The Canadian Press
Toronto FC is looking for a new designated player, opting not to pick up the option on Pablo Piatti.GM Ali Curtis said while TFC will talk to the 31-year-old Argentine midfielder and his representative about returning next season, it is not interested in having him back as a DP. Piatti joined Toronto in February from Spain’s Espanyol on a one-year contract plus an option. Piatti, who will be eligible for the MLS re-entry draft, had four goals and four assists in 17 league games. When healthy and at his best, he made a difference — but apparently not big enough.“The year did not end how we wanted it to, but I am very proud of what the team accomplished under unique and difficult circumstances,” Curtis said in a statement detailing Toronto’s end-of-season moves.”We’ll be able to return a core part of the group, including some young, exciting and hungry homegrown players, but also, we’ll look to make some important decisions that add to the quality of the team. In a lot of ways, the (salary) cap next year will be less than it was this year, so we’ll have to be creative.”Toronto’s other designated players are Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo and striker Jozy Altidore. Only a portion of their salaries count against Toronto’s cap.When available, Piatti forged an effective partnership with Pozuelo on the right side of the Toronto attack. The two also became close off the field.”I hope he can stay here because he does a lot for the team, … … A big professional,” Pozuelo said in his end-of-season meeting with the media last week.Piatti, who suffered right knee ligament damage in February 2019, missed the opening two games of the season before the league shut down due to the pandemic and did not see action until the MLS is Back Tournament in July. Toronto medical staff were careful not to rush Piatti, who had played just seven games since his knee surgery.The five-foot-four 139-pounder missed the last four games of the regular season with a hamstring injury, during which time TFC went 1-3-0 and missed out on the Supporters’ Shield. He returned for Toronto’s season-ending 1-0 loss to Nashville SC in the first round of the playoffs.Piatti opened his MLS account in mid-August with two goals, including a 25-foot long-range rocket, in a 3-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps in his BMO Field debut.Defenders Laurent Ciman, Justin Morrow and Eriq Zavaleta will be out of contract at the end of the year. The loan deal for defender Tony Gallacher also expires at the end of the year.The 35-year-old Ciman saw action in 12 games this season, including five starts. The 28-year-old Zavaleta was restricted to five games (three starts).The 33-year-old Morrow, who has played more than 200 games in Toronto colours, was limited to 15 games (11 starts) and missed much of the regular-season stretch drive through injury. Off the field, he is the executive director of Black Players for Change.Curtis said the club will talk to Morrow and its other free agents about returning.Toronto exercised contract options on goalkeeper Kevin Silva, defender Julian Dunn, midfielders Nick DeLeon, Tsubasa Endoh, Liam Fraser, forwards Ifunanyachi Achara and Ayo Akinola. Twenty-one players are already under contract for the 2021 season: goalkeepers Alex Bono and Quentin Westberg; defenders Auro, Omar Gonzalez, Richie Laryea, Chris Mavinga, Rocco Romeo (currently away on loan); midfielders Michael Bradley, Marky Delgado, Griffin Dorsey, Erickson Gallardo, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Noble Okello (currently away on loan), Jonathan Osorio, Alejandro Pozuelo, Ralph Priso, Jacob Shaffelburg and forwards Altidore, Patrick Mullins, Jayden Nelson and Jordan Perruzza. Toronto FC’s 2021 Current RosterGoalkeepers (3): Alex Bono, Kevin Silva, Quentin Westberg.Defenders (6): Auro, Julian Dunn, Omar Gonzalez, Richie Laryea, Chris Mavinga, Rocco Romeo.Midfielders (13): Michael Bradley, Nick DeLeon, Marky Delgado, Griffin Dorsey, Tsubasa Endoh, Liam Fraser, Erickson Gallardo, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Noble Okello, Jonathan Osorio, Alejandro Pozuelo, Ralph Priso, Jacob Shaffelburg.Forwards (6): Ifunanyachi Achara, Ayo Akinola, Jozy Altidore, Jayden Nelson, Patrick Mullins, Jordan Perruzza.—Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Steve Nash has his hands full with the Brooklyn Nets – CBC.ca
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Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:
Steve Nash is blessed — and also maybe cursed
There’s an element of Greek tragedy to it. The gods (or, in this case, Brooklyn Nets GM Sean Marks) grant our hero a gift that can make him more powerful than all his rivals. But it comes with a catch that threatens to destroy him.
That’s where Nash, the Canadian basketball legend and NBA coaching rookie, finds himself after the Nets’ blockbuster trade for James Harden. The kraken of a deal (technically two deals), officially completed today, involves four teams, seven players, six draft picks and four pick swaps. The gist is that Harden is moving from Houston to Brooklyn, Caris LeVert from Brooklyn to Indiana, and Victor Oladipo from Indiana to Houston. Brooklyn is giving Houston three first-round picks and the right to swap first-rounders in four other years, and the Rockets grabbed another first-round pick from Cleveland. Whew.
On one hand, Nash is blessed. It’s every coach’s dream to see his front-office go all-in like this on a championship run. In his first season as a head coach at any level, he now commands one of the best triumvirates ever assembled in pro basketball. Harden is one of the most prolific scorers in the history of the sport, the winner of the last three NBA scoring titles and a former MVP. Kevin Durant is a two-time Finals MVP who owns four scoring titles and a regular-season MVP. Kyrie Irving has hit a championship-winning shot and is one of the most dazzling ball-handlers and finishers anyone has ever seen.
But the Nets’ Achilles heel is painfully obvious. All three of their superstars are difficult personalities who have worn out their welcomes with other teams. Harden forced his way out of Houston by demanding a trade and then showing up for the season out of shape and sullen, alienating teammates and fans. Durant, despite great personal and team success in Golden State, never found the fulfilment he sought in joining the Warriors’ dynasty. He clashed with teammates and the media during his final, sour season there.
And then there’s Kyrie. After unhappy endings in Cleveland and Boston, he could be headed for another one in Brooklyn. Irving is currently on an unspecified, indefinite leave from the team — the reasons for which remain mysterious. No one knows when — or even if — he’ll return to the NBA. So, at this point, the Nets’ Big Three exists only in theory. And, oh yeah, there’s still only one ball for everyone to share.
Time isn’t on Brooklyn’s side either. Harden and Durant are both on the wrong side of 30. Kyrie turns 29 in March but seems like one of the NBA’s oldest souls. So there’s tremendous pressure on Nash to win right now.
The Nets recruited the universally beloved Canadian for this job over far more experienced coaches because of his “soft” skills. He has the ability to relate to, empathize with — and command the respect of — modern superstars. Those talents were put to the test with just Durant and Kyrie on the team. With Harden, the degree of difficulty — and the stakes — have been raised.
Depending partly on how Nash plays this, Brooklyn could win the championship this year. Or go down in flames. And no one would be surprised either way.
Another province cancelled its curling playdowns. Saskatchewan joins B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Northern Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia in deciding not to hold tournaments to determine its representatives for this year’s Brier and Scotties. Unlike most of the others, Saskatchewan isn’t simply sending last year’s provincial champions. Instead, it considered recent results and landed on the teams skipped by Sherry Anderson, whose last Scotties appearance was in 2018, and Matt Dunstone, who finished third at last year’s Brier. Both the Brier and the Scotties will be played in a bubble in Calgary this winter, and Curling Canada announced yesterday that it’s expanding the fields to 18 by adding two extra wild-card teams to each event. Read more about Saskatchewan’s decision in this story by CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux.
Another track star broke doping rules. Reigning Olympic 100-metre hurdles champion Brianna McNeal didn’t test positive for a banned substance, but the 29-year-old American has been provisionally suspended by the Athletics Integrity Unit for “tampering within the results management process.” Read more about the ruling here.
A five-time Olympic swimming medallist was charged for taking part in the U.S. Capitol riot. The FBI caught Klete Keller after a video apparently showed him, wearing a U.S. Olympic team jacket, among those storming the building. He’s charged with knowingly entering a restricted building to impede an official government function, disorderly conduct and obstructing law officers. Keller, 38, competed in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics. He won two gold and a silver medal as part of relay teams, plus a pair of individual bronze. Keller was known to be an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump on social media. Read more about Keller and the charges against him here.
A Mickey Mantle baseball card sold for $5.2 million US. That’s a new record for a sports card, shattering the $3.94 million paid for a one-of-a-kind Mike Trout rookie only five months ago (yes, cards are a thing again). Unlike most super-expensive cards, this Mantle is not a rookie. But the 1952 Topps is special for a few reasons. As ESPN notes, that was the first year Topps produced an annual set, and the company ended up dumping thousands of them into the Hudson River because of overproduction. Also, this particular Mantle card was graded PSA 9, and only six in that condition are believed to still exist. The record may not last, though. There are three known ’52 Topps Mantle cards graded PSA 10 — also known as “gem mint” condition. Those are valued at more than $10 million.
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Oilers show growth defensively, capitalize on McDavid show vs. Canucks – Sportsnet.ca
EDMONTON — The journey began a day late Thursday evening, for an Edmonton Oilers team that didn’t like losing its home opener the previous night — but was particularly sour about the way that 5-3 loss went down.
All that remained was the security folks, as the Oilers clamped on to their two points with a dull, but extremely effective, third period. The Oilers were far more concerned with the “2” than the “4,” a trait they’ve struggled to embrace over the years.
“That was talked about, that’s for sure,” head coach Dave Tippett said. “You’ve got to play a certain way and there were still a couple of instances in the third that will be discussed, when we turned pucks over, we had our D in there too tight.
“You know, you’ve got to have a mindset of how you’re going to win. It doesn’t matter if you win by two or win by eight, you’ve just got to win. And when you want to win by eight, sometimes you don’t win by two.”
It was two different brands of hockey: 40 minutes of the Connor McDavid Show, as he answered a scoreless opener with a hat trick and a four-point night, and 20 minutes of Vancouver seeking a crack in an opponent that has for so many years given them that breath of life.
This year’s team has identified that area as a place where they plan to grow, and if the measurement is from Game 1 to Game 2, then that growth was enormous.
“Defence is very important to us, we’ve preached that throughout camp,” said Leon Draisaitl, who had four assists. “Yesterday wasn’t the way we wanted to show up and play. Great response tonight.”
One night after Brock Boeser had flexed his muscles for the Canucks, it was the Oilers’ star players who took over this game. The line of McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zack Kassian was too much for Vancouver at 5-on-5, and the Edmonton power play was merciless, scoring on two of their four opportunities.
If you’re looking to someone other than McDavid for why Edmonton beats Vancouver, then look to a perfect penalty kill that thwarted the Canucks on each of five chances.
“All four lines, all six D — right from the start we had the right mindset,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “We knew we needed to clean some things up after last night, and in a back-to-back, you don’t have too much time to think, and dwell on things. We responded really well.”
Look, when McDavid plays like this, you’d better win.
He was “Warp Speed Connor” on Thursday — dominating in a style that has added some power and guile. The 2-0 goal he scored with 0.7 seconds left in the opening period was equal parts skill, strength and power, as he busted through his check to pot a rebound that broke Vancouver’s back.
“It seemed like we had a little more juice than they did,” observed McDavid. “But that happens in a back-to-back, sometimes a team just doesn’t have it. I thought we did a good job as a group. The power play was good, the PK was good. 5-on-5 I thought we did a pretty good job as well.”
The growth of a team happy to shut ‘er down after 40 is a necessary element in this town.
“That’s the position we want to be in all season long, up in the third period and being able to hold those leads,” McDavid said. “I thought we did a good job. They had a couple of looks, they hemmed us in a little bit, but I liked the way we were able to find a fifth and were able to finish the game off.”
And so we’re off. Through two games, we’ve seen Mikko Koskinen with an excellent bounce-back night, the ageing Mike Smith already dinged up and young Jesse Puljujarvi — though pointless still — is clearly not the player he was when he last donned the blue-and-orange silks.
“This is his first two North American games he’s played in a long time,” cautioned Tippett. “He’s still finding his way out there but he’s relentless. He works. He’s heavy on the puck. He wants the puck all the time. I think he’s going to keep trending in the right direction.”
Puljujarvi’s game is simpler, and he uses his natural assets better than before. There is definitely something here.
“He’s committed to playing really hard and trying to do the things we want to do structurally,” Tippett said. “There’s lots and lots of upside there. It would be nice to see one of those go in the net for him but it’s good that he’s getting chances. Hopefully, it comes soon.”
Quick Reaction: Raptors 111, Hornets 108 – Raptors Republic
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|A. Baynes7 MIN, 2 PTS, 1 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 1-2 FG, 0-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, -1 +/-
I’m not sure if dad’s play catch with their sons in Australia, but Aaron Baynes’s sure didn’t. Baynes started in this one and had the opportunity to grab about 6-8 boards in the 7 minutes he played, but ended up with just one. Quite an impressive volleyer of the ball, but that’s not the sport he’s being paid to play.
|O. Anunoby33 MIN, 13 PTS, 5 REB, 2 AST, 3 STL, 4-9 FG, 2-4 3FG, 3-4 FT, 1 BLK, 2 TO, -5 +/-
When OG sticks to his guns and excels at what he’s really good at: suffocating defence, catch and shoot threes and being patient and poised with the ball, he’s a hell of a basketball player. He did all of the above in this one. Aggressive from his first possession, shot it well from deep and played within himself. The numbers might not show it, but this was one of OG’s best games of the season.
|P. Siakam37 MIN, 15 PTS, 7 REB, 4 AST, 3 STL, 6-15 FG, 2-6 3FG, 1-1 FT, 1 BLK, 2 TO, 1 +/-
Siakam was invisible early in this one, but he started to find his feet as the night progressed. He compensated for his subpar performance on offense with some smart defensive plays and a few hockey assists which resulted in wide open shots for his teammates. It wasn’t his best showing of the season, but at least it drew a favourable result.
|F. VanVleet35 MIN, 17 PTS, 1 REB, 8 AST, 0 STL, 6-20 FG, 5-15 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 4 TO, -5 +/-
Freddy couldn’t buy a bucket from deep early, but that all changed in the second half. The Dinos favourite bearded baller ramped it up in the 3rd quarter, where he scored 12 of his 17 points on the night. Fred’s game is predicated on his jumper and it just wasn’t falling tonight, but he realized that and was able to have a real impact on this game with his passing. Freddy’s getting to the point in his career where he’s far from a one-dimensional player, and showed just how valuble he is, even without a buttery stroke from three.
|K. Lowry34 MIN, 16 PTS, 6 REB, 12 AST, 2 STL, 6-10 FG, 4-5 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 4 TO, 14 +/-
When Kyle opened the game with a shoulder down, bulldoggish drive to the hoop, you knew he wasn’t playing around in this one. Lowry compounded a super aggressive start with a keen eye to facilitate early, and get the offense humming from the jump. Toronto’s captain also helped control tempo all night long, pushing the ball down the throats of a gassed Hornets team, who was on the second night of a back to back.
|C. Boucher29 MIN, 25 PTS, 10 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 8-12 FG, 2-4 3FG, 7-8 FT, 2 BLK, 1 TO, 1 +/-
It’s like Boucher reads his grades after every game and think’s “Hmm.. how am I going to do something new and impressive this game to top the last?”. Well, it was another 5-star performance for the wirey French-Canadian on Thursday evening. He canned multiple threes, asserted his usual imposing defensive dominance around the rim, and even showed us a couple crafty guard-esque finishes. Did I mention he crammed the baseline dunk to seal the victory? Have yourself a birthday week, Chris.
|S. Johnson20 MIN, 6 PTS, 1 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 2-3 FG, 2-3 3FG, 0-0 FT, 1 BLK, 2 TO, 2 +/-
If I told you in the preseason, that Stanley Johnston was going to be our 3rd guy off the bench and play 20+ minutes a night for this team, you might shudder. Well, here we are 11 games in and that’s the case. And you know what? He’s doing a damn good job. Great defence, hit his open threes and played like he gave a shit for every minute he was out there. He was a valuable asset for Toronto tonight, and that’s starting to become par for the course for Stanimal.
|N. Powell19 MIN, 11 PTS, 5 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 5-13 FG, 1-8 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 2 TO, 7 +/-
Norm’s taken a bit of flack for not offering much in way of production during his 20-25 minutes a night, and he gave his team some quality production early on in this one. However, much like past performances this season, he wasn’t able to sustain it.
|Y. Watanabe14 MIN, 3 PTS, 4 REB, 0 AST, 1 STL, 1-2 FG, 1-2 3FG, 0-0 FT, 1 BLK, 0 TO, 8 +/-
Watanabe’s first 3 plays of the game were: diving on top of a loose ball (20 seconds after checking into the game), a corner three that he let go with the confidence of 2017 Steph Curry and a nasty swat on Biyombo at the rim. Yuta has great court sense and you don’t have to watch him for long to pick up on the fact that he’s got a lofty basketball IQ. He gave the Raps a bit of everything tonight.
|M. Flynn6 MIN, 3 PTS, 0 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1-2 FG, 1-2 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, -7 +/-
It took a few games, but Malachi is finally starting to feel at home on an NBA basketball court. The rookie had a couple nice looks in transition and knocked down his first triple of the evening, but most importantly, he played with confidence.
Nurse was coaching hard early in this one, switching back and forth between man and zone defence to counteract Charlotte’s different lineups. He did a great job of drawing up sound plays on both ends in the final two minutes, which ultimately helped seal the win for his team.
Things We Saw
- The Toronto Raptors won a basketball game. I feel like I should pull a Bart Simpson right now and just type the previous sentence 100 times over until it’s no longer surprising. But all jokes aside, the boys were finally able to close out a game and execute down the stretch, earning a win which can hopefully catapult them out of their early-season funk.
- Kyle Lowry notched his 4000th assist as a Raptor tonight. I love him so much and I recommend you do the same.
- Despite the positive result, the Raps still left much to be desired on the defensive end. Some of it is on the coaching staff, but a lot of defence boils down to effort and communication, two departments which Toronto was lacking in on Thursday when they didn’t have the ball in their hands. Until they get on the same page on D, they’re going to have trouble drawing a positive result against competition that doesn’t reside in the league’s basement.
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