Knicks Iman Shumpert Aiming To Return Better Not Sooner

Iman Shumpert, the New York Knicks’ guard who tore an ACL last season, expects to return to the team in late winter or early spring instead of by the end of the year, as speculation had asserted.The 6-foot-5 guard from Georgia Tech, who became an intricate part of the team’s success last season, told the New York Post that his priority is to come back healthy and that a set time frame was not a part of that equation.“What you all are saying is not what we’re going by,” Shumpert told The Post before last night’s 110-88 victory over the 76ers that improved the Knicks to 3-0. “January, February is what we’re aiming for. I’m just trying to get healthy. When I get healthy, I’ll return to the court. I’m not going to come back and not be able to do the things I did last year and a little more. I want to come back and add something.”The team is off to a 3-0 start without him, inspiring hope that they can be a solid team with even more depth with Shumpert’s return. The team, however, clearly is not rushing him.Shumpert is the only young player on the Knicks’ roster with star potential; he can defend, get to the basket, run the floor and finish with authority. He is an asset the club has to protect.The Knicks do have some depth with the two-point-guard lineups they’ve been using featuring Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni with Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith. The beauty of Shumpert is that he can play both guard positions and small forward.If he returns in February, that would give him up to three months to get into shape and a rhythm with the team before the playoffs — more than enough time. And if the Knicks can sustain any semblance of the continuity they have shown to this point and avoid major injury, the addition of Shumpert could make them a dangerous foe come the playoffs. read more

Read More »

76ers Andrew Bynum Considering Knee Surgery

Andrew Bynum is considering arthroscopic knee surgery that would end any chance of him playing this season for the Philadelphia 76ers,  general manager Tony DiLeo said.Meanwhile, the organization has yet to decide whether to sign the one-time All-Star center when he becomes a free agent after this season.“He is Plan A,” DiLeo said. It was his first public comments about Bynum since the 7-footer on Friday announced a setback in his rehab from what could be career-threatening knee injuries.The 76ers gave up young prospects in Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless, along with former All-Star Andre Iguodala, in the four-team deal that moved Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers  last summer. They built their entire team around Bynum as the building block. He has not played a minute because of knee troubles.Should Bynum get healthy and sign somewhere else, it would be a colossal blunder for the Sixers. Bynum experienced knee soreness over the summer, then injured his other knee bowling.The Sixers might still be able to get something for Bynum if they don’t re-sign him, in the event of a sign-and-trade, but that would require a team with cap space to absorb him and return assets. Bynum has previously said he’s interested in playing for Houston, which has the assets, but would the Rockets want to take on the risk of Bynum, given his health?Bynum is not worried about getting the deal he wants, nor should he. It’s a weak free-agency class, and he’s a top-quality center in a terrible time for centers.But  for everyone else, the risk is severe and complicated. We’ll keep you updated on whether Bynum goes in for surgery. read more

Read More »

Where Did Jason Kidd Go Wrong

Welcome to The Lab, FiveThirtyEight’s basketball podcast. On this week’s show (Jan. 25, 2018), Neil, Chris and Kyle break down a week of drama in the NBA. First, we investigate ESPN’s reports of tension between Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs as his recuperation from a quad injury takes longer than anticipated. We also take a look at the Cleveland Cavaliers’ tough season and assess what it might mean for their playoff chances. Next, Milwaukee has fired head coach Jason Kidd amid a disappointing slide for the Bucks. What went wrong for the once-promising team? Plus, a small-sample-size segment on LeBron James. Here are links to what was discussed this week:Keep an eye on our 2017-18 NBA predictions, updated after every game.ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Michael C. Wright report on how Kawhi Leonard’s rehab created a chilling effect with the San Antonio Spurs.Despite Giannis Antetokounmpo’s support and offer to intervene, the Milwaukee Bucks fired Jason Kidd on Monday. Embed Code More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed By Neil Paine, Chris Herring and Kyle Wagner read more

Read More »

At Augusta Hitting Short Drives and Losing Is a Tradition Unlike Any

We can always be certain of a few things about the Masters Tournament, which starts Thursday at the Augusta National Golf Club: The azaleas will be in bloom. The course will be pristine. The post-tournament sit-down in Butler Cabin will be awkward. But who will win? Let’s see which factors, if any, correlate with success under the Georgia pines.Full disclosure: Attempting to forecast the outcome of any single golf tournament is, in many ways, a fool’s errand. The PGA Tour’s leading winner in each season since 19801In this article, 1980 will be the cutoff for most of the stats used, because that’s as far back as PGATour.com’s data extends in any category. has averaged 4.6 victories in 21 events, a rate of just under 22 percent. Even Tiger Woods, who may be the greatest golfer of all time, has won only 26 percent of the tournaments he’s entered. The field regularly beats the best golfers in the world, and this is especially true in the tiny sample of a four-round tournament.Complicating matters, the Masters (one of the more prestigious of the four majors) has seen plenty of fluke winners in recent years, at least based on their perceived status the year before they won the tournament. Going back to 2003, the earliest year for which the PGA Tour website has end-of-year Official World Golf Ranking data, only U.S. Open winners have a lower end-of-year OWGR point average2The Official World Golf Ranking is composed of a rolling per-event average that awards points based on tournament finishes, with bonuses for the prestige and difficulty of the event. than Masters champions in the season before their major victory.3The Masters looks better when we see how its winners hold up the year after victory, when its victors are a close second to those of the PGA Championship. But despite the inherent uncertainty of golf and especially the Masters, some numbers emerge as predictors of success at Augusta. Specifically, long hitters appear to have an advantage — and pure ball-strikers less so — than would be expected from their performance across all tournaments.To isolate those predictive factors, I borrowed a technique I first used for last year’s NCAA Giant Killers project at ESPN.com. The idea is to start with a base rating for each player that loosely represents his talent level relative to others’ in the field. Then I look for discrepancies between what that measurement predicted and what happened, and try to determine whether those gaps are related to a particular attribute of a player’s game.For my look at the Masters, I’m using the PGA Tour’s adjusted scoring average metric, which compares players’ per-round scores with the field averages in the tournaments they played. Other metrics almost certainly do a better job of explaining player talent, including the OWGR4The OGWR is not without issues. Golf-research superhero Mark Broadie found that the rankings were biased when compared with systems such as Jeff Sagarin’s, because they don’t give events on international tours the proper weight relative to those of the PGA Tour. and Jeff Sagarin’s Golfweek ratings, but adjusted scoring average has the advantage of being available back to 1980 at the PGA Tour’s website.5The adjusted scoring average correlates reasonably well with the OWGR’s points-per-event average over the years where both numbers are available. The correlation coefficient between adjusted scoring and OWGR points per event was 0.72.A player’s adjusted scoring average from the previous year6Statistics from the previous season were used to restrict ourselves to data that would have been available at the time of a pre-Masters prediction. provides a baseline from which a generic Masters prediction can be created. Moving to the next level and searching for meaningful player traits, though, means looking at the PGA Tour’s traditional skill statistics — average driving distance, driving accuracy percentage, greens in regulation percentage, putts per round7The PGA Tour also introduced putts per green in regulation, supposedly a more advanced measure of putting skill, in 1986. But tried-and-true putts per round correlates better with space-age putting metrics, such as “strokes gained,” than putts per green in regulation does. and sand save percentage — all of which have also been recorded since 1980.Comparing these metrics with areas where our generic predictions went wrong can tell us which types of players could expect an extra boost at Augusta, beyond what we know purely from their adjusted scoring averages.Let’s start with the metrics that don’t significantly change our expectations after accounting for scoring average. A player’s driving accuracy, for instance, isn’t much of a weapon in the Masters. In fact, the average green jacket winner since 1980 has hit fairways at a rate 1.6 percentage points below the tour average in the preceding season. Straight drives are never a bad thing, but this finding indicates that they are no more important at Augusta than on the typical PGA Tour setup.Getting up and down out of bunkers apparently doesn’t make much difference at the Masters, either. Sand saves are far from the only shots a player must worry about around the green, but they also correlate moderately well with another short-game statistic known as “scrambling,” which measures the rate at which a player misses the green but still saves par. The trouble with these barometers is that they vary wildly from year to year, largely because of sample size issues (there are only so many greenside bunkers you can hit out of each season). This may play into the seeming lack of importance — we can’t predict who will be good at the short-game stats in any given season.And for all of the breathless reverence given to Augusta’s trademark slippery greens, putting skill isn’t a significant predictor of those who will stray from expectations, either.I suspect this is because putts per round is one of the least consistent performance indicators from season to season, ranking only above sand save percentage. If we look at correlations to Masters performance using stats from the season in question, putting looks like one of the strongest indicators, but it loses all predictive power when we use the previous season’s stats. In other words, if we knew who was going to be good at putting this season, it would be a valuable piece of forecasting information. But because we don’t, it isn’t.8Our apologies to Mike Weir, the highest-ranking putter from 2013 in the 2014 Masters field.So what does matter when predicting whose Augusta performance will exceed expectations? The only two skill statistics I found to be significant were average driving distance and the percentage of greens hit in regulation. Neither effect was huge, but you can see them come into play in recent Masters outcomes.First, driving distance. For every 17 additional yards per drive a player hit above the PGA Tour average in the previous season, he could expect to exceed his basic 72-hole Masters results by one stroke. A whole stroke is a pretty big deal; it can often mean the difference between winning and losing the tournament. And though few players vary so much from average that they lose or gain that full shot, the game’s longest hitters come close, which is one reason why this factor has been part of some big statistical surprises over the past few seasons.To wit: When Phil Mickelson won in 2010, he was coming off a down year, ranking outside the top 25 in adjusted scoring average for only the second time in his previous 11 seasons. But he still maintained a driving average 12.1 yards greater than average. Likewise, Bubba Watson’s 2012 victory was presaged more by his staggering 23.7 yards of driving distance above average than by 65th-ranked scoring average in 2010. And Angel Cabrera, the tour’s 22nd-longest hitter in 2012, nearly won the 2013 Masters (falling to Adam Scott in a playoff) despite ranking 161st in scoring average a year earlier.By contrast, 17 of the 25 most disappointing Masters performances since 1980 (compared with the expectation generated by adjusted scoring average) belonged to below-average power hitters off the tee. Golf fans will recall that the golf club’s “Tiger-proofing” renovations in the early-to-mid-2000s9The course played 7,435 yards in 2013, almost 10 percent longer than its 6,925-yard incarnation when Woods won his first green jacket in 1997. raised concern that short hitters would be squeezed out of contention. But the data shows that short hitters have paid a price at Augusta going back to the days of Calvin Peete and Jeff Sluman in the 1980s and ’90s.The percentage of greens hit in regulation is a different story. It turns out that, after controlling for the amount of power in a player’s game, hitting a lot of greens the year before the Masters suggests a downturn in expected performance at Augusta.10Albeit with a weaker effect than that associated with driving distance. For every 11.9 points of greens in regulation (GIR) percentage above average that a player shot in the preceding season, his 72-hole Masters score tended to increase by one stroke relative to what we’d expect from his adjusted scoring average.This could be attributable to the peculiarities of Augusta, which, while just the 22nd-longest course on tour, plays longer than its yardage because of the numerous elevated greens. Lightning-quick and frequently armed with so-called false fronts, Augusta’s putting surfaces are ideally attacked using short irons with more degrees of loft, an option not always afforded to short drivers.Whatever the reason, at the Masters, disappointment from short-hitting iron specialists is the real tradition unlike any other.Peete is the archetype here, having finished no higher than a tie for 11th — and falling outside the top 20 five times — over the eight Augusta cuts he made back to 1980. And yet he led the PGA Tour in adjusted scoring in 1984 on the heels of back-to-back second-place finishes in 1982 and ’83 (he’d also finish sixth in 1985 and seventh in ’86). His driving accuracy and GIR percentages were unparalleled, but he routinely finished 150th or worse in driving distance, lagging 10 to 12 yards per drive behind his peers. The statistics say that’s a bad combination for someone hoping to win the green jacket.In this year’s field, these factors favor players such as Jason Day, who ranks eighth in Vegas’ 2014 Masters futures (a 25-1 shot) but receives a 0.7-stroke boost to his base rating in my system because he hits the ball hard (11.3 yards above average per drive last season) and isn’t overly reliant on iron play. The same goes for Dustin Johnson, who crushed the ball 17.8 yards above average per drive in 2013 and had a good-but-not-great GIR percentage. And Rory McIlroy’s playing style fits that description as well.The same numbers cut against Steve Stricker, a well-below-average power hitter who relies heavily on approach accuracy. There’s a reason he’s cracked the top 10 only twice at Augusta despite five top-four scoring average seasons in the past seven years. His game might not be built for the Masters, something that can also be said of Henrik Stenson, who led the tour in GIR percentage last season but has yet to enjoy a Masters breakthrough (his best finish at Augusta was a tie for 17th in 2008).Even so, after taking into account individual playing styles that match Augusta’s tendencies, the most any player’s rating moved was one stroke in either direction (Jim Furyk was docked that much for his combination of short hitting off the tee and dependence on iron play for scoring). And Stricker and Stenson continue to rank among the top contenders, because playing generally good golf dwarfs the importance of any Augusta-specific characteristics.After the dust settled, here are the favorites according to my simple model:Again, there are no guarantees in the world of golf forecasting. But the general factors associated with over- or under-performance at Augusta are worth keeping an eye on when you watch the Masters.CORRECTION (April 9, 6:48 p.m.): This article originally misstated the year Bubba Watson won the Masters. It was 2012, not 2011. read more

Read More »

World Cup Crib Notes Day 10

After thrashing Portugal 4-0 in its first game, Germany has seen its probability of winning the World Cup steadily rise, to 13.4 percent from 10.7 percent. That increase is more than any team’s since the tournament began, except the Netherlands’. The Germans face Ghana in the second game of the day.Argentina vs. Iran: 12 p.m. EDTGermany vs. Ghana: 3 p.m. EDTNigeria vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina: 6 p.m. EDTIN BRIEFSee our World Cup predictions for the latest probabilities.IN DEPTHThe odds are stacked in favor of Germany (71 percent to Ghana’s 10 percent) in our Game to Watch, so Ghana will need an unlikely win or draw against if it has any hope of seeing the knockout stage of the tournament. Germany is sitting pretty atop Group G with a 97.9 percent chance of advancing.Despite the apparent mismatch, Germany and Ghana still had the highest harmonic mean between the Soccer Power Index (SPI) scores of any two teams playing each other Saturday (82.0, compared with Argentina vs. Iran at 78.4 and Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Nigeria at 76.9). Both Germany and Ghana are powerful defensively, but it’s Germany’s offense — the strongest in the tournament, according to ESPN’s SPI — that poses the biggest threat to Ghana.Ghana outplayed the U.S. on Monday, controlling 60 percent of the possession and outshooting (both on goal and otherwise) the Americans in a game that probably should have ended in its favor. But of its 21 shots, only one managed to find the back of the net. So, if Ghana hopes to dig itself out of the hole it’s in in Group G, it must score against Germany. Its best hopes lie in the Ayew brothers — Andre scored in the 82nd minute against the U.S., and his younger brother, Jordan, has scored 16 goals for Sochaux in the top French league this season.Ghana has a 89 percent chance of being eliminated from the Cup, but a win or draw against Germany and an unfavorable outcome for the Americans against Portugal on Sunday could drastically change the dynamics of Group G.YESTERDAYIn Costa Rica’s 1-0 victory over Italy, the losers had the advantage in possession, with 731 touches to Costa Rica’s 508. But Costa Rica had 91 touches in the attacking third compared with Italy’s 83, and it created nine chances to Italy’s six. The Italians’ 83 touches in the attacking third were their fewest in a match in the past five World Cups.Italy’s offensive futility was reflected in other stats as well. Of its 10 shots, only two were in the attacking penalty area, which ties for its fewest in a World Cup match since the 1966 tournament (as far back as ESPN Stats & Info’s data set goes). The team was called offside 11 times, tied for the most in a World Cup match since 2002.Costa Rica also shut down two of Italy’s biggest stars. Andrea Pirlo completed one of four passes in the attacking third; he was 12 for 12 on such passes in Italy’s first match, against England. Mario Balotelli had 24 touches, the fewest of any Italian starter, including seven in the second half. That tied for the fewest of anyone on the pitch.The victory advanced Costa Rica to the knockout stage for the first time since 1990 (it was eliminated in the group stage in 2002 and 2006 and didn’t qualify in the other years) and eliminated England in the process. It is the first time since 1958 that England has failed to reach the knockout round.In the match between Switzerland and France, Switzerland had more overall touches, 636 to 532, but France more than doubled the Swiss in the attacking penalty area, 23 to 10. Led by Karim Benzema, whose match-high seven touches in the penalty area gave him a tournament-high 16, France is averaging 25.5 penalty-area touches per match (the best in the tournament).France scored in the 17th and 18th minutes with two of its first three touches in the attacking penalty area — the quickest back-to-back goals in French World Cup history. The first goal was France’s 100th at the World Cup, making it the fifth team to reach that milestone. Benzema had a goal and two assists, giving him a hand in five of France’s eight goals in the tournament (three goals, two assists). He created six chances Friday, the most by a player in a match to that point in the tournament. The two teams combined for 29 chances, the most in a match this tournament. — Jacob Nitzberg, senior stats analyst, ESPN OFF THE PITCHGermany and Ghana have had significant relations since Ghana gained its independence from Britain in 1957. One of the most striking examples is their plan for economic development cooperation, which they updated in 2012. The plan includes facets of cultural and academic exchange, but the most tangible aspect is aid. The plan itself doesn’t provide data on Germany’s aid to Ghana, but AidData shows that Ghana received $2.5 billion in aid from Germany between 1973 and 2011 for 1,100 projects, including water supply improvements and forestry development. Most of the aid (about $611 million) has been aimed at debt alleviation, but that mostly ended in 2006. By 2011, a majority of the German aid was geared toward government, civil society and agriculture.  — Hayley MunguiaFURTHER READINGIt’s Been the Americas’ World CupThe Reducer: World Cup Winners and Losers read more

Read More »

Ohio State mens hockey ready for evenly matched Big Ten Tournament game

Sophomore forward Tyler Lundey (23) attempts a shot during a game against Michigan March 2 at Nationwide Arena. OSU lost, 4-3.Credit: Ben Jackson / For The LanternWhen it was announced that the Big Ten men’s hockey conference would come together for its inaugural season, many people had high expectations.With the regular season over and postseason play about to begin, it has become clear those expectations were right on the money. A competitive and skilled conference campaign has set up a tasty tournament bracket. All six of the conference’s teams are set to travel to Saint Paul, Minn., this weekend hoping to become the first-ever Big Ten hockey champions.Minnesota and Wisconsin are the top seeds respectively, so both receive a bye in the quarterfinals, while No. 3-seed Michigan is slated to play No. 6 Penn State for the chance to play the Badgers.Minnesota awaits the winner of the other quarterfinal between No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Michigan State. The Buckeyes went 1-0-3 with two shootout wins against the Spartans in the regular season, and first-year coach Steve Rohlik said his team knows how tough the game will be.“(The game is between) two teams that are evenly matched, you saw that in our results this year. They block a lot of shots, they’ve got a very good goaltender, (and) they’re scoring more goals now,” Rohlik said, referring to Spartan sophomore goalie Jake Hildebrand. “So we’ve got to play our best hockey game Thursday night, there’s no question.”For the team that claims the prize, a Big Ten championship will bring with it an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The national tournament is made up of 16 teams: the six conferences’ postseason tournament champions plus 10 at-large bids. The NCAA selection committee uses a series of calculations to figure out the at-large bids, and those calculations are replicated by something called the PairWise rankings.According to those rankings, the Big Ten can be split up into two blocks of three: those who look to be in the tournament no matter what, and those who require a Big Ten title to get there. The former is made up of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, while the latter is composed of Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State.The tournament implications at stake this weekend don’t seem to faze OSU junior forward Ryan Dzingel, the leading scorer in the Big Ten this season who was just named to the all-Big Ten team earlier in the week.“We’re all really excited. The CCHA (Central Collegiate Hockey Association) tournament last year was really cool and there was a lot of publicity, so I can’t even imagine how much it will be with the Big Ten,” Dzingel said. “Playing in an awesome rink with these great teams is going to be a lot of fun.”Rohlik, a Saint Paul native, said the tournament’s location is going to make the occasion that much more special.“A lot of people say that baby boys are born here (in Ohio) with a football in their crib, up there (in Minnesota) it’s a pair of hockey skates,” Rohlik said. “It’s the culture, its kind of what Minnesota is. It’s certainly one of the big spots for hockey across the U.S.”With the hockey-savvy eyes of the Minnesota crowd upon it, OSU’s high-powered offense will need to find a way past an MSU defensive corps that has blocked the most shots in the Big Ten.The prize awaiting the Buckeyes if they manage to do that: another shot at the best team in the nation, in the Gophers own backyard.The Buckeyes and Spartans are set to face off at 8 p.m. Thursday. read more

Read More »

Opinion Braxton Miller should be starting quarterback for Ohio State in 2015

OSU redshirt-senior quarterback Braxton Miller (5) is set to compete with J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones for a starting spot in 2015.Credit: Samantha Hollingshead / Lantern photographerWhen Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller went down with a season-ending shoulder injury last fall, my first thoughts weren’t about how the Buckeyes would do without him during the 2014 season, but how good they would be with him coming back in 2015.Heading into the 2014 campaign, Miller was to be the senior leader of the team and was a Heisman hopeful. What he was able to do with the talent he had around him in his first three seasons as the signal caller was quite impressive. Play-calling from coaches, the lack of talent at wide receiver and multiple turnovers that were out of Miller’s control led to missed opportunities. And that was just in the 2013 Big Ten Championship game against Michigan State.Last year’s OSU team wasn’t supposed to be as good as they were without Miller; they definitely weren’t supposed to win it all. With a year of young players getting a chance to develop, such as wide receivers and the offensive line, things couldn’t look better for the 2015 team.You get your best player back on the field and everyone else around him ­­— who once slowed him down — all had the chance to improve. And boy, did they ever.Miller is currently rehabbing his shoulder after surgery to repair a torn labrum, so for me to say he should be the starter at this moment would be foolish, but if he is 100 percent healthy by the first game, I believe there is no better option.He has gone against and beat out redshirt-sophomore J.T. Barrett and redshirt-junior Cardale Jones consistently and I don’t think the experience they gained is enough to take the starting job — although you couldn’t ask for better experience. Miller hasn’t gotten any worse and I don’t think it would be wise to sit him out before he is given the chance to lose the job on his own.Before the Big Ten tile game in which OSU beat Wisconsin, 59-0, Jones didn’t appear to be very good. We knew he had an arm and could run, but every time we saw him get reps or in a spring game, he was unimpressive to say the least. They say practice makes perfect, but I’m not convinced that a year of second-team reps all of a sudden made him a better quarterback and player than Miller.Not to mention Jones couldn’t beat out Barrett for the job when Miller went down, so although what he did in the final three games of last season was pure greatness and he will forever hold a place in my heart as a fan, I would bet he comes back down to earth during a full season of constant hits and maybe after the defense lets him down a little.Barrett is a guy that has all the mechanics, but lacks the “wow” factor. He can manage the offense very well, but when it’s time to go out and win a game for his team, I believe he lacks that instinct. At this time he would be better suited watching another year of the explosiveness Miller brings on every play.The younger quarterbacks will only benefit from another year of developing, and as the more experienced man, Miller should be the one starting in the fall.Either way, OSU should have no problem running the table in the Big Ten with whomever coach Urban Meyer chooses to be the signal caller. Although with Miller, games might be over a little faster. read more

Read More »

Mens basketball Ohio State opens season with Sunday exhibition against Wooster

C.J. Jackson (3), Jae’Sean Tate (1) and Keita Bates-Diop (back) will be three players head coach Chris Holtmann will count on in the 2017-18 season. Credit: Mason Swires | Former Assistant Photo EditorFor the first time in nearly eight months, Ohio State’s men’s basketball team will take the court as the new-look Buckeyes will take on Wooster in an exhibition at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Schottenstein Center.Uncertainty surrounding the team derives from a myriad of new faces, from the coaching staff to the transfers to the freshmen. Although fans might not know what to expect from the Buckeyes talent-wise, senior forward Jae’Sean Tate said those in attendance will witness an energetic team. “I think you guys are gonna like what you see — just the energy, the excitement,” Tate said Friday. “You’re gonna see a lot of guys just having fun out there.”Ohio State finished the 2016-17 season with a 17-15 record, including a disappointing 7-11 record within the Big Ten and a first-round Big Ten tournament loss to Rutgers. The Scarlet and Gray return a few players from last season, including Tate, redshirt senior guard Kam Williams and junior point guard C.J. Jackson. The Buckeyes also welcome back redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop, whose season ended early due to surgery on his left shin. Tate described Bates-Diop as the best all-around player on the team and said the opportunity to play with him was one of the biggest reasons he initially came to Ohio State. Bates-Diop returned to the court in last week’s closed scrimmage against Xavier and said it felt amazing to finally compete against another team again. The soft-spoken forward compared the 2017-18 team to last season’s team by emphasizing the increase in intensity.“Just comparative maybe — if you look at last year’s team — the passion, the consistent effort is out there all the time,” Bates-Diop said. “I hope you’ll see us just giving it our all — there’s nothing held back just for 40 minutes.”With the exhibition against Wooster on the horizon, Holtmann emphasized the necessity to play as a team.“I just want to see us share the ball and move the ball offensively. We’ve been working on that,” Holtmann said. “I want us to continue to understand how we expect to play offensively.”Holtmann has continually reiterated the importance of defense during the offseason. Last Sunday’s closed-door scrimmage against Xavier opened his eyes to certain issues.“Defensively, I want to see how committed we are on that end and how connected we are on that end,” Holtmann said. “I think we were good at times, in terms of being connected and committed last week [against Xavier], but we didn’t always execute real well — we fouled too much.”Holtmann wants the team to be “connected,” but what does that actually mean?“I think when you see a connected team, you see guys giving appropriate help defensively,” Holtmann said. “You see guys having an awareness of both their man and the ball, and a willingness to respond appropriately defensively. You see guys picking up a teammate when he takes a charge.”Offensively, Bates-Diop said he primarily wants to see unselfishness from the Buckeyes.“Moving the ball around — good ball movement — just good offense in general,” Bates-Diop said. “We work on that a lot, so we’d like to see that come to fruition Sunday.”Holtmann said he’s treating the scrimmage as another practice, but Tate envisions the game as the first chance for the team to make an impression.“Just being able to play together,” Tate said. “It’s a scrimmage — but when you can be able to play in front of all the fans in the Schott — there’s just no feeling like it. And we haven’t had that in a while. We haven’t had it at all with all the faces we have.” read more

Read More »

Sgt Alexander Blackman cautiously optimistic he will be freed on Friday at

first_imgRoyal Marine Sgt Alexander Blackman could be freed this Friday when England’s most senior judge hears an application for him to be allowed bail while he awaits an appeal hearing against his murder conviction.The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, will preside over the bail application – an “unprecedented” decision that reflects the gravity of the case, according to Blackman’s barrister Jonathan Goldberg QC.Lord Thomas will be urged to free the 42-year-old on bail on account of his “great integrity” and several prominent figures offering to pay a surety totalling £200,000.Blackman, known as Marine A, is serving a life sentence for murdering a wounded Afghan captive, but an independent review concluded he faces the “real possibility” of having his conviction quashed following the presentation of new evidence. 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. Lord Thomas will also reportedly be told that the former director special forces, Maj Gen John Holmes, MP Richard Drax, author Frederick Forsyth and a former marine, John Davies, have each offered to pay identical £50,000 bail sureties.Maj Gen Holmes told the newspaper: “I have supported Sgt Blackman’s cause since the outset.”I am more than happy to help stand his bail so he can be reunited with his family.”On Tuesday the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) referred Blackman’s conviction to the Courts Martial Appeal Court.The marine was found guilty of murder at a court martial at the Military Court Centre in Bulford, Wiltshire, in 2013.But the presentation of new evidence relating to Blackman’s mental health at the time of the death in Helmand in 2011, and the fact that an alternative verdict of unlawful act manslaughter was not available during the trial, means the case will return to the court.Judges will then consider whether to quash his conviction, commute the sentence to manslaughter or order a retrial at a court marital.The appeal hearing could be heard in summer or autumn 2017. She said: “I think my husband is cautiously optimistic. Things are moving forward in a way that this time last year we couldn’t have even hoped for.”His legal team will explain that he will not flee the country as he feels a “duty and a debt of gratitude” to his legions of supporters, according to the Daily Mail.Jonathan Goldberg QC will tell the court: “Tens of thousands of ordinary people have contributed donations to the Justice for Sgt Blackman campaign organised by the Daily Mail, which has paid the legal fees to prepare this fresh appeal.”Thousands of former Royal Marines have peacefully held rallies and demonstrated in Parliament Square and Birmingham.”He is a man of great integrity who acutely feels a duty and a debt of gratitude to them. He will follow due process meticulously.”In a letter to be shown to the bail hearing, Lt Col Simon Chapman said: “Fundamentally he is not a bad man. In fact, in almost every respect he is a normal citizen tainted only by the impact of war.” Alexander Blackman wedding picturecenter_img Show more Sgt Alexander Blackman hopes to be home in time to celebrate the 7th anniversary of his wedding to Claire If he is freed it would mean the 42-year-old would be able to celebrate Christmas and his seventh wedding anniversary – which falls on Dec 19 – with his wife Claire.Mrs Blackman told The Telegraph: “We are delighted that the CCRC decision has been made and that the bail application is moving swiftly but we are mindful that these are first important steps in a long process.”It would be lovely to have him home in time for our wedding anniversary. We haven’t spent many anniversaries together – he has been in prison for just over three years – but we have had our hopes dashed before so we have got good at managing expectations.”Mrs Blackman currently sees her husband once a week for a two-hour visit at HMP Erlestoke in Wiltshire, a 90-minute drive from their home in Somerset. She is also able to speak to him on the phone each night.last_img read more

Read More »

Crown Prosecution Services Hillsborough criminal charges statement in full

first_imgMy assessment of the case is not in any sense a finding of, or implication of, any guilt or criminal conduct. It is not a finding of fact, which can only be made by a court, but rather an assessment of what it might be possible to prove to a court, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.There is a further IPCC file into the conduct of the West Midlands Police but additional investigative work was required in respect of this. Additionally, just this week, the IPCC has referred two further suspects which are unconnected to the matters sent to us in January. These files are subject to ongoing consideration by the CPS and we will announce our decisions in due course.Suspects against whom the full code test is not metOperation Resolve suspectsI carefully considered the actions of six other police officers of various ranks in respect of their conduct in planning for the match and/or on the day.There was a failure to define roles and task responsibility to those acting in command and this has made it extremely difficult to demonstrate matters which fell within the specific performance or discharge of duties owed by individual officers and there was a lack of specific instructions as to how any duty should be carried out. Graham Henry Mackrell, who was Sheffield Wednesday Football Club’s company secretary and safety officer at the time, is charged with two offences of contravening a term of condition of a safety certificate contrary to the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 and one offence of failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of other persons who may have been affected by his acts or omissions at work under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. These offences relate to alleged failures to carry out his duties as required. Other witnesses commented on him later attending the gym and taking control of the situation.In all of the circumstances, and particularly having reflected on the nature of the duty owed under s.7 HSWA and the relevant considerations, I decided that there is insufficient evidence capable of establishing that this suspect failed to show reasonable care for the health and safety of other persons affected by his acts or omissions at work on the 15 April 1989.Consequently, there can be no prosecution for health and safety breaches arising from the conduct of the two most senior officers on the day. The most junior officer was the second station officer (the first, more senior, station officer has since died).This junior officer’s failings on the day contributed to a delayed response from SYMAS, including a delay in the notification of the hospitals and request of a mobile medical team, the dispatch of the major incident vehicle, and a delay in asserting command and control of the incident.There were other (unconnected) opportunities for a major incident to be declared; namely by the police, and by Control in receipt of the messages requesting ambulances. The failings were certainly not this suspect’s alone. Peter Metcalf, who was the solicitor acting for the South Yorkshire Police during the Taylor Inquiry and the first inquests, is charged with doing acts with intent to pervert the course of public justice relating to material changes made to witness statements.Mr Metcalf, an experienced solicitor, was instructed by Municipal Mutual Insurance to represent the interests of the force at the Taylor Inquiry and in any civil litigation that might result from the Hillsborough Disaster.He reviewed the accounts provided by the officers and made suggestions for alterations, deletions and amendments which we allege were directly relevant to the Salmon letter issued by the Taylor Inquiry and for which there appears to be no justification.Former Chief Superintendent Donald Denton and former Detective Chief Inspector Alan Foster are similarly charged for their involvement in the same matter. It is alleged that Donald Denton oversaw the process of amending the statements and in doing so, he did acts that had a tendency to pervert the course of public justice and we will say that Alan Foster was central to the process of changing the statements and took action to do so.Former Chief Constable Norman Bettison is charged with four offences of misconduct in public office relating to telling alleged lies about his involvement in the aftermath of Hillsborough and the culpability of fans. Given his role as a senior police officer, we will ask the jury to find that this was misconduct of such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust in the office holder. He was later concerned in the arrangements to deal with the deceased and to stand down the ambulance service resources but there is insufficient evidence that in his actions or conduct, he failed to show reasonable care under the HSWA so as to amount to an offence.The second senior employee failed to declare a major incident at a stage when he had sufficient information to do so. However the extent of his individual failure should be considered against the context:the police had not declared a major incident to SYMAS,the SYMAS liaison officers at the ground had not declared a major incident, andthe receiver of the message at control was not prompted to declare one.It seems that this employee felt that he had insufficient information and so made the decision to attend the ground himself. His decision to go to the ground was described by the expert as the correct one, and as a decisive action.Once at the ground, he became the most senior ambulance officer and should have assumed the role of “Incident Officer” according to the SYMAS Major Incident Plan.The evidence and RACAL tapes make clear that ambulances and SYP were still seeking a SYMAS officer some time after his arrival. However, the expert’s evidence was that his actions were commensurate with a senior officer trying to establish control and command. Following thorough investigations and careful review of the evidence in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, I have decided that there is sufficient evidence to charge six individuals with criminal offences.I have found that there is sufficient evidence to charge former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, who was the Match Commander on the day of the disaster, with the manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 men, women and children.We will allege that David Duckenfield’s failures to discharge his personal responsibility were extraordinarily bad and contributed substantially to the deaths of each of those 96 people who so tragically and unnecessarily lost their lives.The offence clearly sets out the basis of those allegations. We are unable to charge the manslaughter of Anthony Bland, the 96th casualty, as he died almost four years later. The law as it applied then provided that no person could be guilty of homicide where the death occurred more than a year and a day later than the date when the injuries were caused.In order to prosecute this matter, the CPS will need to successfully apply to remove the stay imposed by a senior judge (now retired) at the end of the 1999 private prosecution when David Duckenfield was prosecuted for two counts of manslaughter by gross negligence. We will be applying to a High Court Judge to lift the stay and order that the case can proceed on a voluntary bill of indictment. I have decided not to prosecute the company which was the legal entity of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club at the time as it only now exists on paper.There are no directors or others listed who form the company and therefore no-one who can give instructions to answer any criminal charge or enter a plea. Even if the company was to be prosecuted and found guilty in these circumstances, there could be no penalty as it does not have any assets with which to pay a fine.For legal reasons, we cannot prosecute the South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service and there is insufficient evidence of a criminal offence against the two most senior employees referred for consideration.There is, however, sufficient evidence of a health and safety breach against one junior ambulance employee, although it is “non causative” which means that it cannot be directly connected to any particular death.As we cannot prosecute the ambulance service or the more senior employees and the offence carries a maximum penalty of a fine, I have decided that it is not in the public interest to prosecute the junior officer after this significant period of time when the likely outcome would be a nominal penalty. The decisions have also this morning been relayed to other interested parties, including the defendants and other suspects who were referred to the CPS by Operation Resolve and the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Here is the Crown Prosecution Service’s statement in full regarding the Hillsborough charging decisions:The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has today (28 June 2017) announced its charging decisions in relation to the Hillsborough disaster and its aftermath.Sue Hemming, the CPS Head of Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, made the announcement to families of the deceased at a private meeting in Warrington this morning.She said: “Following our careful review of the evidence, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, I have decided that there is sufficient evidence to charge six individuals with criminal offences.”Criminal proceedings have now commenced and the defendants have a right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.” Finally, we considered the conduct of the Football Association and one of its officers. That organisation’s conduct was assessed against the Safety of Sports Grounds Act and the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. While I considered that it was a ‘responsible person’ for the purposes of SSGA, there was insufficient evidence to establish that any breach of the safety certificate could be placed within the responsibility of that organisation, and thereby raise a burden on it as a defendant to establish a due diligence.Equally, for the purposes of HSWA, the evidence did not establish that, in the conduct of its undertaking, the FA contributed to a material risk to safety. As a result, in each instance, there was not a realistic prospect of a conviction against them. In the particular circumstances, it also followed that there was insufficient evidence against any employee of that organisation under either Act.IPCC suspectsWe considered the actions of two other suspects referred for consideration in connection with the statement changing.In respect of these former officers who were on the team that was tasked with making amendments, it is not possible to show to the criminal standard that they were aware of the overall system being implemented and in the absence of evidence to show that they were aware of the nature, extent and impact of the relevant amendment process, it cannot be proved that they had an intention to pervert the course of public justice. If the evidence is insufficient to found an inference of criminal intent, it follows that their conduct cannot give rise to charges of misconduct in public office. Even if the company were to be found guilty in those circumstances, there could be no penalty as it does not have any assets with which to pay a fine and no-one else liable to pay it. As a consequence, whilst I have concluded that there is sufficient evidence for a health and safety offence, it is not in the public interest to prosecute now.We considered the actions of the South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service, which has been criticised for its failure to respond adequately to the unfolding disaster.It is clear that SYMAS was a service supplied by the Trent Regional Health Authority (TRHA) rather than a legal entity itself. The TRHA ceased to exist when its responsibilities were transferred. However, criminal liability was not transferred to the successor organisations, so there is no body, corporate or incorporate, which can now be prosecuted even if liability could be proven.We have considered the actions of three ambulance service employees. We examined the records of the TRHA and neither of the more senior officers (or by definition the junior officer) is capable of amounting to a ‘senior manager’ under section 37 of the HSWA.We therefore considered whether any of the three might have committed any other HSWA offence and in doing so considered expert evidence in respect of the SYMAS response. The expert is critical of the overall response but is unable to quantify the effect that any failings had on the victims. Any identifiable breach therefore, would be ‘non-causative’. Show more The expert summarises his view as follows:”The actions of the SYMAS staff that were present at the match from the outset, and those that attended as a result of being sent to the disaster must be considered in the light that this was an event that had developed very quickly, resulting in very high numbers of dead and dying patients in a very short space of time.”This was an event that occurred right in front of the SYMAS staff and the police, and they did not have the luxury of even a minute’s thinking time.”This disaster would have proved extremely challenging for even the most experienced Ambulance Officers, Ambulance Staff and Ambulance Control Staff to have dealt with in a structured manner.”He says that whilst there were failures and consequences flowing from the actions of the ambulance staff “it may be that these failures that in my opinion arose from inexperience both of planning for, and dealing, with Major Incidents rather than from deliberate omission or commission of acts”.One of the senior officers assumed no role in dealing directly with the casualties at the stadium. He was at home then consequently went to the SYMAS control room at 1550 after becoming aware of the disaster; this was after the initial casualty transport phase had come to an end. The defendants, other than David Duckenfield, will appear at Warrington Magistrates’ Court on 9 August 2017.May I remind all concerned that criminal proceedings have now commenced and of the defendants’ right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.In relation to six other police officers who were referred as suspects in respect of their conduct in planning for the match or on the day, there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.I have concluded that whilst there is evidence of failure to meet the standards of leadership rightly expected of their respective ranks, there were no acts or omissions capable of amounting to gross negligence manslaughter or “an abuse of the public’s trust” to the required criminal standard for an offence of misconduct in public office.I also considered administration of justice offences against some of these officers. However, the evidence did not establish either a tendency to pervert the course of public justice, nor an intention to pervert the course of public justice to the required criminal standard. Neither did the material considered establish sufficient evidence, as required for the purposes of perjury, that statements were made on oath which the author knew to be false or did not believe to be true.center_img I have concluded that whilst there is evidence of failure to meet the standards of leadership rightly expected of their respective ranks, there were no acts or omissions capable of amounting to gross negligence manslaughter or ‘an abuse of the public’s trust’ to the required criminal standard for an offence of misconduct in public office. Prior to 1998, no police force or individual police officer was subject to the provisions of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA).As indicated, we also considered administration of justice offences against some of these officers.However, the evidence did not establish either a tendency to pervert the course of public justice, nor an intention to pervert the course of public justice to the required criminal standard. Neither did the material considered establish sufficient evidence, as required for the purposes of perjury, that statements were made on oath which the author knew to be false or did not believe to be true.Sheffield Wednesday PLC (company number 00062478) is the legal entity, existing only on paper, which was Sheffield Wednesday Football Club in 1989.Sheffield Wednesday Football Club as it exists today is a different company and as it is not a successor organisation, is not criminally liable for any offences that might have been committed. The 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster Operation Resolve took action to preserve the paper company at the outset of the investigation so that a full investigation could take place. There are no longer any directors or other individuals who form the company and therefore no-one who could represent it in the dock, give instructions to answer any criminal charge or enter a plea. The full statement that Sue Hemming provided to those in attendance at this morning’s meeting is below:Summary of decisionsThe Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has considered two substantial files of evidence from Operation Resolve (OR) and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in respect of 15 and six suspects respectively.The suspects referred to the CPS included individuals and organisations. The offences referred for consideration include gross negligence manslaughter, misconduct in public office, doing acts tending and intending to pervert the course of justice, health and safety at work and safety of sports ground offences.Operation Resolve investigated the events of the 15 April 1989 when 96 Liverpool fans were tragically killed as the result of overcrowding in the central pens at the Leppings Lane end of the Hillsborough football stadium.The IPCC investigated the aftermath. In particular they looked at the conduct of South Yorkshire Police (SYP) and carried out an investigation into whether anyone was responsible for a “cover up” of the true events and if witness statements were altered in such a way to amount to a criminal offence. The CPS team and senior counsel have been advising in respect of these matters from an early stage. Sir Norman Bettison, left, and David Duckenfield  Hillsborough Sir Norman Bettison, left, and David Duckenfield Credit:Peter Byrne/PA/Dave Thompson/Getty However, he was in the position of being the “eyes and ears” of SYMAS in the ground and the first and best positioned SYMAS employee to be able to make a proper assessment. The first few minutes were critical and a better response might have made a difference to survival.I was satisfied, therefore, that there is sufficient evidence that this suspect failed to take reasonable care for the safety of those who may be affected by his acts and omissions at work as a Station Officer, namely the supporters in the pens, by his failure to look in the pens and failure to declare a major incident.At the same time, though, in applying the public interest stage of the Code Test, I took account of the following:This suspect did not create the circumstances of the crisis he faced; and his reaction to it, while entirely inadequate, cannot be proven to have directly caused any deaths;The offence was neither flagrant on his part, nor did it involve the showing of a reckless disregard for health and safety. Rather, it may very well have arisen from a reaction of shock on the part of this emergency responder confronted by an unfolding tragedy of enormous scale out with his experience. In the words of the expert, this suspect was ‘not well enough prepared by his employer’ in relation to this match;Moreover, there were a significant number of failings on the part of other individuals (police officers and other SYMAS staff) which also contributed to delaying treatment and effective organisation of treatment of casualties.Therefore, given that (i) we are unable to prosecute SYMAS or the more senior officers for the overall poor response; (ii) the application of Health and Safety Executive policy would be unlikely to result in a prosecution of an individual in these circumstances; (iii) the offence was non-causative; (iv) a considerable amount of time has passed; (v) the offence only carries a fine; and that (vi) a nominal penalty would be the likely outcome, I have found that the factors against prosecuting this suspect outweigh those in favour. In those circumstances, it is not in the public interest to prosecute that individual alone. Sue Hemming, Head of Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division While I considered that it was a “responsible person” for the purposes of Safety of Sports Grounds Act, there was insufficient evidence to establish that any breach of the safety certificate could be placed within the responsibility of that organisation, and thereby raise a burden on it as a defendant to establish a due diligence.Equally, for the purposes of Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the evidence did not establish that, in the conduct of its undertaking, the FA contributed to a material risk to safety. As a result, in each instance, there was not a realistic prospect of a conviction against them. In the particular circumstances, it also followed that there was insufficient evidence against any employee of that organisation under either Act.In respect of the other suspects referred for consideration of criminal offences arising from the IPCC investigation into the statement changing, there is insufficient evidence to prove an intention to pervert the course of public justice.Note – It is not the function of the CPS to decide whether a person is guilty of a criminal offence, but to make fair, independent and objective assessments about whether it is appropriate to present charges for the criminal court to consider. Finally, in relation to Operation Resolve, the Football Association (FA) was also considered in relation to the day’s events. Its conduct was assessed against the Safety of Sports Grounds Act and the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Charges have been authorised against:David Duckenfield, who was the Match Commander for South Yorkshire Police on the day of the disasterGraham Henry Mackrell, who was Sheffield Wednesday Football Club’s company secretary and safety officer at the time of the disaster in 1989Peter Metcalf, the solicitor acting for the South Yorkshire Police during the Taylor Inquiry and the first inquests Former Chief Superintendent Donald Denton of South Yorkshire PoliceFormer Detective Chief Inspector Alan Foster of South Yorkshire PoliceNorman Bettison, a former officer with South Yorkshire Police and subsequently Chief Constable of Merseyside and West Yorkshire Police 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.last_img read more

Read More »