BOYS HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
|WEDNESDAY’ S GAMES|
|Cambridge City Lincoln||58||Knightstown||55|
|Eastside||71||Fort Wayne Concordia||63|
|Hamilton Heights||94||Seton Catholic..M. Harvey 20, Moynihan 17||75|
|Lawrence Central||65||Ben Davis||57|
|North Harrison||60||Corydon Central||37|
|North White||64||Rensselaer Central||62|
|Northwest (Ohio)||55||East Central||47||OT|
|Park Tudor||67||Indianapolis Scecina||35|
|Perry Central||50||Tell City||29|
|South Dearborn||54||Harrison (Ohio)||49|
|Thrival Indy Academy||66||Union (Modoc)||65|
|Tri-West||59||Harrison (West Lafayette)||58|
|Triton Central||43||Southwestern (Shelbyville)||41|
|Central Christian Tournament|
|Christel House Academy||83||Laurel HomeSchool||74|
|Purdue Poly Englewood||70||Purdue Poly North||55|
|Central Christian||66||Northwest HomeSchool||59|
|Indianapolis Herron||72||Indianapolis HomeSchool||71|
GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
|WEDNESDAY’ S GAMES|
|Ben Davis||43||Indianapolis Roncalli||42|
|Huntington North||53||Indianapolis Cathedral||43|
|Mount Notre Dame (Ohio)||58||East Central||45|
|Northridge||57||Fort Wayne Concordia||43|
|Central Christian Tournament|
|Traders Point Christian||57||Central Christian||32|
|Indianapolis HomeSchool||74||Purdue Poly Englewood||25|
|Putnam County Tournament|
|Union City Invitational|
|Greenwood Christian||84||Union City||54|
MEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL
#5 Villanova 85 Marquette 68
#8 Tennessee 80 USC Upstate 60
#23 Ohio State 80 #11 Rutgers 68
#13 Creighton 66 #22 Xavier 61
#18 Illinois 98 Penn State 81
Northwestern 74 Indiana 67
North Carolina Wilmington 87 Delaware State 63
Notre Dame 81 Bellarmine 70
Butler 70 Providence 64
New Jersey Tech 81 Rider 66
St. Peters 70 St. Francis NY 64
George Mason 70 Towson 65
Southeast Louisiana 77 Grambling 70
Idaho State 71 Northern Colorado 56
Seton Hall 78 Georgetown 67
Washington State 62 Northwestern State 52
Bakersfield 79 Pepperdine 51
BYU 87 Weber State 79
Iona 85 Coppin State 65
Tulsa 102 SW. Christian 45
Boise State 89 New Mexico 52
Utah State 85 San Jose State 52
DePaul 91 Western Illinois 72
St. Louis 62 Kansas City 46
WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL
#6 Arizona 96 Idaho 42
#19 Indiana 75 Minnesota 54
Purdue 83 Nebraska 72
Rutgers 84 Manhattan 41
Maine 52 Hartford 49
Rider 57 New Jersey Tech 53
USC 71 Long Beach 65
South Dakota State 74 Northern Iowa 63
Santa Clara 54 UC Riverside 48
Indiana 121 New York 107
Cleveland 121 Charlotte 100 and 4P
Philadelphia 113 Washington 107
Orlando 130 Jean Miami 107
Boston 122 Milwaukee 121
New Orleans 113 Toronto 99
Atlanta 124 Chicago 104
San Antonio 131 Memphis 119…. Desmond Bane 6pts, 4reb
Minnesota 111 Detroit 101
Sacramento 124 Denver 122
Utah 120 Portland 100
Phoenix 106 Dallas 102
Georgia Southern 38 Louisiana Tech 3
Memphis 25 Florida Atlantic 10
COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL SCHEDULE
|New Mexico Bowl||Hawaii||Houston||Dec. 24|
|Camellia Bowl||Buffalo||Marshall||Dec. 25|
|Gasparilla Bowl||South Carolina||UAB||Dec. 26|
|Cure Bowl||Coastal Carolina||Liberty||Dec. 26|
|First Responder Bowl||UTSA||Louisiana||Dec. 26|
|LendingTree Bowl||Western Kentucky||Georgia State||Dec. 26|
|Cheez-It Bowl||Miami||Oklahoma State||Dec. 29|
|Alamo Bowl||Texas||Colorado||Dec. 29|
|Duke’s Mayo Bowl||Wake Forest||Wisconsin||Dec. 30|
|Music City Bowl||Missouri||Iowa||Dec. 30|
|Cotton Bowl||Florida||Oklahoma||Dec. 30|
|Armed Forces Bowl||Mississippi State||Tulsa||Dec. 31|
|Liberty Bowl||West Virginia||Tennessee||Dec. 31|
|Arizona Bowl||San Jose State||Ball State||Dec. 31|
|Texas Bowl||Arkansas||TCU||Dec. 31|
|Peach Bowl||Cincinnati||Georgia||Jan. 1|
|Citrus Bowl||Northwestern||Auburn||Jan. 1|
|Rose Bowl (CFP semi)||Alabama||Notre Dame||Jan. 1|
|Sugar Bowl (CFP semi)||Clemson||Ohio State||Jan. 1|
|Gator Bowl||NC State||Kentucky||Jan. 2|
|Outback Bowl||Indiana||Ole Miss||Jan. 2|
|Fiesta Bowl||Iowa State||Oregon||Jan. 2|
|Orange Bowl||Texas A&M||North Carolina||Jan. 2|
Four bowl games were canceled late on Sunday: the Military Bowl, Guaranteed Rate Bowl, Independence Bowl, and Birmingham Bowl.
TOP SPORTS HEADLINES
INDIANA COMES UP SHORT AGANST NORTHWESTERN
(INDIANA PRESS RELEASE)
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Archie Miller had no problem looking in the mirror; no hesitation in assessing a Big Ten opener gone disappointingly wrong.
“We didn’t play well enough to win,” the Indiana coach said in the aftermath of Wednesday night’s 74-67 home loss to Northwestern. “That’s on me. I have to do a better job to prepare our guys.”
IU (5-3) had 16 turnovers against 11 assists.
Not good enough, Miller said.
“We keep making the same mistakes in terms of taking care of the ball. I will take full responsibility.”
The Hoosiers allowed Northwestern (5-1) to shoot 56 percent from the field. That included 12 layups.
Not good enough.
“This was the first time our defense did not do the job for us,” Miller said.
Beyond that, he added, “We stunk on both ends of the court. There was a lot of sloppiness. It got us beat.”
There was this reality:
“Northwestern is a good team,” Miller said. “I’m disappointed in how we played. This team doesn’t embrace playing that way.”
IU has three days to figure it out before a trip to No. 18 Illinois (6-3). Preparation will include a 9 a.m. Christmas Eve practice, and a practice and bus ride to Champaign, Illinois, on Christmas Day.
“There’s not a lot of time to fix it,” Miller said.
Northwestern’s combination of Princeton-style offense (lots of back-cuts and layups) and good shooters built first-half leads as large as 14 points.
The Hoosier answer?
It worked for a while. They inched ahead 54-50 in the second half before fading.
“Northwestern kept coming and executing,” Miller said.
Added guard Armaan Franklin: “It gets tough and you’ve got to fight through it.”
Northwestern brought the fight to Indiana just as it did a couple days earlier against then No. 4 Michigan State in a 79-65 victory that left Spartans coach Tom Izzo, like Miller, blaming himself for not preparing his team well enough. The Wildcats feature five double-figure scorers and came in with a 90.4-point scoring average.
“Northwestern is a very good team,” Miller said. “For some reason, we were off balance. Northwestern had a lot to do with it, but it was not a good job on our end.”
Forward Trayce Jackson-Davis had 22 points and nine rebounds. Franklin added 15 points and five rebounds. Race Thompson had 11 points and six rebounds.
Northwestern hit three early three-pointers against one of the Big Ten’s best perimeter defenses, then attacked inside for a pair of layups to push ahead 27-15.
Miller had seen enough. He called a time out.
Northwestern scored again to complete a 10-0 run — making it 29-15 — before Franklin ended it with a short jumper.
The Hoosiers cut the gap to seven points before ending the half down 37-28.
A big factor was Northwestern’s 18-9 edge in bench scoring.
The key to an IU rally – defense.
The Hoosiers’ forced a shot-clock violation on Northwestern’s first possession of the second half.
Thompson followed with a three-pointer, his second of the season. Then came a Jackson-Davis basket, a free throw and a dunk.
In two minutes, a nine-point deficit was one.
With a chance to take the lead, IU came up empty on three straight possessions. A Northwestern three-pointer pushed the margin to 40-36, but the Hoosiers kept attacking.
Freshman guard Trey Galloway hit a three-pointer. Franklin scored off a fast-break layup, then buried a three-pointer. The Hoosiers led 50-47 as the clock ticked under 12 minutes.
They were up 54-50 when Northwestern went on a 12-0 run. IU responded with a 7-0 surge.
It was a two-point Wildcat lead as the clock approached two minutes. It was a five-point edge with 30 seconds left.
Rob Phinisee’s two free throws made it 70-67 before Northwestern clinched it with four straight free throws by guard Chase Audige.
“There were too many plays that won’t work for us,” Miller said. “You can’t turn it over 16 times. We’re not that good. We have five to six a game we have to get trimmed down. Maybe we have to slow it down. Make sure we don’t turn it over.”
IRISH WIN OVER BELLARMINE
(NOTRE DAME RELEASE)
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame received a big offensive showing from junior Dane Goodwin, matching his career high in points with 27 in the 81-70 win over Bellarmine on Wednesday afternoon inside Purcell Pavilion.
Goodwin led the way in scoring for the Fighting Irish but two other juniors also had notable days, as Prentiss Hubb scored 18 points while Nate Laszewski added 16 points on a perfect 7-for-7 effort from the floor.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Irish offense was flowing in the first half, as Notre Dame shot 15-for-25 from the field (60 percent) which led to a nine-point advantage heading into the half at 45-36. Goodwin and Laszewski did the heavy lifting on the offensive end in the opening 20 minutes, combining to score 33 of the team’s 45 points.
Notre Dame never trailed in the second half en route to the 81-70 win. The Knights managed to cut the Irish lead to three early in the second half but Notre Dame quickly responded and pushed its advantage back to double digits. Hubb broke out in the second stanza on the offensive end, scoring 15 points in the second half.
NOTRE DAME PLAYER OF THE GAME
Goodwin was feeling it on Wednesday, matching his career high for points with 27 on an ultra-efficient 8-of-10 shooting, including a perfect mark of 11-for-11 from the free-throw line. Goodwin also pulled down seven boards to complete his impressive performance.
NOTRE DAME STAT OF THE GAME
The Irish not only didn’t allow the Knight’s to score a second-chance point but didn’t even give up a single offensive rebound. Wednesday’s game marks the first time since the beginning of the 1996 season that Notre Dame didn’t allow an opponent to record an offensive rebound. Bellarmine’s 15 total rebounds are also the lowest mark since the beginning of the 1996 season.
NOTES OF THE GAME
- The Irish remain perfect against Bellarmine, improving to 5-0 against the Knights in the all-time series, with two of the wins coming in exhibitions.
- Notre Dame outrebounded Bellarmine 34-15 in the win.
- The Irish finished 21-of-25 (84 percent) from the free-throw line and have now recorded a free-throw percentage of at least 80 percent in each of the last four games.
- Goodwin’s 19-point first half performance tied him for the most points in a half by a Notre Dame player with Laszewski’s 19 first half points in the win at Kentucky.
- Hubb’s 18 points marks the fifth time this season he has scored 18 or more points in a game.
The Fighting Irish return to ACC action after Christmas, hosting No. 16/15 Virginia at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Dec. 30 in Purcell Pavilion. The game will air on ACCN.
THE PACERS BEAT NEW YORK ON OPENING NIGHT
Victor Oladipo took matters into his own hands after a sluggish first half Wednesday night.
He drove to the basket, made shots and wound up scoring 16 of his 22 points in the final 24 minutes to lead the Indiana Pacers past the New York Knicks 121-107 on opening night.
“He wanted to be assertive in that second half,” new coach Nate Bjorkgren said after collecting his first career win. “I thought he was very aggressive, attacking the basket more, looking to shoot it more. I liked his aggressive mentality on both ends of the floor.”
Domantas Sabonis finished with a career-high 32 points, along with 13 rebounds and five assists to help Indiana win its fourth opener in five years.
RJ Barrett finished with 26 points and Alec Burks had 22 for New York, which lost on opening night for the fourth time in five years and the first time in coach Tom Thibodeau’s tenure.
And after a strong start, Thibodeau certainly expected a stronger finishing punch from his team.
“The way we played in the first half is the way we need to continue to play,” he said. “We probably played 24 minutes of good basketball and to win on the road, you have to do more than that.”
It wasn’t pretty and with only a few dozen people in the Bankers Life Fieldhouse stands, the energy was lacking, too.
But Oladipo’s opening outburst in the second half changed everything.
The two-time All-Star scored the Pacers’ first 11 points in the third quarter then found T.J. Warren for a breakaway layup to give the Pacers a 78-77 lead with 5:50 left in the quarter. Indiana never trailed again.
The Pacers extended the margin to 83-77 after three, made it a double-digit game early in the fourth and pulled away midway through the fourth.
“I’m just going to go out there and be assertive, be aggressive,” Oladipo said. “Everything else will take care of itself.”
BOSTON EDGES MILWAUKEE
Giannis Antetokounmpo couldn’t stop Jayson Tatum from knocking down a “tough, tough, tough” shot. Then the reigning MVP and defensive player of the year missed one of the easiest.
Tatum banked in a fallaway, go-ahead 3-pointer in the final second, and Antetokounmpo missed a potential tying free throw with 0.4 seconds left, allowing the Boston Celtics to escape with a 122-121 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night in the teams’ season opener.
“Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to be in that position,” said Tatum, who scored 30 points. “If it goes down or not, that’s what I work so hard for. You just want to be in that moment.”
Jaylen Brown scored 33 points for Boston, which entered the fourth quarter leading by 17 points. The Celtics trailed 120-119 when Tatum dribbled the clock down from 8.9 seconds before lofting a high-arcing 3 over Antetokounmpo that kissed the glass on its way down.
“I think aside from the ball going in the basket, I’m not sure we could have defended Tatum much better than we did,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I thought Giannis did a great job individually, great contest. Credit to Tatum, he banked in a 3 at the end of the clock.”
Antetokounmpo called it a “tough, tough, tough 3.” Tatum said the glass wasn’t really part of the plan.
“Once I let it go I knew it was going to hit the backboard,” he said. “But I didn’t necessarily try.”
The ensuing inbounds pass was thrown at the rim and Antetokounmpo tried to tip it in, but he was fouled. He made the first foul shot, but bounced the second off the front of the rim.
“Obviously, there’s a bit of a weight on your shoulder because you know if you miss, that’s it for your team,” said Antetokounmpo, who scored 18 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter. “I’m a winner. I want to do whatever it takes for my team to win. But you learn from every situation that basketball puts you in.”
Khris Middleton had 27 points and 14 rebounds and big offseason acquisition Jrue Holiday scored 25 points for Milwaukee. The Bucks had the best record in the NBA in each of the past two seasons but didn’t make it out of the Eastern Conference finals.
Milwaukee led by nine points, 48-39, midway through the second quarter before Boston rolled off 10 straight points and 19 of the next 23. Boston led 101-84 after three, but Antetokounmpo outscored the Celtics 10-2 over a two-minute span midway through the fourth to cut a 10-point Celtics lead to 109-107.
“We took a good hit and kept ticking,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
76ERS EDGE WIZARDS IN OPENER
The 76ers have gone more than a year without losing in Philadelphia, a stretch that included a coaching change, a roster revamp, and a pandemic hiatus.
The constant? Joel Embiid simply dominant down the stretch.
Embiid scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 113-107 win over Washington on Wednesday night and spoil Russell Westbrook’s triple-double Wizards’ debut.
The Sixers haven’t lost at home since Dec. 20, 2019.
Westbrook and Bradley Beal were fantastic in spurts in the opening-night backcourt pairing that nearly handed 76ers coach Doc Rivers a loss in his Philadelphia debut. Westbrook had 21 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds to wow the Wizards after being acquired in the big deal that sent former cornerstone John Wall to the Houston Rockets. Beal, a two-time All-Star who was second in the league in scoring last season, had 31 points.
“Not good enough. I’m kind of disappointed in myself,” Westbrook said. “There were plays where I could have had a better game.”
Embiid, sensational in the fourth, and Shake Milton, who scored 19 points off the bench, were the go-to scorers late, and Ben Simmons sealed the win with a monster dunk in the waning moments. Simmons had 16 points – one less than Embiid scored in the fourth.
“He’s the focal point. The ball is going to Embiid on every single play,” Beal said. “He’s a hassle down there.”
Embiid was nearly unstoppable in the post in the fourth, getting the ball on five straight possessions at one point and turning them into buckets that wiped out a 10-point deficit. His driving layup with 1:09 left put the Sixers up 105-103, and he finished 10 of 17 from the floor.
GRIZZLIES GET BIG GAME FROM MORANT BUT LOSE TO THE SPURS
DeMar DeRozan had 28 points and nine assists, Dejounte Murray added 21 points as the San Antonio Spurs used a balanced attack to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 131-119 on Wednesday night, overcoming a huge game by Ja Morant.
Morant — the reigning rookie of the year — had 34 of his career-high 44 points in the second half. While that helped carry the Grizzlies offensively, it wasn’t enough to put a deep dent in San Antonio’s double-digit lead through much of the second half.
“I’m not happy at all,” Morant said when asked about the career-high, adding: “We came up short. So, learning from this game and prepare for the next.”
While the game tipped off the Grizzlies 20th season in Memphis, things were toned down from the normal baptism of a new campaign. FedExForum was void of any fans, leaving any crowd noise to recorded reactions.
“I thought our guys, our young guys competed hard, really showed themselves well for the first game we played together,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. He later added that Murray’s defense “did a good job making Morant work.”
“At the end, I think we were probably a little bit tired. But Morant just took it in his own hands and decided to attack the rim. I don’t think we got back really well the last six, seven minutes of the game. But, fortunately, we were able to continue scoring.”
LaMarcus Aldridge added 20 points for San Antonio, while Lonnie Walker IV and Keldon Johnson had 16 each, part of seven Spurs finishing in double figures.
“I think we got a little sloppy toward the end,” Murray said. “But like I said, we fought, we played together, and we made it happen and we came out with a win.”
Dillon Brooks scored 16 for the Grizzlies, while Jonas Valanciunas added 15 points and 13 rebounds.
UTAH BURRIES NIGHT 19 THREES IN WIN
Rudy Gobert had 20 points and 17 rebounds in a dominant season-opening performance, leading the Utah Jazz to a 120-100 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
Gobert controlled the inside and got plenty of support from the outside as Utah shot 19 of 50 from the 3-point line.
Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic all made four 3-pointers and Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson knocked down three apiece. Mitchell also scored 20 points.
Damian Lillard was scoreless in the first half and finished with only nine points and seven assists for Portland.
Utah started quickly from outside and pushed its lead to 52-33 with 6:29 left in the first half. The Jazz led by as much as 23 before taking a 64-44 lead at halftime.
Lillard was held scoreless in a half for the first time in six seasons. Lillard broke the drought with a layup early in the third quarter. Perhaps no play summed up the night for Portland better than a 3-on-1 break that left Lillard wide open with 31 seconds left, before Lillard took a hesitation dribble and missed the 3-pointer with nobody around him.
The frustration extended to his backcourt mate CJ McCollum, who picked up a late technical foul arguing a call in the fourth quarter. McCollum led the Blazers with 23 points.
Utah’s held the Blazers to barely 40% shooting and had a 59-40 rebounding advantage. It wasn’t just Gobert, but the Jazz had four other players who grabbed at least six rebounds, including Clarkson with seven boards off the bench.
THE NEW SUNS DEFEAT MAVERICKS
Devin Booker scored 22 points, Mikal Bridges added 18 and the Phoenix Suns beat the Dallas Mavericks 106-102 on Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams.
Chris Paul had eight points and five assists in his debut with Phoenix. The 10-time All-Star was quiet for much of the game but made a few clutch plays in the final minutes.
Paul hit a 15-footer with 1:20 left to give the Suns a three-point lead. Booker followed with a long jump shot to make it 105-100. Luka Doncic cut the Suns’ lead to three with a dunk but after a Booker miss, Bridges grabbed the offensive rebound and Phoenix closed out the victory.
Doncic looked rusty and hesitant at times in the first half, shooting just 5 for 15 from the field. He showed why he is in the MVP conversation in the second half, leading the Mavs with 32 points. Josh Richardson, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jalen Brunson all scored 12 points.
Phoenix got big contributions from its bench. Cameron Johnson scored 15 points while Cameron Payne and Langston Galloway both added 11. Galloway did his scoring in just nine minutes on the floor.
KINGS WIN IN OVERTIME
Nikola Jokic recorded his standard triple-double but his cohort was on the bench fouled out by overtime and his late-game heroics were a little rusty.
Harrison Barnes stole the ball from Jokic with 2.6 seconds left and Buddy Hield tipped in his miss at the buzzer, sending the Sacramento Kings storming off the court with a stunning 124-122 win over the Denver Nuggets in overtime Wednesday night.
Jokic recorded a triple-double with 29 points, 15 rebounds and 14 assists, but he had a crucial offensive foul with 2.6 seconds left in regulation that denied Denver a chance to win it in regulation and he watched helplessly as Barnes stole the ball in the chaotic closing moments of overtime.
Hield led Sacramento with 22 points and Barnes and De’Aaron Fox each added 21 for the Kings, who snapped a six-game skid in Denver, where they had last won on Jan. 3, 2017.
Fox also had a key block of Will Barton’s layup with 10.6 seconds remaining in overtime and Barnes grabbed the long rebound and raced downcourt to for a layup that tied it at 122 with 6.5 seconds left.
Denver called timeout, but Barnes punched the ball away from Jokic, then raced for a 4-foot dunk that Barton blocked. Hield tipped it in just before the buzzer, then raced off the court and through the tunnel at the newly renamed Ball Arena.
Michael Porter Jr. scored 24 points for Denver despite early foul trouble, but playoff star Jamal Murray was held to five points and was 1-for-9 shooting before fouling out late in regulation.
“I’d be lying if I told you our defense had a lot to do with that,” Kings coach Luke Walton said. “When you’re as good as Jamal Murray and you have a shooting night like that, that’s more him having an off-night. Now, I give our guys credit for competing and making it hard for him. But he sees that every night.
“I actually feel bad for whoever has to guard him next time out. I’m assuming he’ll probably have a pretty good game. But our guys did a heck of a job competing.”
Before the game, Nuggets coach Michael Malone was asked if Murray could match his playoff prowess in the new season, and he used the opportunity to talk about how the team’s first trip to the Western Conference Finals in a decade last summer was already old news.
“As great as last season was — I’m going to keep saying this — that season is over,” Malone said. “That was a different team. Yes, we have our core back, but we have seven new players. As great as it was to win our division, to get to the Western Conference Finals, to comeback from two 3-1 deficits; starting tonight, who cares? That’s over.”
CLEVELAND OUTLASTS HORNETS IN OPENER
LaMelo Ball summed up his NBA debut in one word.
“Disappointing,” he said.
The hyped Hornets rookie guard didn’t score in his first game for Charlotte and Cleveland pulled away in the first half and held on for a 121-114 victory Wednesday night in the Cavaliers’ first home regular-season game in nearly 300 days.
Collin Sexton scored 27 points, Darius Garland added 22 and the Cavs overcame a scorching shooting performance by Charlotte’s Terry Rozier, a Cleveland native who finished with a career-high 10 3-pointers and 42 points.
Beyond Ball’s rough night – he missed all five shots and didn’t play in the fourth quarte – Charlotte also suffered a major injury as center Cody Zeller broke his left hand.
“Cody is obviously going to miss some time and we need other guys to step up,” Hornets coach James Boorego said.
One of those would be Ball, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft who has revived interest and hope in Charlotte. But Ball’s first performance didn’t go as he hoped. He missed all three 3-pointers and had three turnovers in 16 minutes.
“I was just having an off night,” said Ball, whose postgame Zoom interview was interrupted by someone who hacked into the feed.
“I told him just to forget this one,” said Hornets guard Gordon Hayward, who scored 28 points in his debut with Charlotte. “There is going to be so many nights where he is playing his game and playing really well. So I said don’t worry about this one at all. We all know the type of player that you are.”
Upset by their exclusion from the NBA’s “bubble” in Orlando, the Cavs made the most of getting back on their home floor for the first time in the regular season since March 8.
Andre Drummond added 14 points and 14 rebounds and Larry Nance had 13 and 13 for Cleveland, which played without star forward Kevin Love. He’s out with a strained right calf.
ATLANTA ROUTES CHICAGO
Trae Young was tough to stop in his first two NBA seasons. Surrounded by more talent than ever before, he could become a nightmare for the league in his third year.
Young scored 37 points and the revamped Atlanta Hawks pounded Chicago 124-104 on Wednesday night, spoiling Billy Donovan’s debut as Bulls coach.
“Just being able to go out there and put on a show in the first game was really good,” Young said. “Not every night obviously is going to be like this, but it’s really good to have an opening game like this.”
Atlanta shot 54% (43 for 80) from the field and had seven players score in double figures. Cam Reddish had 15 points and John Collins finished with 14.
“All of our guys played well. All of our guys played together,” coach Lloyd Pierce said.
Looking for their first playoff berth since 2017, the Hawks signed Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo and Kris Dunn during free agency. Rondo and Dunn were held out on opening night, but Bogdanovic had 15 points and seven rebounds, and Gallinari scored 13.
While the newcomers could give Atlanta a big lift, the dynamic Young remains the engine that drives the Hawks. He seemingly scored at will against the Bulls, going 10 for 12 from the field, 5 for 6 from 3-point range and 12 for 14 at the line. He also had seven assists and six rebounds in just 26 minutes.
“The way we spaced, it opened up a lot of driving lanes and gaps to the rim for either shots at the rim or if they helped, we had shooters open,” Young said.
Chicago cleaned out its front office and fired coach Jim Boylen after it went 22-43 last year during its third consecutive losing season. Donovan was hired in September, and it looks as if he has quite the job ahead of him.
Zach LaVine scored 22 points and Lauri Markkanen had 21 points and seven rebounds in a solid start to an important season for the 23-year-old forward. But the Bulls struggled defensively and were careless with the ball at times, finishing with 17 turnovers.
“We did not help each other well enough defensively,” Donovan said.
Patrick Williams, the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft, had 16 points for Chicago in his NBA debut. The 19-year-old Williams became the youngest player in Bulls history to start their first game of the season.
Young led the way as Atlanta grabbed control in the first half. He found Collins for an alley-oop jam that made it 66-46 with 4:49 left. He had 27 points on 7-for-9 shooting at the break, helping the Hawks to an 83-59 halftime lead.
“We just didn’t come to play as a team,” Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. said.
PELICANS BEAT RAPTORS
The Toronto Raptors had their home floor shipped 1,300 miles when they relocated to Tampa for at least the start of the NBA season. Yet it was the New Orleans Pelicans who looked at home at Amalie Arena in the season opener for both teams.
JJ Redick converted a four-point play with just over a minute remaining and finished with 23 points, and Brandon Ingram led all scorers with 24 points as the Pelicans rallied from an 11-point deficit and beat the Raptors 113-99 on Wednesday night.
Zion Williamson had a big second half for the Pelicans and finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams scored 18 and 16 points, respectively, in their first games with the Pelicans, who delivered new coach Stan Van Gundy a victory in his New Orleans debut.
“I’d say that we fought very hard in a game that was very, very frustrating,” Van Gundy said. “We were turning the ball over, we were in foul trouble, not a lot was going right for us. We hung in there and kept fighting and then made enough plays and enough shots to pull away.”
Pascal Siakam led the Raptors with 20 points. Kyle Lowry finished with 18 points and 10 assists.
Because of the current Canadian restrictions on cross-border travel due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Raptors are scheduled to play their first 17 “home” games at Tampa’s Amalie Arena. The second half of the NBA’s schedule will be released later.
Lowry hit four 3-pointers in the second quarter, and when Siakam made consecutive 3-pointers, the Raptors opened their largest lead of the game at 11 points.
Redick hit a couple 3s late in the second period, but the Pelicans went into the break trailing 57-50.
Ingram spoke on the importance of Redick to the Pelicans.
“He’s good to have around from a professionalism standpoint, so we like to have him around,” Ingram said. “We love that he can shoot the basketball and when he’s open he needs the basketball.”
Early in the second half, Lonzo Ball and Bledsoe hit 3-pointers in a 9-0 run. Then, Ball and Ingram did all the scoring for the Pelicans on a 10-2 run that finished the third quarter and gave the Pelicans an 88-79 lead. They scored 38 points in the period.
?(The third quarter) … zapped our energy pretty big time,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “We did seem to lose a little energy and maybe ran out of a little gas, too.”
About 3,800 people attended the game, and Siakam said fans in the stands makes a difference.
“I don’t know if it’s all Raptors fans or what the case might be, but I thought it was cool, just having people around it,” Siakam said. “Obviously we’re blessed that we have some people, some type of energy in the crowd to make the atmosphere a little better.”
BOWDEN HIRED AT LOUISIANA MONROE
Former Auburn coach Terry Bowden has been hired by Louisiana-Monroe to rebuild a program that went 0-10 this season.
Bowden, the son of former Florida State coaching great Bobby Bowden, has been serving as a graduate assistant at Clemson the last two years.
Terry Bowden, 64, had a successful stint as Auburn’s head coach from 1993-98, going 47-17. That came to a tumultuous end with a midseason firing.
After a long run in broadcasting as a television and as a radio analyst, he returned to coaching in 2009 with Division II North Alabama. Bowden was back in Division I with Akron, leading the Zips from 2012-18 and going 35-52 with two bowl appearances.
Earlier this month, Louisiana-Monroe fired Matt Viator after five seasons. He went 19-39 and 15-24 in the Sun Belt.
COLLINS WINS BRONKO NAGURSKI AWARD
Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins has won the 2020 Bronko Nagurski Award, the school announced on Wednesday.
Collins is the first Golden Hurricane player to be given the award that honors the nation’s top college defensive player.
“I’m honored and blessed to receive the Bronko Nagurski Trophy. It’s awe-inspiring to be mentioned in the same breath as Bronko Nagurski and the many great players who won this award before me,” Collins said. “I’m so thankful for this honor and for all the people who have put me in this position – my family, coaches, teammates, and fan base. I can’t thank the coaching staff and my teammates enough.”
Collins, who was also named AAC Defensive Player of the Year this season, racked up 54 tackles, four sacks, four interceptions (two of which were returned for a touchdown), and one forced fumble over eight games in 2020.
Coastal Carolina defensive end Tarron Jackson, Iowa defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon, Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II were the other finalists for this year’s award.
Former Ohio State star Chase Young won the honor last year.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN ROUTS LOUISIANA TECH
Shai Werts had three touchdown runs and threw a 65-yard scoring pass to help Georgia Southern beat Louisiana Tech 38-3 in the New Orleans Bowl on Wednesday.
Werts, who missed the Eagles’ last two regular-season games because of a shoulder injury, scored one of his touchdowns on a designed QB run that covered 37 yards. His two other rushing TDs came from a yard out.
Georgia Southern came up with four interceptions — including two near its own goal line in the first quarter. Safety Justin Birdsong intercepted two passes — the first against Louisiana Tech starter Aaron Allen and the second against reserve JD Head in the third quarter.
Georgia Southern (8-5), which came in averaging 262 yards rushing, finished with 322 against Louisiana Tech (5-5).
Malik Murry broke off a 43-yard run on the game’s opening drive to set up Werts’ first short TD run. Gerald Green added a 55-yard run in the fourth quarter to give him 108 yards and one TD rushing for the game. Werts finished with 71 yards rushing.
The Bulldogs were trying to win a bowl for the seventh straight season, but could not overcome three interceptions thrown by Allen inside the Georgia Southern 30 in the first half.
Allen’s first turnover came when Birdsong stepped in front of a pass at the 5 on a first-down play from the Eagles 17. Tech’s next possession ended when cornerback Derrick Canteen intercepted his sixth pass this season on the Georgia Southern 1 on a Tech first down from the 26.
The second turnover set up Werts’ deep pass to Khaleb Hood to make it 14-0.
Allen threw his third interception in the second quarter, when safety Anthony Wilson picked off a quick slant pass at the 25 on a second-and-10 from the Eagles’ 30.
Tech was on the verge of being shut out in the first half when Smoke Harris returned a punt 60 yards to set up the Bulldogs on the 0 with 31 seconds left. The defense responded by forcing two incomplete passes and sacking Allen to set up Jacob Barnes’ 45-yard field goal.
CARR UPGRADED FOR RAIDERS
Quarterback Derek Carr was a full participant in practice less than a week after leaving a game with a groin injury and could be on target to play this week for the Las Vegas Raiders.
Carr’s status was in question after he injured his groin on a scramble in the first quarter last Thursday night against the Los Angeles Chargers.
He practiced on a limited basis on Tuesday in a sign he could return without missing a game and then was upgraded to a full participant on Wednesday. The final injury report before Saturday night’s game against the Miami Dolphins will come out Thursday.
Carr has a history of playing through injuries, having missed only two regular-season starts in seven seasons in the NFL. He broke his ankle in Week 16 in 2016, missing out on his only chance to appear in the playoffs and missed only one game in 2017 after breaking a bone in his back.
Carr even played an entire season with a sports hernia in college at Fresno State in 2012.
Carr has thrown for 3,396 yards and 24 TDs and has a career-best 102 passer rating this season.
The Raiders have only slim playoff hopes after losing four of five games to spoil a promising start to the season. They would need to beat Miami and Denver the next two weeks, hope Baltimore loses to the Giants and Cincinnati, and have the Dolphins lose in Week 17 to Buffalo to get into the playoffs for the second time in the past 18 years.
Marcus Mariota, the No. 2 overall pick by Tennessee in 2015, played well in Carr’s absence last week and will be ready to go again if needed.
Mariota threw for 226 yards and a touchdown and ran for 88 yards and a score in a 30-27 overtime loss.
The Raiders will be without starting linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski this week after placing him on the COVID-19 list. Cornerback Isaiah Johnson was taken off the COVID list.
HASKINS FINED FOR VIOLATING COVID PROTOCOLS
Dwayne Haskins was handed a hefty fine Wednesday for partying with several people not wearing a mask but will start at quarterback for Washington on Sunday against Carolina if Alex Smith isn’t healthy enough to go.
The organization fined Haskins $40,000 for violating COVID-19 protocols, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team had not announced the fine.
“I know my team needs me, and I need to step up to the plate and I can’t be selfish, and I need to stop getting in my own way,” Haskins said. “I’ll do everything in my power to make the most of my second chance.”
Haskins apologized to teammates, took the first-team snaps in practice, and is in line to play against the Panthers if needed with the NFC East title potentially at stake – as long as he doesn’t test positive for the coronavirus this week. He apologized publicly Tuesday for his actions after photos showing him without a mask around several other people surfaced on social media.
The 2019 first-round pick said he was at a private birthday party event for his girlfriend.
“There were more than 10 people who weren’t wearing masks and that’s a violation regardless of where I was at, but I did not attend a strip club,” Haskins said.
Rivera said the organization worked out an agreement with the NFL for Haskins to be tested twice a day and wear a mask on under his helmet with a face shield to practice.
“We are following up with the club and looking at all the data we normally look at for all cases,” NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said. “We are doing the contact tracing and awaiting test results. It’s always our goal that anyone on the field is not infected or at high risk of getting infected or getting others infected. That’s a case we continue to monitor with the club.”
Rivera refused to say what the internal discipline was for Haskins and bristled at a continued line of questions about the quarterback he benched and demoted to third-string earlier this season.
“What’s important for this franchise right now is that we’re going forward,” Rivera said. “We play on Sunday. I want to get that really clear. We play on Sunday. The game on Sunday, to me, is more important than what has happened. What has happened has been dealt with. There have been consequences.”
GORDON ON EXEMPT LIST
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Josh Gordon will not make his debut this week after he was placed back on the commissioner’s exempt list.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday he was not at liberty to comment on Gordon’s situation. But the Seahawks went from expecting Gordon to possibly play this week against the Los Angeles Rams on Monday to two days later knowing he’ll be unavailable.
The oft-suspended Gordon was conditionally reinstated by Commissioner Roger Goodell on Dec. 3 and was allowed to begin strength and conditioning work with the Seahawks staff, and attend meetings. This week was to be the first week Gordon could be eligible to play and practice should he meet all requirements set forth by the league. Seattle added him to the active roster on Monday, but the change to Gordon’s status was on the NFL’s official transactions on Tuesday.
Carroll said Gordon was “frustrated” with the latest news and will remain on the roster.
“We’ll revisit it again next week,” Carroll said. “Certainly disappointed not to have him for his sake and for a lot of things but we’ll stay with it and we’ll see what happens next week.”
Gordon was suspended in December 2019 for violating the league’s drug policy. He tested positive for performance enhancers and “substances of abuse,” the league said in a statement at the time.
It was the eighth time overall Gordon had been suspended by either his team or the NFL, including six times since 2013, mostly for violating the league’s policies on banned substances.
Seattle re-signed Penny Hart to the practice squad after he was cut to make room on the roster for Gordon. Hart would be a likely addition from the practice squad for Sunday’s game.
One player Seattle won’t have for the rest of the season is cornerback Quinton Dunbar, who has already missed more than a month with a knee injury, Carroll said Dunbar will undergo surgery and miss the rest of the season.
Dunbar was an offseason acquisition in a trade with Washington, but had a rocky first season, in part because of off-field legal troubles. Dunbar appeared in six games and had one interception.
STEELERS QB NEEDS TO PLAY BETTER
Ben Roethlisberger, the father of three young children, used a very father of three young children word to describe why he’s come under such heavy criticism during the Pittsburgh Steelers’ three-game losing streak.
“When you play like poo, you should get talked about like that,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday. “I need to play better. If I’m not giving them a reason to talk good, I’m giving them a reason to talk bad. That’s all on me. I need to play better.”
And do it quickly if the Steelers (11-3) are to regain any sort of momentum heading into the playoffs. Eight weeks of brilliance to start the season in his return from right elbow surgery that cost him most of 2019 has been followed by five weeks of mediocrity. The nadir – he hopes – came during a listless 27-17 loss to Cincinnati on Monday night in which he passed for all of 19 yards in the first half.
That’s not a typo. While he recovered a bit in the second half, Roethlisberger finished 20 of 38 for 170 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Those numbers don’t include a botched snap exchange with center Maurkice Pouncey that set up a Cincinnati field goal or a short flip to JuJu Smith-Schuster that led to a Smith-Schuster fumble after getting drilled by Bengals safety Vonn Bell. Cincinnati scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession while building a 17-0 advantage it didn’t come close to squandering.
Roethlisberger insists he’s as healthy as can reasonably be expected heading into Week 16. Yet he’s also aware at 38 he can’t do what he did when he was 23. The Steelers have insisted on resting him during Wednesday practices for years, a routine they stuck to this week even with the offense sputtering.
The AFC North title that seemed a mere formality a month ago is on far shakier ground as Christmas approaches.
The offense that hasn’t scored more than 20 points in over a month met without coaches via videoconference, a meeting Roethlisberger stressed wasn’t about the team’s recent performance as much as about the opportunities that still lie ahead.
“We’re getting ready to go into the playoffs. I had the guys raise their hands of who has played in a playoff game and who hasn’t,” Roethlisberger said. “It was over half the guys that haven’t played in a playoff game. It’s important the veteran guys, the guys that have, communicate what it’s like.”
GIANTS QB HOPES TO PLAY VS. BALTIMORE
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is feeling better and hopes to play in Sunday’s crucial game against the Ravens in Baltimore.
Jones sat out the Giants’ 20-6 loss to Cleveland on Sunday night with hamstring and ankle injuries. It marked the second time in three games he was unable to play. New York (5-9) again went with backup Colt McCoy at quarterback.
Jones worked out on a limited basis Wednesday, but he sounded a little more upbeat about his chances of playing than the previous week.
“I think I’m closer every day and feeling better every day,” Jones said. ” I’m just trying to heal up as fast as I can. I am feeling better and need to keep doing what I’m asked to do, doing what I’m supposed to do, working with the trainers and making sure I keep going in that direction.”
Jones originally hurt his right hamstring in the second half against Cincinnati on Nov. 29. McCoy finished that game and played the next game against Seattle. Jones came back against the Cardinals on Dec. 13 and hurt his left ankle. The combination of the injuries caused him to sit last Sunday.
The Giants, who were in first place in the NFC East with four games left in the regular season, have dropped two straight. Washington (6-8) can clinch the division with a win over the Carolina Panthers (4-10) on Sunday and a Giants loss to Baltimore (9-5).
Giants coach Joe Judge will not make a decision on Jones until he watches him practice all week. All along, he has said Jones needs to be able to defend himself on the field if he is going to play.
Against the Cardinals, Jones did not run, something he does very well. He would not say whether he was told not to run.
“Look, in a perfect world, I’d love to have an answer as soon as possible,” Judge said. “I’m not going to go ahead and set a time mark on this. But we’ll come out of Friday with some kind of an answer. But we’re just going to throw him out there and let him practice, see how he does.”
The Giants are ranked 31st in the 32-team league on offense. They have scored 13 points in the last two games and have a combined three points in the first halves of the last three games.
FISCH HIRED BY ARIZONA AS NEXT COACH
Jedd Fisch was a law student wanting a chance to witness history when he followed O.J. Simpson’s lawyers into the courthouse elevator. After being confronted, he made a good enough case to earn a seat for the trial of the century.
When Fisch wanted a chance to serve as a graduate assistant coach under Steve Spurrier, he left notes on the windshield of the Florida coach’s car for 450 straight days. He got the job.
That type of ingenuity and tenacity helped Fisch earn high-level jobs across the NFL and college football, working for coaches like Bill Belichick, Mike Shanahan and Pete Carroll.
Now Fisch gets a chance to run his own team. Not bad for a coach who never even played the game in high school.
Arizona hired Fisch on Wednesday, hoping the former New England Patriots quarterbacks coach can turn around a program that fell into disarray during three years under Kevin Sumlin.
“I first met Jedd Fisch three years ago and I was immediately struck by his desire and his drive,” university President Robert C. Robbins said. “His story of rising in the football coaching world without having played a down of football was certainly unique, but also told me something about his determination and drive.”
A New Jersey native, Fisch didn’t play football in high school or college, but he landed a job as a graduate assistant at Florida with his note-leaving campaign on Spurrier’s car.
The calculated ploy sent the now-44-year-old on a journey across college football and the NFL.
Fisch was hired as New England’s quarterbacks coach under Belichick earlier this year after two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams as senior offensive assistant and assistant offensive coordinator. He previously served as offensive coordinator at Jacksonville and served as an assistant with Seattle, Denver, Baltimore and Houston.
Fisch spent the 2017 season as UCLA’s offensive coordinator and served as interim coach the final two games after Jim Mora was fired. He also was the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks/wide receivers coach under Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and had offensive coordinator stints with Miami and Minnesota.
“I’ve followed his career closely over the years and he is highly qualified for the job,” Carroll said. “Jedd is a gifted offensive mind and he will do a great job leading and caring for the University of Arizona program.”
Fisch interviewed for the Arizona job in 2017 when Sumlin was hired. The disappointment turned into opportunity, allowing Fisch a chance to work under Belichick and Rams coach Sean McVay, adding to the list of coaches he’s learned from.
NFL PREVIEW: WHAT TO LOOK FOR WEEK 16
PLAYOFF PUSH: As the NFL enters its final two weeks of the regular season, three teams have clinched division titles – the BUFFALO BILLS (AFC East), GREEN BAY PACKERS (NFC North) and KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (AFC West) – and three others have clinched playoff berths – the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS, PITTSBURGH STEELERS and SEATTLE SEAHAWKS.
Pittsburgh (AFC North) and the WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (NFC East) can each clinch their respective division titles this weekend after missing the postseason in 2019. In each of the past 42 seasons (1977-2019, excluding 1982, when divisional play did not occur), at least one team has won its division the season after missing the playoffs. At least two teams have won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs in 16 of the past 17 years.
Additionally, the ARIZONA CARDINALS (8-6) can clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2015, the CLEVELAND BROWNS (10-4) can return to the postseason for the first time since 2002 and the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (9-5)can secure a playoff spot for the first time since 2007, while the INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (10-4) and LOS ANGELES RAMS (9-5) can each return to the postseason after missing it last year. Since 1990, at least four teams every season have qualified for the playoffs after failing to make the postseason the year before.
— NFL —
CAREER PASSING LEADERS: Last week, Atlanta quarterback MATT RYAN surpassed 4,000 passing yards for the 10th time in his career, becoming the fifth player to reach the mark in at least 10 seasons in NFL history.
In Week 16, Tampa Bay quarterback TOM BRADY (3,886 passing yards) and Indianapolis quarterback PHILIP RIVERS (3,725) can each surpass 4,000 passing yards for the 12th time, tying DREW BREES (12 seasons)for the second-most seasons with 4,000 passing yards in league history. Only PEYTON MANNING (14 seasons) has more.
Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS (3,828 passing yards) can reach the mark for the ninth season, the sixth-most in NFL history.
The players with the most career seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards in NFL history:
|Peyton Manning||Indianapolis, Denver||14|
|Drew Brees||New Orleans||12*|
|Tom Brady||New England||11*|
|Philip Rivers||San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers||11*|
|Aaron Rodgers||Green Bay||8*|
With two touchdown passes at Pittsburgh on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Rivers, who has 419 career touchdown passes, will surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (420 career touchdown passes) for the fifth-most touchdown passes in NFL history.
The players with the most career touchdown passes in NFL history:
|Tom Brady||New England, Tampa Bay||573*|
|Drew Brees||San Diego Chargers, New Orleans||568*|
|Peyton Manning||Indianapolis, Denver||539|
|Brett FavreHOF||Green Bay, New York Jets, Minnesota||508|
|Philip Rivers||San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis||419*|
— NFL —
RECORD-BREAKING ROOKIES: Los Angeles Chargers quarterback JUSTIN HERBERT leads all rookies with 3,781 passing yards, 27 touchdown passes and a 96.3 rating (minimum 100 attempts).
With a touchdown pass on Sunday against Denver (4:05 PM ET, CBS), Herbert will surpass BAKER MAYFIELD (27 touchdown passes in 2018) for the most touchdown passes by a rookie in NFL history.
The rookie quarterbacks with the most touchdown passes in NFL history:
|Justin Herbert||Los Angeles Chargers||2020||27*|
|*Entering Week 16|
With at least 219 passing yards on Sunday, Herbert will become the fourth rookie in league history with at least 4,000 passing yards, joining ANDREW LUCK (4,374 in 2012), CAM NEWTON (4,051 in 2011), and JAMEIS WINSTON (4,042 in 2015).
The rookie quarterbacks with at least 4,000 passing yards in NFL history:
|Jameis Winston||Tampa Bay||2015||4,042|
|Justin Herbert||Los Angeles Chargers||2020||3,781*|
|*Entering Week 16|
Last week, Philadelphia quarterback JALEN HURTS became the first rookie in the Super Bowl era to throw at least three touchdown passes and rush for a touchdown in his first career road start. He also rushed for 63 yards, his second-consecutive start with at least 50 rushing yards.
With at least 50 rushing yards on Sunday at Dallas (4:25 PM ET, FOX), Hurts will join LAMAR JACKSON (first five starts) as the only quarterbacks with at least 50 rushing yards in each of their first three career starts in the Super Bowl era.
— NFL –
SUNDAY NIGHT SHOWDOWN: The TENNESSEE TITANS (10-4) and GREEN BAY PACKERS (11-3) meet on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC) in matchup of two of the league’s top offenses.
The two teams tie for the league lead with 55 total touchdowns and each average at least 30 points per game. The Titans tie for the NFL lead with 31.1 points per game, while the Packers rank third with 31.0. The primetime meeting will mark the first game between two teams each averaging at least 30 points per game in Week 16 or later in NFL history.
Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS enters the game with a league-high 40 touchdown passes and has only four interceptions this season. In his last seven games on Sunday Night Football, Rodgers has recorded 17 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. He has passed for at least one touchdown and zero interceptions in each of those seven games, the longest such streak on Sunday Night Football in NFL history.
Packers wide receiver DAVANTE ADAMS ranks second in the league with 14 touchdown receptions this season and has recorded a touchdown reception in eight consecutive games on Sunday Night Football, tied with ANTONIO BROWN (2013-16) and ROB GRONKOWSKI (2013-15) for the longest such streak in NFL history.
Green Bay tight end ROBERT TONYAN ties for the league lead among tight ends with a career-high 10 receiving touchdowns this season and he has recorded a touchdown catch in each of his last five games.
With a touchdown reception on Sunday night, Tonyan will become the fifth tight end to record a touchdown reception in at least six consecutive games in NFL history.
The tight ends with a receiving touchdown in the most consecutive games in history:
|Antonio Gates||San Diego Chargers||2009-10||9|
|Tony GonzalezHOF||Kansas City, Atlanta||2008-09||6|
|Jimmy Graham||New Orleans||2011-12||6|
|Rob Gronkowski||New England||2011||6|
|Robert Tonyan||Green Bay||2020||5*|
Tennessee running back DERRICK HENRY leads the NFL with 1,679 rushing yards and ties for the lead with 15 rushing touchdowns. He has recorded at least 100 rushing yards in nine consecutive road games, the second-longest streak in NFL history.
With at least 100 rushing yards on Sunday night, Henry will tie Pro Football Hall of Famer BARRY SANDERS (10 consecutive road games from 1996-97) for the most consecutive road games with at least 100 rushing yards in league history.
— NFL —
RIDICULOUS RECEIVERS: Kansas City wide receiver TYREEK HILL leads the NFL with 17 touchdowns (15 receiving, two rushing) entering Week 16.
With a touchdown on Sunday against Atlanta (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Hill will tie MARK CLAYTON (18 touchdowns in 1984), BILL GROMAN (18 in 1961) and STERLING SHARPE (18 in 1994) for the third-most touchdowns by a wide receiver in a single season in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famers RANDY MOSS (23 in 2007) and JERRY RICE (23 in 1987) have more.
The wide receivers with the most touchdowns in a single season in NFL history:
|Randy MossHOF||New England||2007||23|
|Jerry RiceHOF||San Francisco||1987||23|
|Bill Groman||Houston Oilers||1961||18|
|Sterling Sharpe||Green Bay||1994||18|
|Tyreek Hill||Kansas City||2020||17*|
|*Entering Week 16|
Buffalo wide receiver STEFON DIGGS leads the league with 111 receptions this season and has recorded at least 10 catches in three consecutive games.
With 10 receptions at New England on Monday Night Football (8:15 PM ET, ESPN), Diggs will tie CALVIN JOHNSON (four games in 2012) for the most consecutive games with at least 10 receptions in NFL history.
Minnesota wide receiver JUSTIN JEFFERSON leads all rookies with 1,182 receiving yards this season. With 12 receiving yards at New Orleans on Friday (4:30 PM ET, FOX/NFLN/Amazon), Jefferson will become the fourth rookie with at least 1,200 receiving yards in the Super Bowl era, joining ANQUAN BOLDIN (1,377 receiving yards in 2003), Pro Football Hall of Famer RANDY MOSS (1,313 in 1998) and ODELL BECKHAM JR. (1,305 in 2014).
The rookies with the most receiving yards in the Super Bowl era:
|Odell Beckham Jr.||New York Giants||2014||1,305|
|*Entering Week 16|
HARDEN FORCES POSTPONEMENT OF WEDNESDAY’S GAME
The James Harden soap opera in Houston now comes with a canceled season opener – and a $50,000 fine for the league’s leading scorer.
Houston’s opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night was scrapped after coronavirus cases and Harden’s violation of the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols left the Rockets without the league-mandated eight players available.
It was a dispiriting blow to the NBA on just the second night of an uncertain season launching with the pandemic still raging.
The NBA announced the postponement in a release that said three Rockets players had returned tests that were either positive or inconclusive and that four other players were quarantined because of contract tracing.
The release also said that Harden was unavailable for the game because of a violation of health and safety protocols after video of the disgruntled star surfaced on social media where he was without a mask at a crowded party in a private event space Monday night.
The league later announced the fine for Harden, saying the protocols prohibit attending indoor social gatherings of 15 or more people or entering bars, lounges, clubs or similar establishments.
Already a distraction to the team amid months of rumors that he wants to be traded. Harden’s latest move potentially threatened the health and safety of his team and kept the Rockets from beginning their season.
Houston has 16 players on its roster; with seven dealing with tests or quarantine and one hurt, that would have left eight eligible players, which is the league minimum to start a game. Harden’s unavailability lowered Houston’s total of available players to seven.
Houston’s injury report released Wednesday morning that Ben McLemore and rookie KJ Martin were not with the team and were self-isolating and that DeMarcus Cousins was questionable because of a sprained right ankle.
Harden’s since-deleted Instagram post explaining why he attended the event in question would certainly suggest that he was in violation of those rules.
In the post he wrote: “One thing after another. I went to show love to my homegirl at her event (not a strip club) because she is becoming a boss and putting her people in a position of success and now it’s a problem. Everyday it’s something different. No matter how many times people try to drag my name under you can’t. The real people always end up on top.”
But for now the eight-time All-Star is on the shelf after admitting to breaking the rules set forth in the protocols.
“In light of the serious and highly infectious nature of the coronavirus… individuals must not engage in activities or conduct that a reasonable person would regard as posing unnecessary risk relative to the significance (or lack thereof) of such activity or conduct,” the protocols say.
Harden, according to the protocols, may now be ordered into quarantine and could lose about $280,000 for each game missed. Houston’s next scheduled game is Saturday at Portland.
Oklahoma City also was involved in the March 11 game that led to the league shutting down for the coronavirus pandemic; the Thunder were to have been the home team that night for a game against Utah, called off when it was learned Jazz center Rudy Gobert was the NBA’s first player to test positive for COVID-19.
The Thunder, unwittingly, now find themselves part of history again.
BUTLER BASKETBALL: Butler MBB Picks Up BIG EAST Win Over Providence, 70-64
Butler heads into the holiday break with a win, knocking off Providence, 70-64, Wednesday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Five Bulldogs scored in double figures, but the line of the night belonged to freshman Myles Tate, who led the team with eight rebounds and seven assists (both career-highs) to go along with eight points.
“Obviously in a game against Providence, you know it’s going to be physical,” said Butler coach LaVall Jordan. “I thought we were really connected and together, helping each other through mistakes. Myles Tate did a great job organizing our office and Bryce Golden anchored our defense with his voice. We put some of the conversations we’ve been having into action. We can build on that.”
Freshman JaKobe Coles led the Bulldogs with a career-best 14 points in 14 minutes of action. He went 6-of-7 from the free throw line. Jair Bolden and Golden each had 11 points, while Chuck Harris and Bryce Nze added 10.
Butler played its third straight game without senior point guard Aaron Thompson, who continues to rehab a sprained knee. The young Bulldogs are now 2-3 overall and 1-1 in BIG EAST play on the young season. PC is 5-3 and also 1-1 in conference action.
Harris’s three-pointer in the waning seconds of the first half gave Butler a 31-30 halftime advantage after Providence had led for nearly 13 minutes. Butler would carry that momentum into the second half. A 10-2 run turned a tied game at 39-39 into a 49-41 Butler advantage with 10:56 remaining. Butler would not allow the Friars to get closer than four points the rest of the way. While fighting some foul trouble among its perimeter players, Jordan utilized a zone defense for stretches throughout the second half, with 6-9 Myles Wilmoth at the top.
Thirty-eight of Butler’s points came in the paint and the Bulldogs had a 37-32 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs shot 46 percent from the field, but connected on only five three-pointers and 13-of-23 at the free throw line.
The defensive effort by the Bulldogs won the game, as Providence was limited to 41-percent shooting, including a 4-of-26 performance from behind the arc. Nate Watson and David Duke led the Friars with 19 and 17 points, respectively.
The two teams meet a week from tonight in Rhode Island in what will be the Bulldogs’ next game.
OHIO STATE BASKETBALL: Second Half Surge Lifts Ohio State Past Rutgers, 80-68
E.J. Liddell and Duane Washington Jr. combine for 43 points in the victory
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Forward E.J. Liddell (22 points, six rebounds) and guard Duane Washington Jr. (21 points) led the way as No. 23 Ohio State overcame a 15-point second half deficit to knock off No. 11 Rutgers 80-68 on Wednesday afternoon at the Value City Arena in Columbus. Ohio State is now 7-1 on the season and 1-1 in Big Ten play while Rutgers falls to 6-1, 2-1 Big Ten.
“This is a heck of a win, we had to be really resilient,” said head coach Chris Holtmann. “We put ourselves in a real bind, but you have to give Rutgers credit for that. Players win games and our guys certainly responded.”
Trailing 53-38 with 13:36 remaining, Ohio State slowly chipped away at the Scarlet Knights’ lead, trimming it to 10 points, 53-43, on a Washington three-pointer with 12:43 left. The Buckeyes then got the deficit to single digits at eight points, 55-47, on two Liddell free throws. Trailing by eight with 9:14 remaining, Musa Jallow made one of two free throws and then converted a three-point play when he flew in from the free throw line to tip in a missed shot by Washington. He was fouled on the play and made the free throw to make the score 59-55 in favor of Rutgers.
The Buckeyes tied the game at 61-all on a Washington jumper with under five minutes to play and then took the lead for good when Washington made two technical foul free throws. From there, Ohio State finished the game on a 17-7 run for its final margin of victory.
In addition to the 21 points from Liddell, which was a career high, the Buckeyes also received 17 points and 12 rebounds from Liddell’s frontcourt mate in Kyle Young. Jallow contributed eight points and seven rebounds off the bench in 22 minutes. Seth Towns saw action for the second consecutive game and also scored his first points as a Buckeye on a layup following an offensive rebound.
In its 52-point second half, Ohio State was 16-of-28 from the floor (57.1 percent), made 17-of-21 free throws and outrebounded Rutgers 26-8.
“Obviously, three are a lot of good things to take from this game and a lot of things we’ve got to be doing better going into Northwestern,” Holtmann said.
A hot-shooting Rutgers team, which achieved its highest ranking in the Associated Press poll this week since the 1975-76 season, led by as many as 13 points in the first half (27-14) and made seven of its 13 three-point attempts. Over the final 7:54 of the first half, however, Ohio State was able to chip away at the RU lead and a Kyle Young lap up with 31 seconds remaining, followed by a defensive stop, made the score 38-28 at halftime.
Young and Liddell scored eight first half-points apiece while combining to shoot seven of 13 from the floor while also contributing eight rebounds. Washington Jr. added six points and made the Buckeyes’ only three-pointer of the half, which came on the first basket of the game.
The Buckeyes will be back in action on Saturday, Dec. 26 when they travel to face Northwestern (4-1, 1-0) at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tip off in Evanston is slated for 2 p.m. on FS1.
LAWRENCE NAMED ACC POY
Trevor Lawrence added another accolade on Wednesday to his loaded resume.
Clemson’s star quarterback was named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year for his standout junior season.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame swept the other two major conference awards. Brian Kelly was named Coach of the Year and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah took home the Defensive Player of the Year honor.
Lawrence led the Tigers to their sixth consecutive league title and College Football Playoff selection.
The Heisman contender threw for 2,753 yards and 22 touchdowns against four interceptions in nine games – he missed two contests due to COVID-19 – and was named the MVP of Clemson’s 34-10 ACC title-game win over Notre Dame last Saturday.
Kelly led the Fighting Irish to an unbeaten regular season and a CFP berth. Notre Dame finished 9-0 in its first season as a member of a conference following 132 years as an independent.
Owusu-Koramoah, who won the Butkus Award on Monday for the nation’s top linebacker, produced an impressive campaign for Notre Dame. He racked up 56 tackles (11 for loss), three forced fumbles, and 1.5 sacks in 11 games.
NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL
Irish Notch ACC Player of the Year Nods
NOTRE DAME, Indiana — Capping off Notre Dame’s first season in a conference, the Irish have claimed three Player of the Year honors from the ACC. Linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has been tabbed as ACC Defensive Player of the Year, while running back Kyren Williams earned both Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
The 2020 Butkus Award winner and first-team All-ACC honoree, Owusu-Koramoah is a Bednarik Award and Nagurski Trophy finalist and is also a semifinalist for the LOTT Impact Trophy. He has totaled 56 tackles in 2020, which ties for the lead among the Irish, also leading the team with 11.0 tackles-for-loss. He has been responsible for forcing multiple turnovers, including an interception, two fumble recoveries (one returned for a touchdown) and three forced fumbles this season. He has added three PBU.
Against Syracuse, Owusu-Koramoah noted five tackles, 0.5 TFL, one FF, one FR and two pass breakups. He forced a fumble on the opening drive of the first half for his third forced fumble of the season (fifth of his career). He recovered another fumble, forced by the Irish, for his second FR of the season and fourth of his career, which led to a Notre Dame touchdown drive.
His first-career interception came at Pitt, setting up a Notre Dame touchdown drive. In the win over then-No. 1 Clemson, Owusu-Koramoah posted nine tackles (seven solo), 0.5 sack, 2.0 TFL, one forced fumble and the fumble recovery touchdown, which was the first score of his career. Three plays later, he forced a Clemson fumble, which was also recovered by the Irish. For his performance, he was named player of the week for the Nagurski Trophy and Bednarik Award, and ACC Linebacker of the Week.
Owusu-Koramoah ranks ninth among all FBS players with two fumble recoveries this season. He ranks tied for fifth among all ACC players in forced fumbles (0.3 per game).
A semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award, redshirt freshman Kyren Williams has taken college football by storm, reaching the 1,000 rushing yard mark in the regular season finale vs. Syracuse. He currently totals 1,061 yards and 12 touchdowns, adding 27 receptions for 282 yards, in 2020. He has received an ACC weekly honor five times out of ten possible games this season. With the conclusion of conference play, Williams was named second-team All-ACC, and was named honorable mention for the All-Purpose slot.
Williams leads all FBS freshmen in rushing touchdowns (12), total touchdowns (13), and total rushing yards (1,061). Among all FBS players, he tied for 10th in rushing TDs, 12th in total TDs and 11th in rushing yards. In the ACC, Williams ranks fourth in rushing yards per game (96.5), fourth in scoring – TDs (7.1 points/game) and fifth in all-purpose yards per game (122.1).
Of the Top 10 rushers in the ACC, which includes Williams, the Irish have faced six (facing one twice and two in the same game): North Carolina’s Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, Clemson’s Travis Etienne, Duke’s Mataeo Durant, Florida State’s Jordan Travis and Syracuse’s Sean Tucker. Notre Dame’s defense has limited those six Top-10 running backs to an average of 63.0 yards (441 yards total on 94 carries) and just four total touchdowns among the six. Carter, who leads the ACC with 113.2 rushing yards per game, was held to just 57 vs. Notre Dame. By comparison, in those six games, Williams posted at least 100 rushing yards in five, averaging 121.3 yards (728 yards total on 119 carries), with a total of 10 touchdowns.
No. 19 Indiana Rolls To Road Win At Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS – Senior guard Jaelynn Penn and sophomore forward Mackenzie Holmes each scored 19 points as No. 19 Indiana cruised to a 75-54 win at Minnesota in the team’s Big Ten road opener at Williams Arena.
- The Hoosiers (3-2, 1-0 B1G) were neck and neck with the gophers in the first. They were tied 7-7 at the under four media timeout. Indiana took the lead, 15-13 with 56 seconds left in the first, but a last second 3-point buzzer beater put the Gophers ahead, 16-15.
- In the second, Indiana used a 14-2 run with 4:53 left in the first half to gain the lead, 29-18. As a team, the Hoosiers shot 57.1% from the field. The Indiana defense held the Gophers to 3-15 (20%) from the field as it headed in to halftime with a 36-25.
- In the third, Holmes hit the first two layups for the Hoosiers to put her into double figures and Penn ignited an 8-0 run at the 6:46 mark as she hit her third 3-pointer of the night as the advantage was 14, 55-40, going to the final quarter of play.
- In the opening seconds of the fourth, Penn shoots her fourth three of the night for a total of 17 points. Redshirt junior Nicole Cardaño-Hillary completed a conventional play at the line to give the Indiana its largest lead thus far, 61-41. The Hoosiers would then go on a 11-2 run to extend their lead 69-43 with 5:29 remaining.
- Indiana saw four in double figures on Wednesday afternoon. They were led by sophomore guard Mackenzie Holmes and senior guard Jaelynn Penn who knocked down 19 points each while junior guard Grace Berger put back 13 and junior guard Aleksa Gulbe scored 11 points.
- Gulbe led the Hoosiers in rebounding with eight. Her 11 points was also her third straight game scoring in double digits and fourth of the season.
- Senior guard Ali Patberg dished a team high six assists.
- With a layup from Holmes and 3-pointer from Penn, the Hoosiers went on a 5-0 run to start the second quarter to take the lead for good.
- The largest lead for the Hoosiers was 25 points which occurred at the 5:29 mark of the fourth quarter to make the score 69-43.
- Indiana capitalized on turnovers, scoring 25 of their 73 points off of Minnesota turnovers.
- The Hoosiers shot 45.9 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from behind the arch.
- Indiana had 22 assists compared to the Golden Gophers eight. They received the slight edge in rebounds over Minnesota, 37-36.
- This is fifth season under Coach Moren that Indiana has won their first Big Ten road contest of the season.
PURDUE PULLS AWAY FROM NEBRASKA
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Purdue women’s basketball team finished the 2020 portion of its season with an 83-72win over Nebraska at Mackey Arena. The Boilermakers posted a pair of players in double figures with six others tallying at least five points.
Kayana Traylor followed up her career-high outing against Penn State with another 20-point performance. The junior scored 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting and 6-for-7 at the line with a game-high seven assists. Karissa McLaughlin found her rhythm in her second game back from injury, recording 13 points from 5-of-6 field goals, including a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc.
The Boilermakers (5-2, 2-1) shot 47.6% from the field and connected on 10 3-pointers in the win. Purdue won the rebounding battle 40-30 and turned 12 offensive rebounds into 13 points, while holding the Cornhuskers (3-3, 1-2) to no second-chance points.
Senior Fatou Diagne posted another career high, following back-to-back outings with 13 points. On Sunday, the Senegalese international hauled down 17 rebounds and just missed out on a double-double, again, with nine points.
Keeping the common theme this season, the Boilermakers had another strong start with makes on four of their first five field goals. Following a Nebraska run that put the visitors up four in the first, Purdue responded with a 25-12 run, including 13 straight points, to the midway point of the second and carried a seven-point lead into the break. Purdue shot 50% over the opening 20 minutes, with six triples, while committing just six turnovers.
In the second half, Purdue kept its distance, building a lead to as many 15 in the third. Traylor and McLaughlin combined for 16 second-half points, while Diagne notched seven points and seven rebounds over the final 20 minutes. Purdue’s defense shut the Cornhuskers down from the outside, after the visitors connected on four triples in the first half.
McLaughlin’s third 3-pointer of the game with 4:30 to play in the fourth, coupled with a 6-for-8 mark at the line in the period, helped the Boilermakers head into the holiday break with the win.
THE LONG BALL
The Boilermakers drained 10 3-pointers for the second time this season. In addition to McLaughlin’s trio, Cassidy Hardin and Madison Layden each knocked down a pair. Jenelle Grant, Brooke Moore and Traylor all hit from the outside, as well. Since the slow start over the first two games, Purdue is 42-of-92 from distance. It marked just the eighth time since 2015-16 that the Boilermakers reached double figures beyond the arc.
TAKE CARE OF THE BASKETBALL
Purdue tallied 16 assists on made shots for its sixth game this season with at least 50% assisted field goals. Traylor topped five dimes for the fourth time this season and 23rd time in her career. Layden matched her career high with four helpers. The Boilermakers trimmed down their giveaways to just 12 on the afternoon, which turned into just 11 points.
Head coach Sharon Versyp on McLaughlin, Moore and Traylor…
All three of them can score the ball. They’re very quick. Karissa obviously has the 3-point range and can hide behind screens. She’ll get her 15-foot jumper back. Kayana has just expanded her game to another level. Brooke is just a dynamic player. We’re able to rotate people in, and we don’t lose much. It was great to get them all on the floor today, and they played well.
Karissa McLaughlin on returning to play …
It’s a great feeling to be back out there with my teammates. I’ve been dying to be out there. To finally get back out there, and the coaching staff to give me the opportunity, it was awesome. I look forward to the future. My teammates played great today. It was a great win for us.
Kayana Traylor on the dynamic players on offense…
At any given time, any of us can score. We can push the ball and run. We’re able to set each other up and interchange different spots. It’s definitely a good thing for us to show different looks.
• Purdue now leads the all-time series 10-6 with a 3-3 mark at Mackey Arena.
• With her three 3-pointers, McLaughlin is now four triples away from breaking Courtney Moses’ all-time mark of 240.
• Diagne topped 10 rebounds for the first time this season and fourth time in her career.
• Rickie Woltman set a career high with seven rebounds.
• Traylor has led the Boilermakers in assists five times this season and 34 times in her career.
• Purdue topped 80 points for the fourth time this season and the 20th time since the 2015-16 season.
• Since breaking Purdue’s 3-point drought against Bowling Green, Layden has made a triple in five straight games.
• Hardin’s pair marked the 19th time in her career with multiple 3-pointers in a game.
• The Boilermakers outscored Nebraska in bench points 32-0.
• Head coach Sharon Versyp needs one more win to join the 300 club at Purdue.
• McLaughlin also moved up to 20th in program history with 68 games in double-figure scoring.
• McLaughlin passed KK Houser and Kelly Komara to slide up to 21st in career scoring with 1,258 points.
The Boilermakers will have a lengthy period before their next game Jan. 3 at home against Michigan State at 2 p.m. on BTN+.
DODGERS SIGN KAHNLE TO 2-YEAR DEAL
The Los Angeles Dodgers agreed to a two-year contract with veteran reliever Tommy Kahnle, sources told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
Kahnle pitched in only one game this past season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August. He’s expected to miss all of 2021 while rehabbing.
The deal is worth $4.75 million in guaranteed money, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports. Kahnle will earn $750,000 while sidelined in 2021 and $3.45 million in 2022, as well as a $550,000 signing bonus.
His contract also contains $750,000 worth of performance bonuses in 2022, a source told Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
The 31-year-old spent most of the last four seasons with the New York Yankees, with whom he served as an important cog in a loaded bullpen. He posted a 3.67 ERA and 1.06 WHIP with 88 strikeouts and 20 walks over 72 appearances in 2019.
Kahnle owns a career 3.82 ERA and 1.29 WHIP with 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings over seven big-league seasons with three teams. He’s proven adept at limiting the long ball, allowing just 28 home runs during his career and no more than nine in a single season.
The Boston Red Sox were finalists for Kahnle’s services before he chose to sign in L.A., according to Robert Murray of FanSided.
ASTROS SERIOUS ABOUT JASON CASTRO
Jason Castro could be heading back to where his career began.
The Houston Astros are in serious talks with the veteran free-agent catcher, according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, who adds a deal could be completed soon.
Drafted 10th overall by the Astros in 2008, Castro played six seasons in Houston through 2016 and earned an All-Star selection in 2013. After leaving the Astros via free agency, Castro signed a three-year, $24.5-million contract with the Minnesota Twins as one of the game’s premier pitch-framing catchers.
The 33-year-old split the 2020 campaign between the Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres, hitting .188/.293/.375 with two homers over 27 games.
Houston currently employs Martin Maldonado as its primary catcher. The 34-year-old former Gold Glove winner hit .215/.350/.378 with six homers and one steal in 47 games last season.
RED SOX SIGN ANDRIESE
The Boston Red Sox added bullpen depth Wednesday by signing right-hander Matt Andriese to a one-year contract, the team announced.
The deal, which contains a club option for 2022, will pay Andriese a guaranteed salary of $2.1 million, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network. His 2022 option will be worth $3.5 million if exercised or can be bought out for $250,000, according to Chris Cotillo of MassLive.
The contract also contains various escalator clauses and performance incentives based on innings pitched, a source told Cotillo. Andriese will max out the contract at $7.35 million if he throws more than 150 innings in both 2021 and 2022.
Andriese became a free agent earlier this month after the Los Angeles Angels non-tendered him. He spent most of 2020 in the Halos’ bullpen, posting a 4.50 ERA and 1.00 WHIP with 33 strikeouts, 11 walks, and two saves across 15 relief appearances and one start (as an opener).
Over six big-league seasons, he owns a 4.57 ERA and 1.30 WHIP while averaging 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings.
Though primarily a reliever in recent years, Andriese has gained experience as a traditional starting pitcher. He’s made 50 career starts, with 36 coming as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays’ rotation during the 2016 and 2017 campaigns.
TIGERS SIGN URENA
The Detroit Tigers and Jose Urena agreed to a one-year, $3.25-million contract, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network.
The deal includes incentives based on games started, with an additional $50,000 being paid out for the 15-game, 18-game, 21-game, 24-game, and 27-game thresholds, Heyman adds.
The right-handed starter was designated for assignment and subsequently released by the Miami Marlins at the end of November after posting a 5.40 ERA and 6.06 FIP in 23 1/3 innings this past season.
Over six seasons in the majors, all with the Marlins, Urena changed roles multiples times, serving as the Opening Day starter twice and acting as the franchise’s closer on other occasions. In 98 starts and 44 relief appearances, Urena owns a career 4.60 ERA with a 32-46 record and four saves.
The 29-year-old joins a wide-open Tigers pitching staff. Currently, Matthew Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Michael Fulmer seem to be the most viable options for the starting rotation.
The Tigers also recently lost prospect Alex Faedo to Tommy John surgery earlier this month. The 25-year-old righty is on the 40-man roster and was likely another option for the rotation.
KUCHEROV TO MISS REGULAR SEASON
Leading playoff scorer Nikita Kucherov is expected to miss the entire regular season because of a hip injury that requires surgery, a blow to the Tampa Bay Lightning that also comes with a silver lining for the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Kucherov won’t be available for the 56-game NHL season that’s scheduled to run from Jan. 13-May 8. General manager Julien BriseBois is optimistic the 27-year-old will be back for the playoffs and said Kucherov’s absence will allow the Lightning the long-term salary relief to be salary-cap compliant with the rest of their key players under contract.
“Those are the cards that we’ve been dealt,” BriseBois said on a video call Wednesday. “It’s our job as a group – players, coaches, management – to get ourselves into the playoffs so that we give Kuch an opportunity to compete this year and help us defend this Stanley Cup championship as we’re chasing another one.”
Kucherov had a postseason-best 27 assists and 34 points despite playing through a groin injury. BriseBois said Kucherov reported discomfort in early December, tried a rehab regimen with a cortisone shot and only decided to have surgery next week after none of that alleviated his pain.
“No one loves playing hockey more than Nikita Kucherov,” BriseBois said. “I know how much it pains him that he will be missing the regular season. I also know how hard he’s going to work to get back as soon as possible.”
Before helping the Lightning win the Cup last season in the bubble, Kucherov won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP in 2018-19, leading the league with 128 points.
Being able to put Kucherov and his $9.5 million cap hit on long-term injured reserve will allow Tampa Bay to re-sign its final key restricted free agent, center Anthony Cirelli. BriseBois said Tampa Bay had the framework of a contract in place with Cirelli, and agent Pat Morris said the sides are working on it.
The Lightning are making the most of the bad injury news by getting other signings done this week. On Tuesday, they re-signed Erik Cernak to an $8.85 million, three-year deal and brought back fellow defenseman Jan Rutta for $2.6 million over two years. On Wednesday, they re-signed forward Mathieu Joseph for $1.475 million over two years and Alex Volkov for $700,000 this season.
“I will still be exploring opportunities to unload some salary and create a little more flexibility for us,” BriseBois said. “But at least as of now I know that worst case we can go into the season, we’re going to be cap compliant, we’ve been able to sign everyone we wanted to have signed and we’re going to be able to ice a really competitive hockey team this year and chase another championship.”
NHL RELEASES NEW SCHEDULE
The Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning will host the Chicago Blackhawks in one of five games to open the NHL’s coronavirus pandemic-shortened 2021 season on Jan. 13.
The league released a first-of-its kind schedule Wednesday featuring four realigned divisions based on geography and limited to division play only. Each team will play 56 regular-season games, which will be squeezed into what’s tentatively scheduled as a 116-day stretch ending on May 8.
It includes an NHL first: An all-Canadian North Division made up the nation’s seven teams will play each other nine or 10 times. The three remaining eight-team divisions have all U.S. teams, which will face each division foe eight times.
Though the playoffs are set to open May 11, that date could be pushed back in the event the league is required to reschedule games amid the pandemic.
Though the schedule is set, much remains undetermined, including game times. A much bigger question is whether the NHL receives approval from Canada’s provincial and federal health officials to allow the nation’s teams to play in their home cities.
The San Jose Sharks, meantime, will open training camp Dec. 31 in Scottsdale, Arizona, and their season with two games at the Coyotes. Like the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers who are closing out their season at Arizona, the Sharks are temporarily without a home after Santa Clara County banned contact sports through at least Jan. 8.
The NHL took into account the possibility of the ban being extended by having the Sharks open with eight straight road games. Their home opener against Vegas isn’t scheduled until Feb. 1.
There are numerous quirks in the schedule, which will feature at least one game a day over an 868-game season, and has teams playing mostly two-game sets against the same opponent in the same city to reduce travel:
– The Sharks have three stretches in which they will play the same opponent four consecutive times, twice at home and twice on the road.
– Vancouver will play three-game home sets against Montreal, Ottawa and Calgary, and a three-game set at Toronto.
– The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks will face each other five consecutive times from April 20 to May 1.
“The back-to-backs are more like baseball,” Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. “You are going to do a lot of prep and then going to have a very good knowledge of where that team is at after you play that first game.”
Geography benefits the eight teams of the realigned East Division, made up of Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington.
The Islanders for example, will close the season playing nine of their final 11 games within the state of New York, with the exception of games at nearby New Jersey and Philadelphia.
In the North, Ottawa has a stretch of 15 games in which the Senators will play 12 at home, with two trips to nearby Montreal and a game at provincial rival Toronto.
On the other hand, the St. Louis Blues, members of the realigned West, have a 12-game stretch in which they will play 10 times in the state of California.
Arizona’s schedule features the Coyotes playing a league-high 10 consecutive home games, though the Coyotes will also play eight straight on the road at one point.
The realigned Central is the NHL’s most wide-spread U.S. division and made up of Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Nashville and Tampa Bay. The schedule features the non-Florida teams doubling up on playing two-game road sets against the Panthers and Lightning on the same trip.
“I think you need to get off to a good start. I think every game is going to be intense,” MacLellan said. “I expect high-intensity games throughout the whole schedule.”
AUTOPSY SHOWS NO SIGN OF DRUGS OR ALCOHOL AT TIME OF MARADONA’S DEATH
Diego Maradona’s autopsy discovered traces of drugs used to treat anxiety and depression, but no illicit drugs or alcohol were in his system at the time of his death, a toxicology report stated, according to ESPN’s Adriana Garcia.
It found that heart failure was the primary cause of death and that there was damage to Maradona’s heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver.
The report is part of an ongoing investigation into possible manslaughter. Around 30 officers raided the office and home of Maradona’s doctor, Dr. Leopoldo Luque, on Nov. 29 to gather potential evidence and establish whether the Argentinian icon received appropriate care after undergoing brain surgery.
Maradona died on Nov. 25 at the age of 60.
The findings prompted one of Maradona’s daughters, Gianinna, to condemn those who suspected he died of an overdose.
“All the motherf—— waiting for my dad’s autopsy to reveal drugs, marijuana, and alcohol,” she wrote on Twitter. “I am not a doctor but I saw him very swollen. That robotic voice. It wasn’t his voice.”
|American Football Conference|
|W||L||T||Pct||GB||PF||PA||Home||Road||vs. Conf||vs. Div||Streak|
|Buffalo Bills||10||3||0||.769||0.0||359||321||6-1-0||4-2-0||7-2-0||4-0-0||3 W|
|Miami Dolphins||8||5||0||.615||2.0||330||245||4-3-0||4-2-0||5-4-0||2-2-0||1 L|
|New England Patriots||6||7||0||.462||4.0||277||279||4-2-0||2-5-0||5-4-0||2-1-0||1 L|
|New York Jets||0||13||0||.000||10.0||183||393||0-7-0||0-6-0||0-10-0||0-5-0||13 L|
|W||L||T||Pct||GB||PF||PA||Home||Road||vs. Conf||vs. Div||Streak|
|xy-Kansas City Chiefs||12||1||0||.923||0.0||403||281||5-1-0||7-0-0||10-1-0||4-1-0||8 W|
|Las Vegas Raiders||7||6||0||.538||5.0||350||391||2-4-0||5-2-0||5-4-0||3-1-0||1 L|
|Denver Broncos||5||8||0||.385||7.0||257||347||2-4-0||3-4-0||4-5-0||1-3-0||1 W|
|Los Angeles Chargers||4||9||0||.308||8.0||297||362||3-4-0||1-5-0||3-6-0||0-3-0||1 W|
|W||L||T||Pct||GB||PF||PA||Home||Road||vs. Conf||vs. Div||Streak|
|x-Pittsburgh Steelers||11||2||0||.846||0.0||349||237||6-1-0||5-1-0||8-1-0||4-0-0||2 L|
|Cleveland Browns||9||4||0||.692||2.0||348||368||5-2-0||4-2-0||6-4-0||2-3-0||1 L|
|Baltimore Ravens||8||5||0||.615||3.0||363||273||3-3-0||5-2-0||5-5-0||3-2-0||2 W|
|Cincinnati Bengals||2||10||1||.192||8.5||244||338||2-4-0||0-6-1||2-7-0||0-4-0||5 L|
|W||L||T||Pct||GB||PF||PA||Home||Road||vs. Conf||vs. Div||Streak|
|Tennessee Titans||9||4||0||.692||0.0||390||336||4-3-0||5-1-0||7-4-0||4-1-0||1 W|
|Indianapolis Colts||9||4||0||.692||0.0||372||300||4-2-0||5-2-0||5-4-0||2-2-0||2 W|
|Houston Texans||4||9||0||.308||5.0||295||359||2-4-0||2-5-0||3-6-0||2-2-0||2 L|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||1||12||0||.077||8.0||261||383||1-6-0||0-6-0||1-9-0||1-4-0||12 L|
|National Football Conference|
|W||L||T||Pct||GB||PF||PA||Home||Road||vs. Conf||vs. Div||Streak|
|Washington Football Team||6||7||0||.462||0.0||287||275||3-3-0||3-4-0||4-5-0||3-2-0||4 W|
|New York Giants||5||8||0||.385||1.0||238||291||2-4-0||3-4-0||4-7-0||3-2-0||1 L|
|Philadelphia Eagles||4||8||1||.346||1.5||277||328||3-3-1||1-5-0||4-5-0||2-2-0||1 W|
|Dallas Cowboys||4||9||0||.308||2.0||298||400||2-4-0||2-5-0||3-6-0||1-3-0||1 W|
|W||L||T||Pct||GB||PF||PA||Home||Road||vs. Conf||vs. Div||Streak|
|Los Angeles Rams||9||4||0||.692||0.0||325||246||5-1-0||4-3-0||8-2-0||2-2-0||2 W|
|Seattle Seahawks||9||4||0||.692||0.0||393||324||6-1-0||3-3-0||6-3-0||2-2-0||1 W|
|Arizona Cardinals||7||6||0||.538||2.0||358||303||3-3-0||4-3-0||5-4-0||2-2-0||1 W|
|San Francisco 49ers||5||8||0||.385||4.0||300||311||1-6-0||4-2-0||3-6-0||2-2-0||2 L|
|W||L||T||Pct||GB||PF||PA||Home||Road||vs. Conf||vs. Div||Streak|
|xy-Green Bay Packers||10||3||0||.769||0.0||410||323||5-1-0||5-2-0||8-2-0||4-1-0||3 W|
|Minnesota Vikings||6||7||0||.462||4.0||333||355||3-4-0||3-3-0||4-5-0||3-1-0||1 L|
|Chicago Bears||6||7||0||.462||4.0||282||291||3-4-0||3-3-0||5-5-0||1-3-0||1 W|
|Detroit Lions||5||8||0||.385||5.0||310||389||1-5-0||4-3-0||4-6-0||1-4-0||1 L|
|W||L||T||Pct||GB||PF||PA||Home||Road||vs. Conf||vs. Div||Streak|
|x-New Orleans Saints||10||3||0||.769||0.0||368||265||5-1-0||5-2-0||8-2-0||5-0-0||1 L|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||8||5||0||.615||2.0||370||294||4-3-0||4-2-0||5-4-0||2-2-0||1 W|
|Atlanta Falcons||4||9||0||.308||6.0||328||322||2-5-0||2-4-0||2-8-0||1-3-0||2 L|
|Carolina Panthers||4||9||0||.308||6.0||307||332||2-5-0||2-4-0||3-6-0||1-4-0||2 L|
X – Clinched Playoff Spot, Y – Clinched Division, Z – Clinched Home Field Advantage
|New York||0||1||.000||1.0||–||0-1||–||0-1||0-1||1 L|
|LA Clippers||1||0||1.000||—||–||1-0||1-0||1-0||1-0||1 W|
|Golden State||0||1||.000||1.0||–||0-1||–||–||0-1||1 L|
|LA Lakers||0||1||.000||1.0||0-1||–||0-1||0-1||0-1||1 L|
|San Antonio||1||0||1.000||—||–||1-0||1-0||1-0||1-0||1 W|
|New Orleans||1||0||1.000||—||–||1-0||–||–||1-0||1 W|