Axios Sports: The Cadence edit

NBA standings

The Newsletter Editing Challenge, episode 1

Quick note: I recently wrapped up a writing coach arrangement with Ari Lewis, host of the Mastering the Attention Economy podcast.We really enjoyed working together (see Ari’s ROI here), and he proposed I take on a newsletter editing challenge.

The challenge: Twenty edits by 22 September, the first day of autumn 2020. In paired blocks below, you’ll find the original and my edit. (Sorry, team, but the layout here is super-mobile-user hostile.)

My primary goal: boost the author’s authority through clarity, concision, and cadence. For details on my process, click here.

Axios Sports Newsletter, July 30

  • On Axios: 1.5M viewers a month on their site.
  • Newsletter info: 200,000 subscribers (November 2017 — more current #s are not available).

I know it’s just the preview, but I think there’s plenty more than can be done with this tease. Let’s start by not “say[ing] nothing of the NWSL,” since that’s the only story previewed that includes people other than men.

You know: women.

So …

Good morning! Reminder — Jeff here, taking over for Kendall both today and tomorrow.

The NBA returns in its own bubble, joining the utopian worlds of the NHL and MLS, where the positive test count remains zero. Speaking of clean sheets, special kudos to the eight teams in the National Women’s Soccer League Challenge Cup: four weeks, 23 games, and zero positive tests. 

Meanwhile, MLB updates its pandemic protocols, and the Miami Marlins take an outbreak-induced break from competition: 7 games and counting. 
Today’s word count: 1,889 words (7 minutes).

“Clean sheet,” of course, refers to a goalkeeper’s shutout.


I chopped the bottom of the standings table above, for space purposes. I also thought the copy missed opportunities to use phrases related to basketball and Disney World.

The NBA returns tonight with a Western Conference doubleheader — Jazz vs. Pelicans and Clippers vs. Lakers (6:30pm ET, TNT) — to kick off a 10-week fast break to the finish, all within the friendly confines of the happiest place for quarantine on earth: the Walt Disney World Resort.

At tip-off: the playoff-eligible 22 teams have pitched camp in Orlando and, over the next two weeks, they’ll each play eight “seeding games” to determine the eight playoff teams in each conference.

The twist. The eighth seeds must be more than four games up on the ninth to square off against the top seeds in each conference. Otherwise a “best of two” play-in series determines the final playoff berth. Wait a second? Best of two? No. 8 needs to win one game to advance. The 9th needs to win both.

Okay. Let’s keep rolling.


First things first: “infamous championship hangover?” In basketball? C’mon now. Since 1999, only six teams have represented the Western Conference in the finals.

Other than this weird point and a misplaced modifier, the copy’s clean.

Now, adding a Marlon Brando reference to an NBA rundown is probably too much, but it fits, yes?



Milwaukee Bucks: With a 6.5 game lead in the East, and a 2-game advantage for playoff home court advantage, they can ease their way into playoff beast mode.

Toronto Raptors: Kawhi who? Should they retain the no. 2 seed (and they should), they can avoid the 76ers until at least round 2 of the playoffs.

Boston Celtics: Kemba Walker’s leadership and huge leaps from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have the Celts ready for a run deep into September.


Miami Heat: All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo provide the leadership, but it’s the team’s depth that sets them apart.

Indiana Pacers: Good news! Victor Oladipo is fully healed. Bad news: All-Star center Domantas Sabonis has left the bubble for plantar fascitis treatment.

Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons’ back is back, giving teams eager to avoid Philly in a 1st-round matchup — read: all of them —  a new sense of urgency.

The Terry Malloys* (from On the Waterfront): Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets and Washington Wizards.

* The one line you can remember from this movie: “I coulda been a contender.” Which means he’s not a contender. Oh, forget it.

On the western conference: fairly solid bullet points, but there’s room here for some fact checking and a bit more flair, including references to Liz Phair and New York City, my old stomping ground.


Fact check: I have Donovan Mitchell as Utah’s top shooter (best PPG, best FG%), but Kendall here refers to Bojan Bogdanović, who’s their second-best shooter, at best. Houston ranks #7 in team defense in the West (as of August 10), so I suppose that’s pretty low for playoff-bound teams.



Los Angeles Lakers: The top dogs of LA. Like the Bucks, the Lakers can treat the seed games like a tune-up. It appears Anthony Davis (eye) should be good to go tonight.

Los Angeles Clippers: While time may heal all wounds, Coach Doc Rivers cares about three in particular: Paul George’s surgically-repaired shoulders, and Kawhi Leonard’s chronic quad issue. Both look eager and ready.


Denver Nuggets: Depth was already a strength … then they added rookie phenom Bol Bol. Bol’s so tall — 7’2” — they had to name him twice.

Utah Jazz: Bojan Bogdanovic, one of their best shooters, is on IR for the season. Their defensive prowess gives them some wiggle room.

Oklahoma City Thunder: The loss of Russell Westbrook and Paul George loomed large at the start of the season. With the renaissance of Chris Paul and a breakout year from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Thunder may be poisted to roll a higher seed (or two).

Houston Rockets: The aim remains the same: shoot their way to a title. It’s possible, but the quest may be hindered by Eric Gordon’s ankle injury.

Dallas Mavericks: Luka Dončić and Kristaps Porziņģis fuel the league’s top-rated offense.

So I’m well beyond my 500-word goal, but I don’t want to exclude your team if they’re part of the NBA Disney Bubble.

Intriguing fringe teams:

Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant dishes (7 APG) and shoots (17+ PPG) like he’s the odds-on favorite for rookie of the year — which he better be.

Portland Trail Blazers: The big and healthy tandem of Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkić might land Portland a postseason date with the Lakers.  

New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson has played only 19 games. Imagine where they’d be if he’d been healthy all year.

The rest: Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns

And that’s a wrap.

Thanks for making it all the way to the end!

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In the meantime, support Axios Sports! Enjoy!

Published by Randal Doane

Living the good life in NE Ohio. I dig science and the written word. Let's build something amazing together.

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