The Thursday Show Prep

posted by Steve Bortstein -

NBA action last night, and there’s a new leader atop the Western Conference standings. The Houston Rockets knocked off Sacramento 100-91. That win combined with Golden State losing on the road to the Portland Trail Blazers 123-117 gives the Rockets a half-game lead over the Warriors out west. 

Meantime, it was Toronto widening their lead atop the Eastern Conference standings. The Raptors knocked off Chicago 122-98 while Boston lost at home to the L.A. Clippers 129-119. Toronto now owns a 2-game lead over the Celtics back east.

Other NBA games of note: The Utah Jazz are smooth once again (UTA). The Jazz won their 11th straight last night, slipping past Phoenix 107-97 and it was Oklahoma City dropping Memphis 121-114 while New Orleans stormed over the Lakers 139-117.

Speculation on Sebastian Janikowski re-signing with the Oakland Raiders and reuniting with coach Jon Gruden was quelled Wednesday as the team told the veteran placekicker that it does not plan to bring him back next season. Janikowski, the Raiders' all-time leading scorer with and 11th-leading scorer in league history, spent last season on injured reserve, and his locker was cleaned out by midseason. He will turn 40 on March 2 and will be an unrestricted free agent.

ESPN.com

No real surprise that USA Hockey comes up short

We were met with a requisite amount of disappointment when the U.S. men’s hockey team lost the first game of the Olympics to Slovenia 3-2. I’m not sure why. With NHL players not being allowed to compete and Europeans being better at the sport, Wednesday’s result shouldn’t be a surprise. 

What's more a surprise - or at the very least a disappointment - is the idea that we're supposed to be insulted by this. Social media went into a frenzy after the loss, calling it an enormous upset and disparaging the National Hockey League for its decision to exclude its players from the Winter Games.

That same type of anger and frustration would have been a lot more beneficial had it taken place when the league announced it was considering the move in 2016. 

Will this policy remain in place for future editions of the Games?

Hard to say, but one would have to wonder how much this decision affects the relationship between the league and NBC Television, which is also deeply entrenched into the Olympics, not only on the flagship but all its supporting networks and streaming platforms.

What remains is a league that continues an awful job at promoting its sport beyond its own niche audience. Hockey fans are plentiful and they're not to be trifled with. 

But even the most ardent NHL fans have to feel that the decision by commissioner Gary Bettman has impacted the sport, not only globally but right here at home.     

Speaking of which. If you're really still bothered by the loss to Slovenia, do yourself a favor and have some fun with this task. Do a Google Map search of Slovenia and get cool facts about the place.

At the very least, you can learn about different cultures and countries and the people within nations that are unfamiliar to us. 

That's kind of the Olympic spirit.

Gold medal run comes with less than shiny reputation

While many fans were awestruck by Shaun White's gold medal performance earlier this week in the Winter Olympics, some were far less impressed with his dismissive answers in a press conference to questions surrounding claims of sexual harassment lodged against him.

In a piece published on ESPN.com, the lawyer for Lena Zawaideh, who sued White in 2016, said in a statement Wednesday night that the Olympic gold medalist's words, on the world stage, impugned his client's character and minimized the problem of sexual harassment in the United States.

White has been the world's dominant snowboarder for more than a decade, winning halfpipe gold medals in 2006, 2010 and again this year in South Korea, completing a comeback after finishing fourth in 2014.

White was asked during a press conference after winning gold on Wednesday if the allegations might tarnish his reputation.

"I'm here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff,'' he said. "I don't think so.''

White apologized on NBC's "Today" show for using the word "gossip," and he expressed regret for his actions in a statement to ESPN.

"Representing Team USA at the Olympics in a sport that I love is a true honor and I was thrilled to win gold. I regret my behavior many years ago and am sorry that I made anyone -- particularly someone I considered a friend -- uncomfortable. I have grown and changed as a person, as we all grow and change, and am proud of who I am today."

The allegations against White, as well as recent reports of inappropriate behavior among virtually all areas of society, have caused a domino effect of reactions.

There are those who stand up for the women making these claims.

There are others who feel the allegations are baseless and deserve little to no credibility.

There are still others who feel that the allegations have some sort of expiration date - like a bottle of milk - and that recalling events from years ago have almost no merit, and that those who are making these allegations are simply trying to exploit the accused or to call attention to a socially and politically motivated culture war.

Any and all of these things may be accurate, but in order to reach that point, one must conclude that someone is telling the truth.

And conversely, someone is lying. 

And unfortunately, too many people seem far too entrenched into one ideology or another without basis of fact or merit.

Even more disturbing is the notion (and maybe this is just on my own radar) that White seems to be getting far less heat for these allegations because of his involvement in the Winter Games as well as Team USA.

There are bad people out there who drape themselves in the flag. I don't know if White is a bad person, but if you're inclined to think so based on his statement, then it should be perfectly acceptable to do so, regardless of his achievements and flashy medals.

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