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Skip Bayless Discredits Lakers Championship – HotNewHipHop

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When the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship last night, NBA fans around the world began to dread what Skip Bayless would say on Undisputed this morning. As everyone knows by now, he is a staunch LeBron James hater while his co-host Shannon Sharpe is a massive LeBron stan. With this in mind, everyone knew this upcoming episode of Undisputed would be a doozy, and for the most part, this turned out to be quite true.

As expected, Bayless didn’t disappoint as he came out swinging, trying to make the case that the Lakers were gifted a title because they didn’t have to play the Los Angeles Clippers. Sharpe made the point that the Clippers’ failures aren’t the Lakers’ fault, but Bayless maintained that LeBron’s fourth title will always have an asterisk next to it.

“On the inside of the Lakers rings should be a little inscription: *Avoided the Clippers*. You avoided the one team that would’ve knocked you off! You got to play the longest-odds team to make an NBA Finals, down 2 of its best players.,” Bayless attempted to argue.

At this point, everyone knows what Bayless’ agenda is when it comes to LeBron, so his comments weren’t surprising in the least. If the Lakers beat the Clippers in the playoffs next season, maybe then will the Undisputed host finally change his tune.

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Toronto Raptors prepare for a very different NBA draft – The Globe and Mail

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Taking place in November instead of June, and during a pandemic that has limited the ability to scout players in person, the Toronto Raptors are preparing for a very different NBA draft experience.

The Raptors have the 29th and 59th picks in the draft, which will take place on Nov. 18, a little more than a month after the NBA Finals concluded inside the bubble in Orlando. The process of evaluating prospects live at games, combines and individual workouts has mostly shifted to studying those players on film and interviewing them by video calls.

The Raptors scouting department works year-round and has scouts around the world. Their staff had already learned a great deal about prospects before the pandemic shut down the sports world, including March Madness, in the spring.

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“I think that we’re a front office that spends a lot of time digging in on guys throughout the entire season, not just during the predraft,” said Dan Tolzman, Raptors assistant general manager and vice-president of player personnel. “So a lot of the work we’ve done, it happened earlier in the year while the games were still going on.

“We feel pretty comfortable where things were when everything got changed. I think it’s going to come down to trusting in our gut feeling on some of these players.”

Typically, NBA teams bring potential picks to their cities for individual workouts close to the draft, but the league restricted most player travel because of the pandemic. Some players did local workouts and teams connected by video to watch or talk to them.

“We value the visits … and we get to know [the prospects] in person,” Tolzman said during a video call with reporters, adding that it was also a good way to sell the potential players on the city. “A lot of these guys have never been out of the country or especially to Toronto. It’s unfortunate for that side of things to kind of miss out on that opportunity. We’re still getting some one-on-one time. We’re doing a lot of Zoom interviews. It doesn’t recreate the interperson discussions, but we’re doing our best to at least get to know them.”

The Raptors are still doing homework on the prospects, including speaking with people who know them. Tolzman added that it can be tough to evaluate virtually how a player is doing with goals he may have stated months ago, such as changing his diet, adding or losing weight or improving a particular skill.

“It seems like forever since we’ve seen these players. They might be completely different from the last time we saw them playing in March,” Tolzman said. “We’re basing a lot of these decisions on extensive film work, discussions as a staff and a lot of background digging on players to get as much info as we can to make an educated decision come draft night.”

All teams missed the scouting opportunities that would have come with U.S. college conference tournaments and the NCAA tournament.

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“Those are two events that are so important for the performances under pressure, the different sort of environments that are really good for critiquing players and getting to see them in different settings,” Tolzman said. “It’s almost like the final exam of a scouting season where you can go to a conference tournament and you can see 12 different draft prospects in one day.”

Tolzman said he believes the market for undrafted talent could be huge this year, because some potential gems never got the chance to shine in front of scouts.

He added that international prospects might be more NBA ready than in in the past, because they spent four or five months before this draft training in the United States, rather than previous years when they would typically be playing back home.

“Because of this situation most of them are now State-side and they’re already doing the NBA-type training methods,” Tolzman said. “They might hit the ground running a little bit quicker than normal.”

The NBA has not released any details about how the draft will operate or what it will look on TV. The Raptors will still feel at home where key members of their staff usually work on draft nights, inside their Toronto training facility – OVO Athletic Centre – fitted with sophisticated analytics technology.

“We’re waiting to hear officially from the league on what to expect,” Tolzman said. “I think all the technologies and all the setups that we usually have at OVO for these sorts of thing, we’re going to have the same things right in front of us. It’ll just be a matter of it looking and feeling a little bit different. But we’re going to make sure it’s all set up and ready to go at least a week in advance to get comfortable and ready.”

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World Series Takeaways: Game 2 the epitome of baseball in 2020 – Sportsnet.ca

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The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Los Angeles Dodgers Wednesday, 6-4, in Game 2 of a World Series that is turning out to be more competitive than many assumed after Game 1.

Tampa Bay’s offence finally arrived. The Dodgers flexed the depth of their pitching staff. In a perfect representation of 2020 baseball, a dozen pitchers were used, five homers were hit, and the game took three hours, 40 minutes to play.

Plenty happened. And this series just got a lot more interesting. Here are your takeaways from World Series Game 2.

Watch every game of the 2020 World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers on Sportsnet and SN Now.

Arrived just in time

Not much has gone right at the plate for Brandon Lowe this post-season. He came into Wednesday’s game mired in an epic slump, batting .107/.180/.161 with six hits — five of them singles — in 15 games. He’d struck out 19 times against only five walks. For a guy who put up a .916 OPS this season, something was obviously amiss.

Through it all, Rays manager Kevin Cash has stuck with him, continuing to write Lowe’s name second in the batting order game after game, trusting the second baseman was too good of a hitter not to break out of it. A home run came in Game 5 of the ALCS, followed by a single and a walk in Game 6. Promising signs. But then Lowe went 1-for-8 over his next two games, leading into his first plate appearance Wednesday when he did this:

Fastball hunting in a 3-1 count, Lowe smoked that ball 410 feet over the wall in left-centre, a no-doubter the moment it left his bat. His next plate appearance didn’t go so well, as he fell behind 0-2 and grounded out chasing a slider. And his third started similarly, falling behind 0-2 to Dodgers right-hander Dustin May. But then May missed his location with a slider, leaving it out over the plate — and Lowe knows exactly what to do with those:

Was Lowe fortunate to get a hung slider in an 0-2 count? Sure. But he was rewarded for a patient approach in the first, getting the 3-1 fastball hitters feast on. And process aside, the results had to be a relief for a struggling hitter suffering through a miserable few weeks.

Same could be said for Joey Wendle, who entered the night with a .583 OPS this post-season, nearly 200 points off his regular season rate. Before Lowe’s second homer, Wendle stepped to the plate in the fourth with two on and two out, and got himself one of those hanging May sliders, driving it to right-centre and cashing both runners:

That was Wendle’s fifth hit in his last 35 plate appearances, and only his second extra-base hit in 16 games this post-season. Later in the night, with runners on the corners and none out in the sixth, Wendle sliced a first-pitch Joe Kelly curveball into left field deep enough to cash the runner from third with a sacrifice fly. Again, screw the process. Wendle will happily take the result.

So, too, will the rest of the Rays hitters who came to life Wednesday after a 10-game stretch in which the club scored only 31 runs. That goes for Manuel Margot, who went 2-for-2; Yandy Diaz, who ripped a 109-m.p.h. liner off the wall in the seventh; Willy Adames, who laced a double off Alex Wood in the eighth and put his hands up when he got to second, like, ‘finally.’

Are these signs of an offence beginning to break out of the slump it’s been in since Game 4 of the ALDS? The Rays certainly hope so.

Something had to give

In their Game 1 victory the Dodgers executed a patient game plan against Tyler Glasnow, refusing to swing at any secondary stuff off the plate, forcing the Rays starter to come into the zone with fastballs, and taking their walks when he didn’t. The result was Glasnow throwing 112 pitches over only 4.1 innings, walking six and allowing six runs in the process.

That set up a fascinating dichotomy entering Wednesday’s Game 2. The Rays were starting Blake Snell — a Cy Young winner whose success is predicated on generating swing-and-miss outside the zone. This season, Snell threw 57.7 per cent of his pitches off the plate — and that number increased slightly to 58.4 per cent in the playoffs. He was also one of MLB’s best at generating swings on those pitches, with a 33.2 per cent rate.

But the Dodgers refused to chase against Glasnow and had generally been refusing to chase all season long, going after only 11.9 per cent of the pitches they were thrown outside the zone this season — MLB’s best rate. Something had to give.

For a while, it was the Dodgers. Snell started his night in attack mode, retiring his first three batters with only 10 pitches, the fewest he threw in any first inning this year. And he absolutely cruised through four, striking out eight without allowing a hit.

Living in the zone with his fastball and changeup, Snell was getting plenty of swing-and-miss with his breaking balls, earning five strikeouts with his slider and three with his curveball. Nine of the 13 times Dodgers hitters swung at his slider they came up empty.

But with two out in the fifth, right after his ninth strikeout, Snell’s command began to waver. He walked Enrique Hernandez on five pitches before falling behind Chris Taylor, 2-1. And that’s when he allowed his first hit of the night:

A Mookie Betts walk and Corey Seager single followed, and suddenly Cash was on his way out of the dugout to get his starter. It turned that quickly. Snell went from unhittable to on the ropes in the span of four batters, all with two outs.

Still, the Rays can be happy with what Snell provided. It was only 88 pitches over 4.2 innings, but he struck out nine and contained one of baseball’s best, most patient lineups. And for starters in these playoffs, five innings is the new seven.

Particularly for these clubs, which each have nuclear bullpens to deploy. And although the Dodgers plated a couple late runs with solo shots off Nick Anderson and Pete Fairbanks, Tampa’s relievers held the lead, with Aaron Loup and Diego Castillo recording the final four outs in order.

Where things get interesting now is Glasnow and Snell’s next appearances in the series. Glasnow could start Game 5 and Snell Game 6, provided things don’t go haywire and neither is asked to return on short rest. But either way, the cat-and-mouse game between them and the Dodgers lineup will continue. Baseball’s all about adjustments. And later on in this series, we’ll see whose are better.

Choose your own adventure

Prior to Game 2, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said there was “no hard stop” for Tony Gonsolin’s outing, implying he wasn’t planning to pull his starer at any particular juncture going into the game.

And it’s possible that was true. Maybe Roberts just didn’t like what he was seeing from Gonsolin through his first six hitters, causing him to pull the rookie right-hander with one out in the second inning. Gonsolin had allowed a homer and a walk, after all, and the final hitter he faced made relatively loud contact flying out to centre field.

But it’s much more likely that the real reason Gonsolin was lifted so early was because that was the design all along. When you’re the Dodgers, you can do things like this. The club is carrying 15 pitchers for this series and used only five in Game 1. Some of the team’s highest-leverage arms — Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol — were not among them. Neither was Julio Urias, who pitched three innings of lights out relief in Game 7 of the NLCS. With an off day Thursday, Roberts had an embarrassment of options to help him get 27 outs in Game 2.

And so, Gonsolin was pulled after only six batters, replaced by Dylan Floro, who mowed down the bottom third of Tampa’s order. Victor Gonzalez was next, entering in the third to start his night against the top of the Rays lineup. He faced four hitters before turning it over to May, who saw eight. And so on and so forth, as the Dodgers used seven arms to pitch nine innings.

Still, it’s probably not accurate to say Roberts was merely following a script — he was following multiple scripts. He was choosing between manifold avenues depending on how his pitchers were performing, which part of Tampa’s lineup was due up, who the Rays were likely to call upon off their bench, and which matchups he felt put his club in the best possible position to be successful. If Gonsolin was dominating, he probably would’ve been left in to face the Rays lineup one time through. But he wasn’t, so Roberts took one of the exits on his road map and tried to continue charting the most optimal course to his team’s preferred destination.

Welcome to 2020 baseball. What was once known as a bullpen day, and only deployed in times of desperation, is now sound strategy. Provided you have the pieces to do it. That’s the thing about the Dodgers. Their roster runs extremely deep with effective players on both sides of the ball. They can create the matchups they feel are most advantageous from the first pitch of the game until the last. They might trot out a different batting order every night. They might ask players to switch positions multiple times in one game. And they might just utilize that extreme fluidity in their deployment of pitchers, too.

Think about it this way. The Dodgers essentially have two true starters in this series — Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. The rest of the staff just gets outs when they’re asked. Sometimes that could be at the beginning of the game. Sometimes it could come somewhere in the middle, either in extended relief of a short start or in a briefer stint because that’s where the game’s highest leverage presented itself. And sometimes it could be at the end, as the club has gotten saves with three different pitchers this post-season.

Like it or not, this is the strategy. Create advantageous matchups for your team while keeping the opposition guessing. Some will look at how things turned out Wednesday and suggest the strategy’s bunk. But that would be recency bias shrouding the fact the Dodgers have done this throughout the playoffs and won 10 of 14 games.

The issue Wednesday was May hanging sliders all over the plate in the fourth and fifth, and Kelly allowing a couple groundball singles in the sixth. That’s a flaw in execution and luck, not strategy.

Friday, when Buehler takes the mound for Game 3, you’ll likely see a much more traditional starting pitcher’s outing. But don’t be surprised to see the Dodgers going back to their bullpen’ing ways in Game 4. That’s the design. And it’s gotten them this far.

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Boston Scott Fantasy Outlook: Is he a starter without Sanders in Week 7? – Pro Football Network

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Another week and another group of notable Philadelphia Eagles are hitting the sidelines with injuries. This time, one of those is star running back Miles Sanders. With Sanders set to miss at least Thursday night’s game, it’s going to be up to Boston Scott to carry the load for his team and the fantasy football managers that are putting faith into him. Is that a smart choice to make? Can a former practice squad player behind a patchwork offensive line be a productive fantasy option, especially when some seasons are likely on the line?

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Miles Sanders set to miss Thursday’s game, leaving Boston Scott to be the focal point

Sources told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen on Monday that the Eagles are expected to be without running back Miles Sanders for Thursday’s game against the New York Giants because of a knee injury. 

Sanders, along with tight end Zach Ertz, was injured during Sunday’s 30-28 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Sanders was hurt on his 74-yard run in the third quarter when he was tackled from behind by DeShon Elliott. He left the game and did not return.

Sanders’ injury is a dark cloud hanging over what was a solid day, where he rushed nine times for 118 yards. Yes, his total and 13.1 avg is inflated due to the long score, but when without that, he was still averaging 5.5 yards per carry, well above the season average.

Sanders leads the Eagles with 434 rushing yards on 71 carries with three rushing touchdowns.

Related | Will Keenan Allen be available for fantasy football teams in Week 7?

Thursday night’s game against the Giants won’t be the first time this season that Sanders has missed a game and left Boston Scott to be the lead back. Sanders missed the season opener, forcing Scott to be the Eagles top RB. He tallied just 11 opportunities for 54 yards that game, though he did have to leave temporarily with an injury of his own.

Scott has totaled just 115 yards on 28 touches this year, good enough for 4.10 yards per touch. While far behind Sanders at 6.32, Scott is still well ahead of Corey Clement’s 2.46 per touch average.

The problem with Boston Scott’s fantasy value might be no fault of his own, but the patchwork offense

There really is no sugar coating this, but the Eagles have been atrocious on offense. Carson Wentz is turning the ball over almost twice per game and has already taken 25 sacks. Sanders hasn’t been effective aside from a few huge rushing plays. And Philadelphia’s receivers are dropping tons of passes. Throw in injuries to Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, and Isaac Seumalo; their struggles should come as no surprise.

Of the initial 22 players on the offensive opening day depth chart, only eight are still healthy. Seven of those injuries are to the offensive line to the starter and his backup. It’s no wonder that the Eagles rank 27th in run blocking, averaging only 3.93 adjusted line yards (ALY) per play.

Scott will struggle to generate yards on the ground without better run-blocking. The Eagles are attempting the sixth-fewest runs per game (23.5), too, so there’s not a lot of carries to go around here. The part of Scott’s game that can salvage his fantasy value is that he is a more than competent pass catcher. While he has only seen 36 targets over the past two seasons in limited work, he has caught 31 of them for 252 yards. 

The Eagles, and fantasy managers as well, are hoping to see Scott bring the same value this week as he did to close out their season.

Scott closed out the 2019 season with 82 Fantasy points in the final four weeks, where he saw six-plus targets in four straight games, including one Week 14 start and then another game in Week 17—all while filling in for an injured Sanders.

Going against a Giants defense that allows the ninth most fantasy points to running backs (26.00) and gives up on average six receptions and 50.5 receiving yards per game, I think Boston Scott will be an RB2 in fantasy for Week 7.

This is a must-win game for the Eagles, who, despite a 1-4-1 record, are in second place in the NFC East. They can’t afford to lose this game, and if they can get out ahead early, they will try to limit the turnover opportunities that have plagued their team this year and keep it either on the ground or use a short passing scheme.

Related | NFL Week 7 Picks: Opening betting lines, best bets, and early action

The Giants have allowed a staggering 78.3 PPR points through the air to running backs alone this year. That’s 13.1 points per game through the air, and there’s not a whole lot of concern on the roster to take away Scott’s targets.

There is a chance that the team gets back both DeSean Jackson and Dallas Goedert this week, but outside of them, there is no one else on this offense. 

It all comes down to your team’s needs. If you have a solid starting roster, then don’t get too cute and try to force Scott into your lineup, thinking that he will have a monster day. Now, if you have players on a bye week or are struggling with injuries, I believe that Scott is worth consideration as he should see at least 15 touches in this came and be a lower-end RB2 in Week 7. 

Want more fantasy football analysis and news?

Be sure to follow us on Twitter: @PFN365 to stay up to date with all things around the NFL and the 2020 fantasy football season. Also, continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis while also visiting our fantasy football section for more coverage and up-to-date rankings.

Tommy Garrett is a writer for PFN covering Fantasy Football. You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.

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