SENSING AN ACROBATIC opportunity, Ja Morant skips with excitement and raises his left hand. He’s already calling for a lob as he approaches the 3-point line on the left wing, with Memphis Grizzlies backcourt mate Desmond Bane crossing half court in transition.
Bane picks up his dribble, takes two long strides down the middle of the floor and lofts a pass high over Los Angeles Lakers forward Stanley Johnson in the paint. As Morant launches, every player on the Memphis bench erupts from their seats as the 22-year-old superstar soars to catch the pass, flicks the ball through the hoop and ducks his head to avoid hitting it on the rim.
As the Grizzlies’ lead swells to 17 early in the third quarter of the Jan. 9 game, the Lakers call timeout and Morant makes a detour to reply to a front-row fan who taunted him after a turnover the previous possession, several of his teammates strut and celebrate on the Crypto.com Arena court.
But all this Grizzlies fun is too much for LeBron James, who didn’t make it past the free throw line in the backcourt during Memphis’ latest highlight.
A minute later, a Lakers turnover leads to another fast break for the Grizzlies. Bane swishes a trailer 3 — wide open because James is slow getting back in transition — and lets the all-time great know about it:
“Them footsteps ain’t scaring nobody.”
These high-flying and in-everyone’s-face Grizzlies — who face the New York Knicks on Wednesday night are a tight-knit, young team that is ruffling the feathers of the NBA’s old guard. It’s a squad with a collective cockiness, a core of players that has yet to win a playoff series but firmly believes it’s on the verge of something big.
Their 35-18 record, third best in the NBA, indicates they’re probably right. And the Grizzlies are happy to let a future Hall of Fame opponent — and anyone else — hear about it.
AFTER PONDERING FOR a moment, Morant comes up with a word to describe the Grizzlies’ culture.
“Drippy,” Morant says. “If anybody knows what that means.”
Rough translation: a supreme level of swagger, a palpable confidence in the way the Grizzlies carry themselves, how the bench celebrates by dancing, laughing and falling over one another, the constant chatter coming from Memphis players’ mouths.
“That’s our identity, and that’s going to continue to be our identity,” says Morant, a first-time All-Star selection who has earned a reputation for fearlessness, leading the league in points in the paint (16.0 per game) as a 6-foot-3, 174-pound point guard. “Some guys don’t like it, but it gives us an edge. It gives us a boost, a lot of energy out there on the floor, so we’re going to continue to do it.”
The Grizzlies pride themselves on player development and fundamentals, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s a franchise built around 22-year-old cornerstones in Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. — Bane, 23, has joined the pair with his breakout season — and the Grizzlies act their age.
The Grizzlies are ruffling the feathers of the Western Conference’s old guard — including LeBron James and the Lakers. PI/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire
Morant usually ends his pregame routine by playing dodgeball with the assistant coaches who run his workouts. Jackson makes outlandish fashion decisions based on the cities the Grizzlies visit, like the “fiesta pants” he sported in San Antonio — black designer jeans with frills down the sides.
Dillon Brooks, 26, is known in Memphis for snarling defensive stops and an extensive collection of extravagant shades, which he routinely rotates in postgame media sessions.
Steven Adams, the 28-year-old big man from New Zealand whose off-court footwear collection consists solely of flip-flops, has fit in Memphis since arriving in an offseason trade, providing the Grizzlies toughness, savvy and comedic relief.
“We definitely feel like an AAU team more than whatever you want to call other teams,” says Jackson, who has emerged as an All-Defensive candidate.
“Everybody listens to the same music. Everybody does the same things, watches the same stuff. We all vibe together. We like hanging around each other, and it translates.”
JAMES COUGHS UP the ball on a drive, and Memphis rookie Ziaire Williams — a teammate of James’ son Bronny at Sierra Canyon High School two seasons ago — scoops it up, all of 11 seconds after Bane hit the transition 3 and talked a little trash to the Lakers legend.
Whoosh. Off go the Grizzlies once again.
This fast break ends with Morant getting fouled by Malik Monk, who gets turned around and backs into the Grizzlies point guard. Avery Bradley also hacks Morant, who still manages to almost get the and-1, as his floater hits back iron. Williams and Jackson sandwich Morant with hugs on the baseline as the trio giggles and smiles. Bane joins the party, hollering as he exchanges high-fives with his teammates.
James has seen and heard enough, especially from Bane. James breaks up the Grizzlies’ party in the paint to confront him under the basket.
“That’s your last time,” James says to Bane, loud enough to be heard clearly on the local television broadcast. “That’s your last motherf—ing time. That’s your last time disrespecting me.”
Bane barks back at James before Jackson jovially puts his hands on his teammate’s shoulders and escorts him away from the lecturing legend. Morant, playing peacemaker, steps toward James but is unable to contain his grin.
“All of us on our team pretty much grew up watching [James] play,” Morant says later. “All of us are still fans of this guy. We know he’s one of the greatest ever to touch a basketball, but inside those four lines, if you’re buddy-buddy, you’re lost. That’s pretty much what went into it. Bron is a big-time competitor and Des is the same way.
“Seeing those guys go at it was funny to me. I loved it, because it just shows that no matter who it is, our guys don’t back down.”
Ja Morant, left, is a first-time All-Star as the Grizzlies boast the third-best record in the NBA. AP Photo/Brandon Dill
AS GIGGLY AND goofy as the Grizzlies often are, there’s a poise that’s atypical given their inexperience. Memphis ranks second in the NBA in clutch winning percentage, going 16-7 in games that are within five points in the final five minutes or overtime. The Grizzlies rank fourth in net rating in those situations, outscoring opponents by 15.7 points per 100 possessions.
“We’ve got probably the most clutch performer in the game at our point guard position,” Jackson said following last Wednesday’s win over the San Antonio Spurs. “That does help.”
Quite a strong case could be made for Chris Paul, an elite closer since Morant was in elementary school whose NBA-leading Phoenix Suns have the league’s best clutch record (19-3) and net rating (plus-44.7). Morant, however, leads the league in scoring in one-possession games in the final minute with 25 points. That includes a last-second game winner in Phoenix that Morant banked in after driving and contorting his body in traffic.
As sensational as Morant has been, averaging 26.4 points and 6.8 assists per game, the Grizzlies are not a one-man show. That much was proved when Memphis went 10-2 while Morant was sidelined half of December because of a knee injury. That stretch showcased Memphis’ depth and epitomized the team’s ethos of exceeding expectations.
“We know he’s one of the greatest ever to touch a basketball, but inside those four lines, if you’re buddy-buddy, you’re lost.”
Much of Memphis’ chippiness is rooted in a roster loaded with players who delight in proving projections wrong. Before Morant was a franchise-lifting No. 2 overall pick, he was hardly recruited out of high school, going to mid-major Murray State. Bane fell to the last pick of the 2020 first round, downgraded by NBA scouts and executives because he had short arms and a long college career at TCU. Brooks lasted until midway through the 2017 second round.
“It’s in our DNA,” Bane says, “just being underdogs.”
After a Jan. 11 win over the Warriors, Morant mentioned that he “bet” the Grizzlies would get their due recognition. They were feeling awfully good about themselves 10 games into what ended up being a franchise-record 11-game winning streak, which featured victories over James’ Lakers (twice), Paul’s Suns, Kevin Durant‘s Brooklyn Nets and Stephen Curry‘s Warriors.
Curry, for his part, was complimentary of the Grizzlies that night, particularly Morant, but diplomatically offered a reminder that Memphis was missing a requirement to be considered among the league’s elite.
“It’s a natural evolution of a team trying to take that next step,” Curry said. “The big part is, you’ve got to show it in the playoffs. We want to be there to try to do that. I know they want to, too. Nobody’s trying to win the verbal conversation right now of who we are in January.”
It’s a fair point, Morant acknowledged in response, but he added he felt “like we’re just getting started.”
Added Bane: “Now that we’re here on this stage, on the biggest stage, we’re letting everybody know that we’re here and we’re here to stay.”
JAMES CONTINUES VENTING while Morant makes his pair of free throws, profanely declining a polite request from Kyle Anderson — the veteran forward who at 28 is the oldest player (along with Adams) on Memphis’ roster — to “Chill out, LeBron.”
“I’m not chillin’!” James replies as they line up. “Nah, he ain’t hoopin’. He talkin’ s—. This is the last motherf—ing time I’m gonna say it.
“You start making a couple of shots, then you start talking s—. … F— that, I don’t play that s—.”
Morant makes both free throws. The Grizzlies are up 22 — and with all due respect, they don’t seem to be the least bit remorseful about provoking James.
“It’s nothing new to us,” Jackson says with a shrug a few weeks later. “It’s just like, yeah, somebody’s mad that we’re talking s—. … We never care. If they get pissed off, great. If they don’t, great. We’re going to have fun regardless. We’re going to talk s—“.
Bane matter-of-factly explains “that little ordeal at the free throw line that everybody saw” this way: It all started, he says, after he drove for an and-1 layup in the first half and got an extra bump and shove from James after the whistle. There were more bumps and shoves exchanged and “chirping back and forth,” as Bane puts it, throughout the game, when he led Memphis with 23 points in 26 minutes.
Bane figures James felt the need to express his frustration after giving up the transition 3, hearing a little more talk and then committing a turnover. So Bane got an earful, which was fine with him.
“After that, I mean, we were up by 25 or 30 points,” Bane says, punctuating the sentence with laughter, “so I went over there and rested.”
MORANT MADE A statement last week in San Antonio, where the Grizzlies wrapped up a four-game road trip. He scored a season-high-tying 41 points in the 118-110 win against the Spurs, putting on the kind of show people have come to expect. He produced highlights — the best a behind-the-back dribble to split a double team before driving and delivering a lefty lob to fellow high-flier Brandon Clarke — and dominated crunch time.
But Morant was upset because this was originally scheduled to be one of only seven nationally televised Grizzlies games this season before ESPN opted out of it five days prior, despite Memphis’ recent 11-game win streak. He lambasted the perceived snub via his very active Twitter account when the decision was made. Unsolicited, he addressed it again during postgame media availability.
“Shoutout to whoever took us off TV,” Morant said. “Appreciate you for that. That game right there was for you, too. You want to take us off? I don’t know what went into that.”
It’s one of many times Morant has put a spotlight on what he considers slights to himself or his team, ranging from national commentary, or lack thereof, to random Twitter mentions. He uses social media to unabashedly promote himself and his teammates, campaigning for honors, posting highlights and praise, and occasionally firing back at critics.
He successfully lobbied to get himself voted in as an All-Star starter and frequently pushes Bane for Most Improved Player and Jackson for Defensive Player of the Year. Morant recently tweeted a video featuring his highlights with commentary “nah this tough” and a fire emoji.
The Grizzlies’ rise back to NBA relevancy hasn’t been nearly as difficult as anticipated.
Conventional wisdom was that Memphis would need to undergo a long rebuild after the Grit ‘n Grind era ended in June 2019 with Mike Conley‘s trade to the Utah Jazz, but the Grizzlies qualified for the Western Conference play-in series in Morant’s rookie season, when he scored 35 points in a thrilling loss to Damian Lillard‘s Portland Trail Blazers. Memphis built on that momentum by earning a playoff bid last season, punching their postseason ticket with a play-in win on the Warriors’ home court, when Morant had another 35-point performance.
The Grizzlies have taken a big enough leap this season to not just make the playoffs, but to potentially do so with a Game 1 in Memphis.
“Obviously, everybody’s ultimate goal is to win a championship,” Morant says. “We’ve just got to make sure we’re laying brick by brick each day to get better.
“At the end, we’ll build an empire.”
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How to Sleep Better If You Have a COVID Infection
Can’t drift off thanks to your COVID-19 symptoms? Follow this advice from experts so you can get some rest.
Every muscle in my back, hips and legs ached. I was shaking and shivering uncontrollably, despite the three blankets I was buried under. My head throbbed, my throat was scratchy and I felt downright miserable — my breakthrough COVID-19 infection was no joke.
But the worst part of all? Despite how fatigued I felt, sleep seemed to be just out of reach.
Any time you’re sick, sleeping can be more difficult. A COVID infection is no different, said Dr. Heather Moday, an immunologist and author of “The Immunotype Breakthrough.”
“Whether it’s a breakthrough COVID infection or an infection of an unvaccinated person, either can cause disruptions of sleep,” she explained. “The issue is the severity of symptoms. People with breakthrough infections tend to have milder symptoms of aches, fever, cough and fatigue compared to the unvaccinated. But these symptoms may still be there to some degree. All of these symptoms may make it more difficult to get comfortable and stay asleep.”
How can you cope? If counting sheep isn’t cutting it, try these tips to get better sleep when you’re COVID-19 positive.
Get in a hot shower
Before you go to bed, take a hot shower, said Dr. Lucy McBride, an internist based in Washington, D.C. Get the water warm enough to create steam. This is a great way to “loosen up congestion,” she explained.
Use medication to mitigate your symptoms
McBride also suggested managing symptoms with over-the-counter cough medications and fever reducers (like ibuprofen or acetaminophen), as long as they don’t interfere with any other medications you’re taking.
Beware of using decongestants in the evening, though, “as these contain ingredients that have stimulant properties and may keep you awake at night,” said Dr. Sonya Merrill, a sleep medicine specialist on the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas medical staff.
Taking a small dose of melatonin at bedtime might be helpful as well, Moday said, as it “not only helps ramp up your immune system overnight, but also helps improve circadian rhythm by opposing the stress hormone cortisol and telling your body it’s time for sleep.” Just be sure to chat with your doctor before starting any new medication.
Prop up your head and neck
Merrill recommended sleeping with your head and neck elevated, to “improve breathing and reduce mucus pooling in the back of your throat.”
You can do this by lying on a few pillows or adding a proper neck pillow to your sleep arsenal.
Drink lots of water, tea or electrolyte drinks
Merrill suggested drinking water to help thin mucus, a byproduct of the infection that can lead to rest-reducing issues like congestion and nasal drip.
If your symptoms include vomiting or nausea, it’s especially important to stay hydrated. “You can drink coconut water or add some electrolyte tabs, such as Nuun brand, into very diluted fruit juice,” Moday said. “Commercial electrolyte drinks like Pedialyte are fine as well, but they do contain more sugar. Ginger can help tremendously with nausea, as can fennel.”
Moday also suggested drinking honey and lemon tea, or tea with demulcent herbs (like slippery elm and licorice root).
Use a humidifier and keep your room at a decent temperature
Make sure your room is an ideal place to rest. Merrill recommended using a humidifier set between 40% and 50% humidity “to improve nasal breathing.”
Also, an optimal bedroom temperature for sleeping is “between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, as it is all the more important to keep the bedroom cool when you have a fever,” Merrill said.
Try your hardest not to sleep or stay in bed all day
While you may be tempted to sleep the day away with COVID, chances are you’ll regret it come nighttime.
“It’s OK to spend a little more time than usual in bed at night, as you may need more sleep while battling a virus,” Merrill said. “However, avoid spending excessive time in bed during the day and taking long naps. These behaviors often make it harder for you to sleep at night.”
Instead, Merrill suggested finding a comfortable place to rest during the day, such as a recliner or couch outside your bedroom, and setting a timer to ensure you don’t nap longer than 30 minutes.
Isolate when possible to help you sleep better and protect others
While sharing a bed with someone may be your norm, it’s probably not a good idea while you’re fighting a COVID infection. Not only may having a bed partner keep you awake, but if you test positive for COVID-19, you should isolate from others for at least five days until you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your symptoms are improving.
“Generally, quarantining from your partner is still recommended with breakthrough cases of COVID-19 even if they are vaccinated and especially if they have a negative test,” Moday said. “Given the highly transmissible nature of the omicron variant, they have a very high change of getting infected if you don’t.”
McBride acknowledged that isolating from very young children may not be possible. “Personally, I would have a very hard time isolating from my very young child if he/she had COVID,” she said. “We have to balance the potential harm of getting a breakthrough infection from our child — which for most vaccinated people is like a cold or a flu — against the harms of leaving a sick child alone.”
Call your doctor if you still can’t sleep
If vomiting keeps you up all night, your cough is accelerating, or you’re having difficulty breathing, McBride said it’s time to call your physician.
“Even breakthrough COVID infections can sometimes cause pneumonia,” she said, “so it’s important to always talk with your own doctor.”
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Why It Will Be Illegal to Livestream Presidential Poll Results
Law seeks to bar TV stations from livestreaming presidential poll results
Livestreaming of presidential election results by TV stations and online platforms will be illegal in the proposed amendment to the Elections Act.
The Elections (Amendment) Bill 2022, currently before Parliament, however, makes it difficult to alter the results of a Presidential election as announced at the polling stations.
The Bill, sponsored by the government, also seeks to have the decision of the High Court on an appeal on the election of a Member of the County Assembly (MCA) to be final.
The Bill is critical to how the August 9, 2022 General Election will be conducted, specifically the transmission of the presidential results.
However, the proposal to repeal the requirement that the polling result forms on an online public portal maintained by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is likely to cause uproar among the nongovernmental organisations. The Bill was tabled in the National Assembly on Wednesday.
But a procedural motion to shorten its publication period from 14 days to seven was defeated after 62 MPs allied to United Democratic Alliance (UDA) of Deputy President William Ruto ganged up against 42 supporting Azimio la Umoja coalition of ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Shortening the publication period means shortening the period within which it is to be committed to the relevant committees to conduct public participation.
Belgut MP Nelson Koech and his Soy colleague Caleb Kositany, both allies of DP Ruto, said that he will rally his colleagues to defeat the Bill or “in the unlikely event it goes through” seek redress at the High Court.
“This Bill is mischievous. If they are for a credible, transparent process, why shut out the media from streaming live the presidential election results. We are not for this,” Mr Koech said.
Mr Kositany said the proposed law borders on ill motives.
“I am smelling a rat. These people want to rig elections. We will not allow the media and other online channels to be shut out in the livestreaming of the presidential election results,” said Mt Kositany.
Currently, the IEBC is required to facilitate public information, establish a mechanism for the transmission of results as announced at the polling stations.
“The results so streamed shall be for purposes of public information only and shall not be the basis for a declaration by the commission,” the current law states.
But in a case of pure give and take, the Bill seeks to ensure that checks and balances prevail in the transmission of the presidential results from the polling stations to the national tallying centre.
Currently, the law provides that Presiding Officers appointed by the IEBC electronically transmit the image of the relevant form containing the presidential results to the Constituency Returning Officer (CRO).
The CRO is then required to collate the results, feed into the relevant form, send the image and physically deliver the forms to the national tallying centre. This requirement has, however, been marred with credibility issues.
This is because instances of presidential results announced at the polling stations not tallying with those electronically transmitted to the national tallying centre have been the bane of Presidential election petitions at the Supreme Court in 2013 and 2017 general elections.
The Bill proposes that a Presiding Officer shall electronically transmit the image of the results in the prescribed form to the national tallying centre.
The presiding officer shall then deliver the results in person from the polling station to the constituency tallying centre.
The CRO shall then collate the results in the prescribed form and deliver them in person from the polling station together with the collated form to the national tallying centre.
The CRO shall not stop there.
“The CRO shall electronically transmit, in the prescribed form, the tabulated results of an election of the president and deliver in person the tabulated results from the constituency tallying centre to the national tallying centre,” the Bill signed by leader of majority Amos Kimunya (Kipipiri MP) proposes.
The work of the electoral agency chaired by Mr Wafula Chebukati shall be limited to verifying that the results transmitted are an accurate record of the results tallied, verified and declared at the respective polling stations.
Under the pure presidential system of government from the 2010 Constitution, the leader of majority has the obligation to sign government sponsored Bills introduced in the National Assembly or the Senate.
Physically delivered results
Further, in the spirit of bipartisanship as opposed to the adversarial pure parliamentary system of government, the leader of minority in either of the two Houses of parliament also signs government sponsored Bills introduced in the relevant House.
Currently, where there is a discrepancy between the electronically transmitted and the physically delivered results, the IEBC shall verify the results and the result which is an accurate record of the results tallied, verified and declared at the respective polling station shall prevail.
Publish election results
However, the Bill wants this provision repealed.
Also proposed for deletion by the Bill is the requirement that any failure to transmit or publish the election results in an electronic format shall not invalidate the results as announced and declared by the respective IEBC officers at the polling and constituency tallying centres.
The Bill also seeks to make it illegal for the IEBC chairman to declare a presidential winner before all constituencies have transmitted their election results if the commission is satisfied the results that have been received will not affect the results of the election.
The commission will also not announce the final results in the order in which the tallying of results is completed as is the case now.
The Bill also seeks to have the decision of the High Court on a petition filed against a governor heard and dispensed off by the High Court while that of MCA be determined by a Resident Magistrate’s court.
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CS Amina: We’re in Contact With Caf Over Starlets Issue
Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed Wednesday revealed that the government is in communication with the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
This follows the confusion brought about by a letter sent out withdrawing Harambee Starlets from the 2022 Africa Women Cup of Nations (Awcon) qualifiers
Starlets are due to face Uganda away in the first leg on February 13 and host the second leg on February 17.
On Wednesday, CS Mohammed paid a courtesy visit to the team that is currently in camp at the Moi International Sports Center, Kasarani.
Harambee Starlets’ withdrawal gives Crested Cranes of Uganda an automatic pass into the main tournament that scheduled to take place in Morocco from July 2 to 23.
“We have a conversation that is ongoing and we are hoping that sooner rather than later, that confirmations will be made. But we are still preparing and you can see that the girls are still in camp and they will be here until they leave for Uganda when this is all resolved.
“The expectation obviously from all of us is that the girls will be on the flight to Uganda on time and after we will wait for Uganda to come back here so that we have the return match. We are optimistic and working really hard at it and we are having conversations with everybody who’s involved and we remain very hopeful,” said Mohammed.
The CS remains confident that Starlets will dominate both the qualifiers and the main tournament.
“My expectation is that they will do really well and they have a real opportunity to get to the top and maybe to the World Cup as well,” she added.
On January 29, it was revealed that a letter authored by the disbanded Football Kenya Federation (FKF) withdrew Harambee Starlets from the qualifiers.
“What happened was extremely unfortunate and I hope that everybody who was involved is regretting what they did and all I can do now is support what Kenyans are saying and that is to punish the culprits,” she said.
The Kenya women’s team advanced to the second round after hammering South Sudan 15-1 on aggregate in their first round qualifier staged at the Nyayo National Stadium in October.
Kenya last qualified for the continental competition in 2016, while Uganda’s last appearance was in 2000.
The 2022 Awcon finals will also be used as the qualifiers for the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup.
The top four teams will qualify for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
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