“Why does everybody look so sad?” New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz asked media representatives as he wobbled to the podium on crutches and a walking boot.This past Sunday night, Cruz suffered a bruised heel injury in the team’s preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts. But the star player is in good spirits and insists that he will play in the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 8.“Hopefully I can be back before then,” said Cruz. “But I do envision myself being on the practice field getting ready for that Cowboys game and getting ready to go down to Texas to play those guys.”Cruz boot and crutches are for precautionary measures, he escaped with no serious issues.“The MRI just showed some blood in there, in the area where the swelling is, and that was about it. No tear — nothing wrong with the bone — everything’s fine, which is a good sign, which is what I was worried about,” he said.The Giants still want to be a 100 percent sure about the receiver’s health. The organization has reportedly sent the results of Cruz’s MRI to a specialist for a second opinion, to confirm the team’s preliminary diagnosis of a bruised heel.New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin said the injury might look worse than it really is, but it was a bit worrisome to see Cruz in a walking boot and on crutches.“Hopefully it is not going to be a long time,” Coughlin said after practice Tuesday. “Who knows? He feels better from one day to the next. Now if you look at him, you say, ‘Oh my God, he’s got crutches and boot.’ So they are doing all kinds of stuff to make sure he doesn’t put any pressure on it. But he did a feel a little bit better today.”
Photo by NBAE.comDoc Rivers calls himself an emotional guy. So, it was no wonder that he said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love — including a standing ovation — the Boston Celtics fans showed their old coach in his return with the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night.“It was just a really nice day,” said Rivers, fighting back tears after his team defeated the Celtics, 96-88 at the TD Garden. “This is, it’s just such a classy place here. . . . They cheer for their teams and they love their athletes. The best decision I ever made was 10 years ago, when I decided to come.”Fans roared and applauded Rivers, who led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA championship, when he walked onto the court and they gave him a rousing standing ovation during pregame introductions. The former NBA point guard was visibly moved.“It was really nice,” he said. “When I walked out. … All those guys, people lined up. … I was basically useless for the first 18 minutes of the game. … It didn’t surprise me. You’ve got to live here to understand that. Just an amazing fan base. … I want everything to go well for them.”His new team added to Boston’s struggles. In a close game, reserve guard Jamal Crawford (21 points) scored six points on a pair of three-point shots to help the Clippers pull away in the final 3 minutes. Point guard Chris Paul had typical solid floor game with 22 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. And high-flyer Blake Griffin added 18 points for LA, which won for the seventh time in 10 games.“It was a really special win,” Crawford said. “You could see his emotions. I don’t know what he was going through inside.”According to Celtic Jeff Green, he and his team that Rivers left behind did not feel the nostalgia of the coach’s return. “It wasn’t emotional,” said Green, one of just a handful of Celtics remaining from last year’s team. “We were just trying to win a game, plain and simple.”
Charles Barkley1985-20001.52 The most efficient players in modern NBA historyLeaders in career points per shot attempt, 1974-2018 Adrian Dantley1977-19911.53 Boban Marjanovic2016-20181.62 PlayerYearsPoints per shot attempt Marjanovic, the undrafted 29-year-old Serb, has accomplished this in relative anonymity. While he might be a favorite among basketball die-hards and members of the Reddit community devoted to him, Boban will not be at the NBA All-Star game next month, and no throngs of teenagers are lining up to buy his jersey at the NBA store. And he’s only played in 13 games so far this season, a clear sign that his scoring touch doesn’t mask his other shortcomings, which are on display each time he steps on the court. Because he lacks foot speed on defense and is largely tethered to the paint on that end, opponents — particularly those with sharpshooting stretch bigs — can exploit him with the high pick-and-roll.Both sides of the double-edged sword were on display during the Pistons’ loss in Miami Wednesday night, a game in which Marjanovic got his fifth career start while one-time All-Star Andre Drummond sat out with a rib injury. Marjanovic displayed his usual soft touch around the basket, finishing with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting and nine rebounds in just 22 minutes. That production is in line with his career 1.62 points per shot attempt.Still, even with that sort of offensive firepower, the Heat — who drilled 17 threes, tied for the most Detroit’s allowed all season — were able to chase Boban off the floor whenever they downsized by playing Kelly Olynyk at center. In fact, Olynyk reeled off eight consecutive points to put Miami on an 8-0 run within two minutes of that shift; the run prompted Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy to call time and subsequently limit Marjanovic’s minutes to whenever Olynyk wasn’t playing at the 5.Watch here as Miami finds a way to exploit Marjanovic’s presence, or lack thereof, on these three plays. On the first, Miami’s Tyler Johnson comes off a screen, but Marjanovic doesn’t hedge far enough, which forces Pistons guard Reggie Bullock to defend both Johnson and Olynyk on the same play (though he’s too late to do anything about Olynyk’s open shot). During the second play, Marjanovic contains Johnson after a switch, but Olynyk capitalizes on the miss by grabbing the board over the Detroit wings, who are left to fend for themselves in the paint. On the most glaring of the three plays, Olynyk gets a wide-open look in transition after Marjanovic fails to pick him up as a trailer.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/bobanstruggles.mp400:0000:0000:38Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.That sequence explains how Marjanovic has become one of the bigger chess pieces in basketball the past few seasons — one who can trigger an immediate substitution from one side or the other based on his sheer size and skill set. But his situation as a historically efficient scorer who still doesn’t see consistent playing time also speaks to how the abundance of perimeter shooting in today’s NBA has made life nearly impossible for rim-protecting 7-footers who lack the mobility to come out and defend past the free-throw line.“It’s tough, because you’re dealing with a lot of guys who can really stretch the floor, and you’ve got to be able to defend out to 25 feet,” Van Gundy said of Marjanovic, who just broke the 100-minute mark for the season Wednesday and has yet to play 1,000 career minutes in three seasons. “He’s worked hard at [improving his lateral footwork], so I’m confident in him being able to play against a lot of people. But when you get really far away from the basket, it’s a little tough on him.”A few numbers highlight how much Marjanovic struggles with perimeter-oriented bigs. So far this season, he is defending 14 midrange and 3-point tries per 100 shot attempts, the most in the NBA among the 365 players who’ve contested at least 30 such shots so far, according to Second Spectrum. Exacerbating the issue even more: Players are shooting about 15 effective field-goal percentage points better than expected against him from that range, according to Second Spectrum data, the worst gap of any center in the league to this point.None of this is to suggest that Marjanovic, who signed with the Spurs as a free agent back in 2015, has no skill on defense. Coming into this season, he held opposing players to far less than their usual averages when shooting within six feet of the rim, likely the result of his disruptive 7-foot-8 wingspan and 9-foot-7 standing reach that make him one of the largest players in NBA history. And if he had played enough minutes to qualify for the leaderboard, Marjanovic’s career total rebound percentage (21.9 percent) would put him right behind former Piston Dennis Rodman, who holds the best rate of all time (23.4 percent).But above all else, Marjanovic is a scorer. He’s very good at establishing position near the basket.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/boban.mp400:0000:0000:08Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.And once he catches the ball, either off an entry pass or after a teammate has lofted it to where only he can catch it, he has an array of moves that make him even more difficult to guard.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/boban2.mp400:0000:0000:41Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Van Gundy said that part of the challenge in playing Marjanovic is timing, adding that he believes Boban matches up fairly well with a number of traditional centers around the league. But if the opposing club starts a traditional big man, then replaces him with a floor-spacer off the bench, that makes it difficult for Van Gundy to find a scenario where he can sub Marjanovic into the action. Doing so would require pulling Drummond, Detroit’s best player, or likely compromising the Pistons’ perimeter defense against a stretch big, as was the case Wednesday with Olynyk.Marjanovic has long known that developing quicker feet on defense is the key to seeing more minutes. “You can’t make someone tall like me, and you can’t make someone quick like [Pistons guard] Ish Smith,3Who, according to Second Spectrum data, is currently the NBA’s fastest player on average.” said Marjanovich, a gym rat who referenced the time he spent working with future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan in an effort to improve defensively. “But you can make small improvements that help, and you can use your mind to study, so you know what play is coming sometimes.”Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/bobanslow.mp400:0000:0000:55Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who coached Boban when the center first came into the league and eventually talked him into taking the Pistons’ far richer contract offer in restricted free agency, acknowledged that someone like Marjanovic probably could have had a lot more success in an earlier era of basketball — when slow-footed big men like Rik Smits, Kevin Duckworth and Bill Cartwright were averaging big minutes each night and seldom drifting from the paint. But Popovich said he respects all the work his former pupil has put in, despite the fact that there’s only so much he can do to fix his weaknesses.“You am what you am,” Popovich told me. “It’s our job to figure out who these guys are. People talk about players changing. Some some guys add skill, but they don’t change their DNA and their physical abilities and gifts that they have. Some have more than others. And you deal with that.” For players with a mininmum of 30 points per 100 possessions in 100 regular-season games.Source: Basketball-Reference Shaquille O’Neal1993-20111.47 James Harden2010-20181.51 DETROIT — What if I told you that in today’s stats-obsessed league — where everything, including the arc of a shooter’s jump shot and the length of a player’s stride, can be spliced and measured — perhaps the most efficient scorer in modern NBA history couldn’t get off the bench most nights?That’s the reality for 7-foot-3 Pistons center Boban Marjanovic, who scores with unprecedented efficiency when he is on the court.1Since the 1973-74 season, which predates the ABA-NBA merger. Among players who’ve averaged 30 points per 100 possessions and played in at least 100 regular-season games, no player has been able to match Marjanovic in points per shot attempt, and those who have come closest are either already in the Hall of Fame or likely will be one day. He also currently leads the NBA2Among those who’ve played 10 games or more so far this season. by a wide margin in points per touch, according to data from Second Spectrum.
We wrote earlier this spring that the sons of majors leaguers have an advantage over the general population in reaching the major leagues. While some of that advantage is tied to genetic gifts and financial means, mimicking elite athletic movement patterns from a young age is also thought to be crucial.The debut earlier this year of Fernando Tatis Jr. — son of former major leaguer Fernando Tatis — set a record for the number of sons to debut in a decade (45), according to Baseball-Reference.com data analyzed by FiveThirtyEight. Guerrero Jr. makes it 46, and his former Triple-A teammates Cavan Biggio (son of Craig) and Bo Bichette (son of Dante) could soon increase the number.While Guerrero hits like his dad, he isn’t built like his dad. Vlad Sr. debuted as a lanky and athletic wunderkind, while his son’s weight is already a concern: He was measured this spring at 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds. Perhaps that will push Guerrero Jr. off of third base, but wherever he plays, the expectation is that he’ll hit for years to come.Check out our latest MLB predictions. Like father, like sonCareer minor league batting statistics before their major league debuts for Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and his son, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Games playedAt-batBatting AverageOn-base percentageSlugging percentageOPS Even their swings are similar. In 61 games at Double-A New Hampshire last season, at age 19, Guerrero posted a 203 wRC+. Since 2010, Guerrero Jr. is one of only six minor leaguers with at least 200 plate appearances to reach a 200 wRC+ in the upper minor leagues, and he was the only player to do so as a teenager. Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton posted a 204 mark in Double-A in 2010 as a 20-year-old, and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant posted a 220 mark at age 22 in 2014 in Double-A.What’s also remarkable about Guerrero as a hitter is how much his minor-league track record resembles his father’s. Widely considered the best prospect in baseball, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — the son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero — is expected to make his debut for the Blue Jays on Friday in Toronto against Oakland. The event will, at least for the moment, end talk of the Blue Jays suppressing his service time and turn attention to the arrival of one of the most precocious hitting talents of this century. An oblique strain this spring slowed his major league debut, but it was likely to be delayed anyway, given the way MLB clubs have been controlling players’ service time.1A player cannot become a major league free agent until he accrues six full years of service time. Counting off days and game days, there are generally 187 days on a major league calendar. A player needs to spend 172 days of those days on a major league roster to gain a year of service. Even after last season, when Guerrero Jr. became the first player to hit .400 or better at the Double-A or Triple-A level in more than a decade, the Blue Jays claimed this spring that he wasn’t ready for the major leagues.Guerrero’s .367/.424./.700 slash line in eight games this season in Triple-A seemed to give the Blue Jays a change of a heart, along with the fact that they control his bat through the 2025 season.2Fellow top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr., who broke camp with San Diego, is controlled through the 2024 season if he sticks in the majors. Now healthy and in the majors, the 20-year-old has superstar potential with an offensive profile that Baseball America claims is in the “mold of Manny Ramirez,” and the magazine says “it’s not out of the question that Guerrero could develop into an 80 hitter with 80 power.” An “80” scouting grade is rare, residing at the top of the 20-to-80 scouting scale.It’s not hyperbole to suggest that Guerrero Jr. is an incredibly rare talent. Since 2010, no teenager — and few players of any age, for that matter — did what he did in the upper levels of the minor leagues last season. The slugger had one of the highest marks ever in weighted runs created plus (wRC+) — a metric that measures offensive efficiency and accounts for a league’s run-scoring environment and ballparks. Guerrero Jr.2881,075.331.413.531.944 Source: The Baseball CUBE Guerrero Sr.2851,055.343.404.581.985
Carmelo Anthony raised eyebrows this week when he told ESPN’s Chris Broussard, “I think I’m the most underrated superstar that’s out there.”Oh, really?Anthony, who plays for the New York Knicks, is a devastating scorer and trails only Kevin Durant and LeBron James in points per game over the past five NBA seasons, but he’s also a polarizing player in the age of advanced analytics, which place increased emphasis on efficiency. While Anthony puts a lot of points on the board, he also takes a lot of shots. He’s one of the chief practitioners of the dreaded midrange jumper, a generally low-yield attempt that statheads have long decried as the worst kind of shot.These are some reasons why, depending on the statistic being employed, you could make the case that Anthony is one of the most overrated superstars in the NBA. Among the 12 players with at least four All-Star nods in the last five seasons, Anthony ranks 10th in Basketball-Reference.com’s Win Shares per 48 minutes, an advanced statistic that places a premium on offensive efficiency. (Similarly, economist David Berri’s Wins Produced model considers Anthony a well-below-average player over the course of his career.)But as FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver has written in the past — specifically when Anthony was a member of the Denver Nuggets — Anthony does in fact have a tendency to be underrated by advanced metrics that don’t properly value the positive influence he has on his teammates’ efficiency rates:What is missing from formulas [that focus heavily on efficiency] is an account of what Anthony does to the rest of the Nuggets. Because he is able to score from anywhere in the court, Anthony draws attention and defenders away from his teammates, sometimes leaving them with wide-open shots. He also allows them to be more selective about the shots that they choose to take, since they know that Anthony can usually get a respectable shot off before the 24-second clock expires if needed. … These effects produce a profound increase in the efficiency of Anthony’s supporting cast when he is on the floor.The in-between element of Anthony’s game may also open things up for his teammates. I’ve found evidence that, even after controlling for a player’s own rates of usage, shooting efficiency and assists, his tendency toward midrange attempts is a positive variable when predicting his on-court impact on overall team shooting and turnover percentages. Essentially, the more of a midrange game a player has (all else being equal), the more he helps his team shoot well and avoid giveaways. This is part of why Anthony shows up as the NBA’s 18th-best offensive player according to Real Plus-Minus (RPM), a statistic that estimates a player’s influence on team efficiency while on the floor.Having said all that, Anthony is far from the most underrated star in the game. He’s a big-time scorer playing in the most high-profile city in America. His placement in ESPN’s annual #NBARank straw poll typically exceeds his ranking in RPM. His contract pays him exactly what he’ll be worth, to the likely detriment of the Knicks going forward. Charitably speaking, Anthony might just be rated properly.The NBA’s true most underrated superstar is far more likely to be a player such as Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks; Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs, whose greatness is still not always fully appreciated; or LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trail Blazers, all of whom ranked highly in RPM a season ago but have not gotten commensurate respect in this year’s #NBARank voting.Perhaps realizing this, Anthony backed off from his earlier statements on Thursday: Anthony is right. He is who we think he is.
But some players matter just as much as the year or surface. The difference between Dustin Brown, the fastest player with at least 50 matches, and Nicolas Massu, the slowest, is 12.6 seconds per point — bigger than the difference between the slowest and fastest years, or slowest and fastest tournaments.7All the player data is relative to retired American Aaron Krickstein, again chosen because he came first in alphabetical order. Since he played slightly faster than average for his time, the regression output shows the average player as contributing time to matches, so is best used to compare players to each other, and not as an absolute number. I’m listing only players with findings significant at the p<0.02 level — a stricter standard than p<0.05 to be more confident in the findings, but not quite as strict as p<0.01, which eliminated many more players — both for matches they won and for those they lost. My method found different estimates for winners and losers, but they were highly correlated — r-squared = 0.76 — so I combined them to form a single measure for each player, weighting the two estimates by his number of wins and losses in the data set. That’s the estimate shown in the following table. We’ve posted pace estimates for 218 players and for 205 events on GitHub.This analysis isn’t only about how much time players take between points. The official stats don’t break out that number. A player can affect the pace of play both by how much time he takes between points — mainly when serving — and how much time it takes him to play a point. Players who are fast between points but engage in epic rallies during them — such as Monfils — don’t show up as outliers. Nadal, meanwhile, is slow between points and also plays many long rallies.To check what I was capturing, I went back to Little Data. Using my trusty smartphone stopwatch function, I timed how long 15 players took to serve at the French Open. Then I correlated the time they took between each serve with the time the analysis showed they add to the average point. The two quantities had a fairly high correlation, suggesting that the players who add time to matches do so at least in large part by adding time between points.8The 15 players were as follows: Faster than Aaron Krickstein: Nicolas Almagro, Roger Federer, Daniel Gimeno Traver, John Isner, Andrey Kuznetsov, Nick Kyrgios, Benoit Paire, Lukas Rosol, Bernard Tomic. Slower: Pablo Andujar, Carlos Berlocq, Borna Coric, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal. I measured time before 120 of their serves between Thursday and Saturday. They were playing on courts at the same facility, in roughly the same weather conditions. The r-squared for the correlation was 0.44. The serve speed data also is on GitHub.Playing slow puts players in good company. Some of the greatest players of all time do or did: Nadal, Djokovic and Murray join fellow multiple-Slam-winners Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier, Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe, who were all slow, albeit relative to their cohorts’ faster times. But slower players are only marginally better: There is essentially no correlation between career winning percentage and relative speed of play.9r-squared=0.01 Great players like Federer and 2001 Wimbledon champ Goran Ivanisevic played faster than average.My analysis assumed each player maintains the same pace throughout his career, but anyone can change his pace of play. To find out who has, I compared actual and expected pace for each match10By inserting the regression coefficients, so I was controlling for opponent, surface, year and other factors.:Nadal is vexed that time has become such a pressing topic lately. “I don’t know why but is very interesting that we are talking a lot about time the last three years,” he said in response to a question of mine at a news conference here at the French Open. “I have been on the tour for 13 years, so for the first 10 years I have been on the tour I don’t think I was quicker than now, and we were not talking about that.” Nadal was so peeved by one umpire’s enforcement of time rules earlier this year that he asked for the ump to be removed from his upcoming matches, a request that was granted.Murray knows sometimes he is too slow. “I don’t mean to do it,” he said. Then again, it’s hard to know when he’s taking too much time. “Are we supposed to spend the 25 seconds before you serve counting in your head to 25? No, you’re thinking about tactics or, you know, other things, what you’re about to do with the serve, where you’re going to play the serve. And, yeah, sometimes you can go too slow.”Since Murray and Nadal grew tired of all the time questions, I asked some of today’s fastest players why they push the pace. All of them said that’s always been their style.Australian Bernard Tomic said he plays fast deliberately. He told me that mixing up pace between points is another way to throw off opponents, like changing the speed or spin of the ball. “Everyone plays differently,” Tomic said. “That’s the weapon you have these days.”Lukas Rosol, a Czech player, and American Sam Querrey both said they like to get into a rhythm when serving. Waiting too long between points can break that up. Querrey gets annoyed when he has to wait too long to return, and he figures spectators do, too. “Sports that are popular are ones that have pretty good pace of play,” he said. Some players told The Washington Post they want the game sped up, such as by forcing servers to hit their first ball toss, no matter how errant.On Monday, during Nadal’s slow-paced match against Sock, I caught up with some more outliers among retired greats at a joint news conference to promote the seniors tournament. The ex-players’ sense of their own pace generally squared with the analysis.“I didn’t take any time,” said Ivanisevic, the 2001 Wimbledon champ. “I just liked to play fast.” He recalled playing Agassi, another fast player, in a five-setter that took two hours. He was a bit off, but the match was still pretty fast for a five-setter, taking two hours and 50 minutes. Ivanisevic has to watch a lot of tennis these days, as coach of defending U.S. Open champ Marin Cilic, and he wishes players would move faster. “Maybe they should go to the towel just half the time,” he said.Michael Chang, the 1989 French Open champ, correctly guessed that he was somewhere in between Ivanisevic and Nadal in pace. He doesn’t blame Nadal: “A guy like Rafa, he sweats profusely,” Chang said.So did Pat Cash, the 1987 Wimbledon champ. “I was one of the sweatiest players in the history of the game,” he said. He also often ended points at the net, so he needed time to walk back to the baseline. Nonetheless, he used to rush as a young player, until he was taught to slow down — so slow, he was one of the slowest players, relative to his era.Cash thinks that the sport, with its protracted baseline rallies, is better today, and that there’s nothing wrong with players taking a 30-second break after a rally at least that long. “Spectators have got to catch their breath,” he said. Nine-time French Open champ Rafael Nadal is one of the slowest players of the last 25 years. Roger Federer is faster than average. Novak Djokovic is slower than average — but has gotten faster. Andy Murray, on the other hand, has slowed down.I’m not talking about foot speed, or about the speed of the ball off the racket. I’m talking about how long it takes to play a point of tennis. Like baseball, tennis isn’t bound by a clock, but it does keep time. A match isn’t over until one player wins two sets or three. And who the players are goes a long way to deciding how long it takes to go from start to finish.The topic has been especially urgent at this year’s French Open, which lacks a roof and floodlights and must squeeze in play between darkness and rain. If Djokovic and Murray played slightly faster, they might have finished their semifinal Friday. Instead the match was suspended at 3-3 in the fourth set because of an imminent storm at around 8:30 p.m. local time. That will force the winner of the match to play three days in a row, which could be a disadvantage in the final.For an illustration of how much pace matters, consider two four-set matches that finished Monday in Paris. Speedy Roger Federer finished off relatively fast Gael Monfils in two hours and 12 minutes, taking 36 seconds per point. Rafael Nadal’s defeat of Jack Sock, on the other hand, required two fewer points but 41 more minutes; it took 47 seconds per point. All those seconds add up fast.1The Federer match was much faster than Nadal’s even though it had more long rallies: 36 of nine or more shots, compared with 27 in the Nadal match.Before just about every serve, Nadal went through most parts of his usual ritual: He cleaned the baseline with his foot, tapped his shoes with his racket to knock the clay off, rejected one of the three balls he was offered, bounced one of the others with his racket while with his right hand he picked at the back of his shorts, dried his face and the area behind his ears, rubbed his hand on his shirt, rocked back and forth — and served. When he missed the first serve, he did some of the same things on his second serve, including picking at the back of his shorts and rocking back and forth.Players are allowed no more than 20 seconds between serves at Grand Slams225 seconds at ATP World Tour events; if they exceed that threshold twice and are called for it, they lose a first serve. Some players stretch and shrink the time as a tactic to rest or throw off opponents.Over several games and sets, slower play can add 15 minutes or more to a match, throwing off television schedules and testing the patience of fans. It matters enough to the ATP, which runs the men’s tour, that it cracked down on slow play two years ago by enforcing the rules more strictly. Then again, thrilling long rallies take longer and create longer breaks in between, so a slowdown could be a good sign for the sport.I’ve studied the question of what determines the length of a match before, using Little Data: stopwatching the time between a few hundred points, correlating with rally length and other factors. But now we have easy access to big data in tennis. Analyst Jeff Sackmann has posted to GitHub match stats for the last 25 years of the men’s tour. (Match stats for the women’s tour aren’t available.3The WTA, which runs the women’s tour, hasn’t cracked down on slow play like the ATP has with the men. And the men notice. Just after the ATP became stricter, in early 2013, men and women both played an Australian Open warmup event in Brisbane. Andy Murray recalled in a news conference last week that men timed women’s matches and complained that 35-second delays weren’t being penalized, while men were dinged for going two seconds over their limit.) There are nearly 25 years of matches in there — 71,027 in all,4The database was updated through April 27 when I downloaded it. Tennis data is imperfect, including some errors in the historical record. I scrapped all matches with no time info, plus other oddballs (including matches with stats that looked wrong, like a handful of matches with points that averaged less than 15 seconds or more than six and a half minutes). and enough variables for us to tease out which factors have the biggest effect on how long matches take. Like I did last year with baseball games, I ran a regression to see how each of a match’s building blocks affects how long it takes, per point.5I used R. The dependent variable was time divided by points. The variables I included started with the breakdown of points in the match, by type. More precisely, these variables were the percentage of points that were followed by: changeovers after the first game of a set, when there is no prolonged break; changeovers later in sets, with longer breaks; ends of sets; end of matches by one player winning the requisite number of sets; end of matches by retirement; end of matches by default; all other ends of games; tiebreaker changeovers, when players switch side in tiebreakers, after each six points; tiebreaker changes of serve, after an odd number of points; and all other tiebreaker points. I also included four groups of dummy variables: the year of the match; the tournament-surface (treating Madrid’s clay tournament separately from the old Madrid hard-court event and from Rome’s clay event); the winner; and the loser. (We’ve uploaded part of my findings on Github for all to see.)In the early 1990s, the era in which Pete Sampras served-and-volleyed to success and Andre Agassi rushed from one side of the court to the other between serves, the game sped up. Then, starting in the late 1990s, as play shifted to baseline battles, it slowed down — until 2012, when the average point took 4.6 seconds longer than in 1991, all else equal. That doesn’t sound like much, but it amounts to 19 extra minutes over 250 points, a typical number for a best-of-five-set match.In 2012, the five-set Australian Open final between Nadal and Djokovic took five hours and 53 minutes, and raised cries for the game to speed up. The next year, the ATP answered by encouraging umpires to call time violations more strictly — and it appears to have worked. That year play sped up by 2.6 seconds per point, and it has remained roughly at that level since.Surface matters, too. The four fastest tournaments were on grass — with Wimbledon the fastest. The 11 slowest were on clay. Grass encourages the fastest rallies in the sport, which take less time and require less recovery. Clay is at the other extreme.6Because of the nature of the regression, I had to choose one event to serve as the benchmark for all others. So I went with the first one listed when the events were lined up in alphabetical order. All the speed data is relative to data from 1998 to 2007 for ‘s-Hertogenbosch, a grass tournament in the Netherlands. Since it’s played on a relatively fast surface, the regression output shows the average tournament as contributing time to matches, so is best used to compare tournaments to each other, and not as an absolute number. Also note that some of the names were formatted inconsistently, so a few tournaments appear more than once, covering different time periods. That doesn’t affect our findings for other types of variables.
Ohio State freshman running back J.K. Dobbins (2) runs the ball in for a touchdown in the third quarter of the 2017 OSU- Army game in Ohio Stadium on Sep. 16. OSU won 38-7. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorFreshman running back J.K. Dobbins again made it known early on that he was going to have a major impact on the success of Ohio State’s offense.After his first play of the game netted the team six yards, he carried the ball 36 yards three plays later to set his team up inside the red zone.The rest of the game, it was more of the same as Dobbins continued to run all over the Army defense en route to a 172-yard game, spread out over just 13 carries and notching two of the team’s five touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ 38-7 victory over the Black Knights.“He’s a perfect tailback. He’s a space player that we need,” coach Urban Meyer said. Though Dobbins finished the game with eye-popping numbers, it took the offense a while to put the ball in his hands. The first-year running back finished the first half with just seven rushes for 63 yards, though he did make one rush count as it went for a 2-yard touchdown.Ohio State freshman running back J.K. Dobbins (2) celebrates with senior offensive linebacker Jamarco Jones (74) after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter of the 2017 OSU- Army game in Ohio Stadium on Sep. 16. OSU won 38-7. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorBut he kicked off the third quarter with a bang, carrying the first handoff of the team’s first second-half drive 22 yards to Ohio State’s 48-yard line before taking the next handoff 52 yards to the house to cap off the drive to put the Buckeyes ahead 24-7.To Dobbins, the run required just as much effort from him as it did from his teammates.“I saw that my teammates were blocking very well for me, and then I just had to beat one person,” Dobbins said. “I kind of pride myself on beating the first person that gets there to me, so it was off to the races after that.”This type of production is hardly anything new for the true freshman.This season, he has totalled 425 yards on 55 carries (7.72 average yards per carry) with six rushes going for at least 20 yards. His first game broke an Ohio State record for most yards by a true freshman in his debut game, and his 13.2 average yards per carry against Army was a higher single-game average than former Buckeye running back Ezekiel Elliott averaged in any game.With hot starts and impressive stat lines being a regular occurrence, it comes as no surprise Dobbins has been compared to the current Dallas Cowboys’ star, but nonetheless, Dobbins has been humbled by the praise.“Zeke, he’s a legend here, and he’s such a great player. And you know, before I came here, I wanted to be like Zeke,” Dobbins said. “I knew I’d get a good start, but I didn’t know it was going to be like this.”Ohio State redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) hands the ball to freshman running back J.K. Dobbins (2) in the first quarter of the 2017 OSU- Army game on Sep. 16. OSU won 38-7. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorHow much the offense sees from Dobbins still remains somewhat of a mystery. Though redshirt sophomore Mike Weber has been held to only seven carries for 42 yards due to a lingering hamstring injury, he has continued to be listed as the co-starting running back on the team’s weekly depth chart and has been seen frequently running pre-game drills with the starters. Regardless of who is slotted in as the top running back for the team, wide receiver Terry McLaurin said he feels confident that Dobbins will make the most of any role he is used in and will continue to be a boost to the offense.“He’s that home run hitter that you want back there,” McLaurin said. “Him and Mike are a great one-two punch and you know if you do your job on the perimeter, he’s going to make one guy miss and he’s going to turn on the jets and do what he does and we’re just excited to have him on our side.”
Ohio State cheerleaders and rowers hold a punch pose after they raced on the Scioto River in September. Credit: Courtesy of Kyler HollandThe race was close — but only for a moment. Not long after it began, the Ohio State rowing team glided past the other boat in the water, building a lead with each harmonious sweep of the oar. In the other boat, with less harmony, were members of the Ohio State cheer team. As the distance between the two vessels on the Scioto River grew wider, the obvious became, well, even more obvious: the rowing team was not going to lose this race against the cheer team.Then again, the reason the cheerleaders — one wearing a wrestling singlet, another wearing a Cleveland Browns’ Johnny Manziel jersey and yellow football pants with one knee pad — found themselves in a boat at 7:45 a.m. on Sept. 1 was never really about who would win. As senior cheerleader Axel Halvarson put it, it’s about “inter-team bonding.” “You always walk around campus and you see the book bags of athletes, but you don’t really want to say ‘Hi’ to them, because it’s like, ‘I don’t know you, but I’m an athlete too. You’re an athlete and we’re not talking,’ so this kind of bridges that gap,” said Carter Marsch, a senior cheerleader. There aren’t any deep fissures within the athletic department, but, as senior rower Chelsea Harpool said, “We all have our own practices and everything. We don’t really interact much,” so athletes often look forward to chances to hang out across teams. And so far, the race has accomplished what it sought to do. “It’s been super fun since then because a lot of people on our team and the cheer team that were part of it know each other now,” Harpool said. “We see each other all the time in French [Fieldhouse] or just around the different athletic facilities just to catch up.” The stage for the race was set over the summer when Harpool talked with cheerleader Kyler Holland while hanging out with a fellow members of Athletes In Action, a campus ministry group. Holland mentioned a video he made of his teammates competing against the Ohio State women’s volleyball team in the spring — the first time the cheerleaders competed against other Buckeye athletes — to Harpool, and told her how fun it would be to do something similar against the rowing team. Harpool mentioned the idea to her coach, Andy Teitelbaum, the next day, and he was on board with the idea. The race was the morning after the Ohio State football team’s first game against Indiana, and, because it had to happen before speed boats began creating wakes on the river, it meant three things. One, the four cheerleaders who were at the game in Bloomington, Indiana, the night before were running on little sleep. Two, the rowing team had to move its regularly scheduled warmups from about 6:20 a.m. to 5 a.m., so it was also running on little sleep. And three, there wasn’t a lot of time for the cheerleaders to learn how to actually row the boat. Learning to make sure the oar enters the water perpendicular is hardly the problem (though that’s nothing to sneeze at, either). The real difficulty comes when all eight people get in the boat and have to row in harmony, a fact the cheerleaders learned quickly. “They’re all in sync moving, and then you see us and everybody is all over the place,” Halvarson said laughing. “If we’d gone again, like another day after everybody learned, I think we might’ve done better. We still wouldn’t have won, but we would’ve at least looked better.” Harpool didn’t dispute that. She said the cheerleaders had about 15 minutes in the boat before the race started. Usually, Harpool said, “most people that are actually being taught to row have weeks of building up with different skillsets before they actually row with all eight people in the boat.” “We’ve never really thrown someone in a boat with very minimal explanation and been like, ‘You just have a few minutes. Figure it out,’” she said. “I don’t think any of us knew what to expect, but they got the boat moving pretty well there by the end.” The race likely isn’t the end of the cheerleaders challenging other teams in their sports. Of course, it always depends on logistics, and Halvarson said it is easiest to arrange when teams aren’t amid their competitive season, which was the case with volleyball and rowing. Currently, Halvarson said the cheerleaders are trying to set something up with the rifle team. And after men’s soccer senior defender Niall Logue overheard Marsch talking about the rowing race in a class they have together, Logue asked to exchange phone numbers so they could try to organize a competition between teams. Plus, Harpool said the cheerleaders’ two cross-sport adventures were brought up at a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee meeting, and “it seemed like everybody across the board loved the concept of switching sports for a day or trying to compete against other teams.” “Everybody is really pumped about the idea and wants to see more of it,” she said, which means, despite the gaps between the rowers and cheerleaders on the water, the cheerleaders appear to be on their way to getting their wish — seeing any remaining social gaps continue to close.
Half of parents do not allow children to spend their own pocket money on digital downloads, figures show, amid concerns about “inappropriate content”.New research shows that 91 per cent of children with mobile phones own a smartphone and nearly two thirds (63 per cent) own a tablet.But parents’ rules are not always effective as the figures show that more than eight in 10 (85 per cent) of children are downloading from the internet, with games and apps being the most popular downloads, followed by music and then films.The research, by Halifax, shows that concerns about “inappropriate content” and overspending are the top worries that stop parents from letting their children spend money on downloading content on to smartphones and tablets. Parents can use this as an opportunity to educate them on the real costs of downloadsGiles Martin, Halifax With the vast majority of children saying their parents pay their mobile phone bills, a third of parents worry that their children are overspending online, with 39 per cent of fathers concerned compared to 26 per cent of mothers.The survey, of 1,202 children aged between eight and 15, found that more than eight in 10 said it was the responsibility of the parents to pay their phone bills, while only one in 10 said it was up to them to pay it.Giles Martin, head of Halifax Savings, believes parents can use the concept of online downloads as a way to teach their children about money management.He said: “Whilst spending on ‘virtual’ items could give kids the impression of not involving ‘real’ money, parents can use this as an opportunity to educate them on the real costs of downloads.”Discussing with children how to best use their pocket money can be a simple and effective way to teach kids the basics of money management and equip them with important budgeting skills for the future.”Smart devices have massively overtaken the most popular gadgets of just a few years ago. Now only a third of children own an iPod, and less than a quarter have an MP3 player. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
The strike,set to start at 8am on September 12, will involve a total withdrawal of labour, including from accident and emergency, paediatric and maternity units.The renewed flare-up of the bitter dispute hits the NHS as it faces mounting pressure, with waiting times increasing and providers threatening to suspend non-urgent treatment in order to balance their books.In May it looked as though a breakthrough had been reached in the dispute after both sides agreed to a new deal following six rounds of industrial action.But the agreement was subsequently rejected in a referendum of junior doctors, prompting Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, to say he would begin imposing the May deal regardless. Dr McCourt also reiterated the BMA’s criticism of Mr Hunt’s pledge to create a “seven-day NHS”, saying the Government could not answer how it would fund extra weekend care.But Danny Mortimer, the chief executive of NHS Employers, said the proposed action was “extreme in its scale and timing” and “shows scant regard for patients”.Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Department of Health said: “The BMA must be the first union in history to call for strike action against a deal they themselves negotiated and said was a good one.“Whilst there are many pressures on the frontline, funding is at record levels, with the highest number of doctors employed in the history of the NHS.” The BMA must be the first union in history to call for strike action against a deal they themselves negotiated and said was a good oneDepartment of Health Junior doctors will stage the first national five-day strike in the history of the NHS next month in protest over their pay, the British Medical Association (BMA) has announcedThe doctors’ union was last night accused of “militancy” and playing politics at the expense of patient safety as it threatened a rolling programme of industrial action going into the winter if the Government refused to back down. Jeremy Hunt decided to impose the contract after the deal was rejected in a referendumCredit:Neil Hall Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Andrew Haldenby, director of the public services think tank Reform, said there was “no reasonable grounds” for escalating industrial action because doctors are divided and the strike vote took place last year”.“The BMA has every right to stand up for its members but militancy won’t persuade anyone,” he said.The BMA has not said when further strikes will take place or when they will confirm the dates.However, in a message on social media Dr McCourt said she would ask the BMA council to endorse a five-day all-out strike once a month for the rest of the year.Were that to take place it is estimated that around a million out-patient appointments and 250,000 operations would be cancelled. The BMA has previously argued that the proposed new terms and conditions will be bad for patient care.However, it is understood that Mr Hunt and the new chairman of the union’s Junior Doctor’s Committee, Ellen McCourt, had narrowed the remaining outstanding issues to those of weekend pay and pay for part-time workers.Last night, Dr McCourt said: “We have a simple ask of the Government: stop the imposition.“It if it agrees to do this, junior doctors will call off industrial action.“This is not a situation junior doctors wanted to find themselves in.“We want to resolve this dispute through talks, but in forcing through a contract that junior doctors have rejected and which they don’t believe is good for them or their patients, the Government has left them with no other choice.”