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It’s LeBron vs. his old team (and Michael Jordan) in the NBA Finals

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The NBA Finals tip off tonight

This year’s championship series features a lot of interesting characters and storylines for both avid and casual basketball fans. Here are a few things to know ahead of Game 1 between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat at 9 p.m. ET in the Disney bubble:

LeBron James is back — and facing his old team. After a one-year absence when the Lakers missed the playoffs in his first season with them, LeBron will play in the Finals for an incredible ninth time in 10 years and 10th time in his career. He made four straight appearances with Miami from 2011-14, winning the two in the middle. Then he ditched the Heat to return to Cleveland and reached the next four Finals (all vs. Golden State), going 1-3 to bring his lifetime Finals record to 3-6.

It’s also LeBron vs. Michael Jordan. Some basketball fans like to argue that LeBron is the greatest player of all time. Thanks to all those deep playoff runs, the 35-year-old has scored more playoff points than anyone in NBA history, and it’s not even close. He also ranks third all-time in regular-season points — two spots ahead of Jordan. But MJ is the all-time leader in points per game in both the regular season and playoffs, and he also leads LeBron in the all-important category of rings. Jordan went a perfect 6-0 in the Finals and, as that ’90s Bulls documentary series reminded us, James can’t touch him in terms of cultural importance. Some of that might be out of LeBron’s control, but the bottom line is that Jordan is still the GOAT. Though if LeBron adds another title (with his third different team), the debate will heat up again.

The Lakers have the two best players. LeBron was the runner-up to Giannis Antetokounmpo in MVP voting this year, and he has an MVP-calibre sidekick in Anthony Davis. The ludicrously skilled, unibrowed big man leads all Finals players with 28.8 points per game in this year’s playoffs. LeBron is second at 26.7. Both are also excellent defensively when they need to be.

But the Heat have more good players. If you drafted everyone in the Finals schoolyard-style, LeBron and Davis would definitely go 1-2. But L.A.’s roster really drops off from there. Mediocre Kyle Kuzma (10.5 points per game) is the only other Laker averaging double figures in the playoffs. Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo and former Raptor Danny Green are recognizable names, but they’re just role players at this point in their careers. So in our hypothetical draft, the next four guys picked (at least) would be from Miami. Bam Adebayo is an elite two-way big man, Jimmy Butler is a fearless crunchtime scorer who also does a lot of the unnoticed things that help win basketball games, and veteran point guard Goran Dragic is averaging a team-high 20.9 points per game in the post-season. Plus, rookie Tyler Herro looks like a rising star off the bench. The ace three-point shooter scored a career-high 37 points in Game 4 of the East final and can carry the team for stretches when he gets hot.

Two Canadians are involved in the series (technically). Both are on the Heat, but it’s unlikely they’ll have much of an impact. Veteran big man Kelly Olynyk has seen his minutes cut from about 19 in the regular season to 12 in the playoffs. He’s averaging six points. At least you’ll see him on the court, though. Rookie Kyle Alexander appeared in only two games this season and hasn’t seen any action at all in the playoffs.

The Lakers are heavy favourites to win. Miami’s lineup is deeper, and it also has the edge in harder-to-measure stuff like toughness, team spirit and coaching (L.A.’s Frank Vogel is fine, but Erik Spoelstra is one of the best in the NBA). The Heat are also (sorry) red hot. Since entering the playoffs as the No. 5 seed in the East, they’ve gone 12-3 — including a stunning five-game takedown of top-seeded Milwaukee. But the Lakers have been great all year. They had the third-best regular-season record in the league and are also 12-3 in the playoffs. Plus, having the clear two best players in the series is, historically, a near-unbeatable formula in the NBA. The betting line reflects that. Though it’s moved a bit in Miami’s favour, the market says the Lakers have around a 75 per cent chance of becoming champions of this very weird NBA season. Read more about the Finals matchup here.

 

Heat guard ‘Jimmy Buckets’ is a fearless crunchtime scorer. (Ashley Landis, Pool/Getty Images)

 

Quickly…

The NFL postponed Sunday’s Titans-Steelers game because of a COVID-19 outbreak. This follows yesterday’s news that three Tennessee players (none of them stars) and five other team personnel tested positive. Another Titans player reportedly tested positive today. Luckily, no one has from the Minnesota Vikings, who played Tennessee on Sunday. But the NFL announced today that it will push back the Titans-Steelers game to either Monday or Tuesday to allow more time for testing. The league also leaked a memo it sent to all teams warning them to follow the mask-wearing rules and other health protocols or risk suspension and/or the loss of draft picks. Read more about the fallout from the Titans outbreak here.

The Genie Bouchard revival continues. For the first time since the 2017 Australian Open, the fallen Canadian tennis star is into the third round of a Grand Slam event. She battled back from a set down to win her second match at the French Open today. Bouchard is ranked 168th in the world. At 26 years old, she’s unlikely to return to the heights she hit in 2014, when she made the Wimbledon final and the semis of two other Slams and reached No. 5 in the world. But she’s having her second consecutive solid tournament after reaching a final in Istanbul earlier this month (caveat: the best players were playing in the U.S. Open at the time). Two other Canadian singles players can reach the third round of the French Open on Thursday: ninth-seeded Denis Shapovalov and 100th-ranked Leylah Annie Fernandez. Read more about Bouchard’s latest win here.

Serena Williams’ window is closing. She dropped out of the French Open today because of an Achilles injury, meaning she’ll finish the year still one behind Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. With four of the world’s top 10 players opting out of the French, this was a good opportunity for Serena. So was the recent U.S. Open, where she lost in the semifinals of a depleted bracket and played like someone well past her physical prime. Williams turned 39 last week, which is ancient by women’s tennis standards. And by the time the next Slam rolls around (January’s Australian Open), a full four years will have passed since her last major title. Whether she matches Court or not, Serena will go down as the greatest of all time. But it’s looking more and more likely she’ll have to live without the record. Read more about Serena’s latest setback here.

It’s a do-or-die game for the Blue Jays. After dropping their playoff opener 3-1 to Tampa Bay yesterday, the Jays are facing elimination in the best-of-three series. Game 2 was just about to get underway at our publish time. Toronto ace Hyun-Jin Ryu is the starter after getting an extra day of rest to recover from some soreness.

The WNBA Finals are set. League MVP A’ja Wilson had 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces to a 66-63 win last night in the deciding game of their semifinal series. The Aces will face the No. 2-seeded Seattle Storm in the best-of-five Finals, which start Friday night.

And finally…

Need a goalie? Good timing. The New York Rangers bought out Henrik Lundqvist today. Besides ending his 15-year run with the team, the move puts another Vezina Trophy winner on the free-agent market. Washington’s Braden Holtby is also expected to be available when the signing period opens next Friday, along with 2019 Vezina finalist Robin Lehner. Other potential unrestricted free-agent goalies include Anton Khudobin, who just backstopped Dallas to the Stanley Cup final; Corey Crawford, a two-time winner of the Jennings Trophy for helping Chicago allow the fewest goals in the league; and Jacob Markstrom, who’s coming off a strong year for Vancouver.

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Source:- CBC.ca

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Is Khabib Nurmagomedov's speedy scale at UFC 254 the latest UFC weigh-in controversy? – MMA Fighting

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At the UFC 254 official weigh-ins, Khabib Nurmagomedov looked nervous.

He was the first man up Friday morning, but the UFC’s lightweight king took his time stepping to the scale, appearing to be slightly agitated as he called for a towel to cover him so that he could remove the excess poundage of his clothes. He delicately stepped up and then brought his hands to his face in relief as he got the all-clear signal for Saturday’s main event.

155. Championship weight. Nothing to be nervous about.

Or was there???

Keen internet sleuths have pointed out that the official checking the weight was quick to dismiss Nurmagomedov from the scale even as it appeared that the scale’s bar appeared to be tilting upward, indicating that something may have been amiss. It should be noted that Nurmagomedov was not the only fighter to have his weight measured with such speed.

Officially, Nurmagomedov made the mark for Saturday’s title fight main event opposite Justin Gaethje, but that didn’t stop the online discussion from brewing, which included a few of his peers who commented on the suspected miss, protocol, and Nurmagomedov’s overall demeanor.

While we wait to see if anyone from Gaethje’s team raises their concerns over the matter, we’ll leave it to you the reader to decide whether there was something fishy going on with Nurmagomedov’s weigh-in.

Poll

What do you think of the Khabib Nurmagomedov UFC 254 weigh-in controversy?

  • 40%

    He made weight

    (1790 votes)

  • 59%

    He had help

    (2582 votes)



4372 votes total

Vote Now

Nurmagomedov’s tense turn on the scale brought to mind past UFC weigh-in controversies, a couple of which also had championship stakes. Let’s take a look back and see how some of the UFC’s biggest names may have previously gamed the system.


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Probably the first example that comes to mind when weigh-in controversies are discussed, Daniel Cormier fooled everyone ahead of UFC 210 with a last-second weight cut that was truly mystifying.

Heading into his second fight against Anthony Johnson, Cormier initially came in heavy for his light heavyweight championship defense by 1.2 pounds. The repercussions of missing weight in this situation would be devastating for Cormier who likely would have been ineligible to retain his title even with a win. He was given the opportunity to weigh in again and no more than three minutes later, he returned to the scale and made weight.

Incredible, right?

Of course, in the footage above, Cormier can clearly be seen holding onto the towel the scale is being checked, an old school wrestling trick that allows a competitor to shift their weight just enough to pass the test. I’d estimate that about 1.2 pounds were shifted, give or take.

Afterwards, Cormier had this to say:

“It was crazy, I weighed in upstairs and I was like ‘Man I’m OK, I’m going to do this. It was harder than normally, but we figured we had it done, the scale was weighing different.”

He added that he was simply holding onto the towel to keep from being exposed and he denied making any kind of attempt to manipulate the scale. The following night, Cormier recorded his second consecutive defense of the UFC light heavyweight title, defeating Johnson by second-round submission.

While we’re talking towel tricks, honorable mention to Hakeem Dawodu who appeared to use a similar move at UFC 240 to make weight for a featherweight bout with Yoshinori Horie.

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There are layers to this one.

UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and lineal Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz was already a proverbial oil and water pairing before they finally arrived in Montreal for UFC 158. St-Pierre, the genial and ever-professional French-Canadian, had little in common with the brash, sun-baked, Stockton street style of Diaz.

The two were previously matched up at UFC 137, but Carlos Condit took Diaz’s spot when Dana White decided to punish the mercurial Diaz for neglecting his media obligations (St-Pierre would later face Condit at UFC 154). Still, there was no stopping this highly-anticipated duel from happening and they eventually met in March 2013, with St-Pierre sweeping the scorecards to successfully defend his UFC title for an eighth straight time.

Their beef didn’t end there. Shortly afterwards, controversy arose when it was suggested that St-Pierre was actually a few ounces over the championship limit of 170 pounds. According to the Quebec commission, it is a rule that they ignore decimals when calculating weights.

Here is how then-UFC vice president Michael Mersch explained the situation to Diaz’s team:

“Here, they’re going to allow you and Georges to have an extra hour. Just in case somebody doesn’t make it. But the good news is, they don’t count the decimal. If you’re 170.2 it’s 170. If it’s 170.9. it’s 170.”

That explanation apparently didn’t sit well with Diaz, who told Chael Sonnen in a 2015 interview that he believes St-Pierre actually came in three pounds heavy and that St-Pierre was on steroids for their fight.

Years later, St-Pierre would shockingly admit to all of the above as well as poisoning Diaz and receiving alien gamma ray treatments to enhance his strength for the championship clash.

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It’s no secret that Kelvin Gastelum had struggled making the welterweight limit in the past, but after returning to middleweight pounds in 2016 it appeared that the Ultimate Fighter 17 champion had straightened out his issues at the scale.

However, those old problems reared their ugly head again at the weigh-ins for UFC 244. With an important co-main event fight against Darren Till ahead of him, Gastelum couldn’t take any chances and he called for the towel before weighing in. His trusty coach Rafael Cordeiro was by his side to provide moral support and lo and behold, Gastelum not only made weight, he came in at 184, two pounds under the non-title middleweight limit.

Kelvin Gastelum at the official weigh-ins for UFC 244 in New York on Nov. 1, 2019
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Upon closer inspection, it seems that Cordeiro may have been their for more than just moral support. Gastelum and Cordeiro were later accused of cheating the weigh-in, with observers pointing out that Gastelum appeared to be gingerly resting his elbow on his coach’s shoulder.

The New York State Athletic Commission found no evidence of wrongdoing and Cordeiro was incredulous at the accusations of mischief.

“People are tripping,” Cordeiro said. “I went there to check his weight. How am I going to lift him two pounds with my chest? They are crazy. They are tripping. It’s drama to sell the fight. There’s no way. There’s no way.

“There were two athletic commission officials there, I was in front of the whole world… That’s impossible. It doesn’t even cross my mind to try to break the law. The kid made weight, two pounds under. He did his job. He was the last one, he was sweating, running like a maniac, working hard, and got the job done. Everyone has a mouth and can say whatever they want.”

On fight night, Till won a close split decision over Gastelum, so things worked out for Till even if the bout was possibly made official through nefarious means.

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Why Is The Popularity Of Online Casinos On The Internet Increasing?

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In recent years, online casinos are growing in popularity. The growth in popularity of online gaming sites has grown exponentially as connections have become faster, with less latency and increased reliability. A handful of them have been around ever since the “dot-com” boom era. Two decades later, they are witnessing a huge wave of traffic that literally dwarfs that of when they were first introduced to the world back in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the Internet was becoming more practical.

If you want to know more about what’s available for games online, there’s more info at Casino Las Vegas. You’ll be playing a wide variety of games including online slots, video poker, and even classic table games such as blackjack, poker, and more.

We’ll be diving into 6 specific reasons why online casinos are gaining more popularity by the day on the Internet. Some of the reasons might make a ton of sense, while some of the reasons might just seem to be outright crazy. Let’s kick things off with reason number one of why casino popularity on the web is increasing day by day.

 

1.   They have higher odds of winning

When gambling at a regular casino, there’s a good chance that you might come away with less than what you arrived with. In short, the house always wins. Plus, there really is no telling what the real odds of winning are.

At an online casino, you can still risk losing more money if you are taking risky bets. But when playing games such as online slots, you have a high chance of winning some money every time you play. So even if you win a little bit, the question is: how many times over?

 

2.   People are not going out as much

At this point in time, not a lot of people are going out much. Meaning there will be fewer people going to the casinos than normal. But they still want to gamble and get lucky.

Certainly, there will be people across Canada that will be looking for more fun things to do while they’re home. If you are someone who likes to gamble on the casinos on a regular basis, an online casino is just a click away. Plus, there are a lot of them that are available to Canadians (some of them won’t be because they are available only in specific jurisdictions).

 

3.   Easily accessible

In today’s world where technology is constantly evolving, online casinos are easier to access than a decade ago. That’s because phones have become smarter. Not to mention, many online casinos have either made their sites mobile responsive or have a stand-alone app that users can download on their Android or Apple.

Plus, you can access these sites where there is WiFi or if you are running your phone off of your data. In short, you play your favorite casino games anywhere you might happen to be, as long as there is a live internet connection. If that isn’t the most impressive thing that technology can put together, we’re not sure what is.

 

4.   Plenty of awesome bonuses

One of the most appealing offers that draw new users is bonuses. When you join an online casino, you can get a nice sized welcome bonus. This could come in the form of extra cash, free slot machine spins, and more.

Even if you play on a casual basis, you can still earn bonuses just for playing on a regular basis. You don’t have to be playing for hours on end every single day to earn them. It can be three times a week or once in a while, it all depends on the casino.

 

5.   No need to travel

A lot of people are scaling back their travel plans recently. Some may not be able to travel at all due to recent events. But regardless, who would want to travel just to lose to “the house”?

If you truly want the closest experience to Las Vegas-style gambling, online casinos are where it’s at. Knowing that you don’t need to go too far to win some extra cash, many casual gamblers and high rollers might find that online casinos might serve them more of a purpose.

Don’t be surprised if you ask yourself “where have these been after all this time”.

 

6.   Some are accepting cryptocurrency

Increasing numbers of online casinos are beginning to accept cryptocurrency as a form of payment. While this payment option might not be to everyone’s preference, digital currencies are the future and maybe you should look into whether this payment option could work for you.

Final Thoughts

The popularity of online casinos is continuing to rise. And there is no telling when they will start to plateau. If anything, they have become more mainstream over the years.

With the Internet continuously changing, many people are relying on it for things other than shopping and communicating with people. The biggest takeaway here is that many people will find a way to have fun with the help of the Internet. If you are looking for ways to win money online for real, online casinos are where it’s at.

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How Raptors could be impacted by potential changes to 2020-21 season – Sportsnet.ca

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The NBA Board of Governors convened Friday to discuss the still-unknown plan for next season.

The highlight of the day were the reported discussions that the league was aiming to start the 2020-21 campaign just before Christmas Day, but plenty more was discussed between the NBA’s decision-makers.

Here’s a quick look at how some of what has been put out there may impact the future of the league — and the Toronto Raptors, in particular, who are in an even more unique situation as Canada’s lone NBA team.

Impact of a near-Christmas Day start

Should the season start just before Christmas it would have wide-reaching impact on every team in the league, most notably on decisions teams need to make now.

The next big event on the NBA calendar is the NBA Draft on Nov. 18, but after that it’s a blank slate.

This includes free agency and the start of training camp and if the season were to start on Dec. 22 as reported, that would leave a very short window for free agency to get done and probably a truncated training camp.

Neither of these situations are ideal. Sometimes free agency can drag a bit as players usually wait for the big fish to set the market first before committing afterwards, not to mention the fact that this would be a pretty short turnaround on a season that lasted, essentially, a full calendar year before and guys might need more time off to rest and recover before diving back into the grind.

Still, though, it would make a lot of financial sense to start the season at the end of December, in time for the 25th. Christmas Day is historically among the NBA’s biggest days, one that usually features a five-game slate of high-profile matchups. Over the years, even just being chosen to play on the day has been dressed up into something of a prestigious accomplishment.
dressing up getting chosen to play on the day as something of a prestigious accomplishment.

More than anything, it would be good for the NBA to try to please their TV partners after a season that saw the league lose a lot of money.

On the other hand, the Lakers just won the title not even two weeks ago. Would the Players’ Association be willing to sign off on allowing the players to return so quickly after the season ended? There’s speculation that the PA will push for a later start date — perhaps on Martin Luther King Day weekend in mid-January.

And in regards to the Raptors, specifically, the sooner the NBA season starts, the sooner the team will have to figure out its own unique situation of being a team in Canada.

Both Toronto FC and the Toronto Blue Jays were forced to find temporary homes for themselves down in the United States — as the government didn’t allow them to play in Toronto because of the COVID-mandated travel restrictions — and the Raptors probably won’t be seeing any special treatment themselves in this regard, either.

As such, if the NBA elects not to go with a bubble, the Raptors will need to find a home away from home for themselves. And if the season is actually starting just before Christmas, then that search will need to get started immediately – if it hasn’t started already, that is.

Season ends before the Olympic Games?

According to reporting from both The Athletic’s Shams Charania and ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, the league’s target date is Dec. 22, with the season lasting just 72 regular-season games and concluding before the Summer Olympic Games — assuming they can be held.

If you’re a fan of Canadian basketball, that last part about the Olympics is a pretty good argument for starting the season at that early date and knocking off those 10 games from the schedule.

This would allow NBA players a window to play in the Tokyo 2021 Games and might even open up the possibility of Canadian NBA players suiting up for their country in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Victoria, B.C.

The OQT would start on June 29, so there’s a chance that enough of the Canada’s NBA contingent may be free to play for the country and help it qualify for the Olympics later on down the road when, presumably, Canada’s full complement will be available.

Of course, this is just looking at things purely from the perspective of Canada Basketball and, more generally, FIBA basketball. The NBA’s view of things likely differs in that truncating the season and starting it as early as possible would be made in an effort to return to a normal schedule as best as it can, and if that means sacrificing the Olympics to do just that, expect the league to do so.

Possibly no All-Star Game

Another sacrifice that may need to be made next season is the 2021 NBA All-Star Game in Indianapolis.

According to Wojnarowski, the event may need to be cancelled, though no decision has been made yet.

Cancelling All-Star weekend makes sense because the event — a big, fun exhibition weekend — would be strange without the captive sold-out audience in attendance to take it all in. Not to mention, the weekend isn’t just limited to what happens in the arena with a convention-like fan zone and parties happening all over the city in honour of the league’s finest.

In other words, a bunch of things that involve getting a large group of people together — something that would be too risky in this COVID-climate.

The cancellation of the event would be another way to accelerate the season and try to get things back to a normal schedule as the traditional All-Star break could then be eliminated and games could just be played straight through. The Players’ Association may have something to say about that, but it’s still an option that could be tabled.

A potentially bigger headache of cancelling All-Star weekend would be what to do with players who may have performance incentives and bonuses in their contracts tied to the All-Star Game such as being named an All-Star or winning All-Star Game MVP?

For example, let’s say Pascal Siakam gets a nice bonus for being voted in as an All-Star starter again next season. But if there’s no All-Star Game, would a vote even still happen? Would All-Star teams even be selected?

There’s a workaround for this to have mid-season awards and mid-season Eastern and Western Conference teams selected, perhaps, but it would have to be something else the league considers before moving forward on a decision.

To bubble or not to bubble

As Charania reported, “The NBA continues to prefer in-market play for the 2020-21 season — instead of a bubble or multiple bubbles.”

That’s well and good to say, but the question of feasibility is still in the air — especially with the holiday season upon us when people are more likely to travel and see friends and family in tighter spaces indoors.

Still, the argument against a bubble isn’t to be dismissed, either. The three-month Disney World experiment, while successful, took a huge mental-health toll on players and it’s unlikely they’ll want to subject themselves to that kind of isolation again — particularly for a longer period of time.

Instead, as Wojnarowski reported, the league may be looking into scheduling baseball-like series of games to keep teams in one spot for longer periods of time in an effort to reduce travel.

It sounds good in theory, but there’s a big difference between ball-parking an idea and actually executing. Given the exploding cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., any amount of travel will be risky.

And for that matter, any option on the table is a risk while trying to play pro sports in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s just a matter of what risks you’re willing to live with.

We’re still waiting to see what the NBA is willing to live with now.

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