Misuse of Ambien May Have Played a Role in

Nancy Emsley says she once lectured Junior Seau about the dangers of taking a powerful sleep-aid drug without getting a full night’s sleep afterward.“He just rolled his eyes,” the friend and workout partner of the late football star said.Emsley’s account, part of a USA Today article on the days leading up to Seau’s suicide last month, is quite telling. It paints a picture of a seemingly carefree guy who also took powerful drugs, sometimes not as directed, to combat a sleep disorder.The article as a whole paints the same picture of the final days of the former USC and NFL star. It tells of a life filled with fun times with friends, working out, hanging out at local bars, playing golf and enjoying the company of multiple women.But it also reveals that Seau had been struggling with a sleep disorder for years. Friends say the former USC and NFL star took Ambien, the brand name for a prescription drug for sleep disorders called zolpidem.FDA-approved prescribing information for Ambien says depressed patients using that class of drugs have reported suicidal thoughts or actions.It also warns that the drug should not be taken by people who consume alcohol or still can’t get a full night’s sleep while using Ambien. Seau’s friends say he fell into both categories.“I know he’s had a very difficult time sleeping over the years,” said close friend and former teammate Mark Walczak, who spent some time with Seau just days before his death. “I think it’s gotten worse and worse. Lack of sleep creates huge anxiety.”The investigation into Seau’s death is ongoing, though police have already ruled it a suicide. Much public speculation has centered on how years of head blows and multiple concussions affect former NFL players, even though Seau never reported a concussion in 20 seasons.With a toxicology report expected in about 30 days, the investigation is said to be near completion. Chances are, no matter what it determines, many people in Seau’s close-knit hometown of Oceanside will continue to struggle with the idea of their happy-go-lucky friend taking his own life.“I’m aware that there is a segment of folks out there that don’t want to believe that Junior took his own life, and I respect that,” Oceanside Police Lt. Joe Young said Thursday. “But the bottom line is … there’s nothing to indicate anything other than suicide.”To read the entire story by Chuck Schilken, go to LA Times read more

Read More »

Report LeBron James Could Replace Kobe Bryant When He

When Kobe Bryant retires, presumably after two more seasons, LeBron James could be the Los Angeles Lakers’ next megastar to sign with the team. Preposterous? Maybe? Interesting? Definitely.Yahoo Sports went through great lengths to paint the scenario where James would leave the Miami Heat and continue the Lakers’ extended run of megastar players by signing as a free agent with Los Angeles. Shake your head all you want. Here’s Yahoo Sports’ position:“The Lakers are always thinking a few years down the line, but just about any NBA GM with a scintilla of job security is always thinking one or two or three offseasons ahead.“And what is also true is the fact that, sure, the Lakers are leaving that option open. That doesn’t mean James is using the Lakers as an option, or even a hoped-for destination; and it certainly wouldn’t preclude Los Angeles from re-signing both Pau and Kobe for any number of years at any point between now and then. The Lakers are going to go after  LeBron James in some capacity in 2014, much in the same way the Grizzlies and Rockets will when James opts out of his contract that season. Maximum cap space or not, you always have to send a feeler out.“The reason for the opt-out from LBJ has nothing to do with any perceived animosity between the Heat and James, or LeBron worrying about his supporting cast (from Dwyane Wade’s knee to the roster that will have to be completely overhauled when each — read that again, “each” — of the team’s contracts could be knocked off the books in 2013-14 due to various player and team options.“It has to do with money, and flexibility. James can make more money from the Heat with a new contact in place of his current one — recall that he took slightly less than the max to join the team in 2010 — and he can wield a greater influence (either by turning down more money, again, or taking all he can, or signing for any number of years to retain free agent flexibility) within the team’s personnel structure. The Lakers, potentially free and clear of Kobe and Pau’s salary, will be one of his options.“That’s taking on the notion that LeBron James, after working for years to tone down the vitriol sent his way following the much-reviled Decision in 2010, would join the NBA’s most-loathed team. It’s fun to love the Lakers, we certainly do, but they’re also the newest team that er’ryone loves to hate because of Bryant’s haughty presence, and the way they were able to dupe lesser lights on their way towards fielding Kobe, Gasol, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.“Nash will still be under contract in 2014-15, and it seems close to certain that Dwight Howard   will re-sign with what amounts to his hometown team (he grew up around Atlanta, but has called Los Angeles home for years) this summer when his contract expires. With several other Lakers besides Kobe and Gasol hitting the skids that summer, the team would have enough space to pair Howard (making over $20 million that season as a max player), a 40-year old Nash, and James.“They’d also have to ensure that Kobe Bean Bryant, who has never met a bug he hasn’t wanted to crush, would be A-mother[bleepin’]-OK with willingly handing the reins to a team he would have called his own for 18 years over to his greatest rival. One that, if our projections are correct, he’ll have faced in the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals.”That was a mouthful, yes. It could be as far-fetched as anything you have read about player movement. But if you read to this point, that means it at least merited your attention. Bottom line: We will see. read more

Read More »

A Computer Just Clobbered Four Pros At Poker

Tuomas Sandholm, a Carnegie Mellon computer scientist who created the program with his Ph.D. student Noam Brown, was giddy last week on the match’s livestream, at one point cheering for his bot as it turned over a full house versus human pro Jason Les’s flush in a huge pot, and proudly comparing Libratus’s triumph to Deep Blue’s monumental win over Garry Kasparov in chess.And, indeed, some robot can now etch heads-up no-limit Texas Hold ’em (2017) — alongside checkers (1995), chess (1997), Othello (1997), Scrabble (c. 2006), limit Hold ’em (2008), Jeopardy! (2011) and Go (2016) — into the marble cenotaph of human-dominated intellectual pursuits.Brown told me that he was keen to tackle other versions of poker with his A.I. algorithms. What happens when a bot like this sits down at a table with many other players, rather than a single foe, for example? Sandholm, on the other hand, is quick to say that this isn’t really about poker at all. “The AI’s algorithms are not for poker: they are game independent,” his daily email updates read. The other “games” the algorithms may be applied to in the future: “negotiation, cybersecurity, military setting, auctions, finance, strategic pricing, as well as steering evolution and biological adaptation.”Another of the human pros, Jimmy Chou, had had just about enough of Libratus. About three weeks ago, I was in a Pittsburgh casino for the beginning of a 20-day man-versus-machine poker battle. Four top human pros were beginning to take on a state-of-the-art artificial intelligence program running on a brand-new supercomputer in a game called heads-up no-limit Texas Hold ’em. The humans’ spirits were high as they played during the day and dissected the bot’s strategy over short ribs and glasses of wine late into the evening.On Monday evening, however, the match ended and the human pros were in the hole about $1.8 million. For some context, the players (four men and the machine, called Libratus) began each of the 120,000 hands with $20,000 in play money, posting blinds of $50 and $100. Here’s how the days progressed: Received my biggest beating of the challenge just now -180k, gg Libby. Going to miss you buddy. #brainsvsai #beatdown #humanity— Jimmy chou (@Chouchoupoker) January 30, 2017Last week, between especially frustrating hands and with the match quickly slipping away, Les jokingly suspected that the poker match was “being co-opted by the Carnegie Mellon psych department. ‘What can we put a human through?’”Read more: “The Machines Are Coming For Poker” Share on Facebook read more

Read More »

I Faced Off Against The Worlds Best Chess Player You Will Totally

I had the black pieces, meaning that Carlsen went first. He opened with d4, moving his queen’s pawn forward two squares. I did the same. He then moved a pawn to c4, employing what’s called the queen’s gambit. White seemingly offers a free pawn to black in exchange for what promises to be a fruitful attack. I declined, and we ended up in an opening called the queen’s gambit declined, exchange variation.I lasted 25 more moves. It was over well before that. If you absolutely must, you can see the full game below.In retrospect, I blundered — unbeknownst to me at the time — on my 12th, 13th and 17th moves. Others too, I’m sure.This was always going to happen. But as I sat shroudless, Carlsen did break my heart. By move 12, he’d pushed a pawn down his right flank, which caused me all sorts of problems, and my king was the equivalent of a sitting duck on the opening day of hunting season. But my own pawn, my little pawn that could, was on the march. My pawn made it two squares from the end of the board, where it could become a queen. And it would soon defend my extant queen, which on the next move fled down the board to put Carlsen in check — I put Magnus Carlsen in check! I confess that for precisely 1.5 seconds I thought, “I am going to fucking win.”Carlsen then easily defended, parried … and destroyed me.But I fought!My editor insisted that this story “somehow work in data,” so I will now add a patina of empirical humiliation to this solid bronze piece of embarrassment. I recorded Carlsen’s and my moves and later ran them through the powerful computer chess engine Stockfish, which evaluates every position and provides an estimate of who’s more likely to win. UNITED NATIONS — I nearly deleted the email. I’m not accustomed to receiving genuine correspondence from a counsellor with the permanent mission of Norway to the United Nations, so I almost filed it away with that day’s other press releases, including an exciting interview opportunity with the former CEO of the parent company of Hardee’s. But a name in the middle of the email’s first paragraph just caught my eye: Magnus Carlsen.And that’s how I found myself in Conference Room 8 in the headquarters of the U.N. last week playing chess against maybe the best chess player who has ever lived — and who also happens to be, at age 27, the reigning world champion and at the height of his awesome powers.My basic problem: I had very little idea what I was doing. A secondary, but increasingly dire, problem was that I was nervously and uncontrollably shaking. A frantic Google search told me that that was probably due to an acute and supposedly beneficial stress response, also known as fight or flight.Fight or flight? For me, chess is a cultural and aesthetic experience — and one that I’m lucky enough to get to write about sometimes. It is not, typically, a competitive one, in the sense that I’m just not very good. I’ve always held grandmasters in high regard, and I do even more so now. I’ve witnessed an Ali knockout firsthand.Carlsen will face an American of somewhat greater chess note than I — Fabiano Caruana, the world No. 2 — in a match in November to defend his world championship crown. Just two players, alone and battling in a game without luck and with nowhere to hide. I asked Carlsen if he considered his game against me to be part of his official world championship preparation.“Um, no,” he said. In his crowning achievement of the game, the author, top left, makes a move that causes the world’s best chess player, right, to think carefully about his next move. The game ended in the author’s defeat soon after. Svenn Richard Andersen To my nervously trembling chagrin, they’d set up my chess board correctly and in the traditional fashion: I had only the one queen and the two rooks and so forth, and somehow it was deemed appropriate that Carlsen start with the identical and equal number of pieces. A grandmaster buddy of mine texted me before the game, “Make sure your pieces are defended.” It certainly sounded simple enough. My aunt wrote on Facebook, “I hope Oliver wins!” Other well-wishers wished me “good luck.”Thanks, but what luck? Chess is stripped of that frivolity; it’s the canonical no-chance, perfect information game. That nakedness is why boxing is a good analogy to chess: two people battling in a confined space with nothing, not a shroud of randomness or the fog of war, to hide behind. I once beat the Scrabble national champion (in Scrabble, not chess), but that was only because a) I sort of knew what I was doing and b) there is luck in that game that I could hide behind. I got lucky. Awaiting the world chess champion, I harbored no such idiotic delusions as I sat at an enormous horseshoe table, fretting and adjusting the pieces. Carlsen was about to do to my psyche what Mike Tyson would’ve done to my face. There was no escape.There were 15 of us awaiting that fate — the mayor of Oslo, the Afghan ambassador to the U.N., a legal adviser with the Maldives mission, me, etc. The usual suspects.The event was a “clock simul,” short for “simultaneous exhibition with clocks,” in which each of us “challengers” sat at our own boards while Carlsen, the “exhibitor,” darted around the room, rarely taking more than a few seconds to make any move before moving on to his next victim. We each had 30 minutes to make all our moves, but Carlsen’s clocks constantly ticked away at every board, putting him at a nominal disadvantage.Here’s a technical diagram of the Carlsen-Roeder game at the exact moment when it really went off the rails: read more

Read More »

The Warriors Have A 93 Percent Chance Of Hitting 73 Wins

With one game to go, the Golden State Warriors are 72-9, and having given San Antonio its first home loss of the season on Sunday night, they now have a 93 percent chance to overtake Michael Jordan’s 1995-96 Bulls for the best regular-season record in NBA history.Ahead of Sunday’s game, our CARM-Elo ratings gave Golden State a 31 percent chance to beat San Antonio. And through one quarter, the Warriors had just 14 points. But Stephen Curry, instead of his usual barrage from deep, took the ball inside and scored 37 points on 22 shots, including a number of ridiculous floaters, pull-ups and finger-rolls. (Curry also hit a 60-odd-footer at the end of the third quarter that was waved off.) The game remained close for most of the night, but Golden State pulled away about midway through the fourth quarter, when the Spurs scored just 4 points in a crucial three-and-a-half-minute run.The Warriors’ Saturday game against the Memphis Grizzlies was a little more dramatic, requiring a late tip-in from Draymond Green and two even later misses from Lance Stephenson, one of which was close enough to a foul that the league office was compelled to adjudicate the decision the following day. (The call was good.)As for the matchup between San Antonio and Golden State, it’s hard to say exactly what was going on. In four games against the Warriors this season, the Spurs have been awful around the rim (50.0 percent within 10 feet; 58.7 percent for the season) and forced deep into the shot clock far more often than usual (10.5 shots per game with four seconds or less on the shot clock; 6.8 regularly), which is always a bad sign. Worse yet, the number of “wide-open” looks from three with the nearest defender six or more feet away dropped from 8.3 shots per game to 5.5.San Antonio also shot just 36 percent on shots taken off of one or two dribbles — generally step-ins and quick drives from the perimeter or moves to the basket from the free-throw line or the high post — against 43.8 percent overall. The team is taking about four more of those one- and two-dribble shots per game, which usually isn’t a great sign, since they’re often counter-moves when the first look isn’t clean.Then again, it’s only been four games. For San Antonio, the hope will be that Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw, neither of whom played Sunday, will make up some of the difference. The Spurs are +5.6 points per 100 possessions with Diaw on the floor against the Warriors this season and -19.3 per 100 without him.Wednesday’s game against Memphis will be in Oakland and will come on two days’ rest for the Warriors, while the Grizzlies will be on the back-end of a back-to-back. We’ve seen these Warriors blow games with similar advantages in the past few weeks — they were 96 percent favorites to beat the Timberwolves, remember — but we’re likely to see the best the Warriors have, with one game to play to take sole ownership of one of the NBA’s most iconic records.Jay Boice contributed research.Check out our latest NBA predictions. read more

Read More »

The Sixers Still Have Growing Pains To Work Out

More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed By Neil Paine, Chris Herring and Kyle Wagner Embed Code Welcome to The Lab, FiveThirtyEight’s basketball podcast. On this week’s show (Dec. 21, 2017), Neil, Chris and Kyle discuss Kobe Bryant’s retirement ceremony and debate whether No. 8 Kobe or No. 24 Kobe is the Bryant they’d want on their team. Next, they break down the Philadelphia 76ers’ up-and-down season, taking a deep look at Ben Simmons and what he needs to do to improve his play. Plus, a small-sample-size segment on Kawhi Leonard’s return.Here are links to what was discussed this week:Keep an eye on our 2017-18 NBA predictions, updated after every game.Chris wrote that Kobe may be the NBA’s last gunslinger.Neil and Chris on why the Sixers might be dominant sooner than we think.Neil made the case last season for Kawhi Leonard, MVP. read more

Read More »

The Raptors Bench Is Destroying The NBA

The Toronto Raptors are on top of the Eastern Conference for all sorts of reasons, and one of them is their bench. In the video above, we break down what’s made the Raptors’ reserves so good, and why the team shines when its stars hit the pine.

Read More »

Big Ten play becoming big pain for struggling Buckeyes

The Big Ten has been a big pain for the Ohio State women’s basketball team this season.Aside from an early loss to Duke, the Buckeyes cruised through their nonconference schedule. However, they have struggled to find their game against teams who know their style of play.“There’s a difference between nonconference play and conference play,” coach Jim Foster said. “Nonconference play … you play a team twice, home and away, or you play them once. In terms of conference games, you can have a 10 to 12 game resume against your opponents depending on upper-classmen.”Before they began their conference schedule, the Buckeyes averaged 86.3 points per game. Against conference opponents, they have only averaged 70.1.That 16-point difference would be big for any team, but OSU is especially affected because they have allowed nearly the same amount of points per game.Foster has said that the team has the skills to win the close games and has won many of them over the last five years, but now people are noticing because “maybe we’re just in more of them.”Big Ten play has already handed OSU two losses and three games decided by three points or fewer in just ten conference games. In contrast, OSU had one loss and only one game decided by 10 points or less in nonconference play.The two losses from the Big Ten came against Purdue and Indiana in away games with both teams being unranked and struggling to maintain winning records.“Coaches refer to [a season] as three seasons,” Foster said, referring to out-of-conference schedule, conference schedule and the postseason. “A lot of times you’re just happy to get out of the conference season, let alone a conference that plays 18 games. There are some conferences around that play each other once.”Not only have the Buckeyes shot worse when playing a conference opponent, by about 10 percent, but they allow their opponents to shoot better from the floor as well.    OSU has a smaller advantage in rebounds as well — it is cut in half against conference opponents. The last week has been especially brutal for OSU as its two conference losses have occurred within this span. However, center Jantel Lavender doesn’t feel that the team is playing to its potential.“Close games are games that we make close games, because I think that we can beat teams by way more points than we’ve been beating them,” Lavender said. Foster believes this inconsistency in play is due to the youth of the team. The Buckeyes only have four seniors, none of which are starters, although three of the four see the court each game.With games still remaining against a surging Purdue team and a talented Michigan State team, both at home, the season could head in either direction for the Buckeyes depending on their resiliency. read more

Read More »

More work to do Turner Lighty not satisfied with Big Ten title

Earlier in the year, junior David Lighty declared his goals for the remainder of the season. A regular season Big Ten Championship was a start, Lighty said, but the Buckeyes had their sights set even further. Tuesday night, Lighty and his teammates completed step one with a 73-57 win over Illinois — a win that earned OSU at least a share of the conference title. But not long after the celebration was over, Lighty spoke of what lies ahead. “Our hard work, right now, is paying off,” Lighty said. “We brought everything together, but it’s not over yet.”After more than a week off, the Buckeyes will return to the hardwood next week in Indianapolis in the Big Ten Tournament. After navigating through a brutal conference schedule, overcoming an injury to junior Evan Turner and earning the No. 1 seed in the tournament, OSU should be a considerable favorite to win. The NCAA Tournament begins the following week and the Buckeyes will likely be a No. 3, or even a No. 2 seed. Turner said that, with everything his team has been through, they will enter the tournament season with the utmost confidence. “All this hard work we put in, always persevering through tough times,” Turner said. “All the stuff we did growing as a team and going through all the controversy we went through. It’s just amazing.”Turner has often said that, prior to this season, he has yet to accomplish anything of merit in an OSU uniform. As a possible top-five pick in this year’s NBA draft, he said he would hate to leave school without making his mark.As fellow junior Lighty said after Tuesday’s win, they’re on a mission to do just that. “We can’t leave without accomplishing anything,” Lighty said. “So far our mark was winning an NIT Championship [in 2008], losing in the Big Ten Championship and losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament [last year]. That leaves a sour taste in your mouth, and you don’t want to be remembered for that.”Whether or not Turner and Lighty make the mark they want when it’s all said and done, remains to be seen. But with a regular season title under their belt, their mark is no longer a losing one. They won’t leave Columbus as runner-ups or first-round NCAA losers. They’ll leave known at least as 2010 Big Ten Champions. For Turner, however, that isn’t quite enough.“It just feels great, but it’s not over yet,” Turner said. “We have a couple more trophies to worry about.” read more

Read More »