Points of emphasis: NBA taking steps to rein in scoring explosion after pendulum swings in offensive fashion

The pendulum has swung way too far towards offence in the NBA and the referees are finally doing something about it. 

After the three-point revolution has led to scores going up and up, the NBA has decided enough is enough and they’re actually empowering referees and the players to reward defence. 

The NBA will never go back to yesteryear when scores in the 70s and 80s were commonplace but fans have grown tired of 130-plus scorelines where neither side puts in much effort at the defensive end. 

That lethargy on defence didn’t just happen in a vacuum. 

Because the refs had been told to clamp down on any kind of contact, offensive players were given way too much latitude to score. 

Players like James Harden, Luka Doncic and Trae Young have games the system by milking fouls for the slightest of contact to inflate their already impressive offensive outputs. 

There has been a growing trend over the second half of this season to cut the number of defensive fouls handed out. 

The play is getting more physical, without being dangerous, scores are coming down and the contest between the player in possession and the defender is now just that again – a contest. 

This has repercussions for coaches with the line-ups they use – most teams are rolling with one dedicated defensive stopper on court at any given time and devoting their resources to players who can shoot, particularly from three-point territory. 

With the refs being more lenient with regards to contact, the he value of defensive-minded players will rise. 

While the brilliance of the likes of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Damian Lillard is often cited as the example of the effectiveness of the three-point explosion, the flip side is that pretty much every player now is encouraged to be or thinks they are a long-range threat. 

And that has led to average, and many below-average, jump-shooters jacking up deep bombs that clank off the ring, which is hardly what anyone would call attractive basketball. 

The average points per team this season is 114.8, the highest it’s been since 1969-70, according to Basketball Reference.

From 1995-96 to 2012-13, it hovered between a low of 91.6 in 1998-99 and 100.4.

Apart from a small step back in 2021-22, it has risen every year over the past decade, meaning on average there’s now about 30 more points scored per game than just 10 years ago (when LeBron James was at the mid-point of his career).

NBA executives are in the midst of negotiating their next broadcast rights deal, which is tipped to net the league more than $60 billion dollars over the course of seven years. That’s roughly three times what the previous deal was worth. 

Scoring has been inflated in recent years to provide a more entertaining product but it’s refreshing to see the NBA realising that there can be too much of a good thing by actively reducing the bias towards offence. 

Another option which has been floated is to get rid of the corner three. 

The current layout of a basketball floor allows for the three-point line to be 22 feet from the basket while it rises to 23.75 feet above the break at the top of the key. 

A possible counter ploy to the high proportion of corner threes in the game is to extend the arc of the three-point line until it reaches the sideline. 

This is a step too far. 

It would look weird for the three-point line to extend to the sideline on each side and the ability to be able to exploit the advantages that come with the corner three is a huge tactical manoeuvre for coaches to have in their plans at both ends of the court. 

As has been the case over the 75-plus years of the NBA, the league is cyclical. 

The defensive era of the 1990s and early 2000s has given way to an offensive mindset of the past decade that has been dominated by the rise of three-point attempts. 

Fans watch the NBA to see the stuff they could only dream about when it comes to athletic dunks and worldly shooting capabilities. 

But they also want to see genuine competition not just between the teams on the score of but an even battle between the player with the ball and the opponent trying to stop it from ending in the basket. 

Scores will naturally shrink in the playoffs when the rotations get smaller in each team and the intensity lifts. 

The NBA doesn’t need gimmicks or outlandish rule changes to stop teams continually chucking up shots with little regard for the defence. 

But it does need to strike the right balance and allowing a little more physicality and contact at the defensive end should fix that problem. 

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Luka Doncic historic shooting masterclass overshadows Aussie v Aussie showdown in Atlanta

From State Farm Arena, Atlanta

When Luka Doncic is in a mood, no NBA team can stop him.

The Atlanta Hawks found that out the hard way, as the Slovenian superstar put on a scoring clinic, becoming just the tenth player in NBA history to produce a 70-point game.

The day after Australia Day, Patty Mills’ Atlanta was taking on Boomers teammates from Dallas in Josh Green, but their involvement on the court was humbled by the might of Doncic, who finished with 73 points as the Mavs won a high-scoring shootout 148-143.

His career-high performance came on the anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s death, and the Mavericks star knew how special the occasion was, paying tribute to a legend of the game.

“We all love Kobe, I can’t believe that it is four years already, so it’s special – I just wish he was still here” Doncic said.

He had to battle through a double team in the fourth quarter, but even the man himself could not believe how hot he was throughout the game.

“It’s just exciting, sometimes you cannot believe it,” he said.

“It was a record for me, it was special for me, but we were trying to win so to get that as well, was great.

“Maybe after I had 41 in the first half (I knew it was a special night), but you never really know sometimes you feel great other times you don’t. I mean, today in my warmups I missed a lot of shots.”

Green was the only starter of the Aussie contingent and produced a three-pointer in the opening two minutes followed up by a bucket, giving the Mavs 11-7 lead heading into the first time out, just over four minutes in.

Exum entered the game five minutes in, soon followed by Patty Mills, with all three Aussies on the court for a short period. Mills marked his Boomer teammate Exum, but the Hawk’s first stint was less than three minutes, without a stat to his name.

Green was one of the two go-to options for the Mavericks in the first quarter, lighting up the court with a spectacular reverse dunk, before coming to the bench with his second personal foul of the game.

Hawks surged home to finish the first quarter in front, but that’s when Donic got hot, with seven of the first ten points to start the second quarter.

Green took his score to double figures midway through the second, but Atlanta always had the reply, and neither team were able to take away any substantial lead.

Doncic finished a monster first half with 41 points to go along with four assists and five rebounds. To put it in context, Atlanta’s Bogdan Bogdanovic was the next top scorer for the half with 15 points.

Dante Exum saw out final seconds of first half after an offensive foul to Derrick Jones Jr that left him with a painful injury. But he and Mills both finished the half scoreless.

Doncic picked up where he left off in the third quarter, with Dallas’ first three of the second half, while Green soon had 15 points.

Exum was not enjoying the same success, missing his second from the field in a row to remain scoreless.

But at the halfway stage of the quarter, the Mavericks had opened up a nine-point lead. As the Slovenian passed 50, Green ended the third quarter with 17 points.

Exum’s first points came late in the third quarter, producing back-to-back buckets to keep Dallas six points clear heading into the final quarter.

Atlanta briefly had the margin back to three in the opening stages of the fourth before the ‘Luka Doncic show’ resumed and even Hawks fans were out of their seats – eight straight points and the quarter was not even two minutes old. 

Showing the confidence of the Mavericks superstar, with his team cruising to the win, he tried a behind-the-back pass to himself, tripped himself over but still managed to keep the ball alive for a teammate.

Hawks rallied late, cutting the lead to within three points in the final two minutes, but Dallas held on in a thriller Exum putting the icing on the cake with a beautiful three-pointer to end the comeback run.

Doncic’s 73 points came at 25/33 from the field including eight three-pointers. In addition, he had 10 rebounds and seven assists.

As good as the individual performance was from Doncic, Dallas head coach Jason Kidd was just as impressed by his all-round team effort, admitting to reporters that “he is the game plan” – but he also knows he can perform even better.

“His ability to make shots, create shots, find open guys, he did that at a high level tonight,” Kidd said.

“He was letting everyone know he was alright, and that we were alright. Being able to get to the free throw line, he made his free throws – it was a complete game.

“You look at the 70 points, but he’s probably thinking about in the locker room (about) the three assists and he could have had a triple-double.

“In the first quarter, I was talking to the coaching staff and I thought he needed to go for 40 or 50 to give us a chance to win.

“Just with the injuries and offence that’s missing, he’s got to carry the load and he understood that – but he gave us that in the first half. Then I thought maybe we shouldn’t be greedy, but we should ask for another 40 to find a way to win.”

Green was awestruck, comparing his teammate’s performance to a video game.

“I have never seen anything like that; it was like I was in a game of 2K – but whoever was controlling him was doing a great job,” the Australian said.

“I looked at (his stats) at half time and he had 40 and I was like ‘damn’, and then I looked again going into the fourth quarter it was like 60 – just ridiculous.

Green made it to 21 points (four assists and two rebounds) and Exum finished with nine points (3 assists).

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France’s Tony Parker enters the NBA Hall of Fame: ‘It was an impossible dream’

Legendary French basketball player Tony Parker will on Saturday add another exceptional achievement to a glittering sports career. The former point guard, who has a cabinet full of trophies won playing in the NBA and on the national French team, will become the first French player to be inducted into basketball’s Hall of Fame.

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Parker, himself, still can’t believe it. Days before the August 12 ceremony was set to take place at the NBA’s Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, the former player spoke to journalists from French news sites including FRANCE 24 via Zoom.

“When I’m inside the Springfield museum making my speech, then I’ll really realise what’s happening,” he said.

After decades of living in the US Parker’s speech was peppered with Americanisms, even when speaking in his native tongue.

Topics of conversation included Parker’s feelings about being recognised with such an honour and being inducted alongside friends and former rivals such as Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki.

He also reflected on his long career, from his first professional contract at Paris club PSG to winning four NBA titles with the San Antonio Spurs in Texas, and his unique relationship with coach Gregg Popovich.

Read moreTony Parker enters basketball’s hall of fame: 10 key moments in his career

When you think back to being a young player at INSEP [a French training centre for elite athletes] or your first professional season at Paris club PSG where you spent a lot of time on the subs bench dreaming of playing in the NBA, did you even imagine you’d end up in the Hall of Fame?

Tony Parker: Honestly, no. And yet, I’m the first person to tell my students to always dream big. If you tell someone your dream and they don’t start laughing at you, you’re not dreaming big enough!

Honestly, even in my wildest dreams, I never imagined myself entering the Hall of Fame. When I started my career, basketball was different. It was an impossible dream. No European point guard had ever played in the NBA. There were just no Europeans. Today, getting drafted has almost become normal, but at the time it was quite an event.

[To play in the NBA players must be eligible for ‘the draft’ – a randomised selection process during which teams choose rookie players via a lottery.]

Personally, I just dreamed of playing in the NBA and being the first European to be the MVP [Most Valuable Player] in the finals. Now, being entered into the Hall of Fame is incredible. I can hardly believe it’s happening.

What does it mean to you to be the first French player to enter the Hall of Fame, and to do it alongside two players who are also the first from their country to do so – Spain’s Pau Gascol and Germany’s Dirk Nowitzki?

It’s extraordinary to be the first French player [to do this]. I have always taken my role as an ambassador for French basketball, and sport in general, very seriously. My motivation was always to show the Americans that we knew how to play basketball in France. Being the first French NBA champion and the first to enter the Hall of Fame is the continuation of that.

Entering alongside Pau and Dirk is really an honour. I have a real relationship with both of them. I was there when Dirk’s jersey number was retired from his club [an honour awarded to exceptional players after they retire]. I played with Pau with the Spurs and I’ve known him since I was 14 with all the rivalry there is between France and Spain[’s basketball teams].

When Pau and I were starting out, the Americans thought it was impossible that a European could become a “franchise player” [the top player on an NBA team that the club can build a brand around]. We were the first European players to take charge of our franchises and lead them to titles.

And now when I see that there’s no questions about considering players like [Serbian] Nikola Jokic or [Greek-Nigerian] Giannis Antetokounmpo as franchise players, I see how far we have come.

You are also entering the Hall of Fame alongside Gregg Popovich, who was your coach for almost all of your career. How does that feel? How does your past relationship compare to your relationship today?

It’s a relationship that will always be very special for me. He’s like a second father to me. I was so young when I arrived at San Antonio, I was 19 years old and he took me under his wing. He took a risk as well: he gave the ball to a European point guard. His star player, Tim Duncan, didn’t speak to me for the first season. Popovich took a chance on me and because of that we will be linked forever.

Tim Duncan summed it up well: Gregg Popovich was harder on me than he was on any player in the Spur’s history. But we achieved so much together … It’s almost funny that we’re entering the Hall of Fame together because they could have chosen any year to induct Popovich. I don’t even know if it’s ever happened before that a player enters at the same time as his coach.

Giving your speech will be a significant moment. How is the writing going?

I’m writing on my own and looking back at speeches I’ve made in the past. I’m looking at [speeches by] players who inspired me, like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. I watched speeches by Duncan, Ginobili … I’m taking inspiration from everybody.

I’ve written quite a few speeches in my life. I spoke at Duncan’s jersey retirement ceremony, and Ginobili’s as well. But this is completely different. You’re looking back on your whole life! It’s not an easy thing to do. I think I’ll be really nervous. 

In 2003, you won your first NBA title, in 2013 your first gold medal with the French team, and, in 2023, you’re entering into the Hall of Fame. What is on the cards for you in 2033?

I don’t know. That’s a very good question. Maybe winning the EuroLeague with ASVEL? [the French club of which Parker is a majority owner.]

I was born under a lucky star and I’m very, very grateful for everything that has happened in my life.

I watched the 2003 finals match yesterday with my family and friends. It was so funny to see myself there, at 21-years-old. I wasn’t aware of what I was doing. I got 26 points past [New Jersey Nets point guard] Jason Kidd. I was light years away from realising [the scale of] what I was doing.

I definitely came back down to Earth in the next match when I only scored one out of 10 shots. But when it’s your first title, you don’t understand. It goes so fast. Being an NBA champion at 21-years-old was just incredible.

In 2013, winning the first title with the French team was also something really special. And entering the Hall of Fame in 2023 will be another incredible moment that’s going to stay in my heart forever. I hope that in 2033 I will be able to celebrate something that’s on the same level.

This article was adapted from the original in French.

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Tony Parker enters basketball’s Hall of Fame: 10 key moments in his career

Tony Parker will on Saturday become the first French basketball player to be inducted into the NBA’s Hall of Fame, one of the greatest honours the sport has to offer. For Parker, the accolade is a crowning moment in an extraordinary career. FRANCE 24 looks back on 10 key moments.

For French basketball fans, 2023 will go down in history as an exceptional year. As Tony Parker ends his legendary career with an entry into the Hall of Fame, newcomer Victor Wembanyama in June became the first French player to be the first pick in the NBA draft.

At 7 feet 4 inches, Wembanyama, a 19-year-old prodigy, could do worse than to look at Parker’s career as an example of how to turn on-court potential into bonafide star power.

Parker is a four-time NBA champion, voted best player in the 2007 final, a six-time pick for the NBA All-Star Game, and a gold, silver and bronze medal winner as part of the French team in the European Basketball Championships.

Along with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, Parker is one of the only four NBA players in playoff history to produce 4,000 points and 1,000 assists.

These remarkable achievements will see Parker inducted into the NBA’s Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in a ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Saturday, August 12.

FRANCE 24 looks back on 10 moments that have defined the career of the former San Antonio Spurs’ player No. 9.

A frustrating start

Today, Parker’s career may read as a list of achievements, but as a young point guard he was frustrated by lack of time on the court. Parker signed his first professional contract in 1999 with Paris club PSG Racing, where the 17-year-old was primarily used as a substitute for Laurent Sciarra, point guard for the French national team.

On average he played just 10 minutes per game over the season. He shared his frustration on a blog he was writing for the club’s website.

“This year, Laurent has played one of his best-ever seasons, but the problem is that I don’t only want to play when he is playing badly. I also want to play when he’s doing well. I just want to play regularly and be useful to the team.”

“I see Juan-Carlos Navarro, an 18-year-old point guard I used to play against, plays 10 minutes a game in the Euroleague for FC Barcelona, while he’s on a team with Spanish national team point guard Nacho Rodriguez and Anthony Goldwire – an NBA draftee. I’ve only got one point guard in front of me and I’m not playing. It makes me think that PSG is not a club for young people,” he wrote in February 2000.

In his second season at the Paris club, Sciarra left and Parker became the first-pick point guard for the team. He ended the 2000-2001 season with an average of 14.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 2.3 steals and 33 minutes on court per match. At 19, Parker was voted the top prospect in the French championship.

A US match that put him on the map

Despite a frustrating first season at PSG, Parker seized the opportunity to shine at the Nike Hoop Summit in 2000. The annual match played in April pits a selection of the best young US players against a team of rising talent from the rest of the world.

Against top US talent, Parker made his mark in the match with 20 ponts, 7 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals, and caught the attention of multiple NBA recruiters at a time when no European point guards had ever played in the American league.

“My main motivation for the match was to prove myself because the Americans were saying, ‘Tony Parker is good, but we’ve never seen him play against the US, maybe he’s afraid and that’s why he is staying in France.’ I wanted to prove to them that I could play against them,” Parker wrote on the PSG blog.

“I think my performance surprised them. After the match there was a lot of interest in me and my father got calls from a lot of recruiters. I know now that I will achieve my goal of playing in the NBA.”

A European juniors title playing for France

Parker was not only committed to playing in the US – a love of playing for the French national team was a hallmark of his career from a young age. In the summer of 2000, Parker won the European title as part of the French Juniors under 18’s team in Zadar, Croatia. Among an illustrious group of young French players including Boris Diaw, Mickaël Pietrus and Ronny Turiaf, Parker was voted the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the tournament.

“When we won the Euro Juniors in 2000, I made myself a promise: to come back to the French team every summer until we won the first gold medal in an international competition for the first time in French basketball history,” he wrote in his autobiography, “Tony Parker, au-delà de tous mes rêves” (Tony Parker, Beyond All of My Dreams).

A game-changing coach

Parker’s career would have been undeniably different without the involvement of Gregg Popovich, his coach for 17 seasons at the San Antonio Spurs. When Parker arrived in Texas in 2001, the young French player was talented but had a lot to learn.

Popovich, nicknamed “Pop” by players, saw Parker’s potential to become one of the greats and decided a tough training regime was the way to get him there. Something close to a father-son relationship developed between coach and player.

“[Popovich] is a tough and very demanding coach, but he is also very close to his players,” said Diaw, a former teammate of Parker’s, in an interview with FRANCE 24.

“I remember I spent Christmas Eve in 2002 at Popovich’s house with Tony when I wasn’t yet playing in the NBA. I was already surprised that a player would spend Christmas with his coach. Then at one point during the evening I realised that Pop and Tony had disappeared. I started looking for them around the house, and I found them in the middle of a video session with Pop showing Tony mistakes he had made in his last match. Even on a Christmas evening, he wanted to make Tony improve.”

“Sometimes it was hard when I was 19. I would go back home, and you have tears in your eyes,” Parker said of training with his coach, in a video made by the San Antonio Spurs. “Now that I look back at it, I’m happy that he did that for me because it made me even stronger. He definitely brought the best out in me.”

Popovich will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside Parker on Saturday.

Changing technique to reach new heights

Parker’s game was always based on speed, which allowed him to beat opponents, get close to the net and deploy his signature “teardrop” shot (a high arcing shot that helps avoid getting blocked). As a young player, he was less adept at shooting from long or even mid-distance.

Hoping to improve this skill set and become one of the best players in the league, Parker began working with Chip Engelland, a specialist in shooting skills, in 2005.   

“I heard the criticism of my shots and I could see that defenders were really tightening up around me. At some point I had to start making longer distance shots,” Parker wrote in his biography.

“In summer 2005 I spent a month in Los Angeles with [Engelland] doing nothing but shooting. I changed my movement a little; I moved my thumb towards the centre of the ball like when I did my teardrop. I needed to start straighter, so that my hand wasn’t too far back.”

The work paid off. In his first four NBA seasons, Parker had a shooting success rate of 45.3%, which increased to 54.8% in the 2005-2006 season. That same year was the first time he was selected for the NBA’s All-Star Game, gathering the best players across all teams in the league.

Becoming a solo star

Parker hit new heights in the 2007 NBA finals, which saw the San Antonio Spurs face the Cleveland Cavaliers. Parker had played a limited role in the 2003 and 2005 finals, both of which the Spurs had won, but his dominant performance in 2007 marked him out as a star talent.

Over four finals games, Parker averaged 24.5 points with a 56.8% shooting success rate, 5.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 37.8 minutes. He was voted the MVP in the finals, becoming the first European player – and only the second foreign player after Nigerian Hakeem Olajuwon – to receive the honour.

‘Parkermania’ takes hold in France

By 2003 France had already seen the impact Parker had on the national game. That summer, he had won his first NBA title and French media rallied behind the star. A record number of around 50 accredited journalists from France attended the European Championships that year.

But it was eight years later that true “Parkermania” took hold in the basketball star’s homeland.

The NBA owners and the NBA Players Association failed to reach an agreement that year, resulting in a lockout that stalled the 2011-2012 season. Many European players returned to play in their homelands during the impasse, including Parker, who in October joined the national championship playing for ASVEL, a team in which he was a minority shareholder, based in the Lyon suburbs.

Parker played seven matches in France resulting in 20.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists before he returned to the NBA in November. Each match saw the star playing in front of packed arenas and dozens of journalists – a rarity in France at the time.

Leader of the Spurs’ ‘Big Three’

The three following seasons from 2011 to 2014 saw Parker hit the height of his prowess with the San Antonio Spurs. As well as being a major player in his own right, he was also seen as the leader of one of the most decorated and successful trios in NBA history, the famous “Big Three” along with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.

After a six-year absence, the Spurs reached the NBA finals in 2013 facing the Miami Heat’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The first match of the finals became a showcase for Parker’s new status in the team. First he took – and scored – the decisive final shot. Then, in the following time out with just seconds left to play, Parker took on – with Popovich’s agreement – the role of coach, giving a final tactical talk to his teammates.

The Spurs eventually lost the 2013 finals to Miami but took their revenge a year later, winning the 2014 finals against the Heat in five games.

A momentous team talk for Les Bleus

While Parker was racking up wins in the NBA, things were going more slowly when he played with the French national team. A bronze medal in the 2005 European Championships was followed by silver in 2011.

It was only in 2013 that Parker kept the promise he made to himself in 2000 and won a gold medal for Les Bleus at the European Championships.

In the semi-finals France were up against Spain, an old adversary they lost to in the 2009 European quarter-finals, the 2011 European finals and the Olympic quarter-finals in 2012.

In 2013 France’s luck looked little better – after the first quarter they were trailing by 14 points. Over to Parker, who gave a momentous speech to the French team, captured in the Canal+ documentary “Délivrance”.

Facing what looked set to be another defeat, France’s star player found the words to galvanise his teammates: “I don’t care what happens in the second quarter – even if we lose – let’s play with pride at least, and let’s play hard. If we lose after that, it doesn’t matter, that’s life. But I would rather go down fighting, not like we are playing now.” 

The speech put France on the path to victory. By the second quarter, Les Bleus were back on track, and they finished the game winning 75 to 72 in extra time. Parker ended the match with 32 points to his name.

France went on to beat Lithuania in the final to win, and Parker added a long-awaited gold medal to his trophy chest.

The Spurs’ No. 9 forever

Parker retired in 2019 at the age of 37 after playing 17 seasons for the San Antonio Spurs (2001-2018) and a final season for the Charlotte Hornets (2018-2019) – whose owner and director, Michael Jordan, was the French player’s childhood hero.

After his retirement, the Texas team where he had spent most of his career also retired the numbered jersey that Parker had worn so that no other player would ever be known as No. 9.

Parker ended his basketball career as one of France and the NBA’s greatest sporting champions. “It went so fast,” he said in a video produced by the San Antonio Spurs to mark the end of his career.

“I never took it for granted … I accomplished everything that I wanted to accomplish.”

This article was adapted from the original in French, which will be published on Saturday.

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How golf’s ‘Quadzilla’ Kurt Kitayama went from NBA hopeful to a PGA Tour champion | CNN


Tigers, great white sharks, and hawks; in terms of nicknames, golf thought it had the top of the food chain covered.

That was until the king of the monsters – “Quadzilla” – roared onto the scene in March.

Victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational sealed a first PGA Tour title for Kurt Kitayama, securing him $3.6 million in prize money – almost doubling his eight-year earnings on Tour in a single paycheck.

Fortunately for the American, he has big pockets. At least that is according to fellow pro Xander Schauffele, who dubbed his compatriot “Quadzilla” in honor of his imposing thigh muscles when the duo played together on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2016.

These days they are smaller, Kitayama insists, but that has not stopped him from embracing the name that has gone viral since his maiden triumph.

“You could tell the pants were fitting tight, he called me out on it,” Kitayama told CNN’s Don Riddell.

“When Xander and I were playing on the Korn Ferry Tour they got pretty big … I got a little overweight I’d say.

“Also when I was working out, the one thing I loved doing was squatting. So I used to do it a lot and that was the only thing I lifted pretty much.”

Yet it is a much older nickname that best epitomizes Kitayama: “The Project.”

Bestowed upon him while he cut his teeth as a college golfer, it is a title that reflects how much he had to improve, as well as capturing the hard work and perseverance that drove Kitayama along a long and winding road to his first PGA Tour win – two months on from his 30th birthday.

A talented junior basketball star despite his diminutive 5-feet 7-inch frame, a young Kitayama harbored dreams of the NBA, not the PGA. As starting point guard for the Chico Blazin’ Heat, the Californian led his high school team to two Northern Section titles before hoop dreams took a back seat to golf.

“(Basketball) was my favorite sport growing up … that was probably the dream until I realized I wasn’t going anywhere with that,” Kitayama said.

“When I got to college, golf really was the only focus.”

Kitayama took an unconventional path to professional golf.

At the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), Kitayama enjoyed success on a renowned golf program, yet his early trajectory was a far cry from the breakneck rises of prodigious amateurs like Tiger Woods and Tom Kim.

Having “struggled” through his first two seasons, it wasn’t until his senior year that Kitayama even gave himself a chance at making it pro. In 2015 that aim was realized, but three years later – having played mostly on the PGA Tour’s developmental Web.com Tour (now the Korn Ferry Tour) – he was still floating outside the top 1,000 in the world golf rankings.

Yet 2018, spent on the Asian Tour, would prove to be a turning point. Having secured his spot on the European Tour (now the DP World Tour) via qualifying school in November, by March 2019 he had become the fastest player in history to tally two European Tour wins after victories at the Mauritius Open and Oman Open respectively.

Kitayama toasts his Mauritius Open victory at the Four Seasons Golf Club in December 2018.

By the year’s end, he was inside the world’s top 75 players. In September 2021, a long climb to the top of the sport was completed when a tied-11th finish at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship rewarded a 28-year-old Kitayama with his PGA Tour card.

Late bloomer? “It just happened that way,” he reflected.

“I’ve just always looked at getting better each year and not thinking too far ahead; just continue to keep moving up.

“Hard work has gotten me to where I am now … When I’m doing something that I really want to do, I’m willing to put in the work and sacrifice social time with friends or something to get better.”

By the time he arrived in Orlando for his 50th PGA Tour start – and event debut – at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Kitayama had risen to world No. 46, yet a first win remained agonizingly elusive.

On three occasions in 2022, Kitayama had finished runner-up to some of the game’s best players by a single stroke: first to US Open champion Jon Rahm at the Mexico Open, then to world No. 7 Schauffele at the Scottish Open, and again to four-time major winner Rory McIlroy at the CJ Cup.

Kitayama looked on course for his most agonizing near-miss yet when, approaching the ninth tee with a two-shot final round lead at Bay Hill, a drive out-of-bounds spiraled into a triple bogey.

Kitayama looked to be sliding out of contention after a disastrous 9th hole.

Six consecutive pars signaled a strong response, yet Kitayama and four others shared the lead with three holes remaining. By the finish, just two strokes would separate the top seven players.

“I feel like I was able to keep it pretty level all the way through, even after the triple,” Kitayama recalled.

“But looking back at it and seeing how that leaderboard changed so much, it was crazy really, it was so up-and-down. I was talking to my friends back home; they were pumped but then they were also so nervous watching it.”

A 14-foot birdie putt at the 17th nudged Kitayama ahead before a stunning 50-foot effort at the final hole left the American with a simple tap-in for his first Tour win.

A beaming Kitayama brought the trophy to his winner's press conference.

Having used the experience of his three-runner up finishes to navigate the tense denouement, it was fitting that Kitayama finished one shot ahead of his CJ Cup heartbreaker, McIlroy.

The Northern Irishman was among the first to congratulate the new champion, embracing Kitayama shortly after his closing putt.

“I’m really happy for Kurt. He’s been playing well for a while now and I’m happy to see him get his first win,” McIlroy told reporters.

“He’s persevered and played wherever he could get starts and all of a sudden he’s won one of the biggest events on the PGA TOUR, so good for him.”

Victory rocketed Kitayama to a career high world No. 19 and made him the first player to win on his Arnold Palmer Invitational debut since Robert Gamez 33 years ago.

His life since has been, in a word, “chaos.” After a landslide of media duties and sponsor interest, Kitayama is looking forward to getting back to golfing.

“It’s a new experience and something I’m going to figure out how to handle and see how it affects my play,” he said.

“I’m just going to keep trying to improve and keep trying to keep getting better to put myself in that situation more often – trying to become a more consistent player.

“A lot’s going to change though, I’m just going to have to get used to it.”

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NBA: Damian Lillard erupts for 71 in Blazers’ win

Damian Lillard put on a memorable show and established career highs of 71 points and 13 3-pointers to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 131-114 victory over the visiting Houston Rockets on Sunday night.

The 71 points tie for eighth most in National Basketball Association (NBA) history. Donovan Mitchell of the Cleveland Cavaliers also scored 71 earlier this season. Only Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain (five times, high of 100), Kobe Bryant (81) and David Thompson (73) have scored more points in an NBA game. Lillard scored 41 of his points before the break, the most first-half points by a player in franchise history.

Jerami Grant added 13 points and Nassir Little scored 11 for Portland, which connected on 54.5 percent of its field goal attempts and was 20 of 39 from 3-point range.

Alperen Sengun had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Jae’Sean Tate also scored 17 points for Houston, which has lost nine straight games and 29 of its last 33.

Lakers 111, Mavericks 108

Anthony Davis scored 30 points with 15 rebounds and LeBron James added 26 points as visiting Los Angeles won the battle of dynamic duos with a victory over Dallas.

The Mavericks had Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving on the court together for the fourth time, but fell to 1-3 with the newly-formed partnership. Doncic scored 26 points with nine rebounds, while Irving had 21 points and 11 assists.

Dallas failed to protect a 27-point first-half lead while losing for the fourth time in its last five games. After the Mavericks pulled within 109-108 on a 3-pointer from Justin Holiday with 6.5 seconds remaining, the Lakers’ Dennis Schroder made two free throws for the final margin, with Irving missing a half-court shot at the buzzer.

Nuggets 134, Clippers 124 (OT)

Nikola Jokic had 40 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists, Michael Porter Jr. had 29 points and 11 rebounds, and host Denver beat Los Angeles in overtime.

Jamal Murray scored 21 points and added 12 assists, Bruce Brown scored 13 points and Aaron Gordon added six in his return to the lineup after missing five games with a rib injury.

Kawhi Leonard scored 33 points to lead Los Angeles. Paul George added 23 points, Russell Westbrook 17, Nicolas Batum 12 and Bones Hyland 10 against his former team. Mason Plumlee grabbed 10 rebounds for the Clippers, who fell in overtime for the second time in three nights.

Bucks 104, Suns 101

Jrue Holiday scored 33 points, Brook Lopez recorded 22 points and 13 rebounds and Milwaukee rallied despite playing without Giannis Antetokounmpo, picking up its 14th consecutive win in a decision over visiting Phoenix.

Antetokounmpo was a scratch from the lineup, stemming from exiting Milwaukee’s win over the Miami Heat on Friday with a quad contusion. Despite playing without the 31.2 points-per-game scorer, the Bucks led Sunday’s rematch of the 2021 NBA Finals for the entirety of the second and third quarters — but never by more than 11 points.

Devin Booker led the Suns with 24 points. Deandre Ayton scored the last of his 22 points on a layup with 5:47 remaining, giving the Suns their biggest lead. Ayton also grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds and blocked three shots.

Bulls 102, Wizards 82

DeMar DeRozan scored 11 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter and Zach LaVine added 27 points to help host Chicago defeat Washington for its second straight victory.

Coby White scored 17 points for the Bulls, who led by as many as 21 points. Nikola Vucevic added 16 points and 13 rebounds for his 39th double-double of the season, third most in the NBA.

Bradley Beal had 18 points, eight assists and seven rebounds for Washington. Daniel Gafford had a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds, while Delon Wright (14 points) and Kyle Kuzma (10) also scored in double figures. Washington has lost two straight, as its lead over Chicago for the final spot in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament shrank to a half-game.

Hawks 129, Nets 127

Trae Young scored 34 points and sank the game-winner at the buzzer to lift Atlanta to a win over visiting Brooklyn for its second straight win.

Young, who also had eight assists, was one of three Hawks with 20-plus points, joining Dejounte Murray with 28 and Bogdan Bogdanovic with 22.

Cam Johnson led Brooklyn with 27 points. Mikal Bridges scored 24, Cam Thomas had 22 and Spencer Dinwiddie added 20 points and eight assists. The Nets have lost two straight and four of their last five games.

Cavaliers 118, Raptors 93

Donovan Mitchell scored 22 of his 35 points in the first half, and host Cleveland defeated Toronto for the first time in four games this season.

Mitchell shot 13-for-21 from the field, including 8-for-12 from 3-point range. Jarrett Allen added 23 points and 11 rebounds as the Cavaliers ended their three-game losing streak. Darius Garland added 18 points and 11 assists.

Pascal Siakam scored 25 points for the Raptors, who had their four-game winning streak, a season high, come to an end. Jakob Poeltl added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Raptors, who were coming off a win over the host Detroit Pistons on Saturday.

Kings 124, Thunder 115

De’Aaron Fox scored 33 points and Keegan Murray added 20 as visiting Sacramento led wire-to-wire in a win over Oklahoma City.

Trey Lyles scored 16 points and Domantas Sabonis tallied 14 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists for Sacramento, which moved a season-best 10 games over .500 with its third straight win. Malik Monk scored 12 points and Harrison Barnes chipped in nine points and eight rebounds.

Isaiah Joe scored 24 points to lead Oklahoma City, while Luguentz Dort and Josh Giddey had 18 apiece. Jalen Williams added 15, and Lindy Waters III scored a season-high 12.

Warriors 109, Timberwolves 104

Donte DiVincenzo broke a late tie with a 3-pointer, Klay Thompson saved eight of his team-high 32 points for the final 6:11 and Golden State came on strong at the end to catch and pass Minnesota en route to a victory in San Francisco.

Thompson, who had 42 points and 12 3-pointers Friday against the Houston Rockets, shot 6-for-14 on threes this time en route to his ninth 30-point outing of the season. DiVincenzo chipped in with 21 points, including four 3-pointers on a night where the Warriors went 15-for-42 from beyond the arc. He also had eight rebounds and team highs in assists with five and steals with four.

Naz Reid, getting the start at center in the absence of Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns, exploded for a career-best 30 points for the Timberwolves. Reid also found time for a team-high-tying nine rebounds, a game-high five steals and two blocks.

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You can’t find a court to play on thanks to this team’s surprise basketball success

It is no secret that Tasmanians have a new-found love affair with basketball.

Since the Tasmanian JackJumpers entered the National Basketball League in 2021, interest in the sport has skyrocketed.

Each home game, thousands of Tasmanians don their green and yellow to cheer on the team — but the growing fanfare is creating headaches for grassroots basketball clubs.

In the state’s north, the Launceston Basketball Association has seen a 46 per cent increase in the number of players wanting to hit the court since the JackJumpers played their first season.

Association president Craig Gibson said while it was great so many people wanted to play the game, it now had 500 teams — 300 junior and 200 senior — and was struggling to give them all court time.

“We’re very much expecting to not fit everyone in this year,” he said.

“We’ll have to go back to the clubs and tell them, ‘We don’t have the space, you can only have this many teams’, which will mean there’ll be kids that don’t get to play.”

Mr Gibson fears kids may soon be turned away from playing basketball.(ABC News: Manika Champ)

The reason the association is struggling to accommodate the influx of players is court space.

It is a similar situation across the state, with Basketball Tasmania saying the state needs at least 26 new indoor courts to keep up with demand.

Junior basketballer in a red top with a ball running down a basketball court
The number of basketballers wanting to play in Launceston has increased by 46 per cent in the past 18 months.(Supplied: Launceston Basketball Association Facebook)

The Tasmanian government has plans to develop new facilities, but basketball organisations say they are still years away.

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‘We need to find players, and quickly’: Changing tastes leading to struggles for once-great team

There are fears one of Tasmania’s former powerhouse football teams is dangerously close to not being able to field a team, with sporting greats likening the situation to a canary in a coalmine for other clubs.

The Glenorchy Magpies, famous for being the former home of all-time Australian rules greats Peter Hudson and Roy Cazaly, have struggled to attract players to the club for more than 12 months, but ahead of this year’s Tasmanian State League season, the situation has worsened.

At least one recent training session saw just 12 dedicated players on the track, prompting fears for the future of the club, which boasts 17 premierships and has been a traditional powerhouse of Tasmanian football.

But Tim Woodham, who will contest the presidency of the club at its upcoming annual general meeting, believes the tide will turn in the coming weeks.

“I don’t want to go into recession, because I believe you don’t come back but we do need to find some players and quickly,” he said.

“We haven’t got any quick fixes at the minute, and it might take a little while to turn around but one day Glenorchy will be back as a powerful club again.”

The club has some famous exports, such as all-time great Peter Hudson.(Supplied: www.tasmanianstateleague.com.au)

Interim president Scott Donaghy told ABC Radio Hobart on Tuesday that while numbers were low, the Magpies situation had been overblown and that he was expecting a steady return of players to the club in the coming weeks.

A young man stands on a run track and smiles.
Sprint star Jack Hale has been signed by the club as a high-performance coach.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

“We’ve told AFL Tas that we’ll be putting a team on the park. As far as we’re concerned, we will be putting a team on the park, and hopefully a second team,” he said.

Things are already starting to turn, with about 30 players attending a pre-season running session at Risdon Brook Dam this morning.

The club has also signed sprint star Jack Hale as a high-performance coach.

But answers are being sought as to how the famous club has declined so rapidly.

Glenorchy a ‘warning sign’ for other clubs

Glenorchy, which went winless at senior level last year, and was forced to forfeit two second-tier development league games, is a canary in the coal mine, according to former greats.

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Yuta Watanabe comically dunks into his own net as Brooklyn Nets’ woes continue | CNN


The Brooklyn Nets have made a terrible start to the NBA season and on Saturday star forward Yuta Watanabe didn’t make matters any easier by comically scoring in the opposite team’s basket.

At the Barclays Centre, the Nets went down 125-116 to the Indiana Pacers to go 1-5 for the season. It was the Nets’ fourth straight loss and one coach Steve Nash called a “disaster.”

The night started ominously when, in the first quarter, Watanabe accidentally scored for the Pacers. When Pacers’ Andrew Nembhard went to shoot, the ball ricocheted off the rim and onto the backboard, James Johnson and Goga Bitadze of the Pacers went for the rebound, as did Watanabe, who got to the ball first and dunked it in.

The comical two-pointer cut the Nets’ lead before the Pacers tied at the end of the first quarter.

As the Pacers pulled away from the struggling Nets, rookie Bennedict Mathurin scored a career-high 32 points in a team record 23 three-pointers.

Elsewhere, Jalen McDaniels scored five key points in overtime as Charlotte Hornets recovered after blowing a fourth-quarter lead to beat visiting Golden State Warriors 120-113.

Domantas Sabonis scored all 18 of his points in the first half and Sacramento Kings stunned visiting Miami Heat 119-113 for coach Mike Brown’s first win at his new home.

Joel Embiid scored 25 points to lead six players in double figures and James Harden registered a double-double of 15 points and 11 assists to boost visiting Philadelphia 76ers to a 114-109 victory against Chicago Bulls.

And Milwaukee remained the NBA’s only unbeaten team with a 123-115 win over Atlanta. Jrue Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo both scored 34 points.

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