Colin Kaepernick is speculated to have been blackballed because of his national anthem protest. (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images Sport)Free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick is reportedly set to work out with the Seattle Seahawks a week after Pete Carroll revealed he’s considering him for a back-up role.Kaepernick has remained unsigned since he opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March and NFL Network reported the Seahawks will have him and other reserve quarterbacks work out Wednesday, May 24, a change of plans notwithstanding. Former Denver Broncos quarterback Austin Davis also is set to visit.Kaepernick’s rumored meeting adds fuel to speculation that he could be joining the Seahawks after Carroll was asked if the team is considering putting him and fellow free agent Robert Griffin III behind QB Russell Wilson.“We’re looking at everybody. We really are,” Carroll told “Brock and Salk.” “We’ve been tracking everything that’s going on, and we’ve got cap and roster issues and stuff like that that we’re still trying to manage properly. But, quite frankly, yes, we are looking at all those guys.”Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett believes Kaepernick, who stirred controversy after his season-long protest of the national anthem, would make a great addition.“I think a person that’s dedicating their life to creating change, why wouldn’t you want that type of leadership in your locker room?” Bennett told 710 ESPN Seattle. “Why wouldn’t you want a young person that’s dealt with people wanting to kill him because of his choices in life?“So, I don’t know why people feel like that is a problem.”
Hakuho and fellow sumo wrestlers train. Tim Foley Snatch Hakuho from his peak, shove him into your DeLorean and send him into any point in the past — including the 1790s — and he will almost certainly be a favorite to stay in the ring, on his feet, against any human or human-like god-giant that he runs into. We know this.But considering his unprecedented domination of his competition, his broad skill set and, yes, even his controversial willingness to push boundaries in pursuit of victory, he can likely match any sumotori legend for legend as well. The shikiri (pre-match ritual) takes several minutes. The wrestlers clap to attract the attention of the gods, lift their hands to show they are unarmed, stomp the ground to scare away demons and throw salt in the ring to purify it. They repeatedly crouch as if about to start the match and then stand up after a few moments of glaring at each other. When they are finally ready, they creep toward their starting stance.There is no bell. The match starts with a tachi-ai (initial charge), which generally happens the instant the opponents are set.Harumafuji lunged from his crouch, low, exploding toward Hakuho in an effort to take control of the bout early. Instead, he caught a quick palm to the face — and then air. His momentum carried him clear out of the other side of the ring, like he’d tried to bull-rush a ghost.The match had lasted one second.Kisenosato scowled and walked out of the ring area. Commentators didn’t quite know what to say; one of the English announcers let out a long “hmmmmm.” The crowd booed its champion.This is not normally how a match of this scale plays out. Side-stepping an opponent’s charge is legal but considered beneath the dignity of top sumotori. The move is known derisively as a henka (変化), which translates to “change” or “changing,” while connoting the root “strange” (変). That it would be used by an all-time great in one of the most consequential matches of his career was strange indeed.With all Hakuho has accomplished, his greatness is unquestionable, but his legacy is an enigma. It is already beyond being measured by wins and losses, or even by yusho (tournament wins) or sansho (special prizes), so incidents like this now take on particular importance. But judging him by heel turns would be reductive. The best way to measure Hakuho’s legacy is to pit it against legend.Enter thunder and lightning. The final match of the 2016 Haru Basho — one of six professional sumo tournaments held each year — was a day-15 championship-deciding showdown between the sport’s top yokozuna.1Yokozuna, 横綱 (literal: “horizontal rope”), means “grand champion.” Named after the decorative rope that yokozuna wear during their ring-entering ceremony. Officially recognized as the highest rank in 1909. Hakuho, the White Peng,2Hakuho (白鵬) translates literally to “White Peng.” Peng is a mythological Chinese bird described in Zhuangzi as being so large that “his wings are like clouds draped across the heavens.” the dominant force in sumo over the past decade, was 13-1 in the tournament and hadn’t lost since his opening match.If he could beat rival Harumafuji — himself a winner of seven Grand Tournament championships — Hakuho would win a record 36th Emperor’s Cup, about the equivalent of a 24th major in tennis or golf.3Since 1926, the winner of each honbasho (official tournament) has received the Emperor’s Cup. There have been six honbasho per year since 1958. If he lost, he would have to wrestle again (almost immediately) in a tiebreaker against 13-2 ozeki4Ozeki, 大関 (literal: “great barrier”), means “champion” and is presently the highest rank besides yokozuna. (Before 1909, yokozona was a ceremonial title and ozeki was the highest rank.) Kisenosato, who was waiting ringside. Tegata are collectible autographs featuring a wrestler’s name and handprint. The one on the left is allegedly Raiden’s; on the right is Hakuho’s. These are not necessarily to scale. Raiden’s hands are said to have been 9.4 inches from palm to tip. Fish scales of greatnessThere is perhaps no more intricate ritual among sports fans than debating the relative merits of greats across eras.Over time, athletes get stronger, faster and better-trained, and benefit from accumulated institutional knowledge. NFL kickers, for example, have been getting better at a nearly constant rate for 80-plus years. So we have meta-debates about whether athletes should get more credit for dominating the competition in an earlier, top-heavy era or for excelling in a mature sport with a broader talent pool. For example, who’s the more impressive outlier, Dan Marino or Peyton Manning?If we want to imagine athletes from different times competing, do we assume they would have enjoyed all the advantages and disadvantages of the comparison era, or do we focus on strict time-traveling scenarios? And, crucially, in time-traveling scenarios, are you bringing present-day athletes into the past, or are you snatching past legends and bringing them to the present?From what we know about his career, Raiden won more often than Hakuho on a bout-by-bout basis. Yet though Raiden’s career was longer in years, it was short on matches. Here’s every Makuuchi division sumo career for comparison: Raiden, on the other hand, was well above average in height, weight and BMI. At 6-foot-6, he was just about 6 inches taller than his typical opponent, and his 373-pound weight gave him an 80-pound advantage. But there’s an important factor here: Relatively speaking, Raiden isn’t that much bigger than Hakuho. Raiden was about an inch and a half taller and 25 to 35 pounds heavier. Hakuho, by virtue of being less massive than many opponents, is especially strong and/or skilled for his size. In other words, because of the size difference across eras, Hakuho has the advantages of a smaller, more agile fighter without the disadvantage of being that much smaller than Raiden.Note that this is a minor variation from the standard “people get better over time” argument, because it applies relative to their era. It’s not only that Hakuho has been as dominant as he has been in a likely tougher era, but also that his dominance is a product of qualities (strength/speed/skill) that also would be likely to advantage him against Raiden. Tournaments grew in size, length and quantity throughout the 1900s, and in 1958, sumo adopted the current structure of six grand tournaments per year (one every two months), with 15 matches each. Both Raiden and Hakuho are clearly the top wrestlers in their given eras, but how good are they relative to how good we expect top wrestlers in their eras to be?For this chart, I’ve plotted historical win percentages for wrestlers ranked ozeki or higher, with the number of years they competed at those ranks represented by bubble sizes: Raiden’s career — like Hakuho’s — didn’t pass without controversy. It’s said that on account of Raiden’s dominance, some of his favored techniques were at least temporarily banned from the sport. And for reasons that appear to be lost to history, he was never awarded the title yokozuna. The Yokozuna Stone at the Tomioka Hachiman Shrine — home of the first professional sumo tournament — has the names of every yokozuna inscribed on it, plus one: the “peerless rikishi”6Rikishi, 力士 (literal: “powerful man”), means professional sumo wrestler. Raiden.This is the burden of Hakuho’s dominance: He is no longer competing with his peers; he’s competing with the peerless. The highest-ranked sumo wrestlers like Hakuho wear the yokozuna rope during dohyo-iri (the ring-entering ceremony). Tim Foley Hakuho — born Monkhbatyn Davaajargal and given the shikona Hakuho Sho — is the son of a six-time Mongolian wrestling champion and Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling. Despite his pedigree, Hakuho was an undersized sumo prospect — weighing only 137 pounds when he started training at age 15 — and almost went unrecruited. Although he would eventually reach 6-foot-4 and competes at around 330-340 pounds today, he is lighter and thinner than the majority of his opponents. Taller, heavier wrestlers win (a little) more often — hence sumo wrestlers tend to be, well, big. But the relationship between size and success isn’t nearly as strong as you might think, and it gets weaker if you control for division and era.7In a regression to win percentage per tournament using height and body mass index (we use BMI instead of weight because height and weight are highly correlated) as variables, the r-squared produced is around .05 (meaning, roughly, that about 5 percent of the variance in tournament results can be explained by the height and weight of each wrestler alone), which, again, weakens as you control for division and era. However, the sample sizes are large enough to pick up meaningful trends.For this chart, I’ve compared the relative importance of height and weight for predicting top-division wrestlers’ win-loss rate in a given tournament. Values above 2 are roughly “significant” for a given five-year period.8I ran regressions for each year over a rolling five-year period and recorded the t-value (strength of stat divided by standard error) for “height” and “BMI.” Also, each bubble is colored to show how many “wins above replacement ozeki” (WAROZ) each wrestler would be expected to win over the course of their career, based on their win percentage relative to their era and projecting as if they’d wrestled 90 bouts per year as healthy wrestlers do today. By this metric, Hakuho leads all with 182 WAROZ (and counting), with second-place going to Tachiyama (who had 115 wins and eight ties in 128 bouts between 1909 and 1918) at 175. Raiden finishes eighth with 143 WAROZ.Here we can see that top ozeki winning a huge percentage of their matches seems to have been almost expected hundreds of years ago. This is consistent with a number of things we know about sumo tournaments back then: With less focus on “winning,” they were a bit more like exhibitions. And we know that opponents were sometimes literally picked out of the crowd.11This is how Raiden’s mentor, Tanikaze, got his start. Hakuho, however, competes in an environment in which losses for top-level wrestlers are considerably more common than they were in Raiden’s time, but he has maintained an extremely high win percentage nonetheless.Behold the henkaYokozuna face a lot of pressure to retire the instant they start to decline. It’s considered dishonorable to hold the rank of yokozuna and not be among the best in the sport.12When a maegashira (the fifth-highest rank in sumo) beats a yokozuna, it is called a kinboshi (“gold star”) and earns the maegashira a special bonus payment — which they receive every tournament for the rest of their career. So a yokozuna sticking around past their prime is literally costly to the sumo association. So although we’ve made the argument that Hakuho might have an advantage over Raiden in both prowess and résumé, recent events raise a third, more fraught point of comparison: legacy.After Hakuho’s win by henka at the Haru basho, Mark Buckton of The Japan Times — a former amateur sumo wrestler who has covered professional sumo for 18 years — called for the White Peng’s exit. Addressing Hakuho directly, he writes:At its lowest ebb, following the hazing death of Tokitaizan and former yokozuna Asashoryu feigning injury the only yokozuna worth his salt in both performances on the dohyo and behavior off it was yourself.True, you are still the best there is in a mawashi.And that is how you should be remembered.Not as a man who resorts to a final day henka against a fellow yokozuna, on his way to yusho No. 36.Go now and you go in true Japanese fashion, falling on your sword for that Day 15 performance so unworthy of your name.In a phone interview, Buckton said that he thought Hakuho’s henka was disgraceful and that he was confident most Japanese sumo fans felt the same way. He said he believes the move was akin to an act of desperation — Hakuho sees his skills slipping and is resorting to dirty tactics in a last-ditch effort to stay on top of a sport that isn’t merely competitive exhibition but has its roots as a martial art in Shinto.That’s fair enough. But for cold-blooded empiricists obsessed with win-maximization, this may all seem strange. If henka aren’t banned, not using them is just bad game theory, right?Unfortunately, henka are hard to analyze with data. They aren’t considered a winning move themselves, and only winning moves are recorded. Hakuho’s win was scored as a tsukiotoshi (“thrust down”). What even constitutes a henka is not clear-cut — particularly in instances in which they fail.However, what little evidence we have suggests that they work. Lon Howard of Sumo Fan Magazine attempted to crowd-source some henka data by having readers nominate matches that contained possible henka and then asking the readership to vote on whether they actually were. Overall, the possible henka led to victory 63 percent of the time; among a subset of moves that voters were certain were henka,13Attempts with agreement and 10 or more votes. that figure rises to 92 percent.Although that data isn’t conclusive, it makes sense. If you’re playing rock-paper-scissors and your opponent does nothing but throw rock for 250 years, throwing paper may be very effective.Stigma-based policing of the sport’s standards is defensible. Normalizing the henka might fundamentally change the sport’s dynamics too much, but outlawing it may create a havoc of gray areas. But such a defense should anticipate that sternly discouraging the move may not prevent its selective employment by a wily rikishi with a New England Patriots-style commitment to winning.In a tear-soaked post-match interview, Hakuho appeared to express regret for the tournament ending the way it did. But he did not clarify his side-step’s strategic underpinnings, such as whether it was planned, or a response to something he saw while the wrestlers were getting set, or a reflexive reaction to Harumafuji’s charge itself.But regardless of premeditation, consider the story told on the faces of the competitors: A quarter-millennium of Sumo evolutionHakuho vs. Raiden isn’t a story of a sport that has stayed the same for hundreds of years, allowing us to make clean, crisp comparisons between the two champions. But it isn’t a story of a sport changing every couple of years either.Although there have been significant structural changes — like the setting of tournaments at 15 matches long, the introduction of tiebreakers, and the treatment of yokozuna as an official rather than ceremonial rank — the sport is always fundamentally about knocking the other guy down or getting him to step out of the ring first. Many trends happen over decades or centuries, caused by whims of history that can be hard to pick up in a data set.But some simple metrics — like wrestler height and weight — can tell a pretty interesting story. And to understand how Raiden and Hakuho match up with each other, it helps to understand how they compare physically to their eras. Raiden Tameemon. Explore 250 years of sumo data Hakuho trains in 2014. See more: A History Of Sumo, an interactive graphic by FiveThirtyEight showing centuries of sumo wrestlers, and The Sea of Crises, a 2014 Grantland article on sumo and Japanese culture.CORRECTION (May 13, 5:30 p.m.): An earlier version of this article included a photograph that was incorrectly described as portraying Hakuho. It has been replaced with the correct photo. Hakuho and Harumafuji one second after the start of their bout in March. Kyodo The growing international talent poolIf a hypothetical tale of the tape across a couple of centuries is a little too abstract for you, consider that the dramatic shift in the balance of power in sumo’s demographics that has been taking place of late also has implications for our matchup.Before 1972, no non-Japanese wrestler had ever won a basho. The first was Takamiyama, a Hawaiian sekiwake (the third rank, behind yokozuna and ozeki) who otherwise had a relatively undistinguished career as a sumotori. But he then founded the Azumazeki stable — one of the regimented groups of wrestlers who live and train together and to which all active rikishi belong. There he recruited and trained Chad Rowan — a former high school basketball all-star from Hawaii — who took the shikona Akebono, became the first non-Japanese yokozuna and won 11 Emperor’s Cups.Today, international wrestlers have taken over the sport. In January 2016, then-31-year-old Japanese ozeki Kotoshogiku won his first tournament. This might have been an unremarkable event, except that it was the first tournament won by any Japanese wrestler since January of 2006. Of the 58 tournaments in between, 56 were won by Mongolians; the other two were won by a Bulgarian (Kotooshu) and an Estonian (Baruto).Here’s how this has played out since 1970: Note that Japan’s share of champions will improve by at least a tick in 2016, while Mongolia’s will decline, after the country’s three-year stretch of winning all the tournaments.Mongolia has had all this success with only a small fraction of the sport’s wrestlers — around a quarter of those in the top (Makuuchi) division and less than 5 percent of those who compete overall. This likely is because the Nihon Sumo Kyokai (the sport’s governing body) limits each stable to one non-Japanese wrestler, so the standards for foreign prospects are extremely high.This carries some likely implications:Most obviously, the non-Japanese pool of sumo talent is likely growing faster than the number of slots for non-Japanese talent. This probably advantages Hakuho’s strength of competition in our matchup because it implies that he could be the best of a much bigger talent pool than sumo wrestlers of the past. It also implies that while the non-Japanese wrestlers make the talent pool stronger than it was, limited roster slots for them keep it weaker than it could be.On the other hand, the sumo talent from Japan may be declining. Sumo requires major physical (putting on weight) and time (years of non-stop training) commitments. Sumotori lead rigid and structured lifestyles year-round, the potential for fame and fortune isn’t that great, and Japan has an advanced economy that may afford better opportunities to athletic Japanese youth.But even a relatively weak Japan today could be stronger than a relatively strong Japan more than 200 years ago. The population of Japan is now about five times the size of what it was when Raiden was active, making the pool of potential sumotori that much richer.10Moreover, the talent pool back then may have been even smaller relative to today’s than the population numbers suggest, as the vast majority of sumo wrestlers used to come from just the Hokkaido prefecture. This painting of sumo wrestlers by Utagawa Kuniteru II, shown in full on the lower right, is from 1867. In the closeup views at left and top right, Raiden, who is without a yokozuna rope, is pictured among several of the top-ranked wrestlers. The basic style and structure of banzuke have gone unchanged for hundreds of years. The one on the left, from 1796, lists Raiden as the top-ranked ozeki in the West division. On the right is a banzuke from 2012 that lists Hakuho as the top-ranked yokozuna in the East. The average height of sumo wrestlers appears to have declined between the mid-1700s and late 1800s but has been rising fairly steadily since.9Yes, according to the data, there was a wrestler in the late 1700s who was (allegedly) 7-foot-4. He was an ozeki named Shakagatake and had several (winning) appearances in the 1770s before dying at age 26. There is art depicting him as a giant.In the latter half of the 20th century, this upward trend has been aided by the arrival of non-Japanese wrestlers, who have tended to be tall. Note the non-red dots on the charts; they tend to be well above the overall trend.For BMI, we see a similar rise for all rikishi, but with a clear divergence between the tall and heavy Americans and the tall but relatively slender Mongolians.The American (green) wrestlers, all from Hawaii and of Pacific island ancestry, have tended to be huge — both tall and hefty for their height — and had a pretty good run for a while between 1989 and 2002. Konishiki won a few tournaments and then yokozuna Akebono and Musashimaru solidly contended for top honors (becoming the first two non-Japanese yokozuna in the process).But the Mongolians — who have had four yokozuna — tend to be less hefty than their Japanese counterparts, defying the trend of the past 50 years.Compared with the other top-level sumo wrestlers who have been active during his career, Hakuho, at 6 foot 4, is about 3 inches taller than average, but his top tournament weight (in our data) of 340 pounds is 5 pounds lighter than average (putting his BMI well below par). Before Hakuho (born in 1985), before Taiho (born in 1940), before Hitachiyama (born in 1874), before Jinmaku (born in 1829), before the United States of America (born in 1776), there was Raiden.A legend of Japan’s Edo period, Raiden set a standard for greatness in the sport that would last hundreds of years. With centuries separating the two legends’ careers, Raiden vs. Hakuho may be one of the most time-bending sports comparisons imaginable.Fortunately, we have data.The visual history of sumoAs far back as the 18th century, a banzuke listing each wrestler’s rank in the hierarchy of professional sumo has been made before each honbasho (official tournament), often with elaborate detail. Some have visual guides to the various wrestlers and act as a kind of program to the events; others resemble intricate box scores. These collectibles have preserved vital information about which wrestlers were involved in each tournament, including their shikona (ring names), ranks (seedings) and hometowns.Banzuke are the backbone of sumo stats-keeping; other information such as tournament and match results that are gathered from historical newspapers or books all tie back to them. Alexander Nitschke (a German sports data nerd) has a website called Sumo Reference where he has combined banzuke information with other sources of tournament data — including by hand-parsing thousands of lower-division match results for years — to make the most comprehensive sumo data set on the internet. It includes tournament results for most contestants going back to 1761 and individual match results for bouts back to mid-1909. He has let us use that database for this article.Below is a chart that outlines the entire recorded history of Makuuchi division (top-level) professional sumo, from the 1761 Fuyu (winter) Basho through the now-infamous 2016 Haru (spring) Basho. Before around 1900, height and weight had a fairly tenuous relationship with winning. It has gotten stronger in the past century, but size advantages have never been much of a guarantee of success. For a modern example: In the 1980s and 90s, Konishiki — an ozeki who topped 600 pounds — often faced off against Wakanohana, a future yokozuna who was an inch or so shorter and more than 300 pounds lighter. Konishiki went 2-8 against him.Sumo styles can broadly be broken down into two types: Oshi-sumo, or “thrusting” style, and Yotsu-sumo, or “grappling” style. The former is about brute force and pushing your opponent out of the ring; the latter is more about forcing your opponent to the ground or using their momentum against them.As one might expect because of their sizes, Raiden preferred the Oshi-sumo style, and Hakuho the Yotsu. The trade-off for height and weight is pretty basic: Being big makes a wrestler harder to move, but less agile; being small can make it easier for a wrestler to maneuver but leaves him vulnerable.In the 20th century, there appears to have been a period in which larger-than-average wrestlers were more successful than they had been in the past (or are today), at a time in which the average wrestler was growing larger than ever.In this chart, I’ve plotted the height and BMI for each of the top-division wrestlers for each tournament, colored by country of origin: Hakuho has won 36 grand tournaments, more than any other professional sumo wrestler in history. TIM FOLEY Although the discipline of sumo wrestling may have existed in various forms for well over a millennium, it isn’t the sport stuck in time that it is sometimes made out to be. It has experienced controversy throughout its history. In the 17th century, the unseemly practice of samurai wrestling each other for money was banned, only to be brought back with official sanction and standardized rules.The first known professional tournament was held in 1684, and the first sumo organizations began issuing written rankings in the mid-1700s — just in time to document the rise of sumo’s most legendary figure.Raiden was born Seki Tarokichi in 1767 — about 100 years before the Edo period ended — and competed under the shikona of Raiden Tameemon. Raiden is a combination of “thunder” (雷) and “lightning” (電) and translates roughly to “thunderbolt.” Mentored by the first non-posthumous yokozuna, Tanikaze, Raiden was a legend trained by a legend. He went undefeated in 24 out of the 35 tournaments he entered, and despite a much shorter tournament structure that had no method for breaking ties, Raiden finished with the most wins outright in 17 tournaments and tied for the most wins in 11 more. As there were no official tournament winners until 1909, none of these are considered official “yusho” or tournament wins, but no one would top 28 tournaments (officially or unofficially) for more than 150 years.The Thunderbolt was an absolute monster among men — 6-foot-6 and 373 pounds — large enough to physically overpower opponents of the day. His top-division win-loss record of 254-10 (96 percent) is easily the best in recorded sumo history.5If you adjust for draws, which have essentially vanished from the sport these days, Raiden’s effective win percentage drops to 93. But the gap between him and his closest competition grows, with no other wrestlers reaching 90 percent. Hakuho has won 85 percent of his upper-division matches, leading modern-era wrestlers.
Source: ESPN 2010-1151.36 SEASONSHARE OF REBOUNDSRANK 2013-1452.21 2011-1251.45 2012-1351.85 When Oklahoma City added Paul George and Carmelo Anthony this offseason, there was speculation about whether the two would diminish the brilliance of Russell Westbrook. Three games into the season, Westbrook appears unfazed, already hinting at another triple-double season. However, the George and Anthony moves do seem to have had an effect on another piece of the team’s core identity: For the first time in a decade, the Thunder are struggling to rebound.The Thunder have grabbed just 47.5 percent of available rebounds in their first three games — about 6 percentage points lower than last year and 24th in the league. As a team, the Thunder haven’t finished outside the top 10 since they moved to Oklahoma City. 2016-1753.41 2014-1552.62 2017-1847.5%24 2015-1654.71 2009-1051.76 The Thunder’s rebounding is off this yearRebound rate for Oklahoma City, through Oct. 24, 2017 2008-0950.87 Three games aren’t a lot to go on. There’s all manner of small sample size nonsense around the league that isn’t likely to hold up: Kevin Durant is not going to average four blocks a game, and the Cavaliers won’t field a lineup that is outscored by 100 points per 100 possessions (uh, probably). But with the Thunder’s rebounding, there’s reason to suspect these early struggles on the glass may signal an underlying change in the team.For years the Thunder had more rebounding than it knew what to do with, and rebounding, unlike shooting, carries steep diminishing returns. This made the team’s allocation of skills unusually lopsided, even as it shed a lot of rebounding in the past two offseasons. The summer of 2016 saw the departure of Durant — one of the best rebounding small forwards in the league — as well as Serge Ibaka, who was traded to Orlando, but the Thunder still managed to finish first in rebounding last season.This offseason, Enes Kanter, who is virtually unplayable on the defensive end but one of the best rebounders in the league, went to New York in the trade for Anthony. Domantas Sabonis, whose draft rights were acquired in the Ibaka trade, was a throw-in to the deal for George with Indiana. The trades have forced the Thunder to play almost exclusively small, with Patrick Patterson slowly working his way into the rotation after offseason knee surgery and looking very rough in the minutes he’s seen. The team has undeniably added talent with George and Anthony, but it has also traded big-for-small — and may have weakened its bedrock identity in the process.Through three games, Anthony has more made 3-pointers (7) than he does rebounds (6) as the starting power forward. George has fared better on the glass, but his 8.9 total rebound rate would still be a career low. The proposition was that Anthony and George both rebound well for their positions, and Westbrook is one of the best rebounding guards of all time. But with the small-ball starting lineup being badly outrebounded, it’s an open question just how valuable that out-of-position rebounding really is.Westbrook took a lot of flak a season ago for piling up empty rebounds — “deferred” rebounds, in the nerd parlance — that saw his big men box out so he could collect the board and rip up the court. The NBA hasn’t begun publishing player tracking stats yet this season, so we don’t have a breakdown on how many of Westbrook’s rebounds have been contested, but it’s going to be something to keep an eye on. Rebounding is essentially a team stat, but if Russ can collect 9.3 rebounds per game with a 15.7 rebound rate from the point guard position and his team still doesn’t win out on the glass, it calls the value of those boards into question. Either Westbrook’s rebounds are a little less valuable than we believed or the Thunder’s new-look roster has rebounded so poorly that Westbrook’s outsized contribution doesn’t matter. (Or, you know, it’s one week and three games and we need to settle down.)So far, the rebounding dropoff has cost the Thunder a little more than 4 points per game in second-chance points compared with last season. (They’re at -1.7 in net second-chance points, down from +2.6 in 2016-17.) This is a very noisy way to look at rebounding, but it’s also the most material way. OKC was outrebounded 58-45 against the Timberwolves on Sunday night in a game it ultimately lost on a buzzer-beater. That’s not the sort of game Oklahoma City is accustomed to dropping. But if the Thunder keep boarding like they have early on, they may have to get used to it.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams (7) catches a touchdown pass from quarterback Deshaun Watson against North Carolina State at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C., on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. Credit: Courtesy of TNSSCOTTSDALE, Ariz — Ohio State redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett versus Clemson junior quarterback Deshaun Watson is without question the main card in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31. But one of the primary matchups is OSU’s surprisingly dominant secondary against Clemson’s star-studded receiving corps.When Clemson lost the national championship game to Alabama last season, 45-40, the Tigers were without wide receivers Deon Cain and Mike Williams. This time around, the two are healthy and have been nightmares for defenses all season. Williams has caught 84 passes and gained 1,171 yards with 10 touchdowns. Cain has 32 catches for 621 yards and nine touchdowns.The maturity of both Williams and Cain has made the difference in Clemson coach Dabo Swinney’s mind. He said that Williams and Cain are in the midst of their most productive season with the Tigers.It’s been great for (Deon Cain) to have Mike (Williams) there. It’s been great for Mike to have a guy like Deon there,” Swinney said. “For us to be able to roll those two guys in and out, it’s been a tremendous amount of production. If you just look at the production at that position and the amount of touchdowns, they’ve been a heck of a combination.”OSU’s secondary has statistically been one of the best in man coverage situations. Aside from the 19 interceptions and seven touchdowns off interceptions, cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley have excelled at defending the pass when put on an island. The Buckeyes rank fifth in the country with just 164.5 yards passing allowed per game.At safety, redshirt sophomore Malik Hooker and junior Damon Webb have been OSU’s security blanket. The two are responsible for seven of the team’s 19 interceptions and four of the seven pick-sixes — Hooker with six and three, respectively. OSU is second in the nation in yards allowed per passing attempt at 5.4.“They’re a great group,” Williams said. “They have guys that attack the ball in the air like receivers. They have hands like receivers. That’s probably one of the biggest differences.”Tigers’ tight end Jordan Leggett, who is third on the team with seven receiving touchdowns, said that OSU’s man coverage is challenging, but having four or five guys that have to be accounted for in the passing game gives the upper hand to Clemson in his eyes.“You just can’t leave (Williams) on an island with one of your corners because he’s going to win that matchup nine times out of 10,” Leggett said. “It’s just a matter of how (OSU) wants to play us. Whatever they do, they’re leaving someone else on an island with someone else. And any of our guys that we have here, they’re going to win that matchup no matter what.”Cain said that the receiving corps that has five guys with 30-plus receptions — Hunter Renfrow with 29 — has had so much success due to the play of Watson and the Clemson offensive line. The Clemson receiving corps has been able to win one-on-one matchups all season. The same can be said about OSU’s secondary. On Saturday at 7 p.m. ET, the two teams’ strengths, like they have all season, could define whose season ends and whose continues.“We have a lot of good, talented guys in our receiving corps and they have a lot of good DBs that can match up with us,” Cain said. “It comes down to who wants to win and who makes the best competitive plays. That’s what this game is going to be.”
Freshman forward Marc Loving (2) drives to the basket during a game against Michigan Feb. 11 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost, 70-60.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorIt had been a long time since Ohio State freshman forward Marc Loving scored a basket.Four hours, 35 minutes and 14 seconds of game time to be exact.Loving hadn’t scored a field goal since a 3-pointer with 20 seconds remaining during a 68-62 loss against Nebraska Jan. 20.He had also failed to score in any way since the Buckeyes fell, 71-70, in overtime against Penn State Jan. 29, when he hit a pair of free throws.But when his team needed him to recapture the form that had excited coach Thad Matta and the Buckeye faithful earlier this season, Loving did just that.Against Illinois Saturday, the Buckeyes struggled to score — putting up only 20 points in the first half and a season-low 48 points in the game — and led by just one point with 12:18 remaining.After buckets from bench players junior center Trey McDonald and sophomore guard Amedeo Della Valle pushed the lead to five, Loving found the scoring touch he hadn’t seen in nearly a month.“It was like a monkey climbed off my back,” Loving said to Cleveland.com after OSU’s 48-39 win against the Fighting Illini.When he was asked to identify the size of the primate, the freshman was quick to clarify.“A silverback (gorilla),” he added.Loving’s first made jumper in the month of February was followed by two more field goals and a pair of free throws, as the freshman scored eight consecutive points for the Buckeyes.“We needed a little spark off the bench,” Loving said after the game. “Seeing (a shot) go in relieved a lot of pressure. My teammates had my back during my struggles, and they were looking for me. I took the open opportunities and they went down.”At the end of the run, OSU (20-6, 7-6, fifth in the Big Ten) led, 42-29, with 5:25 remaining. The team held on for the victory despite a late charge from Illinois (14-12, 3-10, last in the Big Ten).Before the scoring drought began, Loving was averaging 6.68 points per game but has since seen that number slip to 5.3 a game. His time on the court had also dwindled, as he recorded a season low two minutes during a 70-60 loss against then-No. 15 Michigan Feb. 11.Matta said the pressure that was lifted when Loving made the first basket was immense.“When the ball went through for him, I was just so excited,” Matta said in an interview with Cleveland.com after the game. “I talked to him after practice (Friday) and said ‘It’s going to happen’ … When that first shot went down, you could literally see a thousand pounds lifted off of him.”Matta added that he thought Loving was deserving of the game ball.“I told the team afterward, if I could have gotten the game ball, I would have given it to (Loving),” Matta said.Loving wasn’t the only bench player for the Buckeyes to play well against the Illini.Della Valle scored five points and added three rebounds, with junior guard Shannon Scott — who asked to be removed from the starting lineup last month — playing 26 minutes and recording five steals, four rebounds, three assists and two points.McDonald also recorded two points in 15 minutes in relief of junior center Amir Williams, who failed to score during the game.“What you saw with Trey, what you saw with Amedeo, those are things we need them to do,” Matta said. “We rode those guys. They were dog tired.”Senior guard Aaron Craft was the game’s leading scorer with 14 points, but was saddled to the bench with foul trouble for large portions of each half.Craft said it was hard not being able to play, but thought the bench players did a good job when they were needed.“It was rough,” Craft said in an interview with Cleveland.com after the game. “I’m sitting on the bench. It’s tough when you don’t have a say. My teammates did a great job controlling the perimeter. Guys just did a great job executing, finding ways to keep it close and that’s what we needed.”Next up, Loving and the rest of the Buckeyes are scheduled to take on Northwestern (12-13, 5-7, tied for seventh in the Big Ten) Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.
Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann coaches Kaleb Wesson (34) on the sideline in the second half of an exhibition win against Wooster on Nov. 5, 2017 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Jacob Myers | Managing Editor for ContentThe Ohio State men’s basketball team (6-3, 1-0 Big Ten) has wind in its sails as it prepares to square off against its arch-rival Michigan (7-2, 1-0 Big Ten) in the Schottenstein Center Monday at 6:30 p.m.The Buckeyes came away with their first signature win of the season Saturday in an 83-58 blowout of Wisconsin (3-5, 0-1 Big Ten) in Madison, Wisconsin.This game against Michigan will round out what has been a challenging slate of games for the Buckeyes. They will finish a stretch of six games in two weeks, having already played against then-No. 17 Gonzaga, Stanford, Butler, Clemson and Wisconsin.The team lost three of the games over that stretch, including blowing back-to-back double-digit leads to Butler and Clemson, respectively, but head coach Chris Holtmann said he believes the commanding win against Wisconsin was a confidence boost for a team that started to lose momentum.“We’ll see how we finish this stretch, but certainly I’m pleased with how we responded [Saturday] and then we’ll see if we can just continue to build off of it really into the coming weeks,” Holtmann said.Scouting MichiganOhio State will be transitioning from facing a team that possessed more gerth and started two forwards in Wisconsin and three guards to a taller, slightly lankier team that starts just one forward and four guards in Michigan.Though the Wolverines are not as heavy as the starting five for the Badgers, they possess the higher rebound margin with 1.2 compared to Wisconsin’s minus-1 margin. Offensively, every starter on the team has proven capable of knocking down 3-pointers. Though junior guard Duncan Robinson leads the team with 22 successful makes in 61 tries from beyond the arc, all six of the players who have started for Michigan have at least 20 attempts and 10 makes from 3-point range. Michigan has attempted the 15th-most 3-pointers in the nation (246) and drained the 20th-most (87).On the other side of the court, Michigan has proven to be among the most vaunted defenses in the nation. Its 62.4 points per game allowed is 29th-fewest in the nation, and its 66 steals rank 42nd-most.Holtmann views Michigan as a lock for the NCAA Tournament already at this early stage in the season and a team that will provide Ohio State with plenty of challenges in its attempt to end this stretch of games on a high note.“Their ability to spread you out, to make shots, to play downhill in transition, to play inside-out and their length,” Holtmann said. “They’ve got good size, good positional length. They’re just across the board a really complete team that’s no question one of the best teams we’ve played all year.”A key matchup in the game will come down to the battle at center between Michigan forward Moritz Wagner and Ohio State’s Kaleb Wesson. Wagner leads Michigan in points per game (15.6) and rebounds per game (8.4) while serving as the team’s lone starting big man. Wesson, on the other hand, has been filling in at center for injured center Micah Potter.Since becoming the starter, Wesson has double-digit points in four of the five games, including a career-high 19 his last time out against Wisconsin.Holtmann said Wesson has done everything asked of him so far and has held his own against some tough matchups. Starting opposite Wagner, a player Holtmann described as a “future NBA player,” he will have to continue to prove he is ready for this next challenge in his true freshman season.“There’s things we feel like he can continue to improve in, but man he’s given a great lift coming in with obviously the injury and the depth issues we have there,” Holtmann said.Micah Potter health update:Wesson will have to continue his strong play at center for the Buckeyes because Potter will be out a little longer. Holtmann said Sunday that Potter’s ankle injury, though not from season-ending, is probably going to force the team to temporarily shut down the sophomore for the foreseeable future until he can fully heal.“He wants to get back. We desperately want him back in the lineup and we need him. He was obviously playing really well before he got hurt,” Holtmann said. “But with ankles, it may be the right thing to just kind of let it heal, limit anything he does until he is completely confident in his strength.”Ohio State has been largely without its starting center for the better part of the past five games. During the team’s fourth game of the season, Potter injured his ankle and was forced to leave the game having played in only 13 minutes. He missed the next game against then-No. 17 Gonzaga. Against Stanford and Butler, he played in just 10 minutes combined and missed all of the game against Clemson. He played just three minutes against Wisconsin.
The authority at the heart of the disaster faced a fresh row after she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I haven’t been into the high-rise council blocks before, but I am certainly doing that now.” Sadiq Khan is set to be questioned over the Grenfell Tower disaster today as anger at the tragedy one month ago continues to boil over.The London Mayor will appear before the London Assembly to tell members what lessons have been learnt from the disaster.The appearance will come the day after hundreds of mourners gathered at a wall plastered in tributes in the west London neighbourhood to mark four weeks since the June 14 blaze. Coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox revealed 34 of at least 80 people believed to died in the fire have been formally identified, as 10 more inquests were opened and adjourned at Westminster Coroner’s Court on Wednesday.She has suspended all 30 inquests held so far while a public inquiry and criminal investigation are carried out.Meanwhile, a nationwide safety operation is in full swing to establish how many other high-rise buildings were encased in flammable cladding, which is blamed for the blaze’s spread in Grenfell Tower. Elizabeth Campbell, who is to step in as leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, speaks at a public meetingCredit:PA The Department for Communities and Local Government said in an update that 224 buildings across 57 local authority areas used material that failed its fire safety tests.Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said all high-rise buildings found to have flammable cladding will be subject to a so-called whole system test, when they are scrutinised for fire safety in conjunction with the building’s insulation.But he added none of these tests have yet been completed. Among those at the vigil was Emma Dent Coad, the newly elected MP for the area, who told the Press Association: “It is still chaotic, the whole process of housing people, getting them social housing, mental health help, whatever other help they are getting, obviously the people who aren’t getting help come to me.”It’s disgraceful, actually, the council are still failing people every day.”Earlier a public meeting between the leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, the police and residents descended into chaos as anger flared about the progress of the police investigation.Senior investigating officer Matt Bonner was met with cries of “arrest someone” as he said the investigation would “not be quick but it would be thorough”.Kensington and Chelsea Council’s new leader Elizabeth Campbell was heckled by one audience member. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
“We are not aware at this stage that any previous intelligence contributed to these types of searches being implemented against female supporters.”The letter also claimed full body searches were carried out on children as young as five, with stewards branded “antagonistic”.Stevenage responded by announcing they had launched an internal investigation, while the EFL said it was looking into the matter as well. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. A complaint that female fans were forced to show their bras to stewards before Stevenage’s match against Grimsby Town was under investigation on Monday.Both Stevenage and the EFL were examining allegations away supporters were ordered to lift their tops while queuing to get into Saturday’s League Two fixtures between the clubs.An open letter sent to Stevenage by Grimsby Town fans group the Mariners Trust also accused stewards of asking to feel the underwiring of any bras during the “gross invasion of privacy”.It read:“Several female supporters were asked to lift their tops up to show their bras to female stewards upon entry to the Lamex Stadium. This decision – in the queue in front of other supporters, including men and male stewards – is a gross invasion of privacy.“Female supporters have also since contacted us to state they were asked by female stewards if they could feel their bras if they confirmed that they were underwired. The supporters were made to feel uncomfortable and when they replied they would ‘rather not’ they were ‘reluctantly’ let into the ground.“This act would effectively constitute a sexual assault and these types of searches are unlawful. If deemed necessary, although we cannot see how feeling an underwire in a bra could be deemed so unless acting on previous intelligence, then any fans in question should have been taken to a private area of the ground to be searched by a female steward rather than being searched in full view of male stewards, fans and police.
Dr DeFeo told the court he had run Ms Onasanya’s 2017 election campaign and had also penned a “Westminster Life” column on her behalf in the local newspaper. Asked by prosecutor David Jeremy QC whether he “had it in” for Onasanya as a result of the dispute, Dr DeFeo said he did not, and added: “From day one I wanted her to succeed. He said after realising the alleged offence had taken place on the road where he lived on the night she had visited him, he decided to contact police.Asked what time she arrived, he said: “I cannot say a specific time, however she arrived late and was there quite late because we offered her a bed to stay the night.”She arrived in her car, a Nissan Micra. She arrived alone. She pulled up her car in front of our house and I greeted her at the door.Asked how long the meeting lasted, he said: “As far as I am aware, no less than two hours.” He said: “I worked for Ms Onasanya and I have had enormous hopes invested in her. I never dreamed in my darkest dreams or thought that I would be sitting here.”It is with the greatest reluctance that I have had to do this, but to do otherwise; I cannot. It is morally and legally unacceptable.” Fiona Onasanya was elected MP for Peterborough in 2017Credit:UK Parliament Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Dr Christian DeFeo has given evidence Fiona Onasanya “I wanted her to be a great MP and I said on a number of occasions that I wanted her to be an MP as long as she wanted to be.”It’s a terrible thing to have to do this.”Ms Onasanya, from Peterborough, denies one count of perverting the course of justice.Her brother has pleaded guilty to three charges of perverting the course of justice, including to one related to the July 24 incident.The trial continues. Festus Onasanya, the brother of Labour MP Fiona, has admitted chargesCredit:John Stillwell/PA The former aide to a Labour MP felt “morally and legally” obliged to give evidence against her after learning she had tried to dodge a speeding ticket, a court has heard.Peterborough MP, Fiona Onasanya, told police she was not driving her car when it was clocked doing 41mph in a 30mph zone in Thorney, Cambridgeshire on the evening of 24 July 2017.But she is accused of lying about the incident and plotting with her brother, Festus, 33, to blame a Russian man, Aleks Antipow, as person behind the wheel when the camera was triggered.After reading about the trial her former head of communications, Dr Christian DeFeo contacted police to say that the MP had visited him on the night of the alleged speeding offence.Appearing at the Old Bailey, Dr DeFeo said he had discussed with his wife, Christina Earle, whether to come forward and give evidence against the MP, and decided it was his moral duty. Fiona Onasanya won the Peterborough seat for Labour in the 2017 General ElectionCredit:PA Archive Dr DeFeo also told the court he had never seen anyone but Onasanya behind the wheel of her Micra and was not aware of her knowing anyone else in the village of Thornley.The court heard there had been a “bit of a falling out” between the MP and Ms Earle after an event marking 100 years of Labour in Peterborough was cancelled by Ms Onasanya.