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Saturday, August 19, 2017


Kristaps Porzingis has funny trash talk for Knicks teammate before EuroBasket game

Kristaps Porzingis

New York Knicks teammates Kristaps Porzingis and Mindaugas Kuzminskas will be lining up on opposite sides at EuroBasket this summer, and Porzingis, for one, is relishing the moment.

Ahead of a meeting Saturday between Porzingis’ Latvia and Kuzminskas’ Lithuania in a pre-tournament prep game, KP posted this funny trash talk for King Kuz on his Instagram Story, per Tommy Beer of Basketball Insiders.

Of course, Porzingis has been known to fancy a friendly jab or two every now and then. Then again, perhaps this is all part of the mental training regimen he has apparently been undergoing this offseason.

NFLPA head says Roger Goodell ‘lied’ about drafting new personal conduct policy

Roger Goodell

Relations between the NFL and NFLPA are toxic right now, and NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith’s latest comments are likely to further increase tensions.

In a taped interview for HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel set to air Tuesday, Smith outright accused commissioner Roger Goodell of lying about crafting a new personal conduct policy with union input.

“When Roger Goodell can stand up there as he did and say, ‘We’re drafting a new NFL Personal Conduct Policy. We’re gonna do so in conjunction with the union,’ and then doesn’t consult the union, comes up with a new policy, that says what?” Gumbel asked, via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.

“That says he lied,” Smith replied.

Smith’s further comments about Goodell painted a picture of a rather frosty relationship.

“He has a job, and I have a job,” Smith said. “My relationship with Roger I would argue is irrelevant.”

When asked if Smith trusted Goodell, his response was simply “I don’t have the luxury of trust, now do I?”

The NFL’s terse response was simply to blame the NFLPA.

“We repeatedly tried to engage the union but they had no interest in developing a tough and enhanced personal conduct policy,” NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told HBO.

After a week in which the NFL and NFLPA publicly sparred over the Ezekiel Elliott suspension, these comments are only going to make things worse. If there’s any good news, it’s that there are still four more years before potential labor strife happens, although the signs there aren’t that good either.

Jeanie Buss compares Lonzo Ball to Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant

Los Angeles Lakers president Jeanie Buss believes in the Lonzo Ball hype just as much as the rest of us do.

In an appearance Thursday on AM 570 LA’s “The Petros and Money Show,” Buss compared Ball to all-time Laker greats Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson.

“No other draft pick, except maybe Kobe Bryant, has had this kind of excitement about him,” she said of Ball, per Corey Hansford of Lakers Nation.

“There’s something special about Lonzo,” she continued. “I think because he just wants to play basketball, he’s selfless. He has a certain charisma and I think the fact that his teammates at UCLA loved playing with him and all the nice things that they have to say about him, I think he’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic Johnson.”

It’s obviously a lofty comparison to say the least, as Bryant and Johnson are arguably the two greatest Lakers ever. But even Johnson himself appears to be buying into the hype, so Ball will have much to deliver on in his rookie season.

Greek federation blames Bucks for Giannis Antetokounmpo’s EuroBasket absence

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t be playing for his native Greece at EuroBasket this summer, and the Greek Basketball Federation smells something fishy.

Antetokounmpo announced on Saturday that he will not be suiting up for the tournament due to a knee injury. Shortly afterwards, the federation released a statement of their own, accusing the Milwaukee Bucks, Antetokounmpo’s NBA team, of orchestrating “an organized and well-prepared plan” to hold him out of the competition, per Eric Nehm of ESPN.

It’s a fairly serious and largely unprecedented accusation for an international basketball body to levy against a professional team. For what it’s worth, the 22-year-old Antetokounmpo is fairly durable, appearing in 80 games for the Bucks last season, his third straight campaign of suiting up for 80 or more. But in any case, it’s a situation that’s worth keeping a close eye on, especially since Greece and the NBA have historically enjoyed strong relations.

Report: Cam Newton to see increase in workload next week

Cam Newton tie

Cam Newton appears on track to play in Week 1, with the Carolina Panthers reportedly poised to increase his workload in the week to come.

Tiffany Blackmon of NFL Network reported Sunday that, while Newton will sit out the team’s second preseason game, the Panthers aren’t sweating over the fact that he hasn’t gotten any game action and are set to ramp up his workload.

Newton had shoulder surgery in the offseason, and the Panthers are taking care to avoid rushing him, though he is said to feel fine. There really isn’t any reason to, and everyone sounds confident that he’ll be fine once the regular season starts.

James Harden: Chris Paul ‘didn’t seem happy’ at start of offseason

James Harden’s intervention was vital in bringing Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets.

Harden was more than happy to bring Paul in to join him in the Rockets backcourt — in fact, he reached out, sensing that the point guard was not entirely happy with his situation in Los Angeles.

“I just knew that in the summertime obviously (Paul) was a free agent, and I wanted to see where his head was,” Harden said, via Sam Amick of USA Today. “He didn’t seem happy, so after that we just took it from there.

“Obviously Golden State has been in the Finals and won two out of three, so that’s what everybody is trying to build up against. But we’re right there. We’re right there. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but it definitely puts us in a better chance.”

It’s a good start that there was clear motivation on both sides to get Harden and Paul together, and there may yet be more help on the way. Paul’s unhappiness was apparently pretty blatant. Houston may solve that.

Cardinals, feral cat non-profit at odds over future of Rally Cat

What the St. Louis Cardinals must have expected would be a rather simple, straightforward process of adopting their very own Rally Cat has turned into anything but.

The officially-named Rally Cat is currently in the care of the St. Louis-based non-profit St. Louis Feral Cat Outreach, but in a statement earlier in the week, the Cardinals assured fans that they would soon have custody of the cat, which ran onto the field one pitch before Yadier Molina hit a go-ahead grand slam in an Aug. 9 game against the Kansas City Royals.

“The St. Louis Feral Cat Outreach organization has assured us they will be returning our cat to us after a mandatory 10-day quarantine period,” said Ron Watermon, the team’s vice president of communications, via Denise Hollinshead of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

There’s just one problem: according to STLFCO in a statement released Thursday, Rally does not yet belong to the Cardinals.

“It was a disappointment to STLFCO and many of our friends and fans to read the Cardinal’s PR Head Ron Watermon’s comments to the media concerning Rally,” the organization wrote on Facebook. “It was a totally false statement that STLFCO has committed anything to the Cardinals. We have made no decisions about Rally’s long-term placement. It seems inconsistent with ‘The Cardinals Way’ to make such false statements.

“Due to our many commitments and complex schedules, we told the Cardinals we’d be delighted to meet later this month, the first time the entire group can meet with them to discuss the situation. Perhaps we can find a way to reach out to the Senior Leadership of the Cardinals (the Dewitts, Mike Whittle, etc) and meet with them, as Mr. Watermon’s perceived bullying tactics shocked us.”

The story of Rally Cat has included many twists and turns, including a disappearance almost immediately after the first dramatic appearance. The guess is that the Cardinals will work something out with STLFCO, though they seem to have made it a little more difficult on themselves.

H/T CBS Sports

Joe Girardi declines to commit to Aroldis Chapman as Yankee closer

Aroldis Chapman Yankees

Struggling New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman did not get much of a vote of confidence after another horrendous outing Friday night against the Boston Red Sox.

Chapman was asked to pitch the eighth inning Friday with the Yankees down a run to the Red Sox, but the flamethrowing closer once again struggled, allowing two runs in his inning of work and failing to keep the deficit in place. It was the fourth consecutive outing in which he has allowed a run, having now given up seven in his last 4.1 innings of work. Moreover, he failed to back up home plate after giving up a hit in the outing, which got him an immediate admonishment from manager Joe Girardi.

After the game, Girardi did not exactly back Chapman to remain in the closer’s role.

It’s worth noting that Girardi had a very different message prior to this outing.

Chapman has dealt with a hamstring issue, which may be a factor in determining the way forward. Still, the Yankee closer hasn’t really been his dominant self all season and has been a huge disappointment, and with the team in a tight playoff race and other options with closing experience such as Dellin Betances and David Robertson available if necessary, the question has to be asked whether Chapman is still the right man for the job for the immediate future.

Blair Walsh explains why he taunted Vikings players

Blair Walsh

Seattle Seahawks kicker Blair Walsh had an interesting explanation when asked why he taunted his former Minnesota Vikings teammates: they started it.

Walsh, who spent the first five seasons of his career with the Vikings, raised some eyebrows during Friday night’s preseason game when he was spotted gesturing toward the sideline at some of his former Vikings teammates after converting a 52-yard field goal, but according to him, this was all instigated by the other side.

“I simply was just responding to getting taunted,” Walsh said, via Sheil Kapadia of ESPN. “I didn’t say anything. When you’ve got guys who were your teammates for five years yelling at you when you’re trying to kick, it’s just odd. And I hope they were in jest. And I hope they didn’t mean it because I didn’t mean anything with mine, but it was definitely not out of nowhere.

“I felt like it was nothing that was serious or meant to be hurtful, but I wanted to let them know that it just wasn’t going to roll off. I didn’t say anything though. Just looked at them.”

Walsh declined to say the nature of the taunting, implying that the words directed at him are not suitable for publication in a family-friendly outlet.

“Nothing I can repeat here. That’s for sure,” Walsh said when asked what had been said to him.

Walsh, of course, will be remembered in Minnesota for one of the worst missed field goals in recent NFL history, one that his confidence never recovered from and eventually led to his release. It’s easy to wonder if that’s the direction the taunting went in.

Justin Britt supports protesting Michael Bennett during anthem

Justin Britt

Michael Bennett asked for support from white players in seeking recognition of the social issues in America, and he received some.

Seattle Seahawks center Justin Britt stood by Bennett’s side during the national anthem prior to the Seahawks’ preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings on Friday night.

Cornerback Jeremy Lane also stood in front of Bennett and had his back turned to the field during the anthem.

Though Colin Kaepernick, the first player to protest by kneeling for the national anthem, is not in the league, Bennett and others are trying to continue the dialogue about the issues Kaepernick to which the unemployed QB was trying to bring attention.

Bennett sat during the playing of the national anthem in Seattle’s first preseason game and made some headlines, as did Marshawn Lynch. Bennett then said during the week that the country needs white athletes to stand with black athletes in order for matters to progress. The Eagles’ Chris Long took a stand when he put his arm around teammate Malcolm Jenkins during the anthem earlier in the week, and now Britt is doing the same. The center is doing so after signing a 3-year contract extension with the Seahawks on Thursday.

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