Anthony Edwards paid tribute to his mother and grandmother. Onyeka Okongwu recalled his brother. Obi Toppin thought about coming home.
Tears flowed freely for those and many more players Wednesday night when their long-awaited, repeatedly delayed NBA dreams were finally realized.
Edwards was taken by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 1 pick in an NBA draft delayed multiple times because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Commissioner Adam Silver announced the pick from ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. The draft was originally scheduled for June 25 before multiple delays caused by the virus pushed it back out and out of its usual home at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Boxes of hats were shipped to the top prospects to put on the one they needed after their name was called.
Edwards watched while seated next to portraits of his late mother and grandmother. They both died of cancer and he was emotional after his name was announced.
“As far as just being excited and just being happy and ready to go and ready to work and ready to get there as soon as possible, those emotions were overwhelming with just my mother and grandmother being there,” Edwards said. “I mean, it was just a dream come true and just a blessing.”
And though there wasn’t the usual family table in the green room and trip on stage to meet the commissioner, some players still were outfitted in fashionable attire — perhaps none more than No. 12 pick Tyrese Haliburton of Sacramento, whose blue, floral suit had the words “Black Lives Matter” on the inside.
They celebrated with family, friends, coaches — and in Cole Anthony’s case, even celebrity fans. Movie director Spike Lee jumped up and down with his family when Orlando took Anthony, whose father, Greg played for the Knicks, at No. 15.
Some moments triggered deeper emotions. Okongwu, taken No. 6 by Atlanta, recalled his older brother, Nnamdi, who died after a skateboarding accident in 2014.
Toppin, the national player of the year last season at Dayton, struggled to speak after the New York Knicks took him at No. 8, bringing the Brooklyn-born forward to his hometown.
“I’m from New York, that’s why it’s important,” Toppin said. “Me repping my city, it’s amazing.”
Edwards became the 11th straight one-and-done player to be the No. 1 pick, coming in a year where there was no clear obvious choice. He averaged 19.1 points for the Bulldogs, tops among all freshman.
The Golden State Warriors, stung by the news that Klay Thompson sustained another leg injury earlier Wednesday, took Memphis centre James Wiseman with the second pick. They stumbled to the bottom of the league while Thompson missed the entire season with a torn ACL in his left knee.
The severity of his injury had not been revealed as the draft began but it didn’t persuade the Warriors to take another guard. Instead they went with the 7-foot-1 centre who arrived as the No. 1 recruit out of high school and averaged 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in three games before he was suspended for eligibility reasons and eventually left the program to prepare for the draft.
LaMelo Ball then went to the Charlotte Hornets, the next stop on a lengthy basketball journey that sent the guard from high school in California to stops as a professional in Lithuania and Australia. He joined brother Lonzo, taken No. 2 by the Lakers and now in New Orleans, to give the Balls two brothers taken in the top three picks.
The newcomers will have precious little time to prepare for their debuts and need to knock off months of rust or more — Wiseman hasn’t played an organized game in a year — without the benefit of summer league. Training camps open in early December and the 72-game 2020-21 season is set to begin on Dec. 22.
“This draft process has been the longest for me, so I’ve just been working on my game,” Wiseman said. “I’ve actually been playing pickup games with pros already, so I’ve been getting a lot of experience. But really just focusing on myself. I’m truly ready to play with these great guys.”
Teams had to evaluate prospects without benefit of the usual draft combine in Chicago or the ability to invite them to their facilities for workouts and meetings. And with the coronavirus shutting down the sports world in March, there was no NCAA Tournament for the players to make a final impression before entering the draft.
That helped contribute to perhaps more questions than usual surrounding the draft, with little feel for how the top few picks would play out.
The Chicago Bulls took Patrick Williams of Florida State, the ACC sixth man of the year as a freshman, at No. 4. Cleveland followed with Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, another freshman, to round out the top five.
The latter half of the top 10 featured a couple highly regarded international players in France’s Killian Hayes, taken by Detroit at No. 7, and Deni Avdija, the highest player to come from Israel when Washington picked him at No. 9.
Ravens-Steelers game moved again from Sunday to Tuesday – Sportsnet.ca
NEW YORK — The Baltimore Ravens’ bout with a COVID-19 outbreak has forced the NFL to postpone the team’s trip to Pittsburgh for a second time.
The league announced Friday the Ravens (6-4) against the unbeaten Steelers (10-0) will now take place on Tuesday night. The game was originally scheduled for Thanksgiving, then moved to Sunday afternoon after an initial wave of players on the Ravens tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Additional positive tests, a group that reportedly includes Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson, have forced the Ravens (6-4) to prepare virtually all week.
The postponement forced the NFL to move Dallas’ visit to Baltimore next week from Thursday to Monday, Dec. 7. The unbeaten Steelers (10-0) will now have a short week to prepare for a visit from the Washington Football Team (4-7) on Dec. 6.
The game — if it happens — will be the second Tuesday game played in the NFL this season. Tennessee played at Buffalo on Tuesday, Oct. 13 following the Titans’ bout with COVID-19 in early October forced a reshuffling of the schedule that included moving Pittsburgh’s visit to Tennessee from Oct. 4 to Oct. 25.
Washington Football Team deletes tweet mocking President Donald Trump – Yahoo Canada Sports
The Canadian Press
One of Toronto FC’s biggest stars isn’t thinking about whether or not he’ll be named the league’s most valuable player this season. After all, while some other nominees are still fighting for Major League Soccer’s top prize, Alejandro Pozuelo and his teammates are already back home. “For me, the MVP, it’s not important,” the 29-year-old Spaniard said on a video call Friday. “I feel no good when we lose in the first round (of the playoffs).”Toronto appeared poised for a long playoff run after finishing the regular-season campaign with a 13-5-5 record, second best in the league. But the club’s year came to an abrupt end Tuesday when it lost 1-0 in overtime to expansion side Nashville SC in East Hartford, Conn.Three days later, the result is still “bitter,” and the players feel some guilt because they know they could have gone further, said goalkeeper Quentin Westberg. “It stays and it sticks and it’s going to be hard to wash off,” he said.The disappointing finish punctuated a long, hard season that saw Toronto’s players and staff face unprecedented challenges, from injuries and a condensed schedule to months spent on the road and games in empty stadiums. The uncertainty of 2020 has been difficult for everyone, said midfielder Jonathan Osorio, including professional athletes who saw seasons come to a screeching halt in March as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in North America. “You’re dealing with a lot of things that happen so quickly but so slowly at the same time,” he said. “It was tough.”TFC played just one game in front of fans at BMO Field before the hiatus. When play resumed, it was in a bubble near Orlando, Fla., with the MLS is Back tournament, followed by an all-Canadian nine-game series in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Then, in mid-September, border restrictions forced all three Canadian clubs to move south. TFC set up a temporary home in East Hartford.“You had to have a lot of patience this year, I think. It was tough,” Osorio said. “It was tough to get your body ready for games and then stop for long periods of times and then start again so quickly. An overall tough year for everybody.” A wave of injuries also impacted Toronto. Star striker Jozy Altidore and veteran defender Justin Morrow both missed time, and captain Michael Bradley was twice sidelined, first by an ankle injury and then by a knee sprain. Going through surgery, rehab and training was difficult, Bradley said.“It’s a frustrating year from a personal standpoint,” said the 33-year-old midfielder. “It was a crazy year. That’s not meant in any way to be an excuse. It’s just reality.”Pozuelo revealed Friday that he, too, had dealt with a leg injury through the final two or three weeks of the season. He did not detail the nature of the injury but said he and the club kept it quiet because he wanted to continue playing. “This is no excuse,” he said. “I play a lot of games because I want to play. And I feel good (to) play.”Pozuelo saw action in all 23 of Toronto’s regular-season games, and was on the field for the full 120 minutes of Tuesday’s playoff loss.He led TFC in scoring with nine goals and 10 assists, and was tied with two other players for most assists in MLS through the regular season. The MLS pandemic-condensed schedule, which saw most teams play two games a week, was hard on the athletes’ bodies, Pozuelo said.“In football, I learned that we cannot play every three or four days because we kill the players,” he said. “It’s difficult. It’s difficult to play every two, three, four days.”Now that the season has ended, Bradley is looking forward to training consistently and pushing himself physically. He said the off-season will be the first time all year that he’s been able to work out for more than four or five weeks in a row. “I feel good. I feel strong,” he said. The prospect of an indefinite off-season kept TFC centre back Omar Gonzalez up Thursday night. It’s hard to know how to prepare when you don’t know when you’ll play your next game, he explained. “We have to be ready to fight for another trophy at the beginning of the year, whenever it comes,” he said. “So we have to be ready. I want to be ready for my teammates, for my team.” After everything the club went through in 2020, being ousted from the playoffs in the first round hurts, Gonzalez said, particularly because TFC is a club that sets its standards high. But he hopes the season of adversity will hold some lessons moving forward. “It’s definitely a year that we’ll look back on and take a lot from,” Gonzalez said. “Because I think we have a lot of strong people on this team. And I think there’ll be a lot of growth from this year.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020.Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press
Costly mistakes haunt Cowboys in blowout loss to Washington – Sportsnet.ca
ARLINGTON, Texas — Alex Smith has Washington at least temporarily in first place in the NFC East after winning on Thanksgiving for the first time, two years after a planned holiday showing was wrecked by the quarterback’s career-threatening leg injury.
Smith and his teammates aren’t going to concern themselves with how bad their division might be.
Antonio Gibson ran for three touchdowns, Smith threw a scoring pass and Washington pulled away in the fourth quarter of a 41-16 Thanksgiving victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday.
Smith was days away from a second career Thanksgiving start in a visit to Dallas two years ago when he was injured. Now he has a second straight victory in his improbable comeback.
“It’s hard to put into words,” said Smith, who was a modest 19 of 26 for 149 yards and got bailed out on his only interception when receiver Terry McLaurin ran down Dallas linebacker Jaylon Smith to prevent a tying touchdown before the Cowboys had to settle for a field goal.
“I never would have dreamt in a million years something like this would be happening. Just thankful for it and making the most of it every day.”
Gibson’s second score was a 23-yard run on the first play after an ill-advised fake punt by Dallas as Washington beat its division rival on Thanksgiving for just the second time in 10 tries. Washington has been the most frequent visitor for the Cowboys in their annual holiday home game.
Washington (4-7) slides ahead of Philadelphia (3-6-1) in the NFC East and will stay in first place if the Eagles lose to Seattle on Monday night. It was the third win in five games since a five-game losing streak dropped Washington to 1-5.
The New York Giants can pull even with Washington by beating Cincinnati on Sunday, and they currently hold the tiebreaker because they went 2-0 against Washington this season.
“Our record’s not the best,” Gibson said. “We’re still in it. That gives us hope. That’s what we’re pushing for is we can still make the playoffs right now. We’re going to keep going.”
Dallas (3-8) couldn’t build on a big win at Minnesota, losing for the fifth time in six games since star quarterback Dak Prescott’s season-ending ankle injury.
The Cowboys were playing a day after strength coach Markus Paul died at a hospital following a medical emergency at the team’s facility. Paul was honoured with a moment of silence before the game.
The Cowboys trailed 20-16 when they faced a fourth-and-10 from their 24-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Darian Thompson took the snap in front of punter Hunter Niswander and pitched to Cedrick Wilson on a reverse that was stuffed for a 1-yard loss.
On the next play, Gibson easily beat the Dallas defence to the left pylon. After another Dallas punt, Gibson capped a clock-killing drive with a 37-yard score for a 34-16 lead.
Washington made it a blowout when Montez Sweat tipped and intercepted a pass right in the face of Andy Dalton and was free to run 15 yards for a TD.
Gibson, who already was the rookie leader in touchdowns rushing and now has 11, finished with 115 yards on 20 carries.
And two-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott of Dallas had just 32 yards while losing his fifth fumble of the season, by far the most of his five-year career.
McLaurin had the defensive play of the game, tackling Smith at the Washington 4 after Smith’s interception in the open field near the 50. The Cowboys went 6 yards in the wrong direction and had to settle for a short field goal and a 20-16 deficit late in the third quarter.
“I was just trying to make a play,” said McLaurin, who led Washington with seven catches for 92 yards. “But when our defence got that stop, that’s when I kind of felt like, `Wow, that was a big play.’ You never give up on any plays because you never know what’s going to happen.”
Dallas’ last lead was 10-7 in the second quarter after Dalton’s 54-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper, who had 112 yards on six catches.
PASS AND CATCH
Smith’s touchdown pass was a 5-yarder to tight end Logan Thomas, the former college quarterback who chunked the ball into the second deck of seats not long after his 28-yard pass to McLaurin on a trick play set up Gibson’s first TD.
“I told him he’s got a pretty good QB rating right now,” Smith said. “Gadget plays are a part of football, and what better day to run it on than Thanksgiving? Obviously we do multiple things with Logan. He’s a talented guy.”
A Dallas offensive line that has been in flux all season lost both starting tackles to injuries on the opening drive, which ended in a field goal. And that’s with the original starting tackles already out for the season with injuries.
Zack Martin, a four-time All-Pro at right guard making a second straight start at right tackle, injured his left calf in the first half. Four plays earlier, left tackle Cameron Erving exited with a knee injury.
Washington: at Pittsburgh on Dec. 6.
Cowboys: at Baltimore next Thursday.
Ravens-Steelers game moved again from Sunday to Tuesday – Sportsnet.ca
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