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Penguins still in 'win-now mode' as search for new GM begins – Sportsnet.ca

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It’s not every day a general manager steps down from his position in the NHL, and certainly not just seven games into a season with a 4-2-1 record.

Jim Rutherford’s decision to resign as GM of the Penguins on Wednesday shocked the hockey world. In his seventh season with the team, and after two Stanley Cup wins, the news was sudden and, given the times, concerning.

CEO David Morehouse made it clear on his media availability, though, that the decision was not health-related and happened fast.

“The discussion was last night,” Morehouse said about how long this was in the works. “I had a discussion with Jim, just Jim and I. Jim had his mind made up.

“There was nothing with this team currently or the coaching staff currently configured that is any different than any of the other teams we’ve had…There was nothing different in the form of dialogue. And I don’t think there was any one thing that led to Jim resigning.”

After the 2013-14 season, Rutherford stepped down from his position as Carolina Hurricanes GM and into a retirement that lasted no more than two months before he joined the Penguins.

He arrived at an interesting time, too. Dan Bylsma was relieved as head coach and the Penguins, still led by a similar core to what you see today, were seemingly at a crossroads. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Kris Letang — all of their stars were still in their prime, but rather than become a New York Islanders-esque dynasty that won Cup after Cup or was at least right there every season, they had won four playoff rounds in the previous five seasons. The furthest they advanced in that time was to the Eastern Conference Final, where the Boston Bruins rolled over them in four games.

Malkin became no stranger to the off-season trade rumour talk. Whether or not the Penguins should take a step back to retool around Crosby was a debated point.

Rutherford, though, doubled down on his star core and began adding. Patric Hornqvist was his first trade acquisition and mid-way through his first season David Perron was picked up from the Edmonton Oilers for a first-round pick. Rutherford made four more trades around deadline season with an eye on playoff depth, the most notable pickup being Ian Cole.

Rutherford’s first playoff run with the Penguins ended with a single win, but they were about to be fully back.

Phil Kessel was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2015 off-season, and in Pittsburgh, he thrived as a supporting scorer instead of the go-to star. Nick Bonino was next, and mid-way through his second season, Rutherford acquired Carl Hagelin. Suddenly the HBK line (Hagelin-Bonino-Kessel) was in the house. The three finished first, fourth and fifth in team scoring during that 2016 playoff run, and were a key part in the Penguins reclaiming the Stanley Cup.

Then they repeated the next season.

Nuts to the idea of rebuilding a star-heavy team.

As Rutherford departs six-and-a-half years later, the Penguins are interestingly in a similar spot to when he first arrived, though a few years older. They haven’t gotten out of the second round since claiming the 2017 Cup and actually haven’t technically won a game in a playoff round in either of the past two years. They were swept by the Islanders in 2019 and lost in the qualifying round, 3-1, to the Montreal Canadiens in the summer bubble.

Crosby and Letang are 33. Malkin is 34. There isn’t a seemingly endless amount of time left for these players anymore. After next season, Malkin will need a new contract, if he doesn’t test free agency. And if the Penguins are fading from contention again, at this stage, will a move to a new GM spur some sort of re-tool, an adjustment that may result in a step back if it means giving Crosby and Co. a better stretch run?

Don’t count on it.

“We’re not in rebuilding mode,” Morehouse said. “We’re in a win-now mode and we’re going to continue to be in that mode until we’re in a rebuilding mode. We’re looking for someone who can come in and have us continue to work toward winning another Cup.

“The criteria (for a new GM) is the same criteria we’ve had here for the last almost 15 years, is to win the Stanley Cup. We’re looking for someone that’s going to be able to come in, take a very talented team with a very good coaching staff, and take it as far as they can take it.”

Patrik Allvin, who has worked his way up from European scout, to director of European scouting, and to assistant GM with Pittsburgh this season, will carry the interim label and, according to Morehouse, will be one of the candidates considered for the full-time job.

Morehouse did not put a timeline on when the next GM would be hired, but noted he had already taken calls.

With the 2021 Penguins off to a decent start, there are still potential cracks in the foundation. Tristan Jarry has struggled without Matt Murray to share the crease, Malkin is not feeling it yet (three points in seven games) and the offence ranks 22nd in 5-on-5 shots per 60 minutes.

There are the recent playoff shortfalls, the fact the team has made one first-round pick in the past six years. And they already don’t have their own first pick in the 2021 draft.

But there’s also the optimism that comes with having players like Crosby and Malkin on your team, and how Jake Guentzel has developed into a significant producer, or how Bryan Rust has carved out a nice role for himself in the top six.

“We think the team Jim put on the ice is a team that can compete and win,” Morehouse said. “We think our coaching staff is a coaching staff that can get them there.”

Whoever the next GM is will be tasked with the same expectations faced by a Hall of Famer nearly seven years ago, with a younger roster that had more runway. The Penguins rebuild will eventually arrive, but it seems when it does, it won’t be because they chose it.

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Team LeBron beats Team Durant as Lillard hits game-winning three – Sportsnet.ca

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ATLANTA — In the midst of a pandemic, this was assured of being an NBA All-Star Game like no other.

The stands were mostly empty. The crowd noise was largely piped in. There were no A-list celebrities sitting courtside. Two players had to sit out after getting haircuts.

But in the end, it had a familiar feel.

Team LeBron won again.

Knocking down shots from all over the court, LeBron James’ powerhouse squad closed the first half with a dominating run to set up a 170-150 romp over Team Durant in the league’s 70th midseason showcase Sunday night.

The top vote-getters in each conference have picked the teams the last four years, a duty that James has earned every season.

He’s now 4-0, having defeated Stephen Curry’s squad in 2018 and teams selected by Milwaukee’s two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo the previous two years.

This time, James drafted his two former adversaries and blew away Kevin Durant’s team.

“I think he’s got a future as a GM,” said Damian Lillard, another of James’ inspired selections. “He always gets it right.”

Antetokounmpo was the game’s MVP after shooting 16 of 16 for 35 points, even making all three of his attempts beyond the 3-point stripe. It was the most baskets without a miss in All-Star Game history.

“I’m just having fun,” the Greek star said. “Sometimes when you’re having fun and not thinking about the outcome, you just let your instincts take over.”

Curry chipped in with 28 points, while Lillard had 32.

James spent most of the night admiring his drafting skill from the bench. He played less than 13 minutes, scored just four points, and didn’t return to the court in the second half.

Instead, he munched a snack on the bench.

“I know he was managing his minutes tonight,” Curry said. “We had a great time, representing him as captain. It was a memorable night for sure.”

It sure was for Curry, who won the 3-point competition beforehand, then went 8 of 16 from beyond the arc in the game.

Lillard matched him, also making 8 of 16 from 3-point range.

This All-Star Game sure was different than the previous 69.

Determined to pull off an exhibition that is huge for TV revenue and the league’s worldwide brand, the NBA staged the game in a mostly empty downtown arena, a made-for-TV extravaganza that was symbolic of the coronavirus era.

Despite extensive safety protocols in place, two players didn’t even make it to tipoff. Philadelphia stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were ruled out because they got haircuts from a barber who tested positive for COVID-19.

The only good thing for Durant: He didn’t have to participate in this shellacking, sitting out the game with an ailing hamstring.

Bradley Beal led Team Durant with 26 points.

On a night highlighting Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Team LeBron swept the first three quarters and cruised to the final target score, earning a total of $750,000 for its charity, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

The game got out of hand late in the second quarter.

With scant defence being played, Team LeBron took turns dunking off alley-oop passes. Chris Paul delivered back-to-back lobs that Lillard and Curry slammed through. Then, it was Paul on the receiving end of a payback pass from Curry.

After showing it could handle shots up close, Team LeBron headed outside in the final seconds of the half.

Lillard pulled up for a 3-pointer from the half-court line. Not to be outdone, Curry knocked down one from virtually the same spot.

“It was a lot of fun,” Lillard said. “Me and Steph shoot a lot of 3s. We shoot deep 3s. It was 3, 3, 3, 3, 3.”

Amid the joyful moments, the atmosphere at State Farm Arena was downright eerie compared to a normal All-Star Game.

Instead of a packed house, with A-list celebrities crammed into prime courtside seats, this game was attended by a smattering of hand-picked guests. They had plenty of room to spread out in a 17,000-seat venue that was essentially transformed into a giant television studio, with socially distanced spectators kept far from the court.

Towering video screens were set up behind the benches. Vegas-style lights flashed around the arena. Recorded crowd noise blared over the sound system. The entertainment was provided by the host Atlanta Hawks, who didn’t have any players in the game but were represented by their cheerleaders, drum line and DJ.

To address fears that one of its biggest events would become a super-spreader for a virus that has killed more than a half-million Americans, the NBA pared down its usual weekend-long ritual of extravagant parties, gridlocked streets and people watching

This All-Star Game was a one-night-only event, with a pair of skill competitions held shortly before the game and the Dunk Contest squeezed into the halftime break. The players flew in Saturday afternoon and were largely confined to a nearby hotel except for their time on the court.

“This is when everyone in basketball all over the world comes to one city,” James said before the game. “We’re able to sit back and go, `Wow, this is the game we have built.’ It’s a beautiful weekend for all walks of life, on the floor and off the floor.

“But I’m sitting here in my hotel room, isolated. My family’s not here. I’m by myself. It’s just different, to say the least, compared to previous years.”

OTHER WINNERS

All-Star Weekend was crammed into a few hours.

During the pregame, Indiana forward Domantas Sabonis defeated Orlando centre Nikola Vucevic in the Skills Challenge, redeeming last year’s finals loss to Bam Adebayo. That was followed by Curry knocking off Utah’s Mike Conley to capture the 3-Point Contest for the second time. The Warriors star added to the long-range title he won in 2015.

At halftime, Portland’s Anfernee Simons defeated New York Knicks rookie Obi Toppin in the Slam Dunk Contest, nearly kissing the rim with his winning throw-down. Cassius Stanley of the Indiana Pacers was eliminated in the opening round.

TIP-INS

Team Durant: Zion Williamson of New Orleans started the game in place of Embiid. The Pelicans forward had 10 points. … Durant’s team heaved up 72 3-pointers, but made only 27 (37.5%).

Team LeBron: Paul had 16 assists, passing Magic Johnson’s record for most career All-Star assists with 128. … Lillard ended the game with another long 3-pointer. Curry was waiving to the spectators before it even went in. … James’ team shot 63.6% from the field, including 31 of 61 from 3-point range.

UP NEXT

The 71st All-Star Game will be held Feb. 20, 2022, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. The 2023 game is set for Salt Lake City, followed by Indianapolis in 2024.

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Bryson DeChambeau tames beastly Bay Hill to win Arnold Palmer Invitational – Golf Channel

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Bryson DeChambeau captured his eighth career PGA Tour victory Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s everything you need to know from the very difficult final round at Bay Hill Club and Lodge:

Leaderboard: DeChambeau (-11), Lee Westwood (-10), Corey Conners (-8), Jordan Spieth (-6), Andrew Putnam (-6), Richy Werenski (-6)

What it means: In addition to his U.S. Open triumph, DeChambeau has now won Jack Nicklaus’ tournament (2018 Memorial) and Arnold Palmer’s. He’s also proven to be one of game’s best – if not the best – tough-course players in the world. Bay Hill was a beast on Sunday, with a field scoring average more than 4.6 shots higher than in Round 3. Add this to his dominant performance at Winged Foot and Bryson’s brawn seems best suited for the most strenuous tests.


Arnold Palmer Invitational: Full-field scores | Full coverage


How it happened: A four-man tournament was reduced to two front-runners when Westwood birdied the par-5 12th to tie DeChambeau. At 11 under, the final twosome was two shots clear of the field. They remained deadlocked until Westwood three-putted from 38 feet at the 14th. Conners did eagle the par-5 16th to briefly get back within one, but promptly bogeyed the 17th. Meanwhile, DeChambeau parred No. 16 and stayed one up on Westwood, who missed a 7-footer for birdie. The two parred No. 17 and when Westwood rolled in a 7-footer for par on 18, it meant DeChambeau had to make his from 5 feet for the win. After backing off once, he emphatically drilled it. 

Round of the day: DeChambeau’s 1-under 71. The field averaged more than 75.5 shots in the final round and 71 was the lowest score of the day (shot by three players). After a bogey at the first hole, DeChambeau didn’t drop a shot the rest of the day, parring his final 12 holes.

Shot of the day: There was DeChambeau’s 377-yard tee shot on the par-5 sixth.

There was also DeChambeau’s 50-foot par save at the par-4 11th.

But the Shot of the Day was the winner, the 5-footer for par at the last.

Biggest disappointment, Part I: Spieth. With birdies at Nos. 4 and 6, Spieth was a co-leader. But there were no more red numbers. He bogeyed the eighth hole, made a string of pars, and then bogeyed Nos. 15, 17 and 18. It added up to a 3-over 75 and a T-4.

Biggest disappointment, Part II: Rory McIlroy. The past champion was four back to start the day and never gave himself a chance. He bogeyed the second hole and put two balls in the water off the tee at No. 6. McIlroy finished with 76 but still managed a top-10 when Keegan Bradley, who went 64-78 over the weekend, bogeyed the final hole.

Quote of the day: “I don’t even know what to say to win at Mr. Palmer’s event. It’s going to make me cry.” – DeChambeau

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Tiger Woods texts Bryson DeChambeau ahead of API final round – Golf Channel

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Before he teed off in Sunday’s final round at Bay Hill, Bryson DeChambeau received a text from a certain eight-time Arnold Palmer Invitational champion.

Yes, Tiger Woods, who is still recovering from serious injuries sustained in a car accident less than two weeks ago in Los Angeles, messaged DeChambeau some words of encouragement.

“Out of the blue and I wasn’t expecting anything,” DeChambeau said. “When I got that text, I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty amazing that he is thinking of me when he’s in his tough times that he’s going through right now.’”


Arnold Palmer Invitational: Full-field scores | Full coverage


During the text exchange, Woods apparently told DeChambeau to “keep fighting” and “play boldly like Mr. Palmer.”

“One of the things that we talked about was, it’s not about how many times you get kicked to the curb or knocked down, it’s about how many times you can get back up and keep moving forward,” said DeChambeau, who made just one bogey on a brutally tough Sunday, shot 71 and beat Lee Westwood by a shot. “And I think this red cardigan is not only for Mr. Palmer, but I would say it’s a little bit for Tiger as well, knowing what place he’s in right now.”

DeChambeau also reciprocated the well wishes: “I said, ‘Keep moving forward, keep going forward. You’re going to get through it. You’re the hardest working person I’ve ever met, and you’ll persevere through this.”

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