Each week, The Reporters put their thumbs out to the good and the bad in the world of sports. This week they discuss J.R. Smith's antics, Dennis Rodman's trip to North Korea, Toronto FC's spending and the inspiring story of a California high-school basketball player.
Bruce Arthur, National Post: My thumb is down to J.R. Smith, the illegitimate clown prince of basketball. The New York Knicks are their own unique brand of farce, but Smith takes it to a different, dumber level. This week he was fined $50,000 for trying to untie an opponent's shoelace again, after being warned by the NBA, 'hey, don't try to untie an opponent's shoelace again.' This had literally never happened before. He had already been suspended in his career for fights, for drugs, and even for reckless driving causing a death, and he has said over and over, "I've learned." But he never learns. He's a player with talent, no desire to shape it, no thoughts of consequences, and the brain of a slow-ish ostrich. Someone should tie his shoelaces together, and be done with it.
Steve Simmons, Toronto Sun: My thumb is down to Dennis Rodman and his bizarre egotistical nonsensical attempt at diplomacy with his latest visit to North Korea. This isn't the Richard Nixon days, when ping-pong began to unfreeze the relationship between the United States and China. This is today, and this is the clown Rodman, trying to look serious in a political arena. The situation becomes all the more troubling when you consider Rodman's patty-cake friendship with dictator and admirer Kim Jong-un. While in North Korea, Rodman suggested that American tour guide, Kenneth Bae, jailed 15 years for state subversion, was at fault for being held captive and after saying that, blamed his verbal outburst on drinking too much. Dennis Rodman is, was, and remains something of a sporting embarrassment. The fact he is playing a more difficult game here only makes it worse.
Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated: My thumb is up to Toronto FC for its showy efforts at ending its culture of failure. This week the club repatriated Canadian midfielder Dwayne De Rosario. It then made a global splash by acquiring striker Jermain Defoe from Tottenham and signing another midfielder, American international Michael Bradley, who had been languishing at A.S. Roma. MLSE's $100 million moves faintly echo President Tim Leiweke's investment in David Beckham when Leiweke was in Los Angeles, although labeling MLS' most dismal team a "super club" is wildly premature. The last Toronto team to "win" an offseason was the blue jays last winter. How'd that turn out?
Dave Hodge, TSN: My thumb is up to California high-school basketball player Austin Hatch, and this story will explain itself. In two airplane crashes eight years apart that killed his father, mother, stepmother, brother and sister, Austin Hatch narrowly escaped death himself. The most recent crash in 2011 left Hatch in a coma for two months. 10 days earlier, he had committed to a basketball scholarship at the University of Michigan. This week, he played in a high-school game for the first time since the crash - his first shot was a three-point attempt, he made it - his schoolmates roared and his teammates jumped from the bench and stormed the court, causing an emotional celebration....and a technical foul. Hatch still looks forward to Michigan, where his scholarship will be honored. Thumbs up all around. Indeed.