SI report paints UCLA program in awful light

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SI report paints UCLA program in awful light

From Comcast SportsNet
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Players and staff members from the past four UCLA basketball teams say that coach Ben Howland allowed an influx of talented but immature recruits to undermine team discipline and morale as the once-proud program has struggled to live up to its storied history, Sports Illustrated reported Wednesday. The report on Sports Illustrated's website, which says SI spoke with more than a dozen players and staff members from those teams over the last two months, outlines a program in disarray where teammates have come to blows, several players routinely used alcohol and drugs -- sometimes before practice -- and one player intentionally injured teammates but received no punishment. UCLA officials issued a statement Wednesday saying the school would address issues and concerns. "It is disheartening for our Bruin community to be confronted with the type of assertions contained in the Sports Illustrated story," Chancellor Gene Block said in the statement. "We take seriously any challenge to who we are and what we are about, and I am confident that any issues in our men's basketball program will be rectified." Howland added: "Like everyone else, I am always looking forward to improving as both a person and as a coach. I am proud of the coaches, staff and student-athletes in our program, and I look forward to our future." According to players who spoke to the magazine, Howland had little contact with his athletes beyond practices and games. The report says the task of indoctrinating a new player fell to veterans. Howland's former players told the magazine he had very little to do with instilling camaraderie. Several players from the 2008-09 team who spoke to SI say that some of that year's freshmen affected the team's unity and performance because of behavior that included drug and alcohol use, sometimes before practice. The report says older players tried to counsel them with little success. Players also spoke to the magazine of an alarming number of fights to begin the 2009 season, including one that began when Reeves Nelson, then a freshman, hit fellow player Mike Moser in the chest with his forearm and shoulder. Nelson confirmed on-court incidents to SI and expressed his regret, saying, "On all that stuff, I have no trouble admitting that I lost control of my emotions sometimes. I take responsibility for my actions. I'm really just trying to learn from the mistakes I made on all levels." Nelson was eventually dismissed from the team last December after twice having been suspended for insubordinate behavior this season. The report says that team members who spoke to SI were unanimous in their belief that leadership from Howland would have prevented or at least curtailed the damage to the program.

Rondo says he will not play tonight

Rondo says he will not play tonight

Rajon Rondo, out with a fractured right thumb, will not play for the Chicago Bulls against the Celtics tonight in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series at TD Garden, according to multiple reports.

The series is tied at 2.

Rondo, the Bulls point guard who played the first two game of the series, was reportedly going to try and test the thumb tonight but told reporters Wednesday morning he couldn’t play. 

Game 6 is Friday in Chicago. Game 7, if necessary, is Sunday in Boston.  Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg called Rondo's return a "longshot."

More to come. 
 

POLITICO sees Epstein as potential savior for Democrats

POLITICO sees Epstein as potential savior for Democrats

A piece that ran on POLITICO Wednesday morning explored an interesting possibility: A potential political career for longtime baseball executive Theo Epstein. 

The piece, titled “Could Theo Epstein Perform a Miracle for the Democrats?” comes a month after Fortune magazine ranked the Cubs president of baseball operations No. 1 on its annual ranking of the world’s greatest leaders. In the POLITICO article, Ben Strauss, in addition to noting the 43-year-old’s accomplishments with the Red Sox and Cubs, hits on several instances in which Epstein’s leadership has been mentioned in relation to politics. 

Strauss then goes on to interview CNN senior political commentator (and Cubs fan) David Axelrod about whether Epstein could be a saving grace with “Democrats on the lookout for a new generation of talent.”

The interview sees both POLITICO and Axelrod compare Epstein to Barack Obama. Says Axelrod: 

They both have two kinds of intelligence: emotional intelligence and a more linear intelligence. They both have the self-confidence to surround themselves with very smart people. Theo’s had a core group around him (general manager Jed Hoyer and head of amateur scouting Jason McLeod) since the beginning in Boston. It’s striking how much he relishes smart people around him and has the confidence to be challenged...Obama had it, too. I would add that Epstein has learned on the job. In Boston he was a pioneer [in using statistical analysis]...He’s told me that he used to be dismissive of the touchy-feely stuff [in evaluating baseball players], but now his scouts write five-page essays about the guys they’re going to draft. In the same way, Obama would tell you he was a better president at the end of eight years than at the beginning. He was smart enough to learn on the job, too.

Asked whether Epstein could win a statewide race for governor or Senate in Illinois, Axelrod replied, “Yeah, he could,” but questions whether Epstein has “the desire to hold public office.”

“I think Theo would be frustrated in public office because of the situation he’s in now,” Axelrod said. “He basically has free rein to do what he needs to do for the success of the organization. That is not the case in politics—you’re seeing that with the governor in Illinois (Bruce Rauner) right now. You have to deal with legislatures and all kinds of public stakeholders. And if you’re used to making things happen, I’m not sure the Senate would be a particularly satisfying job for you. When I talked to him on my podcast...about what he might want to do next...he allowed that he might want to own a team sometime and use that team or use that platform to try to impact on a community. He clearly cares about the larger world and wants to make an impact...But there are many, many reasons I think Cubs fans can relax and enjoy the benefits of his leadership for many years to come.”