There is little denying the progress third-year forward Paul George of the Indiana Pacers has made this season. Despite the Pacers losing their leading scorer, George’s mentor and friend Danny Granger, they have found themselves battling the defending champion Miami Heat in the NBA conference finals. In this week’s SI, senior writer Lee Jenkins profiles George and how his continuous commitment to improvement on both sides of the ball has his team standing a chance against the Heat.
George, a Palmdale, California native, has flown relatively under the radar considering his prodigy build, 6’9 with a seven-foot wing span and a vertical that has the NBA’s finest checking over their shoulders. After attending San Jose State in order to stay closer to home and being drafted 10th overall in the 2010 NBA draft, George has slowly established himself as an all star caliber player. But after a disappointing exit in last year’s playoffs, George found himself “embarrassed. He saw the room for growth,” recalls Brian Shaw, assistant coach for the Pacers (PAGE 38).
George spent the off season working on his ball handling skills with dribbling guru Jerry Powell, his post-ups with former NBA player Don MacLean and his stroke with Shaw. This season George, who made his first all-star team, led the Pacers in minutes (37.6 per game), points (17.4) and steals (1.8) and the Pacers relentless devotion to man-to-man defense has opponents feeling stifled. Lebron James tallied his lowest point total of the year in a meeting with George earlier this season and in another meeting James turned the ball over seven times, a tie for his most all year.
“We’re the only team to beat Miami two out of three times this year,” (PAGE 42) reminds a club house official.
George’s constant longing for improvement has the Indiana Pacers chasing the NBA Finals. “I don’t even know anymore where his ceiling is,” (PAGE 42) says team President Donnie Walsh.
With all three California teams making the NHL playoffs this season, and two of them—the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks—in the midst of a Western Conference semifinal showdown, senior writer Austin Murphy takes a look at the Golden State’s thriving hockey landscape in this week’s
Murphy finds that much of hockey’s popularity in California is due in part to the Sharks, Kings and Ducks being committed to developing young talent right in their backyard. The Sharks, playing in their ninth straight postseason, including trips to two of the last three conference finals, oversee a score of traveling club teams for boys and girls, ages eight to 18.
“By growing the game at a grass roots level, the Sharks are also minting fans for life,” says Murphy. “Since the NHL planted the team in San Jose 22 years ago, this high-tech hub has morphed into a kind of Hockeytown 2.0.” (PAGE 46)
The Sharks play in front of sellout crowds at the “Shark Tank”, which Murphy says has turned out “to be one of the loudest, most inhospitable pits in the league.” (PAGE 48) Their older fans love to play hockey too, as Murphy finds that San Jose is home to the largest adult hockey league in the country with 5,000 skaters and 165 teams.
The Kings and Ducks also have invested in youth hockey. The 2010 draft had a total of four California kids selected—all of them products of what is now the Los Angeles Jr. Kings Hockey Club. Anaheim has poured $12 million into its youth program since 2007, the same year they won a Stanley Cup.
The state’s franchises each “has invested heavily in the sport,” says Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. “When you watch national championship games—bantams, pewees, midgets—the teams from California, especially Southern California, are always at the top of the heap.” (PAGE 46)
Though the Sharks struggled on the ice its first few years in the NHL, they did well at the gate and with merchandise sales thanks to the business community. “With all the corporate support they had coming in, you knew hockey was going to be a home run in that city” says Jack Ferreira, the former Sharks and Ducks general manager who is now special assistant to Kings G.M. Dean Lombardi, who also was G.M. for the Sharks from 1996-2003. (PAGE 48)
“From the NHL down to the squirts, the hockey boom in California is massive and irreversible,” writes Murphy. “Players and coaches who come to the Golden State tend to stick around. They can check out any time they like, but they never leave.” (PAGE 49)
Cover Inspired by Iconic 1968 SI Cover
The St. Louis Cardinals are the most consistent franchise in baseball due to an organizational philosophy dedicated to measured and constant evolution, writes Ben Reiter in this week’s Sports Illustrated. At the forefront of their sustained success is diverse and dominant starting pitching, made up this season by a rotation of Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Jamie Garcia, Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook—all of whom appear on SI’s cover. The cover is inspired by the iconic October 7, 1968, SI cover that featured Roger Maris, Tim McCarver, Bob Gibson, Mike Shannon and Lou Brock.
“When we think of the Cardinals, we think of a distinct organizational culture: Anodyne, diligent, supportive, resolute,” says Reiter. “Mostly, we think of consistency. Their 11 championships have been well distributed. No son or daughter of St Louis born since 1902 has reached the age of 25 without having lived through at least one victory parade.” (PAGE 64)
At week’s end the Cardinals sit atop the National League with just nine players from their 2012 championship team. They are there, in large measure, because of a starting rotation that has been historically good. “The Cardinals have ended up with such a rotation by doing what they’ve always done, and what any team or corporation ought to do if it seeks success in the long term. Which is to ceaselessly, though judiciously, innovate,” says Reiter. (PAGE 64)
When the game had become power crazy, former longtime St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan worked with the team’s pitchers to mix in ground ball inducing two-seam fastballs since he believed most pitchers only stood a chance by keeping their deliveries down in the strike zone. Wainwright busted on the scene as a closer late in the Cardinals 2006 title run throwing the two-seamer, and continues to use it now as the rotation’s ace and leader.
However, when John Mozeliak was promoted to G.M., in 2007, Duncan began to lobby him to add power pitchers to the mix, especially since home runs were on the decline. “We decided to emphasize not just pitchers who were throwing hard, but guys we thought might throw harder in the future,” says Mozeliak. (PAGE 67) Within three years they drafted Lynn, Miller and also added Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez, each of whom throw around 100 mph from the bullpen and could be future starters—perhaps very soon since Garcia and Westbrook both recently were placed on the disabled list.
The Cardinals have evolved financially, too, as they made the difficult choice to not re-sign Albert Pujols before last season. “Losing an iconic player was not easy—it was jolting,” says Mozeliak. “From a very simplistic standpoint, [once we let him go] we knew we had resources to deploy elsewhere.” (PAGE 67) The flexibility led to extensions for Wainwright and Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina.
“While an overriding ethos—the Cardinal way—has developed over the years, it is flexible enough to allow the team to capitalize on the game’s changing realities better than any other,” says Reiter (PAGE 65)
Sports Illustrated today announced that Cornell wrestler Kyle Dake and North Carolina field hockey player Loren Shealy are the 2012-13 SI College Athletes of the Year. The award celebrates one male and one female collegiate student athlete who have achieved athletic distinction and have had an outsized impact in the classroom or in their communities. Both student athletes are profiled on SI.com and in the May 27, 2013, issue of SI, on newsstands now.
Dake, an academic All-American at Cornell, became the first wrestler to have won an NCAA title in four different weight classes after his championship as a senior this past March. In his profile on Dake, senior writer Luke Winn says that Dake’s unprecedented success puts him in the conversation of the greatest college wrestler of all time, along with such standouts as Dan Gable at Iowa and Pat Smith at Oklahoma State. “What Kyle did is more remarkable than anybody who came before him,” says Cornell wrestling coach Rob Koll.
Dake, who grew up in Ithaca (where Cornell is located), kept a notebook throughout college where he recorded all of his dreams and goals, nearly all of which came true. “I feel like Kyle has a dream every night about wrestling,” says teammate Joe Stanzione, who shares a house with Dake and 32 other teammates. When Winn asks him about what happens in that dream, Stanzione says, “He wins. Period.” Winn writes that Dake will start a new notebook for the next chapter in his life, which will include competing for the next three world championships and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Shealy, a sophomore forward for the Tar Heels from Charlotte, ranked second on the team in goals (16) and third in points (34) as UNC reached the NCAA final four the fourth straight year. “Loren is a leader, she’s unselfish, she’s down-to-earth and she gets along with everybody,” says UNC field hockey coach Karen Shelton in senior writer Kelli Anderson’s profile on Shealy.
Even better are her credentials in the classroom—Shealy has a 4.0 GPA as a business administration student, won the Elite 89 award, given annually to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative GPA participating at each of the NCAA championship sites, and is the first UNC athlete to earn a Robertson scholarship. The Robertson, which gives a full-ride award annually to 18 UNC and 18 Duke students, requires that scholars live for a semester on the campus of their school’s biggest rival. “She is successful in everything, and her organizational skills put the rest of us to shame, but she is also one of the nicest people, with one of the best senses of humor, I’ve ever known,” says teammate Charlotte Craddock.
The SI College Athlete of the Year finalists, chosen by SI editors, included six seniors, two sophomores and two juniors who competed during the 2012-2013 academic year. The celebrated student athletes represented 10 different sports.
The four men’s finalists proved extraordinary over the past year on the field, the court and the rink:
- Trey Burke, basketball, University of Michigan
- Khaled Holmes, football, USC
- Drew LeBlanc, ice hockey, St. Cloud State University
- Tyler Thornton, basketball, Duke University
The four women’s finalists included a four-sport star and three four-year standouts:
- Liz Brenner, volleyball, basketball, softball and track and field, University of Oregon
- Kimberlyn Duncan, track and field, LSU
- Brittney Griner, basketball, Baylor University
- Taylor Thornton, lacrosse, Northwestern University
Profiles on all of the finalists, including videos and features on the winners can be found at si.com/collegeathlete. Volkswagen is the SI College Athlete of the Year sponsor on SI.com.
This week’s Sports Illustrated features a profile on young New York Mets star pitcher Matt Harvey by senior writer Tom Verducci. In the piece, Verducci takes readers through Harvey’s rise to the majors, from growing up as a coach’s son, to how he developed four pitches and how the chip on his shoulder from a draft slight makes him compete with an edge. Harvey is featured on the SI cover with the headline reading: “The Dark Knight of Gotham, while the inside spread features shots of the young star in New York City, childhood photos and images that show his pitching mechanics and grips. Inside SI sat down with SI creative director Chris Hercik to discuss the cover and inside design, and why a batman theme worked.
Why did SI use a batman analogy with the Matt Harvey package? Any worries our sports fan readers would not connect with a batman analogy?
Hercik: After researching for and writing the great article, Tom Verducci coined Matt Harvey as the “Dark Knight”. Once we heard it, we knew it could work really well—Harvey has dark hair, he plays with a chip on his shoulder and is off to a blazing start in the Gotham city. With the type of season the Mets are having, I think they, and any team who is starving for the next big star, need a central figure to get behind and use as a driving force moving forward. Sure, there’s always a concern the reader won’t get the connection, but if it’s intriguing hopefully they will want to learn the reasons why. And if you’re a Mets fan, you are hoping we are right.
Why do you like this cover photo?
Hercik: I really wanted this photo to be graphic and simple. Free of clutter. It’s all about his motion and the perfect extension on his delivery, which is explained in great detail in Verducci’s piece. In this single frame you see the extension, the focus and the leg drive. The one thing you don’t see is any strain on his face. His delivery is so effortless that his facial expression is nonexistent.
Why not use one of the photos that feature Harvey in New York City?
Hercik: As much as I love the portraits inside, this story is all about his dominance after only 18 career starts in the majors. He, as Verducci points out, is reminiscent of Roger Clemens in size and delivery and I really wanted that to subliminally come across on this cover.
Can you tell us about the photo shoot with Harvey?
Hercik: It is extremely rare these days for an athlete to give us much time, if any, on a photo shoot. Matt Harvey gave us two hours! Through all of the shots, he was receptive, patient and open to our ideas. It certainly helped that he had one of the best photographers, Michael LeBrecht, shooting him.
What are your thoughts on the photos and design of the article inside the magazine?
Hercik: Ironies abound with the brilliant photograph of Harvey beneath the Queensboro Bridge. We initially intended to use the bridge, just as it is used in the Mets logo, in an iconic way once we knew we were running a feature on Harvey. Only after we came up with this idea did we know that Verducci came up with the Dark Knight analogy. The planets couldn’t have aligned any better since The Dark Knight Rises coincidentally was filmed in part beneath the bridge. Sometimes the best things happen when they go unplanned— but being in the right spot is the key.
In the next photo spread, we stitched together nine photos in a sequence to illustrate the concepts addressed in the story about his pitching motion and delivery. One of the most telling parts of the story is when his father Ed, for the first time, sits behind home plate as he is pitching and realizes how much power he generates on his delivery.
And since Matt’s relationship with his father is the foundation of this story, as well as the foundation for his mechanics, we decided to also run photos of Matt and his dad when Matt was a child. Ed taught Matt everything about pitching, from the countless pitch and catch sessions, to the arm swing mechanics. I think being able to see both of them together helps to solidify their relationship to the reader.
As for the “Get a Grip” shot, when someone throws four plus pitches I think we all want to see how he grips the ball. All of his pitches are lethal, especially his fastball and his 92 MPH slider. These are the type of great detail shots that give you an inside look at what you can’t see on TV.
Lastly, the shot of him sitting on a cab was a spontaneous shot. We spotted this old style cab sitting there halfway between the Queensbridge Park and Waters Edge Restaurant. It was such a New York moment… we hopped out of the car, LeBrecht stood on a car and landed the shot in less than 10 minutes.
***Pitching sequence photo by Carlos M. Saavedra for SI (Photo illustration by SI Imaging)
***Childhood photos courtesy of the Harvey family. Photo of Ed Harvey by Michael J. LeBrecht II for SI.
***Grip photo by Lee Feiner for SI.
Didn’t have a chance to read and watch all of the great content on SI.com this week? Inside SI has you covered. Here’s a selection of some of the top Sports Illustrated stories and video productions from the past week.
SI released its 10th annual Fortunate 50, which ranks the 50 highest-earning professional athletes in the U.S.
Richard Deitsch reports on Dr. Jack Ramsey retiring as a broadcaster and asks if TV is ready for an openly gay analyst in his Media Circus column.
Nick Zaccardi introduces readers to the ‘Rumble on the Rails,’ a unique wrestling spectacle that took place in New York City this past week.
Chris Ballard writes that the Spurs are moving on because they were able to slow down Steph Curry.
Rob Mahoney examines the state of the Heat after two dominant series wins.
Ben Golliver says the Grizz have Zack Randolph to thank for earning their first trip to the Western Conference finals.
Ian Thomsen says the NBA set a new precedent by keeping the Kings in Sacramento.
Stu Hackel discusses second round storylines and questions for all eight teams.
Sara Kwak says goaltending remains a concern for the Penguins.
Alan Muir thinks the Blue Jackets’ Bobrovsky is deserving of the Hart Trophy.
Tom Verducci says after 766 tries, the Mets have a homegrown ace in Mat Harvey.
Jay Jaffe says Vernon Wells is proving to be a huge help for Yankees. Jaffe also provies the bests, worsts and more from the 2013 season so far.
Cliff Corcoran remembers some of the season’s most memorable moments so far.
Matt Harvey of the New York Mets breaks down his motion, and explains the key to his early success (video).
Ted Keith and Stephen Cannella take a look at the Yankees as their aging All-Stars begin to come off the DL and say if Mariano Rivera should start the 2013 All-Star game (video).
The Cardinals are the new No. 1 team in Joe Lemire’s weekly power rankings.
As the losses pile up, the Astros try to remain positive writes Michael Rosenberg.
Peter King writes on Manti Te’o’s new beginnings in San Diego and more in this weeks’ MMQB.
King talks about which holdouts, rookies and injured stars he’ll be watching as OTAs continue (video).
Don Banks takes a look at what new regimes can spark unexpected playoff turnarounds.
Chris Burke looks at the 10 players who had the worst offseason.
Cameron Morfit thinks Tiger’s win at the Players could signal a big summer at the major championships.
Gary Van Sickle says Sergio vs. Tiger is the latest in golf’s tradition of lame excuses.
Stewart Mandel looks at the top nonconference games and more in his mailbag.
Andy Staples anaylizes 10 years of committee decisions had the new playoff been in place.
Seth Davis on how Nike’s Villa 7 gives up-and-coming hoops assistants forum to shine.
Andy Glockner says with Andrew Wiggins in the fold, Kansas is now a Final Four contender.
Jimmy Connors discusses his memoir, “The Outsider,” in a podcast with Jon Wertheim. Here Connors talks about his relationship with Chris Evert and his thoughts on rivalry in today’s game (video).
Bruce Jenkins says that Serena Williams proved again that she has no rivals.
Grant Wahl says Howard believes in Moyes at Manchester United and provides a Robbie Rogers update in his Planet Futbol Column.
Avi Creditor looks at how Americans abroad finished their seasons.
After testing positive for testosterone, Chris Mannix says Lamont Peterson is trying to win fans back.
Floyd Mayweather talks to Jon Weritheim about what else, money.
Jeff Wagenheim writes on how the UFC goes after marijuana users but continues to overlook the use of TRT by fighters.
Carl Estes provides this week’s power rankings.
Changes in the University’s Medical Care Contradict Promises to Operate Transparently
At a time when safety in football has never been more scrutinized, changes in Penn State University’s once-exemplary medical care, just 18 months after the biggest scandal in college sports history, contradicts recent promises by the school to reign in the athletic department and operate transparently, according to a special report in this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED by senior writer David Epstein.
Wayne Sebastianelli, the beloved longtime Penn State director of athletic medicine and orthopedic surgeon-head physician for the football team since 1992, was relieved of his duties this past January as part of an abrupt shift in the school’s health-care program for football. Even more troubling are the circumstances surrounding the change. SI finds that the policy shift can be attributed to the controversial January 2013 appointment of athletic director David Joyner, a former member of the Penn State board of trustees who had no experience in athletic administration and had a contentious history with Sebastianelli. Just four days after Joyner officially assumed the full title of AD, Sebastianelli was ordered to clear out his office.
“Here we are trying to change our image and approach administrative changes with clarity and openness,” says Mac Evarts, former dean of Penn State’s College of Medicine and a current professor of orthopedics at the university, “and now we have another example of a decision being driving by athletics.” (PAGE 44)
Sebastianelli kept his title of director of athletic medicine, but his work with the football team, which included attending nearly every practice and game, was over. He was replaced by a new head physician, Peter Seidenberg, and Scott Lynch, an orthopedic consultant for football, who will now attend home games and at least one practice a week. Penn State released a statement at the time saying that the “change in physicians was made after a review of procedures and personnel by Coach Bill O’Brien and is part of an on-going re-organization of the football staff.” (PAGE 46)
O’Brien told SI that Joyner approved and implemented the changes that he recommended. However, trustee sources say that Joyner’s rationale for the change was cost savings. “It’s less good care,” says Vincent Pellegrini, the former chair of the department of orthopedics at Penn State “in exchange for saving a few bucks.” (PAGE 47)
The report finds that Joyner, an orthopedic surgeon and former All-America offensive lineman and wrestler at Penn State in the 1970s, actually campaigned for Sebastianelli’s job when it was created in 1992. Joyner previously served as the head physician to U.S. teams at the ’92 Winter Olympics and was the founder of Joyner Sports Medicine Institute (JSI), which developed 19 physical therapy centers in a number of states. The search committee chose Sebastianelli, a move that did not sit well with Joyner, according to Pellegrini. Over the next decade, Pellegrini said, “Penn State had a model program for sports medicine.” (PAGE 45)
According to current and former Penn State staff members, administrators, former players and longtime colleagues and friends of both Joyner and Sebastianelli, the decision started a rivalry between the two doctors. “Joyner kept working behind the scenes to become the sports medicine doctor at Penn State,” Evarts says. “And I have to tell you, now he’s taken advantage of what had been a long-standing, very competitive relationship with Sebastianelli.” Through a University spokesman, Joyner said, “It’s terribly unfortunate some want to make baseless accusations….The vast majority of Penn Staters want the focus to be on our dedicated student-athletes, as it should be.” (PAGE 45)
The special report also notes that O’Brien hired Penn State alum Tim Bream, who worked with Joyner at the ’92 Olympics, as athletic trainer in February 2012. Sources involved in health care for Penn State athletics who spoke with SI on the condition of anonymity say they saw Bream, who does not have a medical degree, engage in practices normally reserved for doctors, such as giving players anti-inflammatory drugs without a prescription and lancing a boil on a player’s neck. University medical sources also said that Bream told physicians to stop talking with the parents of players and that doctors should not spend as much time with the team.
Epstein spoke to former Penn State walk-on wide receiver Garrett Lerner. Lerner says Bream treated him in February with an electrical-stimulation machine that left two severe burns on his right leg. Epstein writes, “The greater problem in Lerner’s case, he says, was that later in the week, when his leg became painful, no physician was in the athletic training room to examine him, and the athletic trainers decided simply to keep the burns covered.” (PAGE 48) While Lerner insists that training staff took good care of him, his leg had become infected as he was not seen by a doctor for several days.
Even before the removal of Sebastianelli, Joyner’s appointment to AD was questioned. “You have to ask yourself how a member of the board of trustees was hired as AD without a national search,” says Brandon Short, a football captain in 1998 and ’99 (PAGE 45). Epstein refers to a November 2012 special report issued by the Pennsylvania auditor general that cites Joyner’s transition from trustee to AD as an example that conveys “a public message that influential insiders are running the university, and that objectivity and independent thinking are compromised.” (PAGE 46)
About the writer:
Senior Writer David Epstein writes about sports science and medicine, Olympic sports, and is an investigative reporter for SI. His science writing has won a number of awards, including the Society of Professional Journalists 2010 Deadline Club Award for an article on the genetics of sports performance. Since 2008, Epstein has co-written several of SI and SI.com’s most important investigative pieces, including the revelation that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003, and a report that revealed a pattern of NCAA violations under former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel.