Yahoo Sports AM: Inside the NBA's points explosion

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🚨 Headlines

🏈 Vols under investigation (again): The NCAA is investigating Tennessee football for NIL-related violations. This comes after the school was fined a record $8 million for NCAA violations last summer.

⚾️ Like father, like son: Vladimir Guerrero was the cover athlete for “MLB 2006.” 18 years later, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is on the cover of “MLB The Show 24,” making them the first father-son duo to grace the covers of sports video games.

🏈 Johnson staying put: Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, one of the hottest names on the NFL head coaching carousel, has informed the Commanders and Seahawks that he’s staying in Detroit.

⚾️ Jackie statue found burned: The Jackie Robinson statue that was stolen last week from a youth baseball field in Wichita, Kansas, has been found in a trash can, burned and dismantled.

🏀 Steph vs. Sabrina: Warriors star Stephen Curry and Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu will face off during NBA All-Star Weekend in the first-ever NBA vs. WNBA 3-point challenge.

🏀 Inside the NBA’s scoring surge

Luka Dončić during his 73-point outburst last week. (Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Luka Dončić during his 73-point outburst last week. (Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Over the span of four days last week, four NBA players scored 60+ points, with two of them topping 70. Why are we seeing so many epic individual performances?

Between the lines: Yahoo Sports senior NBA writer Dan Devine breaks down a variety of contributing factors, from pace of play and the rise of the 3-point shot, to the NBA’s deliberate shift a half-decade ago to bolster offense by limiting defensive contact (result: more free throws).

In short: The way NBA teams play offense has fundamentally changed this century. That’s not just undeniable when you look at the stats — it’s also visible when you look at the court.

Check out how the floor looked as Kobe Bryant rose up from the baseline early in the third quarter on the night he’d finish with 81…

(NBA video screenshot)

(NBA video screenshot)

…and compare it to this shot of Luka Dončić rising up early in his 73-point evening against the Hawks last week:

(NBA video screenshot)

(NBA video screenshot)

Can you spot the differences? Back in 2006, you had nine players within 10 feet of the basket. Meanwhile, Dončić has all the space in the world — with shooters in the corners, another spotting up several steps beyond the arc, and a screener rolling to draw a defender to the rim.

Looking ahead: Could the NBA’s scoring explosion lead to rule changes? Here’s Dan…

This isn’t the first time in league history that remarkably skilled and physically gifted players have put up outlandish numbers. As Tom Haberstroh of The Finder notes, if you’re looking for a “juiced ball” era in the NBA, you’d be better served looking backward about six decades to the early 1960s, where an even faster pace of play than we’ve got today — nearly 130 possessions per game — created even more opportunities for accumulation, leading to some of the eye-popping numbers that greats like Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson and especially Wilt Chamberlain posted.

In response to that dominance — and specifically Wilt’s dominance — the league widened the lane in 1964, from 12 feet to 16 feet, in an attempt to better balance the game between bigs and smalls, offense and defense. There are plenty of folks who’d like to see similarly styled mitigation efforts implemented today — including the coaches whose job it is to figure out how to stop all those points from continuing to pile up.

The last word: “The way we officiate the game favors the offense in a way that it didn’t 15 years ago,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr recently told reporters. “I think we’re actually entering a phase now where we’re going to have to look at — just like the league did 20 years ago — look at the rules, see where the game is going and maybe make some adjustments back in the other direction.”

Read the full story.

⚾️ Angelos family to sell the Orioles

(Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

(Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

The Angelos family has agreed to sell the Orioles to private equity billionaires David Rubenstein and Mike Arougheti, Jeff and I write.

Details: The deal values the team at $1.73 billion, according to Puck News’ John Ourand, who was the first to report the sale. Rubenstein, a Baltimore native, will be the controlling owner, though this initial deal only gives his group a 40% stake.

  • The remaining stake will be sold after the death of 94-year-old family patriarch Peter Angelos, who bought the team for $40 million in 1993 and has reportedly been ill for years.

  • The sale must still be approved by MLB’s 30 teams in a 75% vote through a process that generally takes several months.

A new day in Baltimore: The Orioles just had their best season in decades, powered by a youth movement that should set them up for years to come. Now, they’ll have new owners — with much deeper pockets than their current ones — to oversee that exciting future.

Zoom out: The Orioles are the eighth major North American sports team that has been sold in the past 19 months…

  1. 🏈 Commanders: $6.1B in 2023

  2. 🏈 Broncos: $4.7B in 2022

  3. 🏀 Suns: $4B in 2023

  4. 🏀 Mavericks: $3.5B in 2023

  5. 🏀 Bucks: $3.5B in 2023

  6. 🏀 Hornets: $3B in 2023

  7. ⚾️ Orioles: $1.7B in 2024

  8. 🏒 Senators: $1B in 2023

What to watch: The O’s agreement reportedly includes the sale of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), which is majority-owned by the Orioles and shared with the Nationals. Could that jump start a Nats sale, which has been rumored for months?

🏙️ Salt Lake City: Future sports hub?

(Found Image Press/Corbis via Getty Images)

(Found Image Press/Corbis via Getty Images)

Salt Lake City has one “Big Four” sports team in the Jazz. Soon, it could have three, Jeff writes.

What’s happening: Recent developments could see teams from both the NHL and MLB landing in Utah’s capital, including one as soon as next year.

  • NHL: After two years of discussions with the NHL, Jazz ownership is now requesting that the league begin a formal expansion process. We are “100% focused on making this happen as soon as possible,” said owner Ryan Smith.

  • MLB: Salt Lake City is one of the top choices to host the Athletics from 2025-27, after their lease in Oakland runs out and before their new ballpark in Las Vegas is ready. The city also launched an expansion campaign last year, and could use the A’s as proof of concept.

Does size matter? Salt Lake City might seem like a long shot to become a sports hub given its modest size: Its metro population and media market are both smaller than any U.S. city with three major sports teams. But Utah is the nation’s fastest-growing state, and Salt Lake City’s recent tech boom has it well positioned for the future.

Looking ahead: Whether or not Salt Lake City’s expansion campaigns are successful, it will be the center of the sports world in 2034, when the Winter Olympics are all but set to return to the site of the 2002 Games, still regarded as one of the most successful ever.

🇺🇸 America in photos

(Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Atlanta — Naithan George scored a go-ahead layup with 7.7 seconds left to lift Georgia Tech to a 74-73 win over No. 3 UNC, snapping the Tar Heels’ 10-game winning streak.

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

San Francisco — Joel Embiid will undergo an MRI after suffering an awkward knee injury in Philly’s 119-107 loss to Golden State. The MVP favorite had missed the prior two games with an unrelated knee injury and can only miss five more to remain eligible for the award.

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Las Vegas — 11 more sleeps until the Super Bowl…

📆 Jan. 31, 1920: Malone nets 7

Malone with the Canadiens circa 1922. (Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Malone with the Canadiens circa 1922. (Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

104 years ago today, Quebec Bulldogs center Joe Malone scored an NHL-record seven goals in a 10-6 win over the Toronto St. Patricks, Jeff writes.

Scoring machine: The Hall of Famer — nicknamed Phantom for his quick, elusive skating — scored more career goals (143) than games played (126) in his seven-year NHL career (1917-24), and he’s responsible for five of the 60 games in which a player scored at least 5 goals.

More on this day:

  • 🏈 1988: The Redskins scored 35 points in the second quarter of their 42-10 win over the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII, the most ever in a Super Bowl quarter. The barrage came via touchdowns on five consecutive possessions totaling just 18 plays.

  • 🏀 2015: The Hawks completed the best month in NBA history*, becoming the first team ever to win 17 games without a loss.

*The next-best months: The Heat are the only other team with a 17-win month (17-1 in March 2013), while five teams have gone 16-0: the Suns (Nov. 2021), Warriors (Nov. 2015), Spurs (March 2014 and March 1996), Clippers (Dec. 2012), and Lakers (Dec. 1971).

🏒 Watchlist: First half finale

The Red Wings have won nine of their last 12 games. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Red Wings have won nine of their last 12 games. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The first half of the NHL season concludes tonight with three games before the All-Star break, Jeff writes.

  • Detroit: Senators at Red Wings (7pm ET, ESPN+)

  • Nashville: Kings at Predators (7:30pm, TNT/Max)

  • Anaheim: Sharks at Ducks (10:30pm, ESPN+)

More to watch:

  • 🏀 NBA: Suns at Nets (8:30pm, ABC); Bucks at Trail Blazers (10pm, ESPN)

  • 🏀 NCAAM: Northwestern at No. 2 Purdue (6:30pm, BTN); Florida at No. 10 Kentucky (8pm, ESPN); Providence at No. 1 UConn (8:30pm, FS1)

  • 🏀 NCAAW: No. 10 Indiana at Maryland (7pm, Peacock); No. 3 Iowa at Northwestern (8pm, Peacock)

  • ⚽️ Premier League: Manchester City* vs. Burnley (2:30pm, Peacock); Liverpool vs. Chelsea (3:15pm, Peacock)

  • ⚽️ Women’s Champions League: Matchday 6 (12:45-3pm, YouTube) … The final four games of the group stage.

*Haaland’s return: Man City superstar Erling Haaland is set to return from the foot injury that has kept him sidelined since early December. Despite all the missed time, he’s still tied for the league lead with 14 goals.

🏀 College hoops trivia

Izzo celebrates with his team after an 81-62 win over Michigan. (Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Izzo celebrates with his team after an 81-62 win over Michigan. (Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Michigan State’s Tom Izzo won his 700th career game on Tuesday, becoming the ninth active D-I men’s basketball coach to reach that mark.

  • Question: How many of the other eight can you name?

  • Hint: Two SEC, two Big 12, one ACC, one Pac-12, one Big East, one West Coast.

Answer at the bottom.

🏈⚾️ KC vs. SF: 10 years later…

Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner celebrate winning Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner celebrate winning Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

What do the 2014 World Series and 2024 Super Bowl have in common? A lot, actually.

  • 2014 World Series: Kansas City vs. San Francisco. The Royals hadn’t won a championship in exactly 29 years (1985), and the Giants were going for their third title in five years.

  • 2024 Super Bowl: Kansas City vs. San Francisco. The 49ers haven’t won a championship in exactly 29 years (1995), and the Chiefs are going for their third title in five years.

Will history repeat itself? The Giants won in 2014, then the Royals won in 2015 over the Mets. The NFL version of that? The Chiefs win this year, then the 49ers win next year… over the Jets.

(I’ll be honest, I was totally on board with this until the Jets got involved.)

Trivia answer: Kentucky’s John Calipari (805), Tennessee’s Rick Barnes (794), Kansas’ Bill Self (788), Houston’s Kelvin Sampson (751), Oregon’s Dana Altman (745), Miami’s Jim Larrañaga (739), St. John’s Rick Pitino (724) and Gonzaga’s Mark Few (703).

We hope you enjoyed this edition of Yahoo Sports AM, our daily newsletter that keeps you up to date on all things sports. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.

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