NBA

NBA Heat Check: Williams steps up, Tatum suffers dip and what next for Drummond?

By Sports Desk February 15, 2021

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  • Can Leclerc lift his Monaco curse with Red Bull in control? Can Leclerc lift his Monaco curse with Red Bull in control?

    Formula One has arrived at the most prestigious race on the calendar, and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc would be desperate to end an awful run of form at his home race.

    Born and raised in Monaco, Leclerc's string of bad luck on the historic circuit dates back to his days in Formula Two, where he set the F2 lap record in 2017 before suspension problems caused a DNF.

    The next year, in F1, he was in the points for Sauber before brake failure led to a crash with Brendan Hartley.

    After poor strategy and Q1 elimination in his first Monaco Grand Prix for Ferrari in 2019, Leclerc charged up the field early on but pushed a little too hard and collided with Romain Grosjean at Rascasse.

    In 2021, he surprisingly stuck an inferior Ferrari on pole position but crashed at the end of Q3, and extensive drive-shaft damage led to him cruelly retiring on the formation lap.

    The 24-year-old became the first Monegasque to claim pole, but his three DNFs – from as many F1 entries – are his most at any circuit.

    Despite ending up in the barriers on a demonstration lap in Niki Lauda's Ferrari last week, another pole could finally put Leclerc on the top step in his home race.

    Twelve of the past 17 winners at Monaco have started from pole, as little room to overtake with bigger cars on Monte Carlo's notoriously tight streets makes track position critical.

    It would be a welcome way for Leclerc to buck his trend of failing to convert poles into race victories, winning only four times from 13 starts at the front of the grid.

    The title race adds another dimension, with Max Verstappen taking a six-point lead from him in the drivers' standings after successive victories at Imola, Miami and Barcelona.

    In-form Red Bull with records in sight

    Monaco has been a happy hunting ground for Red Bull, and this weekend could bring a number of records for the team.

    This weekend could see Red Bull claim their highest number of race wins (six), pole positions (six), podiums (24, with both drivers) and points earned at a circuit, surpassing the 356 collected in Spain.

    Meanwhile, reigning world champion Verstappen has the chance to record the longest winning streak of his career, beating last year's three wins between France and Austria.

    Ricciardo in need of renaissance

    Daniel Ricciardo has come under criticism from McLaren team principal Zak Brown for his recent performances, with a clear need for improvement.

    The 32-year-old suffered one of the lowest points of his career last year in Monte Carlo, when he was lapped by teammate Lando Norris.

    Ricciardo is suffering his worst streak of finishes outside the points (three) since 2012, when he had five consecutive empty-handed returns for Toro Rosso.

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Drivers

    1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 110
    2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 104
    3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 85
    4. George Russell (Mercedes) 74
    5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 65

    Constructors

    1. Red Bull 195
    2. Ferrari 169
    3. Mercedes 120
    4. McLaren 50
    5. Alfa Romeo 39

  • Curry praises Kerr leadership but Warriors struggled to focus after school shooting Curry praises Kerr leadership but Warriors struggled to focus after school shooting

    Stephen Curry applauded Steve Kerr for his frank pre-game comments following a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday.

    At a scheduled news conference before the Golden State Warriors' 119-109 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, an emotional Kerr called into question a lack of action from United States senators on the sale, presence and usage of firearms.

    A moment of silence was then observed inside the American Airlines Center ahead of the tip-off, but Kerr had said: "I am sorry, I am tired of the moments of silence. Enough!"

    Following the defeat, Curry explained basketball had been put in perspective as he stood in support of his coach, whose father was murdered in the university where he worked in Beirut in 1984.

    "I appreciate his leadership," Curry said post-game. "It was on everybody's mind coming into the game. It's kind of hard to stay focused on going out and playing basketball, knowing what happened in this state.

    "I got kids, send them to school every day, drop them off, and you feel for the parents that are going through what they're going through.

    "I can't even imagine the pain, so for coach to come up here and say what he said – and every word that he said was powerful and meaningful – I accept that challenge of using my voice and platform to hopefully make change. You can tell what it meant to him. I appreciate his leadership on that one.

    "You come in, and the perspective is, 'this is what we do', so you know how to kind of use your routine to get you ready. Obviously your mind wanders from time to time but especially in the moment of silence before the game."

    The Warriors started slowly and were down by as much as 29 points at one stage, before the second unit got the game back to within single-digits with less than five minutes remaining.

    While praising the Mavericks on their victory, Kerr conceded it was hard to get his team ready pre-game.

    "It was sort of an unspoken awareness of what happened today, and it was a very quiet locker room beforehand," he said.

    "I felt like as a coach, my job is to get the team ready to play. It was difficult to sort of keep perspective on a day like today, but that's the shock and the grief, the anger that's there for all of our guys, and I'm sure everybody in the building."  

  • Jokic, Tatum, Doncic, Booker and Giannis named in All-NBA first team, Embiid misses out Jokic, Tatum, Doncic, Booker and Giannis named in All-NBA first team, Embiid misses out

    Nikola Jokic was named in the All-NBA first team ahead of Joel Embiid and alongside Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Devin Booker in Tuesday evening's announcement.

    Jokic pipped fellow center Embiid for the NBA's 2021-22 MVP award earlier this month and the Serbian again got the nod in that position in the All-NBA first team, although the Philadelphia 76ers star was eligible as a forward but also missed out.

    While Jokic and Embiid split votes, Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo was the only unanimous selection in the first team.

    Antetokounmpo became the first player over the past 50 years to be a unanimous selection to the All-NBA first team in four straight seasons.

    Tatum and Booker were both selected to the All-NBA first team for the first time.

    Embiid led the selections for the second team, alongside DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Ja Morant.

    LeBron James was named to the third team, with Pascal Siakam, Karl-Anthony Towns, Chris Paul and Trae Young.

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