NBA

'Day One in the books' - LeBron and AD return to Lakers practice

LeBron James and Anthony Davis are back in practice ahead of the NBA restart.

Paul-Andre Walker

Paul-Andre is the Managing Editor at SportsMax.tv. He comes to the role with almost 20 years of experience as journalist. That experience includes all facets of media. He began as a sports Journalist in 2001, quickly moving into radio, where he was an editor before becoming a news editor and then an entertainment editor with one of the biggest media houses in the Caribbean.

Related items

  • Firmino key for Liverpool despite lack of goals – forward assessed in Opta data Firmino key for Liverpool despite lack of goals – forward assessed in Opta data

    Roberto Firmino's importance to Liverpool is undoubtable.

    Ahead of Saturday's Merseyside derby against Everton, manager Jurgen Klopp again defended the forward over his lack of goals, with Firmino yet to find the net for the Premier League champions this season.

    And for good reason. As Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane dominate the headlines and the goals, Firmino plays a key role for Liverpool.

    Using Opta data, we take a look at how Liverpool go with and without Firmino, plus his output.

     

    No doubt over Firmino importance

    His output constantly questioned, Firmino's importance to Liverpool has often been highlighted on the rare occasions he has been absent for the Reds.

    The data shows the same. Since Firmino's arrival from Hoffenheim for a reported £29million in 2015, Liverpool have played 194 Premier League games.

    Klopp's side have a win percentage of 64.8 when the durable Firmino has played, compared to 53.3 in the 15 games they have been without him. They also collect more points per game (2.2 to 1.9) with Firmino.

    While Liverpool have scored slightly more without Firmino (2.2 average goals for to 2.1), they have more shots, possession, crosses and passes into the final third with the Brazil international, highlighting his link-up ability and movement. Both passing accuracy and accuracy in the opposition half is slightly higher, too.

    With Firmino having scored 29 of his 57 Premier League goals away from home – Liverpool have also been completely dominant at Anfield – their winning percentage on the road in the league without him is just 37.5, compared to 58.4 with him.

    Firmino provides balance

    Salah and Mane have been two of the Premier League's best attackers in recent seasons, so it is no surprise Firmino's goal involvements are below his star team-mates. Since their respective arrivals at Anfield, Salah has an incredible 106 in 112 games and Mane has 86 in 130, with Firmino (57 goals and 37 assists) contributing 94 in 179.

    A key factor to that has been Firmino's inability to convert as well as his team-mates. Salah was the last of the trio to arrive at Liverpool, joining Firmino and Mane with his move from Roma in 2017. Since then, Firmino's big chance conversion sits at 41.3 per cent, compared to Salah (49.5) and Mane (46.2), although he also gets far fewer opportunities. The Egyptian has had 1.02 big chances per 90 minutes, more than both Mane (0.85) and Firmino (0.65).

    And while Salah has enjoyed a spectacular Liverpool career, Firmino's goal involvements have also been consistent at and away from Anfield. Since the trio came together, Firmino has been directly involved in 31 goals in 58 away league games, similar to his 28 in 55 at home. On the road in that time, Salah has 39 in 54 games, while Mane's drops off to 25 in 50.

    Plus, Firmino balances out the front three. He has a considerably better dribble success rate (61.1) than both Mane (52.3) and Salah (51.5) since the dynamic trio formed their partnership, while he can also drop deeper, providing 3.7 passes into the final third per 90 minutes, compared to Mane's 3.1 and Salah's 2.2.

    Liverpool may need more goals from Firmino, but there is no doubt about his importance to Klopp's side.

  • Morey to step down as Rockets GM Morey to step down as Rockets GM

    Daryl Morey is to step down from his position as general manager of the Houston Rockets.

    After 14 years with the franchise, the Rockets confirmed that Morey's departure will be effective from November 1.

    He will continue to offer assistance to owner Tilman Fertitta in the search for a head coach to replace Mike D'Antoni, who left after Houston lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals.

    The Rockets will promote executive vice-president of basketball operations Rafael Stone to general manager, with Eli Witus working under him.

    "After returning from Orlando and reflecting on what has been an amazing 14 years with the Houston Rockets, and after discussing my thoughts with family and close friends, I've decided I'll be stepping away from the Rockets organisation effective November 1st," said Morey in a statement.

    "Tilman and I have had many conversations since I returned, and his unwavering support and counsel during our time together has been critical to our success.

    "It has been the most gratifying experience of my professional life to lead the Rockets basketball organisation, and I look forward to working with Tilman and the management team on the transition.

    "I am very confident that the future – for the Rockets, and for our incredible fans – is in great hands, and that the Rockets will continue to perform at the highest level."

    Fertitta added: "On behalf of the entire Rockets organisation, I would like to thank Daryl Morey for his hard work and dedication over the past 14 seasons. Daryl is a brilliant innovator who helped the Rockets become a perennial contender.

    "I have truly enjoyed working with Daryl and couldn't have asked for a better general manager to have at the start of my ownership. I wish him and his family all the best."

    Houston have reached the playoffs in each of the past eight seasons – the longest active streak in the NBA.

    In 2017-18 their 65-17 record was the best in the league, but they were beaten in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals by the Golden State Warriors that season.

  • Everton v Liverpool: How should we expect Klopp's wounded stars to respond at Goodison? Everton v Liverpool: How should we expect Klopp's wounded stars to respond at Goodison?

    The Premier League had already thrown up a disorientating, action-packed weekend by the time Liverpool took to the field at Villa Park at the start of this month.

    What followed was scarcely credible as a Jack Grealish-inspired Aston Villa unceremoniously demolished Jurgen Klopp's dominant champions 7-2.

    After that humiliating scoreline, one seemingly plucked from the realms of fantasy or another sport entirely, how can we expect Liverpool to respond?

    Their weekend opponents, Merseyside rivals Everton, are top of the Premier League table thanks to four wins out of four. Has Liverpool's favourite fixture come around at the worst possible time?

    How do champions respond to a thrashing?

    When looking for precedents to see how Liverpool might fare after their Birmingham ordeal, we're operating with a fairly small sample size.

    Put simply, reigning champions tend not to lose so heavily too often. In the Premier League era, there have been seven instances of the team with the biggest target on their back being defeated by four goals or more.

    Two of those came in the league's inaugural season, when Leeds United struggled to maintain the form that lifted them to the Division One crown on the other side of the rebrand.

    Howard Wilkinson's side lost 4-0 at Manchester City on November 7, 1992 - a reverse that was compounded by a League Cup defeat at Watford. But they regrouped impressively for Arsenal's visit to Elland Road, dispatching the Gunners 3-0.

    Arsenal were also the opponents after Leeds lost 4-0 at Tottenham on February 20 ,1993, with the second of their double-header in north London ending in a 0-0 draw.

    Blackburn Rovers endured a similarly unhappy title defence in 1995-96, but they were at least able to bounce back from a 5-0 December reverse at Coventry City when Alan Shearer scored the only goal to down Middlesbrough.

    Manchester United dominated the Premier League under Alex Ferguson but were not immune to the odd humbling setback. One of those arrived on October 20, 1996, when Newcastle United thrashed them 5-0 at St James' Park.

    There was more misery to follow, with Southampton raucous 6-3 victors in United's next league game at The Dell. It got worse for Ferguson's men, with defeats to Fenerbahce and Chelsea.

    Most pertinently for Liverpool, United still finished 1996-97 as champions. As they did in 1999-00, when a 5-0 embarrassment at Chelsea was followed by a 4-1 win over Watford.

    They lost out on goal difference to Manchester City in 2011-12, meaning a 6-1 loss in the derby at Old Trafford was telling in the final reckoning. Everton learned it is not always easy to capitalise upon such a malaise as United ground out a 1-0 home win in their next match.

    Claudio Ranieri and much of the Leicester City fairy tale had dissipated by the time Tottenham thumped them 6-1 at the King Power Stadium in May 2017, with Harry Kane scoring four. The Foxes recovered their poise to close the 2016-17 season with a 1-1 draw at home to Bournemouth.

     

    Bad night at the office or signs of decline?

    Even if history shows the next game after a heavy defeat tends not to be a problem for reigning champions, the ripples from Liverpool's Villa Park reverse will probably be felt for some time, with opponents at least emboldened to try and probe at perceived vulnerabilities.

    It is worth remembering that Klopp's side won each of their first three Premier League games this season and Opta's advanced metrics show they are hitting similar levels overall to last season at this early stage.

    In terms of high turnovers (a sequence that starts in open play and begins 40 metres or less from the opponents' goal), ending in a shot and pressed sequences, the Reds are the best performing team in the division. That was the case over the entirely of last season, apart from shot-ending high turnovers - where they were second.

    Effectively disrupting opponents in their own territory is an area where Everton have improved markedly. For shot-ending and goal-ending high turnovers, they were the lowest ranked Premier League team in 2019-20. Carlo Ancelotti's resurgent side are tied fifth and seventh respectively in those categories so far this season.

    Another area where Liverpool are ahead of the rest of the league is their starting distance of 49.2 metres - the average distance they are from their own goal when starting an open play sequence. Of course, dominance of this sort is in part facilitated by the high defensive line Villa exploited so frequently.

    Good omens for Everton?

    Saturday's game will be exactly 10 years to the day from when Everton last won a Premier League derby.

    If Liverpool avoid defeat they will set a new club record of 23 games unbeaten against the same opponent in all competitions. They set their previous best of 22 matches without a loss between September 19, 1981 and March 8, 1992… against Villa.

    Everton have only endured a longer winless streak across 24 encounters with Chelsea, from May 5, 2001 to December 12, 2009.

    However, there are a couple of historical quirks to send those of a Goodison persuasion into the weekend with a smile on their faces.

    Everton are aiming to win their first eight games of a campaign in all competitions for the first time since the 1894-95 campaign. The eighth game in that sequence of Victorian joy? A 3-0 home win over Liverpool.

    They have not won their opening five league games since 1938-39, when the fifth victory came 2-1 over an Arsenal team who were the reigning champions.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.