Footenotes: Robert Kraft, KU Basketball’s struggles, LeBron’s decline?

Image Credit: Rebecca Blackwell / AP

Hello, all. Hope your week is off to a good start. In last week’s edition of Footenotes, we recapped NBA All-Star weekend, touched on the Joe Flacco trade, talked Bryce Harper/Manny Machado & much more. This week, we’ve got a great mailbag to dive into after an eventful past 7 days in the sports world! Without further ado…

  1. Overview of Kansas’ season and see what they can do?

It’s been an up-and-down season for Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks. The preseason #1-ranked team, expectations were astronomical before the year even started. Starting off the 2018-19 campaign 10-0 and reaching that top spot in the rankings yet again, Kansas looked well on its way to a 15th-consecutive Big 12 Conference title. 10-7 since that point (9-5 in conference play), the team’s streak is on life support.

Not all of the blame can be put on Self. As a matter of fact, he actually deserves some credit for what he’s been able to accomplish thus far with so many outside variables affecting his team:

  • An NCAA investigation leading to a promising young forward, Silvio De Sousa, being suspended for two years.
  • Starting center, Udoka Azubuike, battling injuries and ultimately suffering one that ended his season prematurely.
  • Freshman Quentin Grimes failing to take off despite immense preseason hype surrounding his game.
  • Guard LaGerald Vick taking a leave of absence due to family issues.
  • Marcus Garrett, arguably the best defender on Kansas, suffering an ankle injury that’s caused him to miss extended time

That’s a lot to handle on the fly. Despite all of this and the team’s ugliest loss in recent memory (29 points) happening on Saturday in Lubbock against Texas Tech, the Jayhawks can still do some damage moving forward. Kansas needs the following to happen in order to clinch at least a share of first place in the Big 12:

  • Kansas wins out
  • Kansas State losing two games
  • Texas Tech losing one game

Weirder things have happened. It all starts with Kansas vs. Kansas State tonight at Allen Fieldhouse. If the Jayhawks lose that game, consider the streak dead. If they can come away with a win, there’s still hope.

2. Talk about the impact Adidas payroll going away will have on the program.

Ha. This question is about Kansas’ basketball program. I have a gut feeling the team will be alright. I’ll leave it at that.

3. Is the Kansas Dynasty over?

Last KU Hoops-related question, I promise. The answer depends on what lens you’re viewing Self’s tenure and his teams as a “dynasty” under. If it’s by the 14 consecutive Big XII titles, then maybe. Otherwise, I don’t think so. Fans of Jayhawk basketball have been so spoiled with some truly magnificent teams that in a year that isn’t all that bad, a 20-7 record seems like the end of the world. It isn’t. Self will retool and adjust regardless of how the season ends and Kansas will be just fine.

4. What do you think of Danielle Gibson? Softball player who hit for the home run cycle.

For just the second time in the history of the NCAA, a Division I player hit four different types of home runs in a game. Mashing solo, two-run and three-run dingers in one game is difficult enough. Hitting a grand slam on top of that is nearly impossible. Simply amazing.

College softball is fun to watch. In fact, I probably spend more time watching it than college baseball. It’s close, though. Both are underrated sports and produce plenty of great athletes.

5. Sporting’s win over Toluca.

In the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16, Sporting Kansas City defeated Toluca 3-0. With goals by Krisztián Németh, Gerso Fernandes and Ilie Sánchez, Sporting KC dominated in a game that featured just three yellow cards and zero red cards in all. Controlling the possession battle by a margin of 28% (64 to 36), momentum is certainly on Kansas City’s side heading into the Leg 2 matchup with Toluca on Thursday. It’s a good time to be a soccer fan in Kansas City.

6. Robert Kraft Punishment? Punishment for the team as well?

It was brought to light late last week that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was named among nearly 200 folks in relation to soliciting prostitution at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida. Police claim to have video evidence of Kraft receiving “paid acts” in a room within the spa. There’s also evidence of Kraft being driven to the spa. Kraft’s camp has “categorically denied” that Kraft engaged in “any illegal activity,” much to the dislike of many.

This is a unique situation. One of the most influential and iconic figures in the NFL is now dealing with a major potential offense and repercussions, both legal and within the league, will be legitimate. I’m not sure what league commissioner Roger Goodell will elect to do. The NFL typically buys time in any situation involving legal situations with players/coaches/owners by issuing an investigation or “gathering facts.” The most recent debacle involving an NFL owner was when Colts owner Jim Irsay was suspended for 6 games and fined $500,000 for pleading guilty to a DUI.

Kraft’s offense is severe and stands for something larger than a fine or suspension. Human sex trafficking and prostitution are two of the most dangerous, yet prevalent things in today’s society. For someone to (allegedly) have engaged in acts that fit under one or both of those categories is beyond terrible. How commissioner Goodell decides to deal with this situation will be very telling.

7. Royals off to 2-0 start with heavy offense.

Baseball is back (kind of)! Spring Training recently began and all 30 MLB teams have played at least one game. The Kansas City Royals host their Spring Training in Surprise, Arizona at Hohokam Stadium. I had the pleasure of attending a game there last spring – and it was a blast. I highly recommend going down to AZ for a game or two. About 40 minutes from Phoenix, it would make for a great vacation.

Okay, back to baseball. Kansas City is currently tied for first place in the Cactus League with a 2-0 record. Scoring 23 runs in two games, the bats are hot despite the weather not quite having caught up yet. I’m very excited for this year’s Royals squad despite the team losing 104 games a season ago. With a (hopefully) healthy rotation and youth injected into the lineup from Opening Day, the team will be fun to watch. Whether it’s a good fun (competing for a .500 record) or a bad fun (another 100-loss season, sprinkled with highlight plays) remains to be seen. An undefeated start to Spring Training is encouraging, though.

8. Will the broncos ever draft a good QB and stop selling off their defense?

We went in-depth on the Joe Flacco trade last week, but the story remains the same. John Elway passes on quality QBs and brings in mediocre ones. Rinse and repeat. Paxton Lynch, Chad Kelly, Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, Case Keenum and others I didn’t list have made for an… interesting past few years in Denver. 20-28 since the Peyton Manning era ended, it was time for a change at QB. Enter Flacco – not the change I or pretty much anyone else was thinking of.

Eventually, the Broncos will strike gold at the quarterback position. Could it be with this year’s 10th overall pick? Sure. Then, though, Denver would be paying about $40 million for three signal callers. Not sure if that’s part of Elway’s plan, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

In regards to selling off the defense, I think the team is simply cutting ties with players that either didn’t want to be in Denver any longer, were locker room issues, or were aging. Shane Ray is a likely departure candidate this offseason, and he could fit one of the above categories. With Von Miller and Bradley Chubb terrorizing QBs and defensive-minded head coach Vic Fangio now in the mix, I wouldn’t worry too much about the Broncos D.

9. Kenneth Faried has been a monster for Houston. Can he and Capela coexist on the floor together?

Kenneth Faried has been fantastic with Houston! In 14 games with the Rockets, the 29-year-old is averaging a career-high 16 points and 9.9 rebounds per game on a remarkable 60.9% mark from the field. On top of that, he’s connected on 5 of his 11 attempts from deep. The former Brooklyn Net and longtime Denver Nugget’s resurgence has been nothing short of remarkable.

In the team’s most recent game, a win against the Golden State Warriors, the team put a starting lineup on the court that featured both Faried and Clint Capela. Capela played 28 minutes and contributed 8 points, 15 rebounds, a steal and a block while Faried played 33 minutes and had 20/10. I’m not 100% sold on the two being able to coexist on the court, so I think I need to see that lineup a few more times to decide. Regardless, the Rockets brought in a reclamation project and have turned it into the revival of “The Manimal.”

10. Do you think that LeBron’s groin injury is the start of the decline of his career?

Once LeBron James returned from the injury that caused him to miss nearly 20 games, the questions arose: is he on the decline? Is he overweight? Can he get back to 2017-18 LeBron? The list goes on and on. Numerous reports claiming James may be out of shape – some to the extent of indicating he was nearly 280 pounds – intensified matters even more.

LeBron hasn’t quite been the same since returning from injury, but he’s still been pretty damn good. It’s possible he’s overweight. It’s also possible he’s 95% instead of 100%. The proof is in the pudding, though:

Since Return

Settling for more threes has partially led to James’ three-point percentage taking a dip. Converting on half of his field goal attempts since returning, he’s still been efficient. The scoring decline of 2.9 points is worrisome but when taking into account an increase in assists by 2.9, it makes a bit of sense. James’ last two games have featured stat lines of 29/12/6 and 27/7/12. I’m not worried at all about The King moving forward and certainly don’t think this is the beginning of the end for his reign atop the NBA.

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