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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Stories by Darryn Albert:

Bojan Bogdanovic shades NBA over Three Point Contest snub

Bojan Bogdanovic is not pleased about getting snubbed from the Three Point Contest for at least the second year in a row.

In an Instagram comment posted to a fanpage from his native Croatia this week, the Utah Jazz forward took a shot at the league for not inviting him to the All-Star Weekend competition.

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Bojan BOGdanović

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“All of your support means more than [the NBA’s] stinky invitation two years in a row,” Bogdanovic’s comment roughly translated to.

The 30-year-old is having a career year for the Jazz this season, averaging 21.0 points per game on 42.5 percent from deep. He was similarly stellar last year as well with 18.0 points per game on an identical 42.5 percent from deep.

This weekend’s Three Point Contest will feature some fairly flashy names, but Bogdanovic’s numbers don’t lie and were probably worthy of an invite.

Zack Wheeler takes shot at Mets over handling of his free agency

Zack Wheeler is free to speak his mind now that he is no longer a member of the New York Mets.

Speaking with Greg Joyce of the New York Post on Thursday, the veteran right-hander took a shot at the team over their handling of his free agency, saying that he never heard back from them last December before signing his new contract. Wheeler also added that he was not surprised by it.

“Because it’s them,” said Wheeler. “It’s how they roll.”

Wheeler, who instead signed a five-year, $119 million deal with the NL East rival Philadelphia Phillies, had been with the Mets for his entire MLB career.

Another Mets starter appeared none too pleased with the team last season, and it is obvious that they have some deep organizational issues to address.

Shohei Ohtani thinks he could have pitched Opening Day but is OK with Angels’ plan

Shohei Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani will not make his 2020 debut on the hill until well into the season, but he believes that he could have been ready sooner.

Speaking with reporters through his interpreter Wednesday, the Los Angeles Angels star addressed the team’s plans to delay his return to the mound.

“I was getting prepared to start on Opening Day, but if that is what the team wants me to do, then I’ll be prepared to delay my debut,” said Ohtani, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. “I don’t see any problems.

“[I] probably could’ve made it [by Opening Day], but they told me a while ago that I’d be waiting until mid-May, so that’s where my mindset is right now,” he added.

Ohtani’s remarks come just one day after Angels general manager Billy Eppler revealed the team’s target date for his return to pitching. The 25-year-old will open the season on schedule as a designated hitter however.

With Ohtani being roughly 16 months removed from Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow, some extra caution certainly cannot hurt. The former AL Rookie of the Year is obviously a bit more confident in his health than the team is though, and that is probably a good sign at this stage.

Celtics pushing back team flight to allow players to attend Kobe Bryant memorial

Kobe Bryant

The Boston Celtics are showing some major respect to one of their biggest rivals of all-time.

Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe reported on Wednesday that the Celtics, who will be in Los Angeles to play the Lakers on Feb. 23, are delaying their team flight to allow players and staff to attend the Kobe Bryant memorial the next day. The memorial will be held at 10 AM on Feb. 24 at Staples Center, where the Celtics and Lakers are scheduled to play the day before at 12:30 PM.

Playing for the rival Lakers for his entire 20-year career and facing them in two separate NBA Finals in 2008 and 2010, Bryant was very much a thorn in Boston’s side as a player. But this gesture further speaks to the unparalleled level of admiration Bryant commanded around the league and the world.

Many of the Celtics’ youngsters also idolized Bryant, and it only feels right for them to be able to attend his memorial service to pay their respects.

Alex Verdugo could open season as Red Sox leadoff hitter

Alex Verdugo

Alex Verdugo has only been a member of the Boston Red Sox for a day or two, but he may already be facing some major responsibility.

Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, newly-named Red Sox interim manager Ron Roenicke mentioned the 23-year-old outfielder as a possible leadoff hitter for the team, per Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe. Roenicke also named fellow outfielder Andrew Benintendi as being in the mix as well.

Verdugo was a centerpiece of the return package that the Red Sox received in their trade of Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this week. He operated primarily out of the No. 6 or No. 7 spot last season but hit as high as No. 2 in the order for the Dodgers at certain points. Verdugo also posted a strong .342 OBP in 2019, indicating a capability of potentially hitting leadoff.

While Benintendi did get major run as Boston’s leadoff hitter last year, the team could now be asking Verdugo to expand his already vast repertoire.

Lakers, Clippers to pursue Tyler Johnson?

With Darren Collison now out of the mix, the two Los Angeles teams may be turning elsewhere for depth in the backcourt.

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated reported on Tuesday that the Lakers and the Clippers are expected to check in on guard Tyler Johnson, who was just released by the Phoenix Suns.

Johnson, 27, played sparingly for the Suns this season, and averaged just 5.7 points and 1.6 assists in 16.6 minutes per game. He averaged a healthy 12.2 points and 2.8 assists a game in his previous three seasons combined though and can provide reliable two-way play and energy in the right role.

The Lakers and Clippers have cast a wide net in their hunt for reinforcements at the guard position, and Johnson, while far from a flashy name, offers some grit that could be of value to either of them.

Danilo Gallinari could return to Knicks this summer?

Danilo Gallinari

Danilo Gallinari will be staying put with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the rest of the season, but now the buzz is around where he may go this summer.

Bleacher Report’s Michael Scotto reported Monday that the New York Knicks could be a potential free agent suitor for the veteran forward. CAA Sports’ Leon Rose is expected to take over as president of the Knicks, and he used to work closely with Gallinari’s agent Michael Tellem, also of CAA Sports.

Gallinari, who is having a stellar year with 19.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game on 40.7 percent from deep, was originally drafted by the Knicks in 2008 and spent three years with them. His time with the team concluded when he was traded to Denver as part of the Carmelo Anthony blockbuster in 2011.

Though Gallinari will turn 32 this summer, he would be a nice replacement for the recently-traded Marcus Morris in New York. The Knicks are unlikely to be the only appealing suitor for Gallinari this summer however.

Report: Mariners want to bring back Taijuan Walker

The Seattle Mariners are looking to reunite with their former top prospect.

Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times reported on Monday that the Mariners have made a “standing offer” to righty Taijuan Walker for a one-year deal and the fifth spot in their rotation. Divish adds though that the 27-year-old has offers from a handful of teams and is still determining his best opportunity.

Walker also reportedly threw for the Chicago Cubs this week.

The veteran was selected by the Mariners in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft with the No. 41 overall pick. He never reached his full potential in Seattle and was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016. Walker then tore the UCL in his pitching elbow in 2018 and had to undergo Tommy John surgery, resulting in just four total appearances over the last two seasons.

Walker also dealt with some other painful ailments in recent years, so the hope will be that he still has enough left to contribute to an MLB team.