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💪 Good morning to everyone but especially …
THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS AND THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS
The very, very young and very, very successful In-Season Tournament has its first controversial finish. The Lakers defeated the Suns, 106-103, thanks to a terrific LeBron James performance, a cold-blooded Austin Reaves 3-pointer and one very friendly whistle. Here’s how it went down late.
Reaves nailed a stepback 3-pointer with 15.1 seconds to give Los Angeles a 105-101 lead. Kevin Durant countered with a layup to cut it to 105-103.
After a foul, Anthony Davis made one of two free throws, and Durant airballed a last-second 3-pointer. Game over.
James finished with 31 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds and five steals. He’s the first Laker with 30/10/5/5 since Magic Johnson in 1987, and he’s the oldest player in NBA history to do it … by nearly 7 years (Walt Frazier did it in 1977 at 32; James is about to turn 39). He may not run quite as fast or jump quite as high as he once did, but he can still dominate a basketball game. Sam Quinn has more on James’ historic performance. The Lakers play the Pelicans for a trip to the final tomorrow night at 9 p.m. ET.
In the East, the Bucks dispatched the Knicks, 146-122 behind a relentless offense. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 35 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists, and Damian Lillard had 28 points as he knocked down five of seven 3-pointers. It was just the second time in the last 30 years Milwaukee has shot at least 60% from the field and 60% from distance. The Bucks have not lost in the In-Season Tournament. Neither have the Pacers, who will face Milwaukee at 5 p.m. ET tomorrow.
Jeyarajah:“Membership in the new subdivision would be voluntary, but would require an investment of at least $30,000 per year into an educational trust fund for at least half of its total number athletes. That would guarantee half the schools’ athletes $120,000 over four years of competition. … The football-based subdivision would be independent of the FBS and FCS dichotomy. Teams at either level are eligible to opt into the football subdivision. However, teams that opt in will ultimately be able to exist at a different level than the rest of college football. The group could decide different roster sizes, recruitment practices, transfer or NIL rules, even while competing against other members of FBS or FCS working under the existing rules.”
Let’s break this down further:
Baker’s plan would add many benefits the biggest powerhouse programs might have sought by breaking away from the NCAA, while remaining under the NCAA umbrella.
Athletes would be directly compensated without them being designated (or protected) as employees.
The educational trust fund would be in addition to scholarships.
The remaining FBS schools would still have access to the College Football Playoff.
Baker will address the proposal today at the Sports Business Journal Intercollegiate Athletic Forum.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts are among the significant names who have endorsed the proposal. The proposed plan would cost Ohio State, one of the nation’s largest athletic programs with roughly 1,000 athletes, a minimum of $15 million per year. In 2022, OSU athletics brought in $250 million in revenue.
This would be the first new subdivision since the FBS and FCS split in 1978, and many top programs may see it as overdue. As Dennis Dodd writes, the NCAA is finally admitting its definition of amateurism is dead.
🏈 NFL Power Rankings include new No. 1
The Eagles had held the top spot in Pete Prisco’s Power Rankings for a long time. Not anymore. The 49ers jumped to No. 1 after their 42-19 romp in Philadelphia, and the entire top five of Pete’s latest rankings changed.
49ers (previous: 4)
This week featured a lot of big fallers, with the Steelers (ninth to 18th), Broncos (11th to 19th) and Commanders (23rd to 30th) “leading “the way in that regard.
But let’s focus on the positive. The Packers made the biggest leap, going from 19th to 13th, and, like Pete, I’m impressed. Green Bay has the league’s youngest team. Quarterback Jordan Love is in his fourth year overall but his first as a starter. His wide receivers and top tight ends are all rookies or second-year players. And it showed early. But they’ve shown tremendous growth and are currently the seventh seed in the NFC playoffs. Credit everyone involved, Pete writes.
Prisco:“The quarterback who seemed to lack confidence early on is playing like the guy I talked to this summer, one who firmly acted like there was no doubt in him. Now he’s on his way. … His command of the offense was outstanding against the high-pressure looks the Chiefs used. He seemed to get to the right play in almost every situation, his pocket awareness so much better than earlier in the season. Packers head coach Matt LaFleur has done a masterful job of navigating through injuries and bringing along a young quarterback and roster.”
⚾ MLB Winter Meetings: The latest on Shohei Ohtani
I promise we’re not ignoring you, MLB Winter Meetings. Between the NFL, college football and the NBA In-Season Tournament, I know it might feel that way, but it’s not true. And we’re especially not ignoring Shohei Ohtani. In fact, we have a rumors tracker with Ohtani headlining, and here’s the latest on the reigning AL MVP:
But plenty of players will be traded, and for those guys, R.J. Anderson has played matchmaker. That includes a third team in as many seasons for Juan Soto.
Anderson:“The match: New York Yankees | The reason: The Yankees need an offensive boost after ranking 25th last season in runs scored. Soto, younger than Eternal Rookie Estevan Florial, is undeniably one of the game’s best hitters. … Soto isn’t a perfect fit for the Yankees roster; he’s a below-average defender in left who should relocate to the DH spot over the coming years — an accommodation the Yankees cannot provide given Giancarlo Stanton‘s presence — but it’s hard to fret about that given his offensive capabilities. … The Yankees could still send over young pitching in exchange.”
🏀 No. 7 Iowa at Iowa State (W), 7 p.m. on ESPN2 🏒 Stars at Panthers, 7 p.m. on TNT 🏀 Spurs at Timberwolves, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN 🏀 No. 12 Texas at No. 8 Marquette (M), 8 p.m. on FS1 🏀 South Carolina at No. 24 Clemson (M), 8 p.m. on ACC Network 🏒 Hurricanes at Oilers, 9:30 p.m. on TNT 🏀 Nuggets at Clippers, 10 p.m. on ESPN