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Return to basketball won’t be easy after this week’s historic events – TSN

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TORONTO – It feels very strange to think about, talk about, or write about basketball after this week’s historic events in the NBA and throughout professional sports. It’s even harder to imagine what it’s going to be like for players – coming off an emotionally charged few days – to take the court and play the game again over the weekend.

Following a whirlwind 72 hours of player protests, postponed playoff contests, impassioned meetings, and major far-reaching decisions, basketball will resume on Saturday, the league and its players announced in a joint statement Friday afternoon.

But unlike last month, when the NBA successfully navigated a global pandemic to debut in its temporary home on the Walt Disney World campus after a hiatus that spanned more than four months, this return won’t seem like a cause for celebration. It’s with heavy hearts and mixed feelings that this unprecedented 2019-20 campaign continues.

The player strike was in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake – an unarmed 29-year-old Black man – by police in Wisconsin last Sunday. The Milwaukee Bucks were the first to act – opting not to suit up for the fifth game of their first-round series against the Magic – followed by the other five teams that were scheduled to play on Wednesday, and then eventually the rest of the league’s players.

The ongoing fight for social justice had been a focus since they arrived in Orlando for the restart, but the players’ concern was that the initiatives – the Black Lives Matter messaging, kneeling during the anthems, etc. – in place were starting to lose their impact. This was a more drastic means of demanding change – real, meaningful change.

For those that were skeptical about what a player strike would accomplish, if anything, consider what it’s done in just a few days.

First, it turned heads, commanded attention, and transcended sports in a way that court decals, T-shirt messaging, and even anthem protests never could. It sparked a movement throughout pro sports, with players in other leagues skipping and cancelling games or events.

Most importantly, it’s already forced the hand of NBA owners and government officials. In their joint release, the NBA and NBAPA announced three new initiatives that were agreed upon during the past new days of meetings and negotiations.

1. They have agreed to establish a social justice coalition, which will feature representatives from players, coaches and team governors. It will focus on issues relating to voting, civic engagement, and police and criminal justice reform.

2. Wherever possible, team governors have committed to work with local election officials to convert team arenas into voting locations for the 2020 United States general election.

3. The league will work with players and network partners to create advertising spots in each playoff game that will promote greater civic engagement.

Additionally, it was announced on Friday that the Wisconsin legislature, which has adjourned since April and wasn’t expected back until after the election in November, will reconvene on Monday to address the Blake shooting – one of the conditions of the Bucks’ walkout.

While there’s still a ways to go, and these are merely action plans, they’re not insignificant first steps. It’s also the reason why the players ultimately came together and agreed to resume the season, despite many who initially campaigned to pack it up and return home.

After everything they’ve sacrificed – leaving their families and communities behind during the pandemic and in a time of social unrest – and all the work they’ve put in to get this far, they weren’t going to let it be in vain. In the NBA bubble, they have a platform to speak to the world. Now, the hope is that more people are listening.

However, the question remains: how are players, who have been so deeply affected by the events of this past week, supposed to switch gears and shift their focus back to the basketball court and play meaningful postseason games over the next few days?

For the first time since the protests began, all 13 teams that are left in the bubble were scheduled to practice on Friday. The Toronto Raptors were the first to take the court at 10 a.m., although it’s unclear how much actual practicing they were able to do.

The Raptors – who will now tip-off their second-round series against Boston at1p.m.ET on Sunday – were also supposed to be the first to speak publicly in the aftermath of the protests, but were one of several clubs – including Miami, Milwaukee and Boston – to cancel their media availability session.

Initially, the plan was to have head coach Nick Nurse address the media. The team told its players that they were all welcome to speak, if they felt comfortable, but they wouldn’t be pressured to do so. In the end, they decided to forgo the session altogether, citing the team’s well-being and that they wanted to wait until there was more clarity on the situation (the NBA and NBPA statement hadn’t been released yet).

It’s completely understandable, given the circumstances. The Raptors have been leaders in the fight for social justice – not just this week but for months. Still, it’s not on them to be the voice of the league, especially after several players – Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam – already gave lengthy and emotional interviews earlier in the week. They also shouldn’t feel burdened to be the ones that have to segue the conversation back to basketball.

As Clippers coach Doc Rivers said on Friday, “It’s not the NBA’s job to solve the world. It’s the NBA’s job to be part of the world.”

Still, the players know they have a responsibility to use their platform to help drive change, and after taking a historic stand and making a monumental statement this week, they’ve decided the best way to do that is to continue playing. That doesn’t mean it will be easy to divide their focus between the sport they love and something that’s far more important.​

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Kirk’s breakout game against Yankees comes at ideal time for Blue Jays – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – Just last week, the Yankees swept the Blue Jays in a series so one-sided that manager Charlie Montoyo started fielding regular questions about a potential mercy rule in baseball. No team in baseball history has allowed as many home runs over a three-game span as the Blue Jays did in the Bronx, and the three losses that followed in Philadelphia were perhaps not shocking considering the team was, to borrow Travis Shaw’s words, still a little ‘shell shocked.’

Even on Monday afternoon, as the Blue Jays prepared for their final series of the season against the Yankees, Bo Bichette hesitated when asked about the rivalry between the two AL East teams.

“I don’t know if you could call it a rivalry,” Bichette said. “They beat us up pretty good. Hopefully, we can make it one soon, but I wouldn’t call it a rivalry when we lost three pretty bad games. But we’re going to come out here and try to show everybody that we can compete with them.”

Livestream Toronto Blue Jays games all season with Sportsnet NOW. Plus, watch marquee MLB matchups, the post-season and World Series.

For one night, at least, the Blue Jays did just that, beating the Yankees 11-5 in a game that included a few encouraging developments beyond the result itself. Most importantly, the win gives the Blue Jays a 28-26 record and lowers their magic number to three with six games to play. There are no guarantees, as last week’s skid shows, but the Blue Jays’ chances of reaching the playoffs remain in the 98 per cent range, according to FanGraphs.

Of course, not all wins are created equal, and in this case, how the Blue Jays won is also important. Alejandro Kirk, the 21-year-old catcher who had never played above Class A until this month, has now exceeded any realistic expectations the Blue Jays could have had when they made the surprise decision to promote him nine days ago. He became the youngest catcher in franchise history to homer and finished the night with four hits.

“It felt great,” Kirk said through interpreter Hector Lebron. “The satisfaction that I felt. When you make contact and sometimes you don’t even feel the ball hit the barrel. It was just unbelievable. I can’t describe it.”

Added Montoyo: “His approach at the plate has been amazing.”

If and when the Blue Jays reach the point that they’re building a playoff roster, Kirk must now be on it. And to be sure they make the most of his discerning eye, consistently hard contact and sneaky power, the Blue Jays might even want to roster a third catcher like Reese McGuire. In theory, that would enable Montoyo to use Kirk’s bat off the bench without worrying that he’ll be caught short-handed later in the game.

Meanwhile, Matt Shoemaker pitched well in his return from the injured list, going three innings against a Yankees lineup that offers little room for error. Despite missing a month with a lat strain, the right-hander was throwing harder than usual with a fastball that topped out at 95.9 m.p.h. over the course of 54 total pitches.

“I didn’t even know I hit that until some of the guys told me,” Shoemaker said. “My body’s in good shape, and maybe velocity ticks up as a result.”

Radar gun readings aside, Shoemaker felt strong during and after his start. Already, he’s looking forward to his next chance to pitch.

“It felt phenomenal,” he said. “When you’re out there on the mound, it’s where you belong. It’s so exciting. I’m so thankful to be back.”

This season, Dan picks an issue, trend, news item or story from around MLB, and digs in on it with a guest. And he does it five times a week for about 15 minutes a day. Enough time to inform and entertain, but also get fans back to all the sports going on.

His command eluded him at times, and two second-inning walks helped the Yankees score their first run of the game, but some rust is understandable after an extended absence. Holding New York to one run over three innings has to be considered a success for Shoemaker, who suddenly looks like an option to start a playoff game.

On paper, his next start would be Saturday and the one after that would be a week from Thursday when Game 3 of the wild card round would take place if necessary. At this point it’s still too early to make final calls on who pitches when, but if nothing else Shoemaker belongs in that conversation.

“If we can stretch him out enough, he’ll be in the conversation for sure,” Montoyo said. “You can count on that.”

In contrast to those positives, the Blue Jays’ bullpen looks weaker now than it has in weeks (and did even before Wilmer Font’s rough ninth-inning appearance). The club announced Monday that closer Ken Giles will undergo Tommy John surgery, officially removing him from the equation. Even beyond Giles, Rafael Dolis remains day to day with right knee discomfort and Julian Merryweather was placed on the injured list with right elbow tendinitis.

Considering Merryweather was starting to look like a valuable multi-inning reliever, his absence will hurt down the stretch and potentially into the playoffs. Perhaps Nate Pearson, who was up to 97-98 m.p.h. in a 25-pitch live batting practice session Monday, can fill that role but there are just six days remaining in the regular season and as Shoemaker’s start shows, there’s value in working through some things before the playoffs begin.

Either way, this isn’t the first time the Blue Jays have had to adapt on the fly. Many times, their momentum slowed before the Yankees stopped it completely last week. And yet here the Blue Jays are, firmly in playoff position with less than a week remaining in the season.

“Internally, we’re not surprised at all. We’re where we expected to be. Maybe even a little bit under,” Bichette said. “We’re excited to get going this last week and hopefully clinch.”

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Two-time Stanley Cup winner Bob Nevin dies at 82 – ESPN

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Bob Nevin, a fan favorite who won two Stanley Cups with the Toronto Maple Leafs before a successful run as captain of the New York Rangers, has died. He was 82.

The NHL said he died early Monday but did not give a cause.

Nevin played 1,128 NHL games with Toronto, New York, Minnesota and Los Angeles, totaling 726 points (307 goals, 419 assists) while compiling just 211 penalty minutes.

“His honest, two-way play and leadership earned him the respect and admiration of teammates and fans alike,” the Rangers said on Twitter.

Nevin, one of the first NHL players to wear contact lenses, was part of one of hockey’s more surreal moments. During a 1962 game with Toronto in Chicago, he lost a lens. Time was called, and players and officials dropped to their knees to scour the ice, looking for the wayward lens. It never turned up.

He played his first full NHL season in 1960-61, scoring 21 goals as a rookie and finishing runner-up to Maple Leafs teammate Dave Keon in the Calder Trophy voting.

Nevin helped the Maple Leafs win Stanley Cup titles in 1962 and 1963 before being dealt to the Rangers along with Arnie Brown, Bill Collins, Dick Duff and Rod Seiling in a blockbuster trade that sent star winger Andy Bathgate and forward Don McKenney to Toronto.

While Bathgate helped the Maple Leafs win another championship in 1964, Nevin became an important part of the Rangers, serving as captain of the team from 1965 to 1971.

He helped the underachieving club end a four-year playoff drought in 1967. He led the Rangers to their first series win in 21 years in 1971, when New York beat the Leafs 4-2 in the quarterfinals.

Nevin was dealt to the North Stars before the 1971-72 season and spent two seasons in Minnesota before joining Los Angeles. His career was rejuvenated in his three seasons with the Kings. He had his highest-scoring campaign in his next-to-last NHL season — 31 goals and 41 assists with Los Angeles in 1974-75.

Nevin joined the World Hockey Association’s Edmonton Oilers for the 1976-77 season but broke a collarbone 13 games into the season and retired.

Nevin was from South Porcupine, Ontario, and came to the Maple Leafs via junior hockey’s Toronto Marlboros. He lived in the Toronto area after his 19-year career.

“Bob was ever-present at Leafs games and within the alumni community,” the Maple Leafs said on Twitter.

Survivors include his wife, Linda.

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Former Leaf, Rangers captain Nevin dead at 82 – TSN

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TORONTO — Bob Nevin, a fan favourite who won two Stanley Cups with the Toronto Maple Leafs before a successful run as captain of the New York Rangers, has died. He was 82.

Nevin died early Monday, according to the NHL. No cause of death was given.

Nevin played 1,128 NHL games with Toronto, New York, Minnesota and Los Angeles, putting up 726 points (307 goals, 419 assists) while compiling just 211 penalty minutes.

The Maple Leafs, Rangers, Kings were among the organizations offering condolences on social media.

“The Rangers are saddened to learn of the passing of Bob Nevin,” the team posted on Twitter. “A captain and fan favourite during his tenure with NYR, his honest, two-way play and leadership earned him the respect and admiration of teammates and fans alike. Our thoughts are with Bob’s wife, Linda, and his family.”

Nevin, from South Porcupine, Ont., came to the Maple Leafs via junior hockey’s Toronto Marlboros, where he played four seasons and helped the team to a Memorial Cup title in 1956.

He played his first full NHL season in 1960-61, scoring 21 goals as a rookie and finishing runner-up to Maple Leafs teammate Dave Keon in the Calder Trophy voting.

Nevin helped the Leafs win Stanley Cup titles in 1962 and 1963 before being dealt to the Rangers along with Arnie Brown, Bill Collins, Dick Duff and Rod Seiling in a blockbuster trade that sent star winger Andy Bathgate and forward Don McKenney to Toronto.

While Bathgate helped the Maple Leafs win another championship in 1964, Nevin became an important part of the Rangers, serving as captain of the team from 1965 to 1971.

He helped the underachieving club end a four-year playoff drought in 1967, and led the Rangers to their first series win in 21 years in 1971, when New York beat the Leafs 4-2 in the quarterfinals.

The 2009 book “100 Ranger Greats” listed Nevin at No. 51.

Nevin was dealt to the North Stars before the 1971-72 season and spent two seasons in Minnesota before joining Los Angeles.

His career was rejuvenated in his three seasons with the Kings. He had his highest-scoring campaign in his penultimate NHL season, putting up 31 goals and 41 assists with Los Angeles in 1974-75.

Nevin joined the World Hockey Association’s Edmonton Oilers for the 1976-77 season, but suffered a broken collarbone 13 game into the campaign and retired.

Nevin, who the Maple Leafs had at No. 64 on their list of 100 all-time players released for their 2016 centennial season, lived in the Toronto area after his 19-year playing career.

“Bob was ever-present at Leafs games and within the Alumni community,” the Maple Leafs said in a Twitter post. “Our deepest sympathies go out to Bob’s wife Linda.”

Nevin, one of the first NHL players to wear contact lenses, was part of one of hockey’s more surreal moments when he lost a lens during Toronto’s 1962 game against the Blackhawks in Chicago. Time was called, and players and officials dropped to their knees to scour the ice looking for the wayward lens. It never turned up.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2020.

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