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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

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Report: Mets owners meddling in Mickey Callaway’s managerial decisions

The New York Mets have lost five straight after being swept by the lowly Miami Marlins over the weekend, and they could soon be looking for a new manager if the current trend continues. But if the team’s ownership group plans to micromanage the next guy the way they have done with Mickey Callaway, immediate future success is anything but a certainty.

Ken Rosenthal took a deeper look into the issues that are going on behind the scenes with the Mets, and he learned from sources that owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon have essentially turned Callaway into a “puppet.” Jeff in particular is viewed as a “meddlesome presence” who involves himself in the day-to-day operation of the team, telling Callaway what to say to the media and how to set his lineups.

As an example, Rosenthal cites the fact that Jacob deGrom has a 0.43 ERA when Tomas Nido catches him but a 5.33 ERA when Wilson Ramos is behind the plate. Ramos is making $19 million over the next two years, which is probably why Callaway has been obligated to keep him in the lineup. Another example would be Callaway not benching the struggling Robinson Cano, who was acquired as one of general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s first big moves and used to be a client of Van Wagenen’s when he was an agent.

Obviously, that type of situation is not going to be attractive to managerial candidates. The Mets are 20-25 and in third place in the NL East, so their season is far from over. However, the front office issues are far more concerning than the record.

It was somewhat surprising that Callaway defended Cano over the weekend for not hustling, but it sounds like he’s being pressure by the team’s brass to do just that. A veteran manager probably isn’t going to stand for that, so perhaps it is the Wilpons who need to change their approach if they want to see better results.

Ezekiel Elliott believes Cowboys can be NFL’s best team in 2019

Ezekiel Elliott

The Dallas Cowboys appear to be trending in the right direction after they won a playoff game last year for the first time since 2014, and Ezekiel Elliott is expecting much bigger things heading into 2019.

During an interview with CBS 11 (KTVT-DFW) at his youth football camp on Sunday, Elliott said he believes the Cowboys have the potential to be the best team in the NFL next season.

“I think we have a lot of the right pieces,” Elliott said, per Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “I think we’re loaded at every position. We have a lot of depth and we have a great group of leaders and some great team chemistry going on. We just have to lay that foundation now and carry it through camp and make it happen during the season.”

Elliott racked up more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage last year and led the NFL with 1,434 yards rushing, so Dallas is clearly set at the running back position. They also now have a true No. 1 wide receiver in Amari Cooper who displayed great chemistry with Dak Prescott, and Jason Witten has come out of retirement to rejoin the team. Elliott spoke about needing to take on a bigger leadership role heading into his fourth NFL season, and Witten’s presence will undoubtedly help in that department.

“I’m excited about the leadership group we have. I think we have a lot of the right pieces,” Elliott said. “I think we have a lot of promise for this season.”

Perhaps we saw an indication that Elliott feels he has something to prove with the way he fired back at his critics earlier this offseason. He’s right that the Cowboys have the pieces both on offense and defense to make a deep run, but we could have said that about a lot of teams in Dallas over the past several years. Putting it all together has been the issue, and Jason Garrett may find himself on the hot seat this year if he can’t figure out how to do that.

Chris Long: I don’t know how anyone can dislike Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Tom Brady is one of the most polarizing figures in sports, and many fans hate him simply because he has dominated the NFL for nearly 20 years now. As far as Chris Long is concerned, jealousy is the only reason anyone could dislike the future Hall of Famer.

Long, who announced his retirement from football over the weekend, spent one season playing for the Patriots in 2016. He told Peter King of NBC Sports that one year was enough time for Brady to make a huge impression on him.

“Tom Brady blew me away. Who’s the most famous athlete of our generation: Tom Brady? LeBron? Messi? Ronaldo? Serena Williams? Maybe I haven’t been around enough to know how the biggest stars really act. But Brady is a normal guy,” Long said. “When I got there, here comes Tom. ‘Hey Chris, I’m Tom, nice to meet you.’ Well, yeah, I know you’re Tom. A lot of people want to hate him for all the success, and I understand how you can dislike the Patriots, but I cannot understand how you can dislike Tom.”

Long has a very unique perspective, as he saw two different winning cultures in a span of two seasons. After the defensive end won a Super Bowl with the Patriots in 2016, he then joined the Philadelphia Eagles and immediately captured his second championship. Some of Long’s teammates with the Eagles went out of their wash to bash the Patriots, though none said anything about Brady in particular.

Most players who have played in New England with Brady share a similar opinion to Long’s. While you can say you don’t like the Patriots because of Spygate or Deflategate or whatever other Gate you can come up with, the real reason they’re so despised is because they keep winning. As someone whose career benefitted from that commitment to excellence, you can understand why Long enjoyed his time playing alongside Brady.

Ryan Saunders to be named permanent head coach of Timberwolves

Ryan Saunders took over as the interim head coach when the Minnesota Timberwolves fired Tom Thibodeau back in January, and he did enough in three months to convince upper management he is the man for the job.

According to numerous reports, Saunders and the Timberwolves are finalizing a multi-year deal that will make the 33-year-old the team’s permanent head coach.

The Timberwolves went 17-25 after Saunders took over. He has deep family ties to the organization, as his father Flip Saunders had two separate stints as the head coach in Minnesota before he passed away in 2015.

There was a time when the T-Wolves were believed to be eyeing some big-name candidates for their coaching job, but Saunders has familiarity with the team and earned his shot.

Kobe Bryant’s daughter Gianna has amazing highlight video

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant may not have any children who will be eligible to play in the NBA one day, but you didn’t expect The Black Mamba to procreate without producing at least one baller, did you?

Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna has clearly been putting in work on the court with her dad. Check out her highlight video:

That step-back three-pointer at the 11-second mark was money.

Kobe and his wife Vanessa have three daughters with a fourth on the way, and the rumor is they’re going to give it one more go in hopes of having a boy. Either way, the Los Angeles Lakers legend clearly has at least one kid who can keep up with him on the basketball court.

Raptors’ Fred VanVleet needed stitches after taking elbow to eye

Toronto Raptors

Fred VanVleet’s left eye was not looking so great after Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday night.

VanVleet’s Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 118-112 in double overtime for their first win in the series. VanVleet did not play well and shot just 1-for-11 in the game. Adding injury to the insult, he took an elbow and had his eye bloodied.

TSN Raptors reporter Josh Lewenberg shared a photo after the game that showed VanVleet’s eye looking nasty. The Raptors guard needed stitches to close the cut.

VanVleet has been going through a rough postseason. He’s just 4-for-20 (20 percent) in the series against Milwaukee. He was just 3-for-24 (12.5 percent) shooting in the previous round against Philly.

Sean Doolittle defends his toe tap delivery, thinks it should be legal

Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle sent a series of tweets on Sunday night in which he defended his delivery and argued that it should be legal.

The Washington Nationals closer became the center of attention after Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon complained about the reliever’s pitching motion during and after Saturday’s game between the teams. Maddon really just wanted to bring attention to the issue because he is upset his reliever, Carl Edwards Jr., was told in spring training that his similar move was illegal.

Here is a comparison of their movements as they pitch:

Edwards has a plant/pause and was told to change it. Doolittle has a tap.

Doolittle, who took a shot at Maddon over the complaints, wants MLB to clarify things and legalize his delivery.

Even though Maddon thinks the two are comparable, there is a big difference to me. Edwards’ plant includes much more deception, to the point that it crosses a line. The toe tap includes a much more of a natural flow and progression with the delivery. The rule states that a pitcher may not take a second step. Edwards was taking a second step; Doolittle was not.

Kawhi Leonard may have gotten away with double dribble in 2 OT

Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard may have benefited from the referees missing a double dribble by him during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday night.

Leonard led his Toronto Raptors with 36 points in their 119-112 win in double overtime against the Milwaukee Bucks. In the second overtime, he made a dunk in transition and appeared to have gotten away with a double dribble:

You can see he appeared to touch the ball with his left hand by the three-point line around the same time he was touching it with his right. He then went in for the dunk, finishing with his left.

The dunk made it 108-105 with 3:13 left in the extra period. There was still plenty of time for Milwaukee to come back even despite Toronto getting away with one there. Coming back was a tough task with Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton both shooting 3-for-16 and Giannis Antetokounmpo fouling out of the game.

Look: Drake trolls Giannis Antetokounmpo for fouling out of Game 3

Drake Raptors

Drake took advantage of an opportunity to troll Giannis Antetokounmpo at the end of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday night.

Antetokounmpo fouled out early in the second overtime between his Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors. Drake, who was in his usual courtside seat, waved the Greek Freak goodbye:

Antetokounmpo did not play his best in the game. Though he picked up 23 rebounds and blocked four shots, Giannis shot just 5-for-16 and committed eight turnovers.

Drake, a Toronto native and ambassador for the Raptors, was only too happy to get in on the fun. He rarely shies away from opportunities to mix things up with opponents, just like he did against Joel Embiid in the previous series.

Pascal Siakam draws Nick Anderson comparisons after missing free throws

Pascal Siakam

Pascal Siakam drew unwanted comparisons to Nick Anderson after missing some critical free throws at the end of regulation in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals between his Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night.

Siakam went to the line with his Raptors leading 94-92 with 7.4 seconds left and missed both attempts to keep it a 2-point game. Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, who had missed a 3-pointer on the Bucks’ previous possession, earned redemption by putting back a miss to tie the game.

Not only did Siakam miss both of his free throws with the game on the line, but he also went 1-for-2 on a previous trip with 1:41 left in the game and missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. He was 3-for-7 from the line in the game during regulation.

So why the Nick Anderson comparisons? At the end of Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals, Anderson missed four straight free throws that could have iced the game for his Orlando Magic, a young squad that featured Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway. The Houston Rockets ended up winning the game in overtime and swept in the series.

Only 25, Siakam is an up-and-coming player. He will work hard to ensure that moment doesn’t define his career.