BOZICH | Monday Muse: Tabloid D'Angelo; Burdi hits 104 mph; More love for WKU football
D'Angelo Russell can't escape the tabloids, Iggy and Nick. Zack Burdi hits 104 mph. Juwan Morgan gets healthy at Indiana. Western Kentucky football reloads.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The NBA is giving away money. College football is about a month away. Former Louisville and Butler High star Adam Duvall will learn if he is a member of the National League All-Star team Tuesday night.
I could go on. Instead, I’ll skip any forced Fourth of July references and get directly to the red, white and blue edition of the Monday Muse.
1. Tabloid D’Angelo
Former Louisville Central High School star D’Angelo Russell has discovered the most difficult part of playing for the Los Angeles Lakers is not trying to be the next Magic Johnson or Kobe Bryant.
It’s trying to stay out of the tabloid headlines.
Good luck. It’s not happening for Russell this summer.
Not with Russell cashing in on his cell phone video dust-up with Lakers’ teammate Nick Young by filming a commercial for Foot Locker that ends with Russell taking the phone from rookie Ben Simmons and tossing it into the ocean.
In the gossip world, Russell isn’t known for averaging 13.2 points as the Lakers’ rookie point guard. He’s known for contributing to the breakup of Young and his fiancé, rapper Iggy Azalea by recording Young talking about other women.
You know where the tabloids are taking this story. One posted a story that claimed Russell sent flowers to Azalea after the breakup. Another swatted that down. Another, HollywoodLife.com, posted a piece that said Russell no longer feels responsible for the breakup.
Nobody is talking about Russell’s improved jump shot or how his game will fit with Lakers’ draft pick Brandon Ingram.
What does Russell say?
His most interesting post on Twitter last week said simply this:
“Not gone lie some of these teams gone be cold on 2k.”
Fire up the PlayStation.
2. Rajon Rondo Gets Paid
Russell was not the only former local prep star who made news in the NBA. Rajon Rondo bounced into the headlines Sunday night by signing a two-year contract with the Bulls worth a reported $28 million. (Rondo, for the record, played at Eastern, not Central, as I posted earlier. The connection with coach Doug Bibby tricked me again.)
It was a nice reward for the bounce back performance Rondo delivered in Sacramento last season, months after he was traded by Boston and then informed that he was no longer needed in Dallas.
Not everybody was gaga about the deal.
Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver gave the Bulls an “F” for making the move, citing Rondo’s diminishing skills on defense, his struggles as a shooter and his problems playing nice with others.
This Tweet about the Bulls and returning star Jimmy Butler, by ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, was not much sweeter:
“Jimmy Butler said it was him or Derrick Rose. Good luck with this one, Jimmy.”
At least Rondo got paid.
3. Zack Burdi Blazes
Former University of Louisville closer Zack Burdi made his fifth appearance in the Chicago White Sox farm system last week. Burdi pitched for Winston-Salem, the Sox team in the High A Carolina League, three steps from the majors.
He faced three batters. He retired three batters, one via strikeout.
How hard did Burdi throw? According to an unconfirmed report by John Furmaniak, Burdi’s agent, Burdi delivered one pitch clocked at 104 mph.
Hey, even if it was only 103 or 102, that works.
In six minor-league innings, Burdi has struck out five without walking anybody, allowing seven hits and three earned runs. He has allowed one home run.
With the White Sox down three right-handers in the bullpen because of injuries, Burdi could earn a call to the big leagues in September.
Especially at 104 mph.
4. A.J. Reed Goes Deep
Burdi is hardly the only former local college star to track from this area. Former Kentucky national player of the year A.J. Reed has arrived in the major leagues with the Astros.
Reed has quickly discovered the American League isn’t the Southeastern Conference or even the Pacific Coast League.
He’s managed a single and home run in 22 bats for a batting average of .091.
On Saturday, Reed delivered his first big league home run off White Sox closer David Robertson. On Sunday, with runners on second and third and the opportunity to deliver a game-tying home run, Reed struck out on a slow curveball from Robertson to end the game.
It’s a process. The Astros love Reed’s bat and skill set as outlined in this story from the Houston Chronicle.
5. Juwan Morgan Healthy Again
I visited Bloomington last week for the final session of Tom Crean’s basketball camp. Renovations to Assembly Hall remain on schedule. The Hoosiers have several players dealing with minor injuries. Freshman De’Ron Davis and Freddie McSwain, a junior college transfer, will not report until later this month.
But two guys were impressive – sophomores OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan.
Anunoby showed a solid three-point stroke from the corners and the wings while developing the most explosive lower body on the team. IU graduate assistant Derek Elston said Anunoby has upgraded his outside stroke as he works on his ball-handling. He was making shots from the NBA three-point line -- on catch-and-shoot as well as off-the-dribble situations. The Shot Doctor, assistant coach Tim Buckley, appeared pleased.
Morgan participated in all the drills, no longer wearing a protective brace on his surgically repaired left shoulder. Crean has discussed using Morgan as a ball-handler on the perimeter, similar to the role Troy Williams played the last three seasons. Morgan showed a solid left hand and improved shooting touch. He has a good first step as well as the ability to use either hand. Buckley also worked with Morgan.
“Having Juwan healthy and able to work all summer will be like adding an elite recruit,” Crean said.
Not much to say about other guys. The four-player workout group featured Anunoby, Morgan, Collin Hartman and Tim Priller. But it was interesting to note that after the four-man workout finished, Anunoby and center Thomas Bryant lingered for more work.
"Those two guys live in (Cook Hall)," one IU assistant coach said.
6. Heisman Hot Sheet
It’s never too early to start striking the pose. The guys in Las Vegas are ready (they’re always ready) with the early odds for the 2016 Heisman Trophy.
I thought the player to beat would be Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. His team played for the national championship last season and the Tigers are a reasonable pick to return to the four-team playoff this season. He’s a consensus pick as the best quarterback in the game.
Vegas disagreed. Watson slipped to the second spot at 5-to-1 odds. He was replaced by Louisiana State running back Leonard Fournette, who was the early leader in 2015 before fading in the final month. Fournette is listed at 9-to-2.
Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, the 2015 winner of the Paul Hornung Award, is a nice price at 11-2.
7. More Love For Brohm & Hilltoppers
Western Kentucky football coach Jeff Brohm learned long ago from Howard Schnellenberger that players come from anywhere and everywhere. Small schools. Friends of friends. The transfer wire.
Athlon Sports ranked the Top 100 transfers in college football for the 2016 season.
Guess which program has four guys on the list?
Brohm and WKU.
Three of the four are expected to start while the fourth still has to earn the position at quarterback. The list features:
*Former Wake Forest tight end Steve Donatell (ranked 95th).
*Former Louisville defensive lineman Nick Dawson-Brents (72nd).
*Former U of L linebacker Keith Brown (40th).
*Former South Florida quarterback Mike White (12th).
8. The Baseball Whisperer
It’s always nice to recognize an old friend.
I knew Mike Tackett was on his way to doing big things from the day he worked with me on the sports staff at The Anderson (Ind.) Bulletin. I was just out of college. He was a senior at Anderson High School.
But he had the writing and reporting skills as well as the drive to succeed. And succeed he has from the Chicago Tribune to Bloomberg News to the New York Times, where he works in the Washington D.C. bureau.
Tackett has always been a baseball guy, too, one of the few Chicago Cubs’ fans I’m willing to tolerate (I’m kidding, at least a little.) He has expressed his love of the game in a wonderful way, delivering this book:
“The Baseball Whisperer: A Small-Town Coach Who Shaped Big League Dreams.” (Amazon link.)
It is the story of Merl Eberly, a summer-league coach in Iowa who helped develop more than 300 players who have signed professional contracts, including Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.
Every summer players from around the nation reported to Clarinda, Iowa to learn how to hit with two strikes and turn the double play. Eberly taught them that – and much more.
Sounds like a movie to me, Mike.
9. Jenkins on Summit
I did not have the privilege of knowing Pat Summitt, the Tennessee coach who did more to showcase and sell women’s basketball than any coach in the game.
But Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post did.
Summitt died last week, about four years after she retired to confront Alzheimer’s, an unforgiving disease that attacks the memory and personality.
Jenkins attended the funeral in Central Tennessee last week and wrote this superb tribute to her friend. (The link.) You should read it.
10. Poll Results
A sports book in Las Vegas has listed Louisville as an 18-point favorite against Kentucky for their November game at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Are you taking the points and UK or giving them and taking Louisville?
Give the points and taking Louisville 70.7 percent
Taking the points and Kentucky 29.3 percent
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