggles” (touching thumb to forefinger, and putting the ring around his eye), Heslip could be boasting about this focus, frequently credited as the key to his ascent. With a hint of emerging an Texan drawl, he says his main goal is “to graduate from Baylor a better person.” It’s a broad outlook, but one synthesized through concentrated and dogged training, as he shed 20 pounds before last season began. “There is no secret, just work hard, eat well, put in work in the gym, and watch yourself on film—you see it all in the game”
Whether or not he indulges the temptations of Texas barbeque or Baylor’s nightlife, Brady rises at dawn to exercise, before studying, then an evening workout, and pick-up basketball—a regime he continues when home on vacation.
And what keeps him level-headed is constant communication with family, and with the people he says, “have been my best friends since we were in Grade 5.” Even when he’s only home for a few days, Brady drives to Niagara Falls to visit his grandparents. He watches movies with his grandpa, and grocery shops for his grandmother. In Brady’s youth his grandparents were always there for him (he was raised by a single mom) and even as a sports celebrity, he wants to be there for them.
“Easter weekend, he was out partying it up with some friends at Brock University,” says Brady’s mom, “the next morning he was in Niagara Falls, at his grandparent’s house as they were waking up.”
Visiting old haunts, seeing old friends, coaches, and stomping grounds—for Brady Heslip, it’s just another summer before the NBA calls.
By Richard Warnica - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 2:17 PM - 0 Comments
With the Knicks in town to play the Raptors, Linsanity comes to Toronto
As the clock wound down at the Air Canada Centre Tuesday, Jeremy Lin, a Harvard graduate who two weeks ago was sleeping on his brother’s couch, looked back at his coach, got a nod, then waved his teammates toward the baseline. Set up on-on-one against Raptors point guard Jose Calderon—who had outplayed him much of the night—Lin dribbled and waited for the final shot. When a few seconds remained, he stepped forward, stepped back then launched the ball over Calderon’s extended hands. When it cleared the mesh, the game clock read 0.5 seconds and the Knicks were up by three.
In front of a near-sellout crowd in Toronto, the legend of Linsanity, by some measure the unlikeliest sports story of the year so far, was extended. In a game in which he struggled for long stretches, turning the ball over eight times and missing crucial free throws in the fourth quarter, he pulled it out in the end. Lin scored his team’s final six points. He hit the winning shot. And he did it with a swagger that belies belief, given where he was 10 days ago. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 7, 2011 at 2:07 PM - 9 Comments
Michael Ignatieff’s brother apparently finds himself in the middle of a debate over the social implications of basketball.
Andrew Ignatieff, Park Renewal Team Chair and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s younger brother, said a few basketball nets shouldn’t be that difficult to install, monitor and maintain on the existing hard-surface play area. He believes the residents are reluctant to go ahead with the nets due to fear.
“This neighbourhood has the highest concentration of university academics, lawyers, doctors, accountants, professionals, right? So they’re not going to say ‘no.’ But what I find difficult in the dialogue is just how stereotyped people are despite that,” says Ignatieff. “The unspoken thing is the connection between a basketball court and drug-dealing. [People think] kids are immediately distributing ecstasy…and people can whip themselves up into a real lather very quickly,” he continues.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 10:16 AM - 0 Comments
Naismith gave us basketball, but it was Retzlaff who allowed us to watch buzzer-beaters over and over again
Why he’s famous: Retzlaff took (most of) the risk out of a mid-game bathroom break by introducing the instant replay.
Why he deserves to win: The aesthetics of modern hockey broadcasts owe much to Retzlaff’s pioneering ways as the first producer behind Hockey Night in Canada. His greatest innovation? Using film he could develop in 30 minutes to replay goals. At first the replay wasn’t so instant—goals were replayed during intermissions. But the technique was eventually refined to allow producers to integrate it into the play-by-play broadcast. The bladders of sports fans have been thankful ever since.
Why he’s famous: You have heard of basketball, right?
Why he deserves to win: Naismith is widely credited as the inventor of basketball, which he reportedly developed while working as a phys-ed instructor at his local YMCA in Massachusetts. Naismith needed a sport to keep his otherwise unruly charges happy, but didn’t want to indulge their more boisterous tendencies. Soon enough, inspired by a childhood game bearing the unfortunate name of “duck-on-a-rock,” Naismith had them tossing a soccer ball at a peach basket placed at the top of a 10-foot pole. So we have Naismith to thank not just for giving non-hockey players something to do in the winter, but also for the social relevance of Shaq’s Twitter feed.
By Michael Friscolanti - Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
‘Sonny’ Weems got a loan in college from an ex-CFL star who’s chased him from one town to the next
Clarence “Sonny” Weems is no Chris Bosh. He’s not going to pour in 24 points a game, or have his initials stitched on a pair of Nike basketball sneakers. A face of the franchise he is certainly not. But last season, when the Toronto Raptors were a pitiful bunch to watch, Weems was a welcome dose of hustle and heart. The once-perennial benchwarmer—already traded three times in his two-year NBA career—played with such passion down the stretch that he not only cracked the starting lineup, he earned himself a nice raise. Next season, his salary will top US$850,000.
Which is also great news for Felix Wright, a former Canadian Football League star. Maybe now—after lawsuits on both sides of the border, and a recent judgment from an Ontario court—Weems will finally pay back the $35,000 he owes him.
By John Intini - Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 1:20 PM - 4 Comments
Toronto Raptor Chris Bosh on how getting a tattoo compares to on-court injuries, being a dad, and why he’s taking Spanish lessons
Toronto Raptor Chris Bosh may be the greatest self-promoter in pro sports. He’s on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. He stars in funny skits on YouTube—the first and most famous was a spot in which he appeared as a car salesman, pleading with fans to vote him into the 2008 NBA All-Star game as a starter. He’s the first pro athlete to have an iPhone application—it features exclusive photos and video. And in December, he released First Ink, a documentary about getting his first tattoo. Bosh plays a bit of basketball, too. While his club is hovering around the .500 mark this season, the 25-year-old all-star is putting up career numbers (he’s averaging about 24 points a game). Good timing, considering the US$16-million-a-year forward will likely wade into the free agency pool this year (Bosh, say his handlers, isn’t talking about free agency until the end of the season). There have also been rumours that Bosh could get dealt before the NBA’s Feb. 18 trade deadline. Whatever the case, he’s made his mark. Last month, Bosh dethroned the much-loathed former Raptor Vince Carter to become the team’s all-time leading scorer. Maclean’s recently caught up with Bosh after practice.
Q: Has having a bunch of Europeans on the Raptors’ roster helped you learn a new language or two?
A: I’m picking up Spanish.
Q: Swearing in another language doesn’t count.
A: No, I’m a student. I have tutoring today. I’ve been taking it since October. Twice a week, depending on the schedule. Sometimes three times a week. I just try to get a set amount of time in while I’m here in Toronto. And then I study while I’m on the road.
Q: Why Spanish?
A: I’ve always wanted to learn it. I’m from Texas, where the Hispanic community is massive. And sometimes [Raptors guard] José Calderón and I use it to communicate on the court when we don’t want our opponents to know what we’re saying to each other.
Q: There are a couple of Italians on this club as well. You lining up a tutor for that next?
A: Maybe Italian will be second, if I can get Spanish down.
Q: Has Spanish been tough to learn?
A: Any language is tough, I’m not going to lie. You have to be very consistent, and I’ve been studying pretty much every day for the past four months, and that doesn’t include what I already knew.
Q: With your comedic turns on YouTube getting so much attention—nearly seven million views the last time I checked—have you fielded any feature film offers? Any TV deals?
A: Not yet. I had the chance to do the Jay Leno show a couple of years ago and that was really cool.
Q: So you’d be up for doing something if the right project came along?
A: For sure. I’d try it out. I’m not sure if I’d like it because I’ve never done it but I’m open to it.
Q: What kind of film would you be interested in? Comedy? Romance?
A: I want to do comedy.
Q: Is there anyone in particular that you’d like to star alongside?
A: I can’t be picky. Just give me whatever and I’ll be happy.
Q: Have you always been a bit of a joker, even as a kid?
A: Yeah. People are just now seeing it, because it’s a part of myself that I’ve decided to share.
Q: What made you want to open up?
A: It started with that one video a couple of years ago around the All-Star game. It wasn’t so much about getting votes, it was just to make it competitive. I was behind in the voting. I had to make the numbers look better. [He came up short in the voting, but did start in the game due to an injury to Boston Celtic Kevin Garnett.]
Q: Are you a big locker-room prankster?
A: No, no. I joke around. But I don’t joke too much. Not in a big setting. I’m more of a joker when it’s one-on-one, or with my family.
Q: You have you own website, you’re on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Is taking part in social networking part of the job for the modern-day athlete?
A: It’s a part of the modern world. I wouldn’t say I do it because I’m a modern-day athlete. I just do these things because I enjoy it. I’ve made videos in the past because I enjoyed it. I got into Twitter and Facebook because I enjoyed it.
Q: How do you have the time? Do you have a team of assistants working overtime?
A: I have one guy helping me out.
Q: ESPN named you the most viral athlete in the world last year. Is being everywhere a goal for you?
A: It is now. At first it wasn’t, I was just really going along with the flow. But now it’s a part of what I do.
Q: Last year, you went to court to reclaim 800 Internet domain names—including those of many other athletes and celebrities—from a cybersquatter. Seems like an odd thing for a superstar athlete to be worried about. You won, but why did you bother?
A: Cause that dude was messing things up. I know how important it was to me. I didn’t have chrisbosh.com because someone else had it. Everyone should have their own name. And whoever wanted their domain name was given it back. It was just a sincere effort to give people back their stuff.
Q: With all the things you’re doing, you’ve pretty much become a publicity machine—which includes being the first pro athlete to have his own iPhone app. Is it just a part of getting yourself out there?
A: It’s just trying different avenues and creating different things. We understand technology. We just try to create new ways to communicate with the modern fan. And new ways to have fun with it.
Q: Is that why you decided to do a documentary about getting a tattoo?
A: I always want to do something groundbreaking, something different. I think that’s what it’s always about. If you have the means to do it, why not?
Q: Considering the average star in the NBA seems to have about 14 tattoos.
A: Is that a proven statistic? [Laughs]
Q: No, it just seems like that [by one estimate, more than 70 per cent of NBA players have tattoos]. So why did it take you so long to get your first one?
A: People get them for different reasons. And it was a whole different process for me. I’m more of an artistic guy, so I wanted to create some kind of symbolism of my life.
Q: It’s essentially a mural of your life, right?
A: Pretty much. It takes some explanation. It’s very detailed. It’s not done yet. It’s going to take a long time.
Q: How many sessions in the chair have you done so far?
A: I’ve only had time to do one so far. I’m probably going to do another four this summer, so hopefully I’ll be closer to getting it done.
By Lianne George - Thursday, September 10, 2009 at 3:20 PM - 2 Comments
Shaquille O’Neal, showbiz star, hobbyist cop, the ‘greatest athlete ever formed,’ prepares to leap into his post-NBA career
Over the years, Shaquille O’Neal has deemed his penetrating post-game insights worthy of some of Western civilization’s greatest philosophers, specifically Aristotle and Friedrich Nietzsche. Of course, everything about Shaq—a seven-foot-one, 325-lb. colossus—is hyperbolic. On Twitter, where the Cleveland Cavaliers’ superstar centre boasts a staggering two million followers, O’Neal regularly tweets inspirational quotes by everyone from Ben Franklin and Bill Gates to a barber from Orlando named Kurt Cooper. But there is no one he likes to quote more than himself. In a promo for his new reality TV show, ABC’s Shaq Vs., in which he faces off against top athletes in their own sport, Shaq spells out to the camera how he plans to get inside the heads of his competitors, who include Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, tennis star Serena Williams and Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals: “I study everybody’s game,” he says. “To beat them, you have to become them.” He flashes a half-smile at this impromptu nugget. “Remember that, America. A classic Shaquille O’Neal quote.”
Shaq—a man with a million nicknames: Shaq-Fu, Shaq-a-Claus, Shaqqie Robinson—is often referred to as one of the most gifted basketball players in the history of the NBA (although he prefers the pithier epithet, “the greatest athlete ever formed”—“Look it up,” he says, “Google it”). On the court, he is so tank-like that other players appear to bounce off him like rubber bullets. He has won four NBA championships—three with the L.A. Lakers and another with the Miami Heat—and he’s among the top-paid athletes in America, pulling in US$35 million in salary and endorsements. But more than being just one of the greats of the game, Shaq will go down as having created one of the most endearing personal brands in professional sports—a family man with a humongous heart, a 12-year-old’s sense of fun, and killer comedic timing. Continue…
By Kenneth Whyte - Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 9:40 AM - 6 Comments
Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell on his big ring, his favourite coach—and why he won’t visit the Basketball Hall of Fame
Q: I read that your grandchild once asked you if you were as good a basketball player as Michael Jordan, but I never read your answer.
A: I told him, that’s the wrong question. The question is, was Michael Jordan as good as me.
Q: Wayne Embry, who’s been in Canada with the Toronto Raptors, said that you were not the greatest player to play basketball but you would be the first player that he would want if he was going to start a team. That makes no sense to me.
A: Aha! Well, there’s my whole history, okay? The reason is that when people talk about great players they’re always talking about the offence, there are no real adequate stats for defence. When I was in college, my junior year in college we were 28-and-1. I was MVP at the Final Four. We won it, okay? I was first team all-American, my team was the number one defensive team in the nation. At the end of the season they picked another centre as player of the year. And my second year in the NBA the players voted me MVP, and the writers voted me second team all-league. So I’m used to that. But by my way of thinking, individual stats are great for golf, tennis, and most track and field [events].
By Ken MacQueen - Wednesday, August 13, 2008 at 12:49 AM - 0 Comments
Women’s soccer, or football as it’s called in the Olympics, is providing some of…
Women’s soccer, or football as it’s called in the Olympics, is providing some of the best team excitement at these Games. The Canadian women, all grit and muscle, have a win, a draw, and a loss. They’ve been in every game they’ve played, tying the dominant Chinese women in their pool, and losing 2-1 to a strong Swedish team. Next up, the powerhouse Americans.
Naturally, China’s women are crowd favorites here, but the Chinese men, yikes, not so much. They’ve had their, ah, butts handed to them in their two games so far. And they’re certain to get booted from the Games later today when they play Brazil. Just as well, the home country fans are fed up. Posted on the Internet are the lyrics of one of the feel-good Olympic songs that are replayed here to the point of distraction. It’s undergone a sarcastic rewrite at the hands of an ex-fan of China. Sing along if you wish:
Our gate is open now.
Welcome all the ball
One, two, three or even more
We don’t care at all.
If you think that’s unsporting, look at what Agence France-Presse is reporting. Toronto Raptors guard Jose Calderon, a star member of Spain’s Olympic basketball team, is defending a photo where the national team posed with slit eyes before heading off to China. Said Calderon: “it seemed to us to be something appropriate and that it would always be interpreted as an affectionate gesture.” Some of his best friends in Toronto, he adds, “are of Chinese origin.”
In another gesture of affection, Tuesday, the Spanish team beat China 85-75.
By selley - Monday, August 11, 2008 at 5:25 PM - 0 Comments
It really is amazing what still passes for politically correct in some quarters of…
It really is amazing what still passes for politically correct in some quarters of the European Union these days.
Spain plays China in less than 12 hours, incidentally.
By Steve Maich - Monday, June 23, 2008 at 12:45 PM - 0 Comments
First Star: I nearly failed grade nine french, and I already have to deal…
First Star: I nearly failed grade nine french, and I already have to deal with the indignity of knowing that the Habs are a solid young team, getting better, while my Leafs are a terrible team committed to get worse before they begin to improve, so excuse me, but on Mondays this section is going to be called “first star.” (Plus, I don’t know how to make accents on this keyboard.) Anyway, the first star today is Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas who led his team to victory over Italy yesterday making several key stops, including the one you’ll see below, and stopping not one but two penalty kicks to decide the game.
[YouTube = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZ9bWkwID00]
Two minutes for: fixing what ain’t broken. Matt stairs tees off on recently-fired hitting coach Gary Denbo. Not nice to dance on a guy’s grave, but Stairs makes an excellent point. One of the keys to coaching is recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of your players and getting them to focus on what they do well. Denbo wanted to turn everybody into Lyle Overbay – working the count and shooting the ball to the opposite field – which might explain why Overbay is one of the guys who appears in the story to defend Denbo.
Anybody got tickets to: Wimbledon. That is, if you like tennis, and white tennis outfits. I like neither, because I think generally tennis is a game played by snobs and private school boys. But I understand the sport is pretty popular, and it’s a slow day in the world of sports, so here you go tennis fans. Have some strawberries with cream, and prepare to watch Roger Federer beat the snot out of everybody…again.
Fun Police: Why, why , why does everybody in Leaf land have their knickers in a knot about Mats Sundin joining the Habs? The Leafs are a non-playoff team, begining a long, slow re-build. Sundin is a veteran superstar at the end of his career. It’d be nice if he hung around to help keep the team halfway respectable, and help teach the young guys something about being a pro. But if he’s not going to sign in Toronto, it doesn’t matter where he signs. Michael Farber on the weekend was comparing this to Johnny Damon jumping from the Red Sox to the Yankees. One key difference, the Sox and Yanks were highly competitive at the time. There is no Leafs/Habs rivalry until the Leafs get better.
Extra bases: Good bye TJ, Hello J.O.?; Cool story about Nashville Predators first round picks Colin Wilson and Chet Pickard both getting cut from the same kids’ team when they were 14. Hey coach IN YOUR FACE!; Amazing and depressing story on the impact that suit technology is having on the sport of swimming. “By compressing his torso, the LZR not only lets him go faster, because it maintains a tubular shape, but also allows him to swim longer with less effort.” Read the whole thing and you’ll soon agree with me that if it’s not lycra/spandex, it should be illegal. Honestly, baseball says bats must be wooden. Why can’t swimming say suits must be Lycra/spandex?