Welcome to The Lab, FiveThirtyEight’s basketball podcast. On this week’s show (Nov. 8, 2017), Neil and Kyle break down the news that the Phoenix Suns have agreed to trade Eric Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks. We also get into what exactly is going on with the Cleveland Cavaliers — and just how their latest woes may affect their playoff chances. Next, Baxter Holmes joins for a discussion of ESPN’s “schedule alert” project, which identifies games that NBA teams are likely to lose because of the punishing 82-game schedule. Plus, a significant digit on the Detroit Pistons.Here are links to what we discussed this week:LeBron can’t do it all alone, writes Kyle.Baxter Holmes’s schedule alert project.Neil investigates the Detroit Pistons’ new, improved habits on offense. FiveThirtyEight Embed Code More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. Photo: ReutersIran is ready to “vigorously” resume nuclear enrichment if the United States ditches the 2015 nuclear deal, and further “drastic measures” are being considered in response to a US exit, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned Saturday.Zarif told reporters in New York that Iran is not seeking to acquire a nuclear bomb, but that Tehran’s “probable” response to a US withdrawal would be to restart production of enriched uranium-a key bomb-making ingredient.“America never should have feared Iran producing a nuclear bomb, but we will pursue vigorously our nuclear enrichment,” added the foreign minister, who is in the United States to attend a UN meeting on sustaining peace.US president Donald Trump has set a May 12 deadline for the Europeans to “fix” the 2015 agreement that provides for curbs to Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from financial sanctions.Zarif’s comments marked a further escalation of rhetoric following a warning earlier this month from Iranian president Hassan Rouhani that Washington would “regret” withdrawing from the nuclear deal, and that Iran would respond within a week if it did.The fate of the Iran deal will be a key issue during French president Emmanuel Macron’s state visit to Washington beginning Monday, followed by talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington on Friday.Zarif said the European leaders must press Trump to stick to the deal if the United States “intends to maintain any credibility in the international community” and to abide by it, “rather than demand more.”The foreign minister warned against offering any concessions to Trump.“To try to appease the president, I think, would be an exercise in futility,” he said.European leaders are hoping to persuade Trump to save the deal if they, in turn, agree to press Iran to enter into agreement on missile tests and moderating its regional influence in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.If the United States buries the deal, Iran is unlikely to stick to the agreement alongside the other signatories-Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — said the foreign minister.“That’s highly unlikely,” he said. “It is important for Iran to receive the benefits of the agreement and there is no way that Iran would do a one-sided implementation of the agreement.”Zarif, who will attend a UN meeting on sustaining peace this week, warned of “drastic measures” under discussion in Iran.He declined to be more specific, pointing to “what certain members of our parliament are saying about Iran’s options.”
This combination of pictures created on 17 March shows a 13 March file photo of US president Donald Trump (L) at the White House in Washington, DC; and a 13 December 2017 file photo of US deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Photo AFPUS president Donald Trump faced a new challenge to his authority Friday after US media reported that his deputy attorney general had discussed ways to force him from office on grounds of incompetence, just months into his presidency.In the latest bombshell to rock the troubled administration, The New York Times and The Washington Post reported that Rod Rosenstein in May 2017 had suggested secretly recording Trump for evidence of White House dysfunction—and using that to formally remove him from power.Coming on the heels of an explosive book by respected White House chronicler Bob Woodward, the reports added to mounting evidence indicating that numerous people in Trump’s own government have serious doubts about his fitness for office—and have actively worked to undermine him.As the number two Justice Department official, Rosenstein oversees the probe into whether Trump’s 2016 election campaign colluded with Russians in defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton.The Time and Post reports were both based on secret memos by a former FBI director—which some speculated may have been leaked in order to undermine Rosenstein, and in turn the Russia special prosecutor Robert Mueller.Rosenstein branded the reports “inaccurate and factually incorrect.”“I never pursued or authorized recording the president and any suggestion that I have ever advocated for the removal of the president is absolutely false,” he added.And the Justice Department released a statement by a former senior official—who would not be identified—saying that he was “in the room” at the time and that Rosenstein was only joking.“The statement was sarcastic and was never discussed with any intention of recording a conversation with the president,” said the former official.Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr held up the reports as evidence of disloyalty among the president’s entourage.“Who are we kidding at this point?” he tweeted, above a link to the Times article. “No one is shocked that these guys would do anything in their power to undermine @realdonaldtrump.”Trump’s Republican ally Mike Huckabee meanwhile urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to fire Rosenstein—or for Trump to fire them both if he refuses.Washington was convulsed this month by the release of Woodward’s book on the inner workings of the White House—which he described as mired in a perpetual “nervous breakdown” with staff battling to control an unstable president.Compounding Woodward’s account, The New York Times went on to publish an op-ed by an anonymous senior official—whose identity remains a mystery—claiming that select administration staff members are so alarmed by the president’s “erratic” and “amoral” behavior that they actively sabotage his most extreme policy efforts.“We believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic,” the writer said.Mueller probe threatened?The latest reports were based on private memos written by then-interim FBI director Andrew McCabe, summarizing discussions with Rosenstein.Because Rosenstein oversees the Russia probe, there was immediate speculation that the memos may have been leaked in order to damage Rosenstein, and by extension Mueller—more than to hurt Trump.Rosenstein appointed Mueller in May 2017 as the special counsel for the Russia investigation.After securing convictions of seven people associated with Trump, Mueller’s probe increasingly threatens the White House and the president himself.Trump has repeatedly pressured Rosenstein and Sessions to shut down what he calls an illegal “witch hunt.”The president did not respond specifically to the shock news reports, but at a political rally in Missouri late Friday he referred to “what’s being exposed at the Department of Justice and the FBI.”“You have some real bad ones. You see what’s happening at the FBI – they’re all gone, they’re all gone,” he said.“There’s a lingering stench and we’re going to get rid of that too,” Trump finished.Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, immediately sought to pre-empt any attempt to fire Rosenstein.“This story must not be used as a pretext for the corrupt purpose of firing Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein in order (to) install an official who will allow the president to interfere with the Special Counsel’s investigation,” Schumer said.The Times said Rosenstein made the comments in a particularly chaotic period, in the weeks right after he was appointed deputy attorney general.Rosenstein’s alleged allusion to the 25th amendment of the US Constitution, which provides for removing a president if they are judged unfit for office, came just after Trump fired FBI director James Comey—invoking a memo written by Rosenstein.According to the Times, Rosenstein was unhappy about being “used” by Trump in the firing of Comey, as well as concerned about other turmoil in the White House under the new president.