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#pounditSaturday, July 2, 2022

Stories by Steve DelVecchio:

Report: Nets unwilling to meet 1 Kyrie Irving request

Feb 1, 2020; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) during the second half against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Kyrie Irving is likely looking to land a maximum contract extension from the Brooklyn Nets, but it does not sound like he is going to get it.

Irving has until Wednesday to decide if he will exercise his $36.9 million player option for next season. He is widely expected to decline it, which is why he and the Nets have been trying to work out a new contract. If Irving opts in, the Nets can sign him to a four-year, $196 million extension. If he declines the option, he would be eligible for a five-year, $248 million deal.

According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, neither max offer is coming. Lowe said on “Get Up” Monday morning that the Nets have taken a stand.

“They appear ready to actually take some kind of stand here,” Lowe said. “That doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be a fair compromise offer somewhere, wherever that lands. We’ll see how that discussion evolves.”

This is not the first report we have heard claiming the Nets do not want to sign Irving to a long-term deal. They are understandably concerned about his injury history and all the off-court drama that surrounds him.

One theory is that Kevin Durant is playing hardball with the Nets in an attempt to help his friend Irving land a max deal. Unless something changes, that seems unlikely to work.

Panthers legend returning to team as radio broadcaster

Luke Kuechly abruptly retired two years ago after he suffered numerous head injuries, but he made it clear at the time that he still wanted to be involved with the NFL. He has found a way to do that with his former team.

The Carolina Panthers announced on Monday that Kuechly will join the team’s radio broadcast as an analyst for seven games this season. He will work alongside play-by-play announcer Anish Shroff and either Jordan Gross or Jake Delhomme.

“I think it could be a lot of fun,” Kuechly said of his new role. “I think that’s the biggest reason, to do something around the game on game day that’s fun. You still get the atmosphere, and all the good memories I have here in Carolina.”

Kuechly played linebacker for the Panthers from 2012-2019. He made the Pro Bowl every year but his rookie season and was NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. The former first-round pick was considered by many to be the best linebacker in the game. He retired at age 29 after suffering multiple concussions.

Not long after he announced his retirement, Kuechly hinted that broadcasting was something he would pursue. Working as a radio analyst for his former team is a great place to start.

Patriots veteran shares what impresses him most about Mac Jones

Aug 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones 10) throws the ball during a game against the Washington Football Team at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Mac Jones may come across as soft-spoken, but one New England Patriots veteran says the quarterback can become the most fierce player on the field when the situation calls for it.

Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith spoke about Jones’ development during a Monday appearance on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football.” When asked what has impressed him most about Jones, Smith said he loves that the former Alabama star can be the “goofiest” person in the locker room but flip a switch on the field.

“Honestly, man, just the way he can turn it on,” Smith said. “Mac is definitely one of the most goofiest guys in the locker room, to be honest, man. But when he steps on that field, he’s a different character. He’s just got so much ability and so much dog in him. Once he flips that switch, he’s a whole different character. Some guys don’t know how to cut that on and cut that off when it’s time to do it. He’s so young. He’s poised. He’s got a little swagger to him, man. I’m glad he’s throwing us passes. That’s my guy.”

Smith is one of several Patriots players who have heaped praise on Jones this offseason. The 23-year-old is clearly putting in a significant amount of work heading into Year 2. He has even been imitating Tom Brady in at least one way.

No one really knows what to expect from the Patriots this season. The AFC looks stacked on paper, but any Bill Belichick-led team usually has a chance to reach the playoffs. If Jones is as good as advertised, the Patriots could surprise a lot of people.

Video: Angels, Mariners throw punches in bench-clearing brawl

The Los Angels Angels and Seattle Mariners played a spirited series over the weekend, and the two teams got into an ugly benches-clearing brawl when tempers boiled over on Sunday.

Angels pitcher Andrew Wantz hit Jesse Winker with a fastball to lead off the top of the 2nd inning. The pitch drilled Winker in the backside and was clearly intentional. Winker was not happy and began walking toward the L.A. dugout. That’s when things got out of hand.

Typically we only see shoving and shouting when the benches clear during an MLB game, but actual swings were thrown this time. Anthony Rendon, who is out for the season with a wrist injury, was the first person to get at Winker when Winker marched toward the Angels’ dugout. Rendon had a cast on his right arm but fought off Winker with his left. Here’s another angle:

Tensions were high out of the gate, as Wantz threw behind Seattle outfielder Julio Rodriguez in the top of the first. Warnings were issued to both teams.

The Angels were likely responding after Mariners right-hander Erik Swanson threw a pitch near Mike Trout’s head during the bottom of the 9th inning on Saturday night. Trout was openly upset about the pitch after the game.

Angels closer Raisel Iglesias may have topped everyone with the meltdown he had when the brawl ended.

Major League Baseball will have a lot of fines and suspensions to hand out after reviewing Sunday’s brawl.

Report: 1 outcome ‘very likely’ in Bradley Beal contract situation

Jan 17, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) looks on against the Philadelphia 76ers during the second half at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Bradley Beal has a player option for next season that he is widely expected to decline, but that does not mean the Washington Wizards star wants a fresh start elsewhere.

If Beal declines his $36.4 million player option, he will be eligible to sign a five-year max extension with the Wizards worth nearly $250 million. Other teams could offer the star guard roughly $180 million over four seasons. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Beal is very likely to decline his option and sign a max extension with Washington.

Trade rumors have followed Beal for years. A lot of that is the result of him playing for a team that has not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2017. There has been an assumption that Beal will eventually want to play for a contender, but he has never publicly requested a trade. There have been no indications that he has done so privately, either.

Beal, 28, would be one of the most coveted players in the NBA if he became a free agent. He said recently that he has made a decision about his future but does not want to share it just yet.

In the event that Beal does leave Washington, oddsmakers have listed a surprising team as the favorite to land him.

Warren Sapp heard Colin Kaepernick’s Raiders workout went horribly

Apr 2, 2022; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Colin Kaepernick passes during halftime at the Michigan Spring game at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Colin Kaepernick had his first formal visit with an NFL team in roughly five years when the Las Vegas Raiders hosted him for a workout last month, but he remains a free agent. There has been no indication that the Raiders plan to sign him, and one former member of the team thinks he knows why.

Warren Sapp, who played for the Raiders for the final four seasons of his Hall of Fame career, was asked in an interview with Vlad TV published this week if he believes Kaepernick will play in the NFL again. He responded with an emphatic “no” and said he was told Kaepernick’s workout with the Raiders was a “disaster.”

“I heard it was a disaster. I heard it was one of the worst workouts ever,” Sapp said. “I’m wondering how the hell this happened and the tape didn’t get out. Somebody wasn’t (recording a video) over the fence or something? Come on, man. We live in a world now where you put a drone up and nobody’s gonna stop you.”

Kaepernick is 34 and has not played in the NFL since 2016. Even when he did play, his strength was his mobility and athleticism. He was never a great passer, which is why many are skeptical that he could take that much time off and expect to be effective.

There were supposedly two things that impressed the Raiders during Kaepernick’s workout. They were not blown away enough to offer him an invitation to camp, however. Maybe Sapp knows something most of us don’t.

Report: Kevin Durant has been ghosting Nets

Oct 11, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) in action against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets have been trying to work out a new contract with Kyrie Irving, but they reportedly have not had much — if any — communication with their other big superstar.

Logan Murdoch of The Ringer said on “The Mismatch” podcast this week that he has been told Durant has not spoken with Nets executives in weeks. The supposed ghosting comes at a time when there has been speculation that Durant could request a trade if things don’t work out between Irving and the Nets.

“Now, you have reports that Kyrie is looking elsewhere. I made some calls. Kevin Durant has not talked to the team in weeks,” Murdoch said, as transcribed by Nets Daily. “I don’t think Kevin is confident in the front office right now. I don’t know if he’s at the stage of leaving but there’s a big uneasiness from not only from the Kyrie side, but the KD side as well.”

Murdoch also reiterated a recent report that Durant has not been recruiting free agents to play for Brooklyn.

Durant and Irving are close friends and chose to team up together with the Nets. Durant is undoubtedly disappointed with how the 2021-22 season went, but he may also be taking Irving’s side as Kyrie seeks a long-term deal.

“His biggest beef is that he feels that the front office didn’t grow to understand Kyrie, whatever that means. I would push back on that when a guy leaves for two weeks at a time … Kyrie earns the lion’s share of the blame,” Murdoch added. “But I think KD believes that, ‘Hey, you guys didn’t understand this guy. You didn’t try to figure out where he was coming from.’”

This is not the first we have heard of Durant freezing out Brooklyn’s front office. While he could be setting the stage to demand a trade, it seems more likely that he is trying to put pressure on the team to both re-sign Irving and improve the roster. If Irving and the Nets cannot come to an agreement, then things will get a lot more interesting for the team.

Mike Trout sounded off about pitch near his head

July 30, 2019; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) following the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Trout was nearly hit by a pitch during the ninth inning on Saturday night before the Seattle Mariners decided to intentionally walk him. The Los Angeles Angels star seemed to think the high-and-tight pitch was intentional, and he was not happy about it.

After the Angels’ 5-3 loss, Trout was critical of Mariners right-hander Erik Swanson for throwing a pitch near his head. The ball went to the backstop and allowed a runner to advance from first to second. Seattle put Trout on after that.

“If you can’t pitch inside, don’t pitch inside,” Trout said, via MLB.com’s Daniel Kramer. “If you’re going to hit me, hit me in the ribs, don’t hit me in the head. I don’t know if that was the intent, but anything at the head, you don’t do that.”

Swanson said he was simply trying to pitch up and in, which is the weakest part of the zone for Trout.

“You’re trying to go up right there,” the pitcher said. “If I’m going to miss up, that’s where I want to miss, especially to a hitter like that. The guy is one of, if not the best, hitters in the entire league, and if I’m going to miss, I need to miss up with that.”

Shohei Ohtani came to the plate as the go-ahead run after Trout. He lined out to end the game, so Swanson and the Mariners got the job done.

It seems unlikely that Swanson was intentionally head-hunting in that situation. Trout was probably just frustrated that the Angels lost for the fourth time in five games.

Report: Jimmy Garoppolo hoping for ‘quick resolution’ with 49ers

Sep 26, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) walks on the field before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers have not traded Jimmy Garoppolo, and they have been open about the way his shoulder injury impacted their plans. Now that the veteran quarterback is getting close to making a return, it sounds like he could be dealt in the near future.

Garoppolo is expected to begin throwing at some point in early July. Accoridng to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, the 30-year-old is hoping for a “quick resolution” once he is fully cleared and able to participate in everything.

There has been a lot of speculation about the Niners keeping Garoppolo for another season. Some reports have claimed Trey Lance is not progressing the way the team had hoped, but that has been refuted.

In an ideal world, the 49ers would probably keep Garoppolo as Lance insurance. Garoppolo wants an opportunity to start, so he would almost certainly prefer a fresh start elsewhere if San Francisco is committed to Lance.

Garoppolo has been linked to at least one team that needs a starting quarterback. Once he proves his shoulder is healthy, he should be a lot easier to trade.

White Sox giving unusual instructions to their players about hustling

Aug 22, 2021; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa (22) looks on during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago White Sox have dealt with numerous injuries to key players this season, and they are trying a new approach to address the issue — not hustling.

White Sox manager Tony La Russa told reporters on Saturday that certain players have been instructed to “slow it down” running to first base if they hit into what appears to be a routine out. Tim Anderson, who returned from a groin injury last week, has been told not to hustle to first on sure outs. The same goes for Jose Abreu, Luis Robert, AJ Pollock and Andrew Vaughn. La Russa said there are other “key offensive guys” on the list as well.

“As long as the fans understand it,” La Russa said, according to ESPN.com. “They’re not lazy, but their legs are important.”

La Russa made the comments after the White Sox lost their fourth straight game, a 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox entered Sunday with a losing record of 33-37. They are 5.5 games behind the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins. They are openly trying to make health a priority with the All-Star break quickly approaching. Time will tell if it pays off.