Jun 30, 2020

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

👋 Good morning! Let's sports.

Today's word count: 2,016 words (8 minutes).

1 big thing: 🏀 How the NBA's "smart rings" work

Courtesy: Oura Ring

When play resumes a month from now at Walt Disney World, NBA players will have the option of wearing an Oura Ring, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

  • Why it matters: The rings track heart and respiratory rate, as well as temperature and sleep patterns. The hope is that they can be an additional line of defense against the spread of COVID-19.
  • 🎙 Interview: I spoke with Oura CEO Harpreet Singh Rai to learn more about the product and why the NBA sought them out as a partner.

How does this technology work?

"Put simply, we help people understand and improve their health by focusing on better sleep. Consumers are given three scores: sleep, activity and readiness. And it's that readiness score that's really meant to tell users how they're feeling.
"The most important data we collect is temperature, which we can capture on the finger, but you don't see it on the wrist. That's one of the key reasons why the NBA isn't partnering with, say, Apple or Whoop."

When did you realize Oura could be useful in tracking COVID-19?

"We had a user in Finland who made a public Facebook post in early March, basically saying, 'I've had this ring for a year, I'm an avid athlete, and normally my readiness range is 80 to 90. Then all of a sudden, I woke up one day and my score was 54.'
He was asymptomatic, but he'd been traveling and his body temperature was a degree higher than normal, so he decided to contact the health authorities to get tested. Sure enough, he tested positive."

How'd the NBA get involved?

"We had research projects going with UCSF and West Virginia University, and the data was pretty compelling. When the NBA's wearables committee caught wind of both studies, they reached out around the end of April.
"We've since developed an opt-in program for all players and staffers going to Orlando. It's too early to know exactly how many are opting in, but it's going to be over 2,000 people."

How will you handle privacy concerns?

"We're working with the NBA, NBPA, Excel Sports and CAA to make sure everyone feels comfortable. Think about it — we're tracking sleep, so a coach could ostensibly see that a player only got two hours of sleep the night before a game and decide not to start him.
"To ensure that doesn't happen, most of the data isn't being shared. The league and union only see something called a Risk Score, which combines heart rate, heart rate variability, temperature and respiratory rate. If the Risk Score is high enough, a team doctor is alerted and can test the player.
"It's that informed testing, as we call it, that would make this a cost-effective solution for other leagues, including colleges, who can't afford to test everyone daily the way the NBA can."
2. ⚡️ Catch up quick
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios
  • 📊 Coronavirus poll: Fourth of July celebrations and summer weddings are the latest triggers of American anxiety in this week's installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.
  • ✊🏿 NBA: "Black Lives Matter" will be painted on the court in all three arenas the NBA will use at the Walt Disney World.
  • 🏀 Recruiting: 16-year-old Emoni Bates, the top recruit in the 2022 class and the first sophomore to ever win Gatorade National Player of the Year, has committed to Michigan State. He also announced that he'll play his final two years of high school at a new prep school his father is opening this fall.
Williams College campus. Photo: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • 🎓 College sports: Williams, one of America's richest liberal arts colleges, joined Bowdoin in canceling fall sports. ... Meanwhile, the Ivy League is considering playing a conference-only football season in the spring.
  • ⚽️ Soccer: Nike's new Premier League match ball (launching next season) is pretty groovy. No really, it literally has grooves, which supposedly improve aerodynamics and act similarly to the dimples on a golf ball.
  • ⚾️ MLB: Nationals teammates Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross opted out of the 2020 season, and so did former National and current Rockie Ian Desmond, who issued an incredibly thoughtful statement. Here's part of it...
Screenshot: Ian Desmond (Instagram)
3. 🚫 14 states could limit transgender athletes

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

14 state legislatures are considering bills that would limit transgender students' participation in athletics, according to the Human Rights Campaign, Axios' Jacob Knutson writes.

  • Why it matters: Though legislatures have halted action on the bills because of the pandemic and national protests, they may resume consideration in upcoming special sessions beginning in late July.
  • States considering bills: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington.

What they're saying: HRC state legislative director Cathryn Oakley tells Axios that 66 anti-transgender bills were introduced this year — the most ever.

  • Proponents of the bills believe transgender athletes endanger federal funding of women's sports at all levels because trans women may have a biological advantage over competitors.
  • Opponents argue the laws, once enacted, would bar students from joining sports and would expose them to invasive tests if their gender is challenged.

Go deeper.

4. ⚾️ MLB storylines: National League
Data: Baseball Reference; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Following up on yesterday's American League preview, here's a look at the National League landscape, Jeff writes:

NL East

Nats try to run it back: Last season, they famously started so poorly they wouldn't have come close to sniffing the playoffs in a 60-game campaign. Now, their loaded rotation and laundry list of veteran DH-types could be just what the doctor ordered, thanks to the NL's temporary adoption of the DH.

  • Braves want more: Two straight division titles hasn't gotten them any further than the NLDS, but the pieces are clearly there. Look for Ronald Acuña Jr., to be one of the few players in the hunt for a 15-15 season in just 60 games.
  • Meet the Mets: The kings of Queens have been maddeningly inconsistent for a half-decade, but when they get hot, they truly scorch. Losing Noah Syndergaard to Tommy John surgery obviously hurts, but the offense could be dangerous, particularly if Yoenis Céspedes is healthy enough to be their DH.
NL Central

Reloaded Reds: This division has been an absolute dogfight for years, but 2016 was the last time a team not named the Cubs, Cardinals or Brewers cracked the top three. Cincinnati's rotation — led by Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo and a full season of Trevor Bauer — is superb, and they added sluggers Mike Moustakas and Nicholas Castellanos in a rare free agent splash.

  • Cubs try to shift gears: Chicago has regressed each year since winning the 2016 World Series. Can David Ross, the heart of that 2016 club, bring back the magic now that he's the team's manager?
  • All eyes on Yelich: The 2018 MVP probably should've won again in 2019, but a September knee injury put an end to that. Without him, Milwaukee still made an incredible run to the Wild Card game; with him, anything could happen.
NL West

Betts in blue: Remember when the Red Sox traded the second-best position player of the last five years ahead of his contract season to minimally cut payroll? And sent him to a team that hasn't won fewer than 91 games since 2012? Where he'll share an outfield with the reigning MVP? Yeah, the Dodgers are good.

  • New look Diamondbacks: Two years ago, they had Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin and Paul Goldschmidt. None remain, but Ketel Marte (last year's breakout star), Starling Marte (no relation) and Giants hero Madison Bumgarner headline a new-look group that could make noise out West.
  • Padres on the rise? The Friars haven't made the postseason since 2006, and year one of the Manny Machado era did not go as planned. But few infields boast a top two as lethal as Machado and sophomore sensation Fernando Tatís Jr., so they'll hope to finish better than dead last for a third straight year.
5. 🏀 Ranking the NBA's all-time rosters (No. 24)
Expand chart
Player data: Basketball Reference; Graphic: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

We're ranking the all-time rosters for all 30 NBA teams. Note: Rosters and stats based only on time spent with this specific team. Thoughts? Email me at jeff@axios.com.

24. Los Angeles Clippers

The Lob City Clippers made the playoffs in six straight years (2012-17), but before that, they were the physical embodiment of futility. From 1977 to 2011, they made the playoffs just four times, and had a losing record in 32 of 35 seasons.

  • Year established: 1970 (as the Buffalo Braves)
  • All-time record: 1,654-2,380 (.410)
  • NBA Championships: 0
  • Hall of Famers (indicated by *): 1

Starters:

  • Chris Paul, G (18.8 pts, 4.2 reb, 9.8 ast, 26.3 PER/78.2 WS)
  • Randy Smith, G (17.8 pts, 4.2 reb, 4.9 ast, 17.0 PER/50.0 WS)
  • Corey Maggette, F (17.3 pts, 5.2 reb, 2.4 ast, 18.6 PER/45.8 WS)
  • Blake Griffin, F (21.6 pts, 9.3 reb, 4.2 ast, 22.6 PER/65.4 WS)
  • Bob McAdoo*, C (28.2 pts, 12.7 reb, 2.6 ast, 22.8 PER/50.9 WS)

Sixth man: Elton Brand, F (20.3 pts, 10.3 reb, 2.7 ast, 23.4 PER/68.3 WS)

Bench:

  • Danny Manning, F (19.1 pts, 6.4 reb, 3.0 ast, 17.9 PER/31.0 WS)
  • DeAndre Jordan, C (9.4 pts, 10.7 reb, 1.7 blk, 18.5 PER/76.3 WS)
  • Lou Williams, G (20.6 pts, 2.8 reb, 5.4 ast, 19.7 PER/15.7 WS)
  • World B. Free, G (29.4 pts, 3.7 reb, 4.3 ast, 22.4 PER/18.1 WS)
  • Ron Harper, G (19.3 pts, 5.5 reb, 4.8 ast, 16.0 PER/18.6 WS)
  • Charles Smith, F (18.4 pts, 7.0 reb, 1.5 ast, 17.8 PER/25.2 WS)

Notes:

  • Jordan has the highest career field goal percentage ever (66.94%) and led the league in the category five different times, trailing only Shaquille O'Neal (10) and Wilt Chamberlain (9).
  • McAdoo is one of just eight players in NBA history with at least three scoring titles, joining Neil Johnston (3), George Mikan (3), Allen Iverson (4), George Gervin (4), Kevin Durant (4), Wilt Chamberlain (7) and Michael Jordan (10).

ICYMI ... 30. Grizzlies, 29. Timberwolves, 28. Hornets, 27. Raptors, 26. Pelicans, 25. Pacers

Stats, explained: Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is a measure of a player's per-minute productivity (20+ is elite); Win Shares (WS) attempts to divvy up individual credit for team success (6 per season is elite).

6. June 30, 1910: 🎾 Wilding wins Wimbledon
Anthony Wilding at Wimbledon. Photo: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

110 years ago today, New Zealand's Anthony (or Tony) Wilding, one of the world's first tennis superstars, won his first of four consecutive Wimbledon singles titles.

Fun fact: Three years later, Wilding became tennis' first world champion, achieving the equivalent of what is now known as the Grand Slam. There were only three majors in 1913, and he won them all:

In 1915, Wilding was killed in battle while fighting for the British Empire on a World War I battlefield in northern France.

"Imagine the Great Gatsby era, but he was the real deal, the toast of society. ... Kind of a James Dean character, riding all over Europe on his motorcycle."
— Wilding's great niece, Anna Wilding

P.S. ... Wimbledon was originally scheduled to begin yesterday before it was canceled for the first time since WWII.

7. 🚪 Pick a door, any door
Giphy
8. The Ocho: ⚽️ Blow soccer
Source: @FCRK (Instagram)

Hope this happened pre-COVID. Also, if anyone from Altoids is reading — you're welcome for the slam dunk marketing opportunity.

Please enjoy.

9. 🏀 NBA trivia
Giphy

Two active NBA players rank in the top 10 for career free throw percentage, led by Steph Curry, who tops the list (90.56%).

  • Question: What other active player is in the top 10?
  • Hint: Has made the playoffs in all 14 of his NBA seasons (counting this one).

Answer at the bottom.

10. 📚 Good read: "Love, Loss and Baseball"
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While we take a quick break to sort through reader submissions, I'd like to share the epic work of SI's Tom Verducci, whose 28-page "Letters From the Hub of History" is one of the most remarkable pieces of storytelling this year.

  • Verducci's three-part collection explores the same material through letters written by Edward F. Martin, a baseball writer for the Boston Globe recovering Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox.
"I was blown away by the similarities between what a frightened public faced in 1918 and what we are facing in 2020. In the end, this is a timeless story. It is a love story. It is a story about how the random, evil nature of a pandemic makes us cherish even more the sweetness of small moments and those we love."
— Tom Verducci

Read:

Kendall Baker

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Checking in on Jay Cutler" Baker

Trivia answer: J.J. Redick (89.13%; No. 9 on all-time list)