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Monday, May 20, 2019

Stories by Grey Papke:

Antonio Cromartie savages Jets with tweet about front office turmoil

Antonio Cromartie

Former New York Jets defensive back Antonio Cromartie still cares about the team, or so it seems — and he’s not terribly happy with their direction.

In the wake of the Jets’ decision to fire general manager Mike Maccagnan, Cromartie responded to a tweet from the team’s official account quoting chairman Christopher Johnson confidently stating that they’ll find the right replacement. Let’s just say Cromartie is skeptical.

Cromartie played for the Jets from 2010 through 2013 and again in 2015, suiting up in three playoff games for the franchise. It’s safe to say he still keeps an eye on how things are going, and it’s also pretty clear that he doesn’t think much of upper management. Given the things being said by ownership, it’s hard to blame him for that opinion.

Report: Rockets let go of top defensive assistant coach

Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets improved as a defensive unit this past season, but the assistant coach who helped guide that improvement won’t be back next season.

According to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, the Rockets let go associate coach Jeff Bzdelik, who was primarily responsible for helping Houston improve defensively in 2018-19.

Houston’s defense was, at least by defensive rating, one of the top units in the league after the All-Star break. It still wasn’t good enough to beat the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs, with Stephen Curry carving them up in a decisive Game 6 without Kevin Durant.

Ownership has vowed to do anything they possibly can to improve next season. Perhaps they believe they can do better than Bzdelik when it comes to coaching up the team’s defense.

Report: LaMelo Ball likely to play in Australia or China next season

LaMelo Ball

LaMelo Ball has one year left to get through before he can make himself eligible for the NBA Draft, and he looks set to spend it overseas again.

According to Ian Pierno of SLAM Magazine and reporter Adam Zagoria, the youngest of the Ball sons is likely to play in Australia or China next season as he prepares for the 2020 draft.

A source told Zagoria that one of the two countries would be Ball’s destination “unless somehow the NCAA makes a new rule where he could play in college.” That is more or less impossible due to the fact that Ball has his own shoe and has already played overseas in Lithuania.

Ultimately, Ball is looking for ways to keep playing ahead of next year’s draft, and these leagues would afford him decent opportunities to. If he goes to China, he’ll simply have to take care to ensure that his time there goes better than his brother LiAngelo’s did back in 2017.

Report: MLB, MLBPA not currently discussing CBA issues

The MLB and MLBPA are currently not really working toward resolving the numerous disagreements they have over the direction of the game.

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the league and the players’ association are currently not involved in negotiations, with the current CBA expiring on Dec. 1, 2021.

Obviously, it’s early in the process and there is time. However, there are countless issues that need to be solved, including service time manipulation and the fact that free agency is quickly becoming an experience to avoid for many players. It’s a very bad sign that some players are already forecasting labor strife if things don’t change, and that alone should probably send the two sides to the table in preliminary talks.

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Marc Gasol takes ‘full responsibility’ for Raptors’ slow Game 2 start

Marc Gasol

Toronto Raptors center Marc Gasol took responsibility for his team’s slow start in Game 2 that ultimately left them in a 2-0 hole in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Milwaukee Bucks scored the first nine points of Game 2 and ultimately jumped out to a 35-18 lead. Toronto’s comebacks fell short, as Milwaukee dug the hole too deep early on — which Gasol blamed himself for after missing three shots in the first three minutes.

“The beginning [of the game] set us in a really bad spot,” Gasol said, via Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN. “We couldn’t get a grip of the game early on, and I take full responsibility for that.

“I played really bad, and that set the tone.”

Gasol owning up is respectable, but it was certainly a team effort. It’s fair to wonder if the circumstances in which they lost Game 1 lingered on their minds — as they seemed to for one player — in the slow start.

Raptors’ Danny Green still hung up on blowing Game 1

Danny Green

The Toronto Raptors know they missed a golden opportunity in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but it appears that the mental hangover may have carried into Game 2.

After the Raptors were blown out in Game 2 by the Bucks, Toronto swingman Danny Green seemed to indicate that the importance of letting multiple double-digit leads slip away in Game 1 was still lingering in his mind.

Perhaps Green is simply reminiscing, but the reality is Toronto won’t be well-served by dwelling on what happened in Game 1. They face a 2-0 deficit headed back to Toronto and realistically they must win both. Green is right that Game 1 energized Milwaukee, but there’s nothing Toronto can go back and do about it now.

Report: Ian Kinsler fined by MLB over home run celebration

Ian Kinsler’s bizarre home run celebration did not go unnoticed by Major League Baseball’s front office.

According to Scott Miller of Bleacher Report, the San Diego Padres second baseman was fined for his profane celebration after hitting a home run Thursday night.

Kinsler denied that his profanity was directed at Padres fans, but even if he’s telling the truth, MLB isn’t going to differentiate. It was an odd moment that didn’t really impress his manager, either, and it will leave Kinsler a bit lighter in the pocketbook as well.

Report: Interested teams have become more wary of Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving’s sometimes erratic leadership and behavior this season may have some impacts on his free agency.

According to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, some teams that had interest in signing Irving as a free agent are said to be “more wary” of doing so now. Some of those teams are worried about “putting too many eggs in his basket,” and two teams are reportedly only interested in Irving if they land another star first and that star wants to play with the point guard.

On paper, Irving’s numbers this year — 23.8 points and a career-best 6.9 assists per game — are perfectly fine. However, he’s been publicly moody and, by some accounts, difficult to play with. Questions about his leadership abilities have also come to the surface.

Those are a lot of red flags for a guy who will be expected to become one of the faces of the franchise. Ultimately, Irving will draw plenty of interest, but his strange season seems to have some potential suitors thinking twice.