Coco Gauff is one of the best things happening in sports right now

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Don’t miss out, you might be hearing her name for a long time.

If you haven’t watched a Cori “Coco” Gauff tennis match yet, you should fix that after today. The 15-year-old became the fifth-youngest woman to ever reach the Round of 16 at Wimbledon in the Open Era on Friday, beating Slovenia’s Polona Hercog, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5.

But it was the way Gauff did it that was so exhilarating, after she stormed back, fending off two match points in the process:

Once she won the second set, she and her mom were very pumped up, as you might expect. But I mean, damn, this is some fucking energy:

Honestly, how could you not root for that? And if Friday was the first time you had tuned into a Gauff match, you hadn’t even had a chance to fall in love with her backstory.

Gauff’s story is the kind of stuff we love about sports. She first caught the world’s attention after she beat one of her childhood idols in Venus Williams, 6-4, 6-4, in the first round of the tournament. At 15 years old.

ESPN’s D’Arcy Maine published a story on Gauff, which includes her dad Corey recalling watching the 2009 Australian Open final between Serena Williams and Dinara Safina:

It was early morning at their family home in Atlanta, but his young daughter was captivated by the match on the screen. Williams ultimately won in convincing fashion, 6-0, 6-3, to claim her 10th Grand Slam title. “She’s the GOAT,” Corey remembers saying in awe.

His daughter, then 4, didn’t know what “GOAT” meant, but once he explained it stood for “Greatest of All Time,” her eyes got wide, and she said defiantly: “I want to be the GOAT.”

A lot of parents have similar moments, but even just reading that, knowing what she has accomplished this week will send chills down your spine.

When I was 15 years old, I think I was nationally ranked in the NCAA Football video game at some point? Like … congrats, dork.

After she beat Williams, her father told Maine:

“I remember one match where she lost the first set, 6-0, and then was down, 5-0, in the second, and she somehow turned it around and won it. I asked her after what happened, or what clicked, and she just said she really didn’t want to lose. It’s those nerves and ability that make her so special.”

It would seem she decided on Friday that she really didn’t want to lose then, either.

We’re all glad Gauff decided she was going to send Hercog packing, and hope she keeps that same energy moving forward, because she is an absolute joy to watch. Her next match will be against No. 7 Simona Halep on Monday. Don’t miss it, you might just see something special again.


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The Hornets can’t blame the supermax for losing Kemba Walker

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The NBA’s supermax contract doesn’t work as planned. But that’s not why Kemba Walker is moving on from Charlotte.

Consensus is growing that the NBA’s supermax contract does not work as intended. But because so much of the basketball punditry has already buried the supermax, there’s a risk of blaming it every time a team loses a homegrown star. A star like, say, Kemba Walker.

As a reminder: the supermax was introduced to the NBA in the wake of Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder for the Warriors in 2016. The NBA wanted to further strengthen teams’ ability to financially reward players they drafted or acquired while on their rookie deals. The league clearly loves the attention free agency receives, but its member teams — particularly the teams in smaller, less glamorous markets — don’t like losing their homegrown stars to more powerful franchises when those players are around age 26 to 29, in their physical peaks.

The supermax lets a team pay more to stars who meet certain criteria (like the All-NBA team or Defensive Player of the Year) so long as that player had been around since their rookie deal.

In practice, the supermax leads to divorces instead of long-term contracts. The long-term contracts teams do sign aren’t universally good, either.

Most of the previous supermax failures simply showed the seams in the concept of teams wanting to keep their young stars. The Kings famously traded DeMarcus Cousins to avoid offering him the supermax the following summer: they had no intention of paying the big man $200 million, even before his recent major injuries. Paul George just missed eligibility despite being universally regarded as a top-15 player; that seemed like a decisive factor in him telling the Pacers he wouldn’t be re-signing there, leading to a trade. Knowing he’d turn down the supermax led Anthony Davis to request a trade months before he was even eligible to get an extension offer.

The supermax hasn’t fixed the problem of superstar wanderlust. It’s made it even worse.

Kemba’s situation would appear to fit the pattern. Star player coming off his second contract, makes the third team All-NBA and becomes eligible for a supermax deal but leaves for a better, more powerful franchise. The lesser franchise is left with nothing.

But this wasn’t a failure of the supermax: it was a failure of the Charlotte Hornets.

Charlotte didn’t offer Kemba the supermax he was eligible to receive, according to reports. If those reports are right — that the Hornets offered Walker about $160 million over five years — then Charlotte didn’t even offer him the max! Walker’s non-supermax max — in other words, the max he would have been eligible to receive if he had not made All-NBA — was roughly five years, $188 million. If the reports are right, the Hornets offered Kemba about 85 percent of the normal max.

A supermax contract for Walker would have been roughly $220 million over five years. The Hornets offered a contract less than 75 percent of that.

The Celtics, meanwhile, gave Walker a reported $140 million over four years, very close to the max that they could offer. This wasn’t a matter of a player turning down less money to escape a small franchise: Boston offered more money per annum. If Boston hadn’t offered the max to Kemba, a bunch of other teams would have. There was so much money floating around this summer — the Hornets had to know Kemba would be in demand. And that’s the offer they came up with. Not even the regular max. Less than that.

Of course, if the Hornets had any inkling that they did not intend to offer Walker even the normal max — let alone the supermax should he become eligible, which he did — they should have traded him back in the winter, when they could have gotten a nice package for him.

Instead, the result is a sign and trade for relatively unproven Terry Rozier in one of the most shockingly large contracts of the summer (three years, $58 million).

The supermax is a failed experiment the NBA should revisit and reform, if the league really wants to help teams keep homegrown stars. But the Hornets can’t blame losing Walker on that failed policy. They can only blame themselves for wildly mismanaging the run-up to his free agency.


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Will the Packers’ new OL coach completely change their technique?

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Retired lineman Geoff Schwartz is back with a new mailbag. This week’s topics include PED use and life after football.

All right folks, I’m back from vacation and ready to roll. Hope you had a great Fourth of July!

The first NFL training camp is less than three weeks away. We will have football so soon, and I hope these mailbags can help fill that void. As usual, you can send a DM to my Twitter or Instagram with your questions.

I’ve heard the new Packers O-line coach, Adam Stenavich, doesn’t advocate James Campen’s “hug” technique. How do you think that will affect the line this year?@CallMeMatub

So the “hug” technique is something that’s been unique to the Packers and it drives “holding” social media wild. The Packers tackles, and especially standout left tackle David Bakhtiari, attempt to block their counterparts with their hands wider than usual, and it looks like a hug.

It’s NOT holding, since the Packers linemen still have their hands inside the framework of the defender and — a key point here — they keep their feet moving.

Lastly, remember the officials watch film, get reports, and speak to coaches. If it were holding, it would get called more often. So stop bitching about it.

Now back to the question. This shouldn’t affect the older players, like Bakhtiari, if Stenavich allows those players to continue to use the techniques that have worked for many years. It would be a poor coaching decision to attempt to change the successful techniques of linemen who’ve practiced these over and over.

I’ve been in that situation where an offensive line coach wanted to change my stance, change my punch and so forth, when I was already been established — and it didn’t go well. It strained our relationship as I rightfully pushed back.

Where Stenavich will make his mark is with the younger players who are willing to be molded and who want their coaches’ full input. Another way that Stenavich might change things is his terminology and his identification system. This happened in Dallas last season until a change was made at offensive line coach.

So as the average fan, you might not notice much.

Given that you were in multiple locker rooms, how common is PED use in the NFL? — @LennyLongShoes

Good question. I think I was fairly naïve to PED use in the NFL. No one discussed it openly (sometimes we discussed it privately), and there’s not much public stigma about PED use in the NFL. I started to understand more about the possible use of PEDs in the NFL later, when you’re just older, wiser, and pay attention more distinctly to whispers.

I believe more players use PEDs toward the end of their career just to stick around. We’ve seen more veterans in recent years get busted for using PEDs and it’s honestly not surprising.

Players, including those in baseball, use PEDs to help with training and rehab from injuries. As you get older, it’s tougher to rehab and train, and PEDs can help that. So, I think there’s more PED use than I (or we) think, but I don’t have a number or percentage to give you.

What’s the biggest adjustment in life after football? — @foximane88

I could probably write an entire article about this topic, but I’ll keep it simple. Adjusting to “regular” life is the biggest adjustment. Just being at home all the time. Being around your wife and kids.

During your career your life revolves around you: where you’re training, what you’re eating, training camp, the season, etc. … you’re often away from family and they’re doing their own things. After your career is over, that ends. Your family is now a priority and it can take some time getting used to that.


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Steamy June, Meghan McCain, Vets for Impeachment, Chris Cline, CRISPR, Josh Brolin, Ed Sheeran: HOT LINKS

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VETERANS FOR IMPEACHMENT. Veterans call for Trump’s impeachment in new video: ‘The group is Common Defense, which was founded by U.S. Army veteran José Vasquez in 2016 to voice his opposition to Trump. For the anti-Trump video, Common Defense joined forces with another group, Need to Impeach. “I served almost 15 years in the Army, and I feel deeply betrayed,” Vasquez declares in the video. “Our democracy is under attack, and we want to make sure that we protect it.”’

CHRIS CLINE. Billionaire Trump donor killed in helicopter crash: ‘Cline died in an accident off the coast of the Bahamas that also killed six other people, Brian Glasser, an attorney who represented Cline, said by telephone. He was the founder of St. Louis, Missouri-based coal miner Foresight Energy LP, a joint venture with Robert Murray’s Murray Energy Corp.’

INFLUENCERS PAY DOUBLE. Ice Cream truck owner is sick and tired of social media influencers asking him for discounts for “exposure.”

CRISPR. Temple University scientists eliminate HIV from 9 mice.

CLIMATE CRISIS. Last month was the hottest June ever recorded. ‘The Copernicus team said it was difficult to attribute the record-breaking month “directly” to climate change, but a separate analysis Tuesday from an international team of scientists said global warming had made the heatwave at least five times more likely.’

SHIRTLESS. Josh Brolin is a zaddy for the 4th.

PATRIOT. Megan Rapinoe on being an American: “I’m particularly and uniquely and very deeply American. If we want to talk about the ideals we stand for, the song and the anthem and what we are founded on, I think I am extremely American. For the detractors, I would have them look hard into what I am actually saying, the actions I am doing.”

MEGHAN MCCAIN. The View says they expect her back after rumors she’s ready to exit: “The co-hosts and The View have had an incredible season, and we expect them all back for an epic year ahead,” a spokesperson for the ABC chatfest said in a statement to TVLine.

NEW TUNES OF THE DAY. Ed Sheeran “Blow” with Chris Stapleton and Bruno Mars, and “Best Part of Me” with YEBBA.

FRIDAY FLASH. Smooches in Provincetown.

View this post on Instagram

is it the way… / @the1jeffe

A post shared by Curtis (@thee_cb) on

The post Steamy June, Meghan McCain, Vets for Impeachment, Chris Cline, CRISPR, Josh Brolin, Ed Sheeran: HOT LINKS appeared first on Towleroad Gay News.


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Malaysian politician hopes prime minister will be ‘fair’ after gay sex video leak

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Haziq Aziz, the Malaysian cabinet member who was recently outed by a leaked gay sex tape, is asking Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to be “fair” in his response to the ensuing scandal.

Related: The next Russia? Malaysia weighs harsh policies cracking down on gay events

“The explicit video that has been recorded was an act of treachery, and I have been made a [scapegoat]” Aziz said in a video posted to Facebook on June 29.

“I hope that Dr. Mahathir would be fair in this matter, as my family and I are not rich and it is difficult for us to face the future.”

News of the scandal broke in June when a video of a sexual encounter between two men was leaked online. Aziz later admitted to appearing in the video, saying it was recorded in a hotel room in May without his consent.

He later told The Star that the scandal wreaked havoc on his political dreams. “I have to forget about becoming a politician,” he said. “The Malay-Muslim community can’t accept this kind of behavior. But one thing is I admit, I did it. It was a mistake, and the right thing to do was to confess.”

Related: Malaysian government produces anti-gay musical to scare kids straight

Aziz also told the newspaper the news affected his loved ones, as well. “My family is very sad because my family is very conservative,” he said. “And they want to [take care of] the good name of the family.”

He added: “I don’t have my phone now. I have thrown it away as I am afraid that someone will track me and kill me. I am very paranoid now.”

Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia because of a British colonial era law, and it’s punishable by 20 years in prison and/or whipping, as we previously reported. But individuals across the LGBTQ spectrum have faced violence in the Southeast Asian country recently. In December, two men were beaten in the street, allegedly because they were having sex. In August, a trans woman suffered broken ribs and head injuries in an assault. And in June 2017, a teen died after being beaten, burnt, and raped in an alleged homophobic attack.


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Jonathan Van Ness and Antoni address relationship rumors head-on

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Everyone’s favorite mustache owner Jonathan Van Ness and avocado aficionado Antoni Porowski threw fans of the Fab 5 into a Fab 5 frenzy on the Fab Fourth of July after Antoni posted a picture of the two coworkers kissing along with the caption: “I guess Amurica’s birthday’s our anniversary, babe.” There was a heart emoji at the end for good measure, naturally.

But some things just aren’t meant to be. And a love connection between these two Queer Eye gurus just wasn’t in the stars.

And you know what they say? “If you don’t fall in love, just trick people into thinking you have. Because, hey, it’ll be amusing for a moment.” We’re not sure who said that exactly, but someone did.

Related: Antoni Porowski’s latest body transformation will have you completely transfixed

Jonathan Van Ness waited until the next day to clear up the prank, posting another photo with the caption: “it was Antoni’s idea, but maybe someday we will fall in love.”


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The Celtics are going back to their future

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It’s time to see how Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can develop.

Kyrie Irving and Al Horford are out. Kemba Walker and a bunch of tall guys who are not Horford are in. Also gone are Terry Rozier, Aron Baynes, and presumably Marcus Morris. One by choice, one by trade, and the other by market forces. That’s more than half the rotation of the most disappointing team in the league gone in a week.

Still in Boston, somewhat surprisingly given what the Celtics hoped to accomplish this summer, are both of the Jays: Brown and Tatum. With Brown entering his fourth season and Tatum his third, their development becomes the most important franchise consideration for the first time in their careers.

Also, still in Boston: Marcus Smart, who is the team’s conscience and soul to such a degree that he was at the top of everyone’s please do not trade this guy list. Oh and Gordon Hayward too, another year removed from the catastrophic leg injury that did as much to derail their fortunes as any other variable you care to mention. And finally, in are a trio of rookies who will compete for rotation minutes with a handful of other young holdovers.

This wasn’t the summer the Celtics envisioned, but it’s the one that became reality whenever Irving decided to check out of their orbit. Some say that was around February. Others say it was earlier than that. Maybe it was May. Doesn’t matter, really. Kyrie didn’t vibe with the C’s and they didn’t meet him on his level. Or maybe it was the other way around.

Irving’s exit heralded Horford’s departure and thus concludes a bizarre mini-era in Celtic basketball that veered wildly between gritty overachieving and sadly underwhelming. When the environment was positive, their culture was the envy of the league. When it turned negative, the Garden was depressing as hell.

Considering the way it ended, with Irving leaving for Brooklyn and Horford signing with Philadelphia, they will not be remembered fondly. In the decade or so I’ve been around the team, this was easily the most reviled Celtic team I’ve covered. They were booed often and honestly. The fans here are many things, but dumb is definitely not one of them. They know bullshit effort when they see it and that was the case far too often.

All of that is a shame because for a while the Celtics were the embodiment of a connected basketball team: smart, tough, and unselfish. That they couldn’t build on that momentum will go down as one of the great missed opportunities in recent memory.

Left in its wake is a franchise in transition. This should still be a playoff team, but most importantly, the 2019-20 Celtics have a chance to rebuild the spirit of a team that lost its way amid the cacophonous calamity of weirdness that consumed everything else in sight.

***

The Celtics that we will see this season will be a little bit different from the ones we’ve seen the last few years, and markedly different from the superteam dream scenario that never actually materialized.

Their offense with Walker in place of Irving and Enes Kanter in for Horford could be tremendous. They have shooting, spacing, and shot creation with Walker, Brown, Tatum, and Hayward. They drafted players who actually get to the free-throw line and they signed Kanter for whom offensive rebounding is like breathing.

Their defense without Horford and Baynes figures to take several steps back. They still have a handful of tough defenders — Smart, in particular — but Horford and Baynes erased a lot of mistakes.

They should still be a playoff team, especially if Hayward can recapture his form. If all goes well, they might even be a top-four seed in an Eastern Conference that once again lacks clarity beyond the handful of top few contenders.

Getting there will be tougher, though. With or without Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors will be formidable. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks are running back a 60-win team. The Pacers got better. The Sixers arguably got better, and at Boston’s expense. The Heat added Jimmy Butler and figure to be a lot better.

The Nets will also be better with Irving. It will be endlessly fascinating to see which team has the better season, considering Irving’s joining another young team on the rise while Kevin Durant recovers from his Achilles tear.

And here we are getting dragged back into Kyrie’s world.

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics - Game Three
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Let’s stipulate here and now that Irving is a better player than Walker. Kyrie is a better shooter, and a craftier playmaker. He’s also two years younger and owns a far deeper postseason resume, one that includes an iconic shot in Game 7 of the Finals.

If you are trying to become a bellwether franchise, one that attracts prime free-agent talent to your side, you absolutely prefer Kyrie over Kemba. Over the years we’ve heard that Butler, Anthony Davis, and Kevin Durant would all love to team up with Kyrie in a market to be determined.

The Celtics thought that would be Boston with AD. Turns out the place was Brooklyn and the teammate was KD. That’s a gut punch for a franchise that dreamed up big plans even when the future seemed bright enough to light its own path.

It was a high-wire act that ended badly, but because the Celtics operated on multiple levels, the recovery isn’t as gruesome as one would have suspected. They still have an array of young talent to build around, and in Walker they have an All-NBA replacement for their departed All-NBA guard.

Because he’s played in Charlotte throughout his career with a personality that is best described as low-key, Walker has never been thought of as one of those guys. “Basketball royalty,” as Danny Ainge put it to me several years ago describing Kyrie back when everything was wide open and accessible for the Celtics.

But Kemba is very, very good. A self-made shooter who has never enjoyed the benefit of playing with a second star with the Hornets, Walker turned himself into a franchise player. A three-time all-star and third-team All-NBA performer, Walker was in line to sign a supermax deal that would keep him in Charlotte throughout his prime. The Hornets balked, the Celtics pounced, and now Walker is in Boston.

He arrives with a reputation as rock solid as his game: a no-nonsense clutch player who leads by example. Walker should thrive playing in Brad Stevens’ offense, much like Isaiah Thomas several years prior. The trick for Walker and Stevens will be developing a comprehensive strategy to unleash Kemba and empower the talented trio of wings as they try to get their careers back on track.

Brown and Tatum didn’t really regress. It’s true that their development stalled last season, but their production was more or less in line with what they’ve achieved in the past. Now it’s time for Tatum to progress as a scorer and Brown to continue working toward becoming a star caliber two-way threat.

Hayward also holds the promise of a stronger season, one that looks a lot more like the player the Celtics thought they were getting in the summer of 2017. They, along with Walker, represent the strength of this team. Figuring out how they all play together without Horford’s steady and unselfish presence is the point of this season.

Replacing Horford will be much, much tougher. A consummate pro, a wonderful defender, and a skilled playmaker, Horford was the epitome of a great teammate. That some people didn’t appreciate his many contributions is their problem, and their loss, frankly. Watching Horford play night after night was like witnessing a masterclass in positioning and spacing.

There was no way to replicate all the elements Horford brings to the equation given the limited means to acquire big men under the cap. They settled on Kanter, who is to offense what Horford is to defense. A skilled offensive rebounder with a nice touch, Kanter would be a superstar if not for his defensive limitations, which have been considerable throughout his career.

There will be opportunity for Robert Williams, who flashed a handful of holy shit moments in limited minutes. Holdover Daniel Theis and Euro import Vincent Porier are big, defensive-minded centers. Rugged Semi Ojeleye will also get a chance to prove he is more than just a matchup player who earns spot minutes.

The rookies are interesting, too. Romeo Langford was touted as a top-five pick before a thumb injury distorted his freshman season at Indiana. Grant Williams left Tennessee as a decorated tough-minded forward. Point guard Carsen Edwards was the breakout star of the NCAA Tournament. There’s a lot of talent for Stevens to absorb into a cohesive rotation, which again, is the point of this season.

Add it all together and the Celtics aren’t really rebuilding. They’re retooling. Few franchises have that luxury after experiencing their disaster scenario, but that’s the benefit of laying a solid foundation. Now we’ll see just how far that can take them.


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WATCH: Steamy scene released from new film set in retro gay adult film studio

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Just ahead of its UK release, GSN has shared a steamy clip from the LGBTQ horror film Kinfe+Heart.

The film is also already available to rent via Amazon Prime.

According to the movie’s description, here’s what you’re in for:

A masked madman stalks a gay porn set in 1979 Paris while its producer Anne, (French pop star Vanessa Paradis) tries to win back her editor and lover Lois by shooting her most ambitious film yet with her trusted, flaming sidekick Archibald. Shot in 35mm and featuring a killer retro score from M83, KNIFE+HEART is an ultra-stylish and blood-soaked ode to ’70s-era De Palma, Argento, and Friedkin.

In one scene early on in the film, a trio of male actors dance and kiss for the cameras.

We’ll have to assume the masked madman hasn’t yet shown his concealed face:

Knife+Heart is directed by auteur Yann Gonzalez.

Félix Maritaud is part of the cast, known for his breakout role in the critically-acclaimed Frech sex-work film Sauvage in 2018.

Here’s the full trailer:


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“Trump – Russia Investigations” – Google News: Do Democrats Really Want To See Trump’s Tax Returns? – The New Republic

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Do Democrats Really Want To See Trump’s Tax Returns?  The New Republic

Representative Richard Neal has filed suit to enforce the House’s right to IRS information—six months after gaining the power to do so.

“Trump – Russia Investigations” – Google News


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“Trump” – Google News: Trump’s claim revolutionary army ‘took over airports’ draws ridicule – live – The Guardian

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Trump’s claim revolutionary army ‘took over airports’ draws ridicule – live  The Guardian

Trump criticized for making himself center of 45-minute speech, while Democratic 2020 contenders out in full force.

“Trump” – Google News


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12:04 PM 7/5/2019 – British Airways crew under investigation for claims that they stripped, ran naked through hotel | Trump and Trumpism – Review Of News And Opinions

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Michael_Novakhov
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from Trump and Trumpism – Review Of News And Opinions.

12:04 PM 7/5/2019 – British Airways crew under investigation for claims that they stripped, ran naked through hotel 

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British Airways crew under investigation for claims that they stripped, ran naked through hotel

China denies U.S. accusations of South China Sea missile tests
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Twitter search feed for: michael novakhov.: 6:55 AM 7/5/2019 – Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠: Trump as “The Big Good Old Daddy” | Trump’s Big Daddy Lie | HuffPost https://trumpandtrumpism.com/2019/07/05/655-am-7-5-2019-michael-novakhov-sharednewslinks%e2%84%a0-trump-as-the-big-good-old-daddy-trumps-big-daddy-lie-huffpost/ …
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British Airways crew under investigation for claims that they stripped, ran naked through hotel

According to reports, the flight attendants – said to be one woman and two men – stripped and ran naked through the hotel.

China denies U.S. accusations of South China Sea missile tests

China’s Defense Ministry on Friday denied U.S. accusations that the Chinese military had recently carried out missile tests in the disputed South China Sea, saying instead that they had held routine drills that involved the firing of live ammunition.

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mikenov on Twitter: 12:04 PM 7/5/2019 – British Airways crew under investigation for claims that they stripped, ran naked through hotel trumpandtrumpism.com/2019/07/05/120…

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12:04 PM 7/5/2019 – British Airways crew under investigation for claims that they stripped, ran naked through hotel trumpandtrumpism.com/2019/07/05/120…


Posted by

mikenov
on Friday, July 5th, 2019 4:08pm

mikenov on Twitter


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Zion Williamson vs. R.J. Barrett can be the LeBron vs. Carmelo of Gen-Z

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The two former Duke stars are ready for their next chapter.

It’s only right that Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett begin their NBA careers by facing off against each other in Las Vegas Summer League. The first showdown of the former Duke stars will take centerstage when Williamson’s Pelicans and Barrett’s Knicks face off on ESPN during day one in Vegas.

It feels like Williamson and Barrett will be linked throughout their pro careers after drawing so many headlines together in college. This isn’t the start of a new Beef History — Zion and R.J. are pretty much best friends, which should make their head-to-head meetings even more fun.

In a perfect world, maybe Zion vs. R.J. becomes the Gen-Z LeBron vs. Carmelo. The two aren’t exactly equal talents on the court, but both have the competitiveness, showmanship, and personal history to make every matchup a must-watch. Please don’t forget how much fun those early James-Anthony battles were.

Williamson and Barrett are on the cusp of a new chapter. This is how we got here.

Barrett was actually the No. 1 recruit in high school, not Zion

Barrett and Williamson were both household names even as high school players, but for two very different reasons.

Williamson was the mixtape superstar who had Drake wearing his jersey as he racked up millions of social media followers. Barrett was considered the superior prospect as the battle-tested Canadian who destroyed everyone in his path on his way to becoming the No. 1 overall recruit in two separate classes.

Barrett was nearly the unanimous choice to be the first pick in the 2019 NBA Draft in early mocks. It was a status he occupied until the moment Duke opened its season, when Williamson’s supernova talent truly came into focus.

Zion and R.J. had an unforgettable season at Duke

Williamson and Barrett came together to deliver the most emphatic opening statement possible to begin their college careers. Duke was actually a one-point underdog in its first game against Kentucky, but R.J. and Zion blitzed the Wildcats for 61 combined points to give John Calipari a 34-point loss that would go down as the largest defeat of his career.

Barrett and Williamson would go on to dominate the entire season, with Barrett putting up historic numbers as a freshman in the ACC and Williamson sweeping the national player of the year awards. Duke would get the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament despite Williamson’s widely publicized knee injury. That’s when things got real.

Duke survived a scare in the round of 32 when UCF missed a shot at the buzzer to pull the upset. It survived again in the Sweet 16 when Virginia Tech missed a point-blank shot at the buzzer to tie. The Blue Devils would finally meet their match against Michigan State in the Elite Eight, as Barrett got the ball down the stretch and came up just short.

Now Zion and R.J. are ready for the next chapter

The Knicks and Pelicans will only play twice per year, but those are games you can already circle when the NBA schedule comes out.

Barrett is going to get every opportunity to be the lead dog for a Knicks team that projects to be one of the NBA’s worst. Williamson should be an instant star, especially with a suddenly strong team around him after free agency. Williamson should have a bigger impact and his team should be much better, but don’t be surprised if Barrett’s raw numbers are again slightly better.

It’s been a delight following Zion and R.J. to this point. We can’t wait to see what comes next.


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