Indiana Pacers X-Factor: Caris LeVert

As the NBA season approaches and the preseason winds down, we’ll be taking a look at the player on each team that holds the key to unlocking their potential, and for the Indiana Pacers, that means a prolific scoring wing in Caris LeVert.

The 2020-21 season was an odd one for the Pacers, with the team scuffling to a 34-38 record that prompted another head coaching change. During the campaign, it was not a well-kept secret that Indiana’s locker room had turned on Nate Bjorkgren, which could explain some of the uneven performance, but injuries also tormented the Pacers, particularly on the wing. T.J. Warren enjoyed a breakout in the NBA’s Orlando Bubble, but he appeared in only four games, and the Pacers made a move in January to add to their wing depth with LeVert.

During the trade process, a physical flagged a mass on LeVert’s kidney and, while he was able to make a full recovery, the former Michigan and Brooklyn Nets standout did not return to action until March. By the time he returned, LeVert was able to play in 35 games, but the circumstances were suboptimal for evaluation purposes, and questions loom about how Indiana might approach the upcoming 2021-22 season.

For one, Warren remains a giant question mark for health reasons. That puts additional pressure on LeVert, Justin Holiday, lottery pick Chris Duarte, and others to fill the gap on the wing. Beyond that, the Pacers have a proven head coach in Rick Carlisle, and he will likely want to put his own fingerprints on what transpires in Indianapolis.

LeVert is a notable scorer, including a mark of 20.2 points per game last season and 20.7 points per game with the Pacers. That type of scoring prowess from a wing is clearly desirable in the modern NBA, but LeVert has never been a dominant defender, and his career true shooting mark of 52.5 percent leaves plenty to be desired.

Indiana does have talent, with Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis standing alongside LeVert in the starting group. There are questions about how the Turner-Sabonis pairing might progress but, at the very least, it is easy to project what Brogdon, Turner, and Sabonis might bring individually. The same could be said for LeVert from a volume scoring perspective, but the 27-year-old could also take the next step with a full season in a new environment and an avenue to develop into the team’s clear No. 1 option if things break right.

There are other potential X-factors for the Pacers as a period of potential transition approaches. LeVert tops the list, however, and the 2021-22 season could also be a significant one for LeVert individually, as he attempts to make the jump from a strong supporting piece to a potential centerpiece.


Tyga Denies Domestic Violence Allegations And Claims He Wasn’t Arrested On Any Charges

Earlier this week, it was reported that Tyga was arrested on felony domestic violence charges after the rapper’s now ex-girlfriend, fashion designer, and influencer Camaryn Swanson posted a video to her Instagram Story that showed injuries that she allegedly attained from him. TMZ reported that, on October 11, police officers were called to Tyga’s house around 3 a.m. Swanson accused Tyga of putting his hands on her. Authorities at the scene said they were able to see visible marks on her. But Tyga has denied the claims.

In a post to his Instagram Story on Friday, Tyga wrote, “I want everyone to know that the allegations against me are false. I was not arrested. I took myself into the police station and cooperated. I have not been charged with any crime.” However, a search of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department website shows he was indeed arrested on October 12 and posted a $50,000 bond. His next court date is set for February 8, 2022.

Tyga and Swanson began dating in early 2021 and they went official with their relationship in March. Swanson also shared details of the incident in additional posts to Instagram Story, writing that she was “emotionally, mentally, and physically abused.”


Houston Rockets X-Factor: Can The Kids Prove They Belong?

As the NBA season approaches and training camps get underway, we’ll be taking a look at the player on each team that holds the key to unlocking their full potential.

In Houston, the goal this season isn’t to win a lot or compete for a playoff spot, but simply to lay a foundation with their young guys. John Wall is, effectively, done playing for the team, while Eric Gordon seems primed for a trade. Christian Wood also could be a hot commodity at the trade deadline if the Rockets shift their focus completely to the future. Jalen Green is the expected centerpiece of it all and will have ample opportunity to learn on the job, but more interesting to me are the rest of their first round picks.

Green is the guy Houston is building around, but after taking four players in the first round, they are hoping that at least one of them shows that they belong in that foundational core. Alperen Sengun, Usman Garuba, and Josh Christopher all got picked up in the first 24 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft and each showed different flashes in Summer League action, where Green was the unquestionable star.

For Sengun, the question is how he’ll fare on the defensive side of the ball, where he has rim protection ability but has a lot of work to do on being able to function in space when asked to defend the pick-and-roll. The pick-and-roll crazed NBA will be trial by fire for him in that regard, but his offensive skillset is robust for a 19-year-old and the Rockets will get a chance to see how he improves across a full season with what should be considerable minutes.

On the other end of the big man spectrum is Garuba. The Spanish national will immediately be a force on the defensive end, as he showed during Spain’s Olympics run, but it’ll be his offensive development that will be critical. Garuba is an outrageously good defender with size, quickness, and a basketball IQ that allows him to make the right reads and rotations seemingly every time. However, he’s incredibly raw on offense and isn’t going to give Houston any real scoring punch early on, but if he can make strides in simply being a better finisher off the catch, he can play a much larger role.

Then there’s Christopher, who’s value is as a scorer but needs to improve on shot selection and, just generally, being a better jump shooter. Playing on a team with other bucket-getters like Green and Kevin Porter Jr. might require him to be a bit more discerning with what shots he’s taking by sheer force, and the Rockets are hoping he can be a high-upside steal — a bit of balance for the high-floor pick of Garuba one spot ahead of him.

Ideally, all four look the part of quality NBA players, but history tells us that’s unlikely. It would be a win for Houston to have one of these three pop alongside Green, and the good news for all of them is that they should get ample opportunity to work through the highs and lows in their rookie season.


A D3 Football Game Ended When The Losing Team’s Quarterback Took A Knee Instead Of Spiking The Ball

A Division III college football game ended in one of the most crushing ways you can imagine. A pair of schools in Wisconsin — 11th ranked UW-La Crosse and UW-Platteville — went toe-to-toe in Platteville on Saturday afternoon. The Pioneers had a chance to pull an upset, all they needed to do was get themselves in position for a score as time expired despite having no timeouts.

They managed to do just that, getting the ball down to the Eagles’ 15 with less than 10 seconds remaining and the team trailing, 24-23. The playbook from there is easy enough: kill some clock, spike the ball with a few seconds left, send out the field goal team, and hope the 32-yard boot goes through the uprights.

But a problem popped up. Platteville’s quarterback mixed up what he was supposed to do in this situation, and instead of spiking the ball with five seconds left, he took a knee.

The quarterback even started walking off, thinking he did the right thing. It was so surprising that even the clock operator in the stadium stopped it from counting down for a moment, because they, too, assumed a spike was coming. The Pioneers had a few seconds to line back up and spike it, but they did not do it in time and their attempt at an upset came up short.