Dont Give the Stanley Cup to the Kings Just Yet

If you read the North American sports media — Sportsnet, CBC, THN, USA Today, CBS, ESPN — you’ve heard that Henrik Lundqvist may as well go on vacation; this year’s Stanley Cup already belongs to the Los Angeles Kings. My quick scan showed 12 of 14 hockey media types picking the Kings to beat the New York Rangers in the NHL playoffs’ final round, which begin on Wednesday, and it’s easy to see why. The Kings have a recent track record of success (a Cup in 2012 and a conference finals appearance in 2013). They come from the stronger conference — the West won 246 games and lost 202 against the East this year — and to get to the finals they had to beat teams that had 111, 116 and 107 points this season. Quite different from the Rangers’ playoff run, which included struggles to beat flawed teams and scrapping against backup goaltenders.Except it isn’t that simple, and not just because hockey is a sport disproportionately fueled by luck. The Rangers have a case to make — even on paper. The stats give them a real shot.Let’s start with shooting percentage, where the teams are evenly matched. Both New York and LA struggled this year: The Rangers’ 6.7 percent at 5-on-5 ranked 28th in the league and the Kings’ 6.6 percent was 29th. That’s not a big enough gap to make a difference, because shooting (and save percentages) in hockey are prone to large fluctuations. Given that the teams took about 2,000 shots, that 0.1 percentage point difference represents just two goals, and it’s easy to see how some random bounces could explain it.That’s not to say that shooting percentage is completely meaningless. Pulling our estimates of a team’s shooting skill two-thirds of the way towards the mean helps account for the impact of random chance. If the Rangers and Kings had huge differences that might tell us something about their differing skill. But they only had a margin of 0.1 percentage points this year and 0.8 over the last three years. Between the change in personnel and systems over time and the limitations of multiyear analysis, the Kings and Rangers are close enough that it’s hard to be confident that either team has an edge in shooting percentage.But there are differences to be found among the less top-level stats. Much of today’s advanced stat analysis begins with studying teams’ shot differential as an indicator of their ability to control play. In this regard, the Kings do have a clear edge; indeed, over the last few years they’ve been the best puck-possession team in the league.The Kings outshot their opponents 57 percent to 43 percent during 5-on-5 play this year,1In this piece, “shots” will be taken to include both shots on goal and shots that miss the net, the measure proposed by Matt Fenwick. excluding situations where the score was close enough that teams sat back to protect a lead.2Focusing on situations where the score is close was first popularized by hockey stat pioneer Tore Purdy, more commonly known as JLikens. Purdy recently died at the age of only 28, a tragic loss. He wrote the piece about estimating team shooting talent that I linked above. He’ll be missed. They led the NHL, but the Rangers weren’t too far behind, outshooting their opponents 54 percent to 46 percent. From these two figures, we might expect the Kings to get something like 51.5 percent of the shots against the Rangers; when we include the somewhat tougher opponents they faced this year, we might revise our estimate upwards a bit to something closer to 52 percent.3The Kings’ average opponent got 49.91 percent of the shots, just a little bit higher than the Rangers’ average opponent (49.77 percent). That simple 0.14 point difference probably underestimates the competition — just as the Kings’ shot differential underrates them by not factoring in the strength of the opponents they faced, this metric also underrates their opponents slightly for the same reason. Since there are lots of things we can’t account for (specific matchups, who’s currently nursing an injury, etc.), our projected matchup can never be accurate to three decimal places. I’ve been rounding these figures off in most places, which means that we don’t need to plow through the arithmetic of exactly how much of an effect it has; the Kings’ likely share of shots against the Rangers will round to 52 percent in the end.But that was the regular season, and it’s worth testing whether anything has changed in the playoffs. That means looking at a smaller sample of data — 20 games instead of 82 — which makes it important not to let any stat go to waste. So instead of outright excluding the lead-protecting situations from our analysis (the common way of doing it), let’s include them and correct for the impact of score effects.4To do that, I used a methodology I developed a couple of years ago. It’s a small but important difference, especially when dealing with a sample size this small.By this method, the Kings’ adjusted shot differential in the playoffs was about 52 percent to 48 percent, very similar to the Rangers’ 51-49. However, the Kings were dominant against much tougher competition; they held their opponents about 5 points below those teams’ season averages, whereas the Rangers held their opponents just a fraction of a point below theirs. Once we correct for that, we again end up estimating that the Kings will get about 52 percent of the shots over the series, or maybe as high as 53 percent. That represents a clear edge, if not an overwhelming one.So far, so Kings. But there’s also special teams play to take into account. The Rangers drew 32 more penalties than they took in the regular season, whereas the Kings took 12 more penalties than they drew. The Rangers had a higher power play conversion percentage and a better penalty kill percentage,5They also had better shot rates in both situations, which is an important component of predicting future performance. so we should expect the them to have more and better power plays than the Kings in the long run — even if the actual results of this short series will be dominated by random chance.Finally, it’s possible that it’s all going to come down to goaltending — this is hockey, after all — and the Rangers have a clear advantage there. This was the fifth straight year that Henrik Lundqvist posted a save percentage higher than 92 percent, and his save percentage has been higher than Jonathan Quick’s in every year of Quick’s career. Obviously, over a short series either goalie can get hot and turn the tide, but goalie streaks are almost entirely unpredictable and all we can do in advance is note which goalie is more talented. In this case, it’s clearly Lundqvist. The question is just how big of an advantage he gives the Rangers.In other words, Lundqvist is the fulcrum. If we expect the Kings to get 52 to 53 percent of the shots and expect Lundqvist and Quick to match their average save percentages over the last three years, that leads to a draw at even strength. Other components — special teams, shooting and perhaps fatigue — are all pretty small factors, but also seem to work in the Rangers’ favor.Ignore the pundits — this thing’s closer to a toss-up than a blowout. read more

How Wide Receivers Are Like College Football Teams

One of my absolute favorite early “sabermetric” football studies was conducted in early 2005 by Doug Drinen, the founder of Pro-Football-Reference.com. At the time, Drinen was spending a week guest-writing football posts at the blog of a fellow professor, the economist J.C. Bradbury, and was performing innovative statistical research using the first iteration of the Pro-Football-Reference database. In those days, digitized historical football data was very difficult to come by, and Drinen’s collection — mind you, a small fraction of the current PFR database’s size — was the best on the web.As one of his experiments, Drinen made an unorthodox attempt to rank modern wide receivers relative to one another. (For what it’s worth, the conundrum of how best to rate receivers is still a problem nine years later.) His unique twist? The method he used treated receivers the same way he would, elsewhere, treat college football teams in a power-rating system such as the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) used.Drinen’s rationale was as follows:Wide Receiver is the only position where even small groups of players are actually competing against each other under nearly identical circumstances… [Two receivers] are working in the same system with the same quarterback, the same offensive line, even the same game conditions. Raw numbers probably are a good way to determine to what extent [one is better than the other]… Every season, every team has a group of 3 to 5 guys that can, for the most part, be rank-ordered by their numbers. This situation is unique to wide receivers.But how does this help us compare [receivers]? Think college football. USC didn’t play Auburn [in 2004]. So who was better? Well, you know USC was good because, among other reasons, they crushed Oklahoma, who we suspect was pretty good; they beat Texas, for example. We know Auburn was good, in part, because they beat Tennessee, Georgia, and LSU, all solid teams. While there is unfortunately no direct evidence to help us settle the Auburn/USC debate, there are piles and piles of indirect evidence. Every game played by either team, or the opponents of either team, or the opponents of those teams, serves as a tiny sliver of indirect evidence about how good USC and Auburn were. And many very intelligent people have devoted lots of their time and talent to convincing computers to assimilate all this information.So why not put this technology to work ranking wide receivers?Drinen went on to describe his system. In it, each receiver competes against his fellow teammates for receiving yardage; the degree to which one beats the other is how much he outgains him statistically (after adjusting for aging effects). When receivers change teams, they face different matchups against a different set of opponents, which help tell us about not only the receiver’s own quality, but also the relative quality of his old and new teammates. Do this for every season in NFL history, and we have a rough way to gauge how much each receiver would outgain (or be outgained by) the average NFL pass-catcher, adjusted for his strength of schedule (teammates).While doing research for my article about receiving stats and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I replicated Drinen’s “BCS rating” — right down to the aging curve — but applied it to True Receiving Yards per game (Drinen used total yards). Here were the leaders among pass catchers who started their careers in 1950 or later:You can find the full results for this rating alongside each player’s career True Receiving Yards and With or Without You (WOWY) scores, as well as the data for the TRY per game aging curve, on GitHub. read more

The US Women Probably Werent Going To Win The Gold Anyway

Tournament favorites usually don’t win — even big ones like the U.S. women’s soccer team. Too many things can go wrong, as they did in the penalty shootout of the USWNT’s quarterfinal loss against Sweden in the Rio Olympics on Friday. A goalkeeper guesses the right way, a usually reliable shooter sends a penalty kick over the crossbar, and suddenly the team is out of the tournament. It was the USWNT’s earliest-ever exit from an Olympics or World Cup. With the Americans eliminated, the draw has opened up for new favorite Germany, which advanced to the semifinals later Friday, and host Brazil, which plays its quarterfinal against Australia on Friday night. (If Brazil wins, it could overtake Germany as the favorite, depending on the scores of its quarterfinal and Friday night’s other match, between Canada and France.) The outcome didn’t reflect the run of play: The U.S. outshot Sweden 26 to 3 and completed more than twice as many passes. U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo said after the match that the U.S. had played “a bunch of cowards,” a reference to Sweden’s defensive tactics. Swedish coach Pia Sundhage, who used to coach the U.S., responded, “It’s OK to be a coward if you win.”Even if the American women had escaped Friday’s shootout with a win, they’d have had their work cut out for them, with just a 36 percent chance of winning their fourth straight gold medal, according to our Women’s Soccer Power Index projections.U.S. fans spoiled by all the team’s recent success — the 2015 Women’s World Cup title, the 2012 Olympic gold — might have forgotten that past performance is no guarantee of future results. But those wins were hard-earned and never guaranteed. The Americans reached the 2012 gold-medal match after barely avoiding the lottery that is a penalty shootout in their semifinal against Canada, with an Alex Morgan goal at just about the last possible moment. And last summer in Canada, the team went scoreless in the first half of its first three knockout games before getting second-half goals. Just because the U.S. women sometimes made it look easy — like when they romped over Japan in the World Cup final — doesn’t mean it was.In these Olympics, even while the U.S. women were going undefeated in their first three games and winning their group, their chance of winning the gold medal, counterintuitively, was declining, to 31 percent from 38 percent before the tournament. That was partly because the quarterfinal field was so stacked: All of the eight best teams coming into the tournament advanced from the group stage. Also, the U.S. showed some weakness in the group stage, including yielding a 90th-minute goal to Colombia that led to a disappointing 2-2 draw. The team’s rating declined slightly during the group stage from the start of the tournament. Sweden’s did, too, but the Swedes remained a tough opponent, with a 21 percent chance of beating the U.S. before Friday’s match — about the chance the Cleveland Cavaliers had of beating the Golden State Warriors when trailing 3-2 in this year’s NBA Finals. Upsets happen to favorites all the time. On Friday, one happened, finally, to the U.S. women at the Olympics.Additional research by Jay Boice. read more

Steph Curry Finally Looks Like Steph Curry Again

OAKLAND, Calif. — Many comparisons in the coming days can and will be made between this year’s NBA Finals and last year’s series. As in 2016, the Cavaliers got pasted in their first two games on the road. And similar to last time, the Cavs will try to find some footing in Cleveland in hopes of bringing the series back to Oakland for at least a fifth game.But aside from the painfully obvious observation — that Kevin Durant is an absolute monster who makes a comeback far more difficult than the one Cleveland pulled off a year ago — the Cavs have another problem: After a relatively poor showing in last season’s finals, Stephen Curry appears to have returned to form.The 29-year-old logged the first triple-double of his postseason career, finishing with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds on Sunday. His game was far from perfect, as he had eight turnovers to go with those gaudy numbers. But as reckless as he was at times, it was hard not to notice how fast and healthy he looked compared to last year’s Finals, where he didn’t have the burst to both dazzle past defenders and finish over them at the rim.In the 2015 Finals, Curry was dangerous when he controlled the ball inside the arc for seven dribbles or more, hitting 55 percent of those shots. But that number fell to 35 percent last year on the biggest stage, as he faltered late in the deciding Game 7, unable to get around Tristan Thompson, Richard Jefferson and Kevin Love — all respectable players, but guys that a great scorer like Curry should be able to put in the blender in 1-on-1 scenarios.That has not been a problem in this series, which is part of the best postseason of his career. He’s not only getting a step on bigger defenders, he’s also knocking down 50 percent of those looks inside the arc once he does.1Yes, if you look closely, you’ll see that Curry almost certainly double-dribbled on the jaw-dropping move he pulled on LeBron James on Sunday. Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/shakenbake11.mp400:0000:0000:14Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/stephbounce.mp400:0000:0000:26Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.There have been other great indications for Curry. Even with all those turnovers, he’s creating a ton of looks for his teammates — 13.5 potential assists per game in this series, up from 8.4 last year.2He also posted 13.5 potential assists per game in the 2015 Finals. A potential assist is a pass that leads to a shot attempt. He’s been the fastest offensive player on the court3Among those playing 10 minutes or more per game. by far. And, so far, he’s been getting considerably more accurate with his shot as he gets deeper into each game, much the way he did in 2015.4He’s made just 33 percent of his shots and 27 percent of his 3-point attempts in first halves of the Finals this year, but he is hitting 61 percent of his shots and 64 percent of his 3s in second halves. Last year, his shooting percentages were basically flat from one half to the next, while in 2015, they got stronger as the games wore on.Following the game, Cleveland star LeBron James was asked whether the Cavs were still trying to feel out the new-look Warriors. “They’re a different team. You guys asked me, ‘What was the difference?’ And I told you. They’re a different team.”James was referring to the addition of Durant. But with Curry playing this well too, even James might not be able to do enough to allow Cleveland to turn things around.Durant is defense-proofWhen the Warriors signed Durant, much was made about how much more space he would have to work with on offense now that he was surrounded by shooters. Game 1 showed how deadly that works out to be in practice. But the other thing Durant adds is the ability to Go Get A Bucket, to take and make tough shots when the defense tightens up in critical moments of the game. That came out in Game 2.Durant had 33 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals and five blocks Sunday night, and he played as well defensively as he has all season. That’s an outstanding line all on its own, but he was also 10-for-15 on contested looks in Game 2, bringing him to 17-for-29 for the series. The Cavs tightened up their defense considerably from Game 1, but with Durant hitting everything he threw up regardless of coverage, it hardly mattered. And strange as it sounds in a game decided by 19 points, the Warriors needed Durant to carry them with those tough shots.“Tonight was a game based on talent,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game when asked about Golden State’s 13 first-half turnovers. “We had a lot of guys play great individually.”Durant was right in the the middle of it, especially early in the game, when he was hitting contested step-backs and keying fast breaks with his defense. And he pretty much put the game away in the fourth quarter when he blocked a Kevin Love post-up on one end and hit a twisting, falling fadeaway over two defenders to put the Warriors up 18 with seven minutes to play. It was an incredible 1-2 sequence that only a few players in the league are capable of putting together. But creating offense out of nothing is Durant’s specialty, especially on contested attempts like that.Coming into the season, our colleague Ben Morris mapped out how Durant adds as much value to the average 2-point shot as Curry does to a 3-pointer. But in Oklahoma City, Durant had generally been getting bad looks and turning them into good ones. In Golden State, he’s finally been getting good shots, but he has shown that he still has the chops to turn bad ones good.That’s a skill the Warriors don’t necessarily have. Even with Curry playing like his old MVP self, he was just 4-for-11 on contested looks in Game 1 and 2-for-7 Sunday night. But that has hardly mattered. With Durant on the roster, this is no longer the team that couldn’t find a way to score in the final 4:39 of the fourth quarter of Game 7 last year. It’s a team that can go get a bucket whenever it needs one.LeBron may be tiredIt never quite seemed like LeBron and the Cavs were about to run away with the game, but for a while at least, things looked like they were going to work. Cleveland was running and gunning, and the offense was working in all the ways it hadn’t in Game 1. James was 8-for-12 for 18 points and 10 assists in the first half, mostly on drives that produced good shots around the rim or open looks for teammates. Throw out a few what-were-they-thinking fouls on Curry in the first quarter, which gave him eight of his 10 free throw attempts in that period, and they might have taken a lead into halftime. But even when they wound up down three at the break, it seemed like we had a game on our hands. Then the Cavs ran out of gas.The first half was played at a pace factor of 119, meaning the full game would have seen 119 possessions if play had kept going at that speed. That’s staggeringly high, and while the game did slow down after halftime, the final pace rating was still 106.4, making it the second-fastest game Cleveland played all season. (The fourth-fastest was a January matchup against the Warriors that Golden State won by 35.) The pace proved to be too much.After his strong opening half, James shot just six times in the second half and just once in the fourth quarter. He was also much less involved overall, letting other players initiate the offense instead of hammering on the drive-and-kick game that had kept Cleveland in it early.But James isn’t simply carrying the offense — he’s also guarding Durant for long stretches, and that hasn’t worked out so well. When James is guarding him this series, Durant is 10-for-17 for 23 points with just one turnover. On the whole, when James is the primary defender, the Warriors are shooting 63 percent against him and scoring 21.5 points per game.James hasn’t been a disaster on defense — the highlight-reel moment where he gets spin-cycled by Curry seems likely to have been a reaction to a double dribble — but he’s also clearly no longer the man-eater he was at his height, when he both carried the offense and was one of the most fearsome perimeter defenders in the league.The Cavs are rich in top-tier role players, but they don’t have a true defensive stopper on the perimeter; Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith have both looked overmatched in the series, which makes James’s job even more demanding than usual. He might just need a breather. So while it was nice to see the Cavs offense operating at a high level again, Cleveland may want to consider slowing things down. read more

Can James Hardens MVP Campaign Survive Chris Paul

If he keeps this up, Harden would become the first qualified1Minimum 25 percent of a team’s minutes played in a season, or about 1,000 minutes over an 82-game schedule. player since at least the 1976 ABA-NBA merger to use 35 percent or more of a team’s possessions while putting up an offensive rating of 120 or more. Depending on how you look at it, he would either be the most efficient high-usage player ever or shoulder the biggest responsibility of any high-efficiency player ever. Either way, it would make Harden the most valuable offensive weapon in the game.What’s unique about Harden is how his scoring and passing play off of each other, making it virtually impossible to shut off his firehose of production. He currently leads the league in both assist rate2The percentage of teammate buckets a player assists while on the court. and usage rate,3The percentage of team shot attempts plus turnovers a player records while in the game. an accomplishment that has been pulled off only one other time — by Russell Westbrook last season. And while Westbrook ranked 126th in true shooting percentage last year, Harden ranks 25th this season thanks to an eye-popping assortment of shot-making numbers: 51 percent on 2-pointers, 41 percent on threes and 86 percent from the line (where he still finagles himself 9.3 times per game, the most in the league). Among players in the 50-40-85 club for those percentages in a season, nobody has ever come close to doing it with a usage rate like Harden’s so far this year. Whenever Harden touches the ball, almost exclusively good things happen for Houston.Thanks in large part to Harden’s complete offensive clinic, the Rockets currently rank second only to the Golden State Warriors in points per 100 possessions. They’re shattering their own benchmark for the most made threes per game in NBA history (knocking down a stunning 16.1 a night while taking 53 percent of their field goal attempts from deep), and they also rank third in pick-and-roll efficiency,4Including both when the ball handler and the roll man finish the play. averaging 0.98 points per possession on the play, according to NBA.com.All the while, Houston is providing an interesting counterpoint to the Warriors in terms of offensive basketball philosophy. Golden State is a joy to watch because of its pure shooting talent, frequently knocking down looks that mortal players have no business making: The Warriors rank only ninth in Second Spectrum’s Quantified Shot Quality metric, which measures the expected value of a team’s shot selection based on league averages, but they lead the NBA in shooting efficiency anyway because nobody outperforms the expected value of their shots by more. The Rockets are the opposite. They make their shots at a slightly higher clip than average, but it’s nothing special; instead, they thrive on relentlessly creating prime scoring chances, leading the league in shot quality with the highest expected value (a 54.1 effective field goal percentage) of any season in Second Spectrum’s database.5Which goes back to the 2014 season. You can argue with the aesthetics of Harden and the Rockets’ methodical exploitation of basketball’s percentages, but it’s never worked to greater effect than in the early stages of this season.The only unresolved question about Harden and his hardware is whether Paul’s return will disrupt Harden’s early-season flow. Before the season, we noted that the NBA had never seen a pairing of two ball-dominant guards quite like Harden and Paul before, and that Houston’s success would largely hinge on how the two could co-exist and alter their games to complement each other. But with Paul missing 14 of Houston’s first 15 contests, the pairing hasn’t received a great deal of stress-testing yet — Harden has largely been able to play in the manner he’s been accustomed to over the past few years, when he seldom had to share playmaking responsibilities with anybody.The good news is that in the few games since Paul’s return, Harden has been as outstanding as ever. He’s averaging 34.4 points and 8.2 assists per game with a 68.7 true shooting percentage and an average Game Score of 28.6 — a better number than he was putting up while Paul was out of the lineup. The bad news is that the Rockets have barely scraped past the opposition (+2.4 points per 100 possessions) with their two stars on the court when compared with the +16.3 margin they have with one but not the other. And most concerning (but not surprising) for Harden’s MVP campaign, his stat-stuffing ways are indeed getting curtailed when he shares the court with Paul. According to NBA.com, Harden’s rates of assists, usage and even rebounds all take a hit with Paul in the game. Granted, his shooting efficiency is up with Paul, one of the great passers of his generation, but Harden’s overall production — as measured by the percentage of total “good things” (for both teams) he’s responsible for while in the game6NBA.com calls this statistic the Player Impact Estimate. — is down from 20.1 percent without Paul to 15.7 percent with him.7For context, the current league leader is Hassan Whiteside at 20.9 percent.To help avoid the redundancy in their stars’ skill sets, the Rockets are staggering Harden and CP3’s minutes some. (And Paul has been on a program of reduced minutes anyway, while working his way back into form.) The Rockets have most of the season ahead of them to figure out how the two players fit together, with the primary goal of finally getting over the hump in the Western Conference playoffs, not to maximize Harden’s stat lines. But as well as Harden has played early this season, this looks like his best shot yet at ending his string of MVP near-misses. He just needs to figure out how to play his hyper-efficient, do-everything game while simultaneously sharing the ball with another superstar — a task easier said than done.Check out our latest NBA predictions. Thanks to a combination of novelty and voter fatigue, it’s rare for an NBA player to remain MVP bridesmaid for too long. For every block of seasons where a Michael Jordan or LeBron James dominates the consensus at No. 1, a Charles Barkley or Derrick Rose will still manage to slip in and break up the monotony. That’s a big reason why, in all of NBA history, only three players have finished as MVP runners-up multiple times without ever actually taking home the award themselves.Two of those are retired Hall of Famers: Jerry West (who came in second an astonishing four times without winning) and George Gervin. The third, James Harden of the Houston Rockets, is still very much active. But the way he’s playing this season, he might not be MVP-less much longer. After finishing second in two of the previous three seasons, Harden has established himself as the early award favorite while leading the Rockets to the best record in the West and the league’s top per-possession point differential. At long last, it might be time for the greatest bearded MVP since Bill Walton — just so long as the recent return of domineering fellow guard Chris Paul doesn’t get in Harden’s way.By the numbers, Harden has never been better. He’s currently either first or second (behind LeBron James) in virtually every advanced value metric, including Value Over Replacement Player, Win Shares, Estimated Wins Added and ESPN’s Real Plus/Minus (RPM) wins above replacement. Harden has long been known for his ridiculous efficiency — he generates more points per possession than any other big-time scorer in the game today (including Steph Curry) — but he’s taken that approach to an entirely new level so far this year. He’s producing about 122 points for every 100 possessions he’s personally responsible for, a number usually reserved for three-point specialists, low-scoring big men and LeBron, but with the usage rate of a player who controls his team’s every offensive move. Once again, Harden is pushing the boundaries of just how many points one player can create for his team: read more

Significant Digits For Friday April 10 2015

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the telling numbers tucked inside the news. To receive this as an email newsletter, please subscribe. Seriously, clicking on things in order to read them? Yawn. Subscribe.7 playersSeven University of Kentucky players declared themselves eligible for the 2015 NBA draft. [Cincinnati.com] 20,000That’s a very nice, clean, round number, right? The Nikkei, Japan’s stock exchange, briefly broke this nice, clean, round number on Thursday, but promptly dipped below the nice, clean, round number. This type of financial news happens whenever a financial thing becomes a multiple of a power of ten. [Bloomberg Business]$76,000For the first time in a long time, former Rep. Aaron Schock will have to pick up a check. Marshall County, Illinois, is charging the disgraced former congressman — who resigned after allegations he pocketed reimbursements for mileage he didn’t drive — for the costs of the special election to replace him. [Peoria Journal Star]$25 millionAT&T call center employees sold customer information to outside parties on at least 3 occasions — leaking the information of as many as 279,000 customers. The telecom giant will now pay a $25 million fine. [The Washington Post]$91,541,053Hedge fund zillionaire Bill Ackman flipped a 13,500-square-foot penthouse apartment at One57, an enviable Manhattan address, for $91.5 million, the city’s second-highest condo sale ever. In related news, a local lifestyle reporter had an hour-and-a-half commute home to Jersey City’s Heights district due to Lincoln Tunnel traffic, and local reports indicate that yeah, screw it, Hot Pockets don’t really go bad, right? [6sqft]If you haven’t already, you really need to sign up for the Significant Digits newsletter — be the first to learn about the numbers behind the news.And, as always, if you see a significant digit in the wild, tweet it to me @WaltHickey. Also, subscribe. 20 minutesNew York City mayor Bill De Blasio took the subway to work, riding an R train for 20 minutes to promote a push for transit money. The mayor was joined by Sen. Chuck Schumer, who presumably was just tagging along since he technically works in Washington, D.C., a quaint Amtrak stopover and tourist attraction located somewhere south of Philadelphia. [The New York Times via Gothamist]92.1 percentPercentage of software developers who are men, according to Stack Overflow’s 2015 developer’s survey. [Fusion]$429Cost of a roundtrip flight to Cuba from Orlando International, flying Island Travel & Tours, which will offer service starting in July. [Orlando Sentinel] 500 pot shopsTwo years ago, residents of Los Angeles voted to cap the number of stores allowed to sell cannabis at 130. Clearly the free market was not alerted of this limitation: The city announced on Thursday it had closed 500 medical marijuana dispensaries. [Reuters]1,000-foot water slideDetroit is getting a temporary water slide, which I guess is what passes for an infrastructure improvement these days. A single ride goes for $15, unlimited pass for $50. [Curbed] read more

Rick Nash not leaving Columbus yet

After weeks of speculation and countless rumors making their way through the media, Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash is staying put. But comments from Columbus’ general manager Scott Howson still leave room for speculation about how long Nash will remain at Nationwide Arena. The National Hockey League trade deadline came and went at 3 p.m. Monday, and Nash was not moved despite Howson entertaining offers for Nash from multiple teams, according to reports. The lack of movement for Nash could become an awkward situation for the Blue Jackets after Nash’s agent, Joe Resnick, issued a statement to The Sporting News that pushed for a deal to be done by Monday’s deadline. “We’re hopeful a deal can get done prior to the trade deadline that is fair and equitable for the Blue Jackets,” Resnick said in his statement. “However, if a deal is not reached, then the list of acceptable teams will not change at a later date.” Resnick referenced reports that Nash’s list of teams that he would approve for a trade would change if the Blue Jackets moved him over the summer. A no-trade clause in Nash’s contract puts him in the driver’s seat for which team he would end up with if a trade were to be made in the future. And, in a twist contrary to initial reports, Howson said in a press conference following Monday’s deadline that it was Nash who approached him about a trade and not vice versa. Nash had been adamant with the media about never asking the Blue Jackets to be traded. The rift between Nash and the general manager likely won’t improve as they are now in a public disagreement about the origin of the trade rumors. After Monday’s trade deadline past, Howson said Nash first approached the organization about a trade. Though Nash was the focus of the trade deadline league-wide, the Blue Jackets did make a trio of moves in the week leading up to the deadline. The only move the Blue Jackets made Monday involved sending center Sammy Pahlsson to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for two-2012 fourth-round picks. Former center Antoine Vermette was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday in exchange for goalie Curtis McElhinney, a 2012 second-round pick and a 2013 fifth-round pick. Since the 2009 season, McElhinney has been a member of four NHL squads and is rehabilitating an injury in the American Hockey League. Former Blue Jackets center Jeff Carter was shipped to Los Angeles on Thursday for defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional first round pick. The condition is that the Blue Jackets will be able to choose if they want the pick to be in this year’s entry draft or next year’s. There was an audible roar from the crowd when the trade was announced prior to the start of Friday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. Johnson, a former University of Michigan player, received an ovation from those in attendance when he arrived midway through the game. Howson made it clear that his most recent rebuilding of the Blue Jackets will be focused on drafting well as he stock-piled draft picks and only received two players in exchange for the three he dealt. The Blue Jackets will continue their season Tuesday when they host the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. read more

Samantha Prahalis hopes to rise with Mercury

During four years at Ohio State, point guard Samantha Prahalis earned her place in the record books of women’s basketball. On April 16, Prahalis received the opportunity to continue her stardom at the professional level when she was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury with the No. 6-overall pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft. Prahalis set Big Ten conference and OSU school records with 901 assists over her four-year career. She ranks fourth on the Buckeyes’ all-time scoring list with 2,010 points, and was only the second player in Division I women’s basketball history with at least 2,000 career points and 900 career assists. She was also named the 2012 Big Ten Player of the Year, and was a first-team USBWA All-American. Prahalis said making it to the WNBA has been a goal of hers since she “got serious about basketball in high school.” “To get drafted, and just to be in the room and get your name called and hold the jersey up with the commissioner,” Prahalis said. “It was just cool. It’s reaching a dream.” Prahalis said she was “super excited” to be drafted by the Mercury and thinks her new team is the right fit for her. “They’re a fast-paced team, they’re up-tempo,” Prahalis noted. “So I think that fits me perfectly.” Mercury coach and general manager Corey Gaines said he was in attendance for Prahalis’ final home game on Feb. 23, when she set the OSU single-game scoring record with 42 points in a victory against Minnesota. Gaines said he believes the system his team runs will suit Prahalis well. “The way she plays, she makes other people better,” Gaines said. “I think she’ll flourish, I think she’ll be one of those players to leave college and expand her game to a better style.” Prahalis joined Jessica Davenport, who was selected second overall in 2007, and Jantel Lavender, selected fifth overall in 2011, as the third OSU alum to be a WNBA first-round draft pick. Prahalis also became the seventh player to be drafted from OSU under Jim Foster’s tenure as head coach. Foster began coaching the Buckeyes in 2002. Prahalis gave credit to Foster in helping her get to the WNBA. “I am confident in the way coach Foster prepared me for the league,” Prahalis said. “He really taught me to deal with different situations.” Like Gaines, Foster also said he thinks playing for the Phoenix Mercury will be a “great fit” for Prahalis. “I think that she’s going to a very transition-oriented team, and that by far is her strength,” Foster said. Prahalis joins a roster that features Diana Taurasi, who has led the WNBA in scoring for the past four consecutive seasons. Gaines said he believes adding Prahalis to a talented roster will make her better. “She has good players to pass to,” Gaines said. “So it should improve her game, and also make her game a little easier for her playing in our league.” Gaines said he hopes Prahalis is ready to start at point guard this season but also recognizes that the transition from OSU to the Mercury will be challenging. “It’s going to be a drastic change for her,” Gaines said. “It’s probably going to go against everything she’s learned or been taught before. And I’m not saying what she’s been taught before is wrong. It’s just that we teach things a little differently, and it’s a different style of game.” Prahalis said she felt her personality was sometimes misunderstood, but hopes WNBA players and fans will be more accepting. “I think in college, I was kind of scrutinized because I was being me,” Prahalis said. “So hopefully the WNBA has a little bit of a more open mind.” Prahalis also said she hopes OSU basketball fans will remain interested in her WNBA career. “I hope the fans from OSU will come over to WNBA and continue to support me,” Prahalis said. “They believed in me, all my flashiness, my style, my competitiveness, so I hope they just continue to follow me.” read more

Ohio State mens hockey seeks revenge against Bowling Green

Freshman goalie Matt Tomkins (31) and senior forward Travis Statchuk (12) celebrate during a game against Robert Morris Oct. 25 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won, 5-3.Credit: Julia Hider / Lantern photographerComing off the momentum from a two-game sweep of Robert Morris over the weekend, the Ohio State men’s ice hockey team is looking forward to a rematch against Bowling Green.The Falcons (2-1-2) and Buckeyes (2-3-0) meet Tuesday after BGSU managed to edge OSU, 4-3, when the two teams met Oct. 15 in Bowling Green for the non-conference matchup. The loss was part of an 0-3-0 start for OSU.Coach Steve Rohlik said despite the recent victories, the Buckeyes have areas in which they could improve.“We’ve got to work on our discipline and we’ve got to stay out of the box and special teams,” Rohlik said in a postgame interview Friday.Senior forward Travis Statchuk agreed, adding the season is still young and the team has a long way to go.“It’s a long year and it’s early … we’ve got some things to work on and want to get better every day,” Statchuk said Friday.This time, OSU has home-ice advantage, and is looking to extend its winning streak to three games and grab a .500 overall record.The Buckeyes led the Oct. 15 game after two periods of the teams’ first bout, but the Falcons managed to put two unanswered goals in the back of the net early in the third period to secure a victory.Junior forward Max McCormick said Oct. 14 Bowling Green and OSU are “hard-nosed” and that the Oct. 15 matchup was going to be a battle. The same holds true for Tuesday.Freshman goalie Matt Tomkins, who started the season on the bench behind sophomore goalie Collin Olson, was brought in to take Olson’s place less than three minutes into the first match against Robert Morris. Tomkins recorded 26 saves against the Colonials to earn his first career win, and then followed it up with a 21-save victory the following night.Rohlik was impressed with the young goalie’s performance against the Colonials.“Well, I did think (Tomkins) did give a good effort all the way through. They got one on a power play (Friday) but that’s why it’s a team effort,” Rohlik said. “This doesn’t fall on (Olson), it wasn’t his night to start and that’s why you have two goalies dressed. (Tomkins) came in and did the job that they’re both capable of doing.”The Buckeyes are slated to take on the Falcons in the second game of the home-and-home series Tuesday at the Schottenstein Center, and the puck is set to drop at 7:05 p.m. read more

Mens basketball former Ohio State commit Dane Goodwin announces intention to play

OSU commits Kaleb Wesson and Dane Goodwin battle for a rebound in a game at Upper Arlington High School on Jan. 25. Wesson had 49 points and Goodwin had 35. Credit: Jacob Myers | Assistant Sports EditorAfter decommitting from the Ohio State men’s basketball team on June 21, four-star shooting guard Dane Goodwin from the 2018 class has verbally committed to Notre Dame, the recruit tweeted Wednesday.He had committed to Ohio State — led by former head coach Thad Matta — on Dec. 1, 2014. Ready to be apart of the family! pic.twitter.com/ARmfvVqMtj— Dane Goodwin (@danegoodwin23) July 6, 2017Previously the Buckeyes’ only 2018 recruit, Goodwin is the fourth-best prospect in the state of Ohio, 74th-best overall and 16th-best at his position, according to 247Sports composite rankings. The Buckeyes have no commits in their 2018 class. The Upper Arlington native was the third prospect in his class to decommit from Ohio State, following decommitments from four-star small forward Darius Bazeley (now committed to Syracuse) on April 26 and four-star small forward Justin Ahrens on June 6. read more