Any silver linings in Barcelona's elimination from the Champions League after losing to Bayern Munich?

Knowing their Champions League fate was sealed before kick-off, the Catalans played like a club in mourning against an always strong Bayern side. (Author: Gardener)

BarcelonaFC Bayern Munich beat Barcelona 3-0 at the Camp Nou on Wednesday evening and qualified as group winners for the round of 16 of the Champions League. Xavi Hernandez's side went into the game knowing they were without a chance to reach the knockout stages for the second straight year after Internazionale defeated Viktoria Plzen 4-0 in the early window on Wednesday . First-half goals from Sadio Mane and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and an injury-time header from Benjamin Pavard ensured Bayern secured first place in Group C on 15 points with a game to go, while Inter Milan finished second . Barcelona, ​​third regardless of the results of the final matchday, are heading towards the Europa League.- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, more (US)Wednesday's results are another setback for the Catalan club and could prove more expensive last season when the team went on a summer shopping spree to strengthen their squad, hoping to recoup some of that money with a deep run in European competition. Barcelona knew their Champions League with Inter Milan's win over Viktoria Pilsen earlier Wednesday, their hopes of another season dashed and they played against Bayern like a team in mourning at times. Although Xavi Hernandez insisted ahead of the game that this was a chance to show Barca can compete on the biggest stage, they again failed to deliver against one of Europe's best players, as happened in the recent Clasico defeat by Real Madrid was the case. Barca will do it and have already lamented missed chances in Munich, refereeing decisions in Milan and individual errors in the 3-3 draw with Inter, but the fact is that they haven't been good enough in their five Champions League games. The ease with which Sadio Mane and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting found the net will have upset Xavi. Serge Gnabry, the creator of all three goals, had to rule out another for offside before an unmarked Benjamin Pavard added the third after an injury-time set piece. Barca, meanwhile, never really tested Bayern for all their passing, huffing and puffing from backup goalkeeper Sven Ulrich. The closest thing to a goal was a missed penalty after Matthijs de Ligt tackled Robert Lewandowski, who endured another painful night against the side he left for €45m in the summer. Barca invested over €150m in the summer squad after selling the club's assets with the aim of reaching the final stages of the Champions League. They've gotten off to a good start despite losing to Madrid and are just three points off the top after 11 games and just one defeat. With a much-improved squad, the league's top scorer in Lewandowski and a burgeoning bevy of young talent led by Pedri and Gavi, they should tightly lead Carlo Ancelotti's side. However, they are certainly not favorites at the moment and Xavi has even said if he doesn't win a trophy this season, he knows he could be replaced. That leaves the Europa League, in which they are seen as favourites, although they know the dangers when the European second division side unexpectedly lost to Eintracht Frankfurt in last season's quarter-finals. It's not what they dreamed of over the summer when they introduced Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Kounde, but there's still plenty of room for improvement from last season's trophy-less season. The fans seem to have some patience. Having club legend Xavi as the project's figurehead helps and an average attendance of over 80,000 at the Camp Nou this season shows there is a connection. It was 84,016 for the Bayern defeat and those who stayed to the end didn't stop singing. Bayern are one of the benchmarks for where Xavi wants to take his Barca side. This was their sixth consecutive win against the Catalans, a streak dating back to 2015 and including an 8-2 and three 3-0s, and their 11th in 15 official encounters. Their performance at the Camp Nou was as professional as it gets. With their place in the last 16 already secured, they still played as if something was at stake as they finished top ahead of their last home game against Inter, where they will be looking to go for six wins from six the toughest group of the competition. That victory was all the more impressive considering they were without Manuel Neuer, Lucas Hernandez and Leroy Sané through injuries, while Thomas Muller was only deemed fit for a second-half cameo. Still, with talents like Mane, Gnabry and Jamal Musiala, they are among the most feared sides in Europe, even if Union Berlin are still keeping them away from the Bundesliga top spot for the time being. A minor offside prevented him from adding a third in the second half. Lost him for the first goal and then played Choupo-Moting for the second down the side. Took the wind out of the already subdued crowd at the Camp Nou with his early goal. A tweet from Inter Milan ahead of kick-off will certainly not include Barcelona. But at least the Catalans get a warm welcome from Europe. After the game: What the coaches, players said Barcelona's Xavi Hernandez after the game: “We weren't at Bayern level today. In Munich we were ourselves, but today they were better, more intense.” . There were a lot of expectations but we have a tough group. All sorts of things happened to us in the group stage. It was cruel for us but we didn't play well today. Disappointment. We didn't lose it today but the moment at the moment is universally painful. One of the goals was to stay in the Champions League focus on what's to come in LaLiga. Of course knowing we're already eliminated had an impact. It was more of a pride issue but we couldn't keep up with Bayern tonight. They scored at key moments and we couldn't keep up the same Motivation [after the Inter win] We owe a lot to these fans We owe them wins and trophies I hope we can give them to them from now on We're a young team with a lot of room for improvement We need to improve a lot "We're not there yet to play in the Champions League. It's really disappointing what happened today. When we see what we've seen it's clear we're not ready are able to compete [at the highest level] since the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons.- Attention Cules. Barcelona are already favorites to win the UEFA Europa League with a 27% chance, according to FivethirtyEight's SPI.- Bayern have won six games in a row against Barcelona, ​​drawing with Espanyol's streak from 1940-42. The longest winning streak against Barcelona was Real Madrid's seven-game stretch from 1962 to 1965. - Overall, a disappointing Champions League performance by LaLiga clubs as Real Madrid progress, but Sevilla and Atletico Madrid also fail to reach the round of 16, this is the first time since 1998/99 that Spain does not have multiple teams in the knockout stages. Only eight teams made it to the knockout rounds that year, with Real also being the only representative. Barcelona : Back to La Liga action on Saturday against a rising Valencia squad. After that, a Tuesday trip to Viktoria Pilsen hoping to end a disappointing Champions League season on a high note. Bayern Munich: Next up is a Bundesliga game against Mainz on Saturday. They then look to match their Champions League group stage record with the final game of the round against Inter Milan on Tuesday.


From Russian imprisonment to the court rejecting an appeal against a nine-year sentence

More than 250 days have passed since Brittney Griner was arrested in Russia. We followed her arrest, her trial, President Biden's efforts, and the reactions of her wife and teammates. (Author: Gardener)

RussianOn Tuesday, a Moscow court denied Brittney Griner's appeal of her nine-year sentence on drug-related charges, a fully expected outcome in a trial that US and international officials have called an illegitimate trial -- as reported by ESPN's T.J. quinn Officials have said they believe Russia will eventually send the WNBA star home in a prisoner swap, but have expressed frustration at what they say about Russia not responding to the "significant" bid by the United States in June reacted. Griner's absence continues to weigh on everyone in the basketball community who knows and cares about her as each milestone date in 2022 has passed. Griner missed the start of the WNBA season, the All-Star Game, the start of the playoffs, and the FIBA ​​World Championship. She was expected to be a part of everything, just as she had been as star center for Phoenix Mercury and the U for the past decade. Instead, she's been jailed in Russia as the 2013 No. 1 draft pick and NCAA, WNBA and Olympic champion since she was arrested in February on charges of bringing vape cartridges into the country containing a small amount of cannabis oil. Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison in August, and her appeal was dismissed on Oct. 25, 250 days after her arrest. The United States continues to try to negotiate for her release, along with that of fellow American inmate Paul Whelan. Griner's professional basketball peers, in both the WNBA and NBA, keep saying her name. NBA Finals MVP Stephen Curry publicly endorsed Griner on Oct. 18, her 32nd birthday and the night of the Golden State Warriors ring ceremony, telling the crowd, "We hope she comes home soon and that everyone does their part to hol." her home." Griner's ordeal began when she returned to Russia to complete her overseas season there. Here's a look at the events of the past eight months that Griner has been incarcerated, and how the White House and those closest to her The people standing by have tried to do everything they can to get her home.While she is traveling to Russia to play abroad in the off-season, Griner is arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport outside Moscow after customs officials claim they have vape cartridges found in her luggage with cannabis-derived oil Griner returned to play for club team UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia, where she has competed in the WNBA offseason since 2014. Ru Russian forces invade Ukraine under the orders of Vladimir Putin, unraveling a series of harsh economic sanctions imposed by the United States on other Western nations, complicating efforts by US officials to bring Griner home. As first reported by the New York Times, Russia's Federal Customs Service announces it has taken Griner into custody on drug-related charges. The WNBA and Griner's agent say they are working to bring her home. Griner faces a maximum sentence of 10 years; Russia has strict drug laws with no exceptions for cannabis under any circumstances. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States would "provide all the assistance it can" to citizens detained abroad. "We have an embassy team working on the cases of other Americans who are being held in Russia," he adds. Russian media reports that Griner's detention has been extended until May 19, meaning she will be held for at least three months before her case is solved. The prosecutor requested the incarceration to further investigate the Griner case. S. officials say they still haven't spoken to Griner since she was arrested. A State Department official issued a statement to ESPN, saying, "We insist that the Russian government grant consular access to all U.S. citizens detained in Russia, including those who, like Brittney Griner, are in pre-trial detention." Source close to Griner said she was frequently briefed about her by her team of Russian lawyers. The statement marks a slight but significant change in the government's tone when it comes to Griner. So far, the government has deliberately held back its case, hoping not to raise its profile enough to become a valuable political asset for the Russian government. It has generally avoided any comment, and when asked about Griner at a press conference last week, Blinken made a lukewarm statement that didn't mention her by name. Based on State Department guidance, Griner's officials have asked the WNBA, the NBA, the media, and Griner's supporters in general to give "low-level" attention to her case, a source said. Consular officials visit Griner for the first time in Russia and report that she is "fine". The US State Department had said Russian officials were denying them access to Griner and two detained American men, contrary to international law. WNBA players are reluctant to speak out about Griner's incarceration and potentially hurting her case, and have said little since her arrest, but Breanna Stewart and Angel McCoughtry discuss WNBA salaries and why a handful of players travel to Russia each offseason. It was BG, but it could have been anyone," Breanna Stewart, who makes over $1 million playing in Russia, told The Associated Press. “WNBA players need to be valued in their country, not play abroad. Under the WNBA's collective bargaining agreement, which runs through 2027, players are paid an average of $130,000, with top players earning more than $500,000 through salaries, marketing deals, a seasonal tournament and bonuses. Prior to the 2022 WNBA draft Cathy Engelbert said the league is doing everything it can to "bring her home." "This is an unimaginable situation for BG," said the WNBA commissioner, which has been collecting new and badly used shoes for the homeless in Phoenix this coming season in all 12 WNBA cities instead of S. Marine released from Russian custody in prisoner swap S. Marine, who has been held in Russia since August 2019, is unexpectedly released in exchange for Russian national Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was serving a 20-year term in the US for drug smuggling year in prison, released from Russian prison For Griner's family, the exchange is the first sign of hope that, despite the war in the Ukr a diplomatic channel remains open between the two countries. US State Department Declares Griner a Wrongful Detainee The S. government now considers Griner to be "wrongly detained" by the Russian government, signaling a marked change in how officials will attempt to bring her home . The United States will seek to negotiate their release rather than waiting for the Russian case against them to come to a conclusion. Additionally, Griner's supporters have kept a low profile up to this point in case she might be released before trial. But after the announcement, they are actively pushing the White House to bring them home. S. Ambassador to the United Nations (and former governor, cabinet member, and congressman) works with his organization to secure Griner's release. May 3: WNBA announces it will pay tribute to Griner for a season Just days before the 2022 season openers, the WNBA announces that a sticker with Griner's initials and jersey number #42 will be placed on every seat in the league. May 13: Griner's detention extended by 30 days; Russian state media say Griner could be bartered for a convicted Russian arms dealer Griner appears in court in Moscow as her pre-trial detention is extended by a month. At the same time, the Russian state news agency TASS published a story that there were talks between the United States and Russia to swap Griner for Viktor Bout, a Russian serving a 25-year sentence in the United States on terrorism financing charges. US officials, speaking to ESPN, expressed skepticism about the coverage and said it was likely a tactic used to pressure the US. May 17: NBA commissioner says league is working to bring Griner home NBA commissioner Adam Silver tells ESPN's Malika Andrews that the league is working "side-by-side" with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert to track Griner home, adding that the NBA followed expert advice when it failed to take an aggressive approach in the early stages of Griner's detention in Russia. "We have been in contact with the White House, the State Department, hostage negotiators, all levels of government and also through the private sector," Silver said. May 20: State Department continues to urge regular contact with Griner For the second time in a week, a consular officer is granted access to Griner, but the State Department claims that sporadic visits to the WNBA star are not enough. "Our message is clear and simple: We remain insistent that Russia provide consistent and timely consular access to all detained U.S. citizens," State Department Representative Ned Price said. "One-off visits are not enough, and we will continue to urge Moscow to honor its commitments under the Vienna Convention, including for consistent and timely access." May 25: Cherelle Griner calls on President Biden to bring Griner home In her first TV interviews since Griner's incarceration, Cherelle Griner says she hasn't spoken to his wife, Brittney Griner, since February 17, the day the WNBA star was arrested in Russia. "There's one person who can get them, and that's our president," Griner told Angela Rye in an interview on ESPN. Cherelle Griner also spoke to Robin Roberts on "Good Morning America" ​​that same day. The United States is secretly offering to trade Bout for Griner and Paul Wheln - another American wrongly imprisoned and in Russian custody since December 2018 on espionage charges. The offer will not be announced until the end of July. June 20: Cherelle Griner: 'No trust in our government' after Griner's calls went unanswered due to logistical errors More than four months since they last spoke on the phone, Griner was scheduled to call Ms. Cherelle Griner on the couple's fourth wedding anniversary on June 18. S Embassy in Moscow, which the couple had been told would put the call through to Cherelle Griner in Phoenix. Instead, the calls went unanswered because the counter at the embassy where the phone rang was apparently unmanned on Saturday, Cherelle Griner said. "We deeply regret that due to a logistical error, Brittney Griner was unable to speak to her wife," the State Department said Monday. "I find it unacceptable and I have no faith in our government right now," Cherelle Griner told The Associated Press. "If I can't trust you to take an after-hours Saturday call, how can I trust you to actually negotiate on my wife's behalf to get home?" Biden administration officials said the following day, the call had been postponed. The trial begins in Khimki, a Moscow suburb, on charges that Griner tried to smuggle drugs into Russia. White House officials confirm that President Joe Biden received a handwritten letter from Griner appealing for her release. Citing her father's military service, Griner writes that the Fourth of July has a new meaning for her. "It hurts to think how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something very different to me this year." President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris speak to Cherelle Griner to assure her that they are working to The White House announced that Griner would be released as soon as possible. Cherelle Griner, who also spoke at a rally in Phoenix later that day, said: "I am confident that the President read my wife's letter and took the time to respond. Griner pleads guilty but says she accidentally brought hash oil to Russia and had no intention of breaking the law. Under Russian law, an admission of guilt does not automatically end a trial, which continues until the prosecutor's entire case has been filed. The WNBA All-Stars each wear Griner's No. 42 jersey in the Griner was named an honorary All-Star at the June 22 release of the roster Sharpton, Seattle Storm star Sue Bird, and union leader Terri Jackson one Press conference calling for clemency in Brittney Griner's sentencing and focusing on her humanity Members of Griner's Russian club team tell the judge how they will act as character witnesses in her trial. UMMC Ekaterinburg teammate Evgeniya Belyakova and Maxim Ryabkov, the team's general manager, appear during a brief afternoon court session, while Griner sat in the defendants' cage not far away. Her appearance is believed to be the first face-to-face contact Griner has had with anyone she knows since her Feb. 17 arrest — aside from the Russian attorneys hired on her case for Pain The White House announces, President Biden to sign an executive order to hold accountable anyone involved in the wrongful detention of an American citizen. Nneka Ogwumike, Steph Curry and Skylar Diggins-Smith honored the WNBA for their recognition as Humanitarian Sports League of the Year to encourage the sports community to continue working to free Griner. “BG is a WNBA champion. She is an eight-time WNBA All-Star. An Olympic gold medalist,” said Ogwumike. Curry added, "We urge the entire global sports community to continue to stay active for her because Brittney isn't just on the Phoenix Mercury. She is not only in her team in Russia. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announces that the United States made a "significant offer" for Griner's release in June. CNN reports that the offer included trading bout for Griner and Whelan. July 28: Russia responds: Negotiations should be kept secret Russian officials say a possible prisoner swap with the United States would involve Griner should proceed without fanfare and only after Griner's trial is complete Aug. 2: WNBA players set to play in Russia this offseason Former UMMC Ekaterinburg players like Jonquel Jones and Breanna Stewart will not play in Russia this WNBA offseason was sentenced to nine years in prison.During the sentencing hearing, Judge Anna Sotnikova said she found Griner intentionally broke the law and also fined her $1 million rubles (about 16.70 US dollars) imposed 0).The completion of the process should speed up negotiations on a prisoner exchange. The nine-year sentence nearly equaled the maximum 10-year sentence Griner faced on the charges; Prosecutors had asked for a prison sentence of 9½ years. Griner's defense attorneys say they will appeal. That same night in the WNBA, members of the Phoenix Mercury and Connecticut Sun stand arm in arm in a circle on the halfcourt before their game to watch "a 42-second moment of solidarity" for Griner. As expected, Griner's lawyers Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov are appealing her nine-year Russian prison sentence for drug possession. Following Griner's conviction, Blagovolina and Boykov said the sentence was excessive and that defendants in similar cases had been sentenced to an average prison term of about five years, with about a third of them being paroled. President Joe Biden is meeting with Cherelle Griner and Elizabeth Whelan - the sister of incarcerated former US Marine Paul Whelan - in separate meetings in the Oval Office to reassure families that those incarcerated are "first and foremost," White House officials say . Oct. 6: Griner at 'weakest moment' in Russia says Wife Cherelle Griner says Brittney Griner is right now at her 'absolute weakest moment in life' before appealing her nine-year sentence. "She's very afraid of being left behind and forgotten in Russia," said Cherelle Griner. As Griner appears via video conference, a Moscow court is rejecting her appeal against her nine-year sentence on drug charges, an expected outcome in a trial US and international officials have described as an illegitimate trial. Several officials have said in recent weeks that they believe Russia will not seriously engage in prisoner swap negotiations until the U.


Grant Williams has suspended a game after contacting an officer

Grant Williams is suspended for "recklessly contacting an officer and using inappropriate language" on Monday. (Author: Gardener)

Grant WilliamsBoston Celtics forward Grant Williams has been suspended for a game without pay for "recklessly contacting a game official and directing inappropriate language," which led to his sacking in Monday's loss to the Chicago Bulls, the authorities said NBA announced on Wednesday. Williams will serve out his suspension in the Celtics' next game against the Cavaliers in Boston on Friday. Williams was ejected in the fourth quarter of Monday's loss with 8:58 left when he was called for a blocking foul while defending Zach LaVine. A frustrated Williams - who had just been called out about a questionable illegal screen - quickly stood up and contacted official Cheryl Flores, who immediately threw him out. Marc Davis, the team principal for Monday's game, said in a pool report that Williams' contact with the official was intentional. "After being correctly judged a blocking foul on Williams, he jumps up and approaches and intentionally makes physical contact with the official (Cheryl) Flores and is ejected under rule for that sporting act," Davis said. DEFENSIVE PROBLEMS: The Celtics are missing a key starter and are still adjusting to a new interim manager, but their defense should still be among the best in the league. Boston finished last season No. 1 in defensive standings, relying on a unique system and strong players who were more than willing to defend consistently. But early defensive returns this season have been lackluster. Those struggles culminated in Monday's 120-102 loss to the Bulls, their first loss of the season and the second straight game in which the Celtics gave up 120 points as they were also consistently scored against the Magic. "We're just a step too slow," said Malcolm Brogdon. “Not as physically as in the last three games. Still only four games into the season, the Celtics currently sit 24th in the league with a 117.0 defensive rating. However, her 118.3 offensive rating ranks third in the NBA. The Celtics were able to overwhelm their opponents offensively in the early stages, but defense was not up to par in comparison. Of course, the Celtics aren't quite done yet. Robert Williams III was a crucial part of their double-size starting line-up last season but he isn't expected back for a couple of months at the earliest after knee surgery. The Celtics are also preparing for interim coach Joe Mazzulla. Even last season's Boston team got off to a slow defensive start before picking up the track. "Defense is something you have to do every day, every game," Mazzulla said. And I think our guys did a great job today focusing on that.” The Celtics have an impressive test against the Cavaliers at TD Garden on Friday. Cleveland played great ball early and slipped in with the fifth-best offensive rating. Mitchell has started with an impressive 33.3 points and 7.0 assists per game. He's caught offense while guys like Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen are two big men who will challenge the smaller Celtics. But the Celtics have reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Marcus Smart, and the guard is still a crucial part of the defensive equation. But there's a reason the Celtics were so successful defensively last season: They have so many capable defenders. But the Celtics said they hope they can once again base themselves on the defensive identity they forged last season. "Boston definitely plays a completely different scheme to the rest of the league because of the way the team is set up," Brogdon said. Everyone can defend multiple positions 1-5 so you switch up and down a lot so it's definitely an adjustment for me.


Warriors, Bucks Lead Top Teams in 2022-23 NBA Power Rankings

NBA basketball is back. The Warriors go into the season as a top team, but where does the rest of the league fall in the NBA power rankings? (Author: Gardener)

2022-23Warriors, Bucks Lead Top Teams in the 2022-23 NBA Power Rankings originally published on NBC Sports Philadelphia. Four words that pierce nothing but pure joy and produce the serotonin your body craves, as your NBA team seeks a championship or as a lifelong affliction around the league, teams in the west seek redemption from the Phoenix Suns, while teams in the Ostens attempt to take the crown from them in their hunt for Banner #18. If they're a franchise not fighting for a playoff spot, then they're probably hoping to land top pick in 2023. Let's rank all 30 NBA teams based on their performances over the past two weeks: They were statistical Not exactly the worst seen, but for a relatively raw team that has faced the Celtics, Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks three all-time better teams, this start is not surprising. Two losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves and one to the Denver Nuggets were expected since their first win against the Clippers came without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. On the plus side, the race for Wembanyama could get interesting if Chet Holmgren returns next year. I could have been more reckless here and put them last because of their terrible offensive numbers, but under Darvin Ham they were strong defensively. Still, I'm not exactly confident that they'll consistently beat anyone given their depth and shaky roster construction as the Russell Westbrook saga drags on. If you want a fun watch, but not a really good one, the Pistons are your go-to choice. Another Wembanyama contender along with Orlando and OKC. The Rockets are probably the Western Conference version of Detroit: young, fun, not yet a playoff team and on #WembanyamaWatch. Wembanyama alongside them would be special, and Indiana should look to move its veterans throughout the season. A Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving pair should not have a roster that is last in defensive standings or second to last in net standings. I was skeptical about Miami last year, and it did little to change my mind. They are offensively rough and defensively subpar. Considering they did next to nothing to improve on their first place last year, they could be in for a decent fall in May. New head coach Mike Brown has the Kings playing average, which is an improvement by their standards. They didn't plan on beating the Clippers or Warriors, but the foundation looks solid so far. Joel Embiid will have them in the playoffs and James Harden is looking a little fresh but P. And we know what happens to Harden when it matters most, although it's early 2022-23. Can DeMar DeRozan, a dynamic two-level scorer but not a superstar, continue to save the offense? Toronto should be able to beat most teams that don't have an elite, physically strong man (ref: 76ers last postseason). Other than that, their formula doesn't seem to have changed all that much, but they'll still be a step up here if other teams lose form. Christian Wood and Spencer Dinwiddie need to be your third-fifth best players against a serious contender, although there's still plenty of time to improve. Their only two wins were against OKC, and they've lost games against Utah and San Antonio. As someone who went into the year with high hopes for Denver, the defense was far too leaky in the early stages. The shots are falling No. 1 field goal percentage in the league, but it doesn't matter if you can't get stops on the other end. hasn't exactly impressed so far, with Kawhi Leonard's injury-related stress management being a key factor. They should rise in due course, but expect them to take a few weeks to set before peaking later. I don't know if they can jump any higher but I'm still keeping an eye on Kyle Kuzma who is a hot trading target for a serious contender. The offense hasn't clicked yet Trae Young's poor shooting is key here, but Dejounte Murray's trade is already bearing fruit. Their defense wasn't as good as we've seen before and they're lucky to have a 3-1 record. But outperforming your opponent when your defense allows for the second most points per game is not a healthy strategy. You can never really rule out a team coached by Gregg Popovich, can you? They'll likely fall behind in the roster due to inexperience, but they'll play their socks off every night and be an underdog team. We know Steve Clifford will get a group to buy in defensively, but Charlotte has six players who have averaged double-digit points so far without LaMelo Ball playing a game. I doubt it, but the Hornets can't afford another play-in blowout. They started well and seem to have integrated Cam Reddish into the core, but the Test will play against the rest of the league at this level. Utah really should be 4-0 after beating Denver, Minnesota and New Orleans only to fall to Houston to end their flawless start. A team without a real star will tend to play better together, and on an individual level these players are too good to tank, which is probably what the Jazz expected after beating Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. The Suns escaped early disaster after returning in their first game against Dallas. Devin Booker's offensive load could become an issue if Chris Paul's early vulnerability is actually a sign of slowing down, but they're a top-10 team for now. It's a good time to be a Cleveland fan. If the Cavaliers get their second-best scorer back and stay defensively elite, they can be a top-four team in the East. The Celtics were supposed to be in contention for another NBA Finals draw, but a close encounter with Orlando followed by a horrific meltdown that turned into a blowout to Chicago has left them lower than originally planned. The defending champions could have made a more convincing start. Losing to a Nuggets team without Jamal Murray stabbing and they're just a solid game from Harrison Barnes away from potentially having a losing record. They beat Philly in a game in which Khris Middleton was not playing and Jrue Holiday shot 2-for-15 and 0-for-6 from deep on aggregate. Milwaukee also has the best defensive rating in the NBA. Given their recent history, that should be sustainable. New Orleans flew past Brooklyn and dealt with Charlotte. A point loss to Utah hurts, but Brandon Ingram only played 11 minutes. The Pelicans face a Grizzlies-like leap in 2021-22 as long as they can stay healthy. Win all your games and you will be number 1. Portland is currently the only undefeated NBA team to have 24/7 Dame Time clicking. The return of the ladies, the rise of Anfernee Simon and the consistency of Jerami Grants was a compelling watch with rookie Shaedon Sharpe looking intriguing in minutes.


What Arsenal, Chelsea wins over PSG, Lyon mean in the Women's Champions League

The first round of the women's Champions League group stage provided an exciting narrative, but what can we learn about the health of the WSL and L1F? (Author: Gardener)

ChelseaMatchday one of the 2022-23 UEFA Women's Champions League group stage last week was intended to be a crude litmus test for the Women's Super League's chances of another winner, as the two English sides who remain standing were drawn against the top two from the Division 1 for women (D1F). Olympique Lyonnais' eight Champions League titles did not come overnight, nor were they a product of luck, but the fruit of the investment made by OL President Jean-Michel Aulas. First, Lyon conquered France and worked their way up to the top of Division 1 Féminine before gaining a foothold in UEFA's brand competition. As Sweden's Damallsvenskan - which won back-to-back European crowns between 2002 and 2004 courtesy of Umeå - began slipping off its pedestal in international competition, Lyon announced itself in style, with its investments and facilities surpassing its rivals on the continent in eclipsed The team just kept getting bigger and better. The lure of Lyon's professionalism in the south of France was seemingly too much for most footballers to refuse. Yet Lyon have pushed the rest of that 1% of teams in Europe and challenged them to find a way to find everything they can offer and produce to dethrone them as the de facto queens of Europe. until Lyon stopped them in the Champions League final.) The team was built to compete against the continent's best teams who could boast a similar level of talent, but the football landscape in France was a far cry from the upper echelons of the Champions League and domestic competition always seemed too easy for Lyon as they made blowing part-time and amateur teams out of the water their favorite pastime. The argument has always been that the team is so talented that the level of training would be sufficient to keep players fit rather than playing more strenuous league games. D1F, which has had its champions through the years, carried on as before, with one or two dominant teams sitting over a veritable abyss to the rest of the field. In recent years, teams have worked their way up and attracted some attention as they invested to challenge the Lyon/PSG duopoly, but due to financial difficulties and a change in majority ownership, the Kibosh saw such grandiose plans from Olympique Marseille and Bordeaux taken away. Despite being home to the most successful club side in Europe, the French league has rarely been able to offer the highest level of competition, or especially the highest level of competition. Given the perfect platform to showcase the best of French football after the country won the 2019 Women's World Cup, the tournament fell apart on many adjacent fronts, apart from the hosts' sub-par tournament alignment. The lack of foresight is arguably still felt in France, where crowds remain modest; While getting bums into seats is clearly still a major problem in women's soccer, the improved numbers in the WSL and America's National Women's Super League (NWSL) show that it's possible, although long-term interest is still an unknown size is. Against the backdrop of a boom in England after the Lionesses' win in the summer and a domestic season that was set to be hard-fought by several teams, the WSL were drawn against D1F in Europe and it was all too easy to argue that it was an accurate match would be temperature control. Chelsea, who toiled their way into Europe's crowning elite with a Champions League title, represented the entire WSL, while Lyon was the face of the French league. But the runners-up from both leagues (Arsenal and PSG) also faced each other in the group game, although both would have been outsiders on paper. Last Wednesday, Arsenal traveled to the Rhône-Alpes in good form but lost a point in the league despite losing the central defender pair (Leah Williamson and Rafaelle) to semi-serious injuries. But Arsenal's injury woes paled in comparison to Lyons; The eight-time Champions League champions went into the game without nine potential starters. The problem for Lyon was not only that they couldn't muster the attacking prowess of Ada Hegerberg, midfield maestro Dzsenifer Marozsán or centre-back Griedge Mbock, but that the players available were simply the wrong mix of young and old. Rather than being balanced with experience and youth, the younger players on the team like Alice Sombath were just beginning their rise, while the veterans like Wendie Renard had already peaked and were beginning to descend the other side of the hill. The only positive for Lyon was the return of Perle Morroni, although the defender could only start on the bench and showed the gridiron that comes with an injury spell on her introduction. Despite Lyon being just a shadow of their former selves, Arsenal displayed the caution that comes with European experience and remained composed throughout, picking and choosing the moments to bat and when they did, they did so with deadly accuracy and more surgically Precision. The game itself was reminiscent of Chelsea's 4-1 away win over Arsenal in 2019/20, when each of the Blues' four shots on goal was on the net; It was just about being clinical and just hitting the ball in a way that gives it the upper hand. At Parc OL, Arsenal actually finished the game with a lower xG of 1.77 than Lyon's 1.9, despite the 5-1 win, according to Opta, further underscoring how good they were at defeating Lyon their most humiliating defeat of the pro era inflicting their heaviest Champions League defeat and their first defeat in the competition by more than one goal since 2009. The London side were favorites as PSG had been upset for some time. After a decade of working in the shadow of Lyon, the Parisians stepped out and rose as they finally clinched the league title in 2020/21 after threatening a great season the previous year before the pandemic curtailed France's national campaign. Against Chelsea, the lack of a clear No9 was painfully evident as the team did little to change their approach: Kadidiatou Diani still played the role of stalwart winger and creator for her absent striker partner, yet her service was in vain as no player is able to give the hosts that crucial penalty area presence. It was one of the clearest parallels with Lyon this week: the French side's managers refused to adapt their approach and play to the strengths of the players at their disposal, instead insisting on a plan designed for different personalities. Like Arsenal, Chelsea had traveled to France without their full squad: the enigmatic attacker Fran Kirby was absent, as was manager Emma Hayes, who had rarely missed a game since taking over the Blues in 2012. It was a cold and rainy night in the French capital and served to come back from the previous night's goal frenzy, but it was a box-office hit for Chelsea. The away side had done whatever it took in Paris to get away with three points and were more focused on a regimented midfield form that left even fewer options for a bland PSG attack. There might have been a division between attack and midfield for Chelsea, but that didn't matter, their mature performance made it two out of two for the London teams in France. Speaking to the media after Chelsea's win, general manager Paul Green wanted to stress that there is still a long way to go in the group stage but that "it's a really positive thing for the English league and shows how far they've come has come when she's in A few years ago it was probably unthinkable that English teams would come to France and win these kinds of games. Maybe English teams wouldn't have been in that position five or six years ago.” Players and coaches are notorious for refusing to push themselves and favoring a game-by-game approach, but Green's comments ring true , particularly for a Chelsea side that have for so long been billed by the English media as the team to topple Lyon when in reality it was Barcelona who broke Lyon's stranglehold in Europe. But it's not the French opposition that has sunk Chelsea in the past, it's the Germans - notably VfL Wolfsburg - which drove the Blues out of Europe year after year (until they didn't). As Green said, just a few years ago it would have been unthinkable for a WSL team to come to France and do what Arsenal did, but regardless of Lyon's injuries, the results go against the broader picture of women's football in England France and Of the two different tracks, the game can be found in the two countries. It would be wrong to say that everything is rosy in England and that all clubs that have a women's team treat them with respect instead of just talking about a good game for PR, but the game in England is in the best form, that ever existed. While it's still generous to say anyone can beat anyone in the league, every day WSL is looking more and more like the Premier League, which is an ambivalent mix of positives and negatives. There is a knee-jerk concern that these group stage games will have a bigger impact when it comes to top players looking to come to France. As for Lyon, recovering from a brand-new defeat and the natural emotional blow of such a humiliating loss, the concern for this season is that the players Bompastor needs to get back to full fitness won't be back any time soon become too much time. Worst of all, Lyon are coming from a -4 goal deficit in what could be a tight group, leaving the defending champions and record holders looking to get a foot out of the door far too quickly. While it may be a little too early to say that the final will be an all-English affair, the early volleys in the Women's Champions League do suggest that women's football in France needs some love and attention.


Russian court upholds Brittney Griner's drug smuggling conviction

A judge in Russia upheld Brittney Griner's conviction on Tuesday, upholding the US basketball star's conviction on drug smuggling charges and only slightly reducing her nine-year sentence. (Author: Gardener)

Brittney Griner's(CNN) -- A judge in Russia upheld Brittney Griner's sentence on Tuesday, upholding the US basketball star's conviction on drug smuggling charges and only slightly reducing her nine-year sentence. The decision came after an appeal hearing on Tuesday, at which Griner, who the US believes was wrongly arrested, apologized again as she and her lawyers asked the court for a lighter sentence, arguing the sentence was unfair under Russian law and unjustified. The lawyers urged the court to acquit her, calling her sentence disproportionate and the previous court decision wrong when it said Griner had criminal intent. "I've been here for almost eight months, and people with more serious crimes have been given less than I have," Griner said Tuesday as she appeared for the hearing via video link from her detention facility, Correctional Colony No. 1 in Novoye, in Grishino, north of Grishino Moscow. "I really hope the court aligns this ruling," she said before the ruling, "because it's been very, very stressful and very traumatic on my mind and my psyche and being away from my family, not being able to communicate." Griner's attorneys expressed disappointment after the hearing, saying in a statement the verdict "contains numerous flaws" and they believe "the penalty is excessive." US officials have attempted to secure the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, another American detained in Russia, by proposing a prisoner swap with Russia. Those efforts have continued in recent weeks, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement Tuesday, calling the latest hearing a "sham," adding, "President Biden has made it very clear that Brittney will be released immediately." should.” The Biden administration has been in talks with Russia over the past few days on the matter, State Department spokesman Ned Price said on CNN. But since her appeal was unsuccessful, Griner, a two-time US Olympic gold medalist, is concerned she will have to serve out the rest of her sentence in Russia, her lawyers said, if the United States and Russia cannot agree on a prisoner swap. "She had hopes for today," the attorneys said, "as every month, every day away from her family and friends is important to her." The US State Department has claimed Griner was wrongly imprisoned, and her case has raised concerns that she is being used as a political pawn amid Russia's war against Ukraine. That hasn't changed, said the longest-serving American diplomat in Moscow on Tuesday before the Moscow district court. "Nothing in the previous verdict, nothing in the outcome of today's appeal changes the fact that the United States government holds Griner to be wrongly imprisoned," said US Embassy Chargé d'Affaires Elizabeth Rood. The Phoenix Mercury All-Star Center pleaded guilty to drug charges, telling the court at her trial that vape cartridges of cannabis oil were in her luggage because she packed her bags in a hurry. In court on Tuesday, defense attorney Maria Blagovolina questioned the Russian investigation into Griner's alleged drug use, calling the results of that investigation "dubious and unconfirmed." "Continuous drug use is incompatible with a career as a professional athlete," added Blagovolina, a partner at Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners law firm. "No lawyer will be able to say in all honesty that this verdict corresponds to Russian legal practice," said Griner's other attorney, Alexander Boykov of the Moscow Legal Center. Both attorneys previously said they thought Griner's nine-year sentence was extreme, with Blagovolina calling it "very severe for this type of crime and this amount of this substance." Before the hearing, Blagovolina and Boykov called Griner a "strong person" with a "champion character" who was nonetheless "severely stressed at being separated from loved ones for over eight months." The appeals court could have upheld Griner's sentence, overturned it and sent it back to the lower court, or reduced her sentence, her attorneys said. "She is very nervous and awaiting the appeal hearing," they added in a written statement to CNN. "Brittney does not expect miracles, but hopes the appeals court will hear the defense's arguments and reduce the sentence." As Griner's case unfolds, U.S. officials have separately proposed a possible prisoner swap with Russia, offering to trade convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout Exchange Griner and Whelan, an American citizen held by Russia since 2018 on alleged espionage charges. Whelan, who has consistently denied the allegations, was found guilty and sentenced to 16 years in prison in June 2020. Despite the "fairly sustained" pace of talks between the US and Russia to secure the Americans' release, a senior administration official told CNN last week the Biden administration has yet to receive a serious counter-offer from the Russian side. I would say they continue to respond with something they know is not feasible or available," the official said of the Russian response. Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson -- whose eponymous center works on behalf of hostage and inmate families, and who recently traveled to Russia to discuss the possible release of Griner and Whelan -- recently said he was "cautiously optimistic "that the two Americans could be released." Richardson, who also served as US Ambassador to the United Nations under President Bill Clinton, said he is working with both families and coordinating with the White House to urge their release work towards The former governor played a role in the release of Trevor Reed, an American veteran who served three years in Russia before his release in April. Griner's wife Cherelle and her supporters have continued to highlight her case and continued to exert support and pressure to ensure she is brought home, launching a #WeAreBG campaign on social media. The WNBA on Tuesday reiterated its desire to bring Griner home, saying in a statement the outcome of her appeal was "further confirmation that BG isn't just wrongly imprisoned — she's quite clearly a hostage." must unite and support the stated public commitment of the Biden administration and congressional leaders to do whatever it takes to bring them home,” the statement said, adding, “No athlete should be used as a political pawn.” Griner's agent Lindsay Colas called a Moscow court's rejection of Griner's appeal "disappointing but not surprising" and said the basketball star was "held by Russia just because she's American." After months of urging, Cherelle Griner met with Biden last month and told CNN the meeting showed the government's commitment to bringing her wife home. "It wasn't a meeting where the president told me the news I want to hear," Cherelle Griner said. Griner turned 32 last week and celebrated her birthday in a cell in a Moscow suburb, her lawyers told CNN. "Thank you everyone for fighting so hard to get me home," Griner said in a message shared by her attorneys.


Phoenix wants to slow down Golden State

In a possible preview of the Western Conference Finals, our betting expert shares his prediction that the Suns to Cover is your best bet on Tuesday. (Author: Gardener)

PhoenixIn a possible preview of the Western Conference Finals, our betting expert shares his prediction that the Suns to Cover is your best bet on Tuesday. In a possible preview of the Western Conference Finals, our betting expert shares his prediction that the Suns to Cover is your best bet on Tuesday. The Golden State Warriors will travel to Phoenix in their first away game of the season to face the Suns on Tuesday night. Phoenix and Golden State have both since got back on track with wins and for the most part will both be at full strength in what could be a preview of the Western Conference Finals. Will the Suns get the best out of the defending NBA champions and secure their third win of the season, or will we see the Warriors steal a win down the road? The Warriors are pacing at historic pace, which has allowed them to average 110.33 possessions per game over their first three games. That number ranks first in the NBA so far this season, up from 98.74 a year ago. Giving yourself so many offensive possessions resulted in a ton of points for Golden State. The Warriors go into this matchup averaging 125.33 points per game and, according to TeamRankings, are first in the NBA with 66.7 points per game in the first half. They scored 89 points in the first half of their last game against Sacramento, which shows the reigning champions have it all on the offensive side of the court. Golden State ended last year with a 106.6 defensive rating, ranking second in the NBA behind only the Celtics. However, that number has risen to 110.4 this year, and as a result, the Warriors have given up an average of 120.7 points per game while allowing their opponents to shoot 47.5% of the field overall. They have some things to clean up at that end of the floor and it will be difficult to continue winning games if they don't, despite their historic offensive start. The Phoenix Suns are once again a defensive powerhouse, which will give them a chance to contend for a title this season. Phoenix ended last season with a defensive rating of 106.8, ranking third in the NBA and just behind the Warriors. However, unlike Golden State, they improved that number early in the 2022-23 season as their defensive rating dropped to 104.0 early on. Phoenix allows just 43.3 points per game in the paint, eighth fewest in the NBA, and their opponents are shooting just 44% from the floor this year. Golden State doesn't have much offensive production in the painted area and scores the 8th fewest points per game in the color, requiring the Suns to shift their focus to the perimeter. However, Phoenix seems to have that area already covered on defense, with their opponents shooting just 34% from behind the arch and only averaging 33 points per game with 3-pointers, both of whom rank in the top 12 in the NBA. Combine that defensive presence with Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges leading the offense on offense, and it looks like the Suns are on track to potentially win the Western Conference. Golden State showed us how deadly they can be on offense, but if anyone is going to be able to slow them down, it's Phoenix. As I mentioned earlier, the Warriors go first in the NBA in pace (110.33) in this matchup ranking. That will slow down this game enormously, which the Warriors have yet to experience. Additionally, two of Golden State's previous opponents, the Kings and Nuggets, rank in the NBA's bottom 12 in defensive ratings, so it's not surprising that they've managed to score over 120 points in both games. Golden State would end up losing to the Nuggets despite scoring 123 points, and that's because the defense just couldn't hold their own often. The Suns are a team that brings a new dimension to the game that the Warriors haven't seen before, and I expect them to slow that game down and keep the Golden State's offense in check while taking advantage of their shaky defense.


Is F1 heading for an era of Red Bull dominance?

Winning Red Bull's constructors' title was a perfect tribute to the late Dietrich Mateschitz and could be a portent of what's to come in F1 for years to come. (Author: Gardener)

Red BullAUSTIN, Texas — Winning a Formula One championship is always an emotional moment, but Red Bull's fifth constructors' crown had added meaning on Sunday. The death of Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz the day before meant the team was determined to win the title in his honour. And securing it with a hard-fought win after Max Verstappen recovered from a slow final pit stop to overtake Lewis Hamilton with five laps to go and take the lead seemed the most fitting tribute the team could give . "It was almost as if it was pre-programmed that he had to go through the field again," said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner after the race. “I think Dietrich would have quite enjoyed that race from above if he had seen us pass a Mercedes with 5-6 laps to go before winning the Constructors Championship. Red Bull decided against wearing black armbands on track, instead paying a unique tribute of "Dietrich wore blue jeans in the trademark Mateschitz look. But most importantly, the team was determined to celebrate the life of Mateschitz on Sunday, and that culminated in an emotional moment on the podium as Verstappen celebrated the win."Dietrich is such a giant of a man and has done so much, not just for Red Bull Racing but for Formula 1 and that's why we felt determined to go out there and really honoring him in a way that would make him proud," added Horner. The result not only secured Red Bull the race win, but also their first Constructors' Championship since 2013. It ends Mercedes' dominance in Formula 1, which dates back to the introduction of the formula with turbocharged hybrid engines in 2014, and marks Red Bull's return as the undisputed Formula 1 racing driver ted top team. Given the dominance the team has shown this season, it could also be the start of a new era of dominance for Red Bull. "It's a testament to our employees, suppliers, partners and just the spirit he embodied, which pervades throughout Red Bull and which has enabled us to achieve what many people would have thought impossible." In the early years after Red Bull took over the Jaguar F1 team in 2005, many people in the paddock struggled to take it seriously. The team was often viewed more as a marketing exercise than a true racing team, but Mateschitz ensured Horner had the freedom and finance to create something truly special at its Milton Keynes location. The Austrian then doubled down by investing in a second Italy-based team - originally called Toro Rosso when it launched in 2006 but now named after Red Bull's fashion brand AlphaTauri - which was formed solely to to give young drivers a break in F1. Even after winning four consecutive Drivers' and Constructors' titles with former Toro Rosso driver Vettel at the wheel, Mateschitz was far from done. Red Bull finally found this in Honda last year, but the Japanese manufacturer's withdrawal from F1 at the end of the season convinced Mateschitz to take matters into his own hands and allow Red Bull to undertake a hugely ambitious project to build its own powertrains from 2026 to start next. "The commitment he has shown to this and what he has enabled us to achieve for Milton Keynes puts Red Bull Racing in a very strong position for many years to come." Out of respect for Mateschitz's death, the FIA ​​voted ​​to put their talks with Red Bull on hold over last year's budget cap violation until later this week. The saga that has unfolded over the past three race weekends has cast a shadow over the team's recent title wins and still has the potential to raise questions about its continued success if it turns out that Red Bull lost the past year during development his car concept has gained an advantage for the new F1 regulations this year. Two weeks ago, the FIA ​​found that Red Bull had committed a "minor" breach of the $145 million cap, with overspending estimated at around $1.8 million. Red Bull claims it had no intention of exceeding the cap and disputes the way the FIA's review took into account certain points. Before the talks were put on hold, the FIA ​​was in the process of offering Red Bull an Agreed Injury Agreement (ABA) - essentially a penalty deemed appropriate by the governing body, which the team can either accept or decline to bring the case to an independent Jury. The penalty on the table is expected to include both a financial and a sporting component - most likely a restriction on the team's wind tunnel time and CFD capacity for next year. Stripping the team of recent titles was never a serious consideration, but a significant reduction in aero testing should not be underestimated, especially as Red Bull already has the lowest CFD and wind tunnel time available under F1's aerodynamic testing rules, the most successful Team in the last six months has the lowest development potential for the subsequent period. For example, a 20% reduction on top of the already reduced aerodynamic testing that Red Bull will be conducting in the coming year would certainly help counteract potential benefits gained from overspending last year. But on Saturday, when talks paused following Mateschitz's death, Red Bull had yet to sign an ABA. As much as the 2022 season belonged to Red Bull and Max Verstappen, there are signs that Formula 1 may not be going so one-sided. The promise Ferrari showed earlier in the year hasn't entirely evaporated as the team qualified first and second at Austin before Charles Leclerc received a starting penalty for an engine and turbocharger change. Ferrari's capitulation at various times this year has been agonizing for anyone hoping for a competitive season, but fundamentally the car is still fast and if the team irons out its many woes it could still lay the groundwork for a title challenge next year form. Meanwhile Mercedes were off pace early in the season but have made steady progress since then, culminating in two clear wins in race wins at September's Dutch Grand Prix and again at the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday. On both occasions, Verstappen and Red Bull ultimately had superior pace, underscoring the sheer size of the task Mercedes still faces, but great progress has been made from the starting position the team had in the opening races. That was evident at Austin, when Hamilton showed impressive pace through COTA's high-speed corners, but then failed to defend against Verstappen as he passed him on Lap 51 en route to Turn 12. This characteristic existed all year round and still exists as a result of a vehicle design that creates excessive drag. Since then, tackling the excessive drag the car generates has emerged as a key Mercedes goal for 2023, but simply wasn't possible this year given the development constraints enforced by the budget cap. "Overall, our car is simply too sluggish," said team boss Toto Wolff after Sunday's defeat by Verstappen. “We'll have to find that out next year and the cost cap played a role [this season]. “We can't just produce endless low drag bits or spend a lot of time in the wind tunnel trying to find solutions, so next year. "The DNA of the car will change for the next year. That doesn't necessarily mean that the bodywork will look different, but certainly what is part of the DNA of the car, the architecture, will change for the next year." Even without an aerodynamic testing penalty for Red Bull as a result of the cost cap investigation, Mercedes will still have more wind tunnel time and CFD capability than Red Bull next year due to the way the regulations are structured. Wolff believes this will be a key factor in getting back on track. “That has been a significant disadvantage so far because all of 2021 we were the leading team and then we won the Constructors' Championship, so in those 18 months we had 7% less time in the wind tunnel [than Red Bull] and a lot less compared to Ferrari, and now it's being reversed. Compared to Red Bull, we've got 14% more going third, so over time that's what the regulations are for, to give us the potential to take some of the advantage back." The advances Mercedes' will offer hope to neutral fans that next year won't be as one-sided as the 2022 title race. In previous seasons, the level of performance Verstappen and Red Bull have shown this year would likely have heralded the start of a new era of dominance in the Formula 1 has arrived but there is still so much to do both on and off track, several years of success is no guarantee for Red Bull.“We have had a wonderful year this year and all have our own records in terms of victories and double wins and three races to go. But we have some very competitive neighbors and I'm sure they will come back strong next year."


With Westbrook, the Lakers have put themselves in an impossible situation

Did the front office miscalculate how quickly it would get ugly, or just made the same big mistake twice? (Author: Gardener)

WestbrookEditor's Note: This is reporter Kyle Goon's Monday, October 24 edition of the Purple & Bold Lakers newsletter. Was it Coach Darvin Ham who was forced to explain why one of his 'Big Three' - a star he's had to struggle to keep up - made a fatal mistake at crunch time? Was it Russell Westbrook who (again) had to face a disappointing performance that doesn't live up to his $47M contract? Was it LeBron James and Anthony Davis who were clearly frustrated at losing a game they wanted to win but didn't want to lash out at their teammate? Let's not talk about the defense sinking into the paint or how poor shot selection was in the fourth quarter — although all of those things mattered in the Lakers' two-point loss to the Trail Blazers on Sunday. Instead, consider how impossible this situation is for all the main characters in the franchise — and how Lakers management has allowed this situation not only to last, but to solidify. It's only three games into the season, and while the Lakers haven't won yet, they will eventually win a game. But that doesn't mean patience is the best philosophy, with a roster that has the NBA's lowest offensive rating to date (97.2 offensive rating) and the lowest shooting percentage of any team in the league (40.7%) despite having three first has -Select Hall of Fame players and a lot of open looks. Competitiveness reigns here: The fact that the Lakers have stayed in tight games despite their dysfunction on offense counts for something. But it doesn't count towards the bottom line, and the bottom line is the team gave up a winnable game because Westbrook played in the last five minutes and there wasn't an adequate response for the defense that Portland played by taking Westbrook's man from him took . This individual failure is due to players not capitalizing on an advantage and coaches not getting the team to find an advantage. But overall, it tells the story of a critical misconduct by franchise management that, with coaching and time, would be able to work its way out of an admission of failure in trading for Westbrook. The coaches and players were urged to make the best of a bad situation where only consistent winning would help them get out of the pit. But there is no evidence that this is possible - in fact, all available evidence indicates that it is not possible to rescue a competitive team from a core that includes LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook combined. The trio now have an 11-13 record when playing together, and while you can poke holes in the supporting cast around them, one of the problems with paying three max-contract players is that it doesn't leave much money for anyone other. The Lakers had signed a few useful role players, or people they could have re-signed for more than the minimum, but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso (among others) are long gone now, and if the three Max -Players do not intervene, there is little hope of team success. Westbrook's start to the season, shooting less than 30% off the ground and exhibiting some of the same bad habits as previous years, can be heartbreaking for fans. He only adds fuel to the fire by blatantly refusing to acknowledge his shortcomings, such as when he rated his 0-on-11 night against the Clippers as "solid" and "everything you could ask for". If he admitted that more is expected of a player with his track record and contract, he could gain more public sympathy. But all of that is beside the point: The Lakers now know what Westbrook is and isn't, what he can and can't do. His second season as a Laker has felt a little like a prisoner's march for Westbrook as he appears unwilling or unable to deliver on what the team has promised him. On this front, others might point to coaching. However, Ham has achieved some important things he promised: The Lakers have a defensive rating of 103.4, the second-best grade in the NBA (right behind Ham's former team Milwaukee). He uses an offense that gives his players open looks; He can't step in and take the shots for her. The Athletic on Monday repeated a report that Ham had been given the power to "bench Westbrook and possibly remove him from the starting line-up". Doesn't it seem strange that two coaches - first Frank Vogel and now Ham - decided to keep Westbrook as a starter even though his play hurt the team? Only Ham and his staff know his honest take on the situation, but Vogel was adamant (according to several people close to him) that the only way to make the Lakers roster competitive was to somehow capitalize on Westbrook's talent. Benching him, Vogel believed, would only lose him and make him more difficult to use. Vogel thought the best way to get the most out of an overwhelming squad was to try to get more out of one of his most physically gifted players. There was a sequence in the first quarter on Sunday when Westbrook, within seconds, snagged a jump ball that had tipped towards midfield, pocketed a mid-range shot off a bench (the look he once called his "cotton shot") and got back in the Defense to draw an offensive foul on Damian Lillard. There are times when Westbrook plays so hard, so energetically, that it's easy to see why a coach would lull himself into: How can I get this guy for 48 minutes? It's management's job to see the bigger picture: Westbrook hasn't played to its former glory, and most importantly, this retrograde version fails to produce chemistry with James and Davis as a trio. It doesn't win games and doesn't give the Lakers a chance to fight like they've publicly promised with a transcendent superstar in James. Telling Ham he has the power to deal with Westbrook as he sees fit is just a step up the chain of command and acting as if a coaching fix could fix a roster issue — like applying a fresh coat of paint the rotting boards of a house. The Lakers have a plan to deal with Westbrook, but on their own timeline. Both ESPN and The Athletic have reported a tentative 20-game trial period before the Lakers will take the resumption of trade talks more seriously. This makes sense in a vacuum: Westbrook is a distressed commodity that requires draft equity to move. So the Lakers want to be patient to see if Westbrook can improve its game and retail value for a franchise that might decide after 20 or 30 games that it really wants to tank. The Lakers want to find out — and general manager Rob Pelinka's view that they only have "one chance" to strike a deal is a legitimate concern. After that trade, the Lakers are basically ballless. Management could have foreseen that a rocky start would result in an instant firestorm from fans, media and pretty much every other direction. The Lakers are always under scrutiny when they fail, and those failures are made all the worse when they are repeat offenders. The bottom line: The Lakers knew what they were getting into with a second season of Westbrook, and they should have expected to be hammered for every loss. How many times do Ham, Westbrook, James and Davis have to speak for the mistakes of a squad they had to know would not perform well in a continuation run at a certain level? As criticism piles on these numbers, it's best to remember: they're the public-facing elements of the franchise. But none of these four can reshape the squad, no matter how powerful you think they are. Front office rulers, including Pelinka and Jeanie Buss, have tried to serve the interests of the future by sacrificing this season - meanwhile James and Davis, two players every franchise would love to have as a base, rot Ranke. The Lakers have every right to manage their interests as they see fit, to point to their draft picks and say they represent their future and to say they don't buy their future for pennies can sell the dollar. But if that's true, and the philosophy of the franchise is based on keeping hope in the days to come, rather than building a competitive team now, fans have every right to ask them point-blank: Why? Editor's Note: Thank you for reading reporter Kyle Goon's Purple & Bold Lakers newsletter.


Haaland penalty claim, Wilson foul on Lloris leads VAR review

A look at the big VAR decisions in the Premier League, including Man City-related penalty decisions and Callum Wilson's challenge against Hugo Lloris. (Author: Gardener)

VARVideo Assistant Referee creates controversy in the Premier League every week but how are decisions made and are they right? After each weekend we take a look at the key incidents to examine and explain the process both in terms of VAR protocol and the Laws of the Game. What happened: In the 19th minute, Brighton & Hove Albion goalkeeper Robert Sanchez appeared to catch Erling Haaland as the striker tried to take the ball around him. Referee Craig Pawson awarded a goal kick. VAR recap: Sanchez clearly catches Haaland, resulting in that level of contact being enough to get the striker down the way he did. Most would expect VAR Lee Mason to award a penalty but he decided against it because the ball went wide and he felt there was minimal contact. The argument that the ball went out doesn't seem to hold up, as a foul is still a foul – although of course it can be used in deciding a yellow card or a red card for thwarting an obvious scoring opportunity. If a player catches an opponent sole (cleats) first, this should result in a penalty shot. VAR Review: Play continued while the VAR reviewed the incident and made a decision as per protocol (2 minutes, 15 seconds from foul to award of penalty). This is done in most games so that a game can continue while a review is taking place and not be interrupted when the VAR resolves the incident. One of the most important things a VAR should look for is whether a player initiated contact to draw the foul, making this VAR rollover confusing. Mason considered it a foul from dunk rather than a contact initiated by Silva (no jab was considered in the review). It's subjective whether you think the Manchester City forward positioned his leg or if he was caught by dunk, but for that very reason it seems wrong for the VAR to get involved. Had Pawson awarded the penalty himself then there is enough doubt for the VAR not to interfere to roll over as well. For the VAR to be the one to override the referee on such a subjective decision seems at odds with the Premier League's overriding protocol for reviews. The referee has the final decision on the monitor, but the VAR will usually show the evidence to support the rollover rather than looking back from different angles. There are similarities to Bukayo Saka's booking against Southampton in the simulation, although it was a tough decision by referee Robert Jones to show the yellow card. Duje Caleta-Car tried to attack Saka from outside the box so the VAR can't check, but the Arsenal striker placed his leg in the defender's to initiate contact. What happened: Newcastle United took the lead in the 31st minute when Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Hugo Lloris came out of his box and tried to touch the ball, then collided with Callum Wilson. VAR recap: The VAR process took 2 minutes and 11 seconds because Stuart Attwell had to check three things: offside, Wilson's foul and handball. Referee Jarred Gillett ruled it was a clash of striker and goalkeeper, with Lloris rushing out of his area to intercept the long ball over the top. The only evidence of a possible foul rather than an accidental clash was Wilson's left arm which came out as he bumped into the Tottenham keeper but it feels like this is looking for a reason not to allow the goal. The City striker showed great strength and some referees might have given a foul back then, but the VAR should not award a goal in such situations. As discussed in last week's VAR Review on Man City's disallowed goal at Liverpool, decisions are far better when they stick to the way a referee manages the game. Gillett let the game flow, so denying the goal for a questionable foul situation wouldn't fit. There are similarities to the goal disallowed by West Ham United's Maxwel Cornet last month for a Bowen foul; There was contact between the attacking player and the goalkeeper and the match referee did not consider it sufficient to rule out the goal, but it was annulled by the VAR (who happened to be Gillett). PGMOL then deemed it a mistake for the VAR to get involved. What happened: In the 51st minute, Joelinton tried to head a cross back from across the box and the ball caught Emerson Royal's arm. VAR Review: We discuss handball on a weekly basis and there is a tendency for fans to apply individual aspects of certain decisions to other incidents solely rather than as an all criteria assessment. For example, while the proximity may be the same in two handball decisions, that does not mean that the arm position itself could not be the primary consideration in one versus the other. All handball decisions are subjective and each has its own unique factors - how did a player make a challenge, ergo is he taking a risk with his arm in this situation? Would you expect a player to have their arm in this position? Is the ball coming towards the player from a short distance and has no time to react? Royal had his arm in a position one would expect when jumping to block the ball despite being outside the body. If the ball had hit his leading arm, or the arm it hit was above shoulder height, it would have been much more likely to have resulted in a penalty. Contrast that with two other incidents this month, both with Michael Oliver as referee. The first concerns Arsenal defender Gabriel against Liverpool when no penalty was awarded due to proximity - although Gabriel, while using his arms for balance, a penalty by VAR would have been a better result. While the closeness may be similar to Gabriel, it's the way Cash does the challenge with his arms away from his body that creates an obvious barrier to the cross and is a high risk. There is little doubt that the VAR would have advised a penalty had Oliver not awarded it, but the Gabriel incident is subjective. What happened: Tottenham pulled a goal back through Harry Kane in the 54th minute, but there was a possible offside that needed to be checked (see here). Possible touch by Davison Sanchez before the ball reached the England captain which would have sent him offside. There was no definitive proof that the ball touched Sanchez on the way through, so the VAR cannot intervene to deny the goal. What happened: Chelsea were awarded a penalty in the 84th minute when Armando Broja was saved by Scott McTominay when the ball went over the goal on corner practice. Referee Stuart Attwell pointed to the penalty spot. VAR Recap: This situation is the perfect example of how VAR protocol and the edict that decision-making on the field carries the greatest weight will never bring consistent decision-making to the game. Attwell gave Chelsea the penalty because the Manchester United midfielder had both hands wrapped around Broja's body, enough to limit the striker's movement and his ability to fight for the ball. But if the referee hadn't seen it clearly it probably wouldn't have been a situation where VAR, Michael Oliver, would have guessed on a penalty. Arsenal, with Gabriel Jesus going down after saving Caleta-Car, who initially touched the ball. It's a lot shorter than McTominay on Broja and while Arsenal fans might think the defender having both arms around Jesus should result in a penalty, it really is a non-VAR decision. Again, the pitch decision carries the weight. The referee did not award a penalty in this game, nor did the VAR advise a fall. Looking at each incident individually most would say Perraud's foul was a clear penalty and Broja/Jesus were less sure but the more obvious foul is not given. The VAR's role is simply to assess each individual incident based on the referee's original decision, rather than establishing precedents. What happened: Everton thought they had scored their second goal in the 63rd minute through Anthony Gordon but the flag went offside. VAR recap: Sometimes an assistant is just plain wrong. It doesn't happen very often, but we do see situations where a player is way offside (or even by a large margin) and the flag goes up. Gordon was good on the side and the VAR was quick to say his goal should stand. VAR upset: Luiz sent off for violent behavior against Mitrovic What happened: In a game on Thursday, Douglas Luiz and Aleksandar Mitrovic met in the 61st minute without a ball. VAR review: The three-man commission - usually made up of a chairman and two former players who are members of football's independent body - does not decide whether the red card is correct, only the suspension and whether that should be REMOVED. It came as a big surprise that Aston Villa won their appeal against Luiz's wrongful dismissal suspension. The VAR, Paul Tierney, told referee Oliver to go to the monitor to check a red card as a major missed incident, meaning officials had not seen it. PGMOL has not yet received written reasons for the decision, but the only possible explanation is that the panel either did not feel there was direct contact, or that it was accidental due to the way they faced each other . Anyway, exonerating Luiz when there is no obvious evidence that the officers made a mistake was very unexpected. It is rare for a red card appeal to be won when there is evidence for the referee. Take the VAR sacking of Everton midfielder Allan against Newcastle last season; It was a very harsh dismissal for serious foul play which Frank Lampard's team appealed but was ultimately unsuccessful.