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Fred VanVleet used playoff lows to improve his game



TORONTO — Fred VanVleet knew he was tired. But he wasn’t sure why. Then he picked up the stat sheet in front of his locker.

“Forty-one was a lot,” VanVleet said Wednesday night after playing that many minutes while his Toronto Raptors lay down a marker against the Philadelphia 76ers, 107-95. “I’m definitely feeling it tonight.”

He’s meant to be on a minutes restriction, you know. Only three games back from a still-not-quite-healed hamstring injury, VanVleet’s not supposed to be playing 41. He logged fewer than 30 in his return, and only 26 a couple nights later. So what happened Wednesday?

“Yeah, that kind of went out the window tonight,” he said. “But that’s the grind of the NBA. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”


It should be no surprise to learn VanVleet’s currently playing through something — actually several somethings. He sat out only five games with that right hamstring strain earlier this month, and only another five with a knee issue in December. He was already dealing with a sprained ankle and a jammed thumb. Then he caught someone with his knee again Wednesday. It’s not uncommon these days to see VanVleet come down funny underneath the basket and spend his trip up the floor shaking something off.

But this is his game. His effectiveness as one of the smallest players on the floor is dependent on fearlessness driving to the rim and physicality in defence, as he trades the pain of a collision with a bigger man or the floor in exchange for the benefit of making a play for his team. There’s a toll when you play that way. But that way’s the only one VanVleet knows.

And we really don’t talk about him enough. Look, it’s not for nothing that soon-to-be-all-star Pascal Siakam won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award last season with a year-over-year increase of 9.6 points, 1.1 assists, and 2.4 rebounds per game. Entering Wednesday night, VanVleet’s increase this season over last was 7.4 points, 1.9 assists, and 1.2 rebounds. And he’s done it with only an 8.3 minute per game increase versus Siakam’s 11.2, while averaging nearly five fewer attempts per night.

Then he went out and hung a team-high 22 points on the 76ers, drilling 6-of-7 attempts from beyond the arc. He’s now hit 14-of-19 threes since returning from the hamstring injury, while still creating plenty for his teammates and causing his usual havoc on defence. Wednesday, he dished out eight assists. That matches the eight steals he has in three games since his return.

Remember, it was less than a year ago that VanVleet was nearly played out of Toronto’s second-round series against these same 76ers, as a combination of a disastrously-timed shooting slump and Philadelphia’s length forced him off the floor. VanVleet averaged only 16.8 minutes per night over that seven-game slugfest, and 13.7 over the final four. He ultimately scored only 14 points in the entire series.

Wednesday, VanVleet scored his 13th point late in the third quarter, as he struck his second three in as many possessions, giving his team the lead. Moments later, he ran a pick-and-roll with Kyle Lowry of all people, sending the only player on the floor listed as shorter than him to the rim to extend that lead.

The six three-pointers he hit Wednesday were five more than he hit in that conference semifinal series, and the same amount he sunk over the first two rounds of the playoffs. That says something about what a funk VanVleet was in at the time. It says something else about his continued growth as a shooter.

Some of VanVleet’s attempts in the post-season’s early-going weren’t only missing, but were being blocked at the line by longer athletes who had studied his tendencies and knew not to give him space. His response? Taking a couple steps back. Here’s where his shots came from Wednesday — not a single one within a foot of the line:

VanVleet started working on it last February and March when he was sitting out after left thumb surgery and all he could do was shoot. Raptors head coach Nick Nurse had shown him some numbers comparing his 35-foot attempts to the ones he took right at the line. Nurse said that if VanVleet wasn’t finding the space he needed near the arc, he had the green light to extend his range.

“So, I started to implement it,” VanVleet said. “And obviously the Philly series was a chance for me to say, ‘OK, if I can’t get my shot off or if I get contested — because they do a good job, right? — taking a step back or two steps back is a viable option for me. Especially if I’m going to put the work in to make it a good shot for me.’

“Now, I have more opportunity to take that shot. I’m more of a focal point in the offence. They’re putting the ball in my hands and I’m learning from my mistakes. I still couldn’t make a layup tonight. But that was probably more on me than them.”

Whether layups are falling or not, the Raptors will need VanVleet to fit comfortably into that focal point role, particularly as the club endeavours to limit Lowry’s minutes going forward. After averaging 38.5 minutes per night through the first 28 games of his injury shortened season — which led the NBA by a considerable margin — Lowry’s averaged fewer than 30 over his last five.

This is of course not a reflection on Lowry’s effectiveness or contributions to Raptors wins, but rather a response to the unsustainable workload he was carrying through the first half of the season. There was no way it could continue like that if the Raptors wanted to keep him as fresh as possible for the playoffs. So now he’s leaving the floor a bit earlier in the first quarter, and returning a bit later in the second, letting VanVleet run some of the bench units that have long fallen under Lowry’s purview.

And VanVleet’s more than capable. One of the more sneakily effective lineups Nurse has utilized this season has been VanVleet running the floor with Terence Davis by his side, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on the wing, and Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol up front. That unit’s played to an absurd 42.6 net rating (127.8 offensive rating; 85.2 defensive rating) over 27 minutes spread across nine games. It’s been the second-most effective of the 17 lineups Toronto’s run out for at least 20 minutes this season.

Of course, you aren’t going to see that combination of players on the floor come crunch time. And probably not at all come the playoffs when Nurse’s rotation shrinks to seven or eight. But it does demonstrate VanVleet’s utility running transitional groups in the middle of games, after he’s played a combo-guard role opposite Lowry at the beginning, and before he enters as a closer at the end. It’s a lot to handle.

“Yeah, it’s good. It’s a good mixture,” VanVleet said. “We’ve been experimenting with different rotations. And I know when Kyle’s out that I’ve got to be more aggressive. Coming in at the end of the first quarter, that’s what I used to do coming off the bench. So, I’m really comfortable in that time for the last two, three minutes of a quarter.”

It was during one of those runs of play that VanVleet was his team’s catalyst Wednesday, as the Raptors overcame a nine-point second quarter deficit to get into halftime tied. Then he hit those two threes late in the fourth to put the game out of reach. Factor in the defence he was playing, and offence he was facilitating, and Nurse couldn’t take him off the floor.

That’s how the minutes restriction went out the window and how VanVleet ended up so tired looking at a 41 next to his name. And he’ll do that every time he’s asked. He hasn’t forgotten the bitter feeling last spring when the Raptors were beating these Sixers without him.

“I mean, I would never show that series as a highlight tape of myself to anybody. But it was a learning experience,” he said. “I wasn’t in the positions I would’ve liked to be in. I didn’t play well with limited opportunity. But coming out of that, I just wanted to make sure that I learned from my mistakes and that Nurse felt more comfortable giving me more opportunity. And now I’m making it pay off.”

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Understanding the connection between sporting events and online gambling today



online gambling

Sporting events and online gambling have become increasingly more connected over the years, with people now having the opportunity to bet on their favorite teams or athletes from the comfort of their homes. Technology advancements have further strengthened the connection between sporting events and online gambling. Also, the rise of mobile devices and apps makes placing bets in a variety of casinos at Casinojungle Canada or any other listed online casinos more accessible than ever before.

The link between sports betting and gaming can be seen in many different aspects. For starters, there are now countless bookmakers around the world offering a wide range of betting options for almost any kind of sport imaginable. From football to basketball to ice hockey, these bookmakers give customers an easy way to place wagers on different outcomes. In addition, there are also numerous sites explicitly dedicated to sports betting that offer multiple betting options for each game or event.

How the popularity of sports is fueling the rise of online gambling

More and more people nowadays are watching and participating in sports, causing an increased demand for betting opportunities. This has led to the emergence of numerous online gambling sites that offer a wide range of betting options. These sites allow users to place bets on various sporting events. The convenience offered by these sites makes them very attractive to bettors who want to make quick money without leaving their homes. Additionally, many online gambling sites offer bonuses and promotions. This further encourages people to participate in online gambling activities. As a result, the popularity of sports is fueling the rise of online gambling worldwide.

How has online casino technology evolved over time to accommodate the increase in sports fans?

Significant changes have been witnessed regarding technological advances in the sports betting scene. One of the most significant changes is the introduction of live streaming services, which allow players to watch and bet on their favorite sports games in real-time. Additionally, online casinos have also implemented virtual reality (VR) technology into their platforms, allowing players to experience a more immersive gaming experience. VR technology will enable players to feel like they are actually inside a stadium or arena watching a game unfold.


Furthermore, many online casinos now offer mobile apps that allow users to access their accounts from anywhere at any time. These apps provide users with an easy way to place bets on their favorite teams and games while on the go. Finally, online casinos have also improved their security measures over time by implementing advanced encryption technologies that protect user data from hackers and other malicious actors.

Analyzing the impact of media coverage on sports gambling trends

Media outlets have the power to shape public opinion on sports gambling, and they can influence how people view it. Media outlets have also been very influential with the increased popularity of sports gambling. By analyzing the impact of media coverage on sports gambling trends, we can gain insight into how different types of media content affect public perception. Additionally, certain types of media content may be more effective than others at influencing public opinion on sports gambling. For instance, research suggests that television news programs are more likely to affect viewers’ attitudes toward sports betting than newspaper articles or online blogs. By understanding how different types of media content affect public opinion on sports gambling trends, we can better understand how media shapes our views and behaviors related to this activity.

The connection between sporting events and online gambling is a complex one that will likely continue to evolve as technology advances. It is important for bettors to understand the risks associated with online sports betting and take steps to ensure safe practices when engaging in this activity.

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Jays Sign Chad Green



Here I thought the Jays were done signing people this winter, but they have picked up right-handed reliever Chad Green. He’s signed a two-year $8.5 million contract, with options for two more years.

Or it may be more complicated than that:

Green had Tommy John surgery back in May of last year. Apparently, he has already passed his physical.

The options give the Jays some fallback in case he doesn’t come back from TJ being the same pitcher. But if he returns the same pitcher, we have him for the next four seasons.


Green turns 32 in May. He’s been a Yankee for seven seasons. He has a 3.17 in 272 games. In 2021 he had a 3.12 ER in 67 games and a 31.4% strikeout rate.

Welcome to the Jays, Chad.


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Broncos trade for former Saints HC Payton



ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos have agreed to a deal with the New Orleans Saints that will make Sean Payton their head coach, a person with knowledge of the accord said Tuesday.

The person, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the teams hadn’t announced the agreement, said the Broncos would send their first-round pick, No. 29 overall, in this year’s draft to the Saints along with a future second-rounder. Denver also will receive a third-round pick in the trade.

Payton remained under contract with New Orleans after stepping down from the Saints last year and working in broadcasting this season.

Payton, 59, went 152-89 in 15 seasons with the Saints and 9-8 in the playoffs. He led New Orleans to a 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl following the 2009 season. He stepped away last year when quarterback Drew Brees retired.


The Broncos, who went 5-12 in 2022 and extended their playoff drought to seven years, fired rookie coach Nathaniel Hackett on Dec. 26 after he went 4-11. Interim coach Jerry Rosburg went 1-1.

Payton’s top task will be to get quarterback Russell Wilson back to his winning ways after the 11-year pro had his worst statistical season following his blockbuster trade from Seattle for four premium draft picks and three players.

The Seahawks reached the playoffs under QB Geno Smith in their first year without Wilson, and now they own the Broncos’ No. 5 overall selection in the draft in April.

The Broncos got back into the first round by trading pass rusher Bradley Chubb at midseason to the Miami Dolphins, who sent the Broncos a first-rounder originally owned by the San Francisco 49ers.

That selection, the 29th overall pick, now belongs to the Saints.

Payton was the headliner during this year’s cycle of head coach openings. Just five teams were searching for coaches: the Broncos, Texans, Panthers, Colts and Cardinals.

The Broncos conducted an extensive search, beginning with a virtual visit with Jim Harbaugh, who decided to stay at the University of Michigan. Also considered were Dan Quinn, DeMeco Ryans, Raheem Morris, Ejiro Evero, Jim Caldwell and David Shaw. The Texans hired Ryans on Tuesday.

NFL rules didn’t allow the Broncos to speak with Payton until Jan. 17, more than three weeks after they’d fired Hackett.

Team owner and CEO Greg Penner led the search with assistance from limited partner Condoleezza Rice and general manager George Paton.

Paton led last year’s search and landed on Hackett, one of several decisions that backfired on him in 2022 as Hackett became just the fifth head coach in NFL history not to survive his first season.

Others were the $70 million contract he gave to free agent Randy Gregory, who played in six games and recorded a pair of sacks, and the $245 million contract extension he gave to Wilson before the opener.

Wilson threw a career-low 16 touchdown passes and was sacked a league-leading and career-high 55 times in 15 games for Denver. He has vowed to do everything he can to bounce back in 2023.

Wilson played well for two weeks under Rosburg, giving the team hope that his poor performances last season were an aberration and that maybe his skill set was just a bad fit in Hackett’s offense.

Penner, his wife, Carrie Walton-Penner, and her father, Rob Walton, purchased the Broncos last summer for $4.65 billion, a global record for a professional sports franchise. But the team turned out to be more of a fixer-upper than they expected.

“When we purchased this great franchise in August, this is not the season we were expecting,” Penner said after firing Hackett. “I want to personally apologize to our fans and all of Broncos country. We know that we need to be better and we will.”


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