Every weekday, SI’s Chris Mannix will check-in with his Bubble Bits, a quick hit on something notable from inside the NBA’s campus
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla – The Raptors and Celtics discussed boycotting Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in a players-only meeting between the two teams on Tuesday night.
“Boycotting the game has come up for them, as a way to try to demand a little more action,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse. “That’s really what they want. I think there is enough attention and not quite enough action. That’s what I can sense from the discussions, their disappointment.”
Added Jayson Tatum, “It’s an active discussion. People are upset, angry and we’re just trying to come together to figure out how we can do something.”
A boycott would be a response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year old Kenosha (Wisc.) man who was shot multiple times in an altercation with officers on Sunday. The shooting of Blake, which comes two months after the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died after a police officer kneeled on his kneck for nearly nine minutes.
“People are going to say sitting out, what is that going to do?” said Tatum. “Obviously if we sit out a game or the rest of the playoffs, we understand how big of an impact that would have. Everyone is going to have to talk about it … we don’t want to just keep playing and forget about what is happening on the outside world.”
The Blake shooting has rattled NBA players inside the bubble. Several have questioned the appropriateness of being there. Before teams reported to Florida in mid-July, there was a lengthy debate among players as to whether they should go. The argument for sitting out, one spearheaded by Nets star Kyrie Irving, was that a return to play would take away from the social justice movement.
In recent days, several players wondered if they had made the right decision.
“We came here for a reason, to use our platform and wanting to send a message and hopefully bring awareness and make a change,” said Pascal Siakam. “But if feels like we’re stuck. We’re not doing anything productive … these things hurt. I don’t care where you’re from.”
Players from the Raptors and Celtics declined to get into specifics of the meeting. Nurse said that several Toronto players had discussed leaving the bubble entirely. Players, with the league’s full support, have been visible and vocal supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement. Before each game, teams, including coaches and support staff, kneel for the national anthem. They wear Black Lives Matter tee shirts during warmups. Players regularly speak on social justice issues during media availabilities
The Blake shooting, however, has made many wonder just how effective these actions are.
“There are a lot of things that we’ve done,” Siakam said. “It just feels like it’s not changing.”
For the Raptors, this month has been especially troubling. Last June, as Toronto celebrated its first NBA championship, team president Masai Ujiri was involved in an altercation with an Alameda County Sherrif’s deputy as he attempted to access the floor. Ujiri was accused on initiating the incident. The deputy, Alan Strickland, filed a lawsuit against him.
Bodycam footage released this month revealed that Strickland, not Ujiri was the aggressor. In the video, Strickland shoved Ujiri twice, the second time after Ujiri, credential in hand, identified himself as the team president.
Said Nurse, “There is some personalness to this with part of our group.”
The teams will continue discussions tonight, several players said. Celtics rookie Grant Williams said that kneeling, while impactful early, had stopped resonating as strongly and that the focus has been on “what can we do next.” Williams said there needs to be substance to whatever players decide to do. Tatum said whatever guys decided to do, there would be no judgement.
“How many points we score, how many games we win, that sh—doesn’t matter right now,” Tatum said. “Being a black man in America is more important than what I’m doing on a basketball court. Using my platform, my voice, to help create conversations and change is more important than anything I could do out there. You think about a man being shot in his back seven times, his kids in the car, that’s way more important than anything I could do out there.”
Woods, Mickelson booted from Winged Foot – pgatour.com
MAMARONECK, N.Y. – Exhausted. Beat up. Defeated. Veterans Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were among the masses who didn’t make it to the weekend of the U.S. Open after they were unable to maneuver inside the top 60 players through 36 holes.
As beat up as they were after another tough examination at Winged Foot, Woods and Mickelson would much rather be getting a couple more chances at the infamous U.S. Open course instead of packing up early. They both had scores to settle, but “The Foot” stuck the boot in once more.
Woods famously missed his first major cut as a professional at Winged Foot in the 2006 U.S. Open and was hoping to make amends while chasing a record 83rd PGA TOUR win. But the 44-year-old was felled by a brace of early double bogeys and was unable to stop the momentum going awry.
Starting on the 10th following his Thursday 73, Woods doubled the 16th after also making a bogey on the 14th. He then faced some serious déjà vu when he came up short of the 18th green on approach and for the second day running chunked a chip that failed to make the putting surface.
Woods added another four bogeys on the front side before getting minor solace from birdies on two of his final three holes to shoot 7-over 77 and finish the championship 10 over, four back of the cut line.
“It’s frustrating that I’m not going to be here for the weekend and be able to compete for this great championship. It feels like the way the golf course is changing, is turning, that anybody who makes the cut has the opportunity to win this championship. I didn’t get myself that opportunity,” Woods lamented.
“Physically it was frustrating that I didn’t drive the ball as well as I needed to. Iron play was pretty much the way it has been. It’s been good, and I finally putted well. But on this golf course it’s imperative that you hit fairways, and I did not do that.”
Mickelson was unable to rebound well enough from his dismal 79 in round one, adding a 4-over 74 to finish 13 over in his chase for a career grand slam. Hoping to make up for losing a one-shot lead on the 72nd hole in 2006, Mickelson had just one birdie on Friday. His problem was hitting just six of 28 fairways.
“I’m appreciative of the opportunity to have been able compete here and I’m disappointed I didn’t play better,” Mickelson said.
“I’ve been playing very well at home, and I get out here where the penalty for a mis-hit is severe, and I find myself getting a little tight and a little steer-y and playing some of my worst golf. That’s something I’ve got to work on and fix.”
Defending U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland (+8) won’t be there to fight for a repeat result, revealing he is suffering from a hip injury.
Among others to miss the weekend are recent PGA Champion Collin Morikawa (+7), and former FedExCup and U.S. Open champion Justin Rose (+10). Jordan Spieth continued with his struggles, shooting a Friday 81 to finish at 14 over.
Other former major and or PLAYERS champions to miss out included Martin Kaymer (+7), Keegan Bradley (+8), Si Woo Kim (+9), Matt Kuchar (+9), Jimmy Walker (+10), Danny Willett (+10), Henrik Stenson (+11), Sergio Garcia (+15) and Graeme McDowell (+16).
Potential Stamkos return would increase Lightning’s emotional drive – Sportsnet.ca
EDMONTON — We can only imagine what this has been like for Steven Stamkos.
The Tampa Bay Lightning captain hasn’t spoken to reporters since before the playoffs started. But he’s spent 55 days living behind the fences inside the NHL bubble, away from his wife and son, and unable to play for even a shift of his team’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.
That would be difficult for any hockey player, but in the context of Stamkos’s career it seems downright cruel.
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This is a guy who missed out on the opportunity to play for Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics in 2014 because of a broken leg and was limited to just one game in Tampa’s run to the 2016 Eastern Conference Final because of a scary blood clot situation.
And while his list of career ailments also includes a torn meniscus, it’s not as if Stamkos is hurt all the time. It just seems to happen at the wrong times. He played all 82 games last season and got in 57 this year before undergoing core muscle surgery on March 2.
That procedure came with a six- to eight-week recovery timeline, which passed during the COVID-19 pause. Stamkos had resumed skating by the time the summer training camp came around in July and was still a regular participant in practice after the Lightning travelled to Toronto and joined the bubble.
Somewhere along the way he suffered a setback or a new injury. All we know for sure is that he’s been deemed unfit to play for all 19 Tampa playoff games so far and is unlikely to return for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against Dallas on Saturday night.
“He’s still rehabbing, we haven’t ruled him out,” Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said Friday. “I don’t expect him in the lineup tomorrow.”
Under these circumstances, after everything Stamkos has been through, it would be quite something if he managed to get back playing with a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
You could see how much it meant to the 30-year-old just to be included in Thursday’s less significant presentation at Rogers Place. Victor Hedman, a teammate for 11 seasons and more than 700 games, made sure Stamkos joined the group that accepted the Prince of Wales Trophy from deputy commissioner Bill Daly after the Lightning won the Eastern Conference Final.
Stamkos and Hedman, the two foundational building blocks of this organization, have both reached the stage of their career where winning is all that matters.
Their professional existence is geared entirely around these precious moments. They’ve won individual awards and earned enough money to ensure future generations of their families are secure. They have built careers that will likely land both of them in the Hockey Hall of Fame one day.
The only thing that’s missing is now four wins away.
“Every year that passes that you don’t win, it’s another opportunity that’s gone by,” Stamkos told Joe Smith of The Athletic in September 2019. “I’ve dealt with a lot of things in my career in terms of injuries and have overcome that. But you never know what’s going to happen. You want to take advantage of playing on a team of this calibre.
“The search for that elusive trophy continues and you just want to do anything you can to win.”
You can be sure he’s doing absolutely everything in his power to get back in the lineup now. Stamkos has participated in a few recent Lightning skates here, and could be seen skating with determination and leaning into his patented one-timer during brief clips made available on the NHL’s media website.
It’s hard to imagine that he would be doing all that work for naught.
Even though the team has reached this stage without him, it’s not as though it can’t use him. The Lightning have relied heavily on Hedman and the top line of Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat for goals during these playoffs and saw its power play fall quiet for the last five games of the Islanders series.
Then there’s the fact that Point and Kucherov are each playing at something less than 100 per cent and are now entering Cup Final that will be contested in a more compressed manner than usual. The Lightning and Stars are due to play five games in the next eight days. The grind is becoming real.
Should Stamkos find his way back into the lineup at some point during that stretch, it would be an emotional shot in the arm for the group. They’ve been building towards this opportunity for a long time now and won’t want to let it slip through their fingers.
“You realize now all you want is to chase the Stanley Cup,” Stamkos told Smith last September. “The goals, the assists, the points: they’re nice. But our goal now, and [what it] should have been, is to bring home the team trophy.
“A lot of guys won individual awards last year, which is great on the resume at the end of your career. But everyone is judging you on championships. You’ve got to find a way to win them.”
Seeing him return to the lineup would help those efforts considerably.
Lightning haven’t ruled out Steven Stamkos playing in Stanley Cup Final – Sportsnet.ca
But the team still hasn’t closed the door on the star sniper appearing at some point in the championship series against the Dallas Stars — although it likely won’t happen in Game 1.
Stamkos was injured during Phase 2 skates before the NHL returned to play in late July and has been rehabbing his undisclosed injury in the bubble since, first in Toronto and now Edmonton. He was shut down before the season was paused in March after having core muscle surgery but was expected to play in the playoffs before this new injury occurred.
The Lighting have been carried offensively in the playoffs by Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Victor Hedman, but a healthy Stamkos would still be a big addition to the lineup. In 57 games this season, the 30-year-old had 29 goals and 66 points.
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final is Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET/ 4:30 p.m. PT on Sportsnet.
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