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Man(ning) in Motion

Dec 24, 2017
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Here’s a tidbit we found interesting.  We ask you, the reader, to let us know if this falls within the bounds of good football moves, or just fun speculation?

Could you imagine Eli Manning as the Jets‘ next quarterback? Bob Glauber of Newsday can. He hypothesizes that the Giants will take a QB at No. 2 overall in the draft, displacing Manning. The Jets, who are expected to look for a new signal caller this year, could have interest in Manning winds up on the open market. Meanwhile, Glauber expects Kirk Cousins to stay with the Redskins, meaning that he would not be an option for Gang Green.

Not Insiders Verdict:

 

Top 10 Canadian sports stories of 2017

Dec 21, 2017
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Canada is much, much more than strictly a hockey nation, and never has that been more evident than in 2017.

Sure, Sidney Crosby keeps adding Stanley Cups and Conn Smythes to his resume and Connor McDavid solidified himself among the world’s elite this year. But Canadians also had momentous triumphs in basketball, swimming, tennis and MMA, while the country continued to cement itself as a football, baseball and soccer hotbed. Many memorable moments were witnessed over the past 12 months, and while most of them provided proud Canucks something to cheer about, there were a few that are painful to look back on, too.

As another year comes to a close, the Yahoo Canada Sports team has put together a list of the top-10 Canadian sporting moments of 2017.

Penguins, Crosby go back-to-back

The Pittsburgh Penguins winning their second of back-to-back Stanley Cups — a feat no club has accomplished in the NHL for 20 years — was just another feather in the cap for the team’s Canadian captain.

Pittsburgh was led to its fifth championship by several notable Canadians including goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray, defenceman Kris Letang, trigger-man Chris Kunitz, and of course, Sidney Crosby. In the postseason, the Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia product finished second only to teammate Evgeni Malkin in points (27) and goals created (9.4), while ranking second in points per game and first in assists. Crosby capped off the third Cup triumph of his career with his second Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP.

Connor McDavid’s coming out party 

Connor McDavid not only threw his own breakout bash in 2017, he swept the place up when the festivities were over.

The 20-year-old had a dream-like sophomore season with the Oilers, leading the NHL in assists (70), points (100), assists per game (0.85) and points per game (1.22), while dragging the Orange and Blue on his back towards the team’s first playoff appearance since 2006. At the NHL Awards in June, McDavid became just the 10th player in NHL history to win hockey’s version of the triple crown, capturing the Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award. He was also just the fourth player 20-years-old or younger to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP. The others? Wayne Gretzky (twice) and Sidney Crosby.

Toronto FC’s historic campaign

After dropping the Montreal Impact to become the first Canadian team ever to advance to the MLS Cup final just over a year ago, Toronto FC made 2017 even more memorable.

Further breaking ground for league and country, TFC broke the 19-year-old points record held by the L.A. Galaxy en route to becoming the first Canadian MLS franchise to win the Supporters’ Shield. But what ultimately cemented TFC as the greatest club in league history was atoning for last year’s loss in the MLS Cup Final with a dominant victory in the championship rematch with Seattle Sounders at BMO Field.

The return of GSP

The UFC and Canada as a whole were blessed by the comeback of one of the sport’s best-ever fighters and one of the country’s all-time great athletes.

Georges St-Pierre made his long-awaited return to the Octagon after a four-year hiatus, and delivered more than anyone could have imagined in an incredibly entertaining bout with Michael Bisping for the middleweight crown. GSP, bruise-faced and leaking a steady stream of blood, slapped a rear naked choke on Bisping to re-assert himself atop the MMA world. At 36-years-old, St-Pierre is once again a top-flight superstar in the UFC and firmly entrenched in the conversation for greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time.

Roy Halladay’s tragic death

Though he wasn’t Canadian by birth, the country mourned the loss of one of its own when arguably the greatest pitcher in Toronto Blue Jays history was taken away far too soon.

Roy Halladay tragically lost his life in November as a result of a plane crash off the Gulf Of Mexico. He is certainly one of the most talented MLB pitchers of the last half-century, and he spent 12 of his major league seasons tossing for Canada’s team. He captured his first Cy Young in 2003 with the Blue Jays and was an All-Star six times with Toronto while throwing an absurd 49 complete games with the club (he threw 67 in his career). He later went on to win a World Series, another Cy Young, and toss the second perfect game in postseason history with the Phillies.  One of the greatest athletes  — and by all accounts greatest people — to ever grace the Canadian sports scene.

Denis Shapovalov begins his ascent 

2017 was the year of El Shapo, as Denis Shapovalov thrusted himself into the Canadian sporting spotlight and finished the season as the talk of the ATP tour.

The 18-year-old Montreal native started 2017 as the 250th ranked mens player in the world, while making it known that his goal — which seemed quite lofty at the time — was to crack the top 150 by the end of the year.  Shapovalov started making his way up the latter at the Rogers Cup in Montreal with a gutsy victory over Juan-Martin Del Potro, then by defeating No. 1-ranked Rafael Nadal in a miraculous, three-set-thriller in front of a charged up home crowd. Shapovalov followed up his inspiring underdog performance by making it to the Round of 16 at the U.S. Open. He is currently No. 51 in the world — nearly 200 spots higher than he ranked 11 months ago.

Kylie Masse breaking records in the pool

A year after winning an Olympic bronze in Rio, Kylie Masse carried Canada’s momentum in the pool right into 2017.

The 21-year-old made history at the world aquatics championships in Budapest in July, becoming the first female Canadian swimmer ever to win a world title. Masse did so in dominant fashion, to boot, setting a new world-record in the 100-metre backstroke with a time of 58.10 seconds, and in the process throwing out the longest-standing record in women’s swimming.

Under-19 Men’s Basketball claims gold

One the best international basketball clubs Canada has ever assembled was led to gold by the most highly-touted Canadian baller since Andrew Wiggins.

After a historic win over the U.S. in the semifinal, Canada claimed its first-ever gold medal at an international FIBA competition after crushing Italy by 19 points in the championship game. Mississauga’s R.J. Barrett — who later committed to powerhouse Duke after receiving offers from every major D1 program — followed up his heroic performance versus the Americans with 18 points and 12 boards in the final contest, and was named tournament MVP for averaging 21.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists throughout.

Toronto Argonauts capture Grey Cup 

A tumultuous season for the Argos concluded in triumph with a Grey Cup victory set upon a backdrop of pure Canadiana.

In January, general manager Jim Barker was axed and head coach Scott Milanovich subsequently left his position to become a quarterbacks coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL. The outlook seemed bleak for the Double Blue until the hirings of three-time Grey Cup champion Jim Popp as GM former Montreal Alouettes boss Marc Trestman as head coach. After a 4-6 start, the Argos ended up finishing first in the East and concluded the campaign by knocking off four Western teams including an upset over Calgary in an incredibly exciting (and snowy) Grey Cup.

Ottawa Senators improbable postseason march 

Everything about the Senators’ improbable season, and an even unlikelier playoff run, was magical.

After managing to scrape their way to a second-place finish in the Atlantic Division, the Sens took out the Bruins in a thrilling six-game series which included four one-goal victories — three of them in overtime. Ottawa went on to beat out the favoured New York Rangers in round two, also in six games, teeing up a Conference Final matchup with he defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

After a thrilling Game 6 victory, Ottawa’s Cinderella run ended a shot away from a berth in the Stanley Cup Final, losing in double overtime of Game 7 on a heartbreaking Chris Kunitz winner.

More end-of-year content from Yahoo Sports:

https://ca.sports.yahoo.com/news/year-review-top-10-canadian-sports-stories-2017-162323166.html?src=rss

 

NBA Star Power Index: Lonzo starting to Ball; clutch Kyrie proving his critics wrong

Welcome back to our NBA Star Power Index — a weekly gauge of the players who are most controlling the buzz around the league. Reminder: Inclusion on this list isn’t necessarily a good thing. It simply means that you’re capturing the NBA world’s attention. Also, this is not a ranking. The players listed are in no particular order as it pertains to the buzz they’re generating. This column will run every week for the rest of the season. 

Don’t look now, but the narrative around Lonzo Ball is starting to shift from everyone talking about what he can’t do to eyes opening across the league to all the things he can do. He’s established himself as perhaps the best rebounding guard this side of Ben Simmons (and can you really call Simmons a guard? I know, he plays the point, but he’s 6-foot-10. Inch for inch, Lonzo is right there with Russell Westbrook on the boards). He also leads all point guards with a block per game, his defensive instincts are better than advertised and improving every game, and we know about his passing — seventh in the league at 7.1 assists per night. 

Suddenly, Lonzo’s shooting is the only element of his game that isn’t already borderline All-Star level, and even that is starting to come around. Check out the last five games:

The numbers look even better over the last three games: 15.3 points, 7.7 assists. 7.3 rebounds, 47 percent from the field, 45 percent from three. The Lakers took Golden State to overtime on Monday for the second time this season, and Lonzo finished with 16 points, six assists, six boards, two blocks and a steal on 6-of-12 shooting, including 3 of 6 from three. Even more encouraging were a couple buckets he scored in overtime, including a step-back three that he’s starting to take more frequently and with more confidence. Proving that he can be a half-court creator, both for himself and others, down the stretch is a big step forward. Also, don’t sleep on this pull-up jumper going right, which is something he’s struggled with since his time at UCLA given his funky form. He’s clearly been working on this:

Speaking of struggling to shoot, Simmons’ inability to hit any kind of jumper, or even be willing to take one in most cases, is starting to become a little bit of an elephant in the room. Not a huge, mother elephant. But a baby one at least. The Sixers have lost seven of their last eight and are 1-6 this season in games decided by three points or less. 

That’s not entirely on Simmons by any stretch, but when you can’t shoot at all, that’s going to be exposed in late, close games when the pace tends to slow down and defenses can narrow their game-plan focus. In Philly’s triple-OT loss to OKC, the 76ers went almost exclusively to Joel Embiid down the stretch, running their offense through him in the post, and when he’s on the court, that’s fine. Embiid didn’t play in Philly’s two-point loss to Chicago on Monday, and Simmons didn’t score over the final 6:49 of that game. Embiid didn’t play in Tuesday’s loss to Sacramento, either, and Simmons scored two points over the final 16 minutes, and even that bucket was a pretty generous continuation call. 

Simmons is still the clear favorite for Rookie of the Year. He posted his fourth triple-double of the season vs. Chicago; only Westbrook and LeBron have more. It’s just the shooting, man. That’s it. I mean, when you’re an elite NBA player and you hit one uncontested 15-footer and Twitter feels the need to react, you are a really bad shooter.

That said, if he does start making this shot, good luck:

James Harden’s shooting percentages have dipped a bit of late (though he’s still averaging better than 22 ppg over his last three), yet the Rockets, who’ve won 14 straight and haven’t lost in more than a month, continue to steamroll the entire league. Why? Well, a bunch of reasons — but none bigger than Chris Paul, who’s coming off a triple-double of 18 points, 10 boards and 10 assists against the Jazz on Monday. Paul still hasn’t lost a game in a Houston uniform, up to 15-0 alongside Harden. Please look at what he’s doing in December:

Also, R.I.P. to Thabo Sefolosha:

Pretty fitting that on the night Kobe Bryant’s two numbers were retired, Kevin Durant scored a Kobe-esque 36 points on the Lakers — though inefficient as hell, missing 16 of his first 20 shots, before rending all the inefficiency completely moot by hitting the game-winning shot with less than 10 seconds to play in overtime:

If that’s not paying homage Kobe, one of the most single-minded assassin scorers in history who cared zero about all this efficiency basketball nerd talk, I don’t know what is. Durant said as much after the game. “That was for Kobe Night,” he told reporters. “I had to get them up for Kob.”

Durant continues to lead the Warriors in Stephen Curry’s absence, posting 33.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists over the four games Curry has been out. Golden State has won nine straight. 

LeBron’s last three games: Two triple-doubles, followed by 39 points on 6-of-11 shooting from three against the Bucks on Tuesday. Milwaukee actually won that game, but don’t feel too bad for the Cavs, who’ve won 18 of their last 20 as LeBron continues to play, perhaps, the best basketball of his career (No matter how many times I hear people say this, and no matter how true it actually might be, it’s still impossible for me to imagine given the miles on LeBron’s legs. The guy is an alien). 

This shot didn’t end up mattering, but this is how schoolyard-easy the game is right now for the King. He’s actually throwing it off the back of a defender to pass it to himself for a three:

LeBron has been unbelievable — and I’m not just throwing that word around — in fourth quarters this season. He leads the league with 94 clutch-time points, and continues to use his platform for good in trying to bring attention to, and advance, social equality. 

Over the first quarter of the season, there was a contingent of people who believed Kyrie was getting too much hype, pointing to the fact that his numbers weren’t even as good as they were last season in Cleveland. I disagree in every way imaginable with this stance, numbers be damned, but even if you want to take a strictly statistical approach, well, that’s out the window now too. As of Wednesday:

On Monday, the Celtics pulled off something of a basketball miracle when Terry Rozier intercepted Bojan Bogdanovic’s inexplicably lazy pass and finished a dunk at the other end with 1.6 seconds left to give Boston a one-point win in Indiana, but it was actually Kyrie who played hero once again with two 3-pointers over the final 31 seconds and three consecutive buckets in the final minute. Irving is second in the league with 87 clutch points. His closing ability is what takes the Celtics from a good team to a legit threat in the East. 

The Freak is averaging 28 points and 13 boards over his last three games, and the Bucks, as mentioned above, got a big-time win over Cleveland on Tuesday after they’d lost three straight. All Giannis did in that one was go for 27 points, 14 boards, eight assists and two steals. Oh, and he also came up with the game-sealer when he countered LeBron’s steal with a immediate steal of his own before finishing a three-point play with less than six seconds to play:

ESPN’s Adrain Wojnarowski came out with a story on Tuesday detailing, in addition to many other things, the trade rumors that seem to be constantly circling Davis, even more so recently. Yeah, that’s going to get everyone’s attention, especially when you hear the Celtics are one of the teams that is quietly eyeing Davis. From Woj:

Davis remains an obsession of several NBA teams full of the necessary trade assets to unfasten him from New Orleans, should the Pelicans ever consider a rebuild — or should Davis ever request a trade. Boston has remained vigilant on the possibility of acquiring Davis, and Davis knows it. However, the Pelicans have no intention of trading an all-world talent under contract through 2021, no matter the return.

The Pelicans say they have no intention of trading Davis, and chances are they won’t any time soon. But we all know how this often goes: Small-market team just can’t figure out how to win at a meaningful level, star player gets antsy, team doesn’t want to lose him for nothing, and bang, next thing you know Paul George is playing for the Thunder or Kevin Love is in Cleveland. 

Look at the Pelicans right now. It feels like they’re starting to “get it” — with Cousins and Davis both putting up their customary ridiculous numbers and Jrue Holiday playing really well. As of Wednesday, they’re only 1.5 games out of the No. 5 seed in the West. At the same time, at 15-16, they’re not even a .500 team after losing to Washington on Tuesday in game in which they trailed by more than 20. 

If you’re getting excited about the “positive momentum” of a team that isn’t even above .500, if the best you can do is scrape your way into the No. 8 seed (which the Pelicans occupy as of Wednesday), well, how long is AD, who is one of the three or four most talented players on the planet and in his absolute prime, going to remain patient? True, Davis is locked up through 2021, so it’s not a terribly urgent situation at the moment. But if the Pelicans remain just this side of relevant, or heaven forbid if they can’t even remain a playoff team over the next few months, perception can quickly become reality. People will talk. Rumors will fly. Teams will start to circle the situation, and being that you have to get further and further ahead of the potential superstar defection these days, so as to not lose your whole portfolio in one crash, you could see how Davis could wind up in a different uniform at some point relatively soon. 

Slowly, the Thunder are starting to come out on the right side of all these close games they’ve been finding themselves in all season. OKC’s last four wins have come by a combined 10 points, with two of those wins were by a single point, and Russ is really starting to get tunnel vision, particularly down the stretch, for better or worse. Over the last four games he’s attempted more fourth-quarter shots than anyone in the league other than Kristaps Porzingis. He posted a crazy 33-point, 17-rebound, 15-assist line in a win over the Sixers last Friday, but it took him 33 shots to do it — something Joel Embiid certainly took notice of:

Melo continues to be less and less of a focal point of late. Paul George hasn’t felt like anything other than a secondary piece — at times a distant one — all season. All told, check out these OKC usage rates in comparison to the last season Westbrook and Durant played together:

In other words: “Forget you, Jobu. I do it myself.”

https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/nba-star-power-index-lonzo-starting-to-ball-clutch-kyrie-proving-his-critics-wrong/

 

The answer to UFC’s welterweight problem is obvious … if it wants to restore order

 

In a sane world, the next UFC welterweight title fight would have been signed, sealed and delivered in the time between Saturday night’s UFC on Fox 26 main event and the time you’re reading this.

Rafael dos Anjos, the former UFC lightweight champion, put on a clinic in defeating one of the toughest men in the history of the sport, former welterweight champ Robbie Lawler, in the main event at Winnipeg’s Bell MTS Centre. Dos Anjos pitched a 50-45 across-the-board shutout in a dominant performance.

The victory put the Brazilian standout into the Fighter of the Year conversation. After losing the lightweight title to Eddie Alvarez in 2016 and following up with a decision loss to current interim lightweight champ Tony Ferguson, dos Anjos reassessed his career and decided to go up to 170 pounds.

There, freed from giant weight cuts that were affecting his performance in the cage, dos Anjos shined. In the past six months, he’s defeated former Strikeforce champion Tarec Saffiedine, finished Neil Magny in the first round and now has a statement win over Lawler.

A fight between the red-hot dos Anjos and champion Tyron Woodley, an opportunity for dos Anjos to join the short list of fighters to hold UFC championships in two weight classes, is a no-brainer.

But this is the UFC in late 2017, and brains aren’t always part of the booking equation. This is a promotion dealing with the aftermath of two years of decision-making in which champions win titles and immediately go searching for “money fights” rather than defend their belts, and where interim champions are crowned at the drop of a hat.

 
Rafael Dos Anjos (R) celebrates a win over Robbie Lawler at UFC Fight Night in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. (John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP)

So naturally, RDA had barely gotten back to the dressing room before the nonsense started.

Woodley didn’t outright decline to fight dos Anjos, but he also sounded less than impressed by the performance of both the winner and Lawler, whom Woodley knocked out to win the belt in 2016.

“In my opinion, what I saw tonight is that if any of those two guys in that bout would fight me, one of those guys is going to get knocked out,” Woodley told FS1. “I saw the IQ wasn’t as high as I would like for a No. 1 contendership fight. Both of those guys are always talking about pushing the pace, and they were going to do this and they were going to do that. I saw a ton of openings for myself.”

Woodley, it should be noted, claimed a shoulder injury caused his lackluster performance in his last title defense against Demian Maia at UFC 214. That was in July. Just last month, Woodley was in discussion to headline UFC 219 with a title defense vs. Nate Diaz, who is mostly a lightweight. He’s 3-3 in his career at welterweight, and lost his last fight to Conor McGregor back in August 2016. When those negotiations broke down, Woodley decided, months later after the original injury, that he was getting shoulder surgery after all.

Such game-playing is a natural result of the path the UFC has chosen over the past two years. It indulged Conor McGregor as he won first the featherweight title, then the lightweight title, then went on to box Floyd Mayweather Jr., without defending either of his MMA belts along the way.

As a stopgap measure, the UFC started awarding interim belts, which traditionally are used in combat sports when a current titleholder is too injured to compete, but working in good faith on their return, simply to cover for McGregor’s absence. This led to both Jose Aldo and Max Holloway having interim title claims before Holloway emerged as undisputed featherweight champ. At lightweight, Tony Ferguson won an interim belt in October, but when negotiations for a potential unification bout with McGregor fell apart, he opted for elbow surgery.

This, in turn, led to former champion Eddie Alvarez claiming a new title of “Most Violent Fighter” for himself, which has garnered more attention in recent weeks than the actual belts.

(And for the sake of sticking to the main topic, we won’t go in depth on middleweight, in which Michael Bisping was rewarded for ducking top challengers right up until he was finished by the four-years-absent Georges St-Pierre, who promptly vacated the middleweight belt.)

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the out-of-the-box thinking has spilled over to welterweight. Knowing that Woodley, who in fairness has defended his belt three times in just over a year, is going to be out a bit, fighters began angling on Twitter to create an interim welterweight belt, and volunteer their services.

Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, who came up just short in two challenges to Woodley’s belt, complimented both fighters while angling for an interim title fight.

Colby Covington, who has made noise in recent months as a poor man’s Chael Sonnen, predictably took the low road, as he tried to troll RDA into an interim title fight by insulting his homeland of Brazil.

Dos Anjos shut the latter talk down at Saturday night’s post-fight news conference, saying Covington is “just talking crap about people and he showed nothing on the division. He beat nobody.”

The UFC should likewise shut down the talk of anything except the obvious fight. Woodley wants a “money fight,” but the chances of McGregor deciding he wants to fight Woodley on the heels of his $100M Mayweather payday are slim, and St-Pierre isn’t going to be fighting again any time soon, either.

This is the opportunity for the UFC to put a lid on the nonsense that can be traced back to McGregor deciding he didn’t want to defend his featherweight title. It made for short-term financial success, but it’s not sustainable in the long-term. A fight between Woodley and the division’s hottest contender, the one who would be looking to add a second weight class title after doing things the right way by earning his spot in the divisional scheme, would send a strong statement that the company is ready to restore order.

More from Yahoo Sports:
Dodgers agree to stunning 5-player trade with Braves
Report: Ex-wife of slain NBA player arrested
Yankees may have another big move in them
ESPN releases texts, shows it’s focused on wrong thing

https://ca.sports.yahoo.com/news/answer-ufcs-welterweight-problem-obvious-wants-restore-order-003756938.html?src=rss

 

Carter: Toronto return is ‘supposed to happen’

 

He may be half-man, half-amazing but Father Time eventually calls on us all. For eight-time NBA All-Star Vince Carter, that day may arrive at the end of the current campaign with the Sacramento Kings.

Playing in his 20th season in the league, the former Raptor returned to the court in Toronto on Sunday for perhaps the final time. All indications are that the 40-year-old will call it quits next spring, although post-game, Carter hinted at a return to the place where he made his name.

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Following a toe-to-toe first half, the Raptors pulled away from the Kings in frames three and four to cruise to a 108-93 win at Air Canada Centre. Carter started the game and finished with 4 points in Toronto’s 9th straight home victory. However, the fans in the seats reserved their greatest acclaim for the visiting No. 15.

With 11 seconds left in the game, Carter was replaced to allow the crowd to show their appreciation for a player who has rekindled a close relationship with the Raptors faithful since they cheered him to the point of tears before a Raptors-Grizzlies game back in November 2014.

After Sunday’s game, per Blake Murphy of the Raptors Republic, Carter opened up on a potential return to the Raptors:

Somehow, whether it’s one day or something, it’ll happen. It’s supposed to happen, I think. I can say that now.

 
In the dying seconds of the game, Vince Carter acknowledges the standing ovation. (Getty)

Last month, in an interview with The Undefeated, Carter shared his hopes of one day seeing his jersey retired in Toronto.

At the end of the day, every player’s end result is to see their jersey hanging in the rafters somewhere. That is where it started. Hopefully I will get that opportunity.

Earlier this year, ‘The Carter Effect’ debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, a documentary capturing the lasting effect the former Raptor had on the city.

More Vince Carter coverage on Yahoo Sports:

https://ca.sports.yahoo.com/news/itll-happen-vince-carter-receives-standing-o-hints-return-toronto-235856177.html?src=rss

 
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