BUFFALO, NY – One of the more important games in Toronto Maple Leafs history, as far as myth-building goes, didn’t actually involve the Maple Leafs.

Or maybe it did. Auston Matthews honestly can’t remember.

Matthews was maybe two or three years old the first time he went to a Phoenix Coyotes game, likely in the 1999-2000 season. “I don't really remember much,” the presumptive No. 1 pick said on the Buffalo waterfront, on the eve of the NHL Draft. “I was so young. I just remember it being extremely loud. I don't really remember who they were playing or what the score was, but I just found it very intriguing, just watching it. I started playing a couple years later and just fell in love with it.”

The rest, of course, we know. He dominated the sport basically everywhere he played, such was his work ethic and overwhelming talent. But growing up in Scottsdale, Ariz., one can easily understand that there wasn't exactly a lot of opportunity to play against his peers. So he played pickup games against just about anyone he could, including players a few years older than him, just to get the ice time.

And like a lot of elite hockey players, that also included traveling all over the country for tournaments against other teams who could at least try to match his level. Interestingly, he says a handful of those tournaments took him to California — a place youth hockey would basically exist only in embryonic stages were it not for expansion to San Jose and Anaheim, or the arrival of Wayne Gretzky in Los Angeles — and Las Vegas, announced this week as the league's latest expansion destination.

Like seeing a Coyotes game as a child was just the push Auston Matthews needed to start down this path, the Las Vegas team could, in a few years, also be the inspiration for one gifted athlete to try hockey rather than become yet another basketball or baseball player coming from that region.

Could that kid from the Southwest, 15 or 20 years from now, be “the next Auston Matthews?”

The chance increases significantly thanks to the expansion effort.

“For them to get a team I think is unbelievable,” Matthews said of Las Vegas. “It's definitely gonna draw a lot more kids into playing hockey [there] and grow the sport even more. I haven't been there in a while, so I don't know [how much available ice they have]. But I remember going down there and they had a couple rinks we'd play our tournaments at, and I'm pretty familiar with them.”

In a way, all this serves to justify the NHL's grand plan to insert itself into markets where the weather is hot, opportunities for ice time are limited in ways that they simply can't be in cooler climates, and the sport just isn't part of the regional conversation.

It's not like Matthews is alone here, either. As Gary Bettman pointed out in the Las Vegas expansion announcement earlier this week, there are plenty of NHL players in the league who were born or raised in these infamous — and in Canada, derided — “non-traditional” hockey markets. You can rattle off the list pretty easily of guys who learned the game in places where hockey, for a long time, barely an also-ran in terms of youth participation.

USA Hockey statistics show that in 1990-91, before the Sharks or Ducks arrived in California or there were Panthers and Lightning in Florida, or Predators in Nashville, the number of hockey players in markets like this was minimal at best, for a lot of reasons. The “Pacific” region (which also includes Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Hawaii) had only about 11,000 enrolled players. The Southeastern region (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.) only had slightly more than 4,400.

This past season, there nearly 47,000 in the Pacific region, an increase of more than 300 percent. And even more stunning, that barely-on-the-radar Southeastern enrollment has jumped more than 1,000 percent, to nearly 49,000. Obviously, that significantly outstrips population growth in those areas over the same period, and it's pretty easy to draw a line between the arrival of NHL teams — and their heavy investment in growing the game in their regions — and increased participation.

“I think it's huge,” Matthews said. “I think you see the kids that are coming out of these areas. Seth Jones from Texas. Matthew Tkachuk was born in Scottsdale, and Jakob Chychrun, another prospect in this draft, is from Florida. I think they've done an unbelievable job in growing the game in these southern areas where people don't really expect you to play hockey. So it's pretty cool to be part of.”

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 23: NHL draft prospect Auston Matthews speaks to the media during the Top Prospects Media Availability as part of the 2016 NHL Draft at the Erie Basin Marina on June 23, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)

Of course, a lot of those kids, like Chychrun and Tkachuk arguably don't count here. Logan Brown, born in North Carolina and raised in the St. Louis area, might count in that regard as well. They were only in places like this because of their dads, who were themselves long-time NHLers. Hockey was quite literally in their blood, and their family tradition. But guys like Matthews, plucked from families more accustomed to playing other sports and into hockey instead simply because it was suddenly available in their areas, are more rare.

This draft is likely to be an historic one for USA Hockey. There could be a dozen US-born players taken in the first round, which would set a record. Go down the list: Matthews, Chychrun, Tkachuk, Brown, Kieffer Bellows, Luke Kunin, Charlie McAvoy, Clayton Keller, Riley Tufte, Tage Thompson, Alex DeBrincat and Max Jones are all in the mix. More will be taken in the second round. And on and on. Lots of them played in places where hockey almost certainly wouldn't be as big if not for NHL expansion.

“You look at all the guys who are projected extremely high from USA Hockey,” Matthews said. “It's a pretty big honor for all of us, I think.”

Because opportunities are still somewhat limited for elite players living in those areas, USA Hockey takes pains to make sure coaches and players in those areas get as much training from hockey lifers as possible. And even at the highest levels of the sport as those kids grow up, learning opportunities are still available, as players from places without winter as we think of it get to mingle with those from regions where you can still get out on the pond in February and get a few hours of free skating in. They play with them and against them in those tournaments, and the National Team Development Program puts the best of the best in close quarters with their peers, regardless of where they're from.

Matthews, of course, is a special case. It's rare that an American-born player goes first overall — he's likely to be seventh ever to get the honor — but USA Hockey has helped to show him the best way forward. When he played in his first World Junior Championships at 17, Matthews was, not coincidentally, assigned Jack Eichel (a Massachusetts native) as a roommate. And he says he learned a lot about how to conduct himself in his draft year as a result.

“It was crazy. Just so hectic,” Matthews said. “So much going on, especially having the tournament in Canada. I think learned a lot. I roomed with Jack and just to see his mentality and how he was handling everything. He was very professional, he was very focused. I remember him shutting off his phone, all his social media and stuff throughout the tournament, just because that's how focused he was.”

Maybe if you're cynical (or, let's be honest, Canadian), you say the expansion in non-traditional markets, where tens of thousands of people now play the game each year, isn't “worth it” for the sport. But as far as USA Hockey is concerned, there's so much value here. Any efforts you can make as a country to grow the player pool from which you're drawing will increase the number of high-quality players you're developing. That's what leads to a future in which more Americans hopefully top the NHL in scoring and win the league's MVP awards.

Matthews, going to the Mecca of the Hockey Universe in Toronto, has a very good chance to one day do the same. He doesn't need to inspire anyone in southern Ontario to get out on the ice. But if he, the Las Vegas expansion team, or any of the existing warm-weather clubs inspire someone else to go out and lace up a pair of skates for the first time, then that's a big win for USA Hockey, and by extension, the hockey world.

“It's been huge. It's really good for them,” Matthews said. “It just shows how well they're doing growing the sport.”

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

--

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY

Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: June 24, 2016, 7:41 pm

Clemson students don't have to worry about paying for good seats at football games in 2016.

The school tabled a proposal that would have charged students if they wanted to sit in the lower level of the stadium. The fee would have been $225 and would guarantee students lower-level seats for the entirety of the season.

Upper-deck tickets would have still been free on a first-come, first-serve basis. The student-body elect told the Charleston Post and Courier at the time of the proposal in April that it was like segregating the stadium based on socioeconomic status.

Mind you, that's kind of what happens when a team charges more for seats with a better view.

[Check out Dr. Saturday on Tumblr for entertaining things you won’t see on the blog]

While they're getting to go to games free in 2016, Clemson students are getting pinched regarding other fees, however. Perhaps some of them would have preferred a football surcharge vs. other ideas? From The State:

Undergraduates from South Carolina will pay an extra 3.14 percent, or $218 on average per semester, while out-of-staters will pay an extra 4.27 percent, or $700 per semester on average. That translates to per semester averages of $7,159 for tuition and student fees for in-staters, and $17,100 for out-of-staters.

Meal plans will rise 4 percent per semester on average, from $1,860 to $1,940, and housing will go up an average of 6 percent, from $2,698 to $2,865.

Clemson opens the season on the road against Auburn. The team's home-opener is against Troy on September 10.

[Visit Dr. Saturday on Facebook for stories you might have missed and chat with the writers]

- - - - - - -

Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @NickBromberg

Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: June 24, 2016, 7:33 pm

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Logan Brown believes it’s unfair to criticize him for not being overly physical or a big, bruising power forward type despite his 6’6, 220 lbs. frame.

“I take a little bit of offense to that. I’m 6’6 and a half, I’m not going to throw on a lot of muscle,” Brown said. “I might not have the legs that the little 5’9 waterbugs have, they’re flying around out there. They don’t get tired. I’m a big guy. It’s just going to take a little bit of time for me to get my legs under me.”

Brown hit the gym more during the second half of this past season with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. The extra time there worked as the centerman ended the year second in scoring on the team with 21 goals and 74 points. The workouts have extended in the off-season after he hooked up with Ottawa Senators strength coach Chris Schwarz.

“I really realized the effect that it has on my game and the way that it helps me,” he said.

While Brown works on bulking up, he doesn’t need to work on his confidence one bit. He describes himself as possessing elite hockey sense, with a knack for creating out on the ice. He added that he can change his game from style to style, whether it’s a grinding one or a speed one.

"He is a kid with unlimited potential, good size, a lot of skill and a high hockey IQ," Spitfires GM Warren Rychel told NHL.com in February. "A player like Logan is hard to find."

Brown put up 12 points in seven games in helping Team USA win gold at the U-18 World Championships in April. That finish helped him end the year ranked as the No. 7 skater in NHL Central Scouting’s rankings, up from 14 on the midseason list. It also has him expected to be selected somewhere between the sixth and tenth overall pick in the draft.

"He's still growing, which is amazing because he's already big as it is," said Dan Marr, head of NHL Central Scouting. "His skating has developed and I just think it will take a little more time for the rest of it to catch up to his body. When he has the confidence and assertiveness to play to his size and play a little more selfishly, then his numbers will rise and good things will begin to happen.”

- - - - - - -

Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY:

Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: June 24, 2016, 7:04 pm

Michigan State's L.J. Scott rushes against Central Michigan's Malik Fountain (31) and Mitch Stanitzek (44). (AP Photo/Al Goldis)A Central Michigan linebacker accused of punching two women was acquitted on all charges on Thursday.

According to the Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun, Malik Fountain, a sophomore for the Chippewas, was facing four misdemeanor assault charges - two counts of assault, one count of aggravated assault and one count of jostling - stemming from an alleged December incident at a bar. He was found not guilty after jury deliberations lasted about an hour.

From the Morning Sun:

In a move never seen before by defense attorney Joseph Barberi, jurors in the Malik Fountain trial filed out of the Isabella County Courthouse Thursday morning and hugged Fountain, his mother, father, girlfriend and brother.

As jurors returned not guilty verdicts for two counts of assault, one count of aggravated assault and one count of jostling, Fountain’s parents, Dion Fountain and Pamela Randle, and other relatives, quietly wiped tears from their eyes following Judge Eric Janes’ caution to the gallery to remain calm.

Per CMU’s student newspaper, one of the women involved in the incident told police a black man tried to dance with her, but she declined. She said the man punched her friend in the eye and also punched her in the nose, resulting in a broken bone.

[Check out Dr. Saturday on Tumblr for entertaining things you won’t see on the blog]

The woman picked Fountain out to police by viewing his photo on CMU’s football roster. Fountain maintained his innocence throughout the legal proceedings.

“I’m not the person they claimed I was,” Fountain said Thursday outside the courthouse. “There’s no way I would do something like this.”

Fountain has been indefinitely suspended from the program since his arrest. His status is unchanged as of now while the program “continues to evaluate this situation,” an athletic department spokesman told the Morning Sun.

After redshirting in 2014, Fountain was third on the team with 67 tackles in 2015. He also had 4.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. 

[Visit Dr. Saturday on Facebook for stories you might have missed and chat with the writers]

For more Central Michigan news, visit ChippewaCountry.com.

- - - - - - -

Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @SamDCooper

Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: June 24, 2016, 6:42 pm

In our opinion, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman had it right earlier this month when he told a Seattle radio station the NFL's billionaire owners should pay for new stadiums out of their own pockets, instead of making taxpayers foot the bill, affecting the ability to handle more pressing municipal needs.

But Sherman's message apparently hasn't made it to Las Vegas.

Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the 15th richest person in America with an estimated net worth of $26 billion, has proposed that Las Vegas build a domed stadium to woo the Oakland Raiders to Sin City. Under Adelson's plan, the building would be funded using $750 million in municipal bonds. 

That's a staggering number. 

Think about how many schools could be built, how many roads could be improved, how many far more important things than building a giant stadium could be done with three-quarters of a billion dollars. Here's an idea - if Sheldon Adelson wants the Raiders in Las Vegas so badly, why doesn't he ante up the money (see what we did there?) for the place? 

But we digress. According to Bloomberg, if Las Vegas puts up $750 million (the money would be raised by increasing the tax on hotel room stays), it will set a sad new record for the most money a municipality gave toward stadium construction. Indianapolis subsidized Lucas Oil Stadium to the tune of $620 million.

An economic advisor to Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has suggested that the public contribution be a mere $500 million, with $900 million coming from the private sector.

Oakland lawmakers have refused to pay any money toward a new stadium to keep the Raiders in the city. 

Author: Shalise Manza Young
Posted: June 24, 2016, 6:39 pm

Manny Machado returns Friday night to a Baltimore lineup that is pounding home runs and has the surprising Orioles in first place in the American League East Division with the All-Star break just around the corner.

Machado served a four-game suspension for charging the mound earlier this month in a game against Kansas City after being hit by a 99mph pitch by Yordano Ventura. Machado punched Ventura before both players went to the ground and were eventually separated.

Baltimore went 2-2 with Machado out of the lineup and holds a 1.5-game lead over Boston in the division with Tampa Bay, the last-place team in the division, in town for a four-game series.

You can watch Baltimore try to widen its lead in the division in Yahoo Sports' MLB Free Game of the Day. The game, which starts at 7:05 p.m. ET, can be streamed on Yahoo's Sports Home, MLB index, video home and right here in the story you’re reading. Local blackouts apply.

Machado is one of the best young players in the game and his bat has been invaluable to the Orioles’ success in the first half of the season. He is hitting .317 with 17 home runs and 42 RBI. The Orioles haven’t been lacking power without Machado the past four games. This team leads all of baseball with 111 home runs so far this season, but getting Machado’s bat back makes Baltimore even more formidable, especially for a starting pitcher like Tampa Bay’s scheduled starter Matt Moore, who has surrendered 15 home runs in 14 starts this season.

The Rays come into this one looking a bit desperate, having lost seven straight and struggling with inconsistent pitching all season. But the Rays also are a power-hitting club, ranked fourth in MLB with 100 home runs to this point. There could be a lot of balls flying out of Camden Yards this weekend.

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

- - - - - - -

Kyle Ringo is a contributing writer to Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KyleRingo

Author: Kyle Ringo
Posted: June 24, 2016, 6:23 pm

The Yahoo Fantasy Baseball '16 season is nearing the halfway point of the season. As we cross over into the official summer starting line, the Yahoo pundits (Brandon Funston, Scott Pianowski and Dalton Del Don) take a look at the the movers and shakers on the waiver wire that should pique the interest of fantasy owners. Let's get to it ...

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Baseball contest now]

Top 5 hitters owned in 50 percent of leagues or less to target right now
Brandon Funston
Dalton Del Don
Scott Pianowski
1. Devon Travis, Tor -  Has caught fire in past 9 games (.400 BA, 2 HR, 9 RBI), leading to a promotion to the leadoff spot
1. David Peralta, Ari - Back on the DL, but Peralta is still a player who had an .893 OPS in '15 with a bunch of upside when healthy
1.Derek Norris, SD — Bat has woken up; .881 OPS in June 

2. Melvin Upton Jr, SD In a class of 11 players w/ 9+ HRs and SBs, and he's been a top 15 roto bat over the past two weeks
2. Joe Panik, SF - He's a middle infielder on pace to finish with 94 runs scored, 15 homers, 79 RBI and 11 steals
2. Didi Gregorius, NYY — Known as a glove man, but consider this last month: .323-14-3-17-2; on pace for 14 homers, 73 RBIs
3. Leonys Martin, SeaAlso one of just 11 players w/ 9+ HRs and SBs, and he has at least 50 fewer ABs than any of the others because of a DL stint

3. Cameron Maybin, Det - He's batting .339 with eight steals over 32 games since returning to action

3. Joe Panik, SF — Slots second for underrated Giants offense; 21 runs and 17 RBIs over last month

4.  Danny Espinosa, Was Has 10 HRs since May 26 (2nd-most in MLB) and eligible at every infield position save Catcher

4. Brandon Moss, Stl - He's hitting .273/.366/.697 against right-handers, making him a must use in DFS and daily transaction leagues against RHP

4. Whit Merrified, KC — John Hughes made him up, but Ferris Bueller can’t play every day 


5. Brandon Moss, StLHe crushes righties (all 16 HRs vs. RHP) - in daily transaction leagues, teaming him w/ a bat that kills southpaws would yield elite returns
5. Melvin Upton Jr, SD - It remains bizarre someone on pace to finish with 20 homers and 35 steals is still available in so many leagues
5. Melvin Upton Jr, SD — On pace for 20 steals, 35 RBIs, along with a passable average 


   

Top 5 pitchers owned in 50 percent of leagues or less to target right now
Brandon Funston
Dalton Del Don
Scott Pianowski
1. Jerad Eickhoff, Phi -  Top 20 in Quality Starts (10) and owns a 2.01 ERA in 5 June starts 1. Wei-Yin Chen, Fla - All signs point to him being much better moving forward 1. James Paxton, Sea — He will break your radar gun; another post-hype story makes good
2. James Paxton, Sea -  Throws effortlessly in the upper 90s - health and consistency always threaten, but talent stands out 2. Shawn Kelley, Was - Owns a 12.65 K/9 rate and is the current closer for the Nationals 2. Jerad Eickhoff, Phi — Probably not a six-month story, but curve is divine and he’s held up a second time around league
3. Shawn Kelley, Was -  Great ratios and K rate in set-up role, and interim closer opportunity has another 3 weeks of run time

3. Danny Duffy, KC - He has a 23.1 K-BB% and is starting now (that would rank No. 6 overall among starters)

3. Mike Leake, Stl — Took a while to settle in, but he’s been good for six weeks, with better strikeout numbers than you might think
4.  Seung Hwan Oh, StL -  Among RPs (min. 30 IP) ranks top 8 in Ks, ERA and WHIP 4. James Paxton, Sea - He's now throwing 98 mph and has a ton of upside 4. Danny Duffy, KC — Much like Paxton, a post-hype lefty with a silly fastball  
5. Tony Cingrani, Cin - Has closed out 5 of past 6 for Cincy and should have at least a few more weeks before Iglesias moves in on the territory 5. Blake Snell, TB - One of the brighter pitching prospects is now up for Tampa Bay. His ownership should be much higher
5. Zach Davies, Mil — Hard to know how real it is, but strikeout rate is good and he’s starting to work deeper into games 

   

Top 5 hitters owned in 15 percent of leagues or less to target right now
Brandon Funston
Dalton Del Don
Scott Pianowski
1. Steven Moya, Det -  High K, low BB guy, but looks like Darryl Strawberry and had 13 HRs in 50 Triple-A games (and already 3 HRs in 15 MLB games)
1. Angel Pagan, SF - He remains an injury risk but is well worth using when on the field 1. Steven Moya, Det — Fills out uniform nicely and sure to conk some homers while J.D. Martinez is out

2. A.J. Reed, Hou - You know me, always stumping for a Reed promotion - finally starting to push that envelope in Triple-A - .372, 3 HRs in past 10 games 2. Nick Hundley, Col - He's back healthy now and hit .355/.393/.563 at Coors Field last season
2. Nick Hundley, Col — Catcher is an ugly position, so why not take some Colorado hacks? 

3. Marwin Gonzalez, Hou — Ultimate utility knife has been hot in June, leading to a cushy spot in the order between Altuve and Springer

3. Chase Utley, LAD - Has a .371 OBP against right-handers and often hits leadoff for the Dodgers

3. Marwin Gonzalez, Hou — Play him anywhere but pitcher and catcher; on pace for 11 homers and 18 steals despite modest playing time
4. Peter O' Brien, Ari -  Huge HR upside (4 HRs in 10 games) who, while likely to remain a BA liability, should come up quite a bit from his current .171 mark 4. Pedro Alvarez, Bal - He has six homers (and a 1.032 OPS) over 51 at bats in June
4. Mark Reynolds, Col — Three positions, buoyed by the thin air 

 
5. Max Kepler, Min — Fan of his minor-league profile - currently riding tidy nine-game hit streak 5. Ryan Rua, Tex - For those in daily leagues, here's someone widely available with a .396/.476/.642 line against southpaws this season 5. Pedro Alvarez, Bal — Finally getting his swing tuned up; .314/.345/.686 in June, six homers 

   

Top 5 pitchers owned in 15 percent of leagues or less to target right now
Brandon Funston
Dalton Del Don
Scott Pianowski
1. Alex Cobb, TB -  In deeper leagues, I'd be looking to slide him into a DL spot about now as he's targeted for late July return 1. Hector Neris, Phi - Depends on format, but 48 Ks over 38.1 innings (with a 1.07 WHIP) sure are valuable in cap leagues 1. Lucas Giolito, Was — After a slow start, he’s been electric of late 

2. Tom Koehler, Mia — Has a 2.59 ERA over his past 9 starts - has allowed more than 3 ER in only 2 of his 14 starts this season 2. Daniel Hudson, Ari - It's tough coming up with options here, and he has a 1.55 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP 2. Kevin Siegrist, Stl — No one trusts Trevor Rosenthal at this point
3. Junior Guerra, Mil - I thinkj he's the definition of serviceable - always around a Quality Start with decent K rate and ratios

3. Joe Smith, LAA - If you have a DL spot, he's worth stashing given Huston Street's performance

3. Tom Koehler, Mia — ERA doesn’t match the WHIP, but team is solid and the strikeouts are sneaky
4.  Joe Blanton, LAD - Hey, don't laugh: Bazooka Joe has the 2nd-best WHIP among RPs (min. 30 IP) behind only Andrew Miller 4. Alex Reyes, Stl - Fantasy owners will be running to the waiver wire when he's called up
4. Addison Reed, NYM — He’s been a consistent reliever ever since he joined the Mets (2.46 ERA, 1.02 WHIP)
5. Jake Diekman, Tex -  Texas gets tons of save opportunities, so Diekman sits in a good spot to continue to vulture some saves when Dyson needs a break 5. Matt Wisler, Atl - There's some upside here, albeit not much when it comes to wins
5. Ryan Buchter, SD — The second in command for the Padres; Rodney could be a July trade piece 

   

Top 5 mid-season fantasy MVPs (based on ADP) at each infield position (C/1B/2B/3B/SS)
Brandon Funston
Dalton Del Don
Scott Pianowski
C Wilson Ramos, Was - Who else could it be? Top roto catcher was draft-day afterthought (picked in just 27% of Y! leagues) C Wilson Ramos, Was - He's a top-100 player at a position with no other as such. Batting .330, Ramos has been a huge value for those who drafted him C Wilson Ramos, Was — Got his eyes fixed, body has help up, everything else is groovy


1B David Ortiz, Bos - Based on ADP, Wil Myers should get nod, but gotta tip the cap to Big Papi, who was also a draft-day steal, enjoying one of his greatest seasons at age 40 1B Wil Myers, SD - His preseason rank was No. 239, and he's been the No. 2 fantasy first baseman so far in 2016

1B Wil Myers, SD — It’s always been a matter of staying healthy, though a fairer Petco also boosts the cause


2B Daniel Murphy, Was -  No. 4 roto 2B was taken No. 12 at position in preseason ADP - since '15 AS break, hitting .317 with 27 HR, 100 RBI and 91 R (148 games, counting playoffs)

2B Daniel Murphy, Was -  He was a bargain at draft tables and leads the NL with a .347 batting average

2B Daniel Murphy, Was — Lots of make-goods at the keystone; Murphy’s breakout year was foreshadowed during 2015 playoffs 

3B Jake Lamb, Ari - Could have picked him up on waivers in almost any league after 1st month of the season - only Kris Bryant has been better at 3B in roto since then 3B Eduardo Nunez, Min - Talk about someone coming out of nowhere 3B Nick Castellanos, Det — BABIP can’t stay afloat all year, though hard contact is up and he does have some pedigree 


SS Ian Desmond, Tex - Could go with Story or Villar here, but Desmond has long been a roto Rodney Dangerfield - he needs some love for his top 5 overall 1st-half fantasy finish SS Jonathan Villar, Mil - He's on pace to finish with 14 homers and 56 steals
SS Trevor Story, Col — Strikeout rate is still worrisome and he’s not running a lot, but he can hit the ball out of any ballpark, to any field as well 
Author: Brandon Funston
Posted: June 24, 2016, 6:21 pm

Keith Yandle had planned to go to July 1 and see where he stacked up in the unrestricted free agent market. It was going to be tough for the salary cap strapped New York Rangers to re-sign him and Yandle was curious to find out which teams wanted his services.

Then at the beginning of this week the Florida Panthers swooped in and acquired his negotiating rights and Yandle’s outlook changed.

On Friday the team announced it had signed Yandle four seven years at $44.5 million. This came to a salary cap hit of around $6.35 million per-year. The hope is Yandle adds a puck-moving element to the team’s blueline and helps its power play.

Yandle’s prior contract was for $26.25 million over the span of five years.

 “When they traded for my rights here and I learned how committed they are to winning and how committed they are to getting better and you learn more about their group. Playing against them you know how good they are,” Yandle said on a Friday conference call with reporters. “I put myself in a good situation where you can win and have fun doing it. Seems like a great group of guys here and it’s going to be a lot of fun.” 

In March of 2015, the New York Rangers acquired Yandle from the Arizona Coyotes with Chris Summers for a package that included young forward Anthony Duclair, a 2016 first-round draft pick and a 2015 second-round pick.

The 29-year-old Yandle had 47 points in 82 games last season. According to Naturalstattrick, Yandle posted a 51.02 score and venue adjusted 5-on-5 CF%. He also held a plus-4.84 score and venue adjusted 5-on-5 CF% relative to the rest of his team.

The Panthers acquired therights to Yandle for a sixth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. The Rangers will now receive a 2017 fourth-round pick because Yandle signed his deal. 

Yandle finished tied for the Rangers’ lead with 22 power play points. Aleksander Barkov was the Panthers’ leading power play points producer with 16. Florida’s power play ranked 23rd in the NHL at 16.9 percent.

Both Yandle and Florida believe he can be a real boost to this part of their game.

“It’s a big part of the game now. Special teams you can win or lose games,” Yandle said. “I take pride in helping out on the power play.”

Yandle said he was also enticed by the prospect of playing with young defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

The two could be a natural pair since Yandle plays the left side and the 20-year-old Ekblad plays the right side. 

“That was a huge thing with talking with the brass here. The opportunity to play with a guy like Ekblad. I see him winning multiple, multiple Norris Trophies,” Yandle said. “To have the opportunity to play with a young talent like that is one of those thing you don’t get to do too many times in your career. Getting to play with him definitely helped my decision to come to the Panthers.”

Signing Yandle gives the Panthers 40 contracts for next season at $57,441,665 according to General Fanager.

Florida will now likely turn their attention to pending restricted free agent Vincent Trocheck, who is likely due a raise off his entry-level contract. Trocheck scored 25 goals last season. Florida would also like to give Ekblad a long-term contract extension before his entry-level contract ends after this upcoming season. They can sign Ekblad after July 1.   

The team has said it wants to re-sign veteran defenseman Brian Campbell, but he Chicago Tribune reported Campbell has interest in signing with the Chicago Blackhawks

 MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY

- - - - - - -

Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: June 24, 2016, 6:05 pm

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Jakob Chychrun is at peace with the fact that he may not be taken where he believes he should go in this weekend’s NHL Draft. 

A projected first-round pick, the 6-2, 205 lbs. defenseman slipped from the No. 2 to No. 4 North American skater in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings. A knock like that used to bother Chychrun, but not any more.

After undergoing shoulder surgery at the end of his first OHL season in 2014-15, Chychrun bounced back with 11 goals and 49 points in 62 games, helping the Sarnia Sting to a division title.

Chychrun enters this year’s NHL Draft with a hockey pedigree. His dad, Jeff, played 262 games in the league. His uncle, Luke Richardson, racked up 1,417 games in The Show. His best friend’s father, Jeff Brown, suited up 747 times with seven NHL teams.

It’s safe to say Chychrun is fully prepared to make this transition from junior hockey to pro with all the resources he’s been surrounded with. It also helps that his dad was a fellow bruising defenseman back in his day.

“We both understand how tough it is for a young defenseman to play in the National Hockey League. But he believes if anyone can do it it’s me,” said Chychrun. “He’s really installed a work ethic in me that I have such a passion for this game. I want to be something special. I want to be something different. I work so hard at my craft, at my game, at the end of the day I believe in myself and I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to fight for a spot come camp." 

Jakob Chychrun was born four years after Jeff retired, but he’s seen the YouTube videos of his fights and all three of his career goals in the NHL. He’s also heard the stories of playing with the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. In helping to develop his son into an elite draft prospect while coaching him, Jeff instilled a mindset into Jakob about never being scared to try things on the ice. That helped his son fall in love with the game.

Who will call Chychrun’s name Friday night? It’s anyone’s guess. After the likely top three picks of Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujärvi, trades could shake up the expected direction of the draft. Our own Ryan Lambert has the Boca Raton, Florida native going seventh. Jeff Marek’s mock draft puts him 10th. TSN’s Craig Button sees him landing at No. 12.

What will the team who does select Chychrun get? This is what he says:

“A guy that’s ready for the National Hockey League; a good two-way defenseman, a mature, hard-working young man, leader. I want to step in a make an impact right away. I want to be a two-way defenseman. I know how tough it is for young defensemen to play in the National Hockey League and I want to show them I can defend and contribute offensively.”

NHL Central Scouting describes Chychrun as “A complete defenseman with the size, strength, speed and puck skills for today’s NHL. Chychrun is an excellent transitional skater who possesses high-end hockey sense, passing ability, a powerful shot and the poise to make plays under pressure. He plays a solid two-way game displaying quick offensive instincts, is responsible defensively and rarely out of position.”

Chychrun also added he feels his skating ability will translate best to the NHL game, along with his hockey sense. “I like to think a few steps ahead, always be aware of the situations -- who I’m out with, who I’m against,” he said.

As nerve-wracking as the entire NHL Draft process can be, Chychrun’s been able to experience it all with his best friend and fellow top prospect Logan Brown. Their dads were selected one pick apart in the 1984 draft and came up through the Napean Minor Hockey Association together. The kids would hang out together every summer and it was always all about hockey for them.

So excited for these boys who continue to share their love of hockey since Day 1! #grateful #proud #brothersforever pic.twitter.com/GTdpXzihb0

— Nancy Chychrun (@7mammachych_98) June 1, 2016

After all those years, their dreams are about to become a reality.

“This is kind of a moment we’ve been talking about since we could remember, since we were toddlers, really,” Chychrun said. “It seems like every hour it’s sinking in more. tomorrow’s the big day. I’ll try to get some sleep tonight and try to really enjoy the moment tomorrow and then looking forward to it being over. It was a long year -- lots of hype around this draft year. Looking forward to just being able to know where I’m going and focus on what’s to come.”

- - - - - - -

Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY:

Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: June 24, 2016, 6:03 pm

UConn coach Bob Diaco can make you some presidential pasta.

The coach says he has former President John F. Kennedy's recipe for fettuccine alfredo. Diaco explained how he obtained the recipe in a lengthy Q&A with Sports Illustrated.

It's not mine. And I wasn't there, but the person that told me was one of the greatest, finest men I had met in my life. Jim Hayes, who's a world-renowned lawyer, is a great, great friend. He went to Loras College, a small Jesuit school in Iowa and was president of student body. When JFK was campaigning, doing the Iowa caucus, he did a speech at Loras College. All the finite details, I'm not sure of. But the speech ended and Jim, JFK, the monsignor of the school and another priest find themselves hungry. And there's no place to eat, but they do have access to the cafeteria. JFK says, "You know? How about I cook you guys my Fettuccine Alfredo recipe?" Jim Hayes is taking diligent notes of this moment, and then he taught me.

An Italian kid from Essex County, N.J., all I ever consumed was Italian food. You figure I'll get my fettuccine recipe second-generation from JFK.

Diaco wasn't too revealing with the secrets to the pasta, but did reveal one of the tricks to the secret recipe. If anyone else has any ideas as to what it could be, please let us know because who wouldn't want to recreate a president's pasta recipe?

[Check out Dr. Saturday on Tumblr for entertaining things you won’t see on the blog]

There's a couple of things, but I think the main thing to talk about is the Alfredo is made and put together and built structurally with the pasta. You make an Alfredo, you boil the pasta and you incorporate the two. Even if you incorporate the two in a pan rather than pour it into a bowl, it's still separate. This Alfredo is entirely built as the pasta finishes cooking. So, they kind of really cook together. There's one other ingredient that I'll have to leave as a secret.

We also have an idea for UConn's success in 2016. Diaco should cook the pasta for all visiting teams to UConn this season for their pregame meal. They'll likely love the fettuccine so much on Friday night and eat too much. Then on game day, the calories and cream sauce would make them sluggish.

 

[Visit Dr. Saturday on Facebook for stories you might have missed and chat with the writers]

- - - - - - -

Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @NickBromberg

Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: June 24, 2016, 6:03 pm

Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com.

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 23: William Nylander (L) drafted in 2015 by the Toronto Maple Leafs interviews his brother NHL draft prospect Alexander Nylander during the Top Prospects Media Availability as part of the 2016 NHL Draft at the Erie Basin Marina on June 23, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

• We think we've found the Nylander family Christmas card this year. Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander interviews draft prospect (and brother) Alexander. [Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images]

• A longstanding dispute between owners of the Nashville Predators spilled into state court Thursday when co-owner David Freeman filed a $250 million lawsuit against the hockey franchise and Chairman Tom Cigarran for not informing him about financial statements and failing to honor loan guaranty fees he says are owed to him. [The Tennessean]

• Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray is the belle of the ball as he looks to drastically improve his team with big moves at the draft and in free agency. [Buffalo News]

• Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen says he's listened to at least 10 offers for the third overall pick in the draft. He's open to trading it away. [Blue Jackets Xtra]

• Per Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning the team has targeted a top defenseman on their draft board. [Canucks Army]

• "Anatomy of a draft steal: Most of the players taken on Day 2 of the NHL Entry Draft will never make an impact. But sometimes, if you look in the right places, you can find a major talent. Just ask the Dallas Stars." [Sportsnet]

• In 1985, while playing for the Czechoslovakian national team in West Germany, the Detroit Red Wings helped Petr Klima defect and play in the NHL. He hopes his 19-year-old twin sons have learned from his journey as they prepare to be drafted. [ESPN]

• “A lot of credit goes to my mother for making the jump and moving provinces,” said Evan Fitzpatrick of the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix, the No.1-rated North American goaltender per NHL Central Scouting. [Buzzing the Net]

• Draft and trade predictions for the Los Angeles Kings at this year's draft. [Mayor's Manor]

• Jordie Benn, brother of Jamie, will be a Dallas Star for the next three years. His contract is expected to average $1.1-million per year. [TSN]

• Radko Gudas signs four year, $13.4-million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. Don't expect the team to make any big free agent signings this offseason. [Philly.com]

• The Florida Panthers acquired Reto Berra from the Colorado Avalanche for Rocco Grimaldi. [Panthers]

• Plans for the Minnesota Wild to buyout Thomas Vanek aren't cemented. The idea is still 'under consideration.' [Star Tribune]

• What kind of owner will Bill Foley be? Think a mix Mark Cuban and Ed Snyder. [Las Vegas Review-Journal]

• Professional poker player Daniel Negreanu disagrees with FiveThiryEight's Nate Silver and his assessment that an NHL team in Las Vegas can't succeed. [Poker Listings]

• The NHL is a copycat league. If the Boston Bruins want to play the uptempo, speed game they don't have the roster right now to do it. [Boston Herald]

• How much would it cost the New York Islanders to dump the contract of Mikhail Grabovski? [Eyes on Isles]

• Can't believe it's been 25 years since Eric Lindros was taken first overall. Knowing what we know now, here's a reimagining of the 1991 draft class. [Puck Junk]

• Photo essay of the first NWHL free agent camp held earlier in June in New Jersey. [Today's Slapshot]

• Finally, reliving the 1985 draft back when Toronto had the first overall pick as they do today.

- - - - - - -

Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY:

Author: Jen Neale
Posted: June 24, 2016, 5:55 pm

More than six months after five current and now-former NFL players were named in an Al-Jazeera America report linking them to performance-enhancing drug use, at least four will be interviewed by the league next month.

According to a report by USA Today's Tom Pelissero, the NFL has notified the NFL Players' Association that it will conduct interviews with Green Bay Packers Clay Matthews III and Julius Peppers, and the Pittsburgh Steelers' James Harrison on the first day of their respective training camps.

The Packers are scheduled to hold their first practice of camp on July 26, and the Steelers set to open July 29.

Additionally, free agent linebacker Mike Neal, a former Packer, will be interviewed on or before July 22.

However, the "strongly worded" (according to Pelissero) letter from Adolpho Birch, NFL vice president of labor policy and league affairs, to NFLPA counsel Heather McPhee makes no mention of Peyton Manning, the most prominent player named in the Al-Jazeera report.

Manning recently retired and is no longer a member of the union; citing a source, Pelissero reports that investigation is progressing.

Birch's letter to the NFLPA reads:

“On January 11, 2016, the league notified Messrs. Peppers, Neal, Matthews and Harrison that it had initiated an investigation following the airing of the Al-Jazeera America documentary, which raised serious issues concerning their possible violation of the NFL/NFLPA Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances. The players were further advised that, with their full and timely cooperation, the investigation would be conducted expeditiously and with minimal disruption.


“While the investigation has proceeded, we have yet to interview the players.  We have attempted since early April to work through the NFLPA to schedule them, but despite multiple requests the NFLPA has failed to respond, except to seek reconsideration of the basis for the investigation.  This continuing delay and avoidance has obstructed our ability to conduct and conclude the investigation.


“In fairness to all, including the players involved, we must move forward with the interviews.  Accordingly, this will advise that the interviews of Messrs. Peppers, Matthews and Harrison will be scheduled for the first day of their respective training camps, and the interview of Mr. Neal (free agent) will take place on or before July 22.  The players will be advised of the specific scheduling details by separate correspondence on which the NFLPA will be copied, and of course an NFLPA representative may attend each interview should the player so request.”

The AJA documentary featured Charlie Sly, a former intern at an anti-aging clinic, telling a reporter wearing a hidden camera about players in the NFL and Major League Baseball he had worked with, providing them with performance-enhancers. Sly has since recanted his statements.

According to Sly, Manning and his wife received human growth hormone, or HGH.

There is no word on why it has taken the NFL so long to get around to interviewing the players.

Author: Shalise Manza Young
Posted: June 24, 2016, 5:47 pm

Steve Young, left, with his agent Leigh Steinberg after signing with the USFL's Los Angeles Express (AP)This offseason, Shutdown Corner will travel down memory lane with a series of stories presenting some interesting and sometimes forgotten stories from the NFL's past. Join us as we relive some of the greatest and craziest moments in the sport's history.

A $42 million pro football contract barely causes a ripple anymore. In 1984? Steve Young's deal that brought him to the USFL was a tsunami.

Oh, and the deal was for 43 years. Yeah, it was a memorable one.

The historic contract and the story behind how it got signed, from Young’s agent Leigh Steinberg, sum up the USFL’s existence in general: fun, different and a little insane.

First things first: Young’s contract with the Los Angeles Express never came close to paying $42 million or spanning 43 years. There are conflicting reports on how much the contract was supposed to be worth; most say the deal was $40 million though Steinberg remembers it being about $42 million in total. The numbers in the deal weren’t necessarily exaggerated, but it wasn't exactly all guaranteed money either (this is apparently a never-ending theme with football contracts). The many years and millions tacked on the end were in the form of an annuity. But when it came time for Young to fund the annuity, he decided to get whatever money he could out of the failing league before it disappeared.

So no, Young won’t still be getting paid on that contract in 2026. He made a reported $4.8 million total from the deal.

Even though the contract was a fraction of what it was supposed to be, it still lives on in football lore. So does the story of how it got signed.

[Yahoo Fantasy Football is open for the 2016 season. Sign up now]

Young was a star at BYU but didn’t want to play in the USFL. It’s not like he grew up rooting for the Express or the Philadelphia Stars or Chicago Blitz.

“Steve grew up with a poster of Roger Staubach over his bed,” Steinberg said. “He wanted to play in the NFL.”

But the USFL wasn’t shy about bidding against the NFL for star college talent. And Express general manager Don Klosterman also tried selling Young on how he'd develop as a player with the Express. The Express had John Hadl, a former Pro Bowl quarterback, as their new coach. Legendary offensive guru Sid Gillman was working as a consultant with the team. The Express was signing other talented players on offense, including future Hall-of-Fame left tackle Gary Zimmerman.

The Express also knew Young had interest in law school. Klosterman played at Loyola and said he could help get Young into law school there. The Express went all out to convince Young to come to the USFL.

Steve Young with the Los Angeles Express (AP)Then there was the money. Steinberg went to Klosterman’s home overlooking Los Angeles to negotiate. At that time Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, the first pick in the 1983 NFL draft, was making a little less than a million a year. The Express offered Young more than Elway was getting. And they just kept offering more.

“They kept increasing the offer,” Steinberg said. “So it was easy enough to just say no.”

When the offer got to a certain point and it was going to cost a fortune in taxes for Young, Steinberg wanted to get creative. Did they ever.

Steinberg said the deal was for $5 million over the first four years, with a $37 million annuity bringing the total value to about $42 million in total. The Cincinnati Bengals had the top pick in the NFL draft. They were reportedly offering about $3.5 million. Steinberg called Mike Brown, then the Bengals assistant general manager, and told him about the Express’ offer.

“I said, ‘Here’s where we’re at financially, would you have any interest in matching this?’” Steinberg said. “He said, ‘Yes, if I discover an oil field under our practice facility.’”

The Bengals were out. And in the early morning hours Klosterman and Steinberg agreed to the basic framework of a historic deal.

And that was just the start of the madness.

Steinberg flew up to San Francisco to meet with Express owner J. William Oldenburg at his offices and execute the deal. As you can imagine, it takes time to actually put together a 43-year, $42 million contract. As you can imagine, if you know much about the USFL’s sometimes laughable history, the Express’ executives hadn’t prepared any of it before Steinberg arrived.

Oldenburg is a colorful figure in USFL history. He was known to fly off the handle. He was seen, for lack of a better term, as a crazy man.

"He was," said Chris Dufresne, who covered the Express for the Los Angeles Times. "We were kept at arm's length from him most of the time. He was this short guy with a bulbous nose and a red face, and we'd hear him during games pounding his fist and yelling. He'd be running around like Yosemite Sam, with smoke coming out of his ears."

By the time Young had finished his rookie season with the Express, Oldenburg was outed as a fraud who didn’t have nearly as much money as he said. He went under federal investigation for alleged business irregularities and the USFL took over the team. The Epxpress didn’t have an owner the entire 1985 season, the last season before the USFL folded.

But in early March of 1984, Oldenburg was in charge of the Express. And as Young's massive contract was written up, it wasn’t getting done quick enough for Oldenburg.

“He got progressively angrier,” Steinberg said. “And he had more adult beverages.”

At one point Oldenburg started yelling at Young, asking if the holdup was over guarantees.

“’He says, ‘Here’s all the effing guarantees you need,’ and he started throwing $100 bills on the floor,’” Steinberg said.

“He points at me, ‘Is it more money you want? Money’s the problem?’ And he takes a wad of $100s out of his pocket and throws them at me,” Young said in the ESPN documentary “Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?” “And I’m like, ‘Well, it doesn’t hurt, I have nothing right now.’ So I’m kind of quietly picking it up.”

The hours passed. Oldenburg kept having drinks in his private office, Steinberg said, while the lawyers wrote up the contract.

“It’s 2 a.m. He’s now really furious,” Steinberg said. “He says ‘I want to see Steve and Leigh in my office now.’

“We go up to his private office. And he’s yelling at Steve. And poking Steve.”

Oldenburg punctuated all of the things he was giving Young in the deal with a poke to the chest.

“Poke, poke, poke,” Steinberg said. “Steve finally says, ‘Mr. Oldenburg, I’ve never done this, but if you poke me one more time in the chest, I’ll deck you.'"

Young with Express owner J. William Oldenburg (AP)That didn’t exactly calm Oldenburg down. Steinberg said Oldenburg stepped away, still enraged, and grabbed a chair like he was going to throw it out the window.

“We’re up 40 floors. Steve grabbed his arm and stopped him,” Steinberg said. “I’m like, wow, is this really happening?”

That was the scene as one of the most famous contracts in sports history was signed.

Meanwhile, Dufresne was reporting on the story for the L.A. Times. The USFL being what it was, Dufresne was a young reporter asked to cover the Express and UC-Irvine basketball, because the Times didn't want to put an older reporter on an Express beat they didn't really want to cover. So in between filing a UC-Irvine basketball story, Dufresne was in the sports information office at Irvine reporting on Young's historic deal. And his editors weren't excited about the story.

"They almost laughed in my face, for good reason. They were skeptical to say the least," Dufresne said. "There was a sense we were getting played for publicity, and you know what? It was formulated to announce a huge number. A lot of it was smoke and mirrors. But the actual dollar amount was still big money."

After Oldenburg's blowup in his office, everyone broke to get some sleep. Oldenburg apologized to Young. And in this time, Steinberg said, Young started getting phone calls as word started getting out that Young was close to signing with the USFL. Howard Cosell called to lobby him to come to the NFL. The next call was from NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle. Joe Namath and Staubach called.

“It goes on and on and on,” Steinberg said.

But the deal got done. Young became a member of the Express. The contract was officially announced at a fancy Beverly Hills hotel. To get attention in Los Angeles you need to make a big splash, and this was a huge one for the fledgling league. Steinberg said it was the biggest press conference he had ever seen.

"Take the money part of it away, and it was still a huge signing," Dufresne said. "No matter how illegitimate the operation was, these were legit people they were signing."

Unfortunately, signing the contract might have been the highlight of Young’s Express career. Young played on a mediocre Express team for two years. In the second he played for a team without an owner, for a league that was clearly struggling.

[Click here to read about Young's classic battle against Jim Kelly in the USFL, as the Express and Houston Gamblers squared off in the greatest game nobody saw.]

When it came time for Young to fund the annuity at $900,000 or take about a million in cash, he opted for the cash payout.

“Nobody could be sure if the league would be there,” Steinberg said.

The league wasn't around for long. The USFL folded after the 1985 season. It made the ill-fated decision to sue the NFL as part of a plan to move its games from the spring to the fall. The owner who pushed the lawsuit hardest was the New Jersey Generals’ Donald Trump (whatever happened to that guy?). The USFL won in court but received only about $3 in damages. The USFL was done.

Young went to the NFL, first with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then with the San Francisco 49ers, where he became a Pro Football Hall of Famer.

While the Express contract ended up being worth nowhere near $42 million, it was still historic. Because of the USFL bidding war, big-name players finally had options and leverage. There was no free agency in the NFL at that point.

“The USFL was the Oklahoma Land Rush for players and agents,” Steinberg said.“It was a golden age for player compensation. A liberating experience.”

Maybe NFL free agency, the incredible boom in rookie contracts (which has since been quelled with the 2011 collective-bargaining agreement) and a major increase in all NFL contracts would have happened with or without the USFL. But there’s no question some of the most famous USFL deals started to change the landscape.

And no deal, maybe in football history, is more famous than Young’s USFL contract.

"They were starving for attention," Dufresne said. "And this was certainly an attention-getting deal."

Previous Shutdown Corner NFL throwback stories: Joe Montana's underrated toughness | Barry Sanders' long-forgotten final game | Jake Delhomme's playoff nightmare | Barry Switzer, outspoken as ever | Was Sebastian Janikowski worth a first-round pick?How Jim Harbaugh punching Jim Kelly helped Colts land Peyton Manning | Jay Cutler makes the greatest throw ever | "Has anyone ever kissed your Super Bowl rings?" | How the Patriots once faced a fourth-and-63 | The Packers survived a miserable two-decade run | "NFL PrimeTime" changed how we watch football | One of pro football's greatest games happened in the crazy USFL | The time Warren Moon should have had 650 yards in an NFL game | In 1979, Lyle Alzado boxed against Muhammad Ali. Seriously | Meet the NFL team that lost its only game before folding | In 1969 the NFL demanded Joe Namath sell his bar, so he retired | Let's Ram It! An oral history of 1985 Los Angeles Rams' rap song | The historic AFL-NFL merger 50 years ago | Was O.J. Simpson's 1973 the best season in NFL history? | Hertz made advertising history with O.J. Simpson's airport runs | Before they were coaches, Bill Cowher once broke Jeff Fisher's leg | The man who turned down the NFL because of his religious beliefs | The short list of players drafted by the NFL and NBA

- - - - - - -

Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: June 24, 2016, 5:45 pm

Update: June 24 - 1:30 p.m. ET

Miami announced that linebacker Juwon Young has been indefinitely suspended from the program. In a brief release, the school said Young's suspension stems from a "violation of department rules."

According to Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post, Young was not forthcoming during the school's investigation.

Per source, Young was suspended because he wasn't forthcoming with UM about its internal investigation re: potential NCAA violations.

— Matt Porter (@mattyports) June 24, 2016

Per Porter, the investigation could involve basketball, too. 

Miami has for months been investigating several players in football and basketball. More to come in my story.

— Matt Porter (@mattyports) June 24, 2016

Original story: June 24 - 1:00 p.m. ET

Miami is reportedly investigating two of its own players for potential NCAA violations.

According to the Miami Herald, linebacker Juwon Young and defensive end Al Quadin Muhammad are being looked at for their possible involvement with a car agency. Young is currently “away from the team” and his status for the 2016 season is “in serious doubt,” the report says.

From the Herald:

Multiple people inside the UM football program do not expect Young to be on the team this season. One source cautioned that he's in limbo and it's still possible he could return but he's not in a good position.

The matter, according to a source, involved Young gaining use of a luxury vehicle from a car agency. It's unclear if Young paid for the vehicle or if he intends to.

Things do not appear to be as serious in Muhammad’s case. The Herald reports the standout defensive lineman is still with the team, but as of now, he has “not been cleared.” However, “multiple sources expect Muhammad to be on the team next season,” the report says.

Savannah State quarterback Zach Hutchenson (15) passes as he is pressured by Miami defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad (98). (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)Both players were expected to play significant roles on the Hurricanes’ defense in 2016. Young, a junior, had 57 tackles, three tackles for loss and an interception in 2015. He started five of the team’s final seven games.

Muhammad played in 12 games in 2015 with seven starts and finished with 54 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. He missed 2014 due to suspension. He was reportedly involved in an altercation with his roommate, who is said to have broken his nose in the incident.

Miami already on NCAA probation through October stemming from the scandal involving former booster Nevin Shapiro. In the situation involving Young and Muhammad, the school “would report” to the NCAA “if it confirms any violations occurred,” the Herald reported.

Miami is entering its first season under Mark Richt, who returned to his alma mater after he was fired following 15 seasons at Georgia. Richt replaces Al Golden, who was fired during the 2015 season – his fifth with the program. Overall, Golden finished with a 32-25 (17-18 ACC) with the Hurricanes.

Miami opens its season against Florida A&M on Sept. 3.

For more Miami news, visit CaneSport.com.

- - - - - - -

Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @SamDCooper

Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: June 24, 2016, 5:30 pm

As always when playing Yahoo Daily Fantasy Baseball, be sure to check the final lineups and the weather.

My full lineup:

SP: Masahiro Tanaka $46

SP: Jake Peavy $32

C: Welington Castillo $14

1B: Paul Goldschmidt $27

2B: Joe Panik $12

3B: Todd Frazier $12

SS: Jean Segura $14

OF: Gregory Polanco $19

OF: Peter O’Brien $13

OF: Melvin Upton Jr. $11

Tanaka has a 2.91 ERA with a 1.00 WHIP and an 11.0 SwStr% this year, and the Yankees are big favorites (-200)...The Giants are even bigger favorites (-210), which makes Jake Peavy at $32 quite a bargain. There are 17 more expensive pitchers than him Friday, and Peavy has a 2.65 ERA with a 1.00 WHIP this month after a rough start to the season.

I’m stacking Diamondbacks (Castillo, Goldschmidt, Segura, O’Brien) against a lefty in Coors Field, and all seem underpriced. The over/under in that game is 11 runs. Goldschmidt is one of the top plays, and O’Brien is a sleeper...Panik is on pace to finish with 94 runs scored, 15 homers, 79 RBI and 11 steals and there are 18 more expensive second basemen Friday.

Frazier also remains affordable for someone on pace to combine for 58 homers/steals...Polanco is hitting .317/.394/.543 against righties this season, and he faces a pitcher Friday in Nick Tepesch making his first start since 2014...Upton Jr. remains underpriced (and underowned in season long leagues) for someone with a combined 25 homers/steals over 73 games. He’s slugging .493 against southpaws this season as well.

Good luck with your contests Friday.

Follow Dalton Del Don on Twitter.

Author: Dalton Del Don
Posted: June 24, 2016, 5:24 pm

The league's three Florida-based teams - the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers - have joined with the NFL Foundation to do a little good.

It was announced on Friday that the four groups are combining to donate $400,000 to the OneOrlando Fund, created to support victims' families as well as survivors of the Pulse nightclub massacre on June 12, in which 49 indivduals were killed.

In a statement, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said, "Our city has just begun to recover from the impact of the Pulse tragedy. The support of partners like the NFL and the NFL’s three Florida-based teams sends a signal to our City that we are not in this alone. The money we are raising will provide a way to help us respond to the needs of our community, now and in the time to come. Words cannot begin to express how grateful we are for the outpouring of support from across the globe.”

If you'd like to donate to the OneOrlando Fund, you can do so here: oneorlando.org.

Author: Shalise Manza Young
Posted: June 24, 2016, 4:53 pm

The Arizona Coyotes have selected a location for their new arena.

There weren’t further specifics announced by the team, but the hope is that could come in the next several weeks – by the end of the summer at the latest.

“We have made significant progress here in the last several weeks and we are down to a point where we have selected a site,” Coyotes CEO Anthony LeBlanc said to reporters Thursday. “We anticipate getting that done over the next several weeks. I’m not putting a firm date, but we are moving forward with a site.”

LeBlanc said the earliest the team could move to the location is three years, which would mean it would still play those seasons in Glendale at Gila River Arena. LeBlanc said the Coyotes have held positive discussions with AEG, which manages the building, about extending their lease in the arena until their new building is complete.

“There’s no real rush because of the fact we already have this year’s lease, but we’ve had discussions with AEG about an extension and the word back is, 'let us know when you need it and we’ll get it wrapped,'” LeBlanc said. “We’re not worried about that at all.”

After the city of Glendale voided the team’s lease last summer, a new deal was reached for two seasons which started this season.

According to Arizona Sports, there have been a few different options for arena locations. LeBlanc had been most vocal about a joint venture with Arizona State University in the East Valley.

LeBlanc declined to provide many other details, or name the site, but the previously reported potential sites include one at the intersection of the 101 and 202 freeways just north of Tempe Marketplace, one on the campus of Arizona State University on its newly-created athletic district where Karsten Golf Course currently sits, one along the 101 corridor in Scottsdale —  across from Talking Stick Resort — and downtown, although Suns owner Robert Sarver is a major stumbling block to a Phoenix site

LeBlanc also noted that the arena would be a private/public partnership with the Coyotes putting up 50 percent of the funds.

“What we are going to be approaching this with is a concept of not looking for taxpayer dollars. Are we looking for some form of refund of sales taxes generated? Perhaps, those are the preliminary discussions we had with the state legislature a couple of months ago,” LeBlanc said. “It’s a very fluid situation, but what needed to happen was the site selection, which we have done and that allows us to move forward and start all these other ancillary things in a more progressed manner.” 

LeBlanc was careful to not place a timeline on a new arena announcement. In the past he had been bullish that a choice could happen quickly, perhaps as soon as before the NHL Draft on Friday evening. 

LeBlanc said the decision has taken longer because the total number of locations kept increasing.

The hope is to get something officially announced on the arena by the end of the summer.

“It’s a fair point that at this point we’re now focused on where we envision our long-term future to be in the Valley and that’s a good thing,” he said.  

 MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY

 

- - - - - - -

Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: June 24, 2016, 4:26 pm

BUFFALO, NY – Jesse Puljujärvi has the kind of charisma and charm that envelops those around him. In speaking to him, the 18-year-old forward from Finland smiles widely, and you anticipate he’ll answer whatever inane question is posed to him by the media in a way that defies its inanity. 

But the words aren’t there for him. He knows them, in his native language. But he doesn’t know enough of them in English to allow that charm to translate, yet. 

“Tomorrow is a big day. Nice,” he says, when asked about Friday night’s NHL Draft.

Does he expect to be drafted at No. 3, where the Columbus Blue Jackets are picking? Does he expect they might trade the pick, as has been speculated?

“I don’t know at all. Exciting day. Big day,” he says.

Puljujärvi is a brilliant talent. He’s 6-4 and filling out his frame, but is already a potent power forward. His 17 points in seven games during the 2016 World Junior victory for Finland tied Wayne Gretzky and Eric Lindros for second-most in all-time points for an under-18 player in the tournament. His hockey IQ is off the charts. He plays a more complete offensive game then his countryman (and expected second overall pick) Patrik Laine, who is the more explosive player – although both of them need to improve on the defensive side of the puck.

But where Laine and Puljujärvi are really separated isn’t their hands or the feet. It’s their mouth.

Laine is the confident, unfiltered rookie in the tradition of his idol, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. He speaks, and everyone listens to a young player who can crack a joke as quickly as he can hype his game.

Which is to say that Laine is marketable beyond his on-ice abilities, immediately upon being drafted. Puljujärvi is right with him as a player. But culturally, there’s a language barrier to his personality. That was evident at media day for the prospects ahead of Friday night's NHL Draft in Buffalo. The scrum around Laine was rows deep. Puljujärvi's was much more intimate. 

“He’s getting better. So much better. It’s nice to see him now. He can say some words. He’s trying hard,” said defenseman Olli Juolevi, a fellow Finnish draft prospect.

Juolevi has helped as much as he can to educate Puljujärvi on English words, and has helped out when Puljujärvi has needed it away from home.

“I just ordered him a taxi last night,” he said, with a laugh. “But he’s always trying. ‘Let me try this, let me try that.’ He wants to get better. He’s just a great guy. I love to help him, love to be his friend.”

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 23:  NHL draft prospect Jesse Puljujarvi speaks to the media during the Top Prospects Media Availability as part of the 2016 NHL Draft at the Erie Basin Marina on June 23, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)

Puljujärvi said he’s had one teacher in trying to learn English, and he’s learning “more and more.” Is it a tough language to learn?

“Little bit, yes,” he said.

In speaking to him, there are flashes of his personality overcoming the language barrier. For example, who is dressing him for the NHL Draft?

“Only me,” he said. “Hugo Boss.”

And when asked about playing on Laine’s “Call of Duty” team online, he says, “Yeah. But Laine’s better,” with a grin.

“You can see what kind of guy he is,” said Juolevi. “He’s always smiling, even if he doesn’t understand pretty much everything you’re saying. He doesn’t care about that. He’s himself. He’s not trying to fake anything."

Puljujärvi isn’t the first young NHL star to battle the language barrier. It is, after all, an international league. Heck, the guy who just captured the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year, Artemi Panarin of the Chicago Blackhawks, used an interpreter throughout the season. And like Puljujärvi, he’s a player with charisma to spare.

“It may take you a couple of seconds to understand what he’s trying to say,” said Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks, “but then it makes it even funnier.”

Panarin, of course, did his speaking on the ice. And it’s expected that Puljujärvi will do the same.

“He’s a good skater. Likes to score goals. Very powerful. Power forward who can also score,” was Laine’s scouting report.

Puljujärvi, who is recovering from knee surgery, said he expects to be ready for the NHL next season. “I’m ready to play next year. But I need to add more power," he said. 

“He’s always battling through. He doesn’t care if his knee is battered. He just wants to go there and play hockey," said Juolevi. "If we’re playing a bad team, winning 6-0, he still wants to play hard and deliver hits. He’s one of those guys you want to play with, not play against.

“He enjoys it. He likes to play hockey. You always see him smiling on the ice. But of course he has skills, too. His skating, his big body. Just a great hockey player. He’s a complete player, too," Juolevi continued.

“I think if he keeps making small steps, he’s going to be one of the best players in the NHL, for sure.”

NHL success being, of course, the universal language.

--

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: June 24, 2016, 4:25 pm

We’re well aware that draft grades – passing judgment on the hiring of a 19 or even 18-year old just hours after their names were called – is rather silly. There were 30 NBA franchises working with 30 disparate motivations, strategies, needs and abilities on Thursday night during the league’s draft, and though some fared better than others the 2016 NBA draft (like all NBA drafts) was not a level playing field for myriad reasons.

[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]

With that in place, we can still hand out interim report cards for every franchise on the docket. Dig in:

Atlanta Hawks

The Haul: Taurean Prince (Baylor) at 12, DeAndre Bembry (St. Joseph’s) at 21, Isaia Cordinier (France) at 44.

This was a very Hawksian draft bent on replenishing its supply of heady, all-around athletes, while potentially preparing the team for the defection of free agent swingman Kent Bazemore. Neither Prince nor Bembry will ever be stars, but they have the gifts and potential to act as key rotation parts from either the small forward or off guard position. Prince is ahead of Bembry in the shooting department at this juncture, but that doesn’t mean DeAndre’s heady game can’t fit in with the vets by midseason.

Grade: B

***

Boston Celtics

The Haul: Jaylen Brown (California) at 3, Guerschon Yabusele (France) at 16, Ante Zizic (Croatia) at 23, lottery-protected first round pick from the Los Angeles Clippers in either 2019 or 2020, Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame) at 45, Ben Bentil (Providence) at 51, Abdel Naber (Iowa State) at 58.

The tramping the dirt down on Danny Ainge’s supposed grave of assets needs to be dialed back a bit.

The only people that should either act shocked or haughty that the Celtics general manager was unable to land a star in the first of his pick-heavy nights must have passed on looking up the actual specifics behind what’s actually available out there. Ainge was prepared but also incredibly lucky to have a combination of lottery picks, massive expiring deals and a 20-and-10 guy to deal in the summer of 2007; one of those rare offseasons that somehow saw two different (nearly) in-prime future Hall of Famers (Ray Allen and eventually Kevin Garnett) available on the trading block.

Those legends aren’t exactly out there right now, less-celebrated stars aren’t even on the block, and as such Ainge was forced to work around the margins yet again.

What you can possibly criticize are the draft choices while he bides his time: Jaylen Brown is a home run swing that could bring Boston an All-Star, but the athlete has his drawbacks at his young age. Yabusele unique talents remain rather unique, his was a surprise call, and Zizic’s charms come from the old school that demands centers stay low and near the rim.

Ainge may never get his star via the trade pipeline, and in reaction he passed on Kris Dunn and took his chances on two on Thursday night. This story has barely begun – it could end in a whiff, and a lesson that it always takes two to tango.

Grade: B

***

Brooklyn Nets

The Haul: Caris LaVert (Michigan) at 20, Isaiah Whitehead (Seton Hall) at 42.

The Nets were always going to have to swap picks with the Boston Celtics in the 2017 draft, and the team’s new leadership (GM Sean Marks) decided to bite the bullet and work what former GM Billy King never had the temerity to do – suffer through the embarrassment have possibly having to dive from a top three pick down to the 20s in order to find some young asset to play around with.

Thaddeus Young is a smart veteran and good basketball player, but his absence on the 2016-17 Nets will cost the team wins in ways that won’t reflect in an improved lottery standing. It is worrying that Caris LaVert is far from a finished product, working with frightening foot woes. Still, when the crops are salted, you have to take a gamble on something that could eventually turn out savory.

Grade: A

***

Charlotte Hornets

The Haul: Marco Belinelli (via trade with Sacramento).

Faced with the possible free agent defections of Nicolas Batum, Courtney Lee, and Jeremy Lin, the Hornets needed to find NBA-caliber talent at a perimeter position straightaway. The team might someday rue dealing a No. 22 pick for a 30-year old in Belinelli, but these are the team-sustaining transactions you often have to take.

Grade: B+

***

Denzel Valentine brought his own cans. (Getty Images)

Chicago Bulls

The Haul: Denzel Valentine (Michigan State) at 14, Paul Zipser (Germany) at 48.

Chicago did not deal Jimmy Butler, despite reportedly receiving several offers from Boston and Minnesota. This was probably a good thing, considering Butler’s two-way gifts, but hardly a warming burst considering the tattered nature of Chicago’s current roster. Valentine, despite being an older, intelligent player that can contribute in all offensive areas, will still need some time to catch up to NBA speed alongside the 27-year old Butler. And Zipser has an extra bone in his foot, which sadly doesn’t mean he can dunk on a 13-foot rim.

Grade: B-

***

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Haul: Kay Felder (Oakland) at 54.

Cleveland dealt its first rounder to Boston two years ago in order to help clear salary cap room in its successful chase down of then-free agent LeBron James, and although the team also had to give up Tyler Zeller along the way, every little bit of cap space helps when you’re in with a chance for LeBron. Its second round pick also went to Boston, helping create a trade exception that was later used to help acquire Timofey Mozgov.

The team did acquire (from Atlanta) our next favorite Summer League hero in Felder, though, a lefty sparkplug who might have a chance at making the roster should the team let Matthew Dellavedova walk.

Grade: A.

***

Dallas Mavericks

The Haul: A.J. Hammons (Purdue) at 46.

Dallas traded its first round pick to Boston in the Rajon Rondo deal and, ye gods and little fishes, that one didn’t really work out did it? Taking a chance on Hammons late in the draft was a fantastic move, as he has legitimate NBA skills at a center position that is perpetually difficult to fill in any era. He sleepwalks through games, though, and the Mavs will have to find some way to motivate the big man into the career his talents deserve. One long snoozefest through the Summer League and camp could mean the end of his NBA career. At No. 46, though, you take that “chance.”

Grade: A-

***

Denver Nuggets

The Haul: Jamal Murray (Kentucky) at 7, Juan Hernangomez (Spain) at 15, Malik Beasley (Florida State) at 19, Petr Cornelie (France) at 53, Daniel Hamilton (Connecticut) at 56.

The Nuggets are in an unfortunate spot, the team hasn’t been bad enough to reel in a knockout star during its semi-unexpected rebuild, but in a top-heavy draft this batch of players should help.

Murray is a sound shooter that should pair nicely with pell-mell penetrator Emanuel Mudiay, Hernangomez figures to be a solid rotation piece and versatile bench scorer should he come over, and Beasley appears to have the skills and smarts to overcome what isn’t an imposing NBA frame at this point in his basketball career. This will still act as an underwhelming team despite three first rounders, but considering the placement …

Grade: B+

***

Detroit Pistons

The Haul: Henry Ellenson (Marquette) at 18, Michael Gbinije (Syracuse) at 49.

Grabbing a player of Ellenson’s size (6-10), age (19) and skill set (in school, at least, he was able to capably score inside and out) at 18 was fantastic for Detroit; but legitimate questions remain as to just how well Ellenson’s game will translate to the pros. Especially his low post leanings, in a league that just doesn’t really do a whole heck of a lot of that anymore. Gbinije, already age 24, is a longshot to make it as a 3-and-D guy.

Grade: B

***

Golden State Warriors

The Haul: Damian Jones (Vanderbilt) at 30, Patrick McCaw (UNLV) at 38.

On paper, scoring Jones seems right out of central casting. The big man looks to be a heady potential NBA shot-blocker and rebounder, someone with enough athleticism to cast out a lasting career as a reserve center in the modern era, someone to replace another defensive-first 6-10’ish Vanderbilt product in the possibly defecting Festus Ezeli. However, he fell to 30 because there are questions about Jones’ drive and, well, motivation:

My motivation to make it to the NBA is to get a check mark on Twitter

— Damian Jones (@dameology) August 20, 2013

McCaw is a 3-and-D project that Golden State clearly targeted, someone who will likely make the roster as Brandon Rush gets on in years.

Grade: A

***

Houston Rockets

The Haul: Chinanu Onuaku (Louisville) at 37, Zhou Qi (China) at 43.

The Rockets were without a first round pick following the 2015 deal that acquired Ty Lawson from Denver, a move that seemed like an absolute steal at the time. Though the team’s rotation badly needs some fresh faces, it’s unlikely that we see Onuaku or (especially) Zhou Qi in a Rocket uniform next season.

Grade: C-

***

Indiana Pacers

The Haul: Jeff Teague (via trade with Atlanta), Thaddeus Young (via trade with Brooklyn), Georges Niang (Iowa State) at 50.

Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young won’t have LeBron James and company shaking by the time October rolls around, and Teague (an Indianapolis native) could leave the Pacers as a free agent next summer, but grabbing to NBA-level starters for 30-year old George Hill and pick No. 20 was exceptional for Indiana. Especially in a draft this raw and unrefined. Young is also on a reasonable contract that will pay him through his prime until 2019.

Niang is a super-slow plodder that could make the team if he keeps the jumpers falling.

Grade: A+

***

Brice Johnson makes it official. (Getty Images)

Los Angeles Clippers

The Haul: Brice Johnson (North Carolina) at 25, David Michineau (France) at 39, Diamond Stone (Maryland) at 40.

The Clippers, as is seemingly always the case, badly need end-of-bench help from the draft to play right away, and Johnson seems to fit that mold. As is also always the case, though, he’ll only go as far as Clipper GM/coach Doc Rivers will let him, as Doc isn’t always a big fan of handing what he sees as important minutes to rookies that need confidence. Still, good value this low – especially if Stone can make the team. Despite underwhelming skills outside the paint, his rebounding numbers should hopefully transition well.

Grade: A-

***

Los Angeles Lakers

The Haul: Brandon Ingram (Duke) at 2, Ivica Zubac (Croatia) at 32.

Ingram is an obvious NBA talent, a slithery-smooth Rookie of the Year candidate that would do well to spend as much time as he possibly can discussing footwork and economy of movement with new Lakers coach Luke Walton. He’ll get minutes right away despite his whippet-thin frame and age, something Laker fans have to be giddy about following the injury-plagued “rookie” year of Julius Randle and all the pushback Byron Scott gave D’Angelo Russell last season. Zubac reportedly refuses to act as a draft-and-stash player, and with the Lakers coming off of a 17-win season, why not give the banger a try?

Grade: A+

***

Memphis Grizzlies

The Haul: Wade Baldwin (Vanderbilt) at 17, Deyonta Davis (Michigan State) at 31, Rade Zagorac (Serbia) at 35, Wang Shelin (China) at 57.

Baldwin was a surprise drop to 17, a solid point guard prospect that Memphis would have probably taken even if they had 100 percent assurances that free agent point man Michael Conley was not only going to return to the Grizzlies next season, but also return to full and complete health following some Achilles woes. With the Conley uncertainty, though, the find looks even better.

Davis is a lottery-sized talent with a thus-far lacking offensive game, an NBA-level athlete who put up great per-minute stats in one year at Michigan State.

Grade: A

***

Miami Heat

The Haul: No picks.

The Heat were without a first round pick due to the six year-old sign-and-trade deal that helped LeBron James inch closer to a maximum contract. In a summer where they need just about every penny to work intelligently with, the year “off” will help.

Grade: Incomplete

***

Milwaukee Bucks

The Haul: Thon Maker (last played in Canada) at 10, Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia) at 36, $2.4 million from Golden State.

Grabbing Maker at No. 10 is an incredible reach, one that blew the viewers at home away while probably not surprising the rest of the league all that much. Secrets don’t stick at home with NBA front offices these days, and if the rest of the league knew Milwaukee fancied Maker but wanted to trade down (there were even rumors he could slip out of the first round heading into Thursday) potential trade partners probably played enough hardball to force MKE’s hand. The proof will be in the playing.

Brogdon is not much of an outsized athlete at shooting guard, but he’ll have a chance to make the team this fall.

Grade: C-

***

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Haul: Kris Dunn (Providence) at 5.

The Timberwolves reportedly spent the early part of the evening trying to lure in Jimmy Butler, even after selecting Dunn at No. 5. The wiry Providence point man felt like the most popular guy in the draft heading into Thursday, and due to his four-year status with the Friars will make him an immediate Rookie of the Year candidate. Dunn still has quite a bit to round out with his game, but that doesn’t make him any less than a potential stud.

Grade: A+

***

Buddy Hield brings the sunshine. (Getty Images)

New Orleans Pelicans

The Haul: Buddy Hield (Oklahoma) at 6.

The Pelicans weren’t exactly drafting for need – or, at least, they shouldn’t have been at No. 6 – but adding a lights-out shooter like Hield will be music to the ears of New Orleans fans that have had to watch the dribble-dribble-dribble stylings of guards Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon for too long. Gordon’s status as a free agent should allow the Oklahoma senior to step right in and start firing away.

Grade: A

***

New York Knicks

The Haul: No picks

The Knicks once again did not have a selection due to the team’s overpay for free agent to-be Carmelo Anthony in 2011, and the franchise’s unconscionable chase down of Andrea Bargnani in 2013. Usually we’d hand an “incomplete” in this realm, but …

Grade: F

***

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Haul: Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga, at 11) in a trade with Orlando.

Adding a mini-Russell Westbrook in Oladipo, a stretch for in Ilyasova and sound big man prospect in Sabonis in exchange for Serge Ibaka isn’t a panacea. For all his frustrations and declining play Ibaka could still defend from 25 feet on in, Ilyasova remains inconsistent and Sabonis will still need some time to develop. Furthermore, Oladipo still has myriad holes in his game.

With that in place, this was a knockout deal for the Thunder. If each plays to its potential next season, the Thunder will have the deepest team in the NBA.

Grade: A+

***

Orlando Magic

The Haul: Serge Ibaka in a deal with Oklahoma City, Steven Zimmerman (UNLV) at 41, $1.2 million and a 2019 second round pick from Portland.

Then there is the other side.

It’s possible that Oladipo was rife with bad habits after three frustrating seasons with the Magic, as most are still uncertain about his game as he makes his way toward his second NBA contract. Still, Serge Ibaka has been on the decline for two years, his block percentage in 2015-16 was less than half of what it was during OKC’s run to the Finals in 2012, and his rebound rate has shrunk to almost unacceptable levels.

Perhaps a change of scenery will help for Ibaka, who turns 27 in September. Three players – three potential starters – for this guy, though?

Grade: D

***

Philadelphia 76ers

The Haul: Ben Simmons (LSU) at 1, Timothé Luwawu (France) at 24, Furkan Korkmaz (Turkey) at 26.

There are question marks about Simmons. His jump shot is infamously poor, and he took plays off in college in ways that you wouldn’t expect, say, Giannis Antetokounmpo or LeBron James would have should they had made the decision to slum on a sub-par NCAA team for a season. He’s still the draft’s best prospect, though, someone who has really only ever had eyes on the NBA, and you hope the Sixers can finally turn a corner in 2016-17; enough to keep him engaged.

Seemingly in win-now mode, the Sixers surprised in the latter stages of the first round by picking two potential stash prospects. Luwawu looks like a real comer as a lithe all-around swingman, though, and Korkmaz could really contribute at this level once he gets his legs under him.

Grade: A+

***

Phoenix Suns

The Haul: Dragan Bender (Croatia) at 4, Marquese Chriss (Washington) at 8, Tyler Ulis (Kentucky) at 34.

In Bender and Chriss, the Suns have pounced on two ultra-quick athletes that will have moments both terrific and terrible for this rebuilding Phoenix club. Bender figures to be an encouraging defender, his footwork on the perimeter is already there, though he’ll have to adapt to NBA speed, develop a more consistent face-up jumper and core. Chriss is a shockingly-poor rebounder, and though he’ll take the bulk of his rookie deal to figure this league out the athleticism is certainly already there. Taking yet another chance on a young Kentucky guard in Ulis makes sense at No. 34.

Grade: B+

***

Portland Trail Blazers

The Haul: Jake Layman (Wisconsin) at 49.

The Trail Blazers, then trying to push themselves into Western Conference contention, sent their 2016 first rounder to Denver in 2015 for Arron Afflalo in the wake of Wes Matthews’ season-ending Achilles tear. That selection turned out to rank at No. 19 this year (Malik Beasley), but this is sometimes the price to pay when attempting to circle the wagons (Afflalo struggled and later left as a free agent). The team sent cash considerations and a 2019 second rounder pick to Orlando for Layman, a bruiser with significant hops.

Grade: C

***

Sacramento Kings

The Haul: Georgios Papagiannis (Greece) at 13, Malachi Richardson (Syracuse) at 22, Skal Labissiere (Kentucky) at 28, Isaiah Cousins (Oklahoma) at 59.

Sigh. At some point, you want to be the guy that finally sees the method to Sacramento’s madness. They make it so damn tough, though.

The Kings turned yet another No. 8 overall pick into 13 and 28 following a deal with Phoenix, a bit questionable considering they had already dealt Marco Belinelli (in a fine move) for No. 22. From the first slot, the team chose a winsome-yet-raw Greek center in Papagiannis, yet another big man for a team already featuring DeMarcus Cousins (who, depending on your take on time stamps, may or may not like the deal) and Willie Cauley-Stein. With veteran Kosta Koufos already on the roster, Georgios may not come over for several years.

At 28 the team took yet another center in Labissiere, though at that point in the draft apparently Kings GM thought the young man too good of a prospect to pass on: Skal was considered a can’t-miss star in the making this time last year. Richardson is a good athlete, but if his shot selection at Syracuse makes its way to the NBA, all the hairs in Dave Joerger’s goatee will have fallen out by December.

Grade: D

***

San Antonio Spurs

The Haul: Dejounte Murray (Washington) at 29.

This doesn’t appear to be your typical late, Spurs-y pick. Murray wasn’t a film student and to the best of our knowledge he didn’t take sommelier courses at Washington. He’s not already slower than Ime Udoka, as some recent Spurs rookies appear to be. No, this is a knockout athlete with a nose for the rim at the point guard position, someone to raise a little hell on a team that likes to be in bed by 9.

Grade: B

***

Jakob Poeltl will not be allowed to play in jeans in the professional ranks. (Getty Images)

Toronto Raptors

The Haul: Jakob Poeltl (Utah) at 9, Pascal Siakam (New Mexico State) at 27.

The 20-year old Utah center won’t be able to play next Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, as the Raptors didn’t finally land the power forward they’ve been searching for since 2010, but there is absolutely no shame in securing a solid and obvious backup center with a lottery pick. Especially while working in the top ten after posting the NBA’s fourth-best record. Siakam doesn’t factor to be the answer at power forward either, but the 22-year old’s package of athletic defensive gifts is in with a chance.

Grade: B

***

Utah Jazz

The Haul: George Hill (from Indiana), Joel Bolomboy (Weber State) at 52, Marcus Page (North Carolina) at 55, Tyrone Wallace (California) at 60.

Hill is already 30, but Utah’s point guard situation was already rather dire and grabbing some form of competent player with the 12th pick is workable. Returning youngster Dante Exum looked unendingly raw in his rookie season, and that was before he lost a needed sophomore year to an ACL tear. Big forward Bolomboy is still learning the game even at age 22, though Page does have a sound chance of making the roster.

Grade: B-

***

Washington Wizards

The Haul: No picks.

Washington dealt what would have been the 13th pick in the draft for forward Markieff Morris in February in a late playoff push. The Wizards failed to make the postseason, but Morris improved to averages of 12.4 points and nearly six rebounds in 26 minutes a game with his new team.

Grade: B

- - - - - - -

Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops

Author: Kelly Dwyer
Posted: June 24, 2016, 4:05 pm

Umpire Paul Emmel sustained a scary injury on Thursday night while he was working the game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Oakland Athletics. 

The Angels' Jefry Marte was pinch hitting with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and took a big swing on the first offering from Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle. On the back-end of the swing, Marte let go of the bat, and it was at just the right angle to nail home plate umpire Paul Emmel right on the top of his head. Emmel hit the deck, and Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt called for the trainers right away. 

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Baseball contest now]

This wasn't a small injury. As soon as Emmel pulled off his mask you could see he had a large gash on his head that was freely bleeding.

Yikes. After a large, gauzy pad was held to the wound, Emmel was helped off the field and third base umpire Quinn Wolcott came in to call the final out. Thankfully, there was positive news about Emmel after the game. 

Just saw the home plate ump Paul Emmel he's up & doing well after getting hit in the head, he's now on his way 2 the hospital 2 get stitches

— Alex Curry (@Alex_Curry) June 24, 2016

Whew. Stitches aren't nothing, of course, but that injury could have been so much worse. Thank goodness Emmel is doing well.

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports: 

- - - - - -

Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

Author: Liz Roscher
Posted: June 24, 2016, 3:31 pm

Ten years into the Mark Reynolds experience, we should have a good idea of what he is — and what he is not. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a fantasy story worth kicking around here. 

Reynolds has seen more of the USA than Rand McNally. He’s cashed a check from seven teams over his career, and only two of those stops were more than one season. It’s the takeaway from Everybody Wants Some — here for a good time, not for a long time.

[Yahoo Fantasy Football is open for the 2016 season. Sign up now!]

When it comes to Coors Field, everybody certainly wants some (you want some, too). Reynolds has been useful in his partial role this year, a .290/.357/.455 slash with seven homers in 224 at-bats. And things get especially interesting if you have the flexibility to take the center cut of his production, to use Reynolds at his best. 

The first thing we look at with any Colorado hitter is the home/road splits. Reynolds hasn’t been a full pumpkin on the road (.763 OPS), but he’s certainly getting the best of it at home: .314/.391/.480. He had a homer in Thursday’s loss to Arizona, taking a Zack Greinke pitch just over the right-field wall

Reynolds has been platoon-neutral for his career, though that hasn’t followed in 2016. He’s slugging .523 against righties this year, just .315 the other way. 

The next six games should be Reynolds-friendly, as Colorado has six home games and four of them come against right-handed pitching. Reynolds has never been a plus fielder, but he’s a heavy qualifier in our game: you can slot him at first, third, or the outfield. He’s ready for your call in 87 percent of Yahoo leagues. 

Brad Ziegler picked up the victory in Arizona’s win, though it came after a blown save. It’s the first red ink from Ziegler in a while; he had 43 straight conversions before Thursday’s hiccup. Raise a glass for the seventh-longest save streak in MLB history

It doesn’t seem right that Ziggy’s run ended as it did. The Snakes summoned him in the eighth inning with a perilous situation: one run lead, one out, runners on first and third, meat of the order up. The Rockies tied the score on Ziegler, but he did well to limit the damage to one run. 

To be fair, Ziegler has been living right most of the year. His 2.51 ERA is the beneficiary of some good fortune (zero homers allowed, plus an uptick in walks). SIERA suggests a 3.63 mark, while the FIP brothers push over three. Ziegler’s game is always going to be heavy on ground balls — we’ll always welcome that — but he also needs to live through contact. Interestingly, he’s allowing the most hard contact of his career, and the highest BABIP. 

I’m fine with Ziegler as a fantasy closer because the Snakes aren’t looking to replace him. It’s going to take an extended slump for him to lose the gig. And, heck, it’s fun to see different styles succeed. Not everyone has to be a fire-breathing, fastball-chucking, beard-growing behemoth in the ninth. If Ziegler kills them softly in the ninth, what’s the harm in that? 

Didi stepping up (Rich Schultz/Getty)• I’m pretty sure we haven’t talked Didi Gregorius all year, so let’s break the seal and have a brief little chat. I’m even willing to throw both of his names into custom dictionary. 

Gregorius is a field-first player for the Yanks, in the lineup for his glove at shortstop (a marked improvement over the guy he replaced, who’s name escapes me). But he’s also turned into a passable hitter. Gregorius is hitting a career-best .286, and he’s on pace for 14 homers, 73 RBIs and seven steals. Solid improvement in an age-26 season.

Gregorius doesn’t walk a lot, but he also puts his bat on the ball — his strikeout rate is the sixth-lowest among regular players. He’s also having a ball at Yankee Stadium this year, posting a .304/.344/.504 slash there. Sounds like someone who should be owned in more than 18 percent of Yahoo leagues. 

• The Athletics might not be doing the fantasy-friendly thing, but cheers to their bullpen usage. Oakland summoned Ryan Madson for the eighth inning on Thursday — the right-handed meat of the Anaheim lineup — then let Sean Doolittle handle the easier ninth, en route to a save. Doolittle actually lost his way a bit, allowing a homer and two runs, but all’s well that ends well. Madson went 1-2-3 in his stint, with two strikeouts. 

• I didn’t get in on the Willson Contreras madness; he went quickly in all of my pools, and in the two-catcher formats, I wasn’t altogether stuck at the position. But Contreras might wind up playing more than I initially expected. The Cubs are currently giving him some run at first base while Anthony Rizzo heals up, and Joe Maddon is also willing to consider Contreras for occasional outfield play

Mind you, everyone remembers what happened when Kyle Schwarber — clearly not an outfielder — was asked to man left field. But maybe Contreras can sneak on the field about half of the time. He’s off to a 5-for-13 start for the Cubs, with a couple of homers. And his Triple-A audition speaks for itself

Author: Scott Pianowski
Posted: June 24, 2016, 3:29 pm

Kevin Shattenkirk’s future was just determined by Keith Yandle. 

When the Florida Panthers signed the defenseman to a seven-year, $44.45-million deal, that set the rate for Shattenkirk, who is going into the final year of his deal with the St. Louis Blues. The Blues have Alex Pietrangelo ($6.5 million) and Jay Bouwmeester ($5.4 million) locked up long term. They have Colton Parayko coming off his rookie deal in 2017. Paying that rate for Shattenkirk is possible, but it isn’t feasible, and so he’s likely to be moved this summer and as early as Friday night.

But where?

The Shattenkirk Derby already includes the Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers (Yandle’s former team) and Arizona Coyotes, who some believe are the front-runner for him as they continue to spend to improve their blueline after signing Alex Goligoski this week. The Buffalo Sabres are also in the mix, but have been most recently linked to Cam Fowler of the Anaheim Ducks.

(The NY Post shot down a Rick Nash-for-Shattenkirk rumor that apparently was a thing.)

From the Ottawa Sun and Bruce Garrioch:

Ideally, the Blues would like to move Shattenkirk east, which means the Bruins and Sabres will be among those interested. The talk is if Shattenkirk moves — and if he’s given any say in the matter — he also wants a long-term extension as part of the deal so making a trade will be tricky. The Oilers have likely shown interest as well, but if GM Doug Armstrong is set on sending Shattenkirk east then that won’t be a fit.

Then there’s the question if Shattenkirk, a Westchester County native, would sign long-term in Edmonton.

So what you have here is an old fashioned bidding war, and the Blues are going to be the beneficiary – especially when one factors in the desperation level of heavy hitters like the Rangers and Bruins to add a significant piece on defense and shake off the disappointment of last season in the process.

--

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY

 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: June 24, 2016, 2:56 pm

When NC State hosts Notre Dame on Oct. 8, the Wolfpack will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first game at Carter-Finley Stadium. In doing so, the team will wear throwback uniforms featuring the program’s classic red diamond logo.

Closer look at #CF50 throwbacks. pic.twitter.com/C2pgamAmkd

— NC State Football (@PackFootball) June 23, 2016

NC State first used the diamond logo in 1986 and it graced the Wolfpack’s helmet for the following 14 seasons until returning to the block “S” in 2000.

[Check out Dr. Saturday on Tumblr for entertaining things you won’t see on the blog]

“It’s a special year as we honor Carter-Finley’s 50th anniversary,” head coach Dave Doeren said. “To recognize our proud tradition, we have brought back the diamond logo and uniform.”

Here is how the rest of the uniform combination will look:

(via NC State athletics)
(via NC State athletics)

Coming off a 7-6 record in 2015, NC State opens its 2016 campaign at home against William & Mary.

[Visit Dr. Saturday on Facebook for stories you might have missed and chat with the writers]

For more North Carolina State news, visit TheWolfPacker.com.

- - - - - - -

Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @SamDCooper

Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: June 24, 2016, 2:29 pm

Jalen Ramsey will wear No. 20 (AP)How much is a jersey number worth? For Jalen Ramsey, $30,000 sounded about right. For James Sample, that wasn't enough for the No. 23 he has and Ramsey wanted. Sample made it clear his number was not for sale.

This week Ramsey, the cornerback who was the Jacksonville Jaguars' first-round pick a couple months ago, happily announced on Twitter that he's going to wear No. 20. That's not really his number of choice, but he was happy to give up No. 38, which was assigned to him when he found out the No. 23 he wanted was already taken by Sample.

His dislike of No. 38 apparently became a running joke among the Jaguars, because both Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson acknowledged on Twitter how happy Ramsey is to be done with No. 38.

@jalenramsey lol that man happy he out that 38 lol bout time

— Allen Hurns (@A1hurns) June 21, 2016

Lol & you know this https://t.co/VCEXaSpxdd

— Jalen Ramsey (@jalenramsey) June 21, 2016

@A1hurns @jalenramsey wasn't playing no games getting out that 38 😂😂

— Allen Robinson (@Thee_AR15) June 21, 2016

Not 1 game hahaha https://t.co/8tQC6mPurC

— Jalen Ramsey (@jalenramsey) June 21, 2016

Ramsey wanted No. 23 though, so what happened? Sample had already squatted on it and wouldn't give it up. Not even for a sum that, for many people, is a ton of money.

According to ESPN.com (h/t to CBS' Eye on Football), the rumor is that Ramsey's offer to Sample for No. 23 "surpassed $30,000." Ramsey has signed an endorsement deal with Nike's Jordan brand, and of course Michael Jordan wore No. 23. Ramsey has a four-year deal worth a little more than $23 million, all guaranteed, so he could afford to pay for the number. And Sample, a second-year player who appeared in four games last year and is set to make $525,000 this season, said no.

"No offer he could give me [could make him part with 23]," Sample told ESPN.com. "Money isn't the issue."

[Yahoo Fantasy Football is open for the 2016 season. Sign up now]

According to ESPN, Sample didn't elaborate on the reason he has such an attachment to No. 23 (it's not Jordan, he said), but said that it goes back to his community in North Sacramento, California.

Sample is keeping No. 23. Ramsey said he plans to wear No. 20 his entire career, and he's saving at least $30,000 in the process. And we all found out that for some players, a jersey number isn't for sale no matter how much is offered.

- - - - - - -

Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: June 24, 2016, 2:29 pm

As we know from the recent conversation about having a Home Run Derby for pitchers, MLB hurlers love to prove they can do more than "just" pitch. (For the record, pitching is pretty impressive on its own.) But Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke didn't need a home run derby to prove that. On Thursday night, he straight up stole second base.

It was the top of the fourth inning of the Diamondbacks game against the Colorado Rockies, and Greinke led off by drawing a walk off Eddie Butler. After Socrates Brito lined out to center field, that's when Greinke got the itch to run. And run he did.

Jean Segura had just come to the plate, and had settled in for his at-bat against Butler. Butler threw his first pitch to Segura, a strike, and Greinke was off and running before the ball had recached the glove of catcher Nick Hundley. Hundley's throw to second was late and off line, and Greinke slid into second with a reaching head-first slide. He had the base stolen fair and square, his first of the year and fifth of his career.

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Baseball contest now]

Greinke's steal made a difference in the game. He went to third on Segura's single, and scored when Yasmany Tomas singled right after. The Diamondbacks won the game 7-6. Zack Greinke can definitely do more than "just" pitch.

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports: 

- - - - - -

Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

Author: Liz Roscher
Posted: June 24, 2016, 1:53 pm

The days before the draft brought important moments for NHL teams, especially those who traded for the rights of outgoing free agents.

Arizona, after giving up a low pick for his exclusive negotiating rights, quickly locked up Alex Goligoski on a five-year deal that will pay him a little less than $5.5 million against the cap. Solid deal.

Then late Thursday night, word started to get out that the Panthers were able to sign Keith Yandle, whose rights they also acquired for a low pick, for seven years at $6.35 million per. Not as solid a deal, but he can clearly still play and his time in New York is painted with far less flattering strokes than it probably deserves. At worst, you have to think this is one of those "perfectly fine for the first few years, but unlikely to be anything other than ugly on the back end” deals. Fortunately, the CBA has an opt-out before the 2019-2020 season, and that might mean another round of amnesty buyouts after Yandle Year 3.

But here's the real issue that comes with those signings for everyone who is not Arizona or Florida: If you need blue line help, you're now officially running out of useful options. Those two were the jewels of a very shallow defensive free agent class, and options that can actually help you are otherwise very slim.

Maybe you take a chance on 37-year-old Brian Campbell, because he's still quite good, but obviously he's not any sort of long-term solution at that age. Moreover, you almost certainly run the risk of overpaying for a guy who could have the wheels come flying off at just about any point in whatever contract you agree.

Or perhaps you think a guy like Jason Demers is your best option. Certainly, he's the last actually useful right-shot defender on the market. If Jason Demers is your big pull in free agency, well, you're not getting a whole lot of help, but it's better than nothing.

Because, honestly, after that you're getting into guys whose skills are, shall we say, specialized. At best. For instance, you have Recent Cup Champion Justin Schultz, who Edmonton learned the hard way can't be counted on in most situations, but who also was used to somewhat effectively in an extremely limited role by Mike Sullivan. Maybe you're the team that also feels like John-Michael Liles has something left in the tank, a subject on which the jury is still out, but clearly thinking of coming back with an unfavorable verdict. 

The only other guy I might really have time for is pending UFA Jakub Nakladal out of Calgary, who came to the club late in the season but made all his teammates better. The observed sample of his on-ice impact is small (just 27 games) but if you can get him for $1 million he's probably going to prove worth that investment at the very least. That is, obviously, contingent on Calgary allowing him to get to July 1 at all, which it absolutely should not.

So maybe — maaaaaybe — there are three or four teams that will get blue line help via free agency. And even then, probably not middle- or top-pairing help. When a handful of guys on whom you might roll the dice are now the highlights of the class, that's a real problem, and it highlights a direction in which the league has been heading for some time: Pretty much all defensemen, and particularly defensemen in anything resembling their prime years, now get locked up long-term in the mid-20s more or less regardless of quality. Everyone else looks for scraps who have aged into their mid-30s.

In this way, Schultz and Demers — borderline-useful mid-20s defenders hitting the market — are exceptions, rather than the rule. And really, Schultz is unique in that you almost never see players with his number of games played not even get tendered in restricted free agency, but it seems likely that Pittsburgh won't qualify him. At least Demers got to UFA status the old-fashioned way. 

Look at the other names here: Dan Hamhuis, Nikita Nikitin, Kyle Quincey, Willie Mitchell (if he doesn't just retire), Luke Schenn, Nicklas Grossmann, Jared Cowen, Tom Gilbert, Roman Polak, Kris Russell, Matt Bartkowski. Yeesh. If you sign any of those guys, it's because you're backed into a bit of a corner and just need warm bodies with NHL experience. You don't sign a single one of those guys because you think they actually help your team.

Well, maybe someone takes that big, insane-o flyer on Russell that we've been talking about for the last little while, but if Goligoski isn't even pulling $5.5 million for five years while being worlds better than Russell at literally everything related to being an NHL defenseman, one can't imagine Russell even approaching his desired payday. That's as it should be, but it really does speak to how troublesome this D class is.

After all, even Don Sweeney, who has not exactly proven himself a reasonable evaluator of defensive talent, has been out here saying for weeks that he'd much rather get a defender via trade than the UFA market. That's a pretty good indication that the market inefficiencies it provides are in many ways drying up, which is good for the league overall, though not for the defenseman seeking new contracts this summer.

The only real areas where teams can improve on the blue line without overpaying this summer, it seems, are by trade (the Sweeney system), by finding real bargain opportunities a week or three into July, and by getting whoever's left to agree to dirt-cheap contracts or training camp tryouts as August wears on. If New Jersey can get David Schlemko — as good a third-pairing defenseman/depth power play specialist as there is in the league, but not much more than that — for basically nothing, it's a process other teams should at least try to replicate.

It won't be easy, of course. As everyone gets smarter, the opportunities to find useful depth players the competition hasn't identified as impactful in terms of on-ice value per dollar. That's likely to become increasingly true on the blue line in particular. Then your best options start becoming 29-to-33-year-old players looking for one last big payday, that's a problem for teams trying to gain a competitive edge.

It's why you have even smart, low-budget teams like Florida and Arizona giving guys deals that will pay them into their mid- and late-30s for tickets they probably won't actually live up to by contract's end. That's just the way the league is going.

It all just highlights once again the importance of developing young talent at every position, so you control their rights long enough that you don't have to make these kinds of decisions until they're not worth paying anymore anyway.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY:

Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: June 24, 2016, 1:42 pm

Here's a statistic that should serve as a lesson for the 2017 draft class.

Of the 44 college players selected Thursday night in this year's NBA draft, all but two received invites to the draft combine in Chicago last month. The exceptions were Iowa State senior Abdel Nader and Cal senior Tyrone Wallace, two of the final three players selected in Thursday's second round.

What that suggests is future NBA hopefuls would be wise to take advantage of the new rules governing the early-entry process and wait until after the May combine to decide whether to stay in the draft or not. Those not among the roughly 70 draft combine invitees have little chance of being drafted and even less hope of being taken high enough to receive a guaranteed contract. 

Whereas the NCAA's draconian rules have forced previous draft classes to decide by late-April whether to turn pro or return to school, a much-needed rule change allowed this year's prospects until one week after the May combine to make that choice. Many players wisely waited until deadline day, assessed the feedback they received and returned to school, but others were more rash.

USC's Julian Jacobs, Maryland's Robert Carter and Texas' Isaiah Taylor all declared for the draft and hired an agent before combine invites were sent out. Each went undrafted. Stanford's Rosco Allen and USC's Nikola Jovanovic learned they had not been invited to the combine in May and then hired an agent anyway. Both not surprisingly also went unselected.

It's important to note that going undrafted doesn't necessarily mean a prospect made the wrong decision to turn pro despite college eligibility remaining.

Some guys come from cash-strapped families that require them to begin earning a pay check even though they're not NBA-ready. Other guys have European ties and are content to play professionally overseas. There are also players like UC Irvine center Mamadou N'diaye, a 7-foot-6 center whose recurring knee problems require him to start making money off his size and skill now because his joints are unlikely to hold up as long as those of smaller players.

But what this year's dire stats should do is help future undecided prospects take a clear-headed look at where they stand in the pecking order rather than allowing themselves to be swayed by agents or friends and family members.

Only two players who NBA teams didn't feel were worthy of a combine invite last month managed to work their way into position to be drafted Thursday night. By contrast, all but 13 players who received a combine invite and opted to remain in the draft heard their name called.

That doesn't mean an NBA roster spot is guaranteed to a combine invitee, but the odds are certainly more favorable for those who make the cut than those who don't.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 24, 2016, 1:35 pm

Hello. In lieu of grim worldwide economic and political news, here's video of a guy getting hit by footballs:

Yes, that's everybody's favorite beer commercial in a man suit, Rob Gronkowski, slinging footballs at "The Late Late Show" host James Corden. Gronk matched up against Liev Schreiber (best known to NFL fans as the voice of HBO's "Hard Knocks") and Luke Wilson (best known to NFL fans as ... I dunno, the guy who gets his arm chopped off in "Anchorman").

So who "won" the game? Well, Gronk notched a 10-point strike early on, but Schreiber appeared to fire a ball through the 20-point hole with time expiring. No word on whether anyone tested the balls' air pressure.

Elsewhere in the show, Gronk held forth on the rules of his family ("No hitting in the face, no hitting in the gonads") and set up a possible cage match with the Wilson brothers:

Preseason begins soon, friends. Hang in there.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: June 24, 2016, 12:59 pm

Welcome to The Walk Off, the nightly MLB recap from Big League Stew. Here we'll look at the top performers of the night, show you a must-see highlight and rundown the scoreboard. First, we start with a game you need to know about. 

The honeymoon period may already be over for Tim Lincecum and the Los Angeles Angels. After a strong first start with his new club, Lincecum struggled his second time around.

Lincecum lasted just three innings against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday. The 32-year-old surrendered four runs on seven hits during the 5-4 loss. He walked two and struck out two in the outing. 

After two quick outs to open the game, Lincecum put two men on in the first inning. He was able to get out the jam, striking out Khris Davis to end the frame.

The second inning, however, proved to be difficult. Lincecum gave up two straight singles to open the frame, and then allowed a three-run homer to shortstop Marcus Semien.

After getting a quick out, Lincecum put two more hitters on base. Another run came in to score on an error. That run would eventually be charged to Lincecum after he gave up another single to the next batter. 

The third inning actually went fairly smooth. Despite a leadoff walk, Lincecum has able to retire the next three batters in order. By the time the third inning had ended, Lincecum had thrown 83 pitches. He was removed from the game at that point.

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Baseball contest now]

Though the Angels would battle back in the ninth, scoring two runs, they couldn't complete the comeback. Lincecum dropped to 1-1 with the loss. 

TOP PERFORMERS  

Freddy Galvis: Galvis was a one-man wrecking crew for the Philadelphia Phillies during Thursday's 7-3 win over the Minnesota Twins. Galvis provided plenty of power, hitting both a triple and a home run during the contest. He finished 2-for-3, with one run scored and five RBI.

Wei-Yin Chen: Chen may not have picked up the win for the Miami Marlins on Thursday, but he still tossed an impressive game against the Chicago Cubs. Chen held Chicago to just two runs over seven strong innings. He gave up five hits, walked three and struck out seven during the contest. Chen was matched by Cubs pitcher Jon Lester the entire way, preventing him from getting the win in the Marlins' 4-2 victory

Zack Greinke: By his normal standards, Greinke didn't have a great start for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday. He gave up three runs over 5 2/3 innings and notched four strikeouts in the team's 7-6 win over the Colorado Rockies. Greinke, however, was impressive at the plate and on the bases. He finished 1-for-2 at the plate, but also walked. Greinke came around to score both times he reached, and even managed to show off his wheels, stealing second. His all-around performance earns him the nod in our "Top Performers" section.

MUST-SEE HIGHLIGHT

With the Boston Red Sox on the verge of a four-game sweep, the team needed someone to step up in a big way Thursday against the Chicago White Sox. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts turned out to be that man.

With the game tied in the bottom of the 10th inning, Bogaerts delivered a walk-off single the scored Mookie Betts from second base. Bogaerts wasn't Boston's top performer during the contest, but he came up with the biggest hit of the night. He finished 2-for-6, with one huge RBI, during the 8-7 victory.

THE REST OF THE SCOREBOARD  

Giants 5, Pirates 3: Joe Panik's third inning triple plated two runs, giving the Giants a lead they would never relinquish. 

Tigers 5, Mariners 4: With the game tied in the bottom of the 10th, Steve Cishek threw a wild pitch to bring in the winning run for Detroit. 

Braves 4, Mets 3: A.J. Pierzynski drove in two runs early while Adonis Garcia's two-run homer in the eighth gave the Braves the victory.

Padres 7, Reds 4: Derek Norris smashed a three-run homer to give the Padres the lead in the sixth inning after the Reds took an early lead.

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

- - - - - - -

Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: June 24, 2016, 6:07 am

NEW YORK — In the class of 2015, two prep prospects topped the rankings of just about every recruiting service. One was Australian-born, Florida-based playmaking forward Ben Simmons, whose do-everything point forward game elicited comparisons to LeBron James and Lamar Odom. The other was Haitian-born, Memphis-based 7-footer Skal Labissiere, a tantalizing toolkit projected as "the fever dream of the modern NBA GM, a big man who can both shoot from the perimeter and block shots."

[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]

After an up-and-down year at LSU, Simmons' stock remained high enough that the Philadelphia 76ers made him the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA draft on Thursday night. After an up-and-down year at Kentucky, Labissiere had to sit, stew and wait until near the end of the first round to hear his name called, going to the Sacramento Kings with the 28th pick, which Vlade Divac and company picked up in an earlier draft-night trade with the Phoenix Suns.

It was a somewhat stunning fall for a player who — despite averaging just 6.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 15.8 minutes per game during his lone year in Lexington, being dinged for struggling with contact and lacking the strength to bang with other 7-footers — was still pegged as a top-10 pick by Jonathan Givony of The Vertical, and invited with his family to the green room at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a spot typically reserved for players expected to go in the lottery. (It was not, however, the most precipitous such plummet; Michigan State big man Deyonta Davis, projected as the No. 10 pick by DraftExpress, fell all the way out of the first round, going to the Memphis Grizzlies with the 31st overall selection, the first of the second round.)

"It was tough at first," Labissiere told reporters during his post-draft press conference. "But one thing about the league — one thing about all of us now — everything starts over for all of us. We all start over once we get to [the NBA] level. I'm excited to get to work. I know I have a bright future ahead of me."

Throughout Labissiere's long, long night, his green-room companion and college coach, Hall of Famer John Calipari — whose Kentucky program produced two more first-rounders this year, bringing the total to 21 since he took over the Wildcats in 2009 — tried to keep the 20-year-old's spirits up.

"[He kept saying] just that, 'You're good. You're going to be fine. You should use that as fuel to get better,'" Labissiere said. "He told me how good I was."

It's a note Calipari sounded, loudly and at some length, during a pre-draft appearance on ESPN's "Mike and Mike" radio show, as transcribed by A Sea of Blue:

"Let me give you an example of Skal. People would look at Skal and say, ‘Well, he had a disappointing year.' No, he didn't. No, he didn't. We all had to look at where he started and then where he finished. The best thing that they like about Skal right now: He never gave up. He did not quit. It was extremely hard, and he finished at his best. They're working him out now and they're looking at Skal saying, ‘He's 7-foot tall. This kid is a good athlete. He can shoot.'
"It's huge in the NBA that you can make shots now. He can make perimeter shots. They are even calling me saying, ‘You know what? He's more physical around the basket than we even thought he was.' Now, you may say he didn't show a lot of that in the year.
"A lot of that's on me. I was trying to use the blueprint of Karl Towns and Anthony Davis. Guess what? That lesson plan didn't fit him. It took me three months to figure out exactly what he was. Understand that after the (Nike Hoops) Summit game last year he was the No. 1 pick in the draft. That's what he was.
"And now these teams are looking at Skal and saying, ‘You know what? He fought through Kentucky. He made it through. He didn't use it as an excuse. And now we're looking at a kid —€” maybe he could have gone back to college for another year, but if he did, we would've never got him. Now all of a sudden we're in a position to get a kid that, if he had gone back to school, would've been one of those [top] picks.'"

But despite Calipari's salesmanship and Labissiere's tantalizing measurables, the sheer lack of productivity during his freshman season — he scored fewer than 10 points in all but two games over a 2 1/2-month span from mid-December through late-February — ultimately seemed to scare prospective suitors away on Thursday.

“I think he’s the most difficult prospect to figure out in this whole draft for me because he’s got some really solid selling points," ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said, according to Kyle Tucker of SECCountry.com. "He’s got an excellent shooting touch, his timing is good, he can block shots. But he didn’t do it in games, and he got pushed around by guys that got pushed around by other people. That was a little bit surprising to me, frankly.”

His selection, then, is an upside play — a gamble that, eventually, Labissiere's soft touch and shot-blocking will pair with increased bulk and an improved understanding of the game to produce a player capable of fulfilling the promise of that five-star high-school rating. It's a bet that he's going to put in the work to see the results, and that the difficulty holding up against more physical competition doesn't belie a lack of toughness.

Of course, anyone familiar with Labissiere's backstory would likely feel pretty comfortable banking on that toughness. From SB Nation's Yaron Weitzman:

Skal Labissiere couldn't feel his legs. For three hours, he was stuck in a crouched position, knees in his chest, nose pointing towards the ground, collapsed wall pushing down on his back. At 4:53 p.m. a vicious earthquake roared through Haiti. Labissiere was standing over his bathroom sink, washing his hands in preparation for dinner, when he felt the ground of his family's third-floor Port-au-Prince apartment begin to shake.
Minutes later, Labissiere, his mother and his nine-year-old brother were plummeting down towards the earth. The foundation of the apartment complex had withered away. For three hours, Labissiere sat there, in the dark. Unable to feel his legs, unable to do anything about the blood blanketing parts of his mother's face, unable to pry his brother's leg out from under the weight of his family's computer desk.
Close to 160,000 people died because of that earthquake. Skal thought he was going to die, too, before his dad, Leslie, discovered his family amid the rubble and used a barbell to pry them free.
Six-and-half-years later, you can understand why he's a bit miffed by all the fans, pundits and scouts who question his toughness.
"I was 13 years old when the earthquake happened," Labissiere said recently in a phone interview with SB Nation. "To be able to survive that, and follow my dreams to come to the [United] States, not know any English, move in with a new family, make it to Kentucky and soon the NBA — I don't know what everybody else in the draft has been through, but I don't really see how you can say I'm soft."

How exactly Labissiere fits into the plans of the Kings — who, as we discussed earlier Thursday, already employ a robust big-man rotation featuring All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, 2015 lottery pick Willie Cauley-Stein, 2015 free-agent signing Kosta Koufos and 2016's No. 13 overall pick, 7-foot-2 Greek teenager Giorgios Papagiannis — remains to be seen. For now, though, Labissiere seems content to take his slide in stride, to rely on his skills and work ethic to find a way to earn opportunities under new Kings head coach Dave Joerger, and to view his arrival in Sacramento — a team that hasn't made the playoffs in 10 years — as a blessing rather than a curse.

"At first, I was a little nervous, but after a while, it was just — I was excited about the whole thing," Labissiere said. "I know that God has a plan for me and that I was going to fall into the right place, right team."

Before the draft, he said he "firmly [believes] that two, three years from now, maybe five years from now, I can be the best player in this draft because of my skillset.” After a night that could've shaken any young man's self-confidence, Skal Labissiere remained resolute.

"I still believe it," he said Thursday night. "I'm about to go to work, and I'm going to control what I can control."

More NBA coverage:

- - - - - - -

Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @YourManDevine

Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL, "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

Author: Dan Devine
Posted: June 24, 2016, 5:36 am

Javier Baez is proving to be one heck of a utility player for the Chicago Cubs. The former top prospect would probably be a full-time starter on most teams, but is relegated to a backup role with Chicago. 

Despite the reduced playing time, Baez has still been able to produce some incredible plays. He's smashed walk-off home runs, pulled off impressive slides and even excelled in the field. 

Baez's expertise in the field was once again on display during Thursday's contest against the Miami Marlins. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Baez nearly pulled off one of the most incredible diving plays we've ever seen.

With two outs in the inning, Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto hit a ground ball toward the hole between third and short. Baez, who was playing third, ranged to his left and attempted to slide in order to get his glove on the ball. 

The ball took a bounce at the last minute, and instead of gloving it cleanly, Baez managed to deflect the ball straight up in the air. As his slide continued, Baez kept his eyes on the ball, snagged it with his bare-hand and fired to first base.

At first, it looked as if he had actually made the play. The umps ruled Realmuto out on the play, and it seemed as though Baez had just made one of the best web gems of the season.

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Baseball contest now]

That wasn't the case. Replays revealed Realmuto had beaten the throw and he was eventually ruled safe. Realmuto runs fairly well for a catcher. He stole eight bases last season and has already swiped three bags this year. It's definitely possible that Baez' throw would have nailed nearly every other catcher in the league. In this case, he had the misfortune of going up against one of the few catchers who has wheels. 

The fact that Baez didn't get the out probably ruins this play in the eyes of some, but what he was able to do was incredibly impressive. How many fielders come close to getting the runner there? How much body control and coordination do you have to have in order to stay with that ball and even have a shot at the out?

He may not have made the play, but we're still impressed. If Baez continues to pull off highlight-level plays in limited time, you have to wonder whether he can work his way into a larger role, even though he's a member of the stacked Cubs.

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

- - - - - - -

Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: June 24, 2016, 3:06 am

NEW YORK — The Sacramento Kings entered the 2016 NBA draft with the No. 8 overall pick and a chance to hopefully add a top talent that new head coach Dave Joerger could help mold into the kind of contributor who can help incumbent All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins get the team on a path toward playoff contention after 10 straight seasons in the lottery. After watching Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Jaylen Brown, Dragan Bender, Kris Dunn, Buddy Hield and Jamal Murray come off the board, the Kings faced a choice: go with a high-risk, high-reward pick who grew up in Sacramento, or ... not:

[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]

Kings can take local kid Marquese Chriss or choose someone that will immediately be considered a reach.

— Tom Ziller (@teamziller) June 24, 2016

They chose ... not:

The Phoenix Sunsagreed to acquire the rights to No. 8 overall selection Marquese Chriss in a trade with the Sacramento Kings, sources told The Vertical.
The Suns sent the No. 13 overall selection, the No. 28 overall pick and the rights to guard Bogdan Bogdanovic to the Kings in the deal.

Sacramento also picks up a 2020 second-round pick, according to David Aldridge of TNT.

The Kings then chose another, more different "not."

Vertical Sources: Sacramento -- via Phoenix -- will select Georgios Papagiannis with the No. 13 pick in the NBA draft.

— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 24, 2016

[googles 'georgios papagiannis']

— Tom Ziller (@teamziller) June 24, 2016

Judging by his social media response to the wheeling and dealing of Kings vice president of basketball operations and general manager Vlade Divac, it seems that Boogie might not be especially enthusiastic about turning the No. 8 pick into Bogdan Bogdanovic (who, it is important to note, is not Bojan Bogdanovic; in fact, they are not related!); Papagiannis, an 18-year-old, 7-foot-2-inch, 240-pound center who played a small role for Greek power Panathinaikos and was projected as a late-first-round pick by Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress, and who now ranks as the highest-drafted Greek player ever; and a couple of late draft picks:

Lord give me the strength 🙏🏿

— DeMarcus Cousins (@boogiecousins) June 24, 2016

Draft night in Sacto pic.twitter.com/XV8jfGb48i

— Jason Gallagher (@jga41agher) June 24, 2016

Now, to be fair, you've got to hear both sides:

In fairness, DeMarcus Cousins initial 'Give me strength' tweet came at 5:13p - before Kings selected Giorgios Papagiannis at 13

— Sean Cunningham (@SeanCunningham) June 24, 2016

... but rom a roster-building perspective, you can understand why Boogie might be curious about Divac spending a lottery pick on a 18-year-old center when the Kings currently employ Cousins, 2015 lottery choice Willie Cauley-Stein and another Greek big man, Kosta Koufos, whom Sacramento signed to a four-year contract in free agency just last summer. Especially considering, with Rajon Rondo a free agent and Marco Belinelli out of town after a trade that shipped him to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for the No. 22 selection, the Kings' backcourt depth chart featured Darren Collison, Ben McLemore, and not much else. (Sacramento did later use that 22nd pick on Syracuse shooting guard Malachi Richardson.)

If anyone thinks DeMarcus Cousins runs the Kings' decisions, I hope you now have some clarity.

— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) June 24, 2016

For what it's worth, Papagiannis seems pretty excited about getting to work with Boogie:

I met [the Kings] on the pro day. I had the pro day like last week. Besides that, I know Vlade Divac, European guy. Everybody must know. I'm very excited to be like his player. Peja, two great players have played there. Besides that, DeMarcus Cousins, I admire his game so much, and I love that he's going to be my teammate. Yeah, that's it.
I've been watching him since last year. He has a lot of skill moves in the post. Tough, tough guy to play against. I love his character. He's mean for the game. He's hungry.

With a positive attitude like that, we're sure he'll win DeMarcus over in no time.

More NBA coverage:

- - - - - - -

Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @YourManDevine

Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL, "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

Author: Dan Devine
Posted: June 24, 2016, 2:29 am

Once the most intriguing prospect in the high school Class of 2016, Thon Maker wasn't even considered a first-round pick in the latest round of mock drafts, so his selection at No. 10 overall came as shock to some.

The Milwaukee Bucks took the Barclays Center by surprise by taking Maker in the lottery. Thanks to a loophole in the NBA's one-and-done system, the 19-year-old became the first high school player taken in the first round since the 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement went into effect. Maker graduated from Canada's Orangeville (Ontario) District Secondary School in June 2015 and remained with the affiliated basketball program — the Athlete Institute of Ontario — for a post-graduate year in 2015-16.

[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]

"When I walked past most of the guys in the green room, some of the guys looked at me sideways," said Maker. "Some of the guys I already knew from high school, so we were like friends. So, they were happy and some guys gave me dap. And other guys were like, it should be them. I don't know, if I were in that situation, I would have been like, congrats, you know, you've made a step. Now go make a name for yourself. Yeah."

And perhaps we shouldn't have been taken aback when Milwaukee selected Maker, since the Bucks succeeded in taking a flyer on a young Giannis Antetokounmpo in the middle of the 2013 NBA Draft. Maker and Greek Freek make for a fascinating pair, as the former is also a long, athletic talent whose 7-foot-1 frame drew comparisons to Kevin Durant soon after he moved to the U.S. in 2011 from Sudan via Australia.

Maker attended three schools in Louisiana and Virginia by the end of his sophomore season, when he captured 2013-14 Gatorade Virginia Boys Basketball Player of the Year honors after averaging 21.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and 4.2 blocks while leading Martinsville (Va.) Carlisle School to a state championship. He was no longer considered an international player and became subject to the NBA's one-and-done rule.

The following year, he transferred to the famed Athlete Institute of Ontario, a school that also produced Kentucky freshman Jamal Murray, who was selected three slots before Maker by the Denver Nuggets.

"He's a great player, great person, hard work ethic," Murray told reporters on Thursday night. "He's going to be something special. He wants it, and you can tell. I love playing with guys that have the same fire."

Maker's remarkable journey to the NBA after being discovered playing soccer in Sudan by an Austalian who eventually brought him and his brothers to a basketball camp in Texas has raised some questions about his age. His birthday has long been listed as Feb. 25, 1997, but doubts creeped in as the draft approached. 

Several teams have entirely ruled Thon Maker out of the first round due to his age. Multiple sources believe Maker to be 21-23, not 19.

— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) June 23, 2016

"It did get to me in terms of me hearing about it," said Maker, rebuffing the rumors, "but it didn't get to me personally because if it were true, I'd probably be like sideways about it, but it's not true, so I'm comfortable. I'm not pissed off or — oh, I'm not angry or anything." 

The other questions surrounding Maker had to do with the level of competition he faced in Virginia and at the Athlete Institute, although he did drop 10 points, six rebounds and a pair of blocks opposite No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons at the 2014 NBPA Top 100 Camp and has held his own against other top recruits.

And while the pick shocked some, at least one future Hall of Famer called Maker "the sleeper of the draft." 

Thon Maker sleeper of the draft watch 10th pik remember what happen in 98

— Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) June 24, 2016

Then again, Paul Pierce loves every No. 10 pick. It's just surprising that Maker was taken there this year.

- - - - - - -

Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

Author: Ben Rohrbach
Posted: June 24, 2016, 2:08 am

 

The NBA Draft is an event known for its fashion, though not necessarily in a positive way. The most memorable outfits are the worst ones — Drew Gooden in the latest suit by Dr. Evil, Samaki Walker in a lab coat, and Jalen Rose as a mobster in hell.

[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]

Sadly, most draftees now employ stylists to keep them on trend. For every Brandon Ingram in a snakeskin-effect jacket, there are seven guys in the same family of tuxedo jacket and bowtie combo.

However, the rare player can still make news. That's what new Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Kris Dunn, the No. 5 pick, did when he mixed a J.C. Penney suit with bedazzled Gucci shoes. He grabbed plenty of attention when he shouted out both companies in his post-pick interview with ESPN's Lisa Salters:

Dunn did not shy away from praising his new tailoring once he got into the Barclays Center interview room:

You shouted out JC Penney before. Are you a frequent shopper of department stores?
Yeah, actually I do, and actually a lot of my friends do, too. This suit is actually made by JC Penney. The person is J. Ferrar. It's a great suit. They did something special for me. I told them I wanted to represent New London in a special way. They carved some of my jersey from New London High School, and they put it in this suit, so I thought that was pretty special.

A quick internet search yields no evidence that J. Ferrar is a real person. However, it is a good way to be reminded of the careers of both Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt frontman Jay Farrar and "Entourage" star Jerry Ferrara.

Not surprisingly, everyone got a kick out of the mix of one of the biggest names in international fashion and a store best known for outfitting the families of suburban America.

Kris Dunn is the first person to say "These is Gucci" and "This is JCPenney" in the same sentence.

— jon greenberg (@jon_greenberg) June 24, 2016

As noted by Nina Mandell of For The Win, J.C. Penney also outfitted NCAA Player of the Year Buddy Hield, selected at No. 6 by the New Orleans Pelicans. If you like their suits, please note that they are custom jobs, not the exact clothes on sale at stores:

Buddy Hield & Kris Dunn wore J. Ferrar suits, which can be bought for $140+ from JC Penney. Their particular suits were customs.

— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 24, 2016

Dunn didn't stop with the J.C. Penney suit, though, he also had his high school jersey sewn in to represent the New London Whalers of his Connecticut hometown:

CT repping RT @KrisDunn3: What you got @buddyhield @jcpenney #ad pic.twitter.com/JGeFQWO8Js

— Chalupa Batman (@man_EE) June 23, 2016

And here's a closer look at those Gucci sneakers:

Straight 🔥 #OwnYourStyle #Speedman @SpeedStick #ad pic.twitter.com/Nvh1vJCmRO

— Kris Dunn (@KrisDunn3) June 23, 2016

Well done, Kris.

- - - - - - -

Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @FreemanEric

Author: Eric Freeman
Posted: June 24, 2016, 1:40 am

The general consensus heading into the 2016 NBA Draft was that two players held star potential — LSU's Ben Simmons and Duke's Brandon Ingram. The former went to the Philadelphia 76ers with the first overall pick, which left the Los Angeles Lakers to pick Ingram at No. 2. The franchise's millions of fans seem pretty happy about it, with Ingram set to join a young team looking to rebuild around high-potential options and new head coach Luke Walton in the wake of Kobe Bryant's retirement.

[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]

We will have to wait several seasons to see if Simmons or Ingram ends up as the better player. For now, though, it's clear the Ingram has the more aggressive style in clothes. While Simmons opted for a pretty standard three-piece navy suit, Ingram went for the boldest look of the whole draft:

Brandon Ingram should fit in in Los Angeles. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

If you can't tell, that's a wild snakeskin-effect jacket with a chain at the collar in place of a tie. Most 18-year-olds do not have the confidence to pull off something so crazy, but most teenagers don't get taken in the top two of the draft.

Whatever the case, there are probably a lot of Lakers fans who appreciate Ingram's sense of style. If Nick Young manages to avoid a trade this summer, Ingram will have a least one teammate who does, too.

- - - - - - -

Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @FreemanEric

Author: Eric Freeman
Posted: June 24, 2016, 12:52 am

The Battle Creek Bombers will host 2nd Amendment Education Night. (Sportslogos.com Screenshot)Weird promo nights are fairly common outside of Major League Baseball. Minor-league and independent-league clubs don't have the star power needed to draw in fans, so they have to come up with ways to bring fans out to the ballpark. 

With that said, some promotions are better than others. We'll let you be the judge of the latest idea from the Battle Creek Bombers. The Bombers are part of the Northwoods League, which is best described as a collegiate summer league. They are not affiliated with any major-league club. 

On June 24, the Bombers will host "Second Amendment Education Night." The event is sponsored by local gun dealer Freedom Firearms. Freedom Firearms is referring to the event as "Second Amendment Appreciation Night," according to Fox 17.

Team general manager Tony Lovieno told Fox 17 that the event will promote gun safety and education.

"It's a celebration of responsible gun ownership and learning, if you do have a firearm, how to do it safely," said Bombers General Manager Tony Lovieno.

Freedom Firearms co-owner Jim Fulton explained more about the event.

"There's going to be some booths underneath the bleachers set up showcasing the education portion," said Freedom Firearms co-owner Joel Fulton.  "We're going to have some gun safe stuff for the kids there, basic safety stuff for kids so they know how to be safe around firearms."

It's important to note a few things here. First off, this event has been in the works for months. It is not something that was thrown together to try and capitalize on current events. Second, while it will be an open carry event, anyone caught drinking while carrying will be asked to leave the game. Finally, guns will not be sold at the game.

Given that House Democrats just held a sit-in protesting current gun control laws, the event does come at an awkward time. And since gun control is such a polarizing topic, it's clear that attending this game won't be for everyone. 

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Baseball contest now]

If you are going to own a gun, it's important to be educated on gun safety. That said, maybe a baseball game isn't the best venue for that type of thing. 

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

- - - - - - -

Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: June 24, 2016, 12:36 am

(Getty)Five signees from Baylor’s 2016 recruiting class have officially been released from their National Letters of Intent.

The university announced the decision Thursday night, clarifying that the prospects involved were those who “formally requested” their release prior to May 31. The school did not name the prospects in question in a news release, but several outlets reported they are defensive back Parrish Cobb, defensive back Donovan Duvernay, offensive lineman Patrick Hudson, running back Kameron Martin and offensive lineman J.P. Urquidez.

Those five players have been granted a full release, Baylor Rivals.com affiliate SicEmSports.com confirmed with the National Letter of Intent office. They are now free to completely re-open their recruiting process and sign with any other institution.

Per the NLI to SicEmSports: Five NLI release requests have been FINALIZED as complete releases. #Baylor #SicEm

— SicEmSports (@SicEmSports) June 24, 2016

“I wanted the opportunity to talk with our signees and their families before providing any releases,” said Baylor acting head coach Jim Grobe. “This has never been about whether or not we would ultimately provide individuals with a release; we simply asked that we go through the process outlined by the NLI, take some time and have the chance to speak with the student-athletes and their parents. I’ve enjoyed those opportunities to meet with these families and wish each individual success in all that they do in life.

[Check out Dr. Saturday on Tumblr for entertaining things you won’t see on the blog]

Duvernay is the brother of Devin Duvernay, a four-star wide receiver who officially signed with Texas earlier on Thursday. Like his brother, Devin Duvernay signed with Baylor in the 2016 class. However, a compliance error with his paperwork allowed Devin to re-enter the recruiting process two weeks ago.

Donovan Duvernay is rated as a three-star athlete by Rivals.com while Cobb, Martin, Urquidez and Hudson are all rated as four-star recruits.

The players decided to leave Baylor after Art Briles was fired as head coach in late May amid the school’s sexual assault scandal which also resulted in the resignations of school president/chancellor Ken Starr and athletic director Ian McCaw.

Jared Atkinson, a three-star wide receiver, initially asked for his release from the school but opted to stay with Baylor in the end.

Some members of the program’s 2016 class – those who decided to stick with the Bears – are already on campus. Others are expected to arrive in Waco for the second summer session.

“I am very impressed with the young men who are here at Baylor and on our team,” Grobe said. “We have great student-athletes who are working hard, committed to success and being a part of something special. I am committed to each one in their pursuit of academic and athletic excellence.”

[Visit Dr. Saturday on Facebook for stories you might have missed and chat with the writers]

Baylor opens up its 2016 at home on Sept. 2 against Northwestern State.

For more Baylor news, visit SicEmSports.com.

- - - - - - -

Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @SamDCooper

Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: June 24, 2016, 12:35 am

BUFFALO, NY – Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin rolled his eyes and tossed his head back when asked what it would take for him to trade star defenseman P.K. Subban. 

“I wouldn’t even want to go there,” he said.

“You never say never. If someone offered me half of their team, you know, you gotta make it work. But it’s not my intention.”

Yet the chatter continued, and intensified, at the NHL Draft in Buffalo. That the Canadiens are “open” to the possibility of trading him. That, according to former Hab Georges Laraque, the Canadiens actually did some negotiating with the Edmonton Oilers about Subban, asking for center Leon Draisaitl and the No. 4 overall pick for him.

Bergevin downplayed the idea that anything was in the works now for Subban, whose full no-move clause kicks in on July 1, a deadline that’s been the catalyst for much of this trade scuttlebutt.

“It’s not even listening to offers. It’s taking calls,” he said. “When a GM calls me, I don’t know what he’s calling me about. So I answer the phone. Yes, I’ve received calls on P.K. But I’m not shopping P.K. Subban, I can tell you that.”

How long are these conversations?

“They’re pretty short,” said Bergevin.

Is it realistic that a P.K. Subban trade could happen this summer?

“I would say no.”

Bergevin said that other GMs are just doing their due diligence, as he has in the past as well. There were players he’s called about, he said, that he was “99.9 percent sure” would not be moving.

So the other general managers call him, and he says “no.” Do they call back?

“They call back and I say ‘no no,’” he said.

Here’s where it gets a little odd. So these general managers are calling him up, and he’s saying “no,” and they call back, and he says “no” again. And yet when it comes to declaring that Subban is off the market, that he’ll be a Canadien next season, Bergevin dodged the opportunity, referring to earlier answers about him not “realistically” moving instead of saying, "yes, P.K. Subban will be in Montreal next year."

If these general managers are going to keep calling after hearing “no” on the phone, they’ll probably keep calling after Subban’s declared off the market that Bergevin alleges he’s not even on at the moment.

But there is no declaration. That’s why the door remains open. That’s why the chatter remains murmuring around the draft.

I don’t believe the Canadiens are shopping Subban. I believe Bergevin when he says he’s listening. They like Subban. They’d like to keep Subban. But they’re open to hearing how much another team like the Edmonton Oilers likes him, too.

One thing Bergevin made clear: That the talk of Subban not “fitting in” with Canadiens culture isn’t a factor here.

“No issue with having a bit more personality,” he said. “No issues with what he does. He wears the clothes closest to mine. Maybe a bit more colorful.”

--

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: June 23, 2016, 11:55 pm

NEW YORK — After three years in the darkest depths of the NBA's basement during a protracted rebuilding effort that resulted in a staggering number of losses and the resignation of general manager Sam Hinkie, the Philadelphia 76ers finally landed the No. 1 overall pick. This, the argument goes, is why you Trust The Process — because it gives you the best chance of drafting a potentially franchise-altering talent like Ben Simmons.

[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]

As was widely expected in the days leading up to the 2016 NBA draft, the 76ers opened up Thursday's festivities at Brooklyn's Barclays Center by tabbing Simmons, a 6-foot-10, 240-pound playmaking forward out of LSU, with Philly's first top overall selection since newly minted Hall of Famer Allen Iverson in 1996.

Congratulations @BenSimmons25. I know you'll make all of us Philly fans proud!!

— Allen Iverson (@alleniverson) June 23, 2016

Congrats to the Brodie and WELCOME TO PHILLY @BenSimmons25 #TrustTheProcess

— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) June 23, 2016

Simmons' selection was largely expected, but that doesn't mean the man himself wasn't feeling the adrenaline as his dream became reality.

"It feels amazing, honestly," he told reporters in his post-draft press conference. "I can't even -- my legs were shaking when I was on stage."

Given the significant struggles the Sixers have faced in recent years, you'd forgive Simmons if he felt a bit of trepidation knowing the size of the mountain he's got to climb to help get Philadephia back into playoff contention. To hear him tell it, though, the feeling he had after donning that Sixers cap wasn't one of anxiety; it was one of relief.

"Honestly, it feels like all this pressure just has dropped off me," he said. "I can relax now that I know where I'm going to be. More importantly, I know where I'm headed and where I'm going to start working, and what I need to work on for the team."

While some NBA talent evaluators and decision-makers reportedly rated Duke swingman Brandon Ingram as a better overall prospect, reports circulated earlier this week that, after Simmons finally made his way to the Sixers' facility for an in-person meeting and workout, the 76ers informed the 19-year-old native of Australia that he'd be their top choice.

“He’s got an NBA body and he’s got some skills that are NBA skills, definable NBA skills,” 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said before Thursday's draft, according to Reuters. “When you put that size and skill together, it’s generally a pretty good package.”

The son of Dave Simmons, a South Bronx-born big man who had a lengthy pro career in Australia's National Basketball League — where he was coached for a time by Brett Brown, who now runs the show for the Sixers — Simmons began turning heads and generating attention as a teenager. As a 15-year-old, he earned a spot on the Australian national team for the FIBA Under-17 World Championship, helping the squad earn a silver medal after bowing out to a U.S. squad led by, among others, tournament MVP Jahlil Okafor, whom the Sixers drafted with the No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft.

Simmons moved to Florida in January of 2013 to attend prep power Montverde Academy, where he continued to flourish and generate buzz as a versatile talent capable of changing games as a scorer and playmaker while also using his size to make an impact on the boards and on the defensive end. He was named the 2014-15 Gatorade Boys' High School Player of the Year, following in the footsteps of fellow future No. 1 picks like LeBron James, Chris Webber, Dwight Howard, Greg Oden, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, the last two winners of the NBA's Rookie of the Year award.

One of the nation's top-ranked recruits in the class of 2015, Simmons chose to play his college ball at LSU, becoming the program's most highly toutest prospect since the days of Randy Livingston and Shaquille O'Neal. Simmons displayed his estimable talents during his time at LSU, even earning a shoutout from President Barack Obama during a Baton Rouge political rally for his often-sterling play. He averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game — making him the first Southeastern Conference player ever to finish in the top five in all three categories — en route to a consensus First-Team All-America selection.

On the whole, though, the Tigers underwhelmed, getting off to a slow start and struggling to get the most out of a roster that featured not only Simmons, but also fellow five-star freshman Antonio Blakeney, pro prospect Tim Quarterman and former Arizona transfer Craig Victor. Despite a late-winter surge that got them to the doorstep of the NCAA tournament, ultimately falling short of March Madness and opting out of postseason play entirely, bringing a disappointing end to Simmons' one-year collegiate career.

"Everything is not going to be perfect," he said when asked what he learned from his disappointing year at LSU. "You've got to learn to fight through adversity, the struggles or whatever happens during the season, but you've got to play through it, keep working, and things change. Players get hurt, but you've just got to play through it."

Despite LSU's struggles, many draftniks still expected Simmons to be the first name announced at the 2016 draft. Back in March, though, Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress noted that some NBA decision-makers found enough cause for concern in LSU's listless late-season performance, and Simmons' role in it, to generate questions about his drive, defensive commitment and shooting form, the sum total of which led some teams to drop him down below Duke's Ingram — a 6-foot-9, 200-pound wing who is 14 months younger and has a significantly longer wingspan than Simmons, and who shot 41 percent from the college 3-point line — on some teams' draft boards.

Simmons himself acknowledged that he has plenty to work on as he steps up to the next level.

"Everything," he said. "From eating right to getting my body right for 82 games to dribbling to shooting. Just everything. Ball-handling. I think everything really needs to be worked on because you're going to that next level where guys have been in the league for 10-plus years, so they have a lot of experience."

More recently, though, Givony slid Simmons back up into the top spot in his mock draft for The Vertical: "Simmons is the player the Sixers want at No. 1, at least that’s what Vertical sources have said Philadelphia has told other teams around the league." The player they want was described this spring by Yahoo Sports national college basketball writer Jeff Eisenberg as one "whose combination of athleticism, ball handling, rebounding and court vision compares very favorably to Lamar Odom at similar stages of their careers." That sounds like a pretty cool player, and one who might finally give Philly the ball-handler they've been lacking in recent years.

"They know I can play the point forward position and I'm comfortable bringing the ball up, so I think that's one of those things we'll talk about and discuss a lot," he said.

What kind of on-court match a ball-handling combo forward might make alongside incumbent Philly big men Okafor and Nerlens Noel, as well as the just-cleared-to-scrimmage 2014 first-rounder Joel Embiid (who could finally make his Sixers debut this fall) and fellow 2014 pick Dario Saric (who might finally opt out of his contract with Turkish club Anadolu Efes to make his Sixers debut this fall) remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen, of course, which of them Simmons will actually have to fit alongside; neither Embiid nor Saric are sure things to suit up in Sixers red, white and blue yet, and both Okafor and Noel have found themselves embroiled in trade talks this week.

Whatever else changes about the 76ers' roster moving forward, Simmons will be expected to serve as the primary factor in turning around a franchise that has strung together three straight sub-20-win seasons, hasn't won 50 games since 2000, and hasn't won an NBA championship since 1983. It's a Herculean challenge that dwarfs anything he faced in Louisiana, but the 19-year-old phenom believes he's equal to the task.

"I think everything that I went through has helped mold me into the player that I am now," Simmons said before Thursday's draft, according to the Associated Press. "But I think I'm ready."

More NBA coverage:

- - - - - - -

Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @YourManDevine

Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL, "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

Author: Dan Devine
Posted: June 23, 2016, 11:39 pm

Miss something that happened on Dr. Saturday’s social media presence? Well, we’ve got your roundup right here. Don’t let this happen again. Always be in the know by following Dr. Saturday on TwitterFacebook and Tumblr.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and his former quarterback, Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Bucs, took time out of their day to visit survivors of the shooting in Orlando on Wednesday.

Thank you Coach Jimbo Fisher & Jameis Winston for visiting survivors & their families! @orlandohealth @FSU_Football pic.twitter.com/4lbDlpFp7R

— Rick Scott (@FLGovScott) June 22, 2016

Steve Berkowitz of USA Today got his hands on the NCAA’s recent federal tax return and found that president Mark Emmert made nearly $2 million during the 2014 calendar year. That total wasn’t as much as the more than $2.7 million paid to chief operating officer Jim Isch. He retired late in 2014.

NCAA President Mark Emmert credited with nearly $1.9M in total pay for 2014 calendar year, new NCAA tax docs show: https://t.co/6L4NpPRxYt

— Steve Berkowitz (@ByBerkowitz) June 23, 2016

Devin Duvernay was the top-rated recruit in Baylor’s 2016 signing class but he decided to open up his recruitment after the turmoil in Waco. Duvernay announced his commitment to Texas earlier this week. It became official on Thursday.

Longhorns add HS All-America WR Devin Duvernay (Sachse, Texas) to 2016 signing class https://t.co/JrjuvoWwQn pic.twitter.com/FpysE8gLs8

— Longhorn_FB (@Longhorn_FB) June 23, 2016

Michigan’s satellite camp tour is still going and Jim Harbaugh is still wearing jerseys at each spot. Thursday, the Wolverines stopped in Sacramento and Harbaugh donned the No. 7 jersey of Colin Kaepernick, Harbaugh’s quarterback during his time as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

Harbaugh wearing Kaepernick in Sacramento today. pic.twitter.com/WbIV3XCZs3

— Isaiah Hole (@isaiahhole) June 23, 2016

Illinois defensive tackle Teko Powell told the Champaign News-Gazette that he is leaving the program to pursue a graduate transfer. Powell started a combined nine games for the Illini in 2013 and 2014, but missed the 2015 season with a foot injury.

“I had four different head coaches that either recruited me or coached me. I’m looking for a more stable program with the last two years of eligibility that I’ll have,” Powell said.

Illinois DT Teko Powell will pursue a graduate transfer. Foot injuries cut short his past two seasons. https://t.co/nPDfGdVFK1

— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) June 23, 2016

Georgia reportedly added defensive back J.R. Reed, a transfer from Tulsa. Reed played mainly special teams for Tulsa last fall. Also, he is the cousin of Deangelo Gibbs, a four-star class of 2017 recruit from Loganville, Georgia.

J.R. Reed, son of Jake Reed, transferring to UGA. We have the latest on the story right here:https://t.co/fn3mKfUhFq pic.twitter.com/whWysLs1AR

— Paul Maharry (@pmaharry) June 23, 2016

Devontre Parnell, a graduate transfer from Louisville, told the Sun Herald he will finish his career at Southern Miss. He missed the 2013 and 2015 seasons due to injuries and appeared in only three games in 2014. However, he was healthy during spring practice for Louisville and says he’s ready to go for his final season.

Devontre Parnell, a grad transfer from Louisville, has committed to Southern Miss. The CB has one year remaining. https://t.co/LwBIv6l0Wj

— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) June 23, 2016

Colorado and Kansas State agreed to a home-and-home series – 2027 in Boulder and 2028 in Manhattan. Colorado will also play North Dakota State in 2024.

More future games announced. We'll face @NDSUfootball in 2024 and @KStateFB in '27 & '28. #GoBuffs https://t.co/grqXdFt1sv

— Colorado Football (@RunRalphieRun) June 23, 2016
Author: Yahoo Sports Staff
Posted: June 23, 2016, 11:18 pm

This is The StewPod, our baseball podcast with a dash of pop culture. If you dig the show, please subscribe and review us on iTunes.

The Major League Baseball All-Star game is just a few weeks away. The contest will be held in San Diego and Wil Myers has already been named the All-Star ambassador. Given his performance for the San Diego Padres, this all seems to be hinting at something, right?

Myers came on this week's StewPod to answer that question. He also talks about his breakout, whether he would participate in the Home Run Derby if asked, why he doesn't use batting gloves and arm wrestling.

On top of that Chris and Mike banter about whether the Chicago Cubs are similar to the Golden State Warriors, and Bad News Ramen returns for his usual Three Strikes segment. 

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Baseball contest now]

Here's the full rundown of the show:
• Are the Cubs like the Dubs?
• The Expos didn't win the World Series
• Wil Myers joins the program to talk about the All-Star game
• Bad News Ramen joins the program for his usual Three Strikes segment
• Important questions: Chris gets an education 

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

- - - - - - -

Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: June 23, 2016, 10:52 pm

It's time for Happy Hour. As always, tweet us your thoughts or shoot us an email at happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com if you want to participate.

Sonoma is one of our favorite races of the year; will the pattern that Kyle Busch broke last season continue or will we see another repeat Sonoma winner on Sunday?

Busch became the first driver since 2006 to win at Sonoma for a second time. Here's the list of winners dating back to 2007:

2015: Kyle Busch
2014: Carl Edwards
2013: Martin Truex Jr.
2012: Clint Bowyer
2011: Kurt Busch
2010: Jimmie Johnson
2009: Kasey Kahne
2008: Kyle Busch
2007: Juan Pablo Montoya

Add Tony Stewart to that list (he won at Sonoma in 2001 and 2005) and there are eight drivers in the field on Sunday who will be going for a second or third win. If we're going to bet on a first time Sonoma winner, it's hard to look away from Kevin Harvick. Not only is Harvick the best driver of the past three years in the Cup Series, he hasn't been too bad at Sonoma.

Let's get to your questions:

Is it possible we have more than 16 winners this season? If so, who else can still win races? - Will

There are 10 winners so far this season:

Denny Hamlin
Jimmie Johnson
Brad Keselowski
Kevin Harvick
Kyle Busch
Carl Edwards
Matt Kenseth
Martin Truex Jr.
Kurt Busch
Joey Logano

There are 11 races left, is it possible that they'll be won by seven drivers?

Based off straight percentages, of course. But when you weight it based on the strength of the drivers who haven't won, it's an incredibly miniscule chance we'll have 17 or more drivers.

Chase Elliott, Chase Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman are the winless drivers in the top 15 in the points standings. Of those five, only Elliott and Junior have shown the speed to *look* like they were capable of a win this season. Dillon has in flashes, but he's only led three laps. So has Newman. McMurray hasn't led any.

Kasey Kahne needs to be in the discussion, and so does Ryan Blaney. And Kyle Larson, of course. But that's about it at this point.

It's not a coincidence that the 10 drivers who have won races are Nos. 1-10 in terms of laps led this season.

-------

Which NASCAR driver could take a punch the best?- Jim

This inspired a fun Twitter discussion.

If we're going current NASCAR drivers, is there a choice outside of Tony Stewart? Dude's broken his back and his leg over the past three years and is still driving. The physical pain of a punch would be nothing compared to those two injuries.

We also feel compelled to say that we're hoping to not have to cover a fight this year. Rivalries are fun. Fights are dumb.

@NickBromberg Hi Nick, big fan. Question: If a road course were held on an actual road, where would you put it?

— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) June 23, 2016

Who is this Busbee guy?

We also spent way too much time thinking about this question. Staying local, we'd love to see a road course race at the Kansas City downtown airport. The airport served as the original commercial hub for the city and is a half-mile from downtown. Racing on the runways would make a race reminiscent of the CART races at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport.

But airport runways aren't actual roads, so we'll go with another CART flashback: Las Vegas. How cool would it be to see a night race on the Vegas strip?

GIve us your suggestions via Twitter.

@NickBromberg 18 can win the Xfinity owners title. Cup drivers can't race in Homestead. Invite Sam to race it? How about a waiver for Sam?

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) June 23, 2016

If you weren't paying attention to NASCAR over Father's Day weekend, Sam Hornish Jr. won the Xfinity Series race at Iowa. Hornish was a late sub for Matt Tifft, who was sidelined by a back issue.

Tifft is scheduled to run at Homestead, so it reasons that he'll still be in the car. A waiver for Hornish is a fun exercise, even if it's extremely unlikely. Hornish becoming eligible for the Chase would make it more ridiculous than it already is given the lack of depth in the Xfinity Series field.

If, on the crazy 0.00001 percent chance he got a waiver and wanted to race full-time in the Xfinity Series for the rest of the season, Hornish could be a title candidate. Here's why:

There will not be 12 winners in the Xfinity Series this year. Only three Xfinity Series drivers have won races; Hornish is the fourth. So Hornish would pretty much be guaranteed a spot.

He also has to be in the top 30 in points. He's already 37th with one start. Yes. 37th. With one start. Didn't we say the Xfinity Series is really shallow?

The 30th-place driver in the standings is Jeff Green. He's competed in 12 of the 14 races in 2016 and his average finish is essentially 36th in a 40-car field. He has 66 points. Hornish has 45. Hornish could be in the top 30 if he ran the next Xfinity Series race at Daytona.

Again, it's not happening for a variety of reasons. But if a magic potion of a NASCAR waiver, a desire to drive the rest of the season by Hornish and a good team all came together, he could be a title contender.

- - - - - - -

Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @NickBromberg

Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: June 23, 2016, 10:30 pm

(@zephyrsbaseball)The Triple-A baseball team in New Orleans, currently called the Zephyrs and affiliated with the Miami Marlins, is looking for a new name for next season that represents the city's great culture. The Zephyrs name was inherited when the team moved from Denver in 1993.

So like any respectable minor-league franchise, they asked fans to submit ideas, and there is a definite theme among the seven finalists released earlier this week:

  • New Orleans Baby Cakes
  • New Orleans Crawfish
  • New Orleans King Cakes
  • New Orleans Night Owls
  • New Orleans Po'boys 
  • New Orleans Red Eyes
  • New Orleans Tailgators

To recap: that's two potential names with a nod to Mardi Gras cakes, two to a local seafood fare, one for a native Louisiana sandwich, and another that merges the time-honored cooking and eating tradition of tailgating with gators, leaving Night Owls as the only option without a direct connection to food. 

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Baseball contest now]

The people responsible for trimming the fan suggestions down to seven must have skipped lunch on the day they wittled down the list to seven from the over 2,000 they received. Or maybe it's a brilliant plan to increase business at the stadium concessions because the team name is making customers hungry.

Fans have until July 8 to give some food for thought and vote on which name they like best, while gumbo, jambalaya and beignets enthusiasts are no doubt looking for answers as to why their favorite New Orleans dish was overlooked.

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

- - - - - - -

Israel Fehr is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at israelfehr@yahoo.ca or follow him on Twitter. Follow @israelfehr

Author: Israel Fehr
Posted: June 23, 2016, 10:15 pm

[Breaking down the plausibility of the week's biggest rumor.]

The Columbus Blue Jackets are in a tough spot.

They're a really bad team, first and foremost. They finished fourth from the bottom of the league last season, and that was a number that felt more or less correct, to be perfectly honest.

But perhaps a worse problem they now face is the fact that, in terms of cap commitments for next season, they're currently second in the league(!!!!!) at more than $68 million. That's against a likely cap of no more than $73 million or so, and with a little-known free agent called Seth Jones still unsigned.

Clearly, this is the first order of business for Jarmo Kekalainen. He has to put very little thought into the draft in a lot of regards — pick Jesse Puljujarvi at No. 3 and then figure the rest out — but he has a lot of rotten contracts that need to be cleared out ASAP.

I mean, you look at this list and there are, what, seven deals where you start to get flop sweat just thinking about signing them?

This is a major problem for the team, especially because a lot of those deals are long-term in nature. And we see from Chicago how teams have to go about selling off bad assets to make cap space for players they actually want to keep around.

The question quickly becomes a simple one: Does Columbus have the assets and the will to make deals like this happen?

The Rumor

When you start looking at the options of “Guys You'd Prefer To Not Pay In A Perfect World” on a league-wide basis, Columbus is the leader in the clubhouse by a wide margin. Brandon Dubinsky ($5.85 million until he's 35), Nick Foligno ($5.5 million until he's 33), David Clarkson ($5.25 million until he's 36), Scott Hartnell ($4.75 million until he's 37), Fedor Tyutin ($4.5 million until he's 34), Jack Johnson ($4.36 million until he's 31), and David Savard ($4.25 million until he's 30) are all clear problems for myriad reasons.

Some of these guys just shouldn't have salaries like this. Others are being paid for far too long. Most are firmly in the “Both A and B” camp.

So it's a real problem.

There are some contracts that are just unmovable, or that the Blue Jackets continue to misevaluate. For instance, a quick scan of any rumors with respect to what the team is looking to do in the next few weeks doesn't indicate much movement at all on Jack Johnson or David Savard, both of whom have unconscionable contracts. Dubinsky, likewise, doesn't seem like a candidate to move.

So now we're down to bad deals for Clarkson, Foligno, Hartnell, and Tyutin.

The problem with the Clarkson contract is that no one is going to want it, obviously. Moreover, though, there are somewhat persistent rumors that they might just LTIR him into oblivion, and bite the bullet on paying that terrible contract (for which they happily traded because they already had a guy who was overpaid and couldn't physically perform any more) until it expires. That's not such a bad idea, of course, because at least that's a cap constriction coming off the books. That makes the Blue Jackets' situation significantly more manageable.

But not ideal. Which is why you've heard Tyutin's name as a trade or even a buyout target (along with Jared Boll, who's bad and overpaid, but more affordable at $1.7 million for next season) for a while now. And why you've heard over and over that teams are pursuing Scott Hartnell, as Nashville did at the deadline.

The more recent addition to this group of potential castaways is Nick Foligno, whose name started to crop up in the past few days. In part because, hey, he's not shooting 17 percent any more! What gives, Nick?

Who's Going Where?

So what Kekalainen needs to do here is find someone who is either looking to take on money with one of Foligno, Tyutin, or Hartnell, or a sucker. Probably both.

The problem, again, is that Chicago precedent from last week: Low-budget teams are no longer just happy to get a trade away a few draft picks in exchange for making a team's cap problems go away. They have to send back value. Columbus, fortunately, has a good amount of it in the system, if not at the NHL level.

That might not be the case with respect to the Hartnell-to-Nashville rumors. The Blue Jackets have been trying to trade him for a while now, and they have his no-trade list. There might just be something of a buyer's market, but again, how do you make the money work in a lot of cases? Even Nashville — currently looking down the barrel of extensions for Filip Forsberg and Calle Jarnkrok, among others — would probably have to send money back to make it work. The term on the contract remains a concern as well.

The other two deals, though, Kekalainen might have little recourse but to throw in something enticing if he really wants to rid himself of the headaches.

The Implications

Let's not, however, get too excited about the prospect of Kekalainen trading down from the No. 3 spot, with anyone:

Murray on trading up to No. 3: “I called Jarmo and asked if he wanted to trade 3 and he said, ‘I don’t want to trade 3.‘”

— Joe Yerdon (@JoeYerdon) June 21, 2016

You're going to have to accept lower-level incentives to help Columbus, and actively hurt your own team in the process. If you want to make an actual hockey trade with them, be prepared to also have to swallow this kind of contract.

Not that the team is really in a position to be dictating terms like this, but whatever, I guess. Beggars apparently can be choosers, to a certain extent.

If I'm an opposing NHL GM, I start asking for the moon pretty quickly. There just aren't too many teams out there who are going to be either dumb or beneficent enough to help squeeze Kekalainen out of the pickle into which he's gotten himself. Let's put it in no uncertain terms, no one wants these contracts, and no one should.

If Kekalainen wants to make a deal, flexibility behooves him. Otherwise, he's stuck in cap jail for at least two more seasons in most cases. And when you're as bad as Columbus is, cap jail is absolutely the last place you want to be.

This Is So Huge, If True: Is It True?

On a B.S. detector scale of 1-5, with one being the most reasonable and 5 being the least:

When you're backed into a corner and your job is probably on the line, you become more likely to do things you otherwise might not. Kekalainen is now likely in that position. A healthy majority of the contracts and trades he's completed have resulted in a net loss for his club. It's tough to say anything to the contrary.

So can he maneuver out of it? There are some clear paths to safety, but they're a little dangerous along the way. Other GMs know he's in a vulnerable position and should act accordingly.

Scott Hartnell trade: 💩💩 (Someone probably wants him, and that might be enough to get Columbus pushed in the right direction here.)

Fedor Tyutin trade: 💩💩💩💩 (Who would want that contract?)

Fedor Tyutin buyout: 💩💩💩 (Doesn't really help the cap, but it's better than nothing.)

Nick Foligno trade: 💩💩💩💩💩 (Columbus would love to get out from under it, but it's one of the worse deals in the league today.)

David Clarkson LTIR forever: 💩💩 (Very easy to see this happening.)

Columbus trades No. 3 overall in the draft: 💩💩💩💩💩 (Nah.)

In the end, Clarkson to LTIR and one trade or buyout gives them plenty of room for next season. They might still have some bad contracts at that point, but it'll be a lot easier to handle.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY:

Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: June 23, 2016, 10:14 pm

Trying to break into people's houses is a no-no. Trying to break into someone's house while naked? Um...

But that's what police in Portland, Ore. say former Detroit Lions cornerback Stanley Wilson II was doing on Wednesday afternoon. Via television station KGW, Wilson was shot by the homeowner while trying to break into a house in the southwest area of the city. He was naked at the time. Stanley Wilson II

Wilson, 33, was shot just before 4 p.m., and sheriff's deputies found Wilson in a water fountain of the home's backyard. He was taken into custody and then rushed to the hospital, where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

A third-round pick of the Lions in 2005, Wilson has been accused of first- and second-degree attempted burglary and first- and second-degree trespassing. More charges are expected as the investigation into the incident continues.

Wilson played three seasons with Detroit, playing 32 games with 9 starts. He was released in 2008.

Oddly enough, Wilson's father, Stanley Wilson Sr., is also known for a bizarre incident: as a running back for the Cincinnati Bengals, he missed Super Bowl XXIII when he was found in a hotel bathroom the night before the game with cocaine and drug paraphrenalia.

 

Author: Shalise Manza Young
Posted: June 23, 2016, 10:13 pm

The USGA's handling of the Dustin Johnson fifth green situation at the U.S. Open was, well, not good. We explain why in detail and try to figure out how to prevent something like this from happening again. We also talk about why we're OK with Rory McIlroy skipping the Olympics over fears of Zika.

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunesGoogle Play MusicTuneInPlayerFM or Stitcher.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow @RyanBallengee

Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: June 23, 2016, 9:58 pm

Lynx teammates Lindsay Whalen, left, Seimone Augustus, and Maya Moore won gold together at the 2012 London Olympics. (AP)LOS ANGELES — Maya Moore is ready for Rio.

While a long list of her male counterparts have opted out of Team USA duties, and stories about the Zika virus and Brazil’s financial crisis dominate headlines, the Minnesota Lynx forward is motivated to add a second gold medal to her collection.

And she’ll have some familiar company. Three of Moore’s Lynx teammates — Seimone Augustus, Sylvia Fowles and Lindsay Whalen — are headed to Rio de Janeiro, as is her coach, Cheryl Reeve.

“I’m very excited just to be able to share that special time with everyone from our coach to down to the four of us,” Moore told Yahoo Sports after Minnesota’s 72-69 win over the Los Angeles Sparks. “It’s going to be a really special time that we will take with us for the rest of our lives.”

Moore and Augustus said they have no hesitations about the Zika virus, which can cause serious birth defects and other medical problems. Despite assurances from the World Health Organization and government officials that the risk of spreading the virus is “very low,” many top athletes including Serena Williams, Hope Solo and Pau Gasol have expressed trepidation about the trip.

“We’ve just kinda been taking the cue from our staff at USA Basketball and we know that they have our best interests in mind,” Moore said. “They’re not going to put us in any situation that isn’t manageable. They’ve been informing us of what the risks are and information that they have. I’m just planning on playing basketball.”

Augustus also praised USA Basketball and its commitment to doing “whatever is necessary to keep people safe.”

Beyond the external issues surrounding the games, fatigue and injuries are also key concerns. Because of the WNBA’s limited salary cap, the game’s best spend their offseason playing overseas, where they can earn up to 12 times as much as they do stateside. This results in a grueling, 11-month schedule made tougher by the traveling and stress associated with a high-level international competition.

“We just try to be as efficient as possible and get our rest and nutrition and do all the strength training that we need to do to maintain and just go and play like we normally do,” said Moore, who missed the final minutes of Tuesday’s win with a thigh injury.

This year’s competition comes right in the midst of another record-setting season for the Lynx. The victory over the previously undefeated Sparks improved Minnesota’s record to 13-0, the league's best ever start.

Maya Moore and the Lynx will try for their third WNBA title in four years after the Olympics. (AP Photo)Minnesota’s Olympic contingent will press pause on their pursuit of their third title in four years following their July 22 game against the Seattle Storm. They’ll then suit up for Team USA, starting with a four-team exhibition tournament and ending with a potential two weeks of play in Rio. WNBA action will resume again on Aug. 26, six days after Olympic competition ends.

“This year, our trainers did a great job of communicating with the trainers overseas as far as limits and minutes and the things we need to do with rehab and recovery,” Augustus said. “[Reeve] has been doing a great job as far as limiting our minutes here and giving us those off days and days when we need to sit out a practice.”

Despite the schedule stress, the Olympics offer plenty of benefits. Most importantly, playing on the international stage allows Team USA to introduce a new generation of players, like Breanna Stewart and Brittney Griner, to a worldwide audience at a time when the WNBA needs growth. Just four of the league’s original eight franchises remain in tact and, last year, average attendance fell 3.4 percent to the lowest mark in league history.

“It’s definitely something that’s going to build and help and create and stimulate and give us momentum,” Moore said. “You have the best players in the world on the same team for a month. It’s just gonna be fun basketball, being able to play with each other. It’s a great time for the fans of the WNBA all around the world to really enjoy the game.”

Author: Jackie Bamberger
Posted: June 23, 2016, 9:14 pm

Sorry, Cleveland, but if the Chicago Cubs win the World Series this season it will be the best sports story of 2016. Don't get me wrong, the Cleveland Cavaliers bringing a title back to Cleveland after 52 years was fantastic, but as sad a sports town as Cleveland is, the Chicago Cubs have been even sadder the past 108 years.

Baseball is cruel, though. So even though the Cubs are far and away the best team right now — they've got a 9.5 game lead in the NL Central and that's after getting swept by the second-place St. Louis Cardinals this week —baseball has a way of reality-checking the best regular-season teams when the playoffs roll around.

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Baseball contest now]

It's not unlike what the Cavs did to the Golden State Warriors, really. The Warriors had that record-breaking regular season then didn't seal the deal in the postseason. In baseball, being the head-and-shoulders best team and getting upset in the playoffs is fairly common. Let's have a look back at the last 10 years:

2015: Cardinals, 100-62 regular season; knocked out in the NLDS
2014: Angels, 98-64; swept in the ALDS.
2013: Red Sox and Cardinals both had 97 wins; both made the World Series. 
2012: Nationals, 98-64; lost in NLDS.
2011: Phillies, 102-60; lost in NLDS.
2010: Phillies, 97-65; lost in NLCS.
2009: Yankees, 103-58; won World Series.
2008: Angels, 100-62; lost in ALDS.
2007: Red Sox and Indians both had 96 wins; Red Sox won the World Series, Indians lost in ALCS.
2006: Yankees and Mets both had 97 wins; Yankees lost in ALDS; Mets lost in NLCS.

(AP)You see a lot more division-series losses up there than World Series berths, don't ya? Like half of them. In fact, the 2009 Yankees were the only team that was far-and-away the best in baseball. Both of those Red Sox teams that won were only better than the next team by a game.

I discussed this in my latest Open Mike video (up there at the top of the page) and talked about how the Cubs can learn a few things from the Warriors. When the Cubs make it to the postseason — I fully believe they will — the pressure will more intense than anything they've faced before. Last year, it was a nice story that they were there. Now they're expected to win. Just like the Warriors were. Anything less gets you Crying Jordan'd.

That's tough. Especially in baseball, where the postseason regularly swats away the best regular-season team like LeBron did Andre Iguodala.

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

- - - - - - -

Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: June 23, 2016, 8:46 pm

The mere thought of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson fighting in the UFC may sound far-fetched, but it may have been closer to reality than you would originally think.

The Rock briefly considered getting involved in mixed martial arts. (AP Images for WWE)Before he became a wildly successful actor, the former WWE superstar was tempted to try his hand at mixed martial arts. The Rock revealed his one-time desire to transition from pro wrestling to MMA in an interview on the UFC Unfiltered podcast.

In the early 2000s, The Rock was at the pinnacle of success as a WWE superstar. He was the champion and easily the most recognizable face in sports entertainment – alongside “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. His crossover success opened doors for him to become an actor and Johnson decided to depart from the WWE full-time in 2004 to pursue the new career path. But the success that he hoped for in Hollywood had eluded and, eventually, frustrated him.

“There was a time when my movies weren’t doing that well and I had a hard time finding my groove and figuring out what the audiences wanted to see from me,” Johnson told Matt Serra and Jim Norton. “So I was making these movies – to use a baseball analogy – I was hitting singles and doubles. At that point I was like what the [expletive] do I have to do?”

Johnson explained that he had long been a fan of mixed martial arts and recalled watching the first UFC tournament while playing college football. With his acting career in limbo, Johnson considered a path that has since been taken by former pro wrestlers turned MMA fighters Brock Lesnar and CM Punk.

“I achieved everything I wanted to achieve in WWE, my movie career is floundering a little bit, what do I do?" Johnson said. "I was relatively still young, I think I was 34. I thought, oh well maybe UFC. Maybe I should do something like that."

After some consideration, however, Johnson decided to stick with acting and eventually found his groove as one of the biggest stars on the screen today.

"In my head, I felt like it was at least a two-year process for me to even get in the [cage], let alone the UFC," Johnson said. "I wasn't quite too sure what to do or what kind of people to put around me at the time, so the idea kind of fizzled out and I continued to stay on the path of movie making."

Since then, Johnson has had prominent roles in blockbuster films such as the “Fast & Furious” series, “San Andreas,” “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” and recently starred alongside Kevin Hart in the comedy “Central Intelligence,” that topped the box office to the tune of $35 million. Suffice to say, he made the right decision. But he’s still a fan and hoping that his filming schedule will let up so he can attend UFC 200.

"Anybody, by the way, who is successful in one area and then commits to MMA, I just feel like it's the toughest [expletive] sport in the world," Johnson said. "I always take my hat off to those guys."

Author: Andreas Hale
Posted: June 23, 2016, 8:37 pm

Ravens QB Joe Flacco heard a rumor he was dead. So he had fun with it. (AP)Word got around Wednesday night on Twitter that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had died. That word, like a lot of garbage on Twitter, turned out to be false.

Flacco eventually caught wind of the rumor, which was confirmed to be false by the Baltimore Ravens' official account and later retracted by the account that first "reported" it. Ravens Nation, which has no affiliation with the team itself but has more than 60,000 Twitter followers, claimed it was hacked.

Of course it did. Standard playbook response.

[Yahoo Fantasy Football is open for the 2016 season. Sign up now]

Was Flacco mad? Irritated? Unaffected? Turns out, he had a good sense of humor about the whole deal.

pic.twitter.com/WCMvALI3sg

— Joe Flacco (@TeamFlacco) June 23, 2016

For all you Ravens and "Game of Thrones" fans out there, this is some solid gallows humor.

More on Ravens

- - - - - - -

Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

 

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: June 23, 2016, 8:22 pm

Akron celebrates a Famous Idaho Potato Bowl victory over Utah State. (Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images)It appears former Michigan offensive lineman Logan Tuley-Tillman is staying in the Midwest.

Tuley-Tillman, who was dismissed from Michigan in September 2015, announced on Twitter Wednesday night that he will continue his career at Akron as a graduate transfer.

“Finally done with my bachelors and happy to join @ZipsFB and get back to work,” Tuley-Tillman tweeted.

Tuley-Tillman was dismissed by Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh for “conduct unacceptable for a Michigan student-athlete.” A few months later, specifics emerged when Tuley-Tillman was charged with three felonies for filming sex with a woman without her consent.

[Check out Dr. Saturday on Tumblr for entertaining things you won’t see on the blog]

The 6-foot-7, 309-pound tackle eventually pled guilty to lesser charges in March and was put on two years probation.

Tuley-Tillman was a four-star recruit in Brady Hoke’s final Michigan recruiting class. He redshirted in 2013 and appeared in one game as a backup in 2014. He was UM’s second-string left tackle and appeared in the opener last season before his dismissal.

Tuley-Tillman previously announced a commitment to Washington State in January, but he clearly has a change of plans. If the transfer to Akron comes to fruition, Tuley-Tillman will have two years of eligibility remaining and can compete immediately.

[Visit Dr. Saturday on Facebook for stories you might have missed and chat with the writers]

- - - - - - -

Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @SamDCooper

Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: June 23, 2016, 8:22 pm

Dwight Howard and James Harden keep it light. (Getty Images)Yes, the Houston Rockets disappointed in 2015-16 and, yes, stars James Harden and Dwight Howard didn’t always seem to coalesce on or off the court during the team’s but-with-a-whimper run to a first round exit, but couldn’t the boys at least give a cursory attempt to keep it all together? Maybe a text thread, however insincere, started by Harden as he attempts to convince Howard to stick with the team as a free agent summer?

Nah. Not the Rocket Way.

It was long assumed that Howard would opt out of his contract this summer even if the pair had gotten along famously and the Rox contended for a title, as there is a lot of money to be made this summer. That expectation was driven home during the regular season as the Rockets struggled and Harden and Howard’s non-existent relationship reached stasis levels in its second year together and crisis levels during its third. The hiring of coach and former Dwight combatant Mike D’Antoni just about made the Howard opt-out ironclad.

[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]

Apparently the parting of ways is so obvious that Harden couldn’t even be bothered to fib a bit when asked if he’d talked to Dwight since Howard’s end of the season. From Calvin Watkins of ESPN, reporting at Harden’s basketball camp on Thursday:

"He's his own man, he knows what's best for his career," Harden said Thursday. "I haven't really talked to him, he'll make whatever is the best decision (for him)."

Dwight Howard was set to make nearly $23.3 million next season in the final year of the four-year, $88 million deal he signed with Houston in 2013. He opted out of that final year on June 21.

Now, there are myriad reasons for this.

Howard isn’t working in the same strata as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, or Dwyane Wade these days, but there is a reason James and Wade have signed a series of shorter contracts of late, and a reason why Durant might emulate the practice – it’s a way to turn a series of opt-outs into more and more money as the NBA’s salary cap rises. Were Dwight in MVP form in 2015-16, working on a team that gave the West all it could handle, he’d still opt out in order to maximize his earnings.

Even in his current form – a non-All-Star dealing with back woes and diminishing returns – this is not a move anyone should criticize Howard for chasing down. Even if you don’t care for his play or personality, if potential employers are willing to pay the piper he shouldn’t be given the stink eye for trying to make as much money as possible.

The complicated issue, as it has been with Howard for a half-decade, is fit.

He is now likely set to leave his third NBA team since 2012, leaving yet another set of failed relationships behind. Unlike his prior two divorces, though, Dwight isn’t working with a franchise tag in hand. Though this was never his go-to forte, his points per game average of 13.7 in 2015-16 was the lowest mark since his rookie year. He doesn’t appear to make the same impact defensively as he did during his MVP-level runs with the Orlando Magic, despite good rebound and block percentage marks. He’ll turn 31 in December.

Of course, he also shot 62 percent from the floor in 2015-16, and James Harden doesn’t exactly have the best reputation around the NBA as a guy you’d like to get in a three-legged race with – teams will talk themselves into finding fault with Houston prior to chasing Dwight down. Furthermore, scads of NBA franchises will have the cap space necessary to make Dwight Howard’s day with what will be the final big (and possibly maximum) contract of his career. Do not weep for his bank account.

Maybe weep for what could have been in Houston, though. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal’s time together went out in a blaze of nasty pot-shots and oft-accurate accusations; but at least they got three titles out of it.

These Rockets just played the passive/aggressive card until it was time to take the easy way out.

- - - - - - -

Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops

Author: Kelly Dwyer
Posted: June 23, 2016, 8:02 pm

Edwin Encarnacion and his parrot is not a new phenomenon. The Toronto Blue Jays slugger has been "taking the parrot for a walk" as he rounds the bases after a home run for a few years now, but we've never seen the "Edwing" like this.

Fans attending Wednesday's game at Rogers Centre against the Arizona Diamondbacks received t-shirts celebrating Encarnacion's beloved trot.

It's Edwing shirt giveaway day pres. by @Pintysfoods! pic.twitter.com/VIxo5EVShJ

— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) June 22, 2016

So, of course, Encarnacion rewarded the fans with a solo shot in a 5-2 win, his 19th homer of the season, much to the delight of his teammates and manager. Ezequiel Carrera showed his appreciation in the dugout with a stuffed parrot.

When you didn’t get an #Edwing shirt, so you have to improvise. pic.twitter.com/00wx1ppWSf

— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) June 22, 2016

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Baseball contest now]

While John Gibbons got in on the fun in his postgame press conference, wearing one of the shirts and showing off how he does the "Edwing."

John Gibbons wore the shirt and did the Edwing impression at his post-game presser, and it was awesome. #BlueJays pic.twitter.com/4QiRaOQiPt

— Alykhan K. Ravjiani (@AlykhanKR) June 23, 2016

There's no arguing, though, that Encarnacion does it best. And the more the Blue Jays see of that parrot this summer, the better chance they have to defend their American League East title. 

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

- - - - - - -

Israel Fehr is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at israelfehr@yahoo.ca or follow him on Twitter. Follow @israelfehr

Author: Israel Fehr
Posted: June 23, 2016, 8:00 pm

There have been questions when (or if) former WWE superstar Phil “CM Punk” Brooks would ever make his UFC debut after signing with the MMA promotion 18 months ago. But CM Punk finally revealed that he will enter the cage at UFC 203 on Sept. 10 in Cleveland.

CM Punk will make his UFC debut against Mickey Gall on Sept. 10. His opponent will be Mickey Gall, who earned the fight by scoring a 45-second submission victory over Mike Jackson back in February.

This will finally end the speculation regarding whether the former sports entertainer can make the transition to mixed martial arts. Unlike Brock Lesnar, who successfully took to the sport and became a heavyweight champion, Punk doesn’t have amateur wrestling credentials or freakish size and athleticism. He’s been a work in progress since joining Duke Roufus’ Roufusport MMA Academy in Milwaukee and rumors regarding Punk’s progression have been littering the web.

Injuries have slowed down his training since signing in December 2014. A shoulder injury put him on the shelf last October and just when it appeared that Punk would debut at UFC 199 or 200, a back injury and subsequent surgery derailed those plans. But now the world will get to see whether the popular pro wrestling talent is ready for the bright lights of the UFC.

“The instant I got cleared, I got on the horn and nailed everything down,” said CM Punk on the UFC Unfiltered podcast. “I’m happy to have a date, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

The 37-year-old will be facing Gall, who is 2-0 in professional MMA fights, and has been adamant in a number of interviews that he’ll finish CM Punk early. Both of his finishes have come in the first round via submission.

“I think there’s a lot of suspect people out there with their opinions that they are going to throw a tomato can at me,” Punk said. “But I think we’re almost [physically] identical. The experience advantage goes to him; he’s fought in the Octagon and I haven’t.”

Ultimately, Punk said that this was an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up and, win or lose, he’ll have no regrets.

“I didn’t want to wake up someday [thinking to myself that] I wish I’d have done this. I look at everything in my life as a learning experience and this is no different.”

Author: Andreas Hale
Posted: June 23, 2016, 7:51 pm

People have been trying to rattle Steve Smith with words since he entered the NFL in 2001. But the Baltimore Ravens receiver Steve Smith Sr. is usually the one winning the battle of words and wits.

Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. can talk a little, but he stayed quiet when a young Patriots fan tried to razz him. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)Smith, who rehabbing an Achilles injury as he enters his final season in the league, faced a serious test recently when volunteering his time at a football camp. As he was leading a cheer with the military kids at Ft. Mead, one young camper threw some serious shade Smith's way when after the cheer, he clowns Smith:

"Go Patriots!"

"Imma ..." the Baltimore Ravens receiver started to say before stopping himself in a terrific display of restraint. Instead, he shooed the camper away gently before something worse came out of his mouth. "Go on, go on over there," Smith said.

[Yahoo Fantasy Football is open for the 2016 season. Sign up now]

it was a hilarious moment — the Patriots and Ravens don't care for one another too much — and a sign that the occasionally hot-headed Smith has matured quite a bit over his 16-year career. The kid's dad probably put him up to doing it, and even if it was meant to be a funny jab, Smith stopped himself in his tracks before taking it further.

Smith taught the kids some finer points of football, signed autographs and also had fun at the event. The video of the event on the Ravens' website shows the off-the-field Smith at his finest, so natural with the kids of all ages and able to relax from the NFL persona a bit. That's what having four children will do for a man, apparently. This is the Smith the public doesn't get to see enough of.

For a different reason, the video caught the eye of Patriots Nation, which of course has turned the young boy into a hero. It was also brought to the attention of Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, who is a big fan of Smith, per NESN's Doug Kyed.

@Steve_Weissman lol that's a bold man to talk to like that. Smitty had to hold back lol. Nothing but respect for smitty and the young buck!

— Julian Edelman (@Edelman11) June 23, 2016
“I’m a huge fan of Steve Smith,” Edelman said before the Patriots and Ravens met in the playoffs following the 2014 season. “I love his game. I love his mentality. I’ve looked up to a guy like him ever since I was a little kid. I’ve got nothing but respect for him, and I’m glad he got settled where he’s at, and I’m glad I’m here. That’s all I’ll say on that.”

Remember, Smith came down to the Patriots and Ravens when he was dumped by the Carolina Panthers two years ago, so they could have been teammates. Now they're on rival teams that have taken shots at one anothers after some tense battles the past few seasons, and they face again in 2016.

Smith has said it will be his final season, and unless the two teams meet in the postseason the last chance he'll get to quiet Patriots fans will be in Week 14 at Foxboro. We'll wait to see what he has to say that night.

h/t ESPN Boston

- - - - - - -

Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: June 23, 2016, 7:50 pm

Tiger Woods was blunt in his assessment of how the USGA handled penalizing U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson in the final round at Oakmont on Sunday.

"I watched, and as I was alluding to last night, it was awful because no one -- no one knew what was going on," Woods said.

On the fifth green in the final round, Johnson was preparing to putt a 6-footer for par. He took two quick practice strokes next to the ball, then moved his putter head in back of the back. Before soling the putter, the ball moved slightly. Johnson recoiled and called over an official to explain the situation. Johnson said he did nothing to cause the ball to move. Playing partner Lee Westwood agreed. The walking referee concurred and said there should be no penalty under Rule 18-2. 

However, on the 12th tee, USGA officials told Johnson they were reviewing the situation and could penalize him a stroke for the ball moving if they deemed he was "more likely than not" to have caused it to move. They also said the decision on the penalty could wait until the end of the round.

The USGA's decision to wait to penalize meant Johnson had to play knowing he might have to win in regulation by two to avoid a playoff or yet another heartbreaking loss in a major. 

Woods said that was ridiculous.

"D.J. didn't know how he stood. The rest of the guys who were ahead of him didn't understand what was going on. The final group didn't know what was going on. No one had a clue," Woods said.

"Am I tied for the lead, am I leading the tournament, am I one back or am I tied? No one understood where they stood in the tournament so that determines what you're going to do. Am I going to challenge the flag, try and get back there, am I going to play conservative, do I try and hit driver off 17, where do I -- so much depends on scenarios and where you stand to dictate how you play."

Ultimately, Johnson played with a string of pars, except one bogey, before coming to the 18th with a two- or three-shot lead. He made birdie on the last, hitting a 6-iron to 6 feet to lock up a win, no matter what happened. Then the USGA inexplicably gave Johnson the penalty anyhow to reduce the winning margin to three.

"I didn't think it was fair to anybody," Woods said. "It wasn't fair to Dustin, it wasn't fair to other players who had a chance, it just wasn't fair to anyone."

Woods said he wouldn't have been as quiet about it all as Johnson.

"How I would handle it?" Woods said. "You know, I'm a little bit feistier than Dustin so I think I probably would have said a few more things during the round."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow @RyanBallengee

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: TaylorMade-adidas CEO David Abeles joins us from Oakmont

Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: June 23, 2016, 6:34 pm

If Minnesota Twins closer Glen Perkins never did another thing to endear himself to the hometown fans, they'd still love him. How could they not? He's from Minnesota. He grew up a Twins fan and now he's represented them three times in the All-Star game.

Perkins poses with a fan in 2015. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Beyond that, he's one of the most down-to-earth players in the game. He brews his own beer and once bought beer for a group of Twins bloggers during a rain delay. 

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Baseball contest now]

But then this happened: As he prepared for shoulder surgery that would cut his season short, Perkins penned a note to Twins fans expressing his dismay for getting paid a "ton of money" and not doing anything for the team. "It makes me sick," he wrote. How could you not love that attitude?

Perkins has pitched in only two games this season because of the shoulder woes. After the surgery, he'll be out until at least next spring and he's obviously feeling guilty. Here's the entire note he posted to Twitter:

pic.twitter.com/XhjwvtoXBy

— Glen Perkins (@glenperkins) June 22, 2016

Now you might be thinking, "That guy must get paid A LOT if he's that distraught about this." Actually, he doesn't. Only $6.3 million. We say "only" because in baseball terms, that's not very much at all. It's less than half of what a qualifying offer pays.

Heck, Ryan Howard is getting paid $25 million by the Philadelphia Phillies to hit .143 this season (no, nobody loves that). Mark Teixeira, injured again for the New York Yankees and hitting just .180, is cashing $22.5 million worth of checks this season.

Credit to Perkins, though, for understanding this very important point: While $6.3 million may not be a lot in baseball terms, it's a ton of money to the people who watch him pitch. 

And he knows that, because he grew up among them.

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

- - - - - - -

Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: June 23, 2016, 6:32 pm

Eric Decker (AP)Wide receiver Eric Decker seems worn out by the speculation of whether Ryan Fitzpatrick will sign with the New York Jets before the preseason. We hear you loud and clear, Eric.

Decker wants Fitzpatrick back, for obvious reasons. Fitzpatrick had a good year, with 3,905 yards and 31 touchdowns, nearly leading the Jets to the playoffs. Fitzpatrick wanted to be rewarded for that season by the Jets, who haven't been willing to meet his demands. So he remains unsigned. Decker has made it clear what his feelings are on the matter, holding his own version of a sit-in by skipping OTA practices in an apparent protest over Fitzpatrick being unsigned.

It's late June now, we've been talking about this for months, and there's no end in sight. When asked by NFL Network (h/t Around the NFL blog) how tired he is of answering Fitzpatrick questions, Decker said, "On a scale from 1 to 10, I'm at a 10."

"All offseason, in New York, having to answer questions, it's at a point now where we don't have an answer going into camp on who is going to be the quarterback," Decker said on "NFL Total Access." "Get that timing, build that identity offensively so hopefully something gets figured out."

Decker told SiriusXM NFL Radio that he thinks a deal will eventually get done. While that seems like the logical conclusion it seems a little more uncertain than, say, Von Miller making up with the Denver Broncos before July 15. It would get especially tricky if a team suffers a fluke injury at quarterback before Fitzpatrick signs with the Jets and gives him a call. 

Decker seems like he's to the point where he just wants a clear answer on who the Jets' quarterback will be.

“I hope something gets worked out, one way or the other, so we cannot have distractions going into training camp,” Decker said on Sirius XM NFL Radio. “I think for any team to have success, you have to have some kind of direction. And, with training camp, that’s where you get the timing, that’s where where you kind of build the team and build your identity."

Fitzpatrick missing all of the Jets' pre-training camp work this offseason isn't great, because it never hurts to keep mastering the offense and working with receivers. But it's not like Fitzpatrick, a longtime veteran, can't get right back into the flow of things right after he signs. And it's not the worst thing for the Jets for their younger quarterbacks to get extra practice reps through the offseason. Fitzpatrick is 33 years old, after all. As long as he's signed before training camp starts in late July, everyone should be able to put this behind them quickly.

But this standoff has now dragged on into the summer, and something needs to be settled relatively soon. If nothing else, a resolution would mean an end to the constant speculation over who will quarterback the Jets this season.

- - - - - - -

Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: June 23, 2016, 6:23 pm

The NHL draft is this week, and that means every hockey media outlet is doing a mock draft and trying to make sense of 20-plus teams effectively trying to throw darts at a dartboard with one eye closed and the other one held kinda squinty 

Drafting is an inexact process, and even now, with all the data we have about prospects that we didn't used to get, teams can still make serious missteps. Sometimes they draft for positional need (rarely a good idea!). Sometimes they simply misevaluate a player's talent level (especially if that player is big!).

So here we go. We'll try not to make your favorite team pick the guy you don't want them to take.

1. Toronto Maple Leafs select Auston Matthews (center, Zurich, Swiss league) 

Yeah a lot of people are acting like “Oh maybe Patrik Laine will go first overall instead!” But hey that happens every year. The Leafs aren't going to pass up the chance to draft a franchise center. Sorry.

2. Winnipeg Jets select Patrik Laine (right wing, Tappara, Finnish league)

Another no-brainer.

3. Columbus Blue Jackets select Jesse Puljujarvi (right wing, Karpat, Finnish league)

The third and final absolute slam-dunk must-pick-here player in the draft. Now things start to get interesting.

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 06: (L-R) Top Prospects Alexander Nylander, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Matthew Tkachuk and Auston Matthews talk prior media availability for the 2016 NHL Draft Top Prospects ahead of Game Four of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 6, 2016 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

4. Edmonton Oilers select Matthew Tkachuk (left wing, London, OHL)

There's a non-zero chance the Oilers trade this pick, but if they don't, the consensus seems to be that Tkachuk is the best player available. (There is, however, not a huge amount of separation between whoever goes here and, say, 15th.) Plenty of talent, plenty of IQ. You'd expect it from the bloodlines. Teams love stuff like that. The Oilers need defense, but there's not really any blue line option that makes sense here. At that point they're better off trading down.

5. Vancouver Canucks select Pierre-Luc Dubois (forward, Cape Breton, QMJHL)

Dubois is a pretty size-y player who scored a boatload in junior this past season (granted, who doesn't score in the Q?) and apparently transitioned from the wing to the middle of the ice midseason. Whether that's something he can do as he moves into pro hockey remains to be seen, but it might be a bit of a surprise.

6. Calgary Flames select Logan Brown (center, Windsor, OHL)

The Flames are, organizationally speaking, a little stacked at center. When you can run Monahan/Bennett/Backlund up the middle, you're in good shape. But a 6-foot-6 center who has some very solid numbers (but not exactly overwhelming) is available at No. 6. There's almost no way they don't take him, right?

7. Arizona Coyotes select Jakob Chychrun (defense, Sarnia, OHL)

The Coyotes need help in a lot of areas, but this kid is extremely toolsy in all parts of the ice. This kid can skate, he can shoot the puck through a wall, and hey what do you know, he can move the puck too. These days, teams need a lot more than one rushing defenseman, and if he's second fiddle to Oliver Ekman-Larsson, everyone's gonna be okay with that.

8. Buffalo Sabres select Olli Juolevi (defense, London, OHL)

Since they acquired Jimmy Vesey earlier this week, the needs the Sabres might still have up front start to go away. This addresses some of the problems the team still has with its blue line, as Juolevi is considered a quality puck-mover because he, too, is a great skater. Extremely high IQ, big body, all that kind of stuff. The overall Buffalo offense for 2018-19 gets a whole lot scarier.

9. Montreal Canadiens select Clayton Keller (center, US Under-18 team, USHL)

Keller's not exactly big, but his skill is overwhelming. Between the US Development programs games in the USHL and in other games, he scored 158 points in 94 appearances, which is a whole hell of a lot. It's not like the Canadiens are shy about taking highly skilled, smaller guys (one of the organization's admirable qualities). Plus, Keller is heading to Boston University in the fall, and that place is quickly turning into even more of an NHL factory than it has been historically.

10. Colorado Avalanche select Mikhail Sergachev (defense, Windsor, OHL)

Sergachev is more of a “solid two-way defenseman” than the first two D taken in this draft, but he's still very good, winning the OHL defenseman of the year award as a kid who will turn 18 on his draft day. Pretty impressive. And Colorado needs as many defensemen as it can get, to be honest.

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 06: Top Prospect Alexander Nylander speaks during media availability for the 2016 NHL Draft Top Prospects prior to Game Four of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 6, 2016 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

11. New Jersey Devils select Alex Nylander (right wing, Mississauga, OHL)

The Devils, as ever, need offense, and the kid who finished first in the OHL in points per game among U-18s fits the bill. The bloodlines are there, and his obvious skill level immediately tells you plenty about what he can do with the puck. He needs to fill out the body a little more, but basically anyone you're picking at this point of the draft is very unlikely to be in the NHL in the next season or two anyway.

12. Ottawa Senators select Charlie McAvoy (defense, Boston University, Hockey East)

Got a chance to see plenty of McAvoy, a big, physical puck-mover who loves to play with the puck in the attacking zone. He was very impressive. As any 17/18-year-old playing against physically mature 24/25-year-olds might, he occasionally struggled in his own zone, but when he made solid body contact, he got himself in trouble with officials, for hitting too hard.

13. Carolina Hurricanes select Tyson Jost (center, Penticton, BCHL)

Jost broke 100 points in what is, admittedly, a high-scoring league (he did it in only 48 games). He's not a giant at 5-foot-11, but when you can skate like he does, it doesn't much matter. He, too, can play well at both ends of the ice, and the word “dynamic” comes up in just about every scouting report. Better yet: He's headed to the University of North Dakota next year, where plenty of great junior centers get turned into very good pros.

14. Boston Bruins select Jake Bean (D, Calgary, WHL)

Boston needs defense, badly. It's an organizational need that cannot be understated. Bean does just about everything solidly, but Boston might be particularly attracted to the 24 goals he scored with Calgary last season. He thinks the game very well, but the big knock on him (from a Boston point of view) is that he doesn't rely on physicality. Eh, maybe they won't draft him then. I dunno.

15. Minnesota Wild select Kiefer Bellows (left wing, US Under-18 team, USHL)

Bellows is another kid who's going to Boston University next year, which is something that's going to make the Terriers scary in attack next year. He scored 71 goals in 92 games for the US U-18s in all competitions, and plays a physical game to boot. Think that interests a team like Minnesota going forward?

16. Detroit Red Wings select Luke Kunin (center, Wisconsin, Big Ten)

A small-ish, undersized forward who goes nearly a point-a-game in college (19-13-32 in 34) for a rotten college team is pretty impressive. He also generated more shots on goal per game than all but 18 college players of all ages. The only fellow freshman to finish ahead of him — some kid named Kyle Connor — is probably going to be an NHLer next season. Shot generation is the next big draft skill teams are going to look for.

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 04: Dante Fabbro is measured for Height/Wingspan during the NHL Combine at HarborCenter on June 4, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Jen Fuller/NHLI via Getty Images)

17. Nashville Predators select Dante Fabbro (defense, Penticton, BCHL)

Yup, it's yet another kid going to BU next season. Thinks the game at an incredibly high level, great puck-mover, etc. etc. etc. He had almost 70 points in just 45 games from the blue line in the BCHL, playing on the same team as Jost. And while playing with Jost is obviously going to help, it's hard to ignore the point totals for a defenseman (sixth in points per game among all BCHLers, not just defensemen).

18. Philadelphia Flyers select Julien Gauthier (right wing, Val-d'Or, QMJHL)

The point total isn't there for this guy  — 57 in 54 — but consider this: 41 of those points (almost 3 out of every 4) were goals. This has to be the CHL Cy Young winner by a pretty wide margin. He's a 6-foot-4 power forward who scored 40 damn goals in his draft year. Flyers are lucky to get him here.

19. New York Islanders select Mike McLeod (center, Mississauga, OHL)

Not exactly an overwhelming point total or anything here either (61 in 57 games), but he and Nylander were two of only three players to clear 20 goals on an OHL team. That's a little surprising. Anything you read about him will cite his skating as top-level among his peers, and the word “energy” comes up a lot too. Now we're starting to gamble with upside, but there's little doubt he'll be a solid pro.

20. Arizona Coyotes [from New York Rangers] select Max Jones (left wing, London, OHL)

It's tough to carve out minutes on the Knights, which speaks to Jones's mediocre-seeming point totals (52 in 63), but he's huge and very skilled, so even if he does slip, teams were still likely to take notice.

21. Carolina Hurricanes [from Los Angeles Kings] select Alex DeBrincat (right wing, Erie, OHL)

Opinions on DeBrincat are all over the place. Some places have him roughly here, others have him a lot lower. Probably has a lot to do with the fact that he's 5-foot-7, because it's hard to argue with two straight 100-point OHL seasons. The first time around, you write it off as a fluke of playing with Connor McDavid. The second time? What if he's the next Johnny Gaudreau, a ultra-skilled little player who just skates his ass off and generates offense? You'd rue the day you let him slip away. Carolina probably isn't that foolish.

22. Winnipeg Jets [from Chicago Blackhawks] select Logan Stanley (defense, Windsor, OHL)

This kid is 6-foot-7 at 17 years old. He might still have some growing to do. Consequently, opinions on him range for the opposite reasons they did for DeBrincat. He only had 17 points in 64 games, and only five goals over two full OHL seasons, which is not an encouraging total by any stretch of the imagination. But you can see just about anyone taking a flyer here. Big guys gotta prove they can't play and all that. There aren't too many people in hockey bigger than him.

23. Florida Panthers select Vitali Abramov (right wing, Gatineau, QMJHL)

If you can get a guy — albeit a 5-foot-9 guy — who scored 93 points this late in the first round, you take him. Let's put it this way: He was first on his team in points, by 20. He also finished second among U-18 Q players in points per game. Florida's focus in terms of “getting smarter” is at the draft, so here we go.

24. Anaheim Ducks select German Rubtsov (center, Russia U-18, MHL)

It is notoriously difficult to determine how good Russian players actually are. Scoring in that league is weird, and the relatively new MHL is rather low-level in terms of junior development. But his performances in international competition are solid (1-3-4 in five games at the Ivan Hlinka, 2-4-6 in four at the Junior A U-19s). Well-rounded, elite hockey sense, etc. That's what you get when you read about him, and at 24 that might become a value pick for you.

25. Dallas Stars select Brett Howden (center, Moose Jaw, WHL)

Brett's older brother Quinton was also a first-round pick several years ago now. Big-ish, skilled-ish, two-way-ish. It runs in the family. He made the Ivan Hlinka team for Canada, which isn't easy, but he didn't do much there in terms of offense. Tough to figure out just what he'd be at the pro level, but it's worth taking a look.

26. Washington Capitals select Dennis Cholowski (defense, Chiliwack, BCHL)

At this point in the draft, you're really just guessing, but he was the best defenseman on a solid BCHL team. Again, it's not a league known for its defensive wherewithal, but he can move the puck and he can shoot. He's going to a good college program in St. Cloud for either next season or the one after, and all that works in his favor. He's a project and this might be a bit of a reach, but not much of one.

27. Tampa Bay Lightning select Tage Thompson (center/right wing, UConn, Hockey East)

Thompson was an impressive young player in Hockey East this year, going almost a point a game (14-18-32 in 36) on a so-so UConn squad. He didn't score a ton at 5-on-5 (only 13 of his 32 points), but he's 6-foot-5 and put up plenty of points in the stingiest conference in college hockey. That's worth a late first.

28. St. Louis Blues select Riley Tufte (left wing, Blaine, Minn. HS/Fargo, USHL)

Hard to get a read on a kid who played in both the high school and USHL, because he lit up the former (78 in 25!) and was only okay in the latter (14 in 27). However, he, too is 6-foot-5, and skates phenomenally. He's not a sure thing against top competition just yet, but he'll get to test himself well at Minnesota-Duluth next season.

29. Boston Bruins [from San Jose Sharks] select Pascal Laberge (center, Victoriaville, QMJHL)

Laberge scored 68 points in 56 games, but was a pretty late birthdate (he's about six months younger than Matthews). Didn't exactly set the world on fire shooting the puck, but his passing is of a high quality.

30. Anaheim Ducks [from Toronto Maple Leafs, from Pittsburgh Penguins] select Rasmus Asplund (center, Farjestad, Swedish league)

Finally, here's another player where opinions are somewhat wide-ranging. He only scored four goals and 12 points in 46 games in a men's league, which isn't totally uncommon for U-18s, but that fact combined with his size (just 5-foot-10) causes some worry. However, he also had five points in seven games at World Junior, so he might be worth the gamble here.

And if you think I got anything wrong, well, that's how it goes! See you at the draft!

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

--

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY

 

Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: June 23, 2016, 5:37 pm

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- Jason Day doesn't sound like a guy who is long for a long career in golf.

The world No. 1 said Wednesday at PGA Championship media day at Baltusrol Golf Club that he'll stop at the age of 40 to decide if he'll press on, or if he'll walk away from the sport.

"When I get to 40, I'm going to re-evaluate everything and then go from there," Day said. "Because when I get to 40, I would like to see where I'm at in my career because I might want to go, 'You know what, I'm done. I'm just happy with everything,' and I'm going to go off my merry way and I'll probably never pick up a golf club ever again."

Day, father of 3-year-old Dash and 8-month-old Lucy, said his children's interest in the game would be a factor. So, too, would be where he ranks against his peers and if his body, which had given him trouble in the past, held up against the rigors of pro golf.

"But it also depends on if Dash is playing, if Lucy is playing, if I'm still competitive and my body's great, because I'm just trying to extend," he added. "What I'm doing with my body and with my golf game, I'm trying to extend the longevity of my career."

Day has been working with a trainer in hopes of sculpting his body into a condition that would prevent the kinds of injuries that plagued his early career. Pressed on where his fitness is, Day said his trainer estimates the Aussie is some 18 months away from reaching his goal. 

Despite winning 10 times, Day said last week at the U.S. Open that number isn't nearly enough. He's pursuing trophies with the vigor of a desperate man, perhaps aware he won't remain at the top of his game forever. So, Day, who said he has gotten up at 5 a.m. since he was 14 to practice and exercise, will continue to push himself and his body as far as he can until the moment comes when there's something else more important.

"It's over when you don't want to improve anymore. It's over when you're done improving yourself on and off the golf course," Day said. "That's probably the biggest thing, because winning is taken care of by the process that you put into your game. The small victories that you have along the way, with regards to practicing that extra hour when you didn't really want to, or being out there practicing when you didn't want to practice that day. Going to the gym when you felt like, 'You know what, I'll just take a day off and go tomorrow.'"


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow @RyanBallengee

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: TaylorMade-adidas CEO David Abeles joins us from Oakmont

Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: June 23, 2016, 5:36 pm

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Looking for older news? Search in the archive