THREE TIMES THE CHARM

THREE TIMES THE CHARM

Jamaican Observer (from left: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shericka Jackson)
The sprint factory of the world has done it again! The little Caribbean island of Jamaica made a clean sweep of the medals at the Tokyo Olympics after Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Shericka Jackson got the gold, silver, and bronze respectively in the 100-meter event on Saturday. Thompson-Herah won in a personal best, a national record, and an Olympic Record of 10.61 seconds, lowering the mark set by American Florence Griffith-Joyner of 10.62. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the most decorated female sprinter of history, secured the silver medal in 10.74 seconds with 2019 400 meter bronze medalist Shericka Jackson copping bronze in 10.76 seconds.

A clean sweep of the medals in any race is unprecedented at any level, and to do it at the pinnacle of athletics is special, but haven’t we seen this before? Beijing, 2008, the Jamaican women did it then as Kerron Stewart (10.98), Sherone Simpson (10.98), and the aforementioned Fraser-Pryce, then Fraser (10.78) led the way in the event 13 years ago. It was a fantastic moment as it was actually 1-2-2 because Simpson and Stewart could not be separated by time.

Olympic Website (From left: Shelly-Ann Fraser, Kerron Stewart, Sherone Simpson)

Seeing how brilliant female sprinting has been for Jamaica, it would be criminal to not remind everyone of London 2012 when Warren Weir (19.84 seconds) in 3rd, Yohan Blake (19.44 seconds) in 2nd, and the outstanding Usain Bolt (19.32 seconds) took the clean sweep of the 200-meter event. I still remember that day when there was a viewing party at Half Way Tree square in the capital of St.Andrew and while the spectators were celebrating a man took the mic and said “Half Way Tree was the place to be to see the history of 1-2-3.”

Telegraph (from left: Warren Weir, Usain Bolt, and Yohan Blake)
Congratulations again to Thompson-Herah for defending her Olympic title from 2016, to Fraser-Pryce to show that age is just a number, and to Shericka Jackson for her courageous step from the mile event to the sprints, and Happy “Emanci-pendence” (Emancipation and Independence) to Jamaicans everywhere around the globe.
What Went Wrong?

What Went Wrong?

From Left: Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Chris Paul (Getty Images)
After my previous article, I ended on a cliffhanger ready to discuss the reasons the Suns blew it instead of the Bucks turning on the class. Yes, I said blew it because after taking a 2-0 lead, Phoenix should not have gotten “sun-burnt” for the other 4 games of the NBA Finals!

The Suns had a 2-0 lead leaving Arizona and entering the deer’s cage in Wisconsin. After they were blown out by 20 points in game 3 heads sunk and morale dropped after such a humiliating defeat. They picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and blew a 6 point lead after the 3rd quarter to be defeated 109-103 with Khris Middleton putting up 40 points.

Now we all know that Giannis scored 42 and 50 in games 5 and six respectively, but that is not what should take the highlights; Devin Booker’s inept defending should. Yeah, he did score back-to-back 40 point games, however, his defending or lack-there-of was what ultimately costed the Suns. Booker was tasked with guarding his opposite number Jrue Holiday and it was the latter who was more successful. Holiday held the 24-year-old to 0-7 from 3 point range in the decisive game six.

Speaking about Holiday, he was the key to the Bucks breaking their 50-year drought for an NBA title. Everyone with eyes could see that a more composed and defensive guard was needed to help Giannis and Middleton to get over the hump. Jrue came in from the Pelicans in 2020 and signed a 4 year, $134 million contract extension with Milwaukee after their win against the Sacramento Kings and is viable if he exercises his 5th-year option in his current contract that they took on from the Pelicans. Don’t get me wrong I believe, no I know, that Jrue Holiday is one of if not the best defensive guard in the NBA, but his performances against Brooklyn were all but worth every penny and I was one to question the decision.

Monty Williams consoling Devin Booker (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)
Back to my original point of this follow-up, what went wrong was the mentality, the desire, and the fight. Monty Williams lost to Mike Budenholzer who in my opinion is the most overrated coach in the NBA behind Frank Vogel of course. The Suns were indisciplined as well as Crowder and Bridges were constantly in foul trouble through games 3-6 costing the team valuable points in those games. Monty, who I thought was a bit over his depth going into the finals is 0-3 when his teams are facing the eight ball. That record cannot build morale in a championship-chasing dressing room. This also leaves a heap of unanswered questions which would have been answered if the Suns would’ve won.

Will Ayton get his max extension? The Bahamian was the 2nd best Centre in the playoffs baring Joel Embiid even though it was his first-ever appearance, and who could forget that last-second slam against the Clippers in game two of the conference finals. It would be in the Suns’ best interest to keep this superstar with Devin Booker to build a legacy for the future. And the contract situation, with Chris Paul, Mikal Bridges, and Cameron Payne just to name a few out of a contract, what will the Phoenix team look like for the upcoming season? All that is definitive is Booker will be there and they would want to remain competitive for many years to come.

BUCKS IN 6

BUCKS IN 6

Photo Credit: USA TODAY (Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo)
After 50 years of anguish, 50 years of agony, 50 years of despair, finally you must now Fear the Deer. The Milwaukee Bucks ended their 50-year drought for an NBA title as they defeated the Phoenix Suns 105-98 in game 6 in the NBA Finals on Tuesday. The Budenholzer coached Bucks have reached the pinnacle of the NBA for the first time since Kareem “Sky-hook” Abdul-Jabbar led them to the title in April 1971.

The Bucks were led by the best player in the world Giannis Antetokounmpo with a staggering 50 points and 14 rebounds. Even though he made most headlines for the fifty-piece he scored, and he ordered from Chick-Fil-A, it was Jrue Holiday who was the deciding factor, putting on a monstrous defensive performance to restrict Suns G Devin Booker to just 19 points and shooting 0 of 7 from 3-point range.

Holiday also contributed heavily on the offensive end as he delivered 27 points and 13 assists to help carry the Bucks to their milestone. The unsung heroes of the finals who won’t get the plaudits are Bobby Portis Jr. who stepped up heavily from the Conference Finals when the “Greek Freak” injured his knee. Portis averaged 7.7 points in the finals including 16 in the series clincher. Khris Middleton, the Robin to Giannis’ Batman, scored only eleven points in game six, however his clutch shot with under a minute to go when it seemed the Suns were making an unprecedented comeback, to put the Bucks back up by 6 and virtually seal the game.

Photo Credit: Mark J. Terrill ( (From Left) Chris Paul #3, Coach Monty Williams, Jae Crowder #99, Devin Booker #1)
Within all the euphoria of the Larry O’Brien trophy coming to Wisconsin, fingers were pointed on the Suns, not for losing to a masterful MVP and his role players, but the way Phoenix blew a 2-0 series lead in one of the biggest times of each of those players career. It could be down to Devin Booker who was virtually a non-existent player when it came to the defending, Jae Crowder who was always in foul trouble early in the game, or it could be down to NBA Awarded “coach of the year” Monty Williams who is 0-3 when his teams are facing elimination. Enough said I must say congratulations to the Milwaukee Bucks for winning the 2021 NBA Championship and for showing that you don’t need a super team to achieve success.
Title Contenders?

Title Contenders?

Getty (Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer)
After going unbeaten away from home for the entirety of the Premier League season in the 2020/21 season, and finishing in the top 4 for the first time consecutively since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United look to press ahead with a long-awaited title charge for the upcoming 2021/22 season. The “away-leg Kings” came from behind to gain positive results in 12 games last season, including 10 wins, the most in the Premier League. Ole’s men also lost the joint-fewest games and scored the second-most goals in the league last season (6 losses, 73 goals).

In the off-season where some players went out on international duty, whether it is with the European Championships or with the Copa America in South America, the Red Devils were actively pursuing players to put them back on the pinnacle of English football. During the months of June and July, United wasted no time by agreeing to an €85 million ($100 million) deal for 21-year-old winger Jadon Sancho.

@FabrizioRomano via Twitter
The Englishman was sought after by Manchester United ever since he was 17 playing for local rivals Manchester City, who were reluctant to allow their rivals to receive one of their players. Sancho was instead sold to Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga for $4.7 million. The bright young sensation lit up the Signal Iduna Park during his 4 years there having 114 goal contributions (50 goals/64 assists) in 150 games for the club. A signing of this magnitude for United has created shock waves through the world of football, seeing as they have Marcus Rashford on the Left-hand side, Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani through the middle, and as described by pundit Rio Ferdinand “it’s madness” to have that much talent.
SkySports (Raphael Varane)
If you thought the madness was over from the Old Trafford-based club was over, it is yet to begin. Reports out of Spain saying that Manchester United is close to agreeing to a fee for World Cup-winning central defender Raphael Varane from Real Madrid for around €50 million. The French defender who has won everything there is in world football, arguably one of the best defenders of this generation has one year left on his contract and has rejected a renewal effort from “Los Blancos”.

A Word from the defender’s entourage is that he would like to “try something new” and feels “disrespected” by the offer Real has put on the table. They also state that a deal is close to being agreed to see that personal terms, agent fees, and bonuses are already worked out. A defense with England’s best defender Harry Maguire partnered with France’s best defender and there is a nightmare for attacking players.

@ManUtd (Marcus Rashford)
Taking a break from the incomings at the club and focus a bit more on some core players who made the team finish 2nd last season. Marcus Rashford made his debut for Manchester United in 2016 and since then he’s become one of the best players at the club. Since then he has gone on to make 271 appearances, scoring 88 goals and contributing 56 assists as well. Rashy played the majority of last season with a shoulder problem, still scoring 23 goals last season, which he has finally tended to, now listed to be out until late October. United is hopeful they get their prized player back earlier than listed.
Teamtalk.com (Paul Pogba (left) celebrated his goal)
A player whose future is up in the air is French superstar midfielder Paul Pogba. “La Pioche” enjoyed one of his most fruitful seasons since coming back to United from Juventus in 2016, scoring some glorious goals including a cracking volley against Burnley that kept United top of the league.

He as well as Varane are entering their last year on their respective contracts, however, it is the defender looking to be a Red next season. Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola is trying to orchestrate his removal from the Old Trafford outfit to clubs such as Juventus, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and PSG, which is proving difficult because of the financial issues the clubs face. Ole would love to keep Pogba to go along with Portuguese “magnifico” Bruno Fernandes, but we should see resolutions in the coming weeks.
Going into the new season, United are genuine title contenders because of the acquisitions that they have made so far, and if they can make the others which they are linked with completing (Trippier, Varane, Camavinga, Rice) and keeping their core players together. Bruno Fernandes, the Portuguese midfielder had an outstanding season last term scoring 18 goals and registering 12 assists in the league. Such a fruitful campaign can only get better seeing it was only his first full season in England.

Others who Ole would be looking at to kick on next season would be Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, and Luke Shaw. “El Matador” (Cavani) scored an audacious chipped effort versus Fulham in the final home game of the season to go along with his other 16 goals. Greenwood had 12 goals, Martial underwhelmingly had 7 goals and 5 assists, Pogba had 6 goals and 6 assists, and Luke Shaw created 84 chances and had 6 assists.

Positional Change?

Positional Change?

Photo Credit: Sky
His last appearance for the Philadelphia 76ers, Ben Simmons had only 5 points in the entire game as a point guard. During this series, he had a 33% free throw percentage, which is the lowest of someone who has had at least 70 free throw attempts. These stats for a point guard are unimaginably low and begs the question; should Ben Simmons undergo a positional change?

The 6ft. 11” man from Australia signed a supermax contract in 2019 for $170 million coming off of his best shooting season percentage wise (58%). He also recorded his best free throw percentage (62%) in that season. This was supposed to be a sign of things to come for the 24 year old, but unfortunately it wasn’t.

Since then, Simmons has had a major recurring problem with his free throw shooting and his jump shooting. Statistically, it isn’t as bad as people make it out to be, however, shots in clutch situations were the problems for him. Simmonds, even this year, was a big part of why the 76ers were eliminated by the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semi-final round. Simmons has made 3 field goals in SEVEN games, in the 4th quarter of the series.

Photo Credit: Yachtsinternational.com
This has left the Sixers, and Simmons in a peculiar position, as head coach Doc Rivers was asked if Ben Simmons could be a championship point guard where Doc responded “I can’t answer that.” After a heated series with one of your star players performing how Simmons did, he would’ve liked to have some assurance/back-up from his manager in the media.

However, I agree with Doc on this take. Ben will never be a championship PG with his shooting, especially in crunch time. Now seeing that, I do believe that Ben would make a killer power forward. Forwards in the league are, for example, Anthony Davis, Giannis Antentokounmpo, John Collins, and PJ Tucker. These are players who do not neccessarily rely on their shooting capabilities, more-so their physical presence in “bully ball.” If Ben reverts to a #4 and gives the PG position to someone who can average 40-45% in field goal percentage, 35-38% in 3-point percentage, and 80-90% in free throw percentage, then we could see Philadelphia closing in on a long overdue title.