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, Conn. 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.”
WATCH | Timberwolves opt for Georgia’s Anthony Edwards with 1st pick:
Later, the Toronto Raptors selected point guard Malachi Flynn with the 29th pick in Wednesday night’s draft.
The six-foot-one, 185-pound Flynn led San Diego State to a 30-2 record, and a No. 6 national ranking.
The 22-year-old, the youngest of seven children, played two seasons at Washington State before transferring to SDSU. He averaged a team-high 17.6 points on 44 per cent shooting and 37.3 per cent shooting from three-point range, plus 5.1 assists through 32 games for the Aztecs.
Flynn is known as a solid pick-and-roll player, and a tenacious defender.
He joins a backcourt of similarly small guards in Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, who will become a free agent on Friday.
The Raptors also hold the 59th pick in the draft.
WATCH | Raptors take Malachi Flynn at 29:
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.
Youngest Ball brother off to Charlotte
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.
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.
Blue Jays off-season FAQ: Rogers Centre replacement far from a done deal – Sportsnet.ca
TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays are turning out to be a team of intrigue this off-season for more than just what they’re trying to accomplish with their roster.
As they continue to be connected to every available player of consequence – “They are being very flirty,” is how one agent put it – a story by the Globe and Mail’s Andrew Willis on Friday revealed team owner Rogers Communications Inc. is looking to build a new stadium, rather than renovate the 31-year-old Rogers Centre, as part of a wider property redevelopment.
The part about creating a sports-anchored real-estate project – a business model for team owners that’s becoming the industry’s new regional sports network – is not brand new. Discussions on that front have been ongoing for the past few years.
What is intriguing about Willis’ piece is that the thinking within Rogers (which also owns this website) and project partner Brookfield Asset Management Inc. seems to have settled around tearing down the dome to build a new stadium, rather than trying to refurbish it.
The possibility immediately sparked excitement, but a statement from Rogers sought to tamp expectations: “Prior to the pandemic, we were exploring options for the stadium but through this year our primary focus has been keeping our customers connected and employees safe, so there is no update on the Rogers Centre to share at this time.”
So, the Blue Jays are getting a new stadium then?
Definitely Maybe is the name of an old Oasis album and also an apt description of the situation.
Two of the people I spoke with today insisted that there was nothing new here, that this file has been largely dormant since last fall. A check of the City of Toronto’s lobbyist registry supports that, as there’s been no documented meeting since Oct. 17, 2019 when a staff member for Councillor Joe Cressy, whose ward includes the dome site, spoke with Jodi Parps, Rogers’ manager of government relations, provincial and municipal. That followed a bigger meeting July 10, 2019 that included Cressy, two staff members, Edward Rogers, the RCI chairman, Tony Staffieri, RCI’s chief financial officer, Parps, Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro and Ben Colabrese, the club’s executive vice-president, finance.
The discussions centred around the dome’s future, the surrounding area and the city’s relevant leaseholds. COVID-19 arrested the progress, but that doesn’t mean the entire project stopped. Modelling for the project likely continued between Rogers and Brookfield during that time, and they likely settled on a vision for the site, floated in broad strokes in the piece by the well-connected Willis.
Beyond what he outlined, the project is expected to entail some building out of the Rail Deck Park idea that’s circulated for years. That would create more greenspace that can be used year-round and will be an important piece of the entire plan.
Makes sense. It’s done then?
Far from. All three levels of government have a piece of this, each will need to be satisfied, and it’s complicated.
While Rogers owns the stadium, the land beneath it belongs to Canada Lands Company, a crown corporation which issued a 99-year lease that runs through 2088 and is zoned for stadium usage only. That’s a primary reason why the building sold for only $25 million in 2004 – how many companies in the city need a domed stadium? Right, one.
A plan of the nature being discussed would require substantial rezoning. In the process of examining a renovation, the sports-anchored development trend began taking hold, and a series of interests began to align, turning it into a much bigger project. In a statement Friday, Cressy said he’s ready to re-engage, underlining the city’s interests in the venture:
Statement from Councillor @joe_cressy, whose ward includes Rogers Centre, on a report that the building might be razed and a new home for the Blue Jays constructed. He has not heard from the stadium owners in more than a year. pic.twitter.com/HbzAnRsrqR
— David Rider (@dmrider) November 27, 2020
Other partners would likely be needed to pull everything off, too, especially the recreational and public-space components. Bottom line, a lot of elements still need to fall into place, so don’t expect shovels in the ground any time soon.
Cool, cool, cool. But what would happen to the Blue Jays if they demolished the Rogers Centre?
Before you start mapping out the drive to Buffalo or prepping your liver for a couple of seasons in Montreal, remember what the St. Louis Cardinals did when they went from old Busch Stadium to new Busch Stadium, which opened in 2006. The Cardinals broke ground on the new place on Jan. 17, 2004 and spent the next two years building the guts of the new park before razing the old one to finish things up. This photo essay from the St. Louis Post Dispatch nicely illustrates the process of what turned out to be a seamless transition.
The Rogers Centre footprint is tighter, but there’s some land to the south of the building, as well as some on the west side, and a bit less on the east that could be used in a similar process. That’s a possibility that has been raised, according to multiple sources, with the aim of ensuring the Blue Jays aren’t left homeless, even if briefly.
Phew, that’s a lot to digest. Exciting as all that is, what’s happening with getting this team more players?
Work continues on that front, and boy is what I’m hearing interesting. To build on the analogy made by the agent who said the Blue Jays are being flirty, it sounds like they’re legitimately trying to put some rings on it, too. D.J. LeMahieu was described to me as “the perfect fit” and that he didn’t immediately re-sign with the New York Yankees suggests he’s seriously considering his options in more than a cursory way. The New York Mets, under new owner Steve Cohen, are probably gumming things up there after making it clear they’re in it to win it on multiple fronts. While the Blue Jays may be willing to set the market, agents will probably want to wait for the Mets to drop the gauntlet.
That impacts the market for another Blue Jays target in George Springer, with whom they’ve progressed beyond just talking. Same thing with Michael Brantley, but while his left-handed bat and offensive profile are perfect for the batting order, how he fits defensively is less seamless. Since he’s limited to left field and DH, that means pushing Lourdes Gurriel Jr. out of a spot in which he just started settling in. The Blue Jays don’t mind creating redundancies – good luck keeping everyone happy, Charlie Montoyo! – but that also creates surplus to trade.
Speaking of surplus, what’s going on at catcher and the report on J.T. Realmuto? Don’t they have a bazillion catchers already?
Craig Mish, who does a fine job covering the Miami Marlins, dropped this tidbit earlier in the week:
The Toronto Blue Jays are one of the teams that will be vying for free agent All Star Catcher JT Realmuto this Winter. I would expect them to be involved throughout the process. Per sources.
— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) November 24, 2020
Intriguing, and not entirely surprising, as the Blue Jays also checked in on Yasmani Grandal last winter, even if they do have enviable depth behind the plate (bazillion might be a bit hyperbolic). Certainly they hope that one of Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk, Gabriel Moreno, Riley Adams and Reese McGuire eventually becomes an impact backstop like Realmuto. But if they want to advance their program, well, Realmuto is an all-star right now.
People are being really quiet and guarded around this chatter, which lends credence to Mish’s tweet. Such a move would be reminiscent of the Blue Jays signing Russell Martin to an $82-million, five-year deal ahead of the 2015 season to push the team forward. Adding a sixth catcher to the 40-man now would definitely be suboptimal, but again, surplus creates opportunities to trade and they could use some of their young catching to get pitching help.
What about pitching? Are they done at re-signing Robbie Ray?
No. The Blue Jays need someone who can win a playoff game for the rotation if they’re going to be for real.
Trevor Bauer is the obvious big ticket, but right now they seem more fixated on position players than pitchers. Not to get repetitive, but my sense is they’d like to nail down their lineup adds, figure out what’s staying, and then trade to get pitching help. They must feel like some teams will need to off-load arms eventually (Texas with Lance Lynn, or Cincinnati with Sonny Gray, perhaps).
The Asian market is another opportunity here, with right-handers Tomoyuki Sugano of the Yomiuri Giants and Kohei Arihara of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters to be posted. The signing of Shun Yamaguchi last off-season was done partly to build a bridge into the Japanese market, with an eye towards the class of players available this winter. Sugano and Arihara are both intriguing, but the real prize could be Kodai Senga of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, if he’s posted.
Lastly, what about Francisco Lindor?
I’ve had several people tell me that the Blue Jays really want him. Well, duh. Who wouldn’t? As perfect as LeMahieu is for them, Lindor is even more perfect, even if he pushes Bo Bichette off of short. This one is complicated, though, both because of the acquisition cost in trade, but also with his pending free agency. The ongoing lack of clarity about what it would take to re-sign him is a big yellow light here and my sense is the Blue Jays won’t meet Cleveland’s price without knowing if they can extend him.
Maybe that forces the acquisition cost for Lindor down, but Cleveland could also wait for the impact free agents to sign and then work with any teams left on the sidelines.
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