24 Jan

Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns make history; Titans planning to hire Brian Callahan

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🏀 Good morning to everyone but especially …

On the 18th anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game, two of today’s stars gave that iconic number a run for its money.

We’ll start with Joel Embiid, who scored a franchise-record 70 points in the 76ers’ 133-123 win over the Spurs.

Embiid is the ninth player to reach the 70-point mark, and it’s the 14th 70-point game in NBA history. Wilt Chamberlain has nearly half of them with six, but Chamberlain’s career high with the 76ers was 68.
Embiid also had a career-high 18 rebounds. He joins Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor as the only players to have a 70-point, 18-rebound game.
Embiid is now up to 21 consecutive 30-point games; only Chamberlain and James Harden have had longer streaks.
While Embiid throttled the Spurs from inside the arc, Karl-Anthony Towns did it from all over en route to a Timberwolves franchise-record 62 points against the Hornets.

Towns became the first player in NBA history to make 10 2-pointers, 10 3-pointers and 10 free throws in a game.
Towns had 44 points by halftime, the most first-half points in the play-by-play era, which dates back to 1996-97.
Minnesota needed a little more in the second half, though, as the Hornets actually pulled out a 128-125 win. Towns joins a surprisingly long list of players to score 60 — in a loss.
It’s the fourth time in NBA history — and first time since David Thompson and George Gervin in 1978 — that multiple players had 60+ points on the same night. Here are more crazy numbers from a crazy night.

😃 Honorable mentions
C.J. Stroud joined Ohio State’s NIL collective.
Zach Ertz joined the Lions’ practice squad.
The Bears hired Shane Waldron as offensive coordinator.
The Panthers promoted Dan Morgan to GM and president of football operations.
The Pirates signed Aroldis Chapman.
After winning the American Express, amateur Nick Dunlap withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open.
Here’s the 18-player USA women’s basketball minicamp roster.
The ACC released its football schedule.
The Oilers signed Corey Perry.
🏈 Titans plan to hire Brian Callahan as head coach
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As the Bengals offensive coordinator, Brian Callahan helped turn one of the NFL’s young, exciting quarterbacks into a star. Now, he has the same opportunity as the Titans head coach. Tennessee became the second team this offseason to fill its head coaching vacancy, making Callahan, 39, the sixth-youngest coach in the league.

Callahan spent five years as Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator, the last four of which have been with Joe Burrow. In Burrow’s two healthy seasons (2021, 2022), Cincinnati ranked first in passer rating and second in yards per attempt. The Bengals made the Super Bowl in the 2021 season.
Before Cincinnati, Callahan coached the Raiders and Lions (quarterbacks coach with both) and won a Super Bowl as an offensive assistant with the Broncos.
He is the son of Bill Callahan, a longtime coach in several capacities and current Browns offensive line coach.
While Burrow is the most recent headliner, Brian Callahan has also worked with Peyton Manning, Derek Carr and Matthew Stafford. When Burrow went down this year, Jake Browning stepped in and went 4-3 as starter, led the league in completion percentage (70.4%) and tied for fourth in yards per attempt (8.0).

But that’s all in the past, and his newest pupil is Will Levis. The 2023 second-round pick had ups and down in his rookie year but showed plenty of promise in nine games. As head coach, though, Callahan has much more on his plate, too.

While the Mike Vrabel firing was a bit of a surprise, it came with the Titans in as big of a transition as any team. Tennessee went 41-24 in Vrabel’s first four years but 13-21 thereafter.
The offensive cornerstones of those successful days are free agents: Derrick Henry bid adieu after Week 18, and Ryan Tannehill is likely on his way out, too. A once-dominant defense has several holes to fill.
Callahan’s fit with GM Ran Carthon, who is entering his second year, is paramount. When parting ways with Vrabel, owner Amy Adams Strunk said she was seeking an “aligned and collaborative team across all football functions.”
Tennessee has the No. 7 overall pick. In his latest mock draft, Josh Edwards has the Titans selecting tackle Joe Alt.
😬 Not so honorable mentions
Todd Bowles’ explanation for not using a timeout makes no sense.
Chiefs players apparently didn’t have hot water for showers in Buffalo’s stadium after beating the Bills.
DePaul fired men’s basketball coach Tony Stubblefield.
Tulane is investigating a fan for pushing Memphis forward David Jones.
Anthony Rendon thinks the MLB season is too long; a former teammate says Rendon “hates baseball.”
🏀 NBA midseason grades and Rivals Week preview
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Happy Rivals Week, NBA fans! The second annual stretch of notable matchups tips off tonight, and there are plenty of exciting matchups. Jasmyn Wimbish ranked the top five, and No. 1 is so, so good. (Hint: It includes a guy who scored 70 points last night.)

Rivals Week also coincides with the season passing the halfway mark, and as such, James Herbert, Brad Botkin and Jack Maloney handed out midseason grades. Seven teams landed in the “A” range, but only two earned an “A+”: the Celtics and 76ers. On the other end, it’s been rough sledding for the Warriors, who landed a “D” from Colin Ward-Henninger.

Ward-Henninger: “Draymond Green’s suspension, Andrew Wiggins’ inexplicable disappearing act and injuries to Chris Paul and Gary Payton II headlined Golden State’s first half. It’s about as close to a complete disaster as it gets. The defense has been atrocious, due to too much fouling and a general lack of athleticism. Offensively, the Warriors have turned the ball over excessively and have been unable to find a consistent second option next to Stephen Curry, who has endured a recent slump.”
If you’ve been football-focused so far, I don’t blame you. But if you’re looking to add basketball to your viewing rotation, Rivals Week and these grades are great places to start.

⚾ Baseball Hall of Fame predictions
The 2024 Baseball Hall of Fame class will be announced tonight, and we’ll finally find out who’s joining Jim Leyland, who was voted in by the Contemporary Baseball Era Non-Players Committee in early December.

The first guy to join him is an easy call, based not only on the publicly released ballots so far but also the fact that Matt Snyder said “there’s … a pretty damn decent case he’s one of the top three” third basemen of all-time: Adrián Beltré.

So that’s two. Will there be more? Matt says yes:

Snyder: “Joe Mauer was one of those candidates where I wasn’t sure if the voting body would favor him highly enough for a first-year induction, but the returns right now look like he’s going to make it in. He’s been polling with around 5/6ths (83.3%) of the vote since ballots were sent out. The biggest drops between public and private ballots are in the 7-8% range, so it’s entirely possible that Mauer ends up in the low-70s and misses induction this season. The odds are in his favor at this point, though.”
Mauer is far from the only one set for a stressful Tuesday, though, with Todd Helton and Billy Wagner also expected to be right near that required 75% mark.

Matt has done an excellent job examining the candidacies one year before he becomes a voter himself.

Joe Mauer
Todd Helton
Billy Wagner
Gary Sheffield
Andruw Jones
Alex Rodriguez
Carlos Beltrán
Chase Utley
You can see Matt’s full class of 2024 prediction here.

📺 What we’re watching Tuesday
🏀 No. 6 Kentucky at South Carolina (M), 7 p.m. on SEC Network
🏀 Texas at No. 11 Oklahoma (M), 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Knicks at Nets, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Lakers at Clippers, 10 p.m. on TNT

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