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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Stories by Steve DelVecchio:

Aroldis Chapman reportedly expected to opt out of contract

Aroldis Chapman Yankees

The MLB free agent market has not been kind to many players over the past few years, but Aroldis Chapman is apparently confident he can land another massive contract next winter.

Chapman signed a five-year, $86 million deal with the New York Yankees prior to the 2017 season, but it contains player options of $15 million per season for the last two years. One player who is friends with the left-hander told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic that Chapman is “one million percent” going to become a free agent after the season.

That would mean leaving $30 million on the table, which may be somewhat risky considering Chapman will turn 32 in February. However, as Rosenthal notes, the Yankees closer saw Craig Kimbrel sign a three-year, $43 million contract with the Chicago Cubs last month after sitting out a significant portion of the season. Chapman should be able to get at least that, which would be more guaranteed money than the $30 million left on his current contract.

Chapman is having another solid season with the Yankees, as he has saved 25 games in 29 opportunities and has an ERA of 2.45. He has struck out 53 batters in 36 2/3 innings. Some opponents seem to think he has lost the intimidation factor, but Chapman remains one of the better relievers in baseball.

Report: Rich Paul did not want Marcus Morris to back out of Spurs deal

Marcus Morris

Marcus Morris and his agent Rich Paul agreed to mutually part ways following a bizarre turn of events that saw Morris sign with the New York Knicks, and it sounds like it may have been the agent who no longer wanted to work with the player.

Morris verbally agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with the San Antonio Spurs during the first week of free agency, but he backed out to sign a one-year, $15 million contract with the Knicks. According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, Paul wanted Morris to honor his original agreement with the Spurs, and Morris backed out and negotiated a deal with New York on his own.

Berman also reports that Morris “got cold feet” about playing for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. Morris said last week that he has respect for the Spurs and was trying to make the best decision for him and his family.

The Knicks ended up having unexpected salary cap space when free agent Reggie Bullock had an issue with his physical. Bullock is still signing with the team, but at a lower salary. After Morris bailed on them, the Spurs signed forward Trey Lyles to a two-year, $11 million deal. Lyles is one of Paul’s clients.

Paul has become a massive influence in the NBA, and it makes sense that he did not want to risk souring his relationship with the Spurs. While an agent’s job is to make his client happy, you can see how that would be a bad look after he went through the process of negotiating a contract with San Antonio and had a handshake agreement in place.

Emmanuel Sanders hoping to be ready for Week 1

Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders suffered a torn Achilles late last season, but he is hoping to be fully cleared in time for Week 1.

Sanders admitted on Tuesday that he will “definitely not” be a full participant when training camp begins on Thursday, and he said the team will instead work him back into the mix gradually.

A torn Achilles is one of the most difficult injuries to come back from, so being ready for Week 1 would be a huge testament to the hard work Sanders has put in this offseason. The 32-year-old, who is still expected to be an important part of Denver’s offense with new quarterback Joe Flacco, caught 71 passes for 868 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games last season.

There was some talk earlier in the offseason about the Broncos potentially asking Sanders to take a pay cut from the $10.25 million he is scheduled to make in 2019, but they did not do that. That may be a positive sign for how his rehab is coming.

Report: Royals open to trading slugger Jorge Soler, others in fire sale

The Kansas City Royals traded catcher Martin Maldonado to the Chicago Cubs on Monday night, and that could be the first move of many that are expected to come over the next two weeks.

Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Royals are in “sell mode,” and they are planning to deal several more players. That could include Jorge Soler, who has 25 home runs and 65 RBI on the season.

It makes sense for the Royals to stock up on as many prospects as they can, as they have won just 33 games this season and are nowhere near playoff contention. We know of at least one player on their roster who is close to off-limits, but almost everyone is for sale heading into the trade deadline.

Police open investigation into Ezekiel Elliott’s security guard altercation

Ezekiel Elliott

The security guard who was allegedly assaulted by Ezekiel Elliott at a concert in Las Vegas back in May is pressing charges, and police have opened an investigation into the incident.

A representative for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police told TMZ that Kyle Johnson contacted the department informing them he was the victim of battery from Elliott. The incident is currently under investigation.

Johnson, 19, was knocked to the ground during a dispute at the Electric Daisy Carnival on May 19. Video footage appeared to show Elliott making contact with Johnson and causing him to fall into a metal barrier. Elliott was detained but not arrested after Johnson initially said he did not want to press charges. Johnson later said he only wanted an apology from the star running back.

Elliott did issue an apology on social media after a disciplinary hearing with Roger Goodell earlier this month, but apparently that was not good enough. Elliott’s legal team claims Johnson is trying to extort the Dallas Cowboys star.

Dwight Howard opens up about rumors that he is gay

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard became the focus of gossip sites and internet rumors last year when a man claimed he was in a romantic relationship with the NBA star, and Howard says he learned a lot about himself from a situation that was very difficult for him.

Howard sat down for an interview with FOX Sports 1’s “Fair Game with Kristine Leahy” this week, and he opened up about the allegations. A man named Masin Elije, now the author of a book entitled “Industry Hoe,” accused Howard of cheating on him with a transgender man. Elije provided screenshots of direct messages he claimed he exchanged with Howard, and he later said he was physically threatened by Howard’s pastor and some other people close to the eight-time NBA All-Star.

Howard told Leahy he was angry because he had no idea why someone he had never met would make up an elaborate story about him, but he said the experience “liberated me.”

“I think that liberated me, because I saw how a lot of people would feel, whether they’re gay or straight or have issues,” Howard said. “People are afraid to be who they are.

“That situation made me realize, ‘You’re not like this, so just be you. Be free.’ I’m not gay. There’s a lot of people who are, and they have to hide. There’s people who have mental issues, and they have to hide. People have different problems in life, and they have to hide and have to put on a mask every day.”

Howard said he sat at home alone for the most part over a two-month span following the rumors, thinking about “who I am, who do I want to be (and) where do I want my life to go.”

“It hurt at first to go through it. I sat at home and I’m like, ‘Man, I never want to come outside again,'” he said.

The overall message from Howard is that he is a better person for having gone through that situation. The 33-year-old recently explained some other ways in which he has changed over the past several years, so he is clearly trying to make his pitch to teams. That is likely part of the reason he agreed to the interview with Leahy.

Mike D’Antoni: Rockets’ offense ‘not changing much’ with Russell Westbrook

Mike D'Antoni

The Houston Rockets may have to make some changes now that Russell Westbrook will be sharing the floor with James Harden next season, but head coach Mike D’Antoni insists any adjustments will be minor.

D’Antoni discussed the acquisition of Westbrook in an appearance on “The Woj Pod” this week, and he said there will be no need to change Houston’s offense much with Westbrook. He noted how the Rockets had the second-best offense in the NBA behind the Golden State Warriors last season.

“We’re not changing much,” D’Antoni said. “We’ll tweak it, but to say you’ve gotta change and you can’t win that way, that’s BS.”

D’Antoni was referring to critics who say the Rockets play too much isolation ball, whereas teams like the Warriors spread it around more and never have one player dominating that side of the ball. Some think it could be even more challenging to play that style now with how ball-dominant both Harden and Westbrook are, but D’Antoni is not concerned.

“Do we sometimes go too much 1-on-1? Yeah,” the coach admitted. “Do we sometimes iso or not move enough? Yeah, we do sometimes. But I can also make the argument that sometimes teams over-pass. Sometimes they move too much or are too helter-skelter. You try to find the balance of what is best for your players.”

Westbrook and Harden obviously aren’t concerned about sharing the ball, as they may have been the ones who facilitated the trade that sent Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Russ.

D’Antoni has been even more passionate in defending his offensive approach in the past, and we don’t expect that to change. From a pure talent standpoint, the Rockets should be much better off with Westbrook than Paul. As we know, there is often more to the story than that.

Charles Barkley has some harsh words for Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons

Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley began his Hall of Fame career with the Philadelphia 76ers, and he has never been afraid to criticize his former team just as much as — if not more than – any other team he provides analysis on. That goes for superstars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, too.

Barkley said during an appearance on ESPN’s “Get Up” Tuesday morning that he believes the Sixers can win the Eastern Conference next season, but he cautioned that Embiid has to “get his fat butt in shape” and Simmons has to work on his jump shot for that to happen.

Barkley said the most valuable advice he ever received in his career came from Moses Malone, who told him he was “fat and lazy.” Barkley says that inspired him to lose 50 pounds when he first got to Philadelphia. He believes someone with the 76ers needs to step up and send a similar message to Embiid.

It will probably be more difficult for Simmons to improve his shooting than it is for Embiid to work on his conditioning, but Barkley has a point with both. Staying in shape is critical for Embiid if he wants to remain healthy, though he has not been that receptive to Barkley’s advice in the past. Simmons could be an MVP candidate if he learned how to shoot, but that is a tough thing to do at this stage in a player’s career.