Scott Fowler’s quick takes on the week in sports:
▪ FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE: I have really enjoyed watching the Women’s World Cup and plan to see every minute of the U.S. vs. Japan final Sunday. Alex Morgan has not had much of a tournament in terms of scoring for the U.S., but my prediction is she scores the winning goal against Japan. And the way the U.S. defense is playing, I can’t see how Japan could possibly score more than once – and quite likely not at all.
▪ CHECKING IN ON KUECHLY: Carolina middle linebacker Luke Kuechly was just named No. 14 on the NFL’s Network’s latest list of “Top 100 players,” which is determined solely by voting from current NFL players. Kuechly has been on a slow, steady rise on that list – he was No. 15 in 2014 and No. 79 in 2013.
14 NFL Network ranking of Luke Kuechly, among league’s top 100 players
Kuechly was the highest-ranked player on the list for the Panthers, who certainly won’t have anyone in the top 10 given that Kuechly didn’t make it there.
Quarterback Cam Newton was No. 73 on this latest list, and tight end Greg Olsen was No. 89. I think that number is a little low for Newton, but he can take care of that if he has a better season this year.
The top 10 players will be announced Wednesday at 8 p.m. on NFL Network.
▪ MKG FOR THREE – SERIOUSLY? While watching part of the Charlotte Hornets’ practice Thursday, I watched Michael Kidd-Gilchrist make six corner three-pointers in a row. Yes, he was unguarded. Yes, the ball still looked a little unusual coming off his hand, and it always will. But MKG has come an awfully long way since his rookie year.
▪ LONG SHOTS AS USUAL: The Panthers are listed at about 40-1 in most sports books to win next season’s Super Bowl. Green Bay is the overall favorite.
40-1 Panthers odds to win Super Bowl among sports books
▪ NASCAR DOES THE RIGHT THING: I am in total agreement with NASCAR’s stance on trying to get the Confederate flag far, far away from its events and applaud the organization, and its tracks, for publicly pushing the issue.
▪ RAFA’S SLOW DECLINE: Rafael Nadal will never totally regain the form that once made him the best tennis player in the world. The amount of stress he puts on his body has long been a concern with the style of tennis he plays. His early loss at Wimbledon Thursday was just the latest testament to his sudden fragility and makes Roger Federer’s longevity appear all the more remarkable by contrast.
▪ HOW LONG CAN HE GO? That Tim Duncan will return for a 19th season is no surprise, I guess, except when you step back and think about it. Nineteen years?!
Duncan, 39, has been playing in the NBA almost as long as 19-year-old Karl-Anthony Towns, the No. 1 draft pick of 2015, has been alive. Duncan is the second-best basketball player to come out of the ACC, trailing only Michael Jordan.