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NBA introducing All-Star Draft prior to annual All-Star game



LeBron James
Image: AP

For sports fans who believe that NBA basketball has been “too playground” since Larry Bird retired in 1992, this year’s All-Star game is doing the opposite of reaching out to those fans.

The NBA is taking it all the way back to the schoolyard this year in Salt Lake City. Yes, the starters will still be voted on by a combination of the media, fans, and players. Also, there will still be 12 players from each conference, reserves voted on by the coaches. The difference this year, fans will get to see the players divided up live, in a pregame segment.

No more East vs. West

For five seasons, the NBA has done away with East vs. West All-Star game matchup, and had the two leading vote-getters serve as captains who pick and choose teams from amongst the other all-stars. In 2018, it was done privately. LeBron James then tweeted out that he wished it had been done on television, so since then captains have made their picks live.

While the process is aired on TNT, only Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson, and Shaq are in the same room. The captains are in different parts of the country and no other players are televised. This season, if LeBron James and Kevin Durant — or whoever the leading vote-getter in the East is — decide to mess with James Harden by picking him last, he will be staring right at them if receives an All-Star selection.

Taking a page out of the NHL’s book

The NHL did something similar to this from 2011-15, except they set it up like the actual draft. It was interesting, but it might have been more fun if the players were lined up at center ice and skated over to the side that chose them.

The details on how exactly the choice of players is going to be executed have not yet been revealed. We will all find out together whether or not pyrotechnics will be involved, if Kevin Hart will be making witty comments about the players as they are picked, or if players will be elevated up from underneath the court once their names are called. I’m just happy they finally have gone all in with this pickup game style of dividing up the teams.

I used to enjoy the East vs. West matchups every year, regardless of how competitive the game was. NBA All-Star Weekend is one of my favorite events on the sports calendar. I never thought it needed fixing. If I was in charge I would bring back the old Stay in School Jam from the 1990s — more so for the mascot slam dunk contest than the wholesome message.

As fun as it was to pull for the perpetual underdog Eastern Conference, change is fine with me as long as the idea is good. Bringing basketball back to its literal most elementary form, choosing teams at recess, sounded like a winner as soon as the NBA decided on it. Of course, it will be more embarrassing this year for a player to be the last pick in front of a national audience than it would be in front of 10 of his friends two decades ago, but NBA players receive large financial bonuses just for being selected as an all-star. That check should quickly remove any shame.

NBA fans, be sure to get to the T.V. a little bit earlier than usual on All-Star Sunday. It’s the most athletically similar your favorite players will ever be to you. Waiting to be selected for a pickup game in the middle of winter.

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‘Visit Saudi’ sponsorship is tone-deaf ahead of Women’s World Cup



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The Women’s World Cup is nearing, and as is tradition, FIFA marked the occasion with controversy. Host countries Australia and New Zealand are urging the soccer federation to back out of its sponsorship with Visit Saudi. The main issue with the deal is Saudi Arabia’s ever-present, awful record of women’s rights violations.

A letter authored by representatives Chris Nikou of Australia and New Zealand’s Joanna Wood was sent to FIFA on Wednesday, voicing concerns about how such a sponsor could “severely tarnish the reputation” of the tournament.

“We write to express our serious disappointment and concern at the news of the apparent appointment of Visit Saudi as a sponsor.

“We cannot express strongly enough the potential repercussions and fallout that could result of this decision.

“Australia and New Zealand, both as sovereign nations and as football associations, have for decades placed the utmost importance on gender equality, and have sought to promote these ideals around the world.”

Incidentally, Visit Saudi also was a sponsor at the men’s World Cup late last year, and I guess we missed that with the flood of human rights stories that plagued host country Qatar. (While I do remember the Visit Qatar ads during that tournament, I would not be surprised if this is one of a number of gross stories that went overlooked or unreported.)

It’s nothing new for the Saudis to attempt to improve their reputation via sportswashing. They literally have half the world’s golfers on retainer for the divisive LIV Golf League. However, I’m not falling for the bullshit, and clearly neither are the Aussies or the Kiwis.

The USWNT is more or less deified in the states because of how good they are on and off the pitch, so don’t be surprised if any number of players speak out about this or a bunch of other shit that FIFA will inevitably screw up as we close in on the Women’s World Cup.

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Damar Hamlin conspiracy theorists keep moving goalposts



Do you really believe there are two Damar Hamlins? Conspiracy theorists continue to move the goalposts in typical conspiracy theorist fashion. I’m apprehensive to even talk about this stuff because I don’t want to further spread any disinformation, but this is a great example of their way of thinking — any information that contradicts what these people believe becomes evidence that they’re somehow right — and why it’s so dangerous. And as you’ll see, the people claiming this stuff — as well as anything related to QAnon and the COVID-19 vaccine — have a much bigger platform than me, anyway.

If you somehow missed what happened to Hamlin, the Bills’ safety suffered cardiac arrest on the field during their game against the Bengals on Jan. 2 and was given CPR for several minutes. Hamlin was rushed to the hospital in critical condition where his condition improved over several days.

He was eventually discharged from the hospital, returned home to Buffalo, and was even in attendance at their playoff game against those same Bengals on Jan. 22.

People are blaming the vaccine

Of course any time someone suffers a medical emergency these days, anti-vaxxers are waiting in the wings to blame it on the COVID-19 vaccine without any evidence. Hamlin didn’t speak publicly for a couple of weeks after his hospitalization, leading some to speculate that he had actually died — due to being vaccinated — and that some corporate entity was faking…him.

As the theory goes for some prominent right-wing public figures as well as random Twitter trolls: How can we be sure that was really Damar Hamlin at the game? How do we know that Hamlin wasn’t actually killed by the vaccine, and our corporate overlords are trying to make it seem like everything’s fine?

Notice I phrased my theory as a question, as that’s what many of them do. They’re not making outlandish and easily disprovable claims; they’re just asking questions. Though there are plenty of more brazen, unapologetic theorists who will make claims outright, like Emerald Robinson, a former White House correspondent for Newsmax.

There’s also Aubrey Huff, a guy who loves to refer to himself as a two-time World Series champion, even though he contributed to the Giants’ 2012 title about as much as I did.

If only Huff felt as strongly about punctuation as vaccines.

These people assume the endgame is that Pfizer is going to use a fake Hamlin for the rest of his natural life to stave off suspicions of the vaccine, and hope that none of his family, friends, or teammates (including vocal anti-vaxxer Cole Beasley) ever become suspicious. Air-tight logic.

Although he was at the Bills’ playoff game a week ago, these dumbasses still didn’t believe it because he couldn’t get a good enough look at his face. “Why was he covering up his face?” Probably because it was cold and snowy. Did Pfizer make it snow too in order to obstruct the cameras’ views?

That same account claimed that all Hamlin had to put an end to the theories was to make a video saying he was OK. Also, way to be extra shitty and try to make him feel guilty because people donated to his charity. Here’s the thing about donating: If you’re expecting something in return, then it’s not really donating.

Well, now he has. That’s it, right?

Peters said, “All Damar Hamlin has to do is get on social media, cut a video, and put an end to the speculation.” But no, it still wasn’t good enough for these goons. Hamlin making a video clearly showing his face and saying that he’s grateful for the support is apparently not enough evidence that he’s okay. After that happened, he tweeted this:

And this is a prime example of how conspiracy theorists think. A video of Hamlin alive and well now becomes evidence that they were right all along. Now they’re questioning why he didn’t make one sooner, if he’s being forced to say those things, and if he’s a clone. (Hamlin clapped back regarding that last one.)

Why doesn’t he have tattoos on his right arm like before? The answer is he does. There’s bad lighting but if you squint even a little you can see the tattoos. I guess in their minds, the entity responsible is advanced and powerful enough to clone a full-grown man in several days but lax enough on the details to forget about a tattoo. Why is his forearm smaller? I don’t know. Maybe being in a medically-induced coma for several days isn’t the greatest workout plan.

For the people who don’t think the video proves that Hamlin is alive, they want him to appear at a press conference. Why should he? You’re just going to keep coming up with new theories. How could one convince people that you’re yourself and not a clone if they’ve already made up their minds that that’s the case? Of course, the reason that Hamlin doesn’t go out of his way to try and prove these people wrong is that he probably doesn’t care. He may not even know these theories are out there because he’s busy living his life.

The question for prominent right-wing personalities like these is whether they actually believe the bile they’re spewing, or if it’s just part of the grift. Is Peters actually that stupid or is he claiming these things because he’s built an audience of easily tricked people and is giving them more reason to listen to his radio show? I have no idea. I’m just asking the questions.

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The Hundred: Welsh Fire name Mike Hussey head coach of men’s team | Cricket News



Australian Mike Hussey has been confirmed as the new head coach of the Welsh Fire men’s team ahead of the third year of The Hundred.

Hussey played over 300 times for his country, and has extensive experience of white-ball leagues around the globe as both a player and a coach. Most recently, Hussey was part of the England men’s team’s coaching staff in their successful ICC T20 World Cup campaign.

He arrives into the role ahead of Deadline Day, and The Hundred Draft, in which his team will have first pick.

Hussey, known within the game as ‘Mr Cricket’, said: “I’m really looking forward to getting started at Welsh Fire and being part of The Hundred.

“From a distance it looks a fantastic competition to be involved in, one that’s attracting big crowds and getting lots of kids interested in the game.

“For my part, hopefully I can get help get things moving in the right direction on the pitch in Cardiff and give all of those fans who’ve been coming to watch something to really get excited about.”

Hussey played over 300 times for Australia

Mark Wallace, cricket manager of Welsh Fire, said: “We’re thrilled to be able to appoint someone of the calibre of Mike. There are few better people around the world with the relevant expertise and knowledge of white-ball cricket to help take us forward.

“It’s really exciting to have him on board, and we look forward to working together to hopefully bring some on-field success to the team and our fans.”

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