Lamar Jackson put an electrical current through some questions John Harbaugh had to answer about him

Lamar Jackson wants out in Baltimore.

Poor John Harbaugh. All the man wants is the starting quarterback that was promised to him when the Baltimore Ravens moved up to select Lamar Jackson in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Instead, five years later he spoke to the media on a Monday at the NFL League Meetings moments after his starting quarterback made public that he no longer wants to play for the Ravens.

On Mar. 7, the Ravens decided to place the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson after the two sides could not come to an agreement on a long-term deal. If he played under that deal this season, Jackson would have been guaranteed just over $32 million — far below what quarterbacks of his caliber are paid annually. For any team that desires to acquire Jackson, and is willing to sacrifice two first-round draft picks, they can make an offer that the Ravens have the right to match.

Harbaugh most certainly knew that the media would have a slew of questions for him about negotiations between the Ravens and Jackson. He has handled them deftly since 2021 when Jackson’s draft classmate Josh Allen signed a deal that included the most guaranteed money of any player in NFL history — $150 million.

The Buffalo Bills did what most NFL teams do with star quarterbacks. They hammered out a contract extension before the start of the quarterback’s fourth season. Jackson and the Ravens did not come to an agreement on a contract extension in 2021 — one season removed from his 2019 MVP — but Harbaugh was publicly confident then that a new deal was simply an administrative task that would be completed in due time.

In the days following the Ravens hard-fought playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals that Jackson missed due to a knee injury, Harbaugh told the media that he was still “100 percent, 200 percent,” about who is the Ravens’ starting quarterback. During this year’s scouting combine, he told the media that all conversations with potential offensive coordinators were centered around the candidates’ plans to best deploy Jackson’s skillset — they hired Todd Monken. Even when Harbaugh was hit with the news that Jackson made a public trade request his response was, “We’re building our offense around [the] idea,” that Ravens will not be making a change at starting quarterback.

Harbaugh even managed to paste a half-grin on his face while reacting internally in real time to the further deterioration of the relationship between the Ravens and Jackson. As many uncertainties as there are between those two parties, one thing I am certain of is that Harbaugh is as good as this country has to offer in middle management.

He is staying publically upbeat and damn near cheery about the last person besides Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes to win NFL MVP, entering his sixth NFL season still without a long-term deal. That’s the type of relentless positivity that can find the good in non-crispy bacon or sugarless Kool-Aid.

Maybe he can keep that tiny grin up while the other team owners give Steve Bisciotti a thunderous round of applause at the big league-meeting party that they will “forget” to inform Jimmy Haslem of its address. The kings of professional sports can continue to stuff cash in their pockets like a money machine with no time limit. Sure the Ravens may have kneecapped their team for the next decade, but for now, the quarterback market has been stabilized.

And Harbaugh had better hope that his sunny disposition can keep the Ravens competitive enough for him to remain employed. 

Caitlin Clark stands on her own after stellar Elite Eight performance

Caitlin Clark has a bright future ahead of her.

There’s a big phenomenon when conversing about sports to find the next big thing, or who a younger athlete could become when she or he reaches their potential. Kobe Bryant or LeBron James having a Michael Jordan-like arch dominated conversations for over a decade. The name of baseball’s next great power hitter in the post-steroids era is still up for grabs. And as I was watching Iowa’s Caitlin Clark absolutely pick apart a stout Louisville team in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight on Sunday, I couldn’t think of a great comparison. She’s truly one of a kind that’ll break basketball’s mold after she retires.

The best basketball comparison is Steph Curry. The production looks the same, their presence is similar, and how opponents defend them, mostly unsuccessfully, has comparable qualities. Yet, it’s plain to see how Clark and Curry play the position completely differently. Just as Mike Epps has joked, Curry plays the game like a 10-year-old with how he hoists the ball in the air and runs around the court. He’s the best perimeter shooter to ever hold a basketball, so that blacktop, free-flowing nature works for him. Clark’s game is much more refined, more like an assassin carefully, yet diabolically, picking her spots. Clark just calls her own number frequently, evidenced by her 41 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, three steals, and 8-for-14 clip from beyond the arc in the win over the Cardinals. Those video-game numbers were the first 40-point triple-double in an NCAA Tournament game ever, men or women.

Then it hit me when I mentioned video games, as I think one day Clark will follow in the footsteps of Candace Parker, Sue Bird, and Diana Taurasi to be a cover athlete for 2K or another basketball game. Joe Burrow is primed to be a cover athlete for the Madden franchise in the next few years. And I think he’s the proper comparison for Clark. His personality is flashy, but it’s business and nothing other-worldly on the battlefield. Those traits are executed to a level where you know you can put an entire game plan behind them delivering on the field. Clark is the exact same type of athlete. A comparison at all could be seen as unneeded, as Clark can stand alone as one-of-one. It makes it easier to recognize her greatness with contemporaries.

Much like Burrow’s professional career, he’s been close to a championship but hasn’t lifted the Lombardi Trophy. Clark is two wins away from bringing an NCAA Tournament championship to the Big Ten, a rare sight these days. Burrow did win a college championship with LSU and Clark looks poised to dominate the WNBA whenever she decides to leave Iowa City. And just like Burrow’s time with the Bengals, Clark will likely have to go through the biggest behemoth in her respective sport to get to the title. Burrow slayed the Patrick Mahomes giant once but lost in the Super Bowl. Earlier this year, he couldn’t repeat that feat. Undefeated South Carolina women’s basketball has to go through Maryland to get to the Final Four on Monday night, but did you read the first word of this sentence? As great as the Terps are, they’ve lost six more games than the Gamecocks have all year at 28-6, including a 25-point blowout at the hands of Dawn Staley’s team four months ago.

Of course, there are similarities between a quarterback and a point guard in how they facilitate offense. If there’s an offensive position for Iowa where Clark doesn’t touch the ball, it’s probably a fast break she’s not involved in. The best quality about both Burrow and Clark is how they both elevate everyone around them. They understand the spotlight is the brightest on them and don’t shy away from it. And in Clark’s case, last night’s performance will only add to her status as one of the best college basketball players of all time. And if anyone can take down South Carolina, it’ll be Iowa on the backs of another legendary game from the Mayor of Iowa City.

Warriors’ turnover problem submarines a needed victory

Draymond Green

There was a four-second difference between the game clock and the shot clock. The Golden State Warriors had the lead with less than 24 seconds remaining in the game. A victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves would have put the Warriors firmly 1.5 games ahead of the play-in tournament. The Warriors ended up losing and are now clinging to the sixth seed with a 0.5 game-lead on the Timberwolves after the loss. What cost them the game is a problem that they can no longer power through — turnovers.

It was Draymond Green and Jordan Poole whose miscues — this time broadcasted intentionally — put the Warriors in a bad spot in late critical moments. With under a minute remaining in the game, the Warriors were up by one after Rudy Gobert split a pair of free throws. Green had the ball at the top of the key and somehow got his chest pass deflected by Kyle Anderson. A few seconds later, Towns hit a 3-pointer and the Timberwolves took a two-point lead.

The following trip up the floor Poole had the ball with just over four seconds remaining. If the Chase Center had a financial incentive to advertise the team’s turnover problems, Poole’s face would be atop every entrance.

He had played well on Sunday, but his attempt at a game-winning play went haywire. He slipped while trying to pull up on Mike Conley, ended up panicking, and flipped an ill-advised pass toward Curry that went out of bounds. A game the Warriors let slip away, and now four of their six remaining games are against teams that currently are in the postseason.

Of course, as bad as their mistakes were, those aren’t the only reasons that the Warriors lost 99-96 to the Timberwolves. Defense is far from a strength for the 2022-23 Warriors, so if they hold a team to under 100 points they should not lose.

It was unfortunate timing for the Warriors for Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to have rough shooting performances on the same night. They both shot under 35 percent from the field, and it was actually Poole’s 27 points on 50 percent from the field that helped keep the Warriors in the game.

A better shooting performance and the Warriors could have pounded the T’Wolves, but that is how jump shooting works. Some nights they don’t fall and combine that with a team that has the propensity to turn the ball over, disaster can strike during any game. The 73-win Warriors of 2015-16 committed the sixth-most turnovers per game in the NBA and was 20th in turnover percentage. This season, the Warriors rank 29th in both of those categories. How the Warriors were able to navigate blown possessions and shooting slumps by playing some of the best defense in the NBA. In 2016 they had the fifth-best defensive rating in the league, last year’s championship squad finished the regular season first in that category. A defense that strong can compensate for an offense that, turns the ball over less frequently than only the Houston Rockets

Sunday was the night that Gary Payton II made his 2023 Warriors debut. He played just over 15 minutes in his return to the court from an adductor injury, and it appears that he will be ready to assume his role from the 2022 postseason. He was excellent for them on defense last season and on night one with him on the court they held a surging team to under 100 points — albeit with Anthony Edwards playing in his first game since turning an ankle last Sunday.

One of the few times this season that a shootout wasn’t necessary to win. The game was instead a rock fight that the Warriors lost control of at the most inopportune time.

In defense of the NFL’s mid-tier quarterback contracts

Seattle managed to sign Geno Smith to a deal that didn’t hamstring the rest of the roster.

The ever-changing landscape of the NFL is, in a way, just like fashion. It’s never standing still, always looking for new and creative ways to evolve and, eventually, it’ll become a cycle. It’s all about trends while in the moment. Outside zone run concepts. Lighter boxes to defend the run. Versatile defensive linemen. At some point, the bell will toll on a new idea.

That theory translates to NFL contracts too, in terms of what they cost and how they’re structured. As the league has grown commercially on a global scale, now hosting games in four separate countries and peeling back the curtain for new and exciting markets, the teams have reaped the financial benefits. The NFL’s salary cap has grown at a steady rate of around seven percent year by year, apart from the COVID-19 impacted season of 2021, where the number dropped by eight percent and the rebounding year after where there was a surge of 14 percent, essentially recouping the cash flow of that lost year and then some.

The NFL cap boom has lead to big QB deals

Predictably, the cap boom of the last few years has led to some large contracts. Most notably at the quarterback position. The quarterback has always been the most important player on the field — the game can live or die by their ability to control the tempo, make plays, and to generally just be good at their job. But as the NFL has transitioned over the past decade to a predominantly pass-heavy league, teams are dedicating considerably more money to their signal callers.

There are currently 13 starting quarterbacks in the NFL making more than $30 million a year for their respective teams, with Aaron Rodgers currently averaging $50,271,667, the highest AAV in NFL history. On average, the quarterbacks earning more than that $30 million threshold are counting for 20 percent of their teams salary cap. Considering that an NFL roster consists of 53 players, one player accounting for that much money is startling.

It’s the nature of the beast, though. The best quarterbacks in the NFL give a team a better shot of winning a championship and, as a result, they command the most money. It’s perfectly acceptable to pay the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and Josh Allen that sort of capital. But the current landscape has boomed and things start to get a little dicey.

Was the Kyler Murray deal worth it?

Teams are desperate for starting caliber quarterbacks in the NFL. So much so, that they’ll do anything to get their guy. If that means giving a quarterback a little more to get the deal done, they’ll do it. Even if that guy isn’t necessarily a top of the market player. Look no further than the Arizona Cardinals giving Kyler Murray a five-year $230 million extension with $160 million in guaranteed money.

At his best, Murray has proven to be a borderline top-10 quarterback in the NFL and he’s still only 25. The Cardinals can build around him for the next decade. Or can they? That’s the problem at play. The double-edged sword that keeps teams up at night.

Giving Murray all of that money to keep him around is nice, but he’s currently counting for 22.1 percent of the Cardinals’ cap. They’re hamstrung by their desperation right now. This is a roster that just won 4 games in 2022 and has multiple holes across the board. The Cardinals just aren’t a good football team, but they’ve committed a significant amount of cap to one player. A player that, just like any other, needs a supporting cast around him.

You can see where we’re going with this. Supporting casts cost money and that money becomes increasingly harder to hand out if it’s tied to one player. It’s not a new problem, though. This has been the drawback of the Minnesota Vikings during the Kirk Cousins-era. The team was good enough to contend for the playoffs, but with Cousins – more specifically his contract – they struggled to put all of the pieces together to actually make a real dent in the postseason.

Cousins, like Murray, is a good-but-not-great quarterback. Effectively finding himself right in the middle of the pack as talent goes but, like Murray, earning more than that. Sure, the market eventually catches up and Cousins’ contract doesn’t look as bad as it once did, but the damage is already done.

It’s set a precedent around the league too. Middle-ground contracts just don’t exist anymore. A starting quarterback is either getting paid a rookie scale contract or he’s making the big bucks. There are exceptions, but those contracts belong to players like Mitchell Trubisky, Taylor Heinecke, and Jacoby Brissett. Bridge starters with little upside. They’re making that money because teams don’t expect them to be long-term starters.

Teams are just too scared to be in the quarterback wilderness, though, and continuity is important. But at what cost? The New York Giants just gave Daniel Jones a four-year, $160 million contract with $100 million in guaranteed money. He’s now one of the highest paid quarterbacks in NFL history, despite being 27th out of 35 quarterbacks in EPA per play since 2019, per RBSDM.

Like the Cardinals, the Giants are now hamstrung in the short-term. The Giants won nine games and made the postseason for the first time since 2016 last year, but the roster isn’t talented enough to repeat that success, even with a few additions in free agency. Paying Jones complicates the roster construction moving forward, and he’s just not good enough to carry an abnormal offensive load like Patrick Mahomes.

Consider Geno Smith

There has to be a middle ground. Teams need to find a way to adequately pay starting calibre quarterbacks while also giving themselves the flexibility to construct a roster that can compete. This round of free agency has taught us that it’s possible. On paper. The Seattle Seahawks and Las Vegas Raiders are providing parity in the quarterback market by giving Geno Smith and Jimmy Garoppolo mid-tier contracts.

The Seahawks and Smith agreed on a three-year, $75 million contract that gives him $40 million in guaranteed money, while the Raiders signed Garoppolo to a three-year, $72.7 million deal with $45 million in guarantees. In terms of AAV, the two slot in at 15th and 16th respectively. If those deals prove fruitful, they can provide a template for what could be.

Those deals perfectly fit the criteria for what could buck the trend of the inflating quarterback contract. The Seahawks can comfortably consider themselves as real contenders in the NFC with Smith, while the Raiders and Garoppolo might have a tougher time making the postseason in a vaunted AFC. These contracts give both teams flexibility, though. The Raiders still have the 11th most cap space in the NFL and the Seahawks have the 17th most, per Spotrac. While that doesn’t mean they have to spend the money right now, it sets them up nicely for free agency next year too. Both teams have top 10 picks in the NFL Draft and have the chance to pick up impact starters from day one, or even a quarterback to sit and develop behind either Smith or Garoppolo — but that’s not a necessity.

The main thing is neither team had to cave and put themselves in an awkward position and that both quarterbacks got paid. This isn’t to suggest that guys like Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert shouldn’t make mega-money. When guys like Jared Goff, Kirk Cousins, or even Tua Tagovailoa hit the market soon, there might be a way to appease all sides.

After all, if you’re offering a mid-tier quarterback around $30 million a year instead of $45 million and promising that the extra cash will go towards constructing a team that has a better chance to compete for a Super Bowl, then it might be a hard offer to turn down. Once the formula proves successful, it’ll become just like fashion all over again. Follow the trends.

NFL writer from Glasgow, Scotland. Follow me on Twitter @tvalentinesport and talk Steely Dan to me.

The Seahawks significantly improved their roster, and still have both of their first-round picks

The Seahawks were wise to bring back Geno Smith, in addition to some other savvy moves.

Pencil the San Francisco 49ers in as NFC West’s best in 2023 at your own risk. After the shellacking that the Seattle Seahawks suffered at the hands of the 49ers in the postseason, they have taken significant steps to shore up talent deficiencies on the roster. Come autumn, Kyle Shanahan and Co. had better be ready for the 49ers, Seahawks rivalry to be back in full force.

The Seahawks’ bountiful offseason began with the re-signing of Geno Smith. Following a breakout, Pro-Bowl season in his early 30s he signed a three-year, $105 million deal. It includes $27.3 million guaranteed at signing.

The guarantee by itself is nearly $10 million more than he has earned as an NFL quarterback throughout the entirety of his 10-year NFL career. However, the deal is hugely team friendly for the Seahawks. The $52 million that he is owed for his first year, Smith only receives the entire amount if he is on the roster for a calendar year. Also, his cap hit for the 2023 season is only $10 million, and if he is released following the upcoming season his 2024 dead-cap number is $17.4 million. With the NFL leader in completion percentage inked to a team-friendly deal, the Seahawks have been able to be aggressive in free agency.

For the Seahawks to improve on their 9-8, 2022 record they badly needed better personnel to defend against the run. Per Football Outsiders, the Seahawks had the 25th-worst rush defense DVOA in the league. That was exploited by the 49ers in the playoffs.

Brock Purdy was impressive throwing for 300-plus yards and four touchdowns, but he likely doesn’t put up those eye-popping passing statistics without his offense’s beastly performance on the ground. Christian McCaffrey averaged 7.9 yards per carry and Deebo Samuel averaged 10.7. With the 49ers able to consistently gash the Seahawks on the ground it opened up the rest of the field for the 49ers’ wide receivers. Three of them — Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and Jauan Jennings — averaged better than 20 yards per reception.

The Seahawks’ biggest move in free agency was signing Dre’Mont Jones. According to Next Gen Stats, Jones had the 10th highest Run-Stuff Rate in the league. He is also a versatile player who can line up both inside and outside. Jones is also a capable pass rusher. He has recorded 6.5 sacks in the last two seasons.

He is not the only addition that the Seahawks made to their defensive line. They brought back their 2016 second-round pick Jarran Reed. In his last season with the Seahawks — 2020 — they had the seventh-best rush defense DVOA in the NFL.

Reed is not the only former Seahawk that the franchise signed this offseason. The captain is home. They brought back Bobby Wagner after one season with their division-rival Los Angeles Rams.

Wagner may not be as explosive of a player as he was during the Legion of Boom years, but he is still a highly productive player as an inside linebacker. Pro Football Focus graded him as the best player on the Rams in 2022.

The signing of Julian Love marks an improvement in the Seahawks’ defense at all three levels. Of all the safeties in the NFL who have tallied a minimum of 150 tackles over the last three seasons, Love missed the second-fewest. He will be paired in the secondary with Jamal Adams.

Thanks to the Russell Wilson trade, in addition to all of this defensive improvement, the Seahawks still have two picks in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft — including No. 5 overall.

For the gamblers out there, it’s time to put wagers not only on the Seahawks to win the NFC West but also for them to go to the Super Bowl. They have a strong roster that is going to continue to improve with the draft now only one month away.

Miami Heat to honor Dade County O.G. Udonis Haslem with an entire seating section

Image for article titled Miami Heat to honor Dade County O.G. Udonis Haslem with an entire seating section

Udonis Haslem will go down as one of the most beloved players in Miami Heat history. He may be second to only Dwayne Wade, and that’s saying something considering some of the stars who’ve played for the franchise. While the Heat haven’t exactly made Haslem’s swan song season one to remember, the organization has announced how they plan to honor the three-time NBA champ by dedicating section 305 in Miami-Dade Arena to the long-time Heat veteran.

Normally, we see teams honor superstars or players that once led them to titles as dominant scorers. Haslem never averaged more than 12 points per game in a season or postseason. But if you ask anyone in Miami what his contributions have meant to this team on and off the court for the last 20 years, they’d tell you his leadership and accountability have been priceless. There’s a reason he’s so well respected around the association. Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks even shouted out Haslem recently, showing respect to the vet while simultaneously sneak-dissing Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard.

“Those guys are trying to get back into the league. They’re not trying to hone in on a guy and be a vet. A real vet is like Udonis Haslem.”

Haslem has not played more than 16 games during an NBA season since 2015-16, when he logged minutes in 37 of 82 contests. It’s similar to what the Golden State Warriors have done with Andre Iguodala of late, but he hasn’t spent his entire career in one spot. The one constant in that Miami locker room since 2003 has been Haslem. Pat Riley’s been an executive with the organization for some time now, and Haslem was around long before Eric Spoelstra was named head coach.

Being a Miami native makes this even more special for all parties involved. The fan base loves Haslem for what he’s done over the years, as he’s been the team’s enforcer in a league that pretty much phased that role out years ago. Haslem’s never been one for nonsense, as was evident during his sideline altercation with teammate Jimmy Butler last year. Luckily cooler heads prevailed in that situation. In a league where so many dudes “act” tough, it’s refreshing to still have guys who don’t need to fake it.

Stop glorifying NFL Pro Days — they’re just in-person highlight tapes

Zach Wilson had many fooled during his 2021 Pro Day

Before there was Hudl and YouTube, there were VHS cassettes. And before that, film. Studying and watching footage of your opponent, yourself, or a prospect has always been a vital part of sports. There’s nothing like seeing what someone does against live competition and the variables that occur during a game. But, due to America’s addiction to football and the lack of content between the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft, Pro Days have become the new “it” thing, despite them being suped-up solo practices that make players look like they can do something they can’t.

Tape don’t lie. Game film is the true revealer of one’s talents.

This week, every show on ESPN and FS1 will be dissecting quarterback prospects as Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Alabama’s Bryce Young, and Kentucky’s Will Levis had their Pro Days.

Who will move up, down the draft board?

Somebody’s draft stock is about to go up, or down, because they threw a perfect ball to a wide-open receiver, or because their accuracy was off on a few post routes. The idea that a solo workout on steroids in front of scouts and team personnel can tell you more about a quarterback than talking with them and watching what they’ve put on film will never make sense.

It’s as if people didn’t learn from inexplicably falling in love with Zach Wilson after that infamous throw he made at his Pro Day. A practice throw was the best pass he’s ever made.

I’m old enough to remember when the combination of JaMarcus Russell’s performance against Notre Dame in the 2007 Sugar Bowl and his Pro Day was enough to make people forget that his entire college career was proof that he’d be a bust in the NFL — not the two really good days he had.

“The most important thing is always gonna be the games,” said Los Angeles Chargers president of football operations John Spanos, all the way back in 2013. “Whether the (pro days) are too scripted or not, it’s always a small piece of the puzzle. But the big pro days are diminishing, especially for the top guys. You’re having more private workouts. You want to get them doing everything, and so for high first-rounders, it makes sense. But you can’t do that with everyone.”

Far too often, unnecessary importance is put on measurables, hand sizes, and 40-yard dash times than need be, instead of focusing on whether a not a player is consistently good during a game — which can be proven by watching film and not some highlights from a Pro Day.

Private workouts held by individual franchises need to be the way of the future, as Pro Days are overrated. The NFL Combine needs to be eradicated, too, due to it resembling a modern-day slave auction. Besides, Bill Belichick skipped the combine this year, and history has shown us that some of the league’s best players don’t receive invites. Malcolm Butler, Julian Edelman, Antonio Gates, Tyreek Hill, and Adam Thielen all did pretty well for themselves without ever showing up in Indianapolis during the pre-draft process.

Drafting quarterbacks is hard. There’s no easy way to know if a player’s game will translate from college to the NFL, if somebody is a bust waiting to happen, or if they’ll be better on Sundays than they were on Saturdays. But despite all that, there’s got to be a better way to get excited by a player than just watching them go through a route tree without a defense in front of them.

Tennessee and FAU’s ADs are brothers — and their schools faced off in the Sweet 16

Florida Atlantic athletic director Brian White

NEW YORK — As the NCAA Tournament bracket was released 11 days ago, both Danny White and Brian White knew only one of their schools could get to the Final Four before they knew who Tennessee or Florida Atlantic would play to open the yearly showcase. Three complete regions had been called without a mention of Tennessee or Florida Atlantic, where the brothers four years apart in age served as each Sweet 16 representative’s athletic director.

When Owls drew a No. 9 seed and the Volunteers’ name was called soon after with the East Region’s No. 4, a possible matchup at Madison Square Garden and a collision course between a prized program under the watch of each sibling came into focus, two wins away for each. Florida Atlantic needed a last-second shot against Memphis and to de-slipper Cinderella and the not-so-ugly stepbrothers from Fairleigh Dickinson to make it to Manhattan. Tennessee survived Louisiana and thrived against Duke to make it back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2019. Now one White watched as one of their programs advanced to the doorstep of the Final Four. The other left town, as an athletic director’s job is never done.

“I’m rooting for Tennessee in every game that they’re not playing FAU,” Brian White, the Owls’ athletic director told Deadspin Thursday afternoon. “There’s a little bit of an awkward component of it. Now we’ve done it before and we both know that we want the other one to be successful. I think that people assume there’s a competitive brotherhood to it, which there would be if it was anything that didn’t mean so much.”

Before the elder White became Tennessee’s athletic director in January 2021, the brothers’ schools had clashed for nearly three years when both were employed in the state of Florida. The younger brother came to FAU in March 2018 and Danny had been atop Central Florida’s athletic department since 2015. There has never been a duel between schools quite like this postseason clash four victories from a national championship. The school’s profiles are vastly different too. This is Florida Atlantic’s second trip to the NCAA Tournament and the first time the school has won games in The Big Dance. The Volunteers have been to 25 NCAA Tournaments. While the Owls were picked to finish fifth in Conference USA this season, one person outside Boca Raton who knew how talented FAU was before the season began was Danny White.

“I’ve been following them all year. I know how good they are. So it doesn’t surprise me that they made it to this point,” Danny White told Deadspin Thursday morning, just before boarding a plane from Knoxville to New York. “I can’t say that I’m shocked that the matchup was happening after I saw the bracket.”

Image for article titled Tennessee and FAU’s ADs are brothers — and their schools faced off in the Sweet 16

The brothers don’t even have a friendly wager planned for the Big Apple showdown. They’re two of five siblings with Georgia head men’s basketball coach sandwiched between them in ages. The White’s two sisters represent the bookends of Kevin and Jane White’s five children. Kevin White was most recently Duke’s athletic director from 2008-21. Mike White also had Owls’ current head coach Dusty May on his staff at Louisiana Tech and Florida for seven seasons. The White’s family history made Thursday’s game a little sweeter, knowing how far all involved have come in the sports industry and a pregame meeting between Danny and Brian was in the works all week. Both know once tipoff happened, nothing else besides the game deserved their attention, even though they both weren’t coaching in the game.

“The bigger the game, the more stress, the more butterflies I think we all get,” Danny White said. “But that’s the beauty of competition. You want to play in these big games, you want to care more. And if we’re fortunate enough to win tonight, we’re going to care even more on Saturday.”

Danny White spent late Thursday morning packing for “an undetermined amount of days” on the road. With the Volunteers’ loss to FAU, he’ll be flying to Seattle for the Lady Vols Sweet 16 matchup against top-seeded Virginia Tech. He would have been present at The Garden again if Tennessee reached its second Elite Eight. Brian White saw the momentum at FAU before 99.9 percent of sports fans and will help Florida Atlantic with its move to the American Athletic Conference this summer. And with the Owls’ introduction to a larger swath of Americana, the second-youngest White had a hard time putting into words what the game against his older brother’s school and the Sweet 16 from America’s biggest urban area meant to the small but mighty Florida Atlantic community.

“It’s just incredible,” Brian White said. ”I hate to use ordinary superlatives, but the excitement among the fan base is unlike we’ve ever seen.” And for one of the brothers, more history could happen this weekend. 

Is Lamar Jackson’s mom telling teams he’s ready to move on from Baltimore?

Is Lamar Jackson ready to move on from Baltimore?

Another wrinkle has been added to the ongoing Lamar Jackson saga in Baltimore. The Ravens and Jackson aren’t any closer to coming to terms on a new long-term deal. Now it’s been reported that a representative for Jackson has allegedly been contacting teams claiming the former MVP is ready to move on from Baltimore.

This entire situation surrounding Jackson has spun out of control and has many in disbelief at how things have been handled. This latest revelation has ramped up speculation around who’s pulling the strings and orchestrating Lamar’s campaign for a fully guaranteed contract. There are people who think Jackson’s mother is telling NFL teams that her son is ready to leave the team that drafted him in the first round in 2018.

Initially, it was Jackson’s mom, Felicia Jones, who was reported as representing her son in talks with Ravens management during the 2021 offseason. It wasn’t that far-fetched that she would do so since Jones had done the talking for her son in negotiating his rookie deal a few years prior. So, while it’s possible that Jackson’s mom isn’t running the show this time around, the speculation isn’t unwarranted.

Similar to the Roquan Smith situation

What this news does, though, is it brings up an interesting aspect and something the NFL has instructed teams not to do. The league specifically instructed teams to refrain from negotiating with representatives who aren’t certified by the NFLPA. This came down last year after teams were allegedly contacted by a man named Saint Omni on behalf of former Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith. Omni also allegedly helped Houston Texans left tackle Laremy Tunsil secure his three-year, $75 million contract. Tunsil got $50 million of that guaranteed with “no official” representation.

This also speaks to the NFL keeping control over what’s happening with its biggest investments. That being the players. While they may be looking out for their assets in handing down mandates like the one outlined above, it also keeps the balance of power in place. Certified agents and teams work hand in hand as agents usually represent multiple clients throughout the league. Both sides want to keep each other happy and avoid outsiders coming in, especially if they haven’t gone through the proper channels.

In Jackson’s case, having someone contact teams off the cuff when he’s still technically signed with Baltimore could be considered tampering. What the NFL does with this is yet to be seen, but if true, this could make the situation much tougher as potential negotiations progress. 

The Golden State Warriors core is discovering its first gray hairs

“I just feel old playing these young bucks,” Klay Thompson told the media

The Golden State Warriors have been hovering at or around .500 all season long. In 2020 and 2021 you could chalk it up to injuries and the reloading process. That championship hill their overwhelming talent allowed them to ascend is starting to appear too steep for their core to climb on its own. A decade ago Steph Curry emerged as a scene-stealing superstar by dropping 54 on the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. They’ve bolted the nexus of wisdom and peak athleticism. In NBA dog years, a decade is a generational shift and the Warriors are beginning to discover their first gray hairs.

Since winning their fourth championship in eight years, the Golden State Warriors have found themselves plucking grays out left and right. It’s not all old age. On the road, they’re weighed down by their bench rugrats. By contrast, the five-man lineup consisting of Klay Thompson, Curry, Kevon Looney, Draymond Green, and Andrew Wiggins is still the league leader in net rating. They’re stuck in a race against time squeezing them on both ends. The Warriors odometer serves as an unofficial barometer of time and the mileage is racking up.

They definitely aren’t geezers yet, but the Splash Brothers are Splash Seniors. Green is on the verge of becoming a valuable relic as he plays out what could be the final year of his Warriors contract. The happy-go-lucky Warriors of the mid-2010s accelerated the NBA’s shift in offensive philosophies. Their verve, energy, that sparkle in their eye, and the avant-garde floor spacing their motion offense provided, has dwindled as has their advantage over the rest of the league. Instead, they just seem burdened these days.

‘This ain’t 2014 no more’

Green’s beard is more salt than pepper every day and he’s already begun planning his post-career endeavors. Curry relies more and more on his old man strength he’s earned by bulking up his frame. A week ago, Curry drove his shoulder into Chris Paul’s chest and muscled through him for a baseline drive and score before cameras caught him mouthing, “This ain’t 2014 no more.”

In a vacuum, it was harmless trash talk. Everyone knew it wasn’t 2014 anymore, but Curry instinctually referenced decade-old wars with superstars encroaching on 40, radiating oldheads recollecting at the cookout vibes. Thompson is 33 and Curry is 35.

Following Golden State’s victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, Thompson couldn’t help but opine on the development of Houston’s young whippersnappers, the passage of time, and how the space Houston’s arena sits on used to be a forest. OK, he didn’t say that last part on the record, but he did go on an unprompted flashback.

“It is strange looking over there how young their team is,” Thompson explained during his presser. “The Rockets I used to play in the 2010s were seasoned vets, all littered throughout that roster.”

Curry’s newfound old-man strength aside, he’s still performing at a peak level. His perimeter-oriented game was always more conducive to aging well. Off the court, he’s leading the charge on some California NIMBYism. If real estate fires you up, congrats, you’re an old fogey.

Alternatively, Thompson has manifested ways to cook younger defenders since recovering from devastating injuries suffered in 2019 and 2020. He’s just gotten more ornery than ever. In the final seconds of Golden State’s blowout loss to the Memphis Grizzlies last week, an angry Klay Thompson, tabulated the number of titles he’s won to the Grizzlies’ bench with his fingers. He’s done that sort of thing before.

Klay could use some advice from Progressive’s Dr. Rick

Klay sounds like he needs Progressive Insurance’s Parenta-Life Coach Dr. Rick to keep him from spouting dad-isms or bragging about cleaning his trash can. In November, Ramona Shelburne published a glowing ESPN profile on Thompson and how his love of boats served as a distraction during his comeback from a torn ACL and ruptured Achilles. He even has different multiple names for his boat, calling it the Nordic Knife or Splash Express. Where’s Dr. Rick and his v-neck sweater offering stern advice when you need him?

During the Warriors 2021 Media Day, Thompson even volunteered an explanation of his boat names to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Kerithe Burke.

“She was made in Finland, so that’s Norwegian I think. She cuts the water like a knife, so I call her the Nordic Knife. People are like ‘why would you name your boat after a weapon?’ I’m like ‘it’s not a weapon it’s just the way she rides.’ It’s so fast. Then Splash Express is when I’m carrying my friends on board and we’re commuting.”

Steve Kerr’s innovative offense is still razor-sharp, but defenses have compiled the personnel and switchable defenders to blunt their proficient execution. Green is still an elite two-way point center, but his career mortality is more precarious than Steph and Klay’s.

Watching them mature with me through my adult years has me waking up every morning wondering when my first gray hair will grow in. 10 years from now? Five years? Next week? And where? Is it already peeking out? Will it start with a sprinkle in my head? Chest? From a nostril?

Golden State has had equivalent questions all season. Andre Iguodala has been a glorified assistant coach for two seasons. Can Green cover ground as well as he did a half-decade ago? Probably not. Will Curry suffer a third major injury this season? Hopefully, not. How much longer can they commit to Thompson given his contract expires after the 2024 season? Is Bob Myers moving on? Possibly.

The glimmer of hope is that the dynasty they succeeded was able to stave off time longer than most teams of yesteryear have. At the time of their final championship in 2014, San Antonio’s Big 3 of Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan were 36, 32, and 38, respectively. Curry, 35, Thompson, 33, and Green, 33 are on borrowed time, but they’ll need one of the young bucks to pick up the slack ala 2014 Kawhi Leonard. Maybe these Warriors will rediscover the fountain of youth in the postseason and rip off a run or rebound in 2024 when Jonathan Kuminga makes his next quantum leap forward, but until then their cracked hourglass is running out of sand.