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#pounditSaturday, May 8, 2021

Stories by Gordon Dixon:

Watch: Dell Curry has great reaction to seeing Drake in his jersey

Dell Curry

Dell and Sonya Curry got a kick out of seeing Drake prior to Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

There was little doubt Drake would be in attendance for the first game of the series between the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors. When Drake arrived he did so wearing a Raptors throwback jersey of Dell Curry, who spent the final three seasons of his NBA career with the Raptors.

After seeing Drake, the Currys had a few laughs.

Dell and Sonya will no doubt be rooting for son Stephen to win his fourth championship. However, Drake was more than happy to remind Dell he has ties to Toronto as well.

Panthers WR Torrey Smith agrees to take $2 million pay cut

Torrey Smith

Torrey Smith has agreed to a deal that will help the Carolina Panthers gain additional salary cap space for the upcoming season.

Last year, Smith was traded to the Panthers from the Philadelphia Eagles. Ahead of his second season with the Panthers, Smith is doing the team a favor by agreeing to a $2 million pay cut, according to ESPN’s Field Yates. Smith was set to earn $5 million for the 2019 season.

As Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer adds, the cap space freed up by Smith’s new deal could play a part in the team’s free agency plans. Six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, is planning to visit Carolina.

In 11 games last season for the Panthers, Smith had 17 receptions for 190 yards and two touchdowns.

Bruce Bochy explains why Madison Bumgarner was pulled early

Bruce Bochy

Bruce Bochy provided a reason for removing Madison Bumgarner after what is considered a low pitch count by Bumgarner’s standards.

Wednesday’s game between the San Francisco Giants and Miami Marlins is an example of when the box score doesn’t tell the entire story. On the surface, Bumgarner’s six innings pitched with two runs allowed and four strikeouts doesn’t look particularly alarming. However, manager Bruce Bochy noticed early on that it wasn’t going to be one of his star pitcher’s better days on the mound.

Bumgarner wasn’t pitching on short rest. So, it may have just been “one of those days” for the four-time All-Star, who was removed after allowing a leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh inning despite having thrown just 81 pitches. It’s worth noting Bumgarner retired the Marlins 1-2-3 in the sixth inning.

Bochy has been around Bumgarner long enough to know when he doesn’t have it on a particular day. He definitely saw something on Wednesday and acted on it while the game was still tied. The Giants ended up losing 4-2, with Bumgarner taking the loss.

Report: Phil Martelli offered job on Juwan Howard’s staff

Phil Martelli

Phil Martelli could be returning to coaching sooner than many may have expected.

Last week, the Michigan Wolverines hired former “Fab 5” star Juwan Howard to be the next head coach of the men’s basketball program. Howard has reportedly wasted no time working to assemble his staff.

According to a report from the Philly Inquirer’s Mike Jensen, Howard has offered Martelli an assistant coaching job job on his staff.

Martelli, 64, had told Jensen after being fired that he wanted to coach again.

Martelli was fired earlier this year after 24 seasons as the head coach at Saint Joseph’s. During his time there, he went 444-328 and led the Hawks to seven NCAA Tournament appearances.

Vancouver could create ‘Jurassic Park West’ viewing for Raptors’ finals games

Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors will have support from fans all across Canada during their quest for the franchise’s first NBA championship.

Raptors fans have become well known for their enthusiastic support for the team. The crowd outside of Raptors’ arena during playoff games often rivals the intensity of those who purchased tickets and are inside. The area outside has become affectionately known as “Jurassic Park.”

Across the country, there could be a similar feel during this year’s NBA Finals. The city of Vancouver is exploring a viewing area for fans to watch Toronto’s games against the Golden State Warriors in the Vancouver Art Gallery North Plaza.

“We’re expecting a full square. We’re going to have television screens, food, it’s going to be an all-ages event, free to the public,” Vancouver Councilman Michael Wiebe told Global News.

This year’s NBA Finals will be a big stage for Canada. The Raptors won the Eastern Conference title for the first time by beating the Milwaukee Bucks four straight games after losing the first two games of the series. That means the nation will be the center of the basketball universe for the first two games of the Finals and potentially four of the seven games. Not only will there be an opportunity for Toronto to show how it supports the Raptors, but there may be one for the entire country of Canada as well.

Drake responds on Instagram to comments by Bucks coach

Drake took to Instagram to seemingly respond to comments made by Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer after Game 4 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals.

During Tuesday’s game in Toronto, the rapper and Toronto Raptors fan moved to the sideline from his courtside seat and gave Nick Nurse a shoulder massage. His physical contact with the Raptors coach looked odd on television and was a topic of discussion following the game.

Budenholzer was among those who felt Drake was out of line. Budenholzer took a bit of a shot at Drake calling him a “fan or whatever he is for the Raptors.”

Late Wednesday evening, Drake used his Instagram story to seemingly respond to Budenholzer’s comments. He seemed to imply that Budenholzer was just sore over his team losing to the Raptors.

Drake frequently sits courtside at Raptors games. However, his enthusiasm carried him a bit over the edge with the mid-game should rub, which has since resulted in a distraction. He doesn’t seem to believe there was any wrongdoing on his part.

Dallas Cowboys prioritizing Prescott, Cooper in contract talks

Dak Prescott

The Dallas Cowboys have decided where their priorities lie when it comes to discussing contract extensions with their star players.

The Cowboys boast talent at their offensive skill positions in the forms of Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Ezekiel Elliott. The first two players are reportedly at the front of the line for extensions, though Dallas has also had contact with Elliott’s representatives about an extension as well, according to NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero.

Prescott is the face of the franchise so it only makes sense the Cowboys would want to lock him up long term. Cooper established a rapport with Prescott and had 725 yards and six touchdowns in nine games after being traded from the Oakland Raiders. Elliott has become one of the NFL’s premier running backs.

Prescott is 25 years old and set to become a free agent after the season. The reports about how much money he could make are astounding. Cooper is 24 and also set to be a free agent after the year. He is making nearly $14 million in the upcoming season. Clarence Hill Jr. reported this week that contract talks with him are at a stalemate. Elliott is 23 and under team control through 2020, so the Cowboys are not in danger of losing him as soon as they could lose Prescott and Cooper.

That’s an impressive core to build an offense around. It will likely also be expensive. However, that will be money well spent if each can duplicate their 2018 production going forward.

Damian Lillard wears bright green shoes in Game 2

Damian Lillard green shoes

Damian Lillard’s choice of footwear was a hot topic of discussion during Game 2 of the NBA’s Western Conference finals.

When Lillard took the floor for Thursday’s game, he did so in a pair of bright green shoes.

It didn’t take long for them to be the subject of speculation on social media. Some wondered if the shoes were a product of Lillard’s relationship with television streaming service Hulu, whose logo is green.

Lillard has appeared in an ad campaign for Hulu advertising their live sports. He even has an ad for that on his Twitter banner. Another possible inspiration for the shoes? He mentions “bright” in his Twitter bio.

“They say the truth shall come to the light…so everybody grab ya shades cuz ya boy that bright.”

The Blazers point guard has a line of shoes through adidas, with one pair being a mint green color. These were much brighter.

Lillard’s shoes certainly made a statement. However, if the Blazers are going to even the series with the Golden State Warriors, Lillard’s game will likely have to make an equally loud statement.