Kobe Bryant dead: Live life now and leave a legacy - George Davis

By January 27, 2020
Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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  • Bucks make history, Clippers slump - Stats Perform AI predicts rest of NBA regular season Bucks make history, Clippers slump - Stats Perform AI predicts rest of NBA regular season

    Now is typically the time when the grind of the NBA's regular season is winding down and 16 teams start to gear up for the playoffs.

    However, the coronavirus pandemic brought the league to a halt in March, delaying the best period of the campaign considerably.

    With every team having at least 15 games left to play, the postseason picture is far from being completed.

    The Los Angeles Lakers are the only team in the Western Conference to have secured their place in the playoffs, where the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics are also guaranteed to feature due to their performances in the East.

    With only the Golden State Warriors out of contention, 25 teams still have a mathematical chance of keeping their seasons alive.

     

    As the NBA waits for the threat of COVID-19 to subside, and for normal life to return, the Stats Perform AI team have been crunching the numbers behind the scenes.

    The goal was to simulate how the regular season would pan out if all outstanding games were played now, producing the final standings in both conferences.

    The Stats Perform model takes proprietary data and creates an offensive and defensive rating for each team.

    Those ratings are paired with the team's opponent and adjusts it for each team's pace. In addition, the home team gets a slight boost for home-field advantage.

    The model uses this information to calculate a projected score for both teams. The victors get another win to their season total – this was done for every remaining game in the regular season. So, without further ado, let's find out the results...

     

    NO BUCKING THE TREND

    Unsurprisingly the Bucks hang on to the one seed in the Eastern Conference, with our model predicting they will go 13-4 in their remaining fixtures to finish with a 66-16 record.

    Despite Milwaukee matching their best regular-season performance in history to book a first-round clash in the playoffs with the Orlando Magic, there was one hiccup for reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his team-mates – a shock 111-110 loss at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    In the only change to the top eight from the current standings, the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Indiana Pacers to the five seed, meaning they draw the Miami Heat in the first round of the postseason for the second time in three years. The Pacers must take on the Celtics as a consequence.

    The Brooklyn Nets (39-43) and Magic (38-44) advance despite having losing records – it is the first time since 1988 that more than one team under .500 made the playoffs. The Raptors await the Nets in the first round.

    At the foot of the East is the Detroit Pistons, who closed out the season on a 4-12 run to finish with a 24-58 record.

    In our simulation the Raptors claimed a 152-96 win over the Atlanta Hawks. Only 12 matches in NBA history have seen a bigger margin of victory.

    CLIPPERS FADE, WARRIORS THE WORST

    The Lakers hold off the competition to top the Western Conference and at 64-18 claim their best record since the Kobe Bryant era. Their reward is a first-round meeting with the Memphis Grizzlies.

    For the Los Angeles Clippers it is a different story. They fall victim to strong finishes from the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets and slip to fourth, pitting Paul George - and Chris Paul - against his former team the Oklahoma City Thunder in round one.

    The Nuggets take second and get the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs after losing just one of their final 17 games, while the Rockets go 15-3 to get the three seed. Awaiting Mike D'Antoni's team in the postseason is the Utah Jazz, who slipped to sixth after going 8-10 down the stretch.

    The Grizzlies ensure New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson's first playoff appearance will have to wait until 2021 at the earliest, while the Portland Trail Blazers miss the postseason for the first time since 2013.

    A 22-60 record means the Warriors finish the regular season with the worst record in the NBA.

     

    GLIMMER OF HOPE FOR SUNS, WIZARDS

    While the final standings were taken from the first simulation, the outcome of the regular season was simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in the playoffs.

    The resulting data suggests the Grizzlies defied the odds by reaching the postseason, having only done so in 41.1 per cent of the simulations.

    The Magic and Nets both had a success rate above 99 per cent, while the Washington Wizards (0.05 per cent) and the Phoenix Suns (0.04 per cent) are the biggest outsiders.

    In addition to the Warriors, the model did not project the New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Chicago Bulls, Hawks or Cavaliers making the postseason once.

    A NEW DYNASTY?

    The Stats Perform AI team also used the predicted final standings to simulate the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery to find out which team received the first overall pick.

    There was finally some good news for Warriors fans, with Golden State drawn first.

    With Stephen Curry back from injury and Klay Thompson set to return next season, the No.1 pick would put Steve Kerr's team in a good position to challenge in the playoffs again.

    The Hawks jump up to third in our simulation, while the Bulls have to settle for the seventh pick for the fourth consecutive year.

    After taking Williamson first overall in 2019, the Pelicans get the final lottery selection here.

    Full lottery results:

    1. Golden State Warriors
    2. Cleveland Cavaliers
    3. Atlanta Hawks
    4. Detroit Pistons
    5. Minnesota Timberwolves
    6. New York Knicks
    7. Chicago Bulls
    8. Charlotte Hornets
    9. Phoenix Suns
    10. San Antonio Spurs
    11. Sacramento Kings
    12. Washington Wizards
    13. Portland Trail Blazers
    14. New Orleans Pelicans

  • Coronavirus: US sports examine possible returns Coronavirus: US sports examine possible returns

    Just under a month ago, sports in the United States were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    The NBA was the first American professional sports league to make the decision on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The following day MLB and the NHL announced they would also be postponing games. The leagues have been in a holding pattern ever since, as the virus has claimed more than 16,000 lives in America.

    The first updates given from MLB, the NBA and NHL was that their potential return dates would simply be pushed back even further. But this week, some leagues have been a bit more open about when and how games could possibly resume. 

    This past Saturday, United States president Donald Trump met by phone with the commissioners of America's major sports to discuss the impact on their leagues. "I want fans back in the arenas," he said later in a White House briefing. "I think it's … whenever we're ready. As soon as we can, obviously. And the fans want to be back, too. They want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey. They want to see their sports."

    While Trump is optimistic about US sports returning soon, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman do not share the same rosy outlook. Silver said on Monday the NBA would not be able to make any decisions about possibly completing the 2019-20 season until May. 

    "Essentially, what I've told my folks over the last week is that we just should just accept that, at least for the month of April, we won't be in a position to make any decisions," Silver said in a conversation on the NBA's Twitter account. "And I don't think that necessarily means on May 1 we will be."

    Silver said the league is looking at several different scenarios for completing the season, determining if games would be played in NBA arenas or practice facilities, and if the regular season would be completed or if the playoffs would begin immediately. He admitted, though, that making any concrete plans right now is pointless.

    "Sitting here today, I know less than I did then [when the league was postponed last month]," he said. 

    On Tuesday, Bettman acknowledged for the first time that completing the NHL regular season might not happen. 

    "We understand that that may not be possible and that's why we're considering every conceivable alternative to deal with whatever the eventuality is," he told NBC Sports. 

    The Stanley Cup playoffs were scheduled to begin on Wednesday, but it could be months before teams get back on the ice. Bettman also said the NHL is looking into playing games at neutral sites if teams are unable to play in their home markets due to the number of cases of the coronavirus there. Like Silver, Bettman stressed that nothing is finalised with so many unknowns with the pandemic.

    "Nothing's been ruled in, nothing's been ruled out," he said. 

    While neither the NBA nor NHL have put a timeline on a potential return, a report on Monday said MLB was aiming for a possible start to the season in May. According to ESPN, MLB and the players' association proposed having all 30 teams playing games in Arizona in empty spring training stadiums at the Diamondbacks' Chase Field. The players and coaches would be isolated in hotels, only travelling to and from the ballparks. A day later, though, MLB refuted that report, insisting that no plans have been decided on how the season will begin. 

    "While we have discussed the idea of staging games at one location as one potential option, we have not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan," the league said in a statement on Tuesday. 

    The NFL regular season is still months away from kicking off, but there are still plenty of concerns about if it will start on time. Leading up to the start of the season there is training camp, offseason workout programs and the draft. The draft will go on as scheduled on April 23-25, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced on Monday, though in a much different format than it was originally conceptualised on a stage constructed in front of fountains at a lavish Las Vegas hotel.

    Goodell sent a memo to all 32 teams saying the draft will take place in a fully virtual format, as club personnel will be sequestered in their own homes, communicating with one another by phone or internet. Also as part of the memo, Goodell said league and club facilities would remain closed. Monday was supposed to be the start of the NFL's offseason workout program, but the league and the NFL Players Association are trying to devise a new plan to when they could begin, allowing teams to conduct classroom instructions and workouts on a virtual basis. 

    Working remotely in isolation has been the norm throughout many cities in the United States for the past month. Professional sports, however, cannot be played in video chats and over e-mail.

  • On this day in sport: Tiger Woods wins Masters number four, Wade ends NBA career On this day in sport: Tiger Woods wins Masters number four, Wade ends NBA career

    An incredible chip shot on the 16th green at Augusta helped Tiger Woods to secure a memorable Masters triumph on April 10, 2005.

    Woods earned his fourth Masters title in dramatic fashion on this day 15 years ago, while it is also a date in the sporting calendar that has produced some significant recent drama.

    It will also go down in NBA history after the events of 2019, while Barcelona will not remember the date fondly as they fell victim to a major Champions League shock two years ago.

    We look back at the standout sporting moments that occurred on April 10 through the years.

     

    2005 – Woods adds to Masters legacy

    Prior to his stunning victory in 2019, Woods' previous Masters success had come back in 2005. That was when he moved on to four titles at Augusta and nine major crowns overall. Then 29, he sealed victory on the first extra hole in a playoff against Chris DiMarco as part of a dramatic final day that also saw the third round concluded after previous rain delays. A memorable moment was a stunning chip shot on the 16th that put him two shots clear with two to play, Woods describing it as "one of the best shots I've ever hit". Woods bogeyed the final two holes, only to emerge triumphant in the sudden-death format, returning to world number one with his first major since 2002. Five further major wins had followed by 2008, before the 11-year wait for his fifth Masters success and 15th overall last year.

    2005 – Vaughan makes Premier League history

    James Vaughan is now playing for Tranmere Rovers on loan from Bradford City, but he was the talk of the Premier League on this day 15 years ago. Then an Everton striker, he was 16 years and 270 days old when he made his debut and scored with three minutes to go in a rampant 4-0 win over Crystal Palace at Goodison Park, becoming the competition's youngster scorer. James Milner previously held the record, having claimed it from Wayne Rooney, who like Vaughan made his breakthrough with Everton. Both Milner and Rooney had netted as 16-year-olds in 2002. Vaughan's record still stands today, and a 16-year-old has not scored in the Premier League since. However, he did not hit the heights many expected after that breakthrough. Everton assistant Alan Irvine said: "Time will tell if James gets anywhere near to Wayne Rooney, it would be fantastic for us all if he did" but he did not and had left the Toffees permanently by 2011 after four loan spells.

    2018 – Roma stun Barcelona in Champions League

    Roma fans voted their Champions League turnaround against Barcelona as their match of the decade and it is easy to see why. With Barca having already come into the tie as heavy favourites, it was seen as all over as a contest after they had thumped the Serie A side 4-1 at Camp Nou in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final. But Roma fought back in spectacular style to win 3-0 at Stadio Olimpico. Edin Dzeko's early strike served Barca notice and Daniele De Rossi's penalty just before the hour mark meant Roma were only one goal away from progression. Kostas Manolas' header with eight minutes left proved decisive, and the full-time whistle sparked delirium and tears among players and fans. The Italians lost a thrilling semi-final 7-6 on aggregate to eventual runners-up Liverpool.

    2019 – Dirk Nowitzki plays final NBA game

    Dirk Nowitzki was on the losing side as he played the last game of his NBA career, but he finished with a good performance after earning 20 points and 10 rebounds to conclude his 21-season career. Having spent his whole career with the Dallas Mavericks, it was fitting that his last game came against the San Antonio Spurs, with whom he had multiple postseason battles against, including their famous seven-game Western Conference finals series in 2006. His last home game had already taken place but Spurs fans gave him a rapturous ovation and constant chants of 'MVP' in his last matchup. "Everybody, players, fans, coaches and staff got to witness history watching him play his last game," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "He played a fine game, which was great. It's not surprising."

    2019 – Dwyane Wade also makes NBA farewell

    Despite a storied NBA career, Dwyane Wade had only earned four triple-doubles going into his final game, but he mustered up everything he had to end with a fifth. His close friends LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony watched on as he bowed out with a game as a member of the Miami Heat against the Brooklyn Nets. Wade finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a losing effort for the Heat, with Nets fans giving him a standing ovation as he dribbled out the clock. He had previously scored 30 points in his last home game for the Heat, for whom he won three NBA titles in his first spell with the team. 
    "We all started this journey together," said James. "We have a brotherhood that's just so much more than basketball. We couldn't miss D-Wade's last game."

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