Two bad things happened to Toronto Raptor Pascal Siakam this week. First, he was benched for Thursday’s game. Second – and this one is worse – it didn’t matter.
The Raptors have looked a proper mess this season. They can’t defend. They can’t hold leads. They can’t finish off games. If Alec Baldwin were the coach, he’d be screaming at them about coffee being for closers.
The primary culprit here is Siakam. Not because he’s been the worst offender. The list of contenders for that honour is as long as the roster sheet. Siakam’s to blame because he is meant to be the star of this team. When things go badly wrong, it is by definition his fault. That’s how stars operate.
Instead, after fouling out against Philadelphia on Tuesday, Siakam decided to take the rest of the night off. He bypassed the bench and headed straight for the showers.
Your LeBron James or Kevin Durant gets away with that one. Siakam did not.
That’s what the Raptors were telling Siakam when they benched him on Thursday – if you want to be treated like James, you should start playing like him. Because you’re certainly paid like him.
After starting 0-3 and clearly missing departed free agents Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, the Raptors had already dug in on the must-win talk.
Newcomer Alex Len didn’t help things much by referencing “tension” in the locker room. That word can mean a lot of things, but in a pro sport context it is heard only one way – that everyone is turning on each other.
Backroom civil war is very hot in the NBA these days. The Los Angeles Clippers started it, the Houston Rockets did them one better and now everyone wants in on the action.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse amended “tension” to “seriousness,” which means … I don’t know what it means. Presumably the opposite of fun, which is what the Raptors were not so long ago, back when they used to be good.
In order to bleed off this tension, the Raptors put Siakam in the stocks and invited the media and fans to toss tomatoes at him. Nurse talked up Siakam’s starting lineup replacement, Norman Powell.
The Raptors were plus 28, a team high, when Powell was on the floor Thursday night. During his minutes over the previous three games, Siakam was a combined minus 33.
Toronto finally won one. In fairness, it was playing the New York Knicks. But still.
Siakam sat morosely on the bench in his civvies while his teammates picked their collective level of play off the floor. The Raptors have had one good night this season, and they managed it by subtracting the guy who’s supposed to be their best player.
You don’t want to say “Rudy Gay” out loud because this is not the same situation, but admit it. You were thinking it.
As a general rule, publicly humiliating your biggest star is a tricky motivational strategy. It’s also desperate. It means you are losing faith.
It’s a bit like putting a warning letter in someone’s file. You’re not going to fire them today or tomorrow or the day after that. But just in case you ever have to, you want some paperwork in there to back you up.
Siakam was voted to the second All-NBA team last season. Would any of the other four guys accorded that honour – Chris Paul, say, or Kawhi Leonard – get benched by their teams for stomping out in a huff after being ejected? No, they would not. Because both those guys would flip their lids if that happened to them. Every great NBA player would.
They or their agent would be in the general manager’s ear immediately about proper shows of respect and how much damage one want-away NBA star can inflict on a franchise. All he has to do is hop on Instagram and kablooey, the team starts blowing up like the Death Star.
Evidently, the Raptors do not take Siakam for a lid-flipper. That may be part of the problem.
People very badly want Siakam to be an NBA superstar because it’s such a great story. A kid who takes the game up late in life, does his training on the job, and goes from a G-League stint to a max-contract in the space of three years. It’s Cinderella stuff.
In addition, Siakam is a perfect frontman for any team – shy, affable, witty. You don’t draft for charisma, but the great ones have it. Siakam seemed to as well.
But there is also the small matter of playing like a star when it actually matters. Siakam doesn’t have that. You would like to add the word “yet” to the end of that sentence, but if you could, the Raptors wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of benching him.
He was great playing second fiddle to Leonard. He was excellent during the following regular season. But once things tightened up in the playoffs, Siakam folded in on himself. Boston beat him like a rug. Siakam said, “Thank you, sirs, I’ll have another.”
It was of paramount importance that Siakam show up this year looking like someone who wants to correct the record. Instead, regular-season Siakam now looks alarmingly like postseason Siakam. That has panicked his employer.
The Raptors could have given him a good behind-closed-doors talking to. They could’ve sent the coach out to coyly rip him in the media. That’s been the usual way the Raptors have dealt with things in the Masai Ujiri era.
God knows they could’ve benched Kyle Lowry for a half-dozen different behind-the-scenes snits he’s had over the years, but they haven’t. Why? Because the Raptors always understood that however much of a pain in the ass Lowry can be, he shows up to work every single night. He understands that you have to earn the word “star” over and over again. The Raptors believe in Lowry. That belief resulted in a championship.
Evidently, Siakam does not enjoy that same confidence from his bosses. So the Raptors have escalated past ignoring the problem, tough talk and begging – the usual ways you deal with an errant star – and gone to shock treatment.
Depending on the player, that sometimes works. But sometimes it makes things worse.
Diamond Resorts A Great Start To 2021 – LPGA
That’s what I’m talking about. The star power at the season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions presented by Insurance Office of America was simply off the charts – and so was the golf. Twenty-five LPGA Tour winners were joined by 53 celebrities and even the name “Sorenstam” popped up on a leaderboard for the first time in a dozen years.
But ultimately, it was the quality of play that stole the show at the Four Seasons Golf & Sports Club Orlando. For the second consecutive year, it took extra holes to decide a winner – although this time the action didn’t spill over until Monday as it did in 2020 when Gaby Lopez needed seven playoff holes to better first Inbee Park and then Nasa Hataoka.
This time, Jessica Korda rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the first hole of bonus golf to edge Danielle Kang for her sixth LPGA Tour victory after a Sunday shootout that was simply sensational. It was the fourth time Korda won her season debut and it sets hopes high for the season ahead – both for Korda and the LPGA Tour.
“Amazing,” Korda said, glancing down at the trophy. “It was obviously a huge grind. Danielle was playing so solid, and then Nelly started to make a bunch of birdies. I was like, Oh, my gosh. What’s happening? I knew that I was going to have to go low today.”
The final round began with the spotlight on the glam group of Kang, Korda and her sister Nelly and it stayed there all day. Kang began Sunday with a two-stroke lead over Jessica with Nelly a seemingly insurmountable six strokes behind. But then things got interesting.
Kang, who tied the LPGA Tour 54-hole record of 192, closed with a 68 while Jessica Korda finished with a 66 as they ended regulation tied at 24-under-par 260. Nelly Korda made a brilliant charge with a bogey-free 64 to finish two strokes back.
After going 84 holes without a bogey dating back to last season, Kang finally slipped up with a three-putt on No. 15. Meanwhile, both Kordas were making a run, Nelly reeling off six birdies in seven holes beginning on No. 7 and Jessica making four in seven holes beginning on No. 6.
As they stepped to the drivable par-4 16th hole, Kang was 23 under par, Jessica 22 under and Nelly 21 under. When Kang drove into the right trees, it appeared to be anyone’s ball game – at least anyone named Kang or Korda.
A birdie by Jessica and pars by Kang and Nelly sent the trio to the par-5 17th hole with Danielle and Jessica tied for the lead and Nelly two strokes behind. All three birdied No. 17 and parred No. 18, pushing the outcome to a playoff, which Jessica made sure would not need an extra day.
“It was just a crazy, crazy day,” Korda said. “Crazy two days. Shooting 60 yesterday, getting myself back into contention after bogeying three holes in a row to finish my second round. Crazy week.”
The weekend fireworks at Diamond Resorts were a fitting finish to a powerful week that kicked off 2021, a year in which the Tour visits Olympic Club, Atlanta Athletic Club, Carnoustie Golf Links and Inverness Club in a 34-event, $75 million bounce-back from the pandemic pause of 2020. If Diamond Resorts was the rousing overture, let the show begin.
Saturday alone was a day for the history books. Kang shot 63 to maintain the two-stroke lead she had going into the weekend but lost three strokes to Jessica Korda’s 60, a score beaten only once in the 71-year history of the LPGA, that by Annika Sorenstam, who played in the celebrity field.
“Days like today don’t come often, so you really cherish them when they do,” said Korda, whose previous best round was a 62 in the 2018 Honda LPGA Thailand, which she also won.
The 60 was just the fifth in LPGA Tour history and first since Paula Creamer in 2008. The only 59 in Tour history was by Sorenstam in 2001. Larry Fitzgerald, the sure-handed receiver for the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL, played with Korda during her magical round and had a ringside seat to witness greatness.
“The shot she hit on 18 was unbelievable,” Fitzgerald said about the birdie that capped Korda’s 60. “She played the contour of the greens, she hit it exactly where she wanted, and left herself below the hole. It was mastery at its finest. She had complete command of her ball today.”
In all, 10 major champions were in the field at Diamond Resorts and they were joined by Hall of Famers from other sports, Grammy-winning musicians, stage performers and media personalities. The celebrity division, played under the Stableford format, was won by U.S. Davis Cup tennis captain Mardy Fish, with 158 points.
Chad Pfiefer, who lost his left leg above the knee in an IED explosion in Iraq and is a past winner of the National Amputee Championship, was second with 147 points. Sorenstam, playing the event for the first time, was ninth with 134 points.
The show put on Sunday by a couple of Kordas and Kang at Diamond Resorts set the bar extremely high for the new season. There’s only one thing to do now: Start gathering names to play in next year’s Tournament of Champions.
Saskatchewan-raised WHL player Kyrell Sopotyk paralyzed in snowboarding accident – CBC.ca
A Saskatchewan-raised hockey player has been paralyzed by a snowboarding accident.
Kamloops Blazers forward Kyrell Sopotyk, 19, was injured in a snowboarding accident over the weekend, according to the Western Hockey League (WHL).
Sopotyk is from Aberdeen, Saskatchewan. He was drafted to B.C.’s Blazers in 2016.
“Everyone associated with the Western Hockey League is deeply saddened by the devastating news,” the WHL said in a statement.
“The WHL and our member clubs extend our thoughts and prayers to Kyrell, the entire Sopotyk family, Kyrell’s teammates with the Kamloops Blazers, and all his friends during this challenging time.”
A GoFundMe campaign set up on Sunday to raise money for Sopotyk’s needs, including possible renovations to his home and health-care costs, has surpassed its goal of $50,000. As of Monday morning, it had raised more than $76,000.
“I think any parent that has to go to the hospital after an accident knows what they would be experiencing right now. It’s a shock. And I think as a parent, you go through those emotions of … ‘Why my child’?” said Kathleen Zary, organizer of the GoFundMe campaign.
“Kyrell is an amazing soul. The family’s amazing … I can’t imagine what they’re going through right now.”
Zary said the success of the GoFundMe campaign is not surprising.
“They’re very well-loved family in [Saskatchewan] and in Kamloops as well. And I know if the roles were reversed, the Sopotyk family would do the same for anybody. They’re one of those families that you meet and you just are instantly drawn to them because there’s just so lovely and caring to everybody.”
The cause and type of injury has not been made public at this time.
Milanovich resigns as Edmonton's head coach – CFL.ca
EDMONTON — The Edmonton Football Team is now without a head coach.
Scott Milanovich has resigned to pursue NFL opportunities, the team announced on Monday.
Milanovich was hired as the club’s 22nd head coach on Dec 12, 2019. Prior to his appointment, he was the quarterbacks coach for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars from 2017-2019 with a brief stint as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2018.
“Scott informed me this morning that he was resigning as the head coach of the Edmonton Football Team to accept a position in the NFL,” GM/VP of football operations Brock Sunderland said. “It’s disappointing that he was never able to coach a game for our organization due to the pandemic. We wish Scott and his family all the best in his future endeavors.”
The team also stated in the announcement that the search for the club’s next head coach will begin immediately.
Milanovich began his CFL coaching career in 2003, when he joined the Calgary Stampeders as a QB coach. After spending some time in Europe, he returned to Canada in 2007, this time as a QB coach in Montreal.
He moved quickly up the coaching ranks while with the Alouettes. Ahead of the 2008 campaign, he was promoted to the team’s offensive coordinator on top of fulfilling his other duties. In 2009, he also picked up an assistant head coach title.
He’d stay with the Als until the conclusion of the 2011 season, when he was named the head coach of the Toronto Argonauts. In his first season as a head coach, Milanovich led the Argos to a 9-9 record, finishing second in the East Division. They’d make it to they 100th Grey Cup and beat the Calgary Stampeders to take home the title.
Alongside his first championship in the CFL, Milanovich also earned 2012 Coach of the Year honours.
He’d spend another four seasons at the helm in Toronto. Over that span, the team made the playoffs twice and missed out on another two occasions.
Following the 2016 season, Milanovich would step down as the head coach of the Argos and joined the Jacksonville Jaguars as their QB coach, a position he held until he joined Edmonton in 2019.
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