Thursday, July 25, 2024

Spain’s Lamine Yamal, 16, erases record once held by Pele; Free agency fuels movement in NBA Power Rankings

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⚽ Good morning to everyone, but especially to … 

 SPAIN AND ARGENTINA

The kid is all right. In fact, he’s more than all right. He’s a burgeoning superstar.

And he is, indeed, just a kid. Like a 16-year-old-and-still-doing-homework kid. Lamine Yamal delivered a stunning goal under the brightest of lights, and four minutes later Dani Olmo provided the game winner as Spain rallied past France2-1, for a spot in Sunday’s Euro 2024 final.

Randal Kolo Muani scored a header in the ninth minute to give Les Bleus the lead (and their first goal from open play all tournament), but Yamal leveled with a wondrous, curling strike from long range a dozen minutes later. The Barcelona youngster has been called the future of the sport. But moments like that show he might just be an emerging force in the present, James Benge writes.

  • Benge: “These are the sorts of moments that end up immortalized in the footballing annals. … The legend had been whispered of ahead of these championships, the promise of seeing a future great take his first steps towards the big time. No one imagined such great strides. On the night where Yamal (16 years, 362 days) became the youngest man to play at a World Cup or European Championships semifinal, a record previously held by Pele, the trajectory of his career seemed limitless.”

Then came Olmo’s terrific, composed finish, and France’s talented yet anemic attack could find no answer. With three goals and two assists, Olmo leads the way for the Golden Boot.

Spain will face the winner of today’s Netherlands-England match — here’s a preview — in the final Sunday afternoon.

Yamal has earned all-time comparisons, and, fittingly, one all-timer showed he’s still going strong. In Copa America semifinal action, Lionel Messi scored in the second half after Julian Alvarez‘s first-half strike to give Argentina a 2-0 win over Canada. Messi’s 109 career international goals are now second all-time behind Cristiano Ronaldo‘s 130.

Argentina will face the winner of today’s Uruguay-Colombia match in Sunday night’s championship in Miami.

😃 Honorable mentions

🏈 And not such a good morning for …

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MIKE GUNDY AND OLLIE GORDON II

Mike Gundy has a way with words that isn’t helping anyone … again. At Big 12 Media Days, the Oklahoma State head coach seemingly defended star running back Ollie Gordon II after his DUI arrest, only to clarify his comments later.

  • Gundy said Gordon blew a 0.10 BrAC, narrowly over the 0.08 legal limit. Gundy then said it could have been “two or three beers, or four” and added it’s something he’s probably done 1,000 times in his life — he was just lucky not to get caught. Gundy neglected the fact that Gordon, 20, had open containers in his car and is underage.
  • Gundy confirmed Gordon will not be suspended following his arrest and joked that Gordon’s punishment would be carrying the ball 50 times in the season opener.
  • Hours later, Gundy posted on X, “My intended point today at Big 12 media days was that we are all guilty of making bad decisions. It was not a reference to something specific.”
  • As Shehan Jeyarajah notes, the comments came days after three former college football players died in a car crash in which alcohol may have been involved.

The rambling and, frankly, unacceptable response made a bad situation worse, Shehan writes.

😕 Not so honorable mentions

🏀 NBA Power Rankings: Knicks, Mavericks rise after big free agency

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NBA free agency isn’t quite over, but we’re getting pretty close: 26 of our top 30 free agents are off the market, and that includes all of the top 17.

What a whirlwind it’s been. After strolling through the playoffs, the Celtics figure to have stronger competition in the East with the Knicks and 76ers making huge moves. In the West, the Mavericks may have improved after a surprising run to the conference crown, but they have plenty of competition.

So let’s reset with Brad Botkin’s NBA Power Rankings, post-free agency (mostly) edition. Here’s the top five:

  1. Celtics (previous: 1) — “Let’s not make this difficult.”
  2. Thunder (2)“OKC addressed its one weakness (rebounding) by signing Isaiah Hartenstein and added to its already lethal stable of perimeter defenders by trading for Alex Caruso.”
  3. Knicks (6)“Adding Mikal Bridges and re-signing OG Anunoby takes this team to the top tier of potential Boston beaters.”
  4. Timberwolves (4)“Minnesota slots slightly higher than the Mavs heading into next season on the strength of a more reliably elite defense and another year under the belt of emerging MVP candidate Anthony Edwards.”
  5. Mavericks (9)Klay Thompson‘s movement and shooting is an intriguing fit alongside the double-team demanding Luka Doncic.”

The teams of the last two MVPs — Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid — are sixth and seventh, respectively, though they’re heading in opposite directions after the Nuggets lost Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the 76ers added Paul George, Caleb Martin and others.

The Grizzlies are the biggest risers in large part because they get Morant back. They went from 24th to ninth. But how about the biggest fallers?

  • Botkin: 19. Clippers (previous: 5)“There’s a world in which Kawhi Leonard and James Harden are healthy all year and Derrick Jones Jr. replaces, or even improves on, the Paul George defensive element. But it’s a fantasy world. This team simply rehired the aging captains of an already sinking ship.”

Ooof.

In general, the feeling is the East got stronger and the West got weaker. Of the 15 teams that moved up in these rankings, 10 are from the East; of the 10 that moved down, eight are from the West. 

🏈 Dennis Dodd’s College Football Hot Seat Rankings

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It’s only fitting that there’s a nationwide heat wave, because with a month and a half until the college football season, Dennis Dodd’s College Football Hot Seat Rankings have arrived. All 134 coaches are rated on a 0-5 scale:

  • 0: Untouchable (13 coaches)
  • 1: Safe and secure (44 coaches)
  • 2: All good … for now (49 coaches)
  • 3: Pressure is mounting (19 coaches)
  • 4: Start improving now (8 coaches)
  • 5: Win or be fired (1 coach)

So who is the one in “win or be fired” territory? Dennis detailed the nine coaches in the two hottest categories, and the hottest seat belongs to …

  • Dodd:Sam Pittman — If you just want to sit around, shoot the bull and have a beer, Pittman’s your guy. This salt-of-the-earth coach is one of the most beloved figures in the profession. But winning percentage rules all, and in the hyper-competitive SEC, 2023’s 4-8 mark doesn’t cut it. That tied for the program’s worst record since 2013. It’s beyond coincidental that the last coach to win big at Arkansas, Bobby Petrino, was hired as offensive coordinator. If athletic director Hunter Yurachek makes a move, he’s got a built-in interim coach … maybe more than that. 2023 rating: 1

It’ll be 96 degrees today in Fayetteville. Get used to it, Coach Pittman!

(WARNING: The following section contains disturbing and sensitive content and language.)

Wander Franco charged with sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of a minor

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Rays shortstop Wander Franco was formally charged with sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of a minor in the Dominican Republic, per reports. Here are the key details:

  • Allegations that Franco, 23, had a relationship with a 14-year-old girl surfaced in August. He was placed on administrative leave, and the Dominican government began its investigation.
  • Prosecutors said Franco provided the girl’s mother with money and a car in exchange for her consenting to the relationship. They accused Franco of taking the girl from her home and “having a four-month relationship with her with consent from the girl’s mother.”
  • Franco was arrested in early January and released on a conditional waiver after paying the equivalent of about $34,000.

Franco is in the third year of an 11-year, $182-million contract, and he has been paid while on administrative leave. MLB, however, can suspend Franco — likely after the legal process has concluded — without pay under the joint domestic violence policy.

📺 What we’re watching Wednesday

🎾 Wimbledon, 8 a.m. on ESPN/ESPN2
🏀 Mystics at Fever, noon on NBA TV
Twins at White Sox, 2:10 p.m. on MLB Network
 Euro 2024 — Semifinal: Netherlands vs. England, 3 p.m. on Fox
Dodgers at Phillies, 7 p.m. on ESPN
 Copa America — Semifinal: Uruguay vs. Colombia, 8 p.m. on FS1
🏀 Team Canada at Team USA, 10:30 p.m. on FS1

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