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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Stories by Steve DelVecchio:

Person close to Kawhi Leonard predicts he won’t leave Toronto

Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard is said to be intent on signing with the Lakers when he becomes a free agent next summer, but that didn’t stop the Raptors from giving up their best player to acquire him via trade. One person close to the star forward thinks Toronto’s risk will pay off in a big way.

A person close to Leonard told Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune that he believes Kawhi will fall in love with Toronto and end up re-signing next summer. Zeigler described the source as “someone who knows Leonard as well as anybody.”

“He’s going to fall in love with Toronto – it’s going to happen,” the source reportedly said. “He’s not going to leave, I’m telling you.”

Zeigler lists a number of reasons why Leonard might actually enjoy his time with the Raptors, despite the early reports that he has “no desire” to play for them. Danny Green was one of Leonard’s closest friends from the Spurs, and he was part of the trade that sent Leonard to Toronto. Raptors fans are passionate and their front office is one of the few that works to help players secure endorsement opportunities.

There are other factors that seem unlikely to influence Leonard’s decision, such as the fact that he is a fan of rapper Drake, who is the most well-known Raptors fan. That probably won’t hurt, but the Lakers are the best team for Leonard if he puts weight into stuff like that.

For what it’s worth, a recent report indicated the Lakers are not the only team Leonard is considering signing with next summer. As we saw with Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder, a lot can change over the course of a season. Still, the two situations are a lot different. As of now, it seems like it would take a miracle for the Raptors to sign Leonard long-term.

NFL community pays tribute to Tony Sparano

The Minnesota Vikings announced on Sunday that longtime NFL coach Tony Sparano has died at age 56, and the reaction from teams, coaches, players and executives shows just how respected he was across the league.

Sparano, who is best known for his four-year stint as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach from 2008-2011, complained of chest pains last week and was admitted to the hospital on Thursday. He was released Friday after doctors conducted a series of tests, but he died Sunday morning. The NFL community was left stunned, and many paid tribute to the late coach.

There were many more tributes, and they are sure to continue rolling in as people across the football world learn the tough news. Sparano leaves behind his wife, three children, and four grandchildren.

Watch: Xander Schauffele drops S-bomb after bad shot

Xander Schauffele is not used to having many of his shots in major championships shown on television, and the 24-year-old proved that with the way he reacted to one of them during the final round of The Open Championship on Sunday.

Schauffele, who held the lead for much of the day, hit an approach shot on the 15th hole that he was not pleased about. As he watched the ball sail beyond the flag, he couldn’t help but let an S-bomb fly.

It didn’t cost Schauffele, as he went on to make par. But if his play at Carnoustie is any indication of what’s to come, he should get used to having to watch what he says when the cameras are rolling.

Twitter reacts to Tiger Woods’ amazing bunker shot at British Open

Tiger Woods looked like his old self in the final two rounds of The Open Championship over the weekend, and he really turned back the clock with an insanely difficult bunker shot on Sunday.

After putting his tee shot into a deep pot bunker at the par-4 11th hole, it seemed like Woods would have to lay up because of the infamous creek that runs across the front of the green. Clearly feeling as confident as ever, Tiger had other plans:

That was a pitching wedge from Tiger, and the ferocity with which he swung should give you an idea of how difficult the shot was. He was unable to sink his birdie putt, but he saved par to hang onto the lead at the time on what could have very easily been a bogey.

As you might expect, Twitter loved the aggressiveness:

Woods has been dealing with a minor injury throughout The Open, but he was clearly telling the truth when asked about it on Thursday.

Jimmy Garoppolo’s adult film star friend makes bold 49ers prediction

Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo has faced some criticism for going on a date with an adult film star earlier this week, but the woman seems to think San Francisco 49ers fans should be thanking her.

TMZ spoke with Kiara Mia on Saturday about her Beverly Hills dinner with Garoppolo, and she remained relatively tight-lipped.

“Jimmy and I had an amazing dinner and he treated me with so much respect and class,” Mia said. “Honestly, we’re friends.”

Expectations surrounding Garoppolo are sky-high heading into his first full NFL season as a starting quarterback, and Kiara is confident he’s going to fulfill them and then some. Now that Jimmy G. has cozied up to her, Mia says the 49ers should expect to win the Super Bowl.

“Let me tell you this much — I’ve never been a fan of football and I’m officially a fan of football (now),” she added. “I can promise the 49ers they will make the Super Bowl and win because everything I touch turns to gold.”

We’ve already heard people like Britt McHenry rip into Garoppolo for going on a date with a porn star, but apparently it’s going to help his game both on and off the field.

New Bears coach sees Jordan Howard as three-down back

Jordan Howard has rushed for over 1,000 yards in his first two NFL seasons, but he has struggled a bit in the passing game. Many think he is better suited as an early-down back because of that, but new Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy does not see it that way.

Howard has been working on catching passes this offseason, and Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune notes that he has shown improvement. The 23-year-old says that has a lot to do with new running backs coach Charles London working with him on hand placement.

“I used to have my hands all over the place, but now Coach London is working with me on my hand placement and looking the ball in,” Howard explained.

Nagy, who was the offensive coordinator in Kansas City last year when Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt caught 53 passes, said there’s no reason to think Howard can’t be an every-down back.

“There’s this notion that he is just a first-and second-down back, and I don’t believe that,” Nagy said. “Jordan can play all three downs. We’re going to do that. We’re going to use him, and we’re going to use other guys on first and second down when we need to.

“For us, it’s important for Jordan to know and for everybody on our offense to know that he’s a big part of this. This kid’s had a very successful career so far. We’re crazy as coaches if we don’t understand it and if we don’t use that to our advantage.”

Second-year back Tarik Cohen had 53 receptions for Chicago last season, so he will obviously be a factor. Having two backs who can catch passes is never a bad thing, and that is surely what Nagy is hoping for in 2018.

Report: Braves among teams interested in Zach Britton

Zach Britton

Zach Britton has looked sharp in his last several outings with the Baltimore Orioles, and teams are showing an increasing interest in the left-hander heading into the trade deadline. The Atlanta Braves are reportedly one of those teams.

According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the Braves are searching for bullpen help and have expressed interest in Britton.

Contending teams are almost always looking for bullpen arms near the trade deadline, and the Braves are currently 52-42 and just a half-game behind the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East.

Britton ruptured his Achilles last December, and he is still trying to regain the form that made him one of the best closers in baseball for several seasons. The left-hander has looked very sharp in the month of July, recording three saves and a win in six appearances and lowering his ERA from 5.59 to 3.68. A team that was close to acquiring him last year is also said to still be interested, so the Orioles should have plenty of suitors as July 31 approaches.

Mavericks dealing with yet another bizarre free agency situation

Mark Cuban

The Dallas Mavericks seem to have issues in free agency that most other teams either don’t have to deal with or are able to keep under wraps, and it sounds like it is happening again.

The Mavs seemed to be making progress all week toward a new contract with point guard Yogi Ferrell, and multiple NBA reporters said Thursday that the two sides had agreed to a two-year deal worth somewhere around $5 million. Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports noted that Ferrell had been promised a backup shooting guard role.

But on Friday, Charania was told by Ferrell’s agent that the 25-year-old has had a change of heart and will re-enter free agency.

Making matters even uglier for Dallas, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon was told by a source that the Mavs were informed of Ferrell’s decision to back out after they saw Charania’s tweet.

While Ferrell isn’t exactly a star player, it’s hard not to think of the insane situation we saw with DeAndre Jordan backing out of an agreement with the Mavs a few years back. Jordan actually signed with Dallas this offseason, so there were no lasting hard feelings. Still, it’s noteworthy that the Mavs seem to find themselves in these situations.

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