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Friday, January 18, 2019

Stories by Grey Papke:

Report: Isaiah Thomas aiming to make season debut prior to All-Star break

Isaiah Thomas

The Denver Nuggets are reportedly hoping for an Isaiah Thomas debut somewhere around the All-Star break, perhaps even before.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, both Thomas and the Nuggets are preliminarily targeting the Feb. 11-13 homestand for a possible return, but the belief is he will be on the court as a Nugget for the first time by Feb. 22 at the latest. That would be the first game post-break for the Nuggets.

Thomas had hip surgery in March and is expected to start full five-on-five scrimmages soon.

The guard, who signed a one-year veteran’s minimum deal with Denver last July, would be coming back to a pretty good team. It is also, however, a team loaded with talented guards already. Between that and the fact that the Nuggets will want to manage his workload, he will likely have to battle to earn playing time initially.

Kris Bryant: Bryce Harper will not join Cubs

Kris Bryant

While it was not exactly a secret, one of Bryce Harper’s closest friends in baseball made it pretty clear that the two wouldn’t be playing together next season.

Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said Harper wouldn’t be signing with the Chicago Cubs this offseason despite some rumors during 2018 that such a union was on the table.

Bryant and Harper grew up in Las Vegas together and played on the same Little League team, sparking rumors that the two would like to pair up. That may be true, but Bryant would know if Harper was coming, and he’s ruled it out just as definitively as his manager has. Harper’s ultimate destination remains a mystery, but the Cubs appear to be completely out.

Watch: Stephen A. Smith thinks Kareem Hunt plays for the Saints

Stephen A Smith

Stephen A. Smith’s knowledge of NFL players still seems a bit lacking.

For whatever reason, on Friday’s edition of “The Stephen A. Smith Show,” Smith cited Kareem Hunt as one of the many offensive weapons the New Orleans Saints boast, despite the fact that Hunt is not and has never played for the organization.

Not only does Hunt not play for the Saints, but he’s very much not involved with the NFL right now and probably won’t be for some time.

It’s hard to figure out who Smith is referring to, as he may well have misspoken. Perhaps he means Alvin Kamara, but it doesn’t really matter. After all, it didn’t really matter who or what he was trying to refer to the last time this happened, either.

Larry Fitzgerald makes hole-in-one while golfing with Barack Obama

Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald will probably never have a more memorable day golfing than he did on Friday.

Fitzgerald hosted a foursome including former President Barack Obama in Florida on Friday, which was a big enough event in itself. However, according to Tim Rosaforte of Golf Channel, Fitzgerald managed to sink a hole-in-one on the difficult 13th.

Fitzgerald is still considering his NFL future. Maybe he has a second career lined up, or maybe he only has this kind of magic when former U.S. presidents are watching him play.

Bulls’ Wendell Carter Jr. out 8-to-12 weeks with thumb injury

Chicago Bulls logo

Wendell Carter Jr. will miss up to three months after it was discovered that he would need surgery on his injured left thumb.

According to the Chicago Bulls, Carter suffered a thumb sprain, and surgery will keep him out for 8-to-12 weeks.

Carter suffered the injury on Jan. 15 against the Los Angeles Lakers.

This is a rough blow to the young Bulls, as it’s likely to keep the rookie out for most of the remainder of the season, if not all of it. Carter had been a solid contributor so far this season, averaging 10.3 points and seven rebounds per game.

Chiefs’ Eric Berry will play against Patriots

Eric Berry

Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry is good to go for Sunday’s AFC Championship.

Berry will play Sunday after going through a full practice on Friday, and he has been removed from the team’s injury report.

Berry has been in and out of the lineup lately. He featured in Weeks 15 and 16, but didn’t play in Week 17 and was also absent against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship. The three-time All-Pro safety appears to be ready to go now, though, with the added warning that it’s not entirely clear how effective he’ll be. Any bit of secondary help against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots can only be a good thing from Kansas City’s perspective.

Report: Reds making progress in Sonny Gray trade talks

Sonny Gray

The Cincinnati Reds look to be the strongest suitor for New York Yankees pitcher Sonny Gray.

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Reds are “making progress” in discussions to acquire Gray from the Yankees.

Gray trade talks had quieted down a bit before a recent resurgence, with the Reds most prominently linked. A lot of teams have been involved in the discussions, but Cincinnati looks to be the frontrunners. It makes sense, as they’ve been linked to a lot of starting pitchers this offseason.

Once touted as a future star for the Oakland Athletics, a move to New York never really agreed with Gray. He’s coming off a season that saw him post a 4.90 ERA and lose his spot in the rotation, so he’ll be hoping that any trade helps revitalize a once-promising career.

10 best bargains remaining in MLB free agency

Even in mid-January, it’s not too late to find a good bargain in Major League Baseball free agency. Plenty of players who have signed late and cheap have become hugely effective pieces of contenders, or turned into valuable trade bait for a non-contender come July. You just have to know where to look and what to look for.

Here are 10 players who could prove to be really good bargains, and are still available for all 30 teams to sign.

10) Mike Moustakas, 3B

Moustakas has a skillset that doesn’t really match the modern times — low average, low on-base percentage, and power. He may not be the poster child for this era, but there are plenty of teams who could use a power-hitting third baseman who plays a competent hot corner. Moustakas is a career .251 hitter who has hit at least 25 home runs in each of his last three seasons, and he has ample postseason experience as well. A team may be able to get nice value on him at this point. A few clubs of note are keeping tabs on him.