New Coach? New Players? Prayers? How to Fix the Knicks (and Nets)

Marv Albert, radio and television voice of the Knicks for many years before moving on to NBC and now Turner Sports.


The Knicks need to be better at defense to turn their fortunes around. Courtney Lee demonstrated his technique against Khem Birch of the Orlando Magic.

Nicole Sweet/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Start playing defense. It is rumored to be an essential part of basketball.

No matter what pieces they add, they need to play defense. They are a very bad defensive team. We see that now. My two rings (he says, holding up his two diamond-studded championship rings) are symbolic of defense, man. We play defense in spurts: 46 minutes, 45 minutes, you have to do it for 48 minutes to be victorious. And we have some good players.

—Clyde Frazier, a two-time N.B.A. champion with the Knicks. Yes, kids, it really did happen twice, long ago.

OK, Jeff Hornacek is out. But think really hard about that new coach, because there is probably more losing to come.

And after deciding who is their guy, what are the expectations for him? Because you can bring in another guy, your guy, but with that roster, and with Porzingis’s injury, nothing’s going to change for a while. So you’d better be sure the guy you choose is ready to deal with more losing — the way Brett Brown dealt with it in Philadelphia — and you are ready to not overreact when the fans and media start complaining about whoever is the coach, which is going to happen in New York. And then you have to figure out if you’re ready to give Porzingis — and his body does scare me, especially the legs — a max deal before he has come back healthy. You can’t have a plan until those questions are answered.

— Butch Beard, the point guard for the 1974-75 N.B.A. champion Warriors and a Knicks player, assistant coach and broadcaster in the 1970s and 1980s. He was also head coach of the New Jersey Nets for two seasons in the mid-1990s, so you get to hear him again if you keep reading.


Some wonder if change for the Knicks will start with Jeff Hornacek departing as coach.

Kathy Willens/Associated Press

It’s not just the coach, it’s gaps in the roster. Keep developing players in the G League.

A lot of people were saying get rid of Hornacek, but the Knicks don’t have a viable roster to compete, plain and simple. Their star player goes down or their second-best player goes down and the Knicks go in the toilet. It happened when Tim Hardaway Jr. went down and it happened when Porzingis went down. The team can’t function. So until you put the players on the court that are right for the coach, you’re not going to succeed.

One of the things the Knicks are doing which is positive is developing players in the G League. Developing players that can actually contribute or that become good trade assets — like Trey Burke — that’s something we weren’t doing before. I was campaigning for us to get Trey Burke on the Knicks because he’s a guard that can get in the lane and create.

— Leon Robinson, who attends a lot of games and has acted in films such as “Cool Runnings” and “Above the Rim.”

Sometimes the only thing to do is pray.

“On bended knee I pray above to da basketball gods to deliver us back to da glory years of da Orange and Blue. Amen.”

— Spike Lee

How the Nets Can Do Better Than 12th Place


Kevin Love of the Cavaliers lost the ball as he collided with Nets forward DeMarre Carroll in March.

Kathy Willens/Associated Press

The Nets already are kind of good. Until the fourth quarter.

They’ve done about as good a job as you can do starting out with nothing. Being left with nothing or starting out with nothing — however you want to look at it — they’ve found ways to come up with some talent after the franchise lost all of those first-round picks in that deal with Boston.

With a break here or there, they would have had 30 wins this season because they’ve lost so many heartbreaking games down the stretch in the fourth quarter or overtime. Win a couple of those and they’re at 30 wins, which is way more than people would have predicted at the beginning of the season.

The toughest thing, I think, in a situation like the Nets are in, is to stay the course and not deviate. Philadelphia was getting killed for a while there. Everybody was making fun of the Process. The Process looks pretty good right now, doesn’t it? You just had to wait through it.”

— Mike Fratello, a former N.B.A. head coach and current Turner Sports analyst, who also served as the longtime color analyst on Nets TV broadcasts.

There’s a wow factor coming, in a good way.

They need to put shooters around their point guard and build some depth. They’re really a young team. But those guys, I’m telling you it’s one of these types of teams that the minute they start to really make some hay, you’re going to turn around and go ‘Wow.’ They aren’t going to win the division next year, but they’re definitely making some strides internally. Sometimes you can’t see success because we are looking at wins and losses from the outside, but internally it’s almost like what Philadelphia did: you have to wait it out, pick up some top draft choices and coach them up. All of a sudden, you win 50 games.

— Nancy Lieberman, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and a coach for the Big3 league.


The Brooklyn Nets, even without the injured guard Jeremy Lin this season, were usually pretty good. Until the fourth quarter.

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Keep flying under the radar, which has not really been a problem for this team. And build a better roster, which has been a problem for this team.

The best thing the Nets can do is continue to stay out of the limelight, which goes against the grain of what they’ve always been trying to do because their main problem in their entire existence has been being second-class citizens in their own market. They’ve never had a real fan base. The one thing you can’t say or write anymore is that the arena isn’t worth a damn — I love watching games at Barclays. Same thing with the franchise. Within a few years, if they have any luck building a team, it’ll probably be worth $2 billion. From where they were in Jersey, that’s real progress. So stay under the radar, let all the pressure be on the Knicks, and build your team.

— Butch Beard, a former N.B.A. player and broadcaster, was head coach of the New Jersey Nets for two seasons in the mid-1990s.

The Nets have a hopeful fan. He has had season tickets for four years. He really roots for the Knicks, but supporting the Nets …

… is something to do and it’s fun. It’s just to be a part of something. And these season tickets are cheaper than with the Knicks. I will always love the Knicks. I am a New York basketball fan. The key is the Nets are trying to build on draft picks, but I think they need to try to do some trades. They have to be able to bring in a superstar. This is a beautiful facility, but a lot of these guys want nice practice facilities out in the country. This whole thing can turn around if we bring in a LeBron. You’ve got Jay-Z. We need a franchise player. I think the Nets will make the playoffs before the Knicks will ever make the playoffs.

Victor Batine, 55, Queens

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On Pro Basketball: Can Winning Become Rollicking Fun Again for the Warriors?

There are very rational explanations to account for the cloud that suddenly hangs over the league’s overwhelming preseason favorites heading into the start of the 2018 playoffs.

Stephen Curry, the two-time M.V.P. guard, played in only one of Golden State’s final 17 games after suffering a knee sprain just as he’d recovered from a sprained ankle. Curry’s absence, combined with a nagging flurry of injuries around him, rendered the Warriors’ last dozen or so games meaningless; catching Houston in the race for the West’s No. 1 overall seed was, realistically, out of reach. Those factors inevitably combined to chip away at the Warriors’ intensity, discipline and focus and, by season’s end, dropped them from their customary top-five slot in defensive efficiency all the way down to No. 9.

Golden State’s hope is that a return to high-stakes basketball, after grinding through a seemingly interminable regular season to get there, will usher this team back to its usual standards and thus back to its happy place. But a measure of gloom, for all the rationalizations, has been hard for the Warriors to shake as Saturday’s Game 1 against the pesky San Antonio Spurs — sans Curry — draws near.

For the past few years, Golden State seemed to be the one powerhouse impervious to the seminal claim of Pat Riley, the legendary coach and executive, that winning or misery were the only state-of-mind options for the N.B.A. elite. It was just two short years ago that the Warriors defied conventional wisdom and relentlessly chased a record 73 wins in the regular season, finding great enjoyment in their quest amid the incessant chatter of naysayers who insisted that the extra gas guzzled to get there would lead to a fatal fuel shortage in the postseason.

This, however, is Year 4 of Golden State’s run as the N.B.A.’s modern-day version of the Beatles. Kerr remembers how mentally draining it was just to drag through three seasons like this as a player, specifically as a teammate to Michael Jordan before Jordan’s second retirement from the Chicago Bulls. He has, for months, been warning anyone who would listen about how hard it would be to keep this group consistently plugged in — even with a shot to win the first back-to-back titles in the Warriors’ evolution.

Kerr was right. Bliss is not a given, even with a roster like this.

How joyful can the Warriors really be, for that matter, when the prime supplier of their let-it-fly frolic — Curry — is out of the lineup?

The only real surprise here, according to the former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin, is that the Warriors dodged such a malaise for as long as they did.


“I was amazed that they found a way to remain the joy engine they were for the previous three years of the run,” said David Griffin, the former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager.

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

“It’s very predictable,” said Griffin, who has been working as an analyst for NBA TV and Sirius XM Radio as he awaits his eventual return to front-office work after his own tension-filled stint in charge of the Cavaliers.

“I was amazed that they found a way to remain the joy engine they were for the previous three years of the run. But when you have the shortest turnaround in league history and hear all off-season that you can’t be beaten, you’re going to have to battle complacency.

“They have been together longer than any other group and have been grinding longer mentally than everyone other than Cleveland. It all compounds further when you endure injuries and turmoil.”

None of this, of course, is exclusive to the Warriors. Griffin’s old team practically bathes in torment, perhaps because LeBron James, after spending four years in Miami, seems to have adopted the Riley way as his own.

Over in Houston, meanwhile, the Rockets general manager Daryl Morey inspired a lengthy story this week in The Houston Chronicle about his inability to stomach watching games in person, even though he assembled the Rockets squad that just won a franchise-record 65 games and has been picked in some corners to unseat Golden State as the Western Conference champion.

In the wake of the Chronicle story, I asked Morey why it’s so hard for even the best teams to have fun. It is sports, after all.

“I’m not sure how to explain it well,” Morey said. “The only analogy I can think of is how people feel when they are close to something they have worked for and wanted for a very long time. It is stressful. Add in that the odds are long every year, and you get pain as the dominant feeling.”

No one, mind you, is ever going to feel sorry for a juggernaut like the Warriors, after two championships in the past three seasons and given the talent Myers has assembled. That’s especially true when San Antonio has only had the All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard in uniform for nine games all season and when the two biggest threats to the Warriors besides Houston — Oklahoma City and Utah — are on the Rockets’ side of the playoff bracket. Golden State may not have Curry back until Round 2, and it faces uncertainty about the reliability of its bench, but it will only have to face one of those three troublesome teams to get back to a fourth successive N.B.A. finals.

Not that the Warriors can dare to assume anything. They haven’t played well enough in the season’s second half, and certainly haven’t been healthy enough, to avoid being questioned, psychoanalyzed and doubted like never before in this four-season stretch. And just imagine what happens if Leonard makes an unexpected comeback in this series.

So for his own reassurance, Myers turns to Kerr.

“Steve’s probably the best person in the world to try to navigate a team through what we’ve experienced, because he’s actually lived it as a player,” Myers said. “To be honest, I’m always asking him what we should expect.

“But the reason sports generates so much passion is because we don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s not scripted. Nobody can spoil the movie for you because nobody knows how the movie is going to end.”

Even if you ask the director.

“All I got from Steve at the start of the season was kind of a preview,” Myers said. “I asked him what this movie was going to look like, and he said, ‘Well, I can tell you it’s a drama with a lot of twists and turns.’ I’ve kind of leaned on that, and now here we are.

“I get to watch the movie now. It’s about to start.”

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Andre Ingram Got a Cup of Coffee and Turned it Into a Shooting Show

“They know me very well, they’ve seen me the last couple years, so they know what I do and they know how I play,” he said of the Lakers in a telephone interview shortly before the game. “That’s the goal: Be who I am.”

Ingram’s call-up comes at the tail end of a fifth consecutive playoff-less season for the Lakers, a team of promising young stars that is patching a roster together after a slew of injuries. But that hardly takes away from the fact that, after 384 games in the N.B.A.’s minor league and a brief stint in Australia, Ingram ascended to basketball’s highest level.


Ingram set a career record for 3-pointers in the N.B.A.’s development league before finally getting the call to join the Lakers.

Joe Murphy/NBAE, via Getty Images

When the news came out that Ingram had been called up, Jeff Jones, who coached Ingram at American and is now the head coach at Old Dominion, immediately began receiving texts from a large network of former players and coaches, each of whom had come into contact with Ingram over the years. Jones said the group, which includes the N.B.A. veteran Cory Alexander, was in disbelief that Ingram’s day had finally come.

“It couldn’t happen to or for a better person,” Jones said in a telephone interview. “I don’t think I could adequately describe what a quality human being Andre Ingram is, and has been, going back to when we were recruiting him when he was a high school kid in Richmond, Virginia.”

Kieran Donohue, who was an assistant at American before joining Jones at Old Dominion, raved about Ingram on and off the court, and summed up the group’s feelings in three words: “Everybody loves Andre.”

For two games, or a “cup of coffee” in the old parlance of minor league baseball, the Lakers will be treated to an aging gunner who owns a remarkable career mark of 46.1 percent from 3-point range (Stephen Curry’s career mark is 43.6 percent). Ingram, who developed into a shooter at the pro level after having been a more traditional scorer in college, can be streaky, but he has a tendency to catch fire from outside, as evidenced by his win over Fredette in that 3-point contest in 2016 — which included a stretch of hitting 13 consecutive 3-pointers.

2016 NBA Development League Three-Point Contest Video by nbagleague

Ingram’s other statistics have been fairly modest, but he said he should not be labeled just a shooter, which he proved with plenty of hustle even in defeat on Tuesday. But people wanted a shooting show, and Ingram obliged, fulfilling his pregame prediction: “If we get some daylight, we’re going to let it go.”

Ingram is not the oldest rookie in N.B.A. history — that distinction most likely belongs to Pablo Prigioni of Argentina, who played his first N.B.A. game at 35 years 169 days — but he is an anomaly even among his minor league peers, who tend to bounce from league to league, because he has stayed remarkably loyal to the N.B.A.-run development league. His only professional experience beyond that league came in a two-game stint with the Perth Wildcats of Australia’s National Basketball League in 2016.

Jones said that he was one of numerous voices in Ingram’s life over the years encouraging the player to seek more money by playing overseas rather than in the development league. But Ingram’s persistence was something to be reckoned with, and he believed staying as close to the actual N.B.A. as possible was his best way of eventually playing in the league.

“He’s one of the most determined individuals that I’ve ever met,” Jones said. “This is the path he wanted to take, and he’s made it work for him.”

Now that he has finally realized his dream, Ingram is trying to enjoy the moment. The bigger thoughts on what this means for his career can come later.

“I’m most looking forward to just getting up and down a couple times,” he said before the game. “After that, it’s basketball. Everything else is what you’ve been doing your whole life.”

But he did add that any thought of this being some sort of a career-capper for him was unfounded.

“In no way do I look at this as the end of something,” he said. “Quite the opposite.”

If Tuesday was any indication, he has plenty left in the tank.

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Notre Dame 61, Mississippi State 58: Notre Dame Tops Mississippi State With Buzzer-Beater to Claim Title


Notre Dame’s Marina Mabrey, right, attempted a shot against Mississippi State on Sunday. The Irish went on to win its second ever N.C.A.A. women’s basketball title in dramatic fashion.

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Notre Dame won its second N.C.A.A. women’s basketball title on Sunday with a championship run that once seemed unlikely yet ultimately became unstoppable.

With a stirring display of resilience, the Irish overcame a dispiriting series of knee injuries this season and persevered until the players hoisted the championship trophy with a 61-58 victory over Mississippi State at Nationwide Arena.

Arike Ogunbowale hit a 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left to give Notre Dame the championship.

Absent four players who had sustained anterior cruciate ligament tears, Notre Dame (35-3) remained insistent and aspirational with deft shooting, voracious offensive rebounding and exquisite interior passing.

It was the first title for Notre Dame and Coach Muffet McGraw since 2001 and ended a frustrating series of defeats in the championship game that had come against Texas A&M in 2011, Baylor in 2012 and Connecticut in 2014 and 2015.

Mississippi State (37-2), meanwhile, lost in the national championship game for a second consecutive season.

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Kansas Edges Duke in Overtime to Reach the Final Four


Lagerald Vick and Kansas held off Duke to advance to the Final Four on Sunday.

Nati Harnik/Associated Press

OMAHA — In a game filled with lead changes, Kansas got past Duke in the Midwest Regional final, 85-81, in overtime on Sunday and will head to the Final Four to face Villanova in the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament.

After Duke went into the locker room at halftime with a 3-point lead, the second half was a thriller as the top-seeded Jayhawks and the second-seeded Blue Devils showed a great deal of fight at CenturyLink Center in Omaha.

Malik Newman led Kansas with 32 points, helping the Jayhawks survive a big night from Duke’s Trevon Duval, who had 20 points and six assists.

Marvin Bagley, widely expected to be a top-five pick in this year’s N.B.A. draft, had 16 points and 10 rebounds for Duke, but the team got little help from Grayson Allen, their lightning rod senior, who had just 12 points and missed a shot to win as time expired in regulation. His total was padded by a meaningless 3-pointer in the game’s final seconds.

While upsets have been the talk of the tournament, Saturday’s Final Four matchup between Kansas and Villanova in San Antonio will be a meeting of No. 1 seeds. The other semifinal will feature 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago and third-seeded Michigan.

The Jayhawks advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 2012. They lost in the round of 8 the past two seasons.

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College Coaches Cannot Be Contained

“My thing is, if you yell at the refs, you should get a technical,” he said.

But , he defended his intention — leading his team to victory — and actions — shouting, pacing, pushing the limits of the coach’s box.

“If we’re coaching our guys,” he said, “that’s what we’re paid to do.”

The N.C.A.A. doesn’t necessarily disagree. This is the first season of an expanded coach’s box, which is the area the head coach may patrol during play. Vigorous sideline generals received an extra 10 feet this season; they may now roam from the baseline all the way to a mark 38 feet away. That’s a midrange jump shot from midcourt, which is 47 feet from the baseline.


Villanova Coach Jay Wright looked ready to storm the court as he yelled instructions during the first half against Alabama on Saturday.

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

“I have had officials tell me that it was expanded for me,” Weber said.

College basketball coaches are easy subjects for ridicule. N.B.A. fans scoff at their hyperactivity and point to professional coaches’ comparatively calm mien, even though N.B.A. coaches may stray as much as 43 feet from the baseline. Casual observers wonder why these blustering, nattily dressed bombasts can’t stay cool.

The college coaches say they deserve sympathy. Their charges are younger than most players in the N.B.A. Their teams can feel especially far away while on defense, seeking crucial late-game stops out of vocal range for even the loudest coach. Most coaches are former players with decades of experience who now watch mostly helplessly as post-adolescents try to implement months of training in a few essential seconds. Their antics also make for great TV.

Yet they have to stay inside an invisible box during games or risk a penalty that could tangibly hurt their team. The correct call for a coach’s box violation after a warning is a Class B technical foul, giving the other team one free throw and the ball, inbounded where it was when the foul was called.

“I have a young team, and sometimes they don’t talk,” Alabama Coach Avery Johnson said last week between first- and second-round games. “You can hear it in my voice. I’ve got to talk for them. I got warned yesterday, and, probably, going to get warned tomorrow.”


Bill Self of Kansas was one of the few coaches who actually got whistled for a technical foul for leaving the coach’s box earlier this year.

John Weast/Getty Images

Despite plenty of yelling and straying, Johnson and Alabama lost to Duke Sunday night.

In a world where referees “T-up” coaches for far more subjectively determined violations, there is an argument that the coach’s box is extraneous, even condescending. Anecdotally, there appear to be few T’s actually called (the N.C.A.A. said it did not keep the statistic). Kansas Coach Bill Self complained that he had been whistled once this year “for sticking my toe two inches outside the box.”

“We represent universities,” South Carolina Coach Frank Martin said in a phone interview. “We’re grown men. We’re employed. We get treated like we’re immature. We’ve got to be in this small little confined area. We’re not going to go to the other bench and instigate something.”

This understanding was partly why the box was expanded, according to Art Hyland, secretary-rules editor of the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball rules committee. It is also why referees are instructed to first give the bench a warning.

“People felt empathy that the coaches really needed a little more room in order to do their job correctly,” Hyland said.


Kentucky Coach John Calipari was beyond the stripe, above, in a November game, and got a technical for a coach’s box violation Thursday night in a loss to Kansas State.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

An extra 10 feet turns out to be a lot, Self said Thursday in Omaha before the Jayhawks’ round of 16 game. He thought it was a “pretty insignificant change” when it was announced last June, but now that it has been in place for a season, he said, “It’s been a great rule.”

“You feel like you can actually have a little bit more communication on the other end of the floor,” he said.

On Wednesday, before Thursday night’s violation, Calipari blamed the tight strictures of the old box for one of the most infamous coach’s box technical fouls in the college game.

In 1992, Calipari’s Massachusetts team was playing Kentucky in the round of 16 at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. The Minutemen had made up most of a double-digit deficit late in the second half when a referee called a technical foul on Calipari for a coach’s box violation. The referee “was 50 feet away from the UMass bench when he called it,” The Baltimore Sun reported. The call swung the momentum back the Wildcats’ way, and they won. (They lost the next game to Duke on Christian Laettner’s famous buzzer-beater.)


Purdue Coach Matt Painter went on the court, and thus outside the box, to protest a call during a game against Ohio State in February.

Michael Hickey/Getty Images

“At the Spectrum where they had all those lines,” Calipari said. “I’m standing there and the guy calls a T from 90 feet away. ‘You’re out of the box.’ And I really wasn’t out of the box, but it looked like it.”

Calipari had no such defense or excuse Thursday night.

In practice, there is frequently a live-and-let-live dynamic between referees and hyperactive coaches. Warnings are issued; actual fouls, less so.

Ed Hightower, a retired referee, said officials often find that assistant coaches are better interlocutors for conveying the warnings. Speraw, Weber’s assistant, said that the referees had spoken to the staff at halftime of the U.M.B.C. game.

When warning coaches that they were in danger of violating this rule, Hightower said he would often say, “You don’t want to make me do something I don’t want to do.”

“Ninety percent of the time, I would say, the coaches are just so caught up in the moment, coaching their kids,” Hightower said. “It’s an emotional sport.”

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11 of Our Best Weekend Reads



Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times

David Reich Unearths Human History Etched in Bone

In less than three years, David Reich’s laboratory at Harvard Medical School has published DNA from the genomes of 938 ancient humans — more than all other research teams working in this field combined. The work in his lab has reshaped our understanding of human prehistory. Science



Jada Yuan/The New York Times

The Suffering and Spirit of San Juan

A visit by our 52 Places Traveler to the Puerto Rican capital, still recovering from last year’s hurricanes, was one of the most calming and soul-filling experiences of her trip so far. “The beauty I saw was in the rebuilding, in the lives being lived with joy and grace in the most trying of circumstances,” she wrote. Travel




Overlooked No More: Ruth Wakefield, Who Invented the Chocolate Chip Cookie

Legend has it that Ruth Wakefield was trying a variation on a butterscotch dessert when she decided to let the chocolate chips fall where they may. As part of The Times’s continuing Overlooked project, Ms. Wakefield receives a long-overdue obituary tribute.



Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

‘We’re Losing the Fight’: Tuberculosis Batters a Venezuela in Crisis

The disease, which until recently seemed to be under control in Venezuela, is making an aggressive comeback in the nation, overwhelming its broken health care system. Foreign



Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times

K.D. Lang Doesn’t Have to Indulge Your Constant Cravings

Twenty-five years ago the idea that an openly gay and very butch woman could become a pop idol was seismic. Now K.D. Lang can just make her music. “I think it’s karmic that I have the body and the physical appearance that I have,” Ms. Lang said. “I think it’s challenging for the audience and for myself, and at this point I just live it.” Styles



Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

In This Corner of Maryland, Holidays Mean a Stuffed Ham

Unless you’ve lived in St. Mary’s County in Maryland or spent a holiday with someone from here, you’ve probably never heard of stuffed ham. It is one of America’s most regionally specific dishes, but has never migrated beyond its home. People here cherish it. Food



Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

J.J. Redick, the N.B.A.’s Most Meticulous Player

In his 12th season, J.J. Redick painstakingly plans everything from his naps to his shots. It’s helped him steady a Philadelphia 76ers team that is poised to reach the playoffs again. Sports

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Loyola-Chicago Holds Off Nevada for a Third Straight Upset


Loyola-Chicago’s Marques Townes celebrated a late 3-pointer in the Ramblers’ 69-68 victory over Nevada.

John Amis/Associated Press

ATLANTA — Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt knew she was going have to rip up one of the two N.C.A.A tournament brackets she filled out after her beloved Loyola-Chicago Ramblers faced Nevada here Thursday. Before Sister Jean, the 98-year-old nun and team chaplain, surged to Kardashian-level fame on social media — albeit chaste and devout — she served both as Loyola’s divine inspiration and as a scout who crafted detailed basketball reports that even Mike Krzyzewski would love.

Loyola’s 69-68 victory over Nevada here on Thursday ensured that Sister Jean would get to rip up the right bracket, which actually was the wrong one. See, the Mother Teresa side of Sister Jean’s personality moved her to slot her beloved Ramblers into the national title game. She called it her Cinderella bracket, and now, after the No. 11-seeded Ramblers upset No. 6 Miami, No. 3 Tennessee and then Nevada, Sister Jean and her dreams are very much alive.

But, alas, she could not dismiss the other side of her soul, that of the basketball lifer. So Sister Jean hedged: She filled out another bracket with the Ramblers being eliminated here, in the semifinals of the South Regional.

In the first half, the No. 7-seeded Wolf Pack (29-7) looked every bit the powerhouse that had erased a 22-point deficit to stun No. 2-seeded Cincinnati, 75-73, to reach the round of 16. It was a 20-minute chess match punctuated by Loyola fast breaks that were rarely finished. Nevada blocked five of Loyola’s shots, all at point blank range, as the Wolf Pack took a 12-point lead late in the half.

There was reason, however, for the Wolf Pack to worry even then.

Nevada had struggled to score from long range, shooting just 2 of 13 from beyond the 3-point arc and were 9 of 27 from the field. The Ramblers did not quit, found their scoring touch and put together a 12-0 run to take 28-24 lead into halftime.


Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt observing during the first half of Loyola’s victory.

David Goldman/Associated Press

In the second half, the Wolf Pack doubled down on a smothering defense that forced Loyola into three shot-clock violations and another half-dozen hurried, off-balance attempts. With 3 minutes 18 seconds left, Nevada tied the score at 59-59 when Cody Martin floated through the lane for a soaring layup.

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