I Dig Sports
Published in TennisMonday, 17 June 2019 05:57
Fourth seed Elina Svitolina suffered a shock defeat on the opening day in Birmingham as she lost 6-3 3-6 6-4 to Russia's Margarita Gasparyan.
The 24-year-old broke the Ukrainian's serve in the opening game on her way to taking the first set.
Svitolina, also 24, who won the WTA Finals event in 2018, secured an early break in the second set to level it.
But Gasparyan gained a 4-1 lead in the deciding set and held on for the victory.
The Russian, who is ranked 62nd in the world and has recently recovered from a career-threatening knee injury, said: "It was a tough time and I didn't know if I could play tennis any more but now I'm here in a big tournament so this is something special for me."
Gasparyan will play either compatriot Ekaterina Alexandrova or Petra Martic of Croatia in the last 16.
British players Heather Watson and Johanna Konta are among those in action later on Monday in the Nature Valley Classic.
There will be a live text page on the BBC Sport website as Konta, who reached the semi-finals of the French Open earlier this month, takes on world number 20 Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.
The competition is being held at the Edgbaston Priory Club and also includes world number one Naomi Osaka, French Open champion Ashleigh Barty and Karolina Pliskova, ranked third in the world.
In the doubles competition, 22-year-old Briton Harriet Dart partners seven-time Grand Slam singles champion Venus Williams and they face the pairing of Nadiia Kichenok of Ukraine and American Abigail Spears.
Published in HockeyWednesday, 03 April 2019 10:28
It's not the easiest concept to get your head around, but bear with us: What if a bunch of next-big-thing athletes -- like Jack Hughes, expected to be picked early in next week's NHL draft, or Bobby Witt Jr., the son of an MLB star and this year's No. 2 pick -- were able to write a letter to themselves, from the future, on the day they retired? Which hopes and dreams did they accomplish? What were the most memorable moments? That's exactly what we asked a slew of rising stars to do -- and exactly what they gave us.
You'd think the NHL's likely 2019 No. 1 pick might be looking ahead to a career full of Stanley Cups (you'd be right). But he's also grateful to those helping his Cup dreams runneth over.
Do you remember the night you and Cole Caufield broke the National Team Development Program's all-time points and goal-scoring records on the same play? That assist was your 190th point on Cole's 105th goal. The equipment manager had to saw the puck in half so we could both have a piece.
I'm writing this to you as draft day nears, and it feels like so much has built to this moment, including that assist. You wanted to go No. 1, and you put in a lot of work to get there. It was a crazy year, but it was fun too. You got a chance to compete alongside USA Hockey's best young players-faces I'm sure you've seen time and again in the NHL.
Look at all the guys who played there before you -- Patrick Kane, Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel. It's special to be on top of that record book. Hopefully by the time you read this the record still stands!
And remember those winters? All day and night on the outdoor rink with Quinn and Luke? That's where everything started. Your brothers made you who you are on and off the ice. I hope they'll be able to say you did the same for them and that they had great NHL careers too.
Maybe you even suited up with them a couple of times in the NHL. Maybe we all represented the United States at the Olympics or World Championships. Maybe we won a gold medal (or gold medals) together. What an honor that would be.
Everything you worked for was about being the best, about helping your team win. Sure, you were always competitive. You wanted to win Hart and Art Ross trophies. You wanted to appear in All-Star Games. But what really drove you-the reason you play the game, your obsession-was winning the Stanley Cup. How many times did you imagine lifting it over your head in celebration? By now, I hope you've experienced the real thing a few times too.
Take a second to remember all of the people who helped you get there too. Mom and Dad, of course, and your coaches and teammates. Think about all the fun you had growing up in love with hockey with your brothers and your friends.
I hope as you look back over your career that you realize all of the hard work you put in from a young age gave you what you'd been dreaming about your entire life. I hope every time you laced up your skates and put your gear on, it felt as special as it feels right now.
--As told to Chris Peters
In February, the American soccer prodigy made the unprecedented choice to go pro at 13. Here, she writes to her recently retired future self to reflect on how that big move launched an even bigger career.
Dear future Olivia,
Do you remember the day Abby Wambach followed you on Twitter? It was a Friday, and you were in a hotel room in Portland. You had just woken up, and Dad elbowed you to say, "Bro! Guess who just followed you on Twitter!?" You were only 13, but you had met a bunch of your soccer heroes already: Mia Hamm and Lindsey Horan and Tobin Heath, to name a few. Still, seeing that blue check mark next to Abby Wambach's name on your follower list -- yours! -- was pretty surreal. You watched her win the World Cup! She's a living legend! And she chose to follow you. There's a reason I'm asking if you remember that morning. I'll get to that later.
That same Friday -- it was in early March 2019 -- some other really important news broke. The entire U.S. women's national team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit to fight for equal pay. You saw that and you thought, "Yes, they deserve that." You thought maybe, one day, you could be a part of that too. Fighting for equal pay; fighting to make sure no one ever says something like, "Yeah, she's good for a woman," but instead, "Holy smokes, she's a great footballer, period."
Fingers crossed, that's what people will say about you when you read this as a freshly retired soccer star. Wow, she was a great footballer, the best to ever do it. She won a World Cup, an Olympic gold medal, an NWSL Championship and, yes, a Ballon d'Or, for sure. (I've tried to prepare myself for that one. How many times have I laid in bed, picturing that awards ceremony and that acceptance speech and, even in daydreams, been at a loss for words? It's just a huge achievement. Too huge for words, apparently.)
Speaking of retirement, go big. Get yourself a big, fat slice of tiramisu and eat the whole thing by yourself in celebration of a career well-done. (Are you still a foodie, by the way?) I can't eat much junk food these days, so live it up when you can. Maybe even take some time to enjoy the fact that your whole day isn't planned out in 30-minute increments. I know you want to be a youth national team coach at some point, to be for the next generation what April Kater was for you. You want to work together with a player who loves football like you and be a mentor for someone like Alfredo Sainz is for you, but maybe take just one night to binge a few TV shows?
You probably won't. You never were that patient, or one to -- gasp -- wait for things. Patient people probably don't commit to play soccer for the University of North Carolina at 11 years old. They definitely don't decide that even college can't come soon enough so they should go pro at 13. Oh, well. Patience just isn't your virtue.
But working hard is. Dreaming harder is too. Which brings me back to my original question. Do you remember the day Abby Wambach followed you on Twitter? Do you remember those butterflies that flew in your stomach when you realized it was really her? I'm asking because what I want to know is this: Has a future 13-year-old, out there in your future world, opened Twitter (or whatever the future version of it is) and thought, "Oh my gosh! Olivia Moultrie followed me!"?
I sure hope so.
--As told to Hallie Grossman
Bobby Witt Jr.
The No. 2 pick in the 2019 MLB draft has baseball baked into his DNA, with roots in Colleyville and dreams of a legacy in Cooperstown.
Dear future Bobby,
The day has finally arrived: The last moments playing the sport you have loved since you were 3 years old. It's all you've known, really, and maybe that was inevitable, since Dad played for 16 years in the majors. In his final MLB season, he won a World Series. You don't remember it, since you were just a year old. But your whole childhood, you held on to the dream that you, too, could win a World Series one day -- and that was all the motivation you needed.
Growing up in Colleyville, Texas, all those backyard longball sessions and BP, where dad answered your questions, taught you fielding techniques. And mom, the backbone of the family, driving you to every practice and buying your new equipment. She always had time for you to live out your dream. You watched so many games, in person or on TV, that you almost absorbed the game through osmosis. Especially your favorite teams, the Rangers and the Red Sox.
When you were 17, you signed with Oklahoma and heard yourself projected as one of the top three picks in the 2019 MLB draft. Baseball was still America's pastime, still nine innings (on most days). And that's what you have always loved about it. Remember watching one of your favorite players, Dustin Pedroia? The way he plays, all heart and grit and effort. And Derek Jeter, a fellow shortstop -- what a legend. He played the game the right way, on and off the field. You always wanted to meet him, and hopefully you have. He follows you on Twitter, and so does Baker Mayfield. Even MLB follows you -- hopefully foreshadowing what's to come.
Remember the 2018 high school home run derby, when you hit eight home runs over 76 seconds -- and won? Bryce Harper was first-class, hanging out with you after he'd just won in the big leagues, too. Josh Hader greeted you, making you feel like you belonged. Maybe you've returned the favor by now to another up-and-coming baseball dreamer during one of your All-Star weekends.
Do you still love hitting? Man, what a feeling, knowing you can change the game with just one swing. You already envisioned facing Max Scherzer, his aggressive pitching and his different-colored eyes. You always wanted the challenge of facing off against the best.
Maybe by the time you read this, you've won the World Series. And the Winter World Series, where Dad won a championship. I really hope you're reading this just before your Hall of Fame induction speech -- that would be incredible. You don't like to set too many specific goals; you just want to play as long as your body will let you. And when that ends, you still want to be involved in baseball somehow.
No matter what, I hope you've held on to Dad's advice: Always stay humble. Be the hardest worker. And never stop believing in yourself.
--As told to Anna Katherine Clemmons
In 2018, Hurd announced herself as perhaps the top American gymnast not named Simone Biles. And, as the 17-year-old writes to her future self, she's just getting started.
Dear future Morgan,
You couldn't help it. Your friends got mad at you, but you just. couldn't. help. it. Sorry, she's going too slow! you thought to yourself, as you jumped another gymnast in line to take one more vault turn.
But when you were 10 years old, when you were running full speed ahead, when that felt like running toward your dreams -- well, 80-some feet and a few seconds on the runway just never seemed like enough. You needed more. So you almost had to cut your friends in line, even though they hated it, even though you knew they hated it. Because when you were running toward your dreams, you figured, you couldn't run fast enough.
That's when you knew you were hooked on gymnastics. There were parts you loved along the way -- when your confidence peaked and you knew you could go through your routine in your sleep, barely thinking, barely even registering anything but you, and the chalk, and the mat. There were parts you loved less -- that clenching in your chest that made you short of breath when the nerves kicked in. But yeah, you were hooked. On all of it.
And those 80-some feet and few seconds were enough to fantasize about what could be ahead for you. A Tokyo 2020 spot ... fingers crossed. Competing in the all-around finals ... toes crossed. Medaling in each event ... fingers and toes crossed. You could see it all so clearly.
While we're on the topic of seeing things clearly: After all those years of being one of the only gymnasts to wear glasses, of standing out like a sore thumb, of hearing all the questions -- Why don't you just wear contacts?! How do you keep those things on?! Do you LIKE glasses?! -- I want to ask you a question too, now that you're reading this in the future.
Do you think more young gymnasts feel comfortable wearing glasses like you? Did you help let them know it's normal and fine and maybe even pretty special? Other than the Olympics, other than the competition, other than the medals (though, you know, fingers and toes still crossed), that's what I hope happens in the future. I hope, at the end of all this, you look around to find a bunch of gymnasts wearing glasses just like you, because they know it's normal and fine and maybe even pretty special.
--As told to Hallie Grossman
The East LA native, who turned heads with his MLS debut at 16, tells his future self to remember his roots and share his success with the next, next big thing.
Dear future Efra,
Was it worth it?
Kicking the ball around the house? Playing with your older brothers in the streets of East LA? Working on your left foot amid the chickens and roosters on Fairmount Street, trying not to kick the ball into traffic on Hazard Avenue? Dribbling the ball on the sideline while Dad played men's league in City Terrace Park?
Was it worth it?
Fighting through traffic in Dad's Scion XD from East Los Angeles to practice and back? Meeting Eric Cantona and training alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic?
Can you still remember the day your manager, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, told you that you'd made the roster for LA Galaxy's opening night? That you'd make your Galaxy debut in front of your family? Does the moment when he pulled you aside after that training and said, "Be ready, you're going in tomorrow," still get you excited? Even after you have -- hopefully -- scored hundreds of goals and won an MLS Cup and played in a World Cup?
I know it felt crazy then. It helped stoke your fire inside then. And when you did go in, and you knew your family was there -- your mom and dad and your sister and brothers and your nieces and nephews -- that they were all sitting up in the stands watching you step on that field, a shy kid from City Terrace in East LA, you felt it. Felt the size of the moment, felt the thrill of taking the first step toward the future you've wanted to build. It hit you. You wiped away the tears and hustled into your place on the field. The place you feel most comfortable. That's how much you loved that moment. That's how much you loved the game that gave you that moment.
It's why it actually scares me a little, to think of you in the future, waking up and not having to go training. Waking up and not having another goal to score or another game to play.
It's why I bet you're making a difference now. Either as a soccer coach working your way up the ranks, retirement be damned, or a citizen in the community working to help young people like me find their calling. How could you ever stay away?
It's why I hope you upgraded the soccer fields in East LA. Not all parks let kids play soccer -- sometimes the field is only for baseball; sometimes it's just plain not allowed -- and I hope you create a place for that to happen. Maybe a future soccer player will step on that field and tear up a little bit. Maybe you'll watch them and you'll tear up too.
--As told to Hallie Grossman
The youngest surfer ever to qualify for the World Surf League tour, Marks, 17, anticipates her soon-to-be-legendary career -- full of Olympic medals and celebrity cameos.
Dear future Caroline,
It's me! You! Caroline! Do people still call you Caroline? Or do you have a cool nickname now? Maybe people just call you Champ. Like, "Hey, Champ! How's retirement going? When are you going to settle down and start that family you always wanted, buy a house in Hawaii? Where do you keep all those trophies and medals?"
I know, I know! I'm getting ahead of myself. You retired only yesterday. But seriously. How many world titles did you win? Four? Five? At least five, right? How about the Olympics? Our sport makes its debut next year in Tokyo, and I plan to be on that team -- and the teams in 2024 and 2028 and 2032. When I close my eyes, I can see every gold medal. Two years ago, I was the youngest surfer -- man or woman -- ever to qualify for the Championship Tour. Until now, it was my proudest moment. I'm about to start the 2019 season, and the top two Americans in this year's rankings will make the 2020 Olympic team. So ... how was it? What was it like to wear a uniform and compete for your country? Were there waves in Shida? How about Paris in 2024? Ooh -- was the contest held in a wave pool?
Just thinking about the possibilities has me so excited, my hands are shaking as I type this. Is there still typing in 2039? It is 2039, right? I hope you were lucky enough to surf for 20 more years, that injuries and insecurities didn't stand in your way. Big dreams come with big risks-but also big rewards. I hope that mantra pushed you to ride a really big wave, big enough that you had to wear a life vest and be towed in and were terrified. What was it like? No! Don't tell me. I want the surprise.
I also want to be the first girl to land air reverses and backside airs consistently in competition. I want to hear the other surfers say, "Wow. Now we have to do that because we're competing against the girl from Florida." Lisa Andersen was the first girl to drive women's surfing forward, and then Carissa Moore and Stephanie Gilmore. I want to be the next one to show what's possible, to get barreled in bigger waves like the guys. I want to inspire young girls to go for it and never let anyone tell them they can't do something, to be known as the surfer who works the hardest, has the most fun and is also the nicest person on tour. I want to be known as a legend. I don't want anyone to forget who I was and what I did for the sport.
I want to be relentless. Do you still want it as much as I want it right now? Did you make that documentary, land the cover of Vogue, surf that gnarly left at Skeleton Bay? Did you ever see the northern lights? Oh, and one more thing. You might think it's silly, but don't forget, I'm -- you're -- still only 17.
Did we get to meet Justin Bieber?
Hope so. See you in 20 years!
--As told to Alyssa Roenigk
The splashy Brazilian mixed martial artist, known now mostly for dislocating his shoulder after winning his third fight in the UFC, contemplates what aging means for an eternally youthful star.
Dear future Johnny:
I know you did it. It's 2019 right now, and it hasn't happened yet, as of this writing, but by the time you retire and read this -- 10 years from now or 15 years from now -- I know you'll have done it. You gave Jon Jones a good fight, didn't you?
And if you won -- I hope you won; I bet you won -- was your celebration as epic as you dreamed? Yeah, it's hard to top the shoulder-dislocation-by-worm-dance. But I have faith.
Just like I have faith, sitting here now, dreaming about all that's possible and all that's ahead, that you went on to try your hand at heavyweight and made yourself a champ champ. That you finished what Conor McGregor started and won a boxing title, too. That even as you got older, you defended all those belts you (here's hoping) racked up, all while fending off the very fighters you used to be -- the new, brash, almost unstoppable upstarts.
I have a hard time picturing that day, really. You, the old man in the cage, teaching those young guns a thing or two. It all feels so new still. The adrenaline and the energy and the rush of seeing another fighter in the cage. The thrill of knowing you're about to take him down. It's scary to think about the day when that adrenaline and energy and rush will be gone. Impossible, even. Which is why I bet you'll find a new way to chase that feeling after you leave the Octagon for the last time. I see WWE in your future. Probably an action movie or two. Maybe just a seat outside the cage to root on Valter -- a brother-to-brother passing of the UFC torch, a family legacy in the making.
In the end, that's all you really wanted, right? To put on a good show. To put up a good fight.
--As told to Hallie Grossman
Racking up trophies has its place, and the 17-year-old has already putted her way to a few. But she's raring to smash golf's old ways and don green jackets at Augusta.
Dear future Rachel,
How many times have you and Ariya Jutanugarn played together in a final round during the course of your career? Probably too many to count. How many times in your career do you think back to the first time you played with Ariya in a final round? You might not even remember that round, after all. You were only 16.
Here's the CliffsNotes version (do CliffsNotes still exist?): It was the last day at the Evian Championship. Your second major. You were the wild-card entry in France, but you made the cut -- just like you did in your major debut at the 2017 U.S. Women's Open. You were standing on the 15th green with two-time major winner Ariya and her sister, 13th-ranked Moriya. You still couldn't believe you were there. But you were there, girl. Ariya looked at you and, without hesitating, she said, "I'm waiting for you in five more years."
She knew you would be one of her biggest competitors down the line. And guess what? You were. Probably her biggest competitor throughout her career. Let's just say you two basically became the Jack and Arnie of the LPGA. The May and Rach, if you will (you might have a new nickname by now, but Ariya still goes by May).
Do you still do the thing? You know, the thing where you picture scenarios during your short game practice as though this shot -- the shot on the putting or chipping green -- is the shot that will win it all? Can you still hear your instructor Rob Akins saying, "This is it, Rach. This is the putt to win the U.S. Open." When you made that 12-foot putt on the 18th green at the Junior Ryder Cup in 2018, just one week after the Evian Championship, you knew these pretend scenarios weren't really going to be "pretend" at all. Thank goodness you made that clutch 15-foot downhill putt at the 2028 U.S. Open. Forever grateful to Rob.
And no matter how many clutch shots you've made, you're still most proud of the fact that you've been a trailblazer. Before you even set foot on Stanford's campus (four years after verbally committing), you said you wanted to spark change in the game of golf with the help of some of your best friends (who were also some of the best golfers in the country -- shoutout to our girl Sadie Englemann).
One of your goals before you went pro was to open up the floodgates for the PGA and LPGA to play together. It was the most reasonable way to get more viewership on women's golf, plus the ladies crush it out there ... why shouldn't they play with men? You first planted the seed at the Junior Ryder Cup in 2018 when talking to tournament officials about this possibility down the line (mind you, you were only 16). It didn't take long to make that happen. Now, I hope, there are women wearing green jackets at Augusta! Hello! Dreams: ACCOMPLISHED!
You may have a room full of trophies at home. You may even have a green jacket of your own. But even after retirement, you love golf, but you aren't golf. Hey, that's the same mindset you've had since you first picked up plastic clubs with your dad at age 3. Golf meant ice cream back then (classic Dad bribery). And today, golf might not necessarily mean ice cream. But it's still just a sport to you. It's not your whole identity. It's just a sport that's opened up your world and given you so, so much.
--As told to Charlotte Gibson
As he embarks on a new journey with Manchester City, the U.S. keeper has some ambitious (some might say crazy, but who cares?) ideas about winning a World Cup.
Dear future Zack,
People said you were crazy to say it. Crazy to even think it. You'd mutter the words, sort of sheepishly, almost under your breath, because even as you believed it to be possible, you knew others thought it was sheer folly. A fool's errand. But then you'd think to yourself -- well, why play this game if that isn't your goal? So you'd say it again.
You wanted to win a World Cup. You wanted your team, the United States men's national team, to win a World Cup.
That's what you wanted all those Saturdays and Sundays you woke up at 7:30 as a kid and camped out in the living room with Dad to binge the Premier League. You'd cheer on Chelsea and Jose Mourinho and Super, Super Frank Lampard and Petr Cech and Drogba (sorry to my future employer and to all Man City fans), then pore over the Review Show like it was a cheat sheet that could unlock secret codes to future greatness.
That's what you wanted when you played France back in 2018 and you saw how they saw the game differently, felt how they felt the game differently, knew that they knew it differently -- intimately almost. You decided then and there you'd have to go back to Europe to learn to see and feel and know the game like them.
You'd focus on making sure that you'd stay hungry and humble wherever your journey took you. You'd reflect on how impactful coming to Columbus to play for Crew SC was for you as a person and as a player -- how competing in MLS helped you learn to grind, to aspire to be the best teammate and role model. And when the opportunity arose to sign with Man City, you realized you were inching closer to some other dreams of yours along the way. Playing in a Premier League game. Playing in a Champions League game. You hoped other Americans would come with, learn from the best in Europe, then take those lessons back home to make the U.S. game that much better.
So when you're done with all this -- when you've walked out to a pulsating stadium for the last time (you'll miss that), when you've given your body the gift of not slamming it to the ground every day (OK, you won't miss that) -- here's what I hope. I hope there's a future soccer star, sitting in his living room at 7:30 in the morning with his dad, watching soccer on TV and taking copious notes on that day's keeper play, in case that game film could unlock secret codes. And I hope that one day, when that future soccer star says he wants to win a World Cup for the United States, no one will think him, or the idea, crazy at all.
--As told to Hallie Grossman
The 13-year-old figure skater has already had untold success by staying firmly grounded in the moment. With an Olympic legacy on the horizon, the future can be as dizzying as one of her triple axels.
Dear future Alysa,
Every jump starts somewhere. That's what you used to tell yourself. When you were 12 and landed a triple axel for the first time in international competition. When you were 13 and nailed three of them at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. When you were still 13 but decided you wanted to add even more to your arsenal. Quad salchow. Quad loop. Quad toe loop.
Did you ever land any of those quads in competition?
It feels weird to look ahead, especially when I've spent all this time obsessing about Staying. In. The. Moment. Remember when you won nationals? You didn't even know you broke Tara Lipinski's record for youngest winner. You only realized what you did later, when you read it online. Clean program, clean program, clean program, you said it to yourself so many times, determined to focus only on that exact moment. I guess you drowned everything else out.
You said it so many times -- clean program, clean program, clean program; stay in the moment, stay in the moment, stay in the moment -- that by the time you won and the "Today" show had you come on TV, and Jimmy Fallon also had you come on TV, it all felt crazy and slightly disorienting. Still, I wouldn't hate if one day you get to go on "Ellen" too.
And while I'm looking ahead, I have to ask: Did you do those big things you dreamed about? Did you win gold in 2022? Did you stay on the podium for every nationals? Did you ever travel to Italy? Did you help fight climate change?
I know, I know. Those are big things. Leap-of-faith-type things. But, hey, every jump starts somewhere.
--As told to Hallie Grossman
Playing the greats, defeating the greats, becoming a great -- it's all on the list for a 17-year-old soon-to-be pro golfer laser-focused on achieving his dreams.
Dear future Akshay,
You were being called legendary before you were even old enough to get your license. Just think about that for a second. That's crazy. But then again, seems right on par with your career.
I think the first real "legendary" moment was that chip-in. You know which one I'm talking about: the 40-footer at the 2018 Junior PGA Championship, the 18th-hole eagle that secured your victory for the second year in a row. I can almost feel your hands trembling while gripping your wedge. All eyes were on you. And you knew it.
Remember how fast your heart beat -- I'm sure it's happened again since -- after bogeying that 17th hole to fall one stroke back of Tommy Stephenson? But you stuck to your mantra (which I bet you still have): Just put yourself into position to win.
So that's exactly what you did: split the fairway off the tee and strike a 3-iron from 228 yards to the back fringe. Then there was the chip-in. The ball rolled slowly straight to the hole. The crowd went ballistic. You remained calm, pumping your fists toward the ground.
You've probably forgotten, but you made history with that chip-in. You became the first player in the tournament's 43-year history -- Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, the list goes on -- to win it back-to-back.
Speaking of those guys, remember when you dreamt of beating Tiger's records? For some, that might seem a moonshot. But for you, it was motivation to stay out on the course and grind for seven to nine hours every single day. Sure, other 17-year-olds were hanging out at the mall and Snapchatting with their crushes, but not you. Because you were different. You still are. And you're OK with that.
People criticized you to a pulp when you announced, at 16, that you'd forgo college and go pro as soon as you turned 18 in 2020 (a foreign concept at the time, but a soon-to-be trend thanks to you ... and to the dismay of college golf). But the critics only fueled you more. They echoed the ones who badgered you when you, Mom and Dad decided on home-schooling in eighth grade. These decisions didn't just come out of nowhere. They were made for the greater goal: becoming a professional golfer.
Let's be real: Everything in life has been for the greater goal. You never wanted to play golf just for fun -- even when you first picked up a club at 6. Your version of "fun" was competing with the greats, beating the greats and becoming one of the greats. Woods won 80 PGA Tour events and 15 majors. And, guess what? You won more. You won more.
There's some teenager out there right now missing school dances and kickbacks because he's hitting ball after ball on the driving range. He's grinding because he wants to beat Akshay. Just think about that for a second.
--As told to Charlotte Gibson
Published in GolfMonday, 17 June 2019 03:15
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – As Gary Woodland stood over what proved to be one of the defining shots of the 119th U.S. Open, many fans wondered how he would choose to navigate a difficult shot across the narrow and undulating 17th green.
As it turned out, Woodland had a little prior experience when it came to stepping onto the putting surface with wedge in hand.
Woodland’s pitch shot from the edge of the green with his 64-degree lob wedge nearly went in for a miraculous birdie, and the subsequent par helped him to a three-shot win at Pebble Beach in the biggest triumph of his career.
Addressing reporters with the trophy sitting next to him, Woodland shared that he had honed those skills in part by practicing the same shot when he first gave up basketball to focus on golf full-time.
“I started working with Randy Smith in 2005 I believe, and the short game was what was really bad, to be honest with you,” Woodland said. “And so my whole deal was, I had to hit chips off putting greens all the time, and there were some times where superintendents weren’t a huge fan of me. But I’ve hit a lot of chip shots off putting greens.”
Woodland also shared that he had encountered a similar shot earlier in the week at Pebble, opting to pitch the ball from the front right portion of the 17th green over a large spine to a pin in the back left. He estimated that a putt over the hill through the fringe might have left him with more than 20 feet for par, a far cry from the tap-in that essentially sealed his win.
“I was just trying to get it down there, trying to get it past the hole so I could be putting back uphill,” Woodland said. “Pete Cowen and I were working on trying to hit spinners off that early this week. That’s what I was thinking about when I was standing over it, and it came out perfectly.”
LONDON -- Chelsea will make a formal approach to Derby County for manager Frank Lampard this week and want to offer their former midfielder a three-year contract to succeed Maurizio Sarri, sources have told ESPN FC.
Sarri's departure to take over at Juventus was confirmed Sunday, with Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia having said the 60-year-old had asked to be allowed to return to Italy to be closer to his family and friends.
Lampard has been identified as the preferred choice to take over, with former Chelsea academy coach Jody Morris and fitness coach Chris Jones expected to join him in returning to Stamford Bridge.
Derby want to keep Lampard after a positive first season in which he led a vibrant young team to the Championship playoff final, and they are understood to have offered him a contract extension to underline how highly he is valued at Pride Park.
Chelsea would be required to pay £4 million to release Lampard from his Derby deal, but they are well placed to do so after Granovskaia secured around £5m from Juventus in the agreement that took Sarri to Turin.
"There's no change in the situation at present, except for the fact that Chelsea no longer have a manager," Derby owner Mel Morris said in a statement to talkSPORT radio Monday. "We have made it clear to everyone, but most importantly to Frank himself, that we want to retain him at the club for the long term.
"If Chelsea want to hire Frank, then it is in their gift to make an offer in pursuit of that. In the meantime, we will continue to put our best foot forward to continue with our plans for the coming season.
"We will work closely with Frank in that regard, so that he knows how much he is wanted by everyone associated with the club."
Published in CricketMonday, 17 June 2019 07:34
Now here's a contest that England would once have feared. A surely-can't-lose clash with an aggressive band of ball-striking badmashs, backed up by some of the best and most varied spin bowlers in the world game.
Sides of a bygone England era might have taken a fatalistic approach to such a line-up, and found a way to be cowed by expectation. But not, you suspect, this current team. Even with the prospect of two major absentees from their first-choice batting line-up - Jason Roy has been ruled out with a hamstring tear and Eoin Morgan is still recovering from a back spasm - there's little chance of any let-up from a side that seems now to be hitting its stride in the tournament, following that early stumble against Pakistan.
Besides, there's something about Afghanistan that just doesn't feel right just now. Their rise through world cricket's ranks has been a joy to behold, and the heart that they showed in winning the qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe last year - despite losing each of their first three games - is proof that this group of battlers can never be entirely written off.
But in four World Cup matches to date, they simply haven't been at the races. Their campaign has been a litany of incremental controversies, from the sacking of the captain, Asghar Afghan, on the eve of the tournament, to the eviction of their opener Mohammad Shahzad for an injury that he claims did not exist, to the dropping against South Africa of their one in-form batsman, Najibullah Zadran. None of them constitutes a shocking scandal in its own right, but the net effect is destabilisation and demoralisation. Just when the players need to be trusted to strut the same stuff that has got them to the World Cup in the first place, they are finding themselves dragged down by in-fighting and incompetence.
Afghanistan's natural exuberance seems to have been drained in recent outings as well. Case in point, their dispiriting display against South Africa in Cardiff on Saturday. Faced with a team in every bit as much strife as their own, they traded a dogged start with the bat for a shambolic finish, losing their last nine wickets for 69 in 19 overs despite having given the impression - through the number of times they shouldered arms to South Africa's seamers - that seeing out 50 overs was the most important aspect of their day's work.
England have encountered one team of this ilk in the tournament already, of course. Quite apart from sharing a border, Afghanistan and Pakistan share an ability to turn it on (or off) from one day to the next. If a batsman of the destructive qualities of Hazratullah Zazai can get stuck for any period of time, then a spinner of Rashid Khan's world-beating quality could find himself with enough runs to do a number on another highly fancied side.
But the odds do seem stacked against them on this occasion. England's depth with bat and ball (even in the midst of their injury woes) is designed to mitigate against flurries of opposition aggression, and they will surely believe that this will be the victory that puts them on the brink of a place in the semi-finals. Afghanistan still have the potential to claim a major scalp before their own campaign ends, but it would be one of the greatest World Cup shocks of all time if this England team, at this moment in time, were the side to succumb.
Afghanistan LLLLW (Last five completed matches, most recent first)
in the spotlight
Is there something amiss with Adil Rashid - Morgan is adamant he's fine (see below) - or does he simply need an extra injection of confidence to get his game back to the levels that England so desperately want? Despite talk of a shoulder injury that might have tempted the management to give him a break, he has played in every game of the campaign to date, with Moeen Ali the spinner to miss out in each of the last two games. Rashid's returns have been poor without being appalling - two wickets at 101.50 and an economy of 6.15 - but crucially, he's not been offering the all-round wicket threat that Morgan in particular so values as a captain. Perhaps a flurry of cheap scalps will help him to rip that googly with renewed intent. Assuming his shoulder doesn't fall off in the process, of course.
At this somewhat critical stage of their World Cup journey, it's time for the experienced heads in the Afghanistan squad to take control - and few have more experience, and crucially, current form, than the wily allrounder Mohammad Nabi. With bat and ball, he's been an example of what could still be possible for this team - his three-wicket over against Sri Lanka ought to have set up a shot at victory in Cardiff last week, and while his batting in the main event hasn't yet caught fire, he was one of the few to take the fight to England in their warm-up at The Oval last month, with three big sixes in his 44.
After his unexpected absence against South Africa, Najibullah seems sure to slot back into Afghanistan's middle order … though who knows what the management is thinking at present. Asghar Afghan didn't exactly justify his recall with a five-ball duck against South Africa, and may be the man to make way once again. The prospect of spin may bring Mujeeb Ur Rahman back into the reckoning.
Afghanistan: (possible) 1 Hazratullah Zazai, 2 Noor Ali Zadran, 3 Rahmat Shah, 4 Hashmatullah Shahidi, 5 Gulbadin Naib (capt), 6 Najibullah Zadran, 7 Mohammad Nabi, 8 Ikram Alikhil (wk), 9 Rashid Khan, 10 Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 11 Hamid Hassan
Roy's absence has been confirmed after his hamstring tear against West Indies - he will miss the Sri Lanka match as well, with James Vince set to slot straight in at the top of the order. Morgan's fitness was also under a cloud after he suffered a back spasm, but he was moving freely in the nets on the eve of the game and may yet feature. Liam Plunkett missed training with a stomach complaint but is not thought to be a serious concern.
England (possible) 1 Jonny Bairstow, 2 James Vince, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Chris Woakes, 8 Adil Rashid, 9 Liam Plunkett, 10 Jofra Archer, 11 Mark Wood.
Pitch and conditions
After the neighbouring strip served up 336 runs for India against Pakistan on Sunday, another straw-coloured surface augurs well for further big hitting, and probably the return of two spinners to England's attack. Judging by what he'd seen on Sunday, Morgan anticipated good carry for the quicks, allied to a bit of turn. The weather promises an overcast start and the potential for showers in the afternoon. Another bowl-first day would seem to be in prospect.
- Afghanistan's spin-heavy attack offers another opportunity for England's batsmen to reaffirm their new-found credentials as masters of white-ball slow bowling. From 2011 until the end of the 2015 World Cup, England averaged 30.2 against spin while facing Asian opponents in ODIs. Since then, that figure has rocketed to 54.4. Consequently, their win percentage against Asian teams has rocketed in the same period. From 40.8% between 2011 and 2015, that figure is now a much healthier 70.5%.
- One of Afghanistan's established strategies in recent times has been to unleash the offspin of Mohammad Nabi against the left-handers in the opposition ranks. However, England's senior left-handers - Morgan and Ben Stokes - have largely negated such tactics with their prowess against the ball turning away from them. Both Stokes and Morgan average above 60 against offspinners in ODIs since the 2015 World Cup, and have done so with a strike-rate over 90 against that bowling type.
Stats and trivia
- England won their only previous ODI encounter with Afghanistan, a rain-affected nine-wicket win in Sydney at the 2015 World Cup.
- With England having already been eliminated from the World Cup following their defeat against Bangladesh in Adelaide, that fixture marked the final ODI appearance of a number of England stalwarts - Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, James Tredwell and James Anderson.
- This contest provides a match-up between the two most prolific ODI bowlers since the 2015 World Cup … and they are both legspinners called Rashid. England's Adil tops the charts with 131 from 87 games, but Afghanistan's Khan (128 at 15.86) has an average that is almost half that of his counterpart.
"Adil has probably been at his best in the last two games. He's been unlucky. He's had two dropped catches. I think that might have been the turning of how his figures look, but actually how it's coming out of the hand is very impressive. The shoulder's fine. Thank you."
Eoin Morgan is adamant that Adil Rashid's form and fitness are not a concern for England
"Not only for us it's difficult, every team is struggling here. But specifically for us, like we played the last four games, we face four different kind of conditions. But we are trying to learn from them, and we shall be in good form now."
Gulbadin Naib, Afghanistan's captain, on the challenge of playing in English conditions and weather.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @miller_cricket
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Published in CricketMonday, 17 June 2019 07:13
Hales was "deselected" in May after it emerged that he had lost the confidence of his team-mates following a second drugs test failure. But with Roy facing a race against time to recover from a torn hamstring, there is a possibility England may need to call a replacement batsman into their squad.
As an opener with six ODI centuries behind him, Hales would in normal circumstances be the obvious choice. These are not normal circumstances, however. At the time of Hales' deselection - the ECB does not want to use the word "suspension" for legal reasons - Morgan said Hales had "shown complete disregard for those [team] values" and described a "complete breakdown of trust between the team and Alex".
ALSO READ: Will Roy's injury open the door for Denly?
He also revealed that the side's senior players - Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes - had been party to the decision with a view to ensuring the rest of the squad was not "dragged down". Meanwhile, team director Ashley Giles had also clarified that Hales' deselection was "to ensure they [the rest of the squad] are free from any distraction and able to focus on being successful on the pitch".
Now, a day before England's next game, against Afghanistan in Manchester, Morgan did not specifically rule out the possibility of an immediate recall for Hales, but there was little in his words that would have given the player any cause for optimism.
"We have not considered replacing any players yet," Morgan told the BBC. "But If Ed Smith, the national selector, came to myself and Trevor Bayliss, the coach, and said he felt that Alex was the best option, we would have to assess how that would sit in the changing room and the stigma it would bring with Alex coming back.
"Ultimately Ed gets the final call on who is involved in the 15, so then we would have to address how that would look in our changing room."
Hales' preparedness for a recall might also be an issue. He has not played since May 12 and is not currently due to play another game until the T20 Blast begins on July 18.
Morgan was optimistic that England would not require a replacement. While Roy has been diagnosed with an injury that, depending on its severity, would be expected to keep a player out of action for anywhere between two weeks and three months, England have decided to keep him with the squad in the hope that he regains fitness in time to play in the final couple of group games, with the match against India (at Edgbaston on June 30) a rough target. The ECB has so far proved reluctant to divulge the extent of the injury.
"He'll miss the next two games," Morgan said, "but we're giving him every chance to take that week to try to respond to treatment. We're giving him the best chance to get back into the tournament. He's obviously a huge part of what we've been doing. He's in the best form of his life. So he's very important.
"I'm optimistic about him returning to the team at some stage. I'll be very conscious of not pushing it, but that will also be dependent on results, how we're going in the tournament and what games we need to win to get into the semi-finals. As the week goes along, we'll find out more about Jason, and the results from the two games we play will reflect decisions that we make.
"There is an element of not considering him until the semi-finals. He is a very key player for us, considering his contribution on and off the field and the form he is in - it's his career-best. We need that Jason Roy back."
Published in Breaking NewsMonday, 17 June 2019 08:35
The San Jose Sharks have kept one of the premier free agents off the market, agreeing with defenseman Erik Karlsson on an eight-year deal for more than $11 million per season, according to multiple reports.
The deal makes Karlsson, 29, the league's highest paid defenseman, barely surpassing the eight-year, $88 million deal for the Kings' Drew Doughty.
The Sharks acquired the six-time All-Star and two-time Norris Trophy winner from the Senators in September. Since he re-signed with San Jose, Ottawa gets a second-round draft pick.
Karlsson had a down year offensively as injuries limited him to 54 games this past season. His three goals were the lowest of his career. His 45 points were the lowest since 2012-13, when he only played 17 games for Ottawa.
Karlsson had 62 points for the Senators last season, 71 the year before that and a career-high 82 in 2015-16.
Published in Breaking NewsMonday, 17 June 2019 07:15
When Kyrie Irving declared a week before the trade deadline that he didn't "owe anybody s---," he inadvertently provided the Los Angeles Lakers leverage in their trade talks with the New Orleans Pelicans surrounding Anthony Davis.
Due to an arcane cap rule, the Boston Celtics, who had been hoarding the mother lode for Davis for years, could not trade for him until after July 1. The Pelicans expected Boston's godfather offer, presumably built around Jayson Tatum, would be there July 1. The May draft lottery also could create a new suitor if the No. 1 pick landed right. Waiting was smart.
But if Irving was leaning toward bolting Boston, the Lakers could plausibly argue Boston's mega-offer would vanish with him; the Celtics could not risk losing Irving, Tatum, other prime assets and then Davis, in the event Davis also walked in free agency in the summer of 2020. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka could tell Dell Demps, then the Pelicans general manager: Take our offer today, because it might not be as good in July if Boston is in shambles.
The Lakers, through multiple avenues, absolutely tried to use the leverage Irving had given them in precisely this way. The Pelicans ignored them. Incredibly, everything the Lakers postured about then has come to pass, and the Pelicans somehow still pocketed a better deal than the one Los Angeles dangled four-plus months ago.
The Lakers' reported deadline offer oscillated, but according to most reliable reports, it coalesced around L.A.'s entire young core -- including Kyle Kuzma, still a Laker today -- and two first-round picks, plus salary relief in the form of the Lakers absorbing Solomon Hill.
In Saturday's reported deal, the Pelicans basically swapped out Kuzma and that cap relief in favor of extracting a third first-round pick and unprotected swap rights on the Lakers' 2023 first-rounder. The final tally: Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart; the No. 4 pick in this draft; the Lakers' 2021 pick only if it falls within the top eight, otherwise converting into the Lakers' unprotected 2022 first-round pick; swap rights on first-rounders in 2023; and the Lakers' unprotected first-round pick in 2024, with New Orleans holding the option (at some agreed-upon date) to pass on that 2024 pick in favor of the Lakers' unprotected 2025 selection. The protections protect the Pelicans, not the Lakers.
That is extraordinary return for New Orleans and David Griffin, its new executive president of basketball operations, given Davis will be on an expiring contract -- and the limited market that emerged in the end for him. The Lakers gave up more than any team has in exchange for a superstar -- including those with multiple seasons on their contracts -- in the past decade. Perhaps that price is fitting, considering Davis' age (barely 26), his dominance and that the Lakers likely conceive of Davis as already playing for them under a long-term contract given their prolonged public dalliance.
Davis for a year isn't worth this. Davis for the next five or 10 seasons is -- even if no other team was prepared to approach this price.
Several teams sniffed around the Davis sweepstakes, but it was mostly due diligence. The New York Knicks, reeling from the Achilles tear suffered by its prime target, Kevin Durant, backed away, per league sources. Boston's mega-offer never came, sources say.
To be clear: I'm not 100 percent convinced Tatum was off limits in talks, as some reports suggested. (ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported Sunday that the Celtics were "willing to discuss young, talented players such as Tatum.") Reconstructing offers that evolve by the day and sometimes the hour is tricky. In deals of this magnitude, some suitors proffer multiple general trade constructions at the same time. Which one is the most "real" or final? Are any?
I am convinced the Celtics did not combine Tatum with enough of their best assets -- Jaylen Brown, the lightly protected 2020 Memphis pick -- to compete with the Lakers deal, and as a result never mentioned him in anything like a realistic set-in-stone offer. That leaves a large middle ground, but nothing in that ground could outdo what the Lakers gave. Boston does not appear to have been close.
(This has been a disastrous year for Boston. I addressed their season from hell, and what those of us who, it turns out, were too optimistic about Boston can learn from it, in reflecting on the Toronto Raptors winning the title after beating the Celtics out for Kawhi Leonard.)
As ESPN's Kevin Pelton noted, a few factors might have pumped up L.A.'s desperation between February and this weekend. But only one of those is wholly new: injuries to Durant and Klay Thompson opening a path to the NBA Finals.
The rest, everyone basically knew in February. The fallout surrounding Magic Johnson's resignation revealed the Lakers as a dysfunctional train wreck, but that was not a secret among insiders. The public exposure of it might have pushed Pelinka to redeem the franchise.
Insiders understood in February that the Lakers could not risk keeping cap space open to lure Davis in free agency in 2020. Doing so would waste another year of LeBron James' prime. It also was consensus in February that the Lakers trailed in the race for most of this summer's top free agents. Acquiring Davis makes them more attractive, but that was true then.
A second interim change that warped the Davis trade landscape: the Lakers leaping from No. 11 to No. 4 in the lottery. That gave the Lakers a carrot New Orleans craved.
Events since February helped New Orleans in the aggregate. The bounty in draft assets is still a little surprising. They got damn near everything possible. The little extras that don't seem important in the rush to completion -- Wait, you want a pick swap in this Joe Johnson deal? Sure, whatever, can we just do this thing? -- can come back to haunt you. There are things you can say no to without killing the deal.
New Orleans was smart to push the Lakers' draft obligations almost as far out as possible under league rules. It is so easy to argue now that the Lakers' draft assets will be worth little in 2023, 2024 and 2025. The Lakers bet everything on that. They are right that this isn't the Brooklyn Nets-Boston Celtics heist of 2013. The Nets opened the vault for over-the-hill veterans. The prime-aged stars who were supposed to carry those veterans proved woefully inadequate.
Davis is a decade younger than Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were when that landmark deal happened. The Lakers also have cap space (more on that later) to round out their roster.
Even so: You never know. LeBron will turn 40 in the 2024-25 season, if he is still playing for the Lakers (or at all). He just suffered the first serious injury of his NBA career, bursting the aura of invincibility. He is on pace to be third all time in combined regular-season and playoff minutes by the end of next season.
Davis also has incentive to hit free agency again after the 2021-22 season -- his 10th, at which point he will be eligible for the largest possible contract. Davis staying with the Lakers beyond 2022 appears a fait accompli. He wanted to join. His agent, Rich Paul, declared it so to the media. Paul compared the Lakers to Jennifer Lopez. I'd bet heavily on Davis remaining a Laker for a long time. Still: You never know.
If Davis stays in L.A. through the duration of the Lakers' pick obligations, they have a safety net protecting them against bottoming out the way the Nets did when Boston controlled Brooklyn's picks.
Davis walks in the door as arguably LeBron's best teammate ever, though I will hear arguments for 2010-11 Dwyane Wade. (Stop sleeping on prime Dwyane Wade, people!) Davis and LeBron are perfect complements in a way LeBron and Wade could never be.
It is really hard in the modern NBA of zone defenses and complex help schemes for a big man to be the initiator in a championship offense. Even the best bigs need someone to get them the ball first. Few have the handle or passing vision to face up and attack elite defenses.
Davis improved at those things; he quietly averaged 3.9 assists per game last season, almost double his prior career high. But he still is most comfortable with lightning quick one- and two-dribble scoring attacks. He is not a great read-and-react passer once in motion. More than 60 percent of Davis' two-point buckets came via assists last season. He remains more finisher than starter.
Teaming with LeBron slots Davis into his ideal role. He will be the most well-rounded pick-and-roll partner LeBron has ever had -- the only one who can devastate both diving to the rim for lobs and popping out for jumpers.
You make the playoffs with Davis in the role he held in New Orleans. You win titles with Davis in the role he will inhabit next to LeBron. The two have readymade synergy. They will not overlap as most superstar pairs do. They will not take from each other. They will amplify each other.
Oh: Davis is also a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate who can cover for LeBron in his golden years. With good health and smart supplementary signings (kindly ignore last offseason in considering this), the Lakers advance right away to the inner circle of contenders.
So the Lakers should be fine. Right?
Have you watched the NBA of the past 36 months and come away thinking it is predictable? The NBA is insane. The No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft forgot how to shoot, and that is only, like, one candidate among a dozen for the honor of "Craziest NBA Thing of the Past Two Years." What if LeBron gets hurt again or just gets old like a normal player?
It's not like we have to look far for evidence that a poorly-constructed Davis-centric team might struggle. Davis has been mostly healthy over the last three seasons -- a great sign for the Lakers -- and the Pelicans made the playoffs only once in that time. Decent non-playoff teams have a better chance of vaulting up the draft under the revamped lottery rules, as the Pelicans did in leaping into the Zion Williamson spot. Just one near-miss for the Lakers could carry a heavier cost than it would have under the old lottery system.
The Lakers also need ambulatory human players. They barely have a starting lineup right now. There is debate raging within league circles over whether the Lakers should spend their remaining cap space on another star or multiple role players.
The Davis trade will make it hard for the Lakers to improve their roster going forward via other trades. Signing multiple guys on salaries in the $10 million-plus range -- the role player route -- would unlock more trade possibilities than possible on a roster with three max players, Kuzma and almost nothing in draft assets.
But a third star might better fortify the Lakers against nightmare scenarios in which LeBron and Davis are injured at the same time. Problem: It's unclear if the Lakers will have the cap space to sign such a player.
As ESPN's Bobby Marks and Adrian Wojnarowski reported, the timing of the trade is crucial in that regard. The Lakers are taking on money. The only question is when. If the deal closes on July 6 -- as the Pelicans seem to prefer -- the Lakers will be stuck well short of max-level space. If the Lakers can postpone closing until July 30, at which point whoever they pick at No. 4 on New Orleans' behalf will be trade eligible, the Lakers can maintain their current level of space -- just about the max for a player carrying from seven to nine years of experience -- to use in the meantime.
Marks and Wojnarowski reported the expectation as of Sunday is that the deal would close on July 6, when the league's moratorium on transactions lifts. That is a big whoopsie for the Lakers if they included this much draft compensation expecting to wield max-level space.
There are remedies. The Pelicans could in theory demand more for agreeing to the July 30 timetable. (How fantastic would that be -- a sequel of sorts to the dragged-out Isaiah Thomas saga of two summers ago?) The Lakers could toss Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga into this deal, or others, though doing so would not open cap space equal to their combined salaries; the league applies a $900,000 cap charge to every open roster spot.
The Lakers right now are operating on both fronts. They still hope to chase max players such as Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard, sources say. They also have begun discussing players expected to fetch somewhere in that $10 million-plus range, sources say.
Flash forward a year: With just Davis, LeBron and Kuzma on the books, the Lakers project as well short of max-level cap space. It will be fascinating to see how the Lakers fill out a team -- now and later -- around their new superstar duo.
Bottom line: Even if the Lakers suffer no bad seasons during the LeBron/Davis era -- if none of the Pelicans' wagers on the Lakers' downside pay off -- this deal represents a great return under the circumstances for New Orleans.
Ingram and Ball are still unfinished, even if Ingram already is up for an extension that could end up a damaging overpay if he fails to develop. It has become fashionable to compare Ingram to Andrew Wiggins -- another "looks the part" disappointment. They share a certain affection for bad pull-up midrangers.
But Ingram by age 20 -- he's still just 21 -- already was flashing the sort of playmaking feel that has eluded Wiggins his entire career. Ingram is better defensively and has the potential to be a multi-positional stopper.
The Lakers rushed Ingram into an alpha scorer identity. Playing a secondary role alongside Ball and Williamson (and Jrue Holiday, if he remains with the Pelicans, instead of nudging them for a deal to a win-now outfit) will be perfect for Ingram. He can attack off the catch and run pick-and-rolls against scrambled defenses when Holiday, Ball or Williamson swings the ball to him.
His 3-point shooting will be the wild card -- the difference between Ingram being a solid veteran and something much more.
Same goes for Ball, though he brings preternatural playmaking, as well as plus rebounding and defense for his position. I'm excited to see what he does outside the L.A. circus -- and amid Alvin Gentry's go-go offense.
Hart is a solid complementary player, provided his 3-point percentage bounces back up; Hart had knee surgery in late March, and the Pelicans have to hope knee issues hampered his play last season.
Maybe Ingram, Ball and Hart stagnate. Maybe the Lakers remain elite through 2025 and cough up a series of picks in the high-20s. This deal could end up being painless for them.
Both teams got what they wanted -- what they needed.
The Pelicans' process to that end point appears to have been cleaner, smarter, more organized -- at least since Griffin's arrival.
But the Lakers got the in-his-prime superstar. Maybe that is all that matters.
Published in BaseballFriday, 14 June 2019 06:26
Another week into the season, the Dodgers might still be on top of the pile, but they're no longer the easy choice. This week, our voters split their allegiances among three teams for the No. 1 slot, two going to the Dodgers, two more to the Astros, and the fifth vote going to the Twins. Could the Twins be the team that breaks up the Dodgers/Astros supremacy we've seen so far this season?
But even as the Dodgers face that kind of challenge, they're also faced with an expanding field of rivals within the National League. The Braves made the big gain this week, rising to No. 6 overall while taking the lead in the NL East, and skipping past the Cubs for the privilege of being the second-highest NL team in our polling.
But the Cubs still have plenty of fight left in them, as shown by their dramatic comeback win in L.A. on Saturday (though the Dodgers won the series). And powered by slugging star Christian Yelich, the Brewers, the team that almost took the Dodgers down in the National League Championship Series last year, aren't far behind. And nobody should be sleeping on the Phillies, Rockies or Diamondbacks, all of whom are keeping themselves in the contention conversation. The Snakes made the single biggest gain with this week's voters, moving up seven spots to No. 11 overall.
Every team obviously can't improve, however, and we saw several tumble this week. The Rockies fell from the top 10 after sneaking in just a week ago, losing three spots, as did the Phillies as they saw the Braves blaze beyond them in the standings. But the biggest drop was suffered by the Padres, down four rungs after going 5-10 so far in June to fall below .500 overall.
For Week 10, our panel of voters was composed of Bradford Doolittle, Christina Kahrl, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian and David Schoenfield.
2019 record: 48-24
Week 10 ranking: 1
Corey Seager's hamstring injury suffered early in the week puts a damper on the team's great start as Seager had hit .354/.409/.646 over his previous month, looking again like the Seager of 2016 and 2017. Luckily, the strain wasn't as bad as initially feared, a Grade 1-slash-2, as manager Dave Roberts called it, instead of the more severe Grade 3. In the meantime, Chris Taylor will get the majority of the time at shortstop and regular at-bats to see if he can start producing at the plate. By the way, the Dodgers' rotation in its past 40 games before Sunday night: 2.27 ERA, 253 SO, 36 BB, .210 batting average allowed. Hyun-Jin Ryu isn't the only starter lighting it up. -- David Schoenfield
2019 record: 48-24
Week 10 ranking: 2
Those who had been clamoring for the promotion of slugger Yordan Alvarez have not been disappointed, as the 21-year-old masher is off to a soaring start in his big league career. Alvarez clubbed four homers and drove in eight runs over his first five career games. Perhaps more impressive than that, he has added four singles and six walks and has reached base in 14 of his first 23 career plate appearances. He won't keep up this pace, but it is going to be difficult to pry Alvarez out of the talented Astros lineup. -- Bradford Doolittle
2019 record: 47-23
Week 10 ranking: 3
The team's designated hitters hardly struggled in the absence of injured Nelson Cruz, but it is nice to have the elder statesman back as he seeks his sixth consecutive season with 37 or more home runs. Cruz and his once-injured wrist returned to active duty and provided immediate power and lineup presence, with nearly a homer per day. While general manager Thad Levine will likely look to upgrade the rotation and bullpen in the next six weeks, the offense is one of the deepest in the sport. -- Eric Karabell
2019 record: 43-28
Week 10 ranking: 5
There really isn't a clear front-runner so far in the American League Cy Young race but any short list of leading contenders has to include Charlie Morton. Morton thus far has hit yet another career-high level in strikeout rate (11.0 K/9) and is allowing a career-low 6.1 hits per nine. The shape of Morton's career has been remarkable, if somewhat emblematic of baseball in 2019. Through age 32, Morton had nearly 900 career innings with a 4.54 ERA and 6.3 K/9. Since then, he's at 3.14 and 10.6 over 401 frames. -- Doolittle
2019 record: 43-27
Week 10 ranking: 4
Adding AL home run leader Edwin Encarnacion to a lineup that will soon add Giancarlo Stanton (set to return Tuesday) and Aaron Judge could create one of the most devastating 1-through-9 power lineups ever seen. When everyone is back, Encarnacion will be the DH, pushing Stanton to left field and Brett Gardner to the bench (and Clint Frazier to the minors). That still leaves five infielders and with Gio Urshela continuing to excel on both sides of the ball, look for DJ LeMahieu to assume a full-time utility role, playing first, second and third base. And while the lineup still leans to the right side, considering three of the best starters in the AL East are Blake Snell, Chris Sale and David Price. -- Schoenfield
2019 record: 42-30
Week 10 ranking: 11
Sunday's 15-1 romp over the Phillies gave the Braves the series victory and concluded a 5-1 week (and 9-1 over their past 10 games). During that 10-game stretch, the Braves went from two games behind the Phillies to 2½ in front of them. In those 10 games, the Braves have hit .312 and averaged 7.8 runs per game, with Ozzie Albies leading the way with a .410/.489/.821 stretch and Ronald Acuna Jr. hitting .375 with four home runs. -- Schoenfield
7. Chicago Cubs
2019 record: 39-32
Week 10 ranking: 6
Kyle Hendricks had a run of eight starts during which he went 6-0 with a 1.99 ERA and .538 OPS allowed. Then he got hammered by the Dodgers in his most recent turn and ended up on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Hendricks leads the Cubs in innings pitched, so as we wait to learn the severity of Hendricks' injury, the rising momentum of Chicago's season is suddenly in limbo. -- Doolittle
2019 record: 39-34
Week 10 ranking: 9
Nothing like a trip to Baltimore to make a team feel better about itself. After five consecutive victories, the past three against the hapless Orioles, the Red Sox face a much tougher foe with a three-game set at Minnesota. And that has been a problem for the Sox, who haven't won a series against a team that currently has a winning record since April 29-May 1, when they swept a three-game set with Oakland. -- Steve Richards
2019 record: 40-31
Week 10 ranking: 8
Remember that "let the kids play" promo early in the season in which Christian Yelich awkwardly declared that he was going to hit 50 home runs this year? Turns out he was being as humble as usual. Yelich is on pace to fly past the 50-homer mark and threaten 60 dingers. The Brewers have had one 50-homer season in franchise history, that coming when Prince Fielder hit that number exactly in 2007. As for Yelich, his rate of improvement continues to be staggering. His career-high 36 homers last season were 15 more than he'd ever hit before, but now he's making that total look quaint. -- Doolittle
2019 record: 39-32
Week 10 ranking: 7
The Phillies have rotation issues and veteran Jake Arrieta, in his second season with the club, is not helping much. Arrieta is scheduled to start twice this week, and beat the Diamondbacks last Tuesday but allowed three runs and four walks over six innings. His ERA and WHIP rose to 4.31 and 1.45, even worse than last season, and his strikeout rate continues to be one of the lesser ones among starters. The Phillies need help, but they need a better Arrieta, too. -- Karabell
2019 record: 38-35
Week 10 ranking: 18
Over the past two weeks, the D-backs are tied for the major league lead with 29 home runs. Leading the way? Ketel Marte, who has seven long balls over that span and is becoming a poster child for the out-of-whack homer surge this season. Marte, whose HR-to-fly ball rate of 20.9 percent is double his previous career high, has 20 homers in 317 plate appearances this year; in the previous three seasons combined, he had 20 home runs in 1,301 plate appearances. -- Richards
12. Texas Rangers
2019 record: 38-33
Week 10 ranking: 13
Texas keeps plugging along despite playing the offensive black hole that is Rougned Odor every day at second base. On the bright side, Odor snapped a three-week homerless stretch Friday and June has been his best month (he's slashing .232/.338/.375). On the down side, he entered Sunday ranking in the bottom five in baseball among qualifiers in average (.184, second worst), OBP (.265, fourth worst), OPS (.613, fifth worst), K rate (30.3 percent, fourth worst) and wRC+ (56, second worst). -- Richards
13. Colorado Rockies
2019 record: 37-34
Week 10 ranking: 10
After missing 14 games due to a calf injury, Charlie Blackmon has picked up right where he left off, batting .500 (22-for-44) with six home runs, 16 RBIs and 14 runs scored in his past nine games. He played a large part in the team totaling 65 runs during its homestand during the past week, but now that the Rockies hit the road with key series at Arizona and Los Angeles during the upcoming week, we'll see whether he can improve upon his .233/.272/.357 road triple-slash line this season. -- Tristan H. Cockcroft
2019 record: 36-34
Week 9 ranking: 12
Who'd have pegged Dakota Hudson, the final Cardinals starter to claim his Opening Day rotation spot, as the team's most reliable hurler during the past month-plus? Through Sunday's turn, he's riding a streak of seven consecutive quality starts, with the team winning each of the past six of those games. Hudson's 3.55 ERA for the season ranks 13th in the NL. -- Cockcroft
2019 record: 37-33
Week 10 ranking: 15
In a season that has seen the Tribe's top asset, its rotation, wracked by injuries, there should at least be some satisfaction over Shane Bieber's breakthrough season. His 3.89 FIP is best on the team, he's sixth in the league in his swinging strike rate. At least rotation reinforcements are on the way -- after a pair of rehab appearances, Mike Clevinger returns to action to face the Rangers on Monday. -- Christina Kahrl
2019 record: 36-36
Week 10 ranking: 14
After notching his ninth win of the season, the emergence of Frankie Montas into a power/ground ball starter could not perhaps have come in a better season. He's in the top five in the AL in grounders generated (51.4 percent) and lowest home run rate allowed, and he has allowed three runs or less in all 10 of his quality starts in 14 turns. He might get crowded out of All-Star consideration, but he has earned a place in the conversation. -- Kahrl
2019 record: 33-38
Week 10 ranking: 20
Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg are hardly the biggest issues with the Nationals, but both had terrible starts last week as Corbin allowed seven runs in five innings against the White Sox while Strasburg allowed four home runs and six runs in a loss to the Diamondbacks. After shutting out the Marlins on May 25, Corbin has given up 20 runs and 22 hits in 12⅔ innings in losing three straight games. Corbin blamed fastball command for his recent struggles, and if he isn't throwing the fastball in good spots, it makes his slider less effective because he's not getting ahead often enough. -- Schoenfield
18. New York Mets
2019 record: 34-37
Week 10 ranking: 19
Subpar production at the middle infield spots continues to be a problem for the Mets, who await the return of injured Robinson Cano and still have received nothing from free-agent addition Jed Lowrie. Shortstop Amed Rosario struggles to reach base and field dependably. The Mets presume Cano, a career .303 hitter, will hit as he did a season ago in Seattle and -- based on his history -- stay on the field. As for Lowrie, out with knee and hamstring woes, it might be a while. Rosario, still only 23, has time to develop, but after more than 1,000 career plate appearances and a sub-.300 OBP, is this all there is? -- Karabell
19. Cincinnati Reds
2019 record: 31-38
Week 10 ranking: 16
Joey Votto's poor performance continues to define the Reds' offensive struggles in 2019. His six home runs matches his worst output through 69 team games of any of his 12 big-league seasons, and his 15 multihit performances are fewer than he has had through that many games in all but 2014 (11), during which he was injured, and 2007 (seven), his big league debut year in which he played just 24 games total. -- Cockcroft
2019 record: 35-37
Week 10 ranking: 22
Do not blame Shohei Ohtani for the team's middling record. The team's DH hit for the cycle against the Rays last week and he continues to look like one of the AL's better hitters. Would the Angels consider making Ohtani the full-time DH in 2020, when he has recovered from Tommy John surgery and is ready to resume pitching? Should they do this? It is a fair question as Ohtani more than capably protects Mike Trout in the lineup. -- Karabell
21. San Diego Padres
2019 record: 35-37
Week 10 ranking: 17
Nothing seemed to go right for Padres pitchers during the past week. Rookie of the Year candidate Chris Paddack was demoted to Class A Lake Elsinore, while the team saw its seasonal ERA swell by nearly one-third of a run during a weekend series against the Rockies in which they allowed a combined 48 runs in four games. Paddack should be back soon, his demotion meant to keep his innings in check, and the Rockies series was played at hitters' heaven Coors Field. Still, there's that early-week series against the Brewers looming. -- Cockcroft
2019 record: 34-36
Week 10 ranking: 23
Chicago climbed back to .500 this week for the first time since early in the season but are still trying to get over the hump and above the break-even level. The White Sox last had a winning record when they were 2-1 after the games of April 2 of last season. Chicago is in a tough stretch of its schedule, with the crosstown Cubs piggybacking a four-game series with the Yankees, so climbing over .500 at this juncture would be a nice steppingstone for this emerging squad. -- Doolittle
2019 record: 32-39
Week 10 ranking: 21
Injuries and the Pirates' inability to plug holes created by them have caused the pitching staff many headaches lately. In their past 27 games, they have an MLB-worst 6.55 ERA. During that same time span, the pitchers recalled by the team have combined to allow a 8.66 ERA, with top prospect Mitch Keller as responsible as any: He has allowed 12 runs in seven innings in two spot starts this season. -- Cockcroft
2019 record: 30-39
Week 10 ranking: 24
It might risk getting lost in the disappointment the Giants' 2019 season has on tap, but Brandon Belt is having the kind of big season while healthy anticipated since his career year in 2016. His .357 wOBA is his best since that season, he has cut his strikeout rate to a career-best 20.4 percent, and with nine home runs already hit, he might surpass his career high of 18 this year. -- Kahrl
2019 record: 26-45
Week 10 ranking: 25
Finding an All-Star from Toronto isn't easy. Marcus Stroman seemed like a semi-reasonable choice, but he's 1-2 with a 4.82 ERA in his past three starts and his overall numbers -- 41st among 81 qualifiers in xFIP (4.14), 67th in K/9 (6.98) -- certainly don't scream All-Star. Ken Giles -- with a 1.08 ERA, 11 saves in 12 chances, and 42 K's in 25 innings -- would work, but he's on the injured list with elbow inflammation. Could we just put Vlad Guerrero Jr. in the Home Run Derby and call it even? -- Richards
26. Miami Marlins
2019 record: 25-44
Week 10 ranking: 27
Since reentering the Marlins' lineup May 11, Garrett Cooper has given the Fish attack some desperately needed offense, delivering a team-best .406 wOBA on a .327/.403/522 line to go with the first six home runs of his MLB career, contributing to a 15-14 record when he has been in the lineup in right field or now over at first base. Already 28 years old, Cooper came over in the same trade before 2018 that also brought them Caleb Smith from the Yankees. -- Kahrl
27. Seattle Mariners
2019 record: 31-44
Week 10 ranking: 26
Trader Jerry does it again, shipping Edwin Encarnacion (and cash) to the Yankees for pitching prospect Juan Then, a 19-year-old right-hander who hasn't pitched in the minors after posting a 2.70 ERA in 50 innings in 2018 in the Gulf Coast League. Here's the thing: Then used to be in the Mariners system, but Jerry Dipoto sent him to the Yankees after the 2017 season for reliever Nick Rumbelow, who had a 7.58 ERA in 16 appearances over two seasons with the Mariners and was recently released. So, umm ... the first trade was a big fat zero for Trader Jerry. Maybe his reacquisition of Then will work out better. -- Schoenfield
28. Detroit Tigers
2019 record: 25-43
Week 10 ranking: 28
Closer Shane Greene might be the best asset the Tigers have to offer in trade at the deadline, but one wrinkle to consider is that, used almost exclusively to protect the few leads the Tigers have in the ninth, he hasn't gotten many chances to pitch on consecutive days this year. He has been excellent in the few chances he has had (no runs allowed in eight games pitching without rest), but after giving up 14 runs and five homers in 18 games in 2018 while pitching without rest, contenders might be wary until they see more. -- Kahrl
2019 record: 23-48
Week 10 ranking: 29
Outfielder Jorge Soler, acquired from the Cubs in the Wade Davis trade in December 2016, is on pace to shatter the organization record for home runs in a season. Mike Moustakas holds the Royals home run mark with 38 in 2017, which topped decades-old work by Steve Balboni, Gary Gaetti and John Mayberry. Soler, 27, clearly has power, but he offers little in the way of on-base skills and defense and likely is not a key player when the Royals become good again. However, keep an eye on his power chase. -- Karabell
2019 record: 21-50
Week 10 ranking: 30
Another one-win week for the Orioles, who remarkably (or not) have not had more than two wins in any week this season. There's never a shortage of problem areas for the O's: This week, the focus is the bullpen. In six games against the Blue Jays and Red Sox, Baltimore relievers allowed nine home runs and 33 runs (30 earned) over 27⅔ innings (9.76 ERA). -- Richards