Chelsea, Arsenal win transfer window; Everton, Caicedo the biggest losers

January’s transfer window spending in Europe was led by one team: Chelsea. The Blues splashed more than €300 million on eight players including Enzo Fernandez (€121m), Mykhailo Mudryk (€70m), Benoit Badiashile €37m) and Noni Madueke (€35m), which blew the rest of the clubs out of the water.

Nobody else could compete with that level of investment — in fact, Chelsea ended up spending more in January than the combined total of all clubs in the Bundesliga, LaLiga, Serie A and Ligue 1 — but which clubs and players did well during the window, and which did not?

– DONE DEALS: See all the completed moves
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Winners

CHELSEA

Though slightly ridiculed for the way Todd Boehly and others have gone about their transfer business with what has seemed like daily pursuits of new names — plus an unconventional and much-publicised hijack of Arsenal‘s move for €70m winger Mykhailo MudrykChelsea can still look back on a spectacular month.

In addition to landing their No. 1 target with a British transfer record €121m move for Benfica midfielder Enzo Fernandez in the last minutes of the transfer window, the club have secured a fine blend of up-and-coming performers in the right age group. Badiashile and Mudryk have already impressed, while 18-year-old Andrey Santos in particular has the potential to become a top player. Their problematic centre-forward dilemma ultimately wasn’t addressed, but Chelsea have invested heavily and wisely for the future and spread out the cost of the fees over long contracts to avoid financial fair play issues.

BRIGHTON

As a result of Moises Caicedo‘s outstanding performances this season, Brighton looked set to lose the Ecuador international to either Chelsea or Arsenal. But despite tempting bids of around £70m, the club turned the tables on both the player and his suitors by approaching the transfer market on their own terms. As Caicedo’s head was turned, Brighton stood firm and stuck to their guns. Whether their actions will prove an example for “smaller clubs” to follow remains to be seen, but their unwillingness to compromise was refreshing and keeping the 21-year-old could prove a determining factor as they fight for a European spot.

BAYERN MUNICH

Though the German champions didn’t throw extraordinary money at the January window, they did well by addressing immediate needs. Experienced Switzerland international goalkeeper Yann Sommer joined in an €8m move from Borussia Monchengladbach as cover for the injured Manuel Neuer, while the free transfer of Daley Blind from Ajax offers coach Julian Nagelsmann new options in defence and midfield. The loan (with a €70m permanent option) of Joao Cancelo from Manchester City — one of the best full-backs in the world when in form — was one of the most surprising deals of the entire month.

ARSENAL

The Gunners wanted to sign Mudryk and Caicedo for big money, but missing out on the pair might prove a blessing in disguise as Arsenal ended up with fairly safe, but well-executed, January business. While the club have spent heavily in the last five years, the fact that they occupy the top spot in the Premier League is just as much to do with coach Mikel Arteta building a functioning collective and having trust in his current group than relying on individual star performers. The additions of Leandro Trossard (£12m) and Jorginho (£10m) — with neither expecting to feature in every game — add experience and proven quality, while 22-year-old Jakub Kiwior (£22m) will give them much-needed depth in defence.

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Can Sean Dyche turn Everton’s season around?

Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens debate whether Sean Dyche will succeed at Everton.

Losers

EVERTON

While spending has hardly been lacking at Goodison Park over the past years, it is unthinkable that the 19th-placed side stayed inactive when investment was needed the most.

Appointing Sean Dyche to replace the sacked Frank Lampard just a day prior to the end of the January transfer window understandably didn’t the help the planning (though having a sporting director should have mitigated this to a certain extent), yet one has to wonder how the squad Dyche inherits in his fight for survival matches his style of football.

Everton’s unsuccessful last-minute chase for a centre-forward as a back-up or alternative to injury-prone Dominic Calvert-Lewin — with Fenerbahce’s Michy Batshuayi and Coventry City’s Viktor Gyokeres linked — was a clear sign that more firepower was desired. Neither did the club manage to come up with a replacement for young forward Anthony Gordon, who signed for Newcastle for £40m.

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MOISES CAICEDO

Coveted by several elite clubs, the 21-year-old had hoped his time to leave Brighton for Champions League football had arrived. In a seemingly desperate attempt to force a late move, Caicedo released a rather unambiguous written statement to try and pressure his club to accept bids from Chelsea or Arsenal.

The emotional appeal was quickly rebuffed by Brighton, who in turn ordered the player not to report to training before the transfer deadline had passed. Arguably one of the top central midfielders in the Premier League on the evidence of this season, it’s no belittlement to Brighton that Caicedo will outgrow them at some point, but that time was not now.

BARCELONA

Despite being linked with some big names in European football, the Catalans ended up empty-handed in the January transfer window (at least for the time being, with a €4m move for LA Galaxy right-back Julian Araujo still pending). With a mountain of debt and sharpened financial constraints imposed by the Spanish League still hanging over them like a cloud, Barcelona even needed a court ruling to approve the contract extension of midfield prodigy, Gavi.

While Barcelona may not have considered the January window as instrumental for success — they still sit fairly comfortably at the top of LaLiga — a couple of new faces to add their squad wouldn’t have gone amiss given the exits of Memphis Depay, Gerard Pique and Hector Bellerin.

SERIE A

Just a year after Juventus spent €70m to sign Serbia centre-forward Dusan Vlahovic, the Italian league in its entirety spent a mere €28m in January. Compromised by the ongoing accounting scandal at Juventus — one of the traditional big spenders — a media deal dwarfed in comparison with the Premier League and a general economic downturn post-pandemic, Italian clubs find themselves in the unfamiliar position of making loan deals among each other or looking to their academies to shore up their first-team squads.

By |2023-02-01T08:41:07-05:00February 1st, 2023|News|

Brady says he is retiring from football 'for good'

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Tom Brady says he is retiring “for good” from football, ending his 23-year career in the NFL.

Brady announced his decision Wednesday on social media, saying he “wouldn’t change a thing” about his career.

Brady, 45, also announced he was retiring after the 2021 season before changing his mind 40 days later and returning to play this past year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“I know the process was a pretty big deal last time, so when I woke up this morning, I figured I’d just press record and let you guys know first,” Brady said in a video on Twitter. “I won’t be longwinded. You only get one super emotional retirement essay, and I used mine up last year, so really thank you guys so much to every single one of you for supporting me.”

Brady is a seven-time Super Bowl winner who ends his career as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards (89.214) and touchdown passes (649). The three-time league MVP passed for 4,694 yards — third most in the NFL — and 25 touchdowns this past season, his third with the Bucs.

“My family, my friends, my teammates, my competitors — I could go on forever, there’s too many,” Brady said in the video. “Thank you guys for allowing me to live my absolute dream. I wouldn’t change a thing. Love you all.”

By |2023-02-01T08:41:14-05:00February 1st, 2023|News|

How LeBron James' worst game motivated him to become the greatest

WHERE IS LEBRON JAMES?

It’s Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals, and the Miami Heat are down three to the Dallas Mavericks with 6.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter. James, in his quest for his first NBA championship, has scored only 8 points, looking lost on the floor at times. But now, with one shot, he can tie things up and keep the Mavericks from evening the series — if only he can get free for a look.

Jason Terry won’t let it happen. As Heat forward Mike Miller takes the ball on the inbound, Mario Chalmers sets a screen for James, but Terry fights right through it. Miller pump-fakes in the direction of James, then passes to Dwyane Wade, who fumbles the ball and dives to prevent a backcourt violation. He barely manages to get the ball back to Miller as James watches in the corner. Miller throws up a desperation 3, which misses the rim and lands with a thud. Game over. A defeated James, who shot the ball only once in the fourth quarter, slowly walks to the locker room.

The Heat never recover, losing the final two games. James’ critics grow louder than ever — where was he when his team needed him the most?

His career since that Mavericks series has provided the resounding answer. Eleven seasons and four championships later, he’s quickly approaching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record for the most points scored in league history. The Lakers have struggled since winning a title in 2020, but James has remained dominant.

This is the oral history of James’ worst performance — Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals — and how he used it to unlock his greatness.


JAMES BECAME ONE of the most hated players in sports after leaving his home state to take his talents to South Beach and form a superteam with Wade and Bosh in 2010. He was nicknamed “LeFraud” and found himself in uncharted territory for a beloved basketball prodigy.

In the 2011 playoffs, the Heat eliminated the Sixers, Celtics and Bulls, each in five games. Miami then won Game 1 of the Finals at home. James had 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists. But in Game 2, Miami blew a 15-point, fourth-quarter lead. James had only two points in the final period.

The Heat squeaked out a two-point win in Game 3, but James again had just two in the fourth. Miami held a tenuous 2-1 lead in the series.

James [on an episode of “The Shop”]: My first year in Miami … I wanted to prove everybody wrong.

Heat guard Eddie House: LeBron is a great dude. Funny, outgoing, outspoken. He’s a great leader. That first year in Miami, he took on a different persona. It was serious business and everybody hates me, and I want to show them why they shouldn’t hate me. That weighed on him silently. It didn’t look like he was having fun at times. And he always looked like he had fun playing basketball.

Heat assistant coach David Fizdale: That year was so hard on [James] because of “The Decision” [a 75-minute ESPN special that revealed his free agent choice] and all of the backlash that he had received for really just being like any normal human being who controlled the destiny of his career and picked where he wanted to work. He got really torn up about that. The press never let it up. It was a good story, and negative stories always play well.

House: He was even more guarded, at that point, than he had ever been in his life, just because of “The Decision” and all the stuff that people were saying.

In the regular season, Miami’s Big Three — James, Wade and Chris Bosh — scored two-thirds of its points. Dallas was led by future Hall of Famers Dirk Nowitzki, its star, and Jason Kidd, its leading assist man, and future Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler. But the Mavs needed to throw everything they had at James and company, including different lineups cooked up by head coach Rick Carlisle and imaginative defensive schemes spearheaded by assistant Dwane Casey.

Former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry remained a reserve, where he was joined by guard DeShawn Stevenson, who had started the first three games of the series. Stevenson was replaced by a hard-nosed 5-foot-10 guard named J.J. Barea.

Barea: In our shootarounds, there was a lot of talking between Jason Kidd, myself, Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler, [forward] Shawn Marion and Dwane Casey, [Carlisle], [assistant coach] Terry Stotts. There were arguments during shootaround, talking about what we were going to do during the game. Going into Game 4, I remember coach [Carlisle said], “Hey, you’re going to start, and we’re going to put DeShawn Stevenson off the bench.” I said, “OK, I’ll be ready.”

Heat center Joel Anthony: He really gave them a really big spark. And that definitely helped them change the momentum.

Barea: There was going to be some times when I have to guard bigger people like LeBron. It’s tough, but I was pretty good at guarding bigger guys away from the paint. I liked it. I knew they were going to try to bully me.

Marion: That’s part of the postseason, though. That’s part of great coaches, man, you have to make adjustments. … When you look at our roster, we [were] probably the deepest team in the playoffs. That goes a long way. You’re going to go as far as your bench takes you.

In the locker room before the game, Carlisle tasked his squad with overwhelming the Heat as a collective. He’d make sure to use the whole roster to do so. Meanwhile, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra implored his players to simply outwork the Mavs.

The game began with Nowitzki hitting a fadeaway along the right baseline. Then another fading jumper along the left baseline. Then a jumper from the right wing. The Heat, on the other hand, didn’t score until more than two minutes passed. James scored his first four points in the opening period on a tip-in and two free throws. The first quarter ended with a 21-21 tie, but Nowitzki’s Mavericks set the tone for the rest of the game.

Mavericks swingman Corey Brewer: I’m not going to say [Game 4] was like Game 7, but focus was definitely really up there. Really high-focus game. We have veteran guys. They knew what it took to win.

House: When you break it down, in every playoff series, the guys that are the guys need to be the guys — and you get what you get from the role players — and our guys were hit and miss at times [throughout the series]. [The Mavericks’] guys were hitting.

Heat guard Mike Bibby: Dirk’s confidence [was]: “I don’t think anybody could stop me on that team.” I think that’s what his mentality was like.

Brewer: Dirk let his game do the talking.

Nowitzki [in a news conference following Game 4]: This is the Finals. You’re going to leave it out there.

The Heat’s offense was disjointed in the second quarter. During a 9-0 Dallas run midway through the period, Miami had four straight turnovers caused by confusion and clutter: an offensive foul drawn by Kidd on James, a shot clock violation, an errant pass that evaded a cutting James and a stolen bounce pass intended for James, who was the roll man in a pick-and-roll with Chalmers.

James’ only shot in the second, a running heave that slammed off the backboard, came as the halftime buzzer sounded. The Heat led 47-45 at halftime.


Fizdale: The first big down the floor for us always ran to the strong-side post. And if LeBron has the ball, you don’t want Joel Anthony standing in the strong-side post as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade [are] bringing the ball up the court. All these guys who are really brilliant basketball minds are using our system against us to help guard him, clog up the paint and just keep people in front of them.

James [in a news conference following Game 4]: I got the ball in the post a few times, and I [saw] double-teams. I tried to kick it out to guys and [who have] made shots for us. At the same time, I can’t let that stop my aggression when they bring two on the ball. I still got to make plays for my team but also make plays for myself to keep me in the rhythm of the game.

Marion: We took them out of the things they normally do.

Brewer: Jason Kidd was freaking amazing defensively [in the series]. He was picking up 94 feet.

Fizdale: And we were killing … the process of LeBron just being great and giving him the space to go.

But the Heat did have Wade, who made all five of his shots in third. Meanwhile, James had his best all-around quarter of the game, collecting four points, four rebounds and three assists. With just over a minute left in the quarter, he muscled Terry near the free throw line and made a 15-foot jumper over him. It was decisive and defiant. They also were his last points of the game.

The Heat went on an 8-1 run to end the third quarter and entered the fourth with a 69-65 lead, but James — who was just 3-of-10 from the field to that point — was still riding shotgun.


Bibby: D-Wade [was the go-to guy] that game.

Wade [in a news conference following Game 4]: My teammates and my team count on me to be more than one-dimensional. So obviously I’m in an offensive rhythm.

James [in the same news conference]: I’m confident with my ability. It’s about going out there and knocking [open shots] down.

Fizdale: I don’t care what people say, a jumper just is not going to consistently fall if you’re not getting some free throws [James and Wade combined to attempt 13 free throws in the game; James attempted just four of those]. We weren’t getting the easy ones.

Bibby: I’ve never been in that situation to where it’s like, “We’re both superstars, it’s not my night tonight, you got it. Go do what you do. Take us home.” I think LeBron was saying [to Wade], “OK, you got to go get it.”

Heat center Zydrunas Ilgauskas: The whole season, when we ran into trouble, we didn’t know where to go, who to go to. Because Chris, Dwyane and LeBron were the main guys coming in. So, it was kind of, “Is it your day? Is it my day?”

Nowitzki [in a news conference the day after Game 4]: Whoever has the ball [in Miami’s Big Three], the other two can’t have the ball.

Wade [in the same news conference]: Obviously, when you have players playing well, playing aggressively, like I’ve been playing and Chris played, you kind of get passive. That’s what LeBron kind of got [in Game 4]. That’s kinda how I got in the Chicago series. … When [LeBron has the ball], we want him to take advantage of his opportunities.

James [in the same news conference]: Me just being more assertive, that’s what it’s about.

But James spent much of the last 12 minutes of the game in neutral — standing passively in the corner or swinging the ball around the perimeter.

A little more than three minutes into the fourth, the Mavericks subbed out Barea in favor of Kidd, who joined Nowitzki, Stevenson, Terry and Chandler. Carlisle and Casey then used both zone and man defenses. Against those looks, James missed the only shot he took in the period, a contested jumper over Stevenson with 2:25 left.

Barea: We put [Kidd] on LeBron sometimes, And every time he went for a layup, he had Tyson Chandler there waiting for him. We started switching it up on everything. We went from zone to man to pressing a little bit sometimes [throughout the series]. With the second unit — me and [Terry] were small — coach gave us a lot of freedom the whole year to change it up, and we did.

Anthony: It wasn’t something that we had dealt with heavily during the season, in terms of having a smoothness to [zone] offense. We weren’t able to do that as well as we would’ve wanted to.

Casey: We knew that guarding LeBron and Wade one-on-one was an impossible feat. We had to do something to counteract their athletic ability.

Anthony: A lot of what we were doing, because we were a great defensive team, we were able to do with [defense] first and then generate offense. When that momentum [defense creating offense in transition] slowed down, which would happen in the playoffs, and especially in the fourth quarter when the game slows down more, things just weren’t as smooth.

Casey: Against great athletes, you can’t give them rhythm. You have to make them play in crowded spaces. If the Heat were going to beat us, it was going to be from the outside. We played zone mainly in Game 4 and Game 5. But Game 4 gave us more confidence to run it in Game 5. The zone kept them off balance and made them slow down and think.

Anthony: In basketball, once you start thinking about things, you’re kind of done. … It wasn’t like [James] was just missing shots [in Game 4]. He was also not having the same aggressiveness that we’re used to.

House: [For James, it was] almost like, “I’m here, but I’m not. My mind is on something else” — almost like a blank stare at times. Plenty of guys went up to him, “Hey, we need you. Come on, let’s go. Let’s go.” At times, it was falling on deaf ears because everybody’s coming and telling you the same thing. It probably just made him a little bit more numb to whatever the situation was that he was dealing with inside, mentally.

James [in a news conference the day after Game 4]: You start aiming shots. You start thinking about plays too much. You start thinking about the game too much and, instead of going out and reading and reacting and playing the game.

Ilgauskas: Looking back, we all wish LeBron was more aggressive in that series, but it’s hard to get into somebody else’s skin. I always told him that I would never consider any of his shots bad shots.

Fizdale: We were still trying to play like the old Heat when we just had Dwyane, [when] he was our star and that was it. We weren’t ready to deviate from what we have been doing all year long.

The game’s final 14.4 seconds put that failure on full display.

After Wade missed a potential tying free throw and Nowitzki made a layup, the Heat had two possessions down by three. James was a spectator in the right corner for both. On the first, Dallas conceded a dunk to Wade (the Heat’s only field goal in the last seven minutes); Mike Miller’s airball ended the second — and the game, 86-83 in favor of Dallas. The series was tied at 2. Both plays were run for Wade.

The question on everyone’s minds: What happened to LeBron James in Game 4? James, through a representative, declined to be interviewed for this story.

James [on “The Shop”]: [In the series], I literally lost myself in the moment.

Anthony: [James has] never been in that situation [that he faced in 2010-11], probably since middle school. That’s a huge change, to go from your entire basketball life being that main option, and then having a situation where you’re still the main option but, right now, the ball is in someone else’s hands. That would be tough for any player, it doesn’t matter how good they are, to be able to deal with and to be able to figure out how to play off of that, how to be efficient off of that.

Fizdale: At the time we were all together, for sure [it was James’ worst game]. If you look statistically, for sure. That [game] probably sticks with him the most, sticks with all of us the most. It probably still burns in him now, and he would want that game back a million times over.

Barea: When we tied [the series], that gave us confidence that, “Hey, we could really do this.” And he really thought, “Oh, maybe this is going to be tougher than I thought to win. Maybe we could lose.” I think that’s when the pressure really got to him.

Bibby: Everybody [on the team] was saying, “We could get the next game. We know we can beat them here. We’ve done it.” And our star player is in single digits, and we lose by three? That’s not going to happen again. That’s the mindset we had going into Game 5.

Bosh [from a news conference the day after Game 4]: It’s not [James’] first bad game in his career. He knows how to put it behind him and move on. We’ve seen what he’s done after a bad game in the last series [after 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting in a Game 1 Eastern Conference finals loss to the Bulls, James had 29 on 12-of-21 shooting in a Game 2 win]. He’s been there before. We’ve all been here before. We just have to keep trusting ourselves and trusting each other.

Spoelstra [in the same news conference]: He doesn’t need to overthink it. He’s a great player. He’s a proven player. He knows how to be aggressive and how to pick his spots. The aggressive mentality will be enough. We will do some things to help him, put him in positions to be aggressive.

Barea: When we won [Game 4], that’s when everything started to change. [James’] confidence went away, especially on offense. That’s when I really knew we had a chance.


Before Game 5, which James called the biggest moment of his career thanks to his Game 4 struggles, a video surfaced that showed James and Wade coughing as they walked through the tunnels inside the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Many perceived this as mocking Nowitzki, who played Game 4 with a fever.

At the time, James and Wade deflected questions about their intentions. In 2021, Wade claimed it was more of a dig toward the media than Nowitzki but admitted he doesn’t like watching it and would tell his son to avoid making the same mistake. Last year, Nowitzki denied seeing the video until after Game 5, but his teammates say the video helped seal the Mavericks’ championship fate.

Barea: Making fun of Dirk for being sick, that really gave us a little bit more energy. We didn’t even need more. We made sure [Nowitzki] watched that video, though.

Brewer: I remember Dirk was like, “All right, whatever. I’ll show them.”

Mavericks forward Caron Butler [in an interview on Bally Sports Southwest]: When [Dirk] got wind of people thinking he wasn’t built for the moment, he was just dialed in to a whole new level. It immediately shifted to, and I say this with the utmost confidence, that we was going to have a parade in Dallas.

Nowitzki scored 29 points in Game 5 and had 21 points and 11 rebounds in Game 6. The Heat were outscored by a combined 35 points when James was on the floor in those two games. Nowitzki captured the Finals MVP for the Mavericks, who won the series 4-2 en route to their first NBA title.

Three days after the series, ESPN published a piece titled: “Does LeBron James need a sports psychologist?” James then disappeared into the offseason and wouldn’t return to the court for a meaningful game for more than six months because of a lockout.

James [on “The Shop”]: We lost because I wasn’t even there. … I wasn’t even present.

Fizdale: I know he cried a lot. I know he spent a lot of days alone in the dark, really having to face himself. I know that because that lockout didn’t give you a choice, right? He was really in his own little bubble. It really forced him to take a hard look at his ego. When you suffer at monumental levels like that, especially at the thing you identify with and your craft, I think it was a huge blow. I think it was really the final blow to really tear through all of the BS that our brain clouds us with, this whole thing, “Who we are, what we are.”

James [in a 2019 interview with ESPN’s Dave McMenamin]: The level of scrutiny that I was dealing with, and how I got out of my comfort zone, I lost my love for the game. I knew that was the mental side.

House: That [series] is something that he could directly look at and reflect on and say, “I no longer ever am going to have an opportunity and let my team down, let myself down. I’m not going out like that no more,” and he hasn’t since. That motivated the hell out of him.

Anthony: D-Wade told him, “Look, this is your team, your show. We go as far as you will take us.” There was that change where there wasn’t that hesitancy anymore. He knew what he wanted to do.

Fizdale: That time [after the 2011 Finals loss], whatever he was doing, I just saw a different guy come back into the gym. And it was really beautiful to watch his evolution.


On Christmas Day 2011, in a season-opening rematch with the Mavs, James collected 37 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in Miami’s 11-point win.

Redemption, though, would have to come in the postseason. When the 2012 playoffs arrived, James tuned out the noise by reading books instead of consuming media — both traditional and social.

Then came perhaps his best game ever: a 45-point, 15-rebound demolition in a Game 6 road win over the Celtics, who were leading the 2012 Eastern Conference finals 3-2. It was one year to the day from Game 4 of the 2011 Finals. James’ Heat won Game 7, too. They went on to win an NBA title, the first of James’ car1eer.

Fizdale: It was one of the most impressive performances I’ve ever seen on a basketball court. And I do think a lot of it had to do with what happened in Dallas.

Anthony: For us to fully get there where we’re a really well-run machine, sometimes it takes those losses to get those final tweaks out.

Fizdale: [Losing the 2011 Finals] caused [Spoelstra] to assess our system so that it fit LeBron instead of trying to fit LeBron into what we were doing. Our system came together that next year, and monumental numbers [for James] came out of it.

House: You can’t hit [Michael] Jordan status until you win a championship.

In 2012-13, James set career highs with 56.5% shooting from the field, including 40.6% from 3. Miami went on a 27-game winning streak and won its second straight title. James won the regular-season and Finals MVPs for the second year in a row. James and Wade became one of the best duos of all time, their success drawing a blueprint for future superstar unions. And James is at least in the conversation — avert your eyes, MJ loyalists — as the best player ever.

Brewer: LeBron is always chasing greatness. So when he has a game like that — and when he loses in the Finals — of course he’s going to go to the drawing board and just get better at his craft. And as we’ve seen, he definitely got better. I think it was motivation for him.

James [tweeted about Game 4 on May 17, 2022]: I hit the reset button, went back to the basics, worked on things in my game I needed to get better at so the defense couldn’t just sit on one thing. Hours and hours and hours every day in the offseason on it.

Marion: I think he started to try to make a conscious effort to just seal guys under the basket more. He did add some more stuff to his game. He’s one of those guys that, with his ability to get to the rim the way he does, is truly special because he’s been able to do it for 20 years.

Casey: He’s a computer on the floor. When you play against LeBron, it’s a chess match. That series made him see the game and think the game. … Matter of fact, that’s why I’m [the head coach in] Detroit right now. I spent three years [losing to James’ Cavaliers in the playoffs] in Toronto. Some of the same ideas I had in Dallas, we used in Toronto. But they didn’t work.

Fizdale: He was no longer playing with the worry of what people thought of him [or] what if I don’t win this thing.

Bibby: Everybody talks bad about him still, and he [will pass] Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] in scoring in NBA history. He’s strong-minded enough to where he blocks all that outside noise out. I think he learned for the next time, “I’m not going to let that happen again.”

James [in the 2019 interview with ESPN]: To be able to be in a packed arena on the road, with 20,000, 22,000 screaming fans going crazy, to be able to find a moment — two minutes, one minute, 30 seconds, whatever — to be able to close my eyes, to be able to relax myself, calm myself. It’s like meditation, basically. It has worked tremendously for me in my career.

By |2023-02-01T08:41:16-05:00February 1st, 2023|News|

'He's been a bad dude': How Philly's Haason Reddick went from Temple walk-on to NFL game-wrecker

PHILADELPHIA — The question had zero to do with premier edge rusher Haason Reddick, but Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts couldn’t help turning the focus toward him.

In the wake of Philadelphia’s 31-7 throttling of the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game Sunday, Hurts was asked about his own situational awareness in key moments and was in the midst of talking about football IQ and fundamentals when he pivoted.

“Haason Reddick, he’s been a bad dude all year,” Hurts said. “And that’s what we need going forward.”

It’s hard to overstate the impact Reddick made against San Francisco. In the first half alone, he racked up two sacks, three pressures, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. The 49ers’ fate was sealed midway through the first quarter when Reddick came flying off the edge and generated a strip sack by swatting at the arm of Brock Purdy, who suffered an ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow on the play. It knocked Purdy out of the game and rendered him ineffective when he was forced to return following a Josh Johnson concussion.

“You don’t ever want anybody to get dinged or get hurt, and I hope he’s OK,” said coach Nick Sirianni, “but it definitely did change the game.”

Reddick finished the regular season with 16 sacks — second to only his counterpart that day, Nick Bosa — and was second in ESPN’s pass rush win rate metric (28%) behind Micah Parsons (30%). His 18.5 sacks created led the league. Yet he was not named a finalist for defensive player of the year.

“Hey, s—,” he said when asked about the snub. “I think my play said it today. That’s all I need to say on that.”

The respect Reddick, 28, has been hunting for not just all season but for his entire football life seemed to crash upon him as he stood in the center of the locker room postgame wearing NFC Champion gear and was engulfed by a swarm of reporters, drawing the biggest crowd in a room full of stars. Moments earlier, with green and white confetti falling from the sky and thousands of fans celebrating, the magnitude of the win began to sink in. Reddick, a local kid from Camden, New Jersey, had just helped punch his hometown team’s ticket to the Super Bowl with an elite performance at Lincoln Financial Field — the same stadium where he earned his football chops playing for Temple.

And now he was headed to the Super Bowl in Arizona, where his professional career began and his NFL dream nearly died.

“It’s crazy, man. Just blessings on blessings on blessings,” Reddick said. “I didn’t see this coming, and now that it’s here, I’m at a loss for words.”


MOST NFL SUCCESS stories start with tales of dominating on the football field as kids, demonstrating ability that had coaches convinced big things were on the horizon.

Reddick’s is not one of those stories.

When Reddick arrived at Haddon Heights High School, he was “just another skinny kid who’s got some talent and athletic ability,” according to the school’s athletic trainer, Tim O’Donnell, adding that Reddick “didn’t stand out” initially.

Reddick’s junior and senior seasons were derailed by injuries. He was sidelined for his entire junior year with a growth plate fracture in his leg and missed the bulk of his senior year with a meniscus tear in his knee. Prospects of playing college ball looked bleak.

But Reddick’s father, Raymond Matthew, was tight with a new member of Temple’s coaching staff, Francis Brown, and reached out.

“They had to beg and basically say, ‘Hey, can you make a spot for this kid?'” Haddon Heights coach Chris Lina said.

Reddick made the team as a walk-on and started his career as a defensive back before transitioning to edge rusher as he put on weight. Making inroads as a non-scholarship athlete proved challenging under Temple’s head coach Steve Addazio. Addazio told Reddick after his freshman season that he wouldn’t have a spot on the team moving forward, several people close to Reddick said.

But when Addazio left to become head coach at Boston College and Matt Rhule took over at Temple, Reddick was back on the team.

“Changed his life,” Lina said.

Reddick went on to compile 17.5 sacks and 47 tackles for loss over four seasons at Temple. A strong senior year led to him being selected 13th overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2017 NFL draft.


REDDICK FLOURISHED IN college as an outside rusher but was asked to play inside linebacker his first few seasons with the Cardinals. By the time the 2020 season rolled around, he was mentally exhausted.

All that’s required of the inside linebacker position — reading keys, watching for pulling guards, intense focus on alignment — did not allow Reddick to play the kind of fast, instinctual style of football he naturally excelled at.

“I remember having a conversation with my dad before I was making the decision whether I wanted to go back to the edge or not,” Reddick said in September. “I remember telling him I feel like if I don’t do this, I feel like if I don’t ask them to put me back, after this it’s either no more football, no more NFL for me or I’ll be just a special teamer.”

Matthew’s advice was to “leave all the cards on the table.”

Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Reddick approached Davis and then-defensive coordinator Vance Joseph about moving back outside. With all parties having nothing to lose, the position change was made. A Chandler Jones injury opened a window of opportunity and Reddick cashed in, racking up 12.5 sacks in 2020.

Still, Arizona didn’t re-sign him.

“It was very disappointing that we didn’t find a way to keep him,” Arizona linebackers coach Billy Davis said. “As a coaching staff, we thought the world of him as a worker, as a teammate. I don’t have a knock on Haason. I wish we still had him.”

The Carolina Panthers inked Reddick to a one-year, $8 million deal that offseason and Reddick generated 11 sacks, but again found himself as a free agent at season’s end.

The Eagles pounced, inking him to a three-year, $45 million deal in March, in hopes he’d be the missing piece to defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s group — and he has been.

Reddick has 19.5 sacks in 19 games, including the playoffs. Adding some weight over the offseason — he’s officially listed at 6-foot-1, 240 pounds — added another dimension to his game, allowing him to “move guys out of my way at my will, whenever I wanted to.”

Still, Reddick has rarely been mentioned among the top guys at his position. Those close to him surmise it’s a product of initially being an inside linebacker, switching teams multiple times and playing in smaller markets prior to Philly.

“I’m not crying or begging for respect but it’s got to be there,” Reddick said following a Dec. 11 win over the New York Giants, when he reached double-digit sacks for a third straight season. “Three different teams, three different schemes, three different head coaches, three different [defensive coordinators]. What does that tell you?”

After the Defensive Player of the Year finalists were released, omitting him, Reddick tweeted: “At some point, this s— gotta stop.”


SIGNING WITH PHILADELPHIA was influenced by his desire to be closer to family. He wanted to come home, and there have been plenty of perks.

In October, he visited his old high school to deliver an inspirational message to the current players.

“I can tell the kids all the time about hard work and dedication and it doesn’t matter. He came in and said the same stuff to the guys, but it was great coming from a guy wearing an Eagles shirt who sat in the same cafeteria you sat in,” Lina said.

“Our kids are like, ‘I’m bigger than him.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, he’s way better than you are,” Lina said with a laugh. “That guy is not blessed with being huge in size but he’s got a drive in him that most people cannot find.”

High crime rates can make Camden a dangerous place to grow up. To help keep Reddick out of harm’s way when he was coming up, Matthew had him focus on football and working out.

“We would run a mile to the gym, would train and would walk back a mile,” Matthew said. “It was a lot of conversation, just making sure he’s seeing every scope of life. He was mature at an early age.”

The tradition continues during the offseason, though they no longer run to the local training facility.

“The mile trip, we don’t have to do that no more. That was a financial reason,” he said with a laugh. “We didn’t have it. Everything’s changed now.”

Reddick made his first Pro Bowl this season and was named second-team All-Pro. He’s playing a lead role for one of the two best teams in the land, and will be playing in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium, where his career nearly fizzled out and was resurrected.

“I don’t think the story could have been written any better,” Reddick said.

Matthew was in attendance for the NFC Championship Game and got goosebumps thinking about how things have played out for his son.

“Everything is just full circle right now,” Matthew said. “It just makes us a believer in everything. Hard work pays off. It does. The good guy finally won.”

By |2023-02-01T08:26:01-05:00February 1st, 2023|News|

Is it time for a 24-second shot clock in men's college basketball?

Ask Jamie Dixon about the idea of a 24-second shot clock in men’s Division I basketball, and he doesn’t mince words.

“I think it’s coming,” the TCU head coach told ESPN. “I’ve been saying that for years.”

Dixon has firsthand experience with the shorter clock. He coached Team USA to a gold medal at the 2021 FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in Latvia.

With a roster featuring the likes of Mike Miles Jr., Ryan Kalkbrenner, Chet Holmgren and Jaden Ivey, the Americans edged Victor Wembanyama and France 83-81 in the final. (“I tried to recruit Victor,” Dixon joked.)

Did the college stars accustomed to a 30-second clock have a difficult time transitioning to the international and NBA standard of 24? Dixon chuckled.

“You don’t get any guys looking to run clock,” he said. “It’s the right audience [for 24 seconds], they think they just made the league. You’ve helped them reach their dream.”

FIBA shortened its shot clock from 30 seconds to 24 in 2000. Since that time, Team USA has posted a 67-5 U19 record and won four of the past five gold medals.

Could it be time for D-I to synchronize with the rest of the world and go to 24?

The past, the NBA and the world

Whenever the idea of bringing the 24-second clock to college basketball has been raised, it has been pointed out, correctly, that the next level features the best players in the world. Of course the 24-second clock works fine in the NBA, this thinking runs. Just look at how talented those players are.

Over the past two decades, however, the ground has shifted under this particular response. In 2023, it’s no longer just LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo who thrive with the shorter clock. So do teenagers in Serbia, Canada, Senegal, Argentina, Australia and throughout the world — except in the United States.

Basketball is, and can be, very good when played with a 30-second clock. The question is whether 30 seconds is optimal.

“We practice with 24 seconds [at TCU] in the summer and in the fall,” Dixon said. “You just adjust in little ways. Rather than walk it up, you’re bringing it up quicker, taking out the weave thing or whatever.”

Dixon likes the urgency created by the shorter clock. “You have to get into your sets quicker,” he said. “Be on the attack constantly. We don’t want to be shooting in the last six seconds of the clock.”

Styles, defenses and upsets

One of the most common criticisms of the 24-second clock is that it allegedly leads to a dull uniformity in playing styles. In this vein of thinking, everything in a 24-second world is quick-hitters and isolations because there’s no time for reversing the ball and probing the defense.

Another concern is college teams will play more zone and employ more pressing defenses. Finally, the conventional wisdom holds that stronger teams will prevail more often as more possessions are added to a contest. The larger the sample size of basketball, the smaller the chance of a shocking upset.

These concerns are perhaps both legitimate and familiar. Many if not all of them were raised in 2015 when reducing the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds was under discussion.

Today, there appears to be a tolerable diversity of playing styles and a reasonable balance between differing defenses. Moreover, the first No. 15 seed ever to reach the Elite Eight (Saint Peter’s) did so with a 30-second clock.

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1:40

Shaheen Holloway still numb after Saint Peter’s historic win

Saint Peter’s coach Shaheen Holloway describes his feeling leading his team to become the first No. 15 seed to ever reach the Elite Eight.

What about teams that prefer a slower pace?

KenPom tracks average possession length (APL) on both offense and defense for every team. In recent seasons, D-I’s longest APLs on offense have varied from 21.0 to 21.5 seconds. Running your offense at a speed just 2.5 to 3 seconds under a potential new time limit certainly sounds like a tight squeeze.

We may be doing the number 21 a disservice, however. APL measures an entire offensive possession. The metric isn’t bounded by a 30-second ceiling. An offensive rebound or a non-shooting foul by the defense can extend an individual possession length past 30 seconds.

Another measure of how fast a team chooses to play is elapsed time on a possession’s first shot attempt. When Villanova won a 50-44 slugfest over Houston in the 2022 Elite Eight, for example, the Wildcats went 18.3 seconds into the shot clock, on average, before launching their first attempt.

Villanova was characteristically deliberate in that 58-possession regional final, and 18 seconds or so may furnish a serviceable thumbnail for how slow you can currently go. In their next game, a 58-possession 81-65 loss in the Final Four to Kansas, the Wildcats averaged a first shot attempt after 17.6 seconds.

A team that expends an average of 18 seconds before attempting the first shot of a possession would face an adjustment with a 24-second clock. Finding out exactly what that adjustment would entail could be worth some experimentation.

What we think we already know about 24 seconds

Reducing the shot clock from 30 to 24 seconds isn’t necessarily the same thing as shortening it from 35 to 30. One way of addressing the uncertainty might be for the NCAA to give the shorter clock a trial run in an upcoming National Invitation Tournament.

Assuming the NCAA takes such an experimental step, what might we learn? If the college game were to adopt the shorter clock, we can project with a fair degree of confidence that the following would occur:

  • Scoring will increase. Over/unders will have to chart a corresponding uptick. When the clock was adjusted in 2015, scoring per team increased by about five points per contest. More recently, scoring appears to have settled in at a level about three points higher than the 2014-15 average.

  • Tempo will accelerate. Last month, Washington State and Stanford played a 53-possession game. Under a 24-second clock it would be more difficult to play just 53 possessions in 40 minutes.

  • There will be fewer games where both teams score 50 points or less. From 2010-11 through 2014-15, there were 258 such games in the sports-reference.com database. In the seven full seasons since played with the 30-second clock, there are just 99 such games, a per-season decrease of 73%. In this sense, at least, it can be said of shot clocks that they work.

Our ESPN colleague Fran Fraschilla has been calling for a 24-second clock for the college game as far back as 2010. If a shorter clock would nudge the most extreme and low-scoring contests in a slightly more fast-paced direction, it could be worth testing Fran’s idea at the NIT sometime soon.

Dixon is ready to give the idea a try. “It would be good,” he said. “It’s good for the game.”

By |2023-02-01T08:26:08-05:00February 1st, 2023|News|

LaLiga slams PL 'cheating' after record $1B spent

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LaLiga has hit out at the Premier League for “cheating” and “doping” after an analysis from Deloitte’s Sports Business Group said clubs spent a record £815 million ($1 billion) in the January transfer window.

The biggest spenders were Chelsea, responsible for 37% of the total — equivalent to more than the combined spend by all clubs in the Bundesliga, LaLiga, Serie A and Ligue 1, it said.

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)
– Transfer window review: Arsenal, Chelsea are big winners

The London club, lying 10th in the league, paid a British-record £106.8m for Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez from Benfica on Tuesday’s transfer deadline day.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas shared a video on Twitter of corporate general director Javier Gomez saying that the Spanish league would ask UEFA to do more on transfers.

“We are aware there is a lot of talk about how LaLiga’s economic control means Spanish clubs sign less than Premier League clubs,” he said. “Let’s explain what’s behind that. What’s the truth? The reality is that at LaLiga we want clubs to spend what they can afford and generate themselves, that is to say, their own revenues.

“It is true that shareholders are also allowed to support the club and put money in to spend more than the club itself can generate, but within certain limits.”

The opposite is true in the Premier League, Gomez said. “The data is as follows: With data compared up to June 30, 2021, and across the five previous seasons, the PL and Championship — top two tiers of English football — lost €3bn. In that same time, the Spanish league lost — we all suffered in the pandemic — €250m. But what happened? During that same period, shareholders across the PL and Champ put in €3.5bn. Across that same period, shareholders in Spain put in €450m.

“What’s the issue? Essentially, they are ‘doping’ the club. They are injecting money not generated by the club for it to spend, which puts the viability of the club at risk if the shareholder leaves. In our opinion, that is cheating, because it drags down the rest of the leagues.

“That is our fight, demanding that UEFA implements a new economic regulation that prevents the shareholder of a club from putting in more than a certain amount and that it enforces this rule and sanctions non-compliant clubs. It doesn’t matter which league or country it is, they should sanction clubs that don’t comply with this regulation.”

The top-flight English clubs’ expenditure was almost three times higher than in January 2022. Over the whole of the 2022-23 season they have spent £2.8bn on player transfers, beating the previous record of £1.9bn set in 2017-18.

Relegation-threatened Bournemouth were the second-largest spenders within the Premier League.

“Premier League clubs have outspent those within the rest of Europe’s “big five” leagues by almost four to one in this transfer window,” said Tim Bridge, lead partner in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.

“However, while there is a clear need to invest in squad size and quality to retain a competitive edge, there will always be a fine balance to strike between prioritising success on-pitch and maintaining financial sustainability.”

By |2023-02-01T08:11:13-05:00February 1st, 2023|News|

'He's Black royalty': Doug Williams' Super Bowl legacy lives on, 35 years later

ASHBURN, Va. — The pats on the back, photo requests and adulation haven’t stopped 35 years later. When people meet Doug Williams, they know who they’re meeting: Doug Williams, the first Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl. On Jan. 31, 1988, he changed a narrative that Black quarterbacks couldn’t lead a team to a title and became a folk hero.

Two more Black quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl since: Russell Wilson with the Seattle Seahawks in 2014 and Patrick Mahomes with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020. Williams was the first, a designation that still resonates. He led Washington to a 42-10 win over the Denver Broncos, throwing four touchdown passes and earning MVP honors.

Now, nearly four decades after Williams’ historic game, two Black quarterbacks — Mahomes and the Philadelphia EaglesJalen Hurts — will start in Super Bowl LVII and continue the legacy Williams began.

Tracy Wright, who owns her own sports marketing company, met Williams in 2006 at an event for the Southwestern Athletic Conference, and they soon became friends. She’s often in his suite at FedEx Field in Maryland, bringing friends or family. Their reactions are always the same.

“They’re all enamored,” Wright said. “Anytime they’re in there, they want a picture with him. They’re like, ‘This is Doug Williams.’ I’ve heard people say he’s Black royalty. They’re so into him, it’s amazing how they feel about him.”

New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston calls Williams, whom he considers a mentor, the most “iconic African American quarterback.”

Williams has been a college head coach (Grambling State, two different stints), an NFL scout (Jacksonville Jaguars) and an NFL executive (Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Commanders). He has been with Washington since 2014, now serving as a senior advisor. He has accomplished a lot in a career that, following his playing days at Grambling State, started in 1978 with Tampa Bay as the first Black quarterback drafted in the first round.

He helped organize the inaugural HBCU Legacy Bowl last year along with former NFL quarterback James Harris. That pair founded the Black College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

“You have guys that are very, very talented who have a renewed faith that things are possible,” former NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham said. “A lot of that started with Doug Williams.”

Williams remains popular because of what he did 35 years ago, but his popularity has been enhanced because of how he treats people. He has mentored a number of young people and awarded scholarships through foundations. He remains a symbol, and while the letters might not arrive in the piles they used to, his name carries weight and that Super Bowl win remains an important milestone.

“I’ve had people come up to me from my hometown that knew we were friends and they say when they’re feeling down and having a bad time, they take his tape from the Super Bowl and put it in to raise them up,” his college roommate and teammate Ricky Grant said.

Williams’ older brother, Robert Williams Sr., goes one step further.

“If you look at the impact Doug had,” he said, “you have to put him in the category with a person like Martin Luther King, Muhammed Ali. All those guys — Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson.”


EVERYONE KNEW WHAT that Super Bowl meant 35 years ago. After all, no Black quarterback had ever played in the Super Bowl before, let alone won one. Williams was asked numerous questions about being a Black quarterback during a news conference. Williams started only two games during the regular season, losing both. But he started all three playoff games in place of Jay Schroeder, who was dealing with a nagging shoulder injury.

Williams took one of his playoff checks and sent it to his mother, Laura, instructing her to use it to pay for whoever wanted to attend the game in San Diego. Robert Williams said 21 of them headed west.

“There was so much hype about the game,” Robert said. “I’ll never forget there was a gentleman sportscaster from Alabama who made the comment that Doug would not be successful against [Denver quarterback John] Elway. I was standing there and I told him, ‘Just wait and see. You’ll see something you’ve never seen before.’ And I walked away.”

Considering the road Williams traveled to reach that point, it’s not surprising he faced more obstacles the night before the game (undergoing a six-hour root canal because of an abscessed tooth) and then during the game (hurting his knee late in the first quarter).

“When Doug went down,” Robert Williams said, “there were some relatives of Schroeder who said, ‘Washington will win the game now, Jay’s coming in.’ We said nothing. They didn’t realize we were relatives of Doug.”

Williams returned, then threw four touchdowns — including one on his first pass after the injury — in the second quarter en route to a 340-yard day in the lopsided victory. He earned MVP honors. He was met on the field by his Grambling State coach Eddie Robinson, who compared the moment to when Joe Louis knocked out German-born Max Schmeling in a 1938 heavyweight boxing match, a victory celebrated because of what it meant to the country and to Black people.

“No question I knew the impact,” Doug Williams said. “My dad used to tell me about that fight so when he said it, I knew what it meant to my dad, too. I could imagine the impact on Black America.”


CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY WAS an emotional one for Williams.

In the afternoon, Hurts led the Eagles to a dominant 31-7 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Hours later, the Chiefs — led by Mahomes’ 326 passing yards and two touchdowns — beat the Cincinnati Bengals to claim the AFC crown, setting up the first matchup between Black quarterbacks in Super Bowl history.

Processing the historic moment, Williams could not hold back the tears.

“I wondered why I was like that, but it’s the realness of two Black quarterbacks combined with where I come from,” Williams said. “It’s unfortunate that 35 years later I would be feeling that way.”

He said it took him back to 1979, when he and Chicago’s Vince Evans played in the first NFL game started by two Black quarterbacks.

“The guys that came before me, if they had a fair chance, if the landscape was even, this might have happened a long time ago,” Williams said. “The coaches, the general managers, everyone else has changed a little bit with their mentality — not saying their mind isn’t on color, but it’s about winning.

“Andy Reid doesn’t care what color you are. I was fortunate enough to play for [Tampa Bay coach] John McKay and [Washington coach] Joe Gibbs. It wasn’t about color, it was about who can get the job done. That’s what’s happened here with these two quarterbacks.”

But, Williams said, though he’s proud of his legacy on the field, his feat hasn’t resulted in enough societal change from his perspective.

“We’re 35 years later and we’re still fighting a whole lot of battles off the field,” Williams said. “Being the first Black quarterback, it really doesn’t matter when you think about what’s really going on in this country, the division between race and everything else. That’s the part that bothers me more than anything.”


THE HARDSHIPS WERE many growing up just outside Zachary, Louisiana — 16 miles from Baton Rouge. Williams’ family — which included eight kids — had little money and no indoor plumbing. Their father, Robert Sr., was a World War II veteran who stressed family, getting together on holidays and having big Fourth of July celebrations. On Mother’s Day, the men cooked for the women.

And there were other struggles.

“It wasn’t unusual where we lived, on a Friday or Saturday night, to have a cross burning in the community,” said Robert Williams, who is 15 years older than Doug. “I’ll never forget a gentleman who lived down the street from us on the corner. Sometimes we had to walk a quarter mile to catch a bus to go to school. It wasn’t unusual to see at night KKK members coming out of his house, coming out in robes. We’re on the corner catching a bus and he came out and ran us off the corner.”

Amid this backdrop, Robert returned to Zachary following a brief minor league baseball career in the Cleveland organization that was ended by a shoulder injury. He coached his younger brother in baseball and also got him involved in football. A young Doug would often cry after losses. Coaches would tell Doug to his face that he shouldn’t be crying, but they would then tell his parents or his brother they secretly liked it — a sign of his desire and competitiveness.

Once, the brothers participated in the first integrated American Legion baseball game in their area.

That night, while Robert coached, Doug struck out 18 batters. Consider it a precursor to a larger event.

“I do believe you’re put here to do certain things in life,” Robert said. “It didn’t happen by coincidence. Doug often says I am where I am because of Robert Williams, but what he fails to realize is he’s my hero. I just feel praise for what he has done and the way he is.”


WILLIAMS WAS ONE of 10 quarterbacks at Grambling State and just wanted a chance. He grew frustrated when he didn’t get one, so he decided to make a statement. He knew what he wanted and what he believed he deserved; he was going to let others know how he felt by his actions. It was part of a lifelong pattern — at Tampa Bay, when he believed he was woefully underpaid, he set a baseline for his contract — $500,000 — and when the Bucs came in $100,000 less he became a substitute teacher in Zachary rather than playing football in 1983.

Grant remembers the statement before a night practice at Grambling.

“So that evening when I’m going to practice, he said he’s not going. We had a black-and-white TV and he stayed in the room to watch ‘The Big Valley,'” Grant said, referring to a popular TV western series in the 1960s. “Missing practice for Doug or anyone, you don’t miss it, not with Coach [Robinson]. But Doug was making a big statement and he got their attention. They went and sent for him to come down and the rest is history.”

Williams — eventually — earned the starting job his freshman season. And Grant knows why.

“Coach Rob gave him his shot that night,” Grant said. “They were changing defenses on Doug and we didn’t have all those lights on the field, so it was dark. They kept switching up on Doug, and he kept connecting with receivers. From that day, he persevered again. That was the beginning of what’s happening now. There’s just something about him. He’s persevered everywhere he’s been.”

Roger Terry, Washington scout: “Before I had the [Washington] job I was interviewing in a couple places and I saw him at the airport. I saw a couple fans — it was about five or six people — go talk to him, ‘Can I get an autograph?’ He stopped for probably 30, 45 seconds, took the picture and gave them an autograph. He put smiles on their faces.”


SAINTS QUARTERBACK JAMEIS Winston was born 15 years after Williams won the Super Bowl, yet Winston knew all about Williams growing up in Bessemer, Alabama. Winston paid attention to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) athletics and watched quarterbacks such as Steve McNair, Michael Vick and Aaron Brooks in the NFL. Winston listened to his father, who watched these same players and would tell him, “Doug Williams is the one.”

On Feb. 17, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas, Winston met Williams for the first time. Both were being honored at a dinner, Winston for winning the Davey O’Brien award as the nation’s best collegiate quarterback and Williams for receiving the Legends Award.

Because their families sat at the same table, they had a chance to talk. Williams told Winston he saw some of himself in him. While Winston paid rapt attention to Williams’ words, he also noticed something else: Williams brought his young twin daughters with him.

“I was going on all these circuits and meeting different celebrities and they might have their wife, but they definitely did not have their kids,” Winston said. “I’m like, ‘This is how it’s done.'”

Williams stayed in touch with Winston — who refers to him as Mr. Williams, though he’s often told to just call him Doug — via phone calls and texts. When Winston landed in Tampa Bay as a first-round pick in 2015, the relationship grew. Williams would head there often for festivities with the Bucs, and they’d meet up for dinner. Williams would talk by phone or before games with other quarterbacks, notably Teddy Bridgewater. But he developed something more with Winston.

Winston has leaned on Williams’ advice: “Nothing can break you. … When you get your opportunity, execute. … Stay patient and always stay a pro because that will carry you farther than anything else.”

Williams left out parts of his story that Winston later discovered, like how Williams first wife, Janice, died of a brain tumor in 1983, 10 days before their first wedding anniversary, leaving him with an 11-week-old daughter, Ashley.

And Winston pointed out that not only did Williams shatter a narrative about Black quarterbacks being able to lead a Super Bowl win, he also did it as a traditional drop-back passer.

“What he had to go through when he first got in the league,” Winston said. “You lose the love of your life that early and he still prospered. That’s why I admire him and every word he speaks to me I take it to heart because he has overcome not only barriers [on the field] but so much internally. I’m grateful he opens up to me and shares things with me about his journey. He didn’t have to do that. He doesn’t have to reach out, but he calls me. I’m blessed to have him.”


AFTER RANDALL CUNNINGHAM’S rookie season with Philadelphia in 1985, Williams invited him to spend a week at his house in Zachary so they could get to know each other better, starting a friendship that has endured.

Cunningham grew up in Santa Barbara, California, and attended college at UNLV before being drafted by the Eagles. Spending a week at Williams’ house opened his eyes.

“I asked a lot of questions about the history of his life and the people he encountered and how it was growing up down there,” he said. “I understood about slavery and segregation, but Doug said, ‘I’m in the middle of that.'”

Three years later, Williams won the Super Bowl.

“He was purging a generation of people who have gone through a lot. That equates to those lost in the past and to those who struggled. Him winning the Super Bowl elevated the confidence of many, not just African Americans but all cultures.”

Cunningham boiled it down to one word: confidence.

“Just the confidence of knowing someone who looks like me had accomplished such a great feat. I said, ‘Wow, now I guess we will be accepted,'” Cunningham said. “It was just a boost in confidence as an African American, like I do have a place. With all the naysayers and people not believing, I realized it was not only an option but it was possible.”


WILLIAMS SAID HE feels respect from other quarterbacks; it doesn’t always come in the form of seeking advice. Before a home game in 2016 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was warming up when he spotted Williams. He pointed at him and nodded his head.

“That says a lot,” Williams said.

In 2009, when Williams was an executive with Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers played New England in London. After the game, Williams talked to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, telling him how much he respected his career.

To which he said Brady replied: “No, man, I respect your career.”

“I don’t know where I feel it’s a responsibility,” Williams said. “I think it’s naturally me. When I see somebody, no matter who it is, I feel obligated to engage them and start talking.”

Williams understands what he has done and what he symbolizes.

“The respect of how I came up and the road I traveled and the success I had, people give you that respect,” Williams said. “I know who I am. I feel good about who I am. I don’t put myself above nobody.”

That’s what former workmates witnessed. Eric Schaffer, a former Washington executive who worked with Williams for six years, said Williams was treated like a rock star at stadiums — with everyone wanting a picture — making their trips from the press box to the field before games a long one.

“What’s remarkable about Doug is that when he got off the bus, the people driving the bus looked at him with reverence,” Schaffer said, “and Doug would give them the exact same time and respect he would give to owners down on the field.”

Washington receiver Terry McLaurin said he gravitated toward Williams because of the wisdom he dispensed. Williams talked to McLaurin about the consistency it takes to become a Pro Bowl player in the NFL.

“I got to talk to him for a few minutes during my contract negotiations,” McLaurin said. “He encouraged me to stand on what I feel I deserve and come back ready to help the team. He understands the business side of things, but also the player and human aspect.”


WILLIAMS’ SON, D.J., is an offensive assistant with the New Orleans Saints who embraces his father’s accomplishments. D.J. Williams said before games opposing coaches routinely bring up what his father did, sharing thoughts on what it meant. Tampa Bay coach Todd Bowles, whom Williams helped get his first job in coaching, hugs D.J. every time their teams meet.

Once, D.J. spoke to then Carolina offensive coordinator Norv Turner before a game. But, he said, Turner didn’t realize he was Williams’ son. In their next meeting, Turner immediately found him and gushed about his dad, telling D.J. about his impact on the game.

“Hearing those things never gets old,” D.J. said.

But, for D.J., one lasting memory involves taking a VHS NFL Films highlight version of the game to school.

“I remember in kindergarten in Black History Month I showed it to the class,” D.J. said, “and to see everyone else’s reaction and to see the teacher’s reaction it was like, ‘Wow, this is something pretty cool.’ That was big for me as a kid. That was the first time I remember seeing the magnitude my pops had not only on the game but Black culture and people period.”

That’s why D.J. always remembers what his father often tells him: “People don’t remember what you did or how you did it, they only remember how you made them feel.”

For Williams, leaving a legacy matters.

“Every day I think about it and wonder what it would be like if it wasn’t me,” Doug Williams said. “Thank God for me and my kids it was me, whether I’m here or not they’ll have something to hold on to. They’re proud of it and a lot now are just beginning to realize he’s not just daddy. In a lot of people’s eyes he’s a folk hero. That’s not something I go around and say. I just try to be me.”

By |2023-02-01T08:11:16-05:00February 1st, 2023|News|

NBA Power Rankings: Celtics lucky to stay on top

The Boston Celtics didn’t look like a first-place team for most of last week with three losses to lower-tier teams in the New York Knicks, Miami Heat and even a lopsided defeat to the Orlando Magic. They were on the verge of dropping their fourth straight to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, but a controversial no-call on a LeBron James shot in the final seconds allowed the Celtics to escape in overtime.

So the Celtics remain the best team in the NBA, but by a smaller margin as their contending rivals in the Eastern Conference are gaining some ground. The Milwaukee Bucks have won five straight and are just 2.5 games behind Boston, while the Philadelphia 76ers have won eight of their past 10, and even the Kevin Durant-less Brooklyn Nets are stringing some wins together behind Kyrie Irving‘s leadership. Brooklyn will have their own chance to cut into Boston’s lead on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies are still vying for first place in the Western Conference, but the Sacramento Kings are looking more and more like a sneaky contender behind them. The Kings are one of the feel-good stories in the NBA this season, but they might prove to be more than just a fun underdog based on how they’ve been shooting the ball.

Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (Kendra Andrews, Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which teams are looking most like title contenders.

Previous rankings: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15

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1. Boston Celtics
2022-23 record: 36-15
Previous ranking: 1

Even after seeing their offense fall off over the past couple months following an incandescent start to the season, the Celtics enter Wednesday’s game against Boston as the only team to reside within the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency — placing fourth in each. — Bontemps


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2. Philadelphia 76ers
2022-23 record: 32-17
Previous ranking: 3

Although Philadelphia saw its seven-game winning streak come to an end at the hands of the Orlando Magic on Monday, there’s still plenty to be excited about in The City of Brotherly Love, where the 76ers arguably have the best team of the Joel Embiid era — a view Embiid himself endorsed to ESPN after Saturday’s win over Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets. — Bontemps


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3. Milwaukee Bucks
2022-23 record: 33-17
Previous ranking: 5

The Bucks won their fifth consecutive game with a 124-115 win against the Hornets on Tuesday, their second longest winning streak of the season after starting the year 9-0. Milwaukee has not lost since Khris Middleton — who scored 18 points in 20 minutes off the bench in one of his best games recently — returned to the lineup from a knee injury. — Collier


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4. Denver Nuggets
2022-23 record: 34-16
Previous ranking: 2

The Nuggets dropped tough back-to-back games, but one was without their stars and the other was their rivalry week matchup against the 76ers in a battle between Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid. It was a game that Embiid took so personally that Denver shouldn’t take the loss too hard. As the middle of the pack battle it out, the Nuggets are still by far the most dominant team in the Western Conference. — Andrews


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5. Memphis Grizzlies
2022-23 record: 32-18
Previous ranking: 4

The Reddit thread accusing Memphis scorekeepers of boosting Jaren Jackson Jr.’s block totals didn’t need to be debunked to understand the Grizzlies rim protector’s defensive impact. Memphis has a 103.4 defensive rating with Jackson on the floor, allowing eight fewer points per possessions than without him. He’s by far the biggest factor in the Grizzlies having the West’s best defensive rating (109.7, a tenth of a point behind the Cavaliers for the NBA lead). — MacMahon


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6. Brooklyn Nets
2022-23 record: 31-19
Previous ranking: 6

Brooklyn has found a little rhythm without Kevin Durant on the floor. That’s due in large part to Kyrie Irving, who averaged 29.5 points per game during the month of January and hit a variety of clutch shots late in games to help secure victories. Nic Claxton continues to improve night after night — as evidenced by a stretch last week where he set a new career high for points in a game three nights in a row, culminating with 27 points in a Jan. 26 loss to the Pistons. — Friedell


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7. Cleveland Cavaliers
2022-23 record: 31-21
Previous ranking: 8

Cedi Osman followed up one of the best games of his NBA career — 29 points on 11-for-13 shooting, including 7-for-7 from 3 in 22 minutes in a blowout win over the Clippers — by going 0-for-2 in seven minutes in a loss to the Heat. The seesaw for Osman underscores one of Cleveland’s weaknesses this season, ranking 27th in the league in bench points at 28.9 per game. — McMenamin


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8. Miami Heat
2022-23 record: 28-23
Previous ranking: 10

Miami has won four of its past five including a solid road win over the Cavs on Tuesday night. Bam Adebayo continues his strong season on the verge of another All-Star appearance. He has 85 points and 36 rebounds over his last four games. — Friedell


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9. Sacramento Kings
2022-23 record: 28-21
Previous ranking: 7

The Kings have been showing their offensive prowess all season, and that was on full display early in the week. But their weak point is still their defense, and that was their Achilles’ heel in their losses. If they want to stay near the top of the pack in the West, that will have to turn around. — Andrews


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10. LA Clippers
2022-23 record: 28-25
Previous ranking: 12

The Clippers are beginning to resemble the team they are supposed to be. They won for the sixth time in seven games on Tuesday in Chicago with their only loss coming on the second of a back-to-back in Cleveland where the Clippers rested the majority of their key players. It is no coincidence that the Clippers are winning; Kawhi Leonard is the strongest he’s been in his comeback year. He’s scored over 30 points in his past two games and logged 39 and a season-high 40 minutes in those wins. — Youngmisuk


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11. Golden State Warriors
2022-23 record: 26-24
Previous ranking: 14

Thanks to the absolute jumble that is the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors find themselves in the fifth seed. And, having finally strung together consecutive wins on the road and with their roster practically fully healthy (besides Andre Iguodala), they could be on the brink of the momentum shift they’ve been waiting for. — Andrews


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12. Dallas Mavericks
2022-23 record: 27-25
Previous ranking: 11

Luka Doncic has five 50-point performances in his career, one more than the rest of the Mavs have combined for in the franchise’s 43-year history. Over the past 50 years, only Michael Jordan (17) had more 50-point games in the first five years of his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Doncic did drop to second behind Joel Embiid in the NBA scoring race recently, however, the result of the first scoreless performance of his career occurring when he exited a win over the Suns after only three minutes due to a sprained ankle. — MacMahon


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13. New York Knicks
2022-23 record: 27-24
Previous ranking: 16

It appeared New York had a chance to build some momentum after beating Cleveland and Boston, only to again fall flat with back-to-back losses to the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers. Now, New York is staring at a rough stretch of games, including battles against the Miami Heat, LA Clippers and 76ers in a four-day span this weekend. — Bontemps


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14. Phoenix Suns
2022-23 record: 27-25
Previous ranking: 13

The Suns’ sinusoidal season continues, as they’ve now won six out of seven games after a stretch in which they lost nine out of 10. Now the countdown begins for the biggest question of Phoenix’s season: What happens to Jae Crowder with the trade deadline fewer than 10 days away? — McMenamin


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15. Minnesota Timberwolves
2022-23 record: 27-26
Previous ranking: 19

The Timberwolves seem to be stabilizing, outside of a few discombobulated moments. The big but is: They’ll still need to fold Karl-Anthony Towns back into the mix. Frankly, that didn’t work so well at the start of the season. That should be a little bit of concern for Minnesota when it’s time to bring him back. — Andrews


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16. New Orleans Pelicans
2022-23 record: 26-25
Previous ranking: 9

Things have changed drastically for the Pelicans over the last month. Once 23-12, the Pelicans have dropped 14 of their last 17 games, and Tuesday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets was the team’s ninth consecutive loss in a row. Part of the problem during January was the team’s inability to keep leads. Since Jan. 6, the Pelicans held at least a 10-point lead in eight games. They lost six of those contests including Tuesday against Denver. — Lopez


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17. Atlanta Hawks
2022-23 record: 25-26
Previous ranking: 16

Dejounte Murray finished with 40 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and zero turnovers on Monday night against the Portland Trail Blazers, marking the first 40-point game of Murray’s career. Murray’s four highest-scoring games of his career have come this season and two have been when the Hawks haven’t had Trae Young on the floor. In five games without Young this season, Murray averages 26.4 points, 7.8 assists and 6.4 rebounds per game. — Lopez


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18. Utah Jazz
2022-23 record: 26-26
Previous ranking: 17

Lauri Markkanen is widely expected to be selected by the Western Conference coaches as an All-Star reserve, as he has averaged 24.9 points per game with a 66.6 true shooting percentage. It would be his first All-Star appearance. “I’ve always said it’s been a personal goal ever since I walked into the league,” Markkanen said. “The last couple of weeks, it feels kind of like it’s a real possibility. But I’m not celebrating yet.” — MacMahon


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19. Oklahoma City Thunder
2022-23 record: 24-26
Previous ranking: 18

Josh Giddey, who doesn’t turn 21 until the start of next season, had six assists on Monday night against the Golden State Warriors to give him 602 assists in his career. He’s only the fourth player in NBA history to have 600 assists and 600 rebounds at age 20 or younger joining LeBron James, Luka Doncic and LaMelo Ball. — Lopez


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20. Washington Wizards
2022-23 record: 24-26
Previous ranking: 25

Continuing their topsy-turvy season, the Wizards are now the hottest team in the NBA, riding a six-game winning streak and did so without Kristaps Porzingis for three of those games. Now, Porzingis is back from injury, and Washington looks balanced. Since an 11-20 start, Washington has won 13 of its past 19 games. Without Rui Hachimura — now a Laker — Deni Avdija is averaging 16.2 points and 9.5 rebounds in his past four games. — Youngmisuk


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21. Portland Trail Blazers
2022-23 record: 24-26
Previous ranking: 24

The Blazers’ win over Atlanta at home on Monday was big because they now have a three-game road trip that starts in Memphis before a back-to-back at Washington and against Chicago. Fresh off his West Player of the Week award, Damian Lillard remains red hot with 42 points against Atlanta — the fifth time he has scored 40 or more in his past 10 games. — Youngmisuk


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22. Chicago Bulls
2022-23 record: 23-26
Previous ranking: 22

The Bulls blew a 19-point lead to the Clippers on Tuesday, the fourth time this season they have dropped a game when leading by 15 points or more, second most in the NBA (Rockets, 5). — Collier


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23. Los Angeles Lakers
2022-23 record: 23-28
Previous ranking: 21

Anthony Davis turned into LeBron James’ hype man on Tuesday night after James moved up to No. 4 on the all-time assists list while drawing within 100 points on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s all-time scoring record during a win against New York. James was asked if things felt “heavier” now that the scoring record is actually in reach. “No,” he said. “I mean, I’m going to do it. It’s just a matter of time when I’m going to do it.” Davis, sitting next to James said, “S—, that’s tough. That’s tough. That’s a tough-ass answer.” — McMenamin


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24. Indiana Pacers
2022-23 record: 24-28
Previous ranking: 20

Myles Turner signed a two-year, $60 million extension this past weekend. It should silence longstanding trade rumors for the Indiana big man, at least for now. He is averaging 17.5 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting 54.4% from the field and 39.3% from 3 this season, all of which are career-highs. — Collier


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25. Toronto Raptors
2022-23 record: 23-29
Previous ranking: 23

Toronto has three more games left on its current road trip — at Utah, Houston and Memphis — before returning home to play San Antonio the night before the trade deadline. The Raptors remain the team others around the league are most curious to see what they do between now and the deadline, given the potential difference-making players they could possibly move. — Bontemps


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26. Orlando Magic
2022-23 record: 20-31
Previous ranking: 26

Paolo Banchero had 29 points in Monday’s impressive win over the Sixers and finished the month of January averaging 20.1 points a game. Banchero continues to improve alongside a young core that seems to be finding its form a little more week after week. — Friedell


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27. Charlotte Hornets
2022-23 record: 15-36
Previous ranking: 27

Charlotte actually won two games in a row prior to dropping Tuesday’s contest to the Bucks. The good news, as usual for the Hornets, is that LaMelo Ball continues to play well. Ball had a triple double in Tuesday’s loss and is averaging 20.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8 assists a game. — Friedell


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28. San Antonio Spurs
2022-23 record: 14-37
Previous ranking: 28

Rookie forward Jeremy Sochan had a career-high 30 points in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Phoenix Suns, and he’s been on a tear as of late. He had 15 points in the first quarter on Monday against the Wizards, the most any Spur has had in the first quarter this season. In his last seven games, Sochan is averaging 18 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. And since switching to his one-handed free-throw shooting routine on Dec. 19, he’s shooting 76.7% from the stripe. — Lopez


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29. Detroit Pistons
2022-23 record: 13-39
Previous ranking: 29

Despite their place at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the Pistons are not guaranteed to be sellers at the trade deadline next week. Detroit wants to be competitive next season and could leave its veterans in place, including coveted players such as Bojan Bogdanovic, to help complement its young core. — Collier


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30. Houston Rockets
2022-23 record: 12-38
Previous ranking: 30

Rookie forward Tari Eason has started three of the past five games and fared well in that span, averaging 12.8 points and 8.4 rebounds while shooting 52.9% from the floor. He has double-doubles in each of the past two games after recording only one double-double in the first 48 appearances of his career. — MacMahon

By |2023-02-01T07:56:12-05:00February 1st, 2023|News|

The 30 key moments in Gary Bettman's 30 years in the NHL

Gary Bettman took office as the NHL’s first-ever commissioner on Feb. 1, 1993. It’s been an eventful three decades since.

League owners tapped Bettman — a New York-born, Ivy League-educated lawyer who previously served as the NBA’s general counsel and senior vice president — to succeed outgoing president Gil Stein at a critical juncture for potential NHL growth. They believed Bettman could help the then 24-team league expand further into U.S. markets (particularly in southern states), broker more lucrative media deals and even stabilize labor relations.

Bettman has done all that, and then some.

Under his watch, the NHL has become a 32-club operation in which most teams bring in more revenue than ever before. There also have been periods of instability, from multiple lockouts to unpopular decisions the league is dealing with even now. Bettman has been a polarizing presence through it all, an executive regularly drowned out by booing fans each time he makes a public appearance.

It’s a reaction that Bettman seems to enjoy.

His impact on the NHL is impossible to ignore. Bettman’s place in league history was solidified when the Hockey Hall of Fame inducted him as a “builder” with the class of 2018, and as of Feb. 2, he’ll be the longest-serving commissioner of the four major men’s professional sports leagues in North America.

Here’s a look at the highs and lows of Bettman’s tenure, capturing how the league has changed during his 30-year tenure.


Sept. 1994: The NHL makes TV deal with Fox

Bettman has overseen four major television network moves for the NHL during his tenure. The first was a five-year deal with Fox that started in the 1994-95 season, giving the league regular exposure on a broadcast network for the first time in nearly 20 years. It was a bid to reach a wider — and younger — audience, one that yielded such innovations as cartoon robots and the Glow Puck, which added a CGI blue haze and an occasional comet tail to the puck on-screen. (Initially a failure, the technology was later successfully applied to NASCAR and NFL broadcasts.)

A deal with ABC and longtime cable partner ESPN followed from 1999-2004. Bettman’s next bold move was a post-lockout partnership with NBC and the Outdoor Life Network, which later became Versus and then NBCSN. That partnership lasted until 2021, when the NHL went back to a multi-network deal with TNT and ABC/ESPN that included the league’s first U.S. streaming deal with ESPN+. — Greg Wyshynski

1994-95: 103-day lockout pushes season start to Jan. 1995

Cost controls were at the center of the NHL’s first work stoppage on Bettman’s watch, which reduced the 1994-95 season to 48 games. The owners framed the key cost-control proposal as a luxury tax. The players viewed it as a salary cap. In the end, the players held ranks while some large-market teams lost their resolve to see a full season potentially canceled.

There would be no overarching salary controls, although the owners did win a rookie salary cap and other small tweaks to the system. This lockout is remembered most for its inopportune timing: delaying the season that followed the New York Rangers‘ 1994 Stanley Cup championship, and eliminating a chance to capitalize on that surge in interest. — Wyshynski

1995-96: Third jerseys are born

For years, the NHL jersey was treated like a sacred shroud. There was a home jersey, there was an away jersey, there was the occasional special anniversary jersey and that was that … until 1995, when the NHL greenlit “third jerseys” for its teams.

While it allowed for some creative designs, the main motivation was to open up a previously untapped revenue stream. The program produced some of the most memorable designs in sports history — for better or worse — such as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim’s “Wild Wing” jersey, the Boston Bruins‘ “Pooh Bear” jersey, and the Tampa Bay Lightning‘s “rain drops” jersey. Almost three decades later, many of these designs were resurrected as “Reverse Retro” jerseys.

While alternate NHL jerseys have since become commonplace, they were born in the early years of Bettman’s tenure. — Wyshynski

Sept. 1995: The NHL joins the Olympics

Inspired by the NBA’s “Dream Team” success at the 1992 Summer Olympics, Bettman and the owners wanted to send NHL players to the Winter Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament for the first time. They couldn’t get things in order quickly enough for the 1994 Lillehammer Games, but Bettman received approval from the NHL Board of Governors to send players to the 1998 Nagano Games. Unlike the NBA, the NHL would have to shut down its regular season to accommodate player participation, and Bettman negotiated a tighter Olympic tournament schedule to get the owners on board.

The NHL would participate in five Winter Games, but its players haven’t appeared in one since Sochi in 2014. The owners’ lack of enthusiasm over breaking for the PyeongChang Olympics without IOC or NHL player concessions compelled them to not participate in 2018. An interruption in the NHL regular season schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic caused Bettman to opt out of the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

There’s hope that the NHL will return to play in the 2026 Olympics in Italy, as was collectively bargained with the players. — Wyshynski

1995-96: The Canadian Assistance Plan

The 1990s were not kind to the finances of Canadian teams. As Bettman told MacLean’s in 2009: “There was a point in the early 1990s when some said there was only going to be one team left in Canada.”

One of the NHL’s solutions to this crisis was the Canadian Assistance Plan, which bolstered small-market teams during a time when the Canadian dollar was worth $0.62 USD. Franchises like the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks were subsidized with revenue-sharing payments between $2 million and $3 million from 1995 to 2004.

While U.S. teams protested, Bettman was steadfast in trying to keep those franchises operating in Canada, especially in the wake of Winnipeg’s relocation to Arizona in 1996. — Wyshynski

1996: The instigator rule debuts

There have been calls for the NHL to “ban fighting” during Bettman’s tenure, especially as other levels of hockey created more severe punishments for on-ice fisticuffs. But Bettman never wavered from his belief that fighting “has been a part of the game,” albeit an illegal one within the rules.

Instead, Bettman has endorsed incremental reductions in certain types of fights. In 1996, the NHL changed its penalties for a player who instigates a fight to a two-minute minor, a five-minute major and a 10-minute misconduct — not only removing that player from the ice but giving an opponent a power play. Get two instigators in a game and it’s a game misconduct; get three in a season and it’s an automatic one-game suspension.

Bettman also oversaw a rule that made it illegal for a player to remove his helmet before a fight and a crackdown on “staged” fights at the start of a game or in its final moments. By 2019, the NHL dipped under 200 games with a fighting major for the first time in the modern era. — Wyshynski

1995-97: The Quebec Nordiques, Winnipeg Jets and Hartford Whalers all relocate

One of the trends that came to define Bettman throughout his tenure was the changing geographic landscape, with the hopes of finding more financial success.

It started with the Nordiques relocating to Denver in 1995, becoming the Colorado Avalanche and winning the Stanley Cup in their first season. They were followed by the Winnipeg Jets moving to Arizona in 1996, becoming the Phoenix Coyotes and reaching the playoffs in five of their first six seasons. Then came the decision to move the Hartford Whalers to North Carolina in 1997, creating the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes reached the Cup final in their fifth season and eventually won it in 2006. — Ryan S. Clark

June 25, 1997: Nashville Predators begin new wave of NHL expansion

By the time Bettman took control, the league had expanded to create the San Jose Sharks (1991), Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning (1992), as well as the Florida Panthers and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (1993). The league continued that growth into new markets on Bettman’s watch, which included a new revenue stream with the franchise fee being set at $80 million.

The NHL entered into a new millennium by adding four teams to bring the total to 30: the Nashville Predators (1998), Atlanta Thrashers (1999), Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild (2000). The Thrashers would relocate to Winnipeg in 2011 to become the second iteration of the Jets. — Clark

1999-2000: The NHL introduces the overtime loss and 4-on-4 overtime

Tie games had been a part of the NHL for decades. The problem, as Bettman saw it, was that too many teams were “playing for the tie,” going for a guaranteed point in the standings rather than going full throttle for a two-point victory late in regulation or in sudden-death 5-on-5 overtime.

So he backed an effort to change the overtime rules in 1999-2000: Both teams would be assured one standings point for a “regulation tie” before playing a kinetic 4-on-4 overtime trying to secure an additional point. While further overtime changes would come, this was an important step toward encouraging teams to reconsider their conservative approach. — Wyshynski

2000-2001: The NHL adopts a two-referee system for all games

Enforcing the rulebook during a fast-paced NHL game is a tough gig for one referee, yet that was the norm for decades. But in the late 1990s, there was a push to add an additional referee to the ice. The NHL experimented with that setup during the regular season and the playoffs in the 1998-99 season before making the two-referee system permanent in the 2000-2001 season.

According to the league’s data, the extra referee made a difference, as penalties dropped under that system. “Players are more cautious, and they stick to playing hockey when there’s an extra set of eyes out there,” Bettman said at the 1999 Board of Governors meeting — Wyshynski

Nov. 22, 2003: Commonwealth Stadium hosts the first Heritage Classic

For just the fourth time in NHL history, the league held an outdoor game. The inaugural edition of the Heritage Classic featuring the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens was played in front of more than 57,00 fans at Commonwealth Stadium, home of the CFL’s Edmonton Elks.

It became the NHL’s first outdoor game since 1991 when the Los Angeles Kings played the New York Rangers in a preseason contest at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. But the impact of the Heritage Classic became a launch point for the league to start having more outdoor games going forward. — Clark

Feb. 16, 2005: The NHL cancels the 2004-05 season

It was the bitter end to two years of failed collective bargaining talks between the NHL and NHLPA: There would be no 2004-05 hockey season. The league locked its players out for the second time in nine years on Sept. 16, 2004; by February, the NHL became North America’s first pro sports league to lose an entire season to a labor impasse.

Both sides were dug in on the merits of a hard salary cap and concepts like “cost certainty,” which the league didn’t feel there was enough of with only 11 profitable franchises at the time. Every arena remained shuttered until the situation was resolved on July 15, 2005. The season’s cancellation also meant the Stanley Cup went unawarded for the first time since the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1919. — Kristen Shilton

Apr. 26, 2005: Bettman reinstates Todd Bertuzzi to the NHL after a 17-month suspension

In March 2004, Vancouver Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi tried to fight Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore, continuing the Canucks’ revenge mission for Moore having injured their captain Markus Naslund with a hit in a previous meeting. When Moore declined to fight, Bertuzzi sucker-punched him in the back of the head. Moore collapsed to the ice and suffered three fractured vertebrae in his neck and a grade-three concussion, among other injuries.

The incident made global headlines and led to a charge of assault causing bodily harm in Canadian criminal court, for which Bertuzzi received a conditional discharge. Moore filed multiple lawsuits seeking financial compensation, claiming he was premeditatively targeted by the Canucks. Bettman and Daly acted as mediators at one point.

As for Bertuzzi, Bettman suspended him for the rest of the Canucks’ 2003-04 season (13 regular season games, seven playoff games). He remained suspended through the NHL’s canceled 2004-05 season. Bettman reinstated him on Aug. 8, 2005, citing his attempts to apologize to Moore and over $850,000 in lost salary and endorsements. Bettman made it clear that Bertuzzi was “on probation” for the 2005-06 season, and was forbidden to play in games involving Moore, who would never appear in the NHL again. — Wyshynski

July 22, 2005: The NHL changes its draft lottery rules after the canceled season

The NHL’s canceled 2004-05 season forced the league to get creative in how it would approach the 2005 draft, an event headlined by the generational talent of 17-year-old Sidney Crosby. Without standings from the previous campaign, the NHL landed on a weighted lottery that gave every team a chance at the No. 1 overall pick.

The best odds — three entries each — were given to four teams (the Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins) that had gone three consecutive seasons without making the playoffs and hadn’t won the last four lotteries. Ten teams received two balls each for making one of the last three postseasons or winning one lottery. The rest of the field received one ball.

The Penguins had a 1-in-16 shot at the top selection, and that 6.25% was all they needed to draw first and take Crosby. The Penguins won three Stanley Cups (2009, 2016, 2017) during the Crosby Era. — Shilton

2005: The “Shanahan Summit” ushers in a bunch of post-lockout rules

During the lockout, Detroit Red Wings star Brendan Shanahan hosted 26 players, coaches, owners, agents and executives in what would become known as the “Shanahan Summit.” This brainstorming session produced a slew of new ideas for the NHL: the shootout to end games, allowing two-line passes, cracking down on obstruction, restricting line changes for teams guilty of icing and the creation of a competition committee that included active players.

Shanahan pitched those ideas to Bettman, and they helped shape an “NHL 2.0” when the league returned in 2005-06. This fostered a relationship between Bettman and Shanahan that would result in him joining the NHL after retirement and heading up its Department of Player Safety, as well as an NHL-backed “Research and Development Camp” in 2010 that helped finetune 3-on-3 overtime and hybrid icing, among other innovations. — Wyshynski

Jan. 1, 2008: Ralph Wilson Stadium is the stage for the first Winter Classic

Nearly five years had passed since the Heritage Classic. The conversation around the need for more outdoor games turned into reality when the Buffalo Sabres played the Pittsburgh Penguins in front of 71,217 fans at what is now known as New Era Field (then Ralph Wilson Stadium), the home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y.

The New Year’s Day game was the first regular-season outdoor game that was played in the United States. Between the snowy conditions, vintage sweaters and the thrilling shootout ending, the game was a big success. It became a springboard for the NHL to start hosting the Winter Classic on an annual basis, while also seeing the more regular return of the Heritage Classic and the introduction of the Stadium Series.

As of the 2023 Winter Classic, there have been 36 outdoor games played during Bettman’s tenure. — Clark

May 9, 2009: The Phoenix Coyotes file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Mounting financial challenges led to then-Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes filing for bankruptcy just 13 years after the team formerly known as the Winnipeg Jets relocated to Arizona. Moyes tried to sell the team to Blackberry founder Jim Balsillie, whose intention would have been to relocate it to Hamilton, Ontario.

Both the NHL and the City of Glendale fended off Balsillie, with the league buying the Coyotes with the hopes of finding an owner who would keep the team in Arizona. After a number of failed attempts to sell the team to potential owners, the NHL finally found a new owner in 2013 (IceArizona) that would change the team’s name to the Arizona Coyotes beginning in the 2014-15 season. Controlling interest in the team would be sold to Alex Meruelo in 2019. — Clark

June 2011: The NHL Department of Player Safety is created

For years, the NHL’s supplemental discipline was handled by its hockey operations department and headed up by VP Colin Campbell. But in June 2011, Bettman deputized Brendan Shanahan with creating the first Department of Player Safety, naming him the first NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety in the process.

The new department had three primary missions at the start:

  • To tackle illegal hits to the head and reduce concussions using the NHL’s Rule 48

  • To specifically target repeat offenders with lengthier suspensions and multiplicated losses in salary

  • To better educate players, teams, media and fans about the justification for suspensions through detailed video breakdowns

Today’s young stars grew up watching the video breakdowns, resulting in an NHL that’s more about speed and skill than it is injurious hits. “The next generation is only about four or five years down the road. These kids that were between 14 and 16 would be impacted by these videos,” Shanahan told ESPN. — Wyshynski

2011: Atlanta Thrashers move to Winnipeg

Expanding to non-traditional areas became one of the focal points of Bettman’s tenure. A number of those markets found long-term success, fiscal sustainability or both. Atlanta was not one of them.

The NHL’s desire to grow its footprint meant returning to Atlanta — a metropolitan area that was going through a period of growth at the time — with the hopes this reboot would have more success than the league had with the Atlanta Flames, who relocated in 1980 to become the Calgary Flames just eight years after their inception.

The NHL’s second attempt at Atlanta resulted in one playoff appearance in 12 seasons. Attendance issues coupled with financial challenges ultimately led to the Thrashers leaving Atlanta for a second time and relocating to Winnipeg, which lost the Jets after a relocation to Phoenix in 1996. — Clark

Jan. 12, 2013: The 2012-13 lockout ends

The NHL locked its players out for the third time in 19 years when their collective bargaining agreement expired on Sept. 16, 2012. The sides had failed to agree on a new deal before arriving at the impasse, with more issues than ever remaining unresolved.

Among the issues: Owners wanted to reduce the players’ share of hockey-related revenue from 57% to 46%, set a four-year maximum term on all future contracts, eliminate signing bonuses and extend the length of entry-level contracts from three to five years.

It would take months of further talks and independent mediation for a final 16-hour negotiation to result in a new CBA being tentatively agreed upon at 4:45 a.m. on Jan. 6, 2013. The NHL’s Board of Governors ratified that document on Jan. 9, and three days later the NHLPA did the same to end the lockout. A shortened, 48-game season followed that resolution. — Shilton

2013-14: The NHL realigns from six divisions to four

The Thrashers had moved to Winnipeg in 2011, and the NHL saw a need to adjust even further. In October 2013, the league rolled out a new four-division format and playoff system that would debut in the 2013-14 season.

The realignment made the NHL more geographically appropriate based on time zone; the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets shifted into the Eastern Conference and the Jets went to the Western Conference, while the Dallas Stars slid into the Central Division.

When it came for postseason play, there would still be 16 teams in the field, but now the top three teams in each division would secure a spot, and the final slots would be wild-card berths for the next two highest-ranking teams in the conference regardless of division. While more teams have since been added to further even out the conferences, that wild-card playoff format remains. — Shilton

2015: Video review is expanded to include a coach’s challenge

The NHL borrowed a play from the NFL when it introduced the coach’s challenge in 2015-16. Hockey’s version would be limited in scope, with only two scenarios allowed to be reviewed: if a goal-scoring play was offside or if a scoring play involved goaltender interference. Additionally, a coach could challenge a goal being waived off for goalie interference, if they believed there was no interference on the play. Teams had to have a timeout remaining in order to use a challenge, and would lose that timeout if the challenge was unsuccessful. (They would retain the timeout if the challenge was correct.)

This was another small step toward the NHL ensuring calls were being made correctly and outcomes weren’t decided on potential human error. It’s been the subject of debate over the years — especially when long reviews slow down a game’s pace — but the coach’s challenge is here to stay. — Shilton

Sept. 4, 2015: The league ends its moratorium on expansion bids

After accepting Atlanta into its fold in 1999, the NHL wouldn’t begin entertaining expansion team bids again until 2015. The league opened a formal expansion process that summer, with Bettman setting the minimum cost of a new team at $500 million. That was well above what the Thrashers paid — $80 million — and despite rumors that several cities were interested in acquiring an NHL club, only two actually entered the ring: Quebec City and Las Vegas.

The latter seemed like a slam dunk to be approved, given that prospective owner Bill Foley had already collected more than 13,000 season ticket deposits for a team that didn’t exist, and the arena Foley was building would be completed in 2017 — coinciding with the first possible season (2017-18) that an expansion team would take the ice. And so it was on June 22, 2016, the NHL accepted Vegas’ bid for a club, but deferred Quebec’s request.

The expansion would continue in 2018, when Seattle’s bid for expansion was approved, and the Kraken would debut in 2021-22. — Shilton

Sept. 21-23, 2017: The NHL plays two exhibition games in China

Like a number of leagues, the NHL was seeking to break new ground in a different part of the world in the hopes of capturing an even larger audience. That process began in 2007 when the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings played two regular-season games at the O2 Arena in London, and continued with appearances in Sweden, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, Czechia, Latvia, Slovakia and other European countries in ensuing years.

In 2017, the effort extended to China, where hockey has managed to carve its own place with examples such as HC Kunlun Red Star, the only Chinese team in the predominantly Russian Kontinental Hockey League. The NHL created the “China Games” in 2017 and 2018. There was a plan for the league to return in 2019, but logistical issues prevented what would have been a third consecutive year of games in China. — Clark

2018: NHL reaches settlement in concussion lawsuit

More than 146 former players filed a lawsuit against the NHL that alleged negligence for dealing with head injuries and claimed that the league concealed their long-term risks. In Nov. 2018, after months of court mediation, the NHL reached a settlement in which it did not acknowledge any liability for the plaintiffs’ claims in these cases. The settlement called for cash payments, neurological testing and assessment for players and a fund to support retired players.

Concussion awareness and prevention had been a major topic during Bettman’s tenure — in particular, the relationship between contact sports and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that had been found posthumously in former NHL players. In 2019, Bettman told a commons subcommittee on sports-related concussions on Parliament Hill in Ottawa that “other than some anecdotal evidence, there has not been that conclusive link” made by medical experts between concussions and CTE. That stance, which Bettman has reiterated through the years, stands in contrast with that of the NFL, which stated for the first time in 2016 that it believed there was a link between football and degenerative brain disorders like CTE. — Wyshynski

July 10, 2020: The NHL and NHLPA ratify a new CBA, ushering in some labor peace

This was a ray of hope in otherwise dark times: As NHL operations remained shuttered against the COVID-19 pandemic, the league and its players ratified a new collective bargaining agreement that would bring labor peace through 2025-26.

Highlights of the new CBA included a flat salary cap (of $81.5 million) for the following year (and possibly beyond depending on league revenues), a 20% cap on escrow for 2020-21, a player salary deferral to account for financial losses due to the pandemic and an option to extend the CBA by a season if desired. At the same time, the sides announced a return-to-play plan for the following month in bubble locations (Toronto and Edmonton) to try to salvage something from the stalled 2019-20 season. — Shilton

Aug. 1, 2020: The COVID pandemic hits, the NHL goes to the bubble

More than two months after pausing the season because of COVID-19, the NHL announced its “Return to Play” plan. It led to the creation of a 24-team tournament in which the 12 Eastern Conference teams played in the Toronto bubble while the Western Conference teams played in the Edmonton bubble with no fans in attendance.

NHL clubs gradually reopened their facilities and eventually held a second training camp before flying to their respective bubble locations. Play resumed Aug. 1 with the qualifying round and concluded Sept. 28 with the Tampa Bay Lightning winning the Stanley Cup. — Clark

2020: The NHL responds to the Black Lives Matter protests

The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was an international event that sparked a conversation around race and racism. The NHL created the “We Skate For” initiative within the Edmonton and Toronto bubbles, which drew criticism from those who felt the league could have been more direct with its message as well as from those who felt the NHL didn’t need to wade into the discussion.

The conversation also led to a number of players standing in solidarity to postpone games, a historic speech from Matt Dumba that was followed by him kneeling for the anthem and the creation of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, a group founded by current and former NHL players with the aim of eradicating racism. — Clark

2020-21: The NHL introduces helmet sponsors

For years, the NHL resisted using players as billboards. Like so much else, COVID-19 changed that. In an effort to recoup lost revenue following the league’s forced shutdown, Bettman gave the green light for helmet advertisements throughout the 2020-21 season.

It was meant to be a one-off, so clubs could broker one-year, break-even deals with advertisers wanting their money’s worth from the previously shortened campaign. Teams suspected the experiment would stick — some even negotiating longer-term contracts for helmet ads before the league had approved the practice past 2021 — and that turned out to be good business.

The NHL allowed helmet ad sales to continue, making for a smooth transition towards jersey sponsors to debut in 2022-23. Each club was permitted to add a single patch — and nothing more — to their sweaters, protecting the value of a single ad from being diluted through multiple sponsors — Shilton

Nov. 2021: Bettman, Daly address the Chicago Blackhawks sexual assault case

In Oct. 2021, an investigation by the law firm Jenner & Block detailed how the Blackhawks mishandled sexual assault allegations made by former player Kyle Beach against former video coach Brad Aldrich, claiming Aldrich sexually assaulted and harassed him during the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup run. The NHL indicated that while the team let the league know about the allegations in Dec. 2020, it wasn’t until Beach filed a civil lawsuit in May 2022 that the league became aware of the full extent of the allegations.

The NHL fined the Blackhawks $2 million. Bettman met with Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville, who coached the Blackhawks in 2010; he said during that two-hour meeting “all parties agreed that it was no longer appropriate that he continue to serve as Florida’s head coach” and Quenneville resigned.

As of June 2022, Bettman said he wasn’t sure if he’d ever reinstate Quenneville. Bettman met with Beach, apologized and “discussed a path forward with him.” Two months later, the NHL unveiled plans for a mandatory 90-minute training program for all personnel that focused on “anti-bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination.” — Wyshynski

By |2023-02-01T07:41:08-05:00February 1st, 2023|News|

Let's play out the NFL offseason QB market: We made offers and chose landing spots for Brady, Young, Carr

Get ready for yet another wild NFL offseason of quarterback movement. Stars like Lamar Jackson, Tom Brady, Daniel Jones and Geno Smith are on expiring contracts, a handful of big names could be on the move via a trade and the draft class is loaded with first-round signal-callers. So with 30 teams already thinking ahead to next season, let’s look closer at the QB carousel.

We asked our NFL Nation reporters to serve as GMs for their teams and decide what to do at their most important position. The stand-in GMs put together trade packages for passers who could be made available by their teams and pitched contract offers to free agents, with national reporter Dan Graziano playing the role of player rep to “sign” new deals here. They also projected franchise tags and cap casualty cuts. And finally, they mocked the first two rounds of the 2023 draft to address the future.

We kept this exercise to quarterbacks who will either start or compete to start in 2023, with the exception of a few draft picks who might sit in Year 1. And the object for this project wasn’t to “win” negotiations but rather to accurately reflect how a team might approach the QB market. So which teams landed a new starting quarterback? Let’s predict this offseason’s QB movement with some hypothetical trade offers, free agent signings and draft picks.

Jump to:
Trades | Tags | Cuts
Free agency | Draft
Full QB lineup

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TRADE OFFERS

We might not have trades of last offseason’s magnitude, when Russell Wilson went to the Broncos and Deshaun Watson joined the Browns — though that could change if Green Bay decides to make Aaron Rodgers available. But reporters still made trade offers to two teams (represented by their own reporters) for quarterbacks who might be available.

Contract status: Carr signed a three-year, $121.5 million extension last spring, which included a no-trade clause. Las Vegas has a three-day window after the Super Bowl to cut Carr for a salary-cap hit of $5.6 million. If not, his $32.9 million salary for next season and $7.5 million of his salary for 2024 would become guaranteed. Trades won’t become official until March, which means any team trading for Carr would take on that guaranteed money — and Carr has the right to veto any move.

Jets’ offer: 2023 third-round pick for Carr. The Jets want to keep Zach Wilson in a backup role, so they will need an experienced win-now starter. Carr will be 32 next season and has proved durable (91 straight starts before his Week 17 benching), and he has the kind of accuracy (64.6% career completion percentage) that fits the Jets’ West Coast offense. Turnovers are a concern (28 interceptions over the past two seasons), but he had to play a lot of catch-up on the defensively challenged Raiders. Carr has never had a defense ranked higher than 20th in points allowed. The Jets’ defensive unit can support him. — Rich Cimini

Saints’ offer: 2023 third- and fourth-round picks for Carr. He would be reunited with Saints coach Dennis Allen, who drafted him and made the decision to start him as a rookie. This would give the Saints more clarity at quarterback, but they would once again need to work salary-cap magic to fit Carr onto the roster. That’d likely require taking most of his base salary and converting it to a signing bonus, then adding years to the deal to spread out the hit. — Katherine Terrell

RAIDERS’ DECISION: Carr vetos move to New Orleans. The Raiders would no doubt like to recoup something in a trade for Carr. But his statement wishing fans farewell leaves Las Vegas with little-to-no leverage, especially given his no-trade clause. The Raiders would prefer the Saints’ offer, but Carr has to sign off on any deal — and he likely wouldn’t accept a trade at this point, knowing that he could probably end up a free agent in a month’s time. — Paul Gutierrez


Contract status: Tannehill signed a four-year extension in 2020, and he has one year left with a $27 million base salary and $36.6 million cap hit for 2023. But he does not have any guaranteed money left on his deal.

Jets’ offer: 2023 fourth-round pick for Tannehill. No luck with Carr, so let’s see if Tennessee is interested in making a move. Tannehill (35 years old next season) is older than Carr, but the financial commitment wouldn’t be as hefty. He has played in a similar offense, so it would be an easy transition from a scheme standpoint. The Jets are looking for a proven starter, which would allow them to keep Wilson on the bench for more development. — Rich Cimini

TITANS’ DECISION: No deal. Tannehill feels he has a lot of good football left … and so do the Titans. Tennessee is 37-20 with Tannehill as its starting quarterback since Week 6 of 2019. Rather than trade Tannehill, the Titans decide here to build around him. His cap number will be $36.6 million, but Tennessee can extend him to lower it and bring him back for at least another season. The Titans will likely carry three quarterbacks on the active roster with a veteran as the backup and Malik Willis continuing to develop as the No. 3 option. — Turron Davenport

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FRANCHISE TAGS AND EXTENSIONS

At the moment, the free agent class is led by one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the league. But will Lamar Jackson really reach free agency? We asked our reporter GMs whether their team would be most likely to either tag or extend their starter before free agency opens. Two of them did …

It seems apparent that the Ravens and Jackson are headed for the franchise tag in March, which will be $32.4 million. The sides haven’t come close to an agreement after two years of negotiation. The real questions come once the tag is placed: Will Jackson skip the offseason practices and most of training camp? Will he even play under the tag? And would the Ravens be tempted to trade him if a team offers three first-round picks for him? There is plenty of uncertainty in Baltimore, where the Ravens are 40-17 (.702) with Jackson as their starting QB since 2019 and 4-9 (.308) without him (including playoffs). But the franchise tag seems like the most likely starting point for what could be an eventful offseason in Baltimore. — Jamison Hensley

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How Lamar Jackson can use social media for a new contract

Domonique Foxworth breaks down how Lamar Jackson can use social media to gain leverage when it comes to negotiating his next contract.


The Giants made it clear that they intend to bring back Jones. GM Joe Schoen even slipped and said at his season-ending news conference, “We’re happy Daniel is going to be here.” The hope is to get a long-term deal done quickly to leave the franchise tag as an option for running back Saquon Barkley. Regardless, Jones is about to get paid in excess of $30 million per season, and he isn’t likely to reach free agency. — Jordan Raanan

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ROSTER CUTS

The free agent class already includes Tom Brady and Geno Smith, but our stand-in GMs projected a few cuts ahead of the negotiation window that will surely liven up the quarterback market. First, Las Vegas released Derek Carr after it was unable to make a trade happen. It appears the Raiders are ready to move on and reset at the position.

Joining Carr are Carson Wentz (Washington), Jameis Winston (New Orleans), Matt Ryan (Indianapolis) and Marcus Mariota (Atlanta).

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FREE AGENT SIGNINGS

OK, we’re on to free agency. Our reporters — serving as their teams’ GMs — made contract offers and pitches to free agent QBs, and our own Dan Graziano played the role of player representative and “inked” a deal for each quarterback. We start with the GOAT.

2022 team: Buccaneers

Buccaneers’ offer: One year, $30 million (fully guaranteed). We are committed to giving Brady every resource he needs to win an eighth title, including his say in the team’s new offensive coordinator. This is slightly more than what Brady played under the past two years in Tampa Bay, and coming back to the Buccaneers would allow him to be closer to his kids. — Jenna Laine

Raiders’ offer: Two years, $74.8 million ($40.4 million guaranteed). Brady can be reunited with Josh McDaniels, the offensive playcaller he won six Super Bowls with in New England, and enjoy the backdrop of a shiny new stadium in the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas. And he can help carry the offensively high-powered Raiders all to a Super Bowl title and ride out on top. — Paul Gutierrez

Patriots’ offer: Two years, $50 million ($25 million guaranteed). We like Mac Jones a lot, but it’s worth kicking the tires on a reunion. Let’s reunite and write a Hollywood script together. — Mike Reiss

BRADY’S DECISION: Accept the Raiders’ offer. Brady might not even ask for this much, but it’s definitely the best of the offers I see here, and the connection with McDaniels makes it a fun way to handle this next chapter of his career. Assuming he gets some assurances from the front office about plans to improve the offensive line, Vegas it is. — Dan Graziano

The Raiders’ aftermath: Tuck Rule? What Tuck Rule? Brady coming to the Raiders would hopefully allow the Raiders to, ahem, exorcise the demon that Brady wrought upon the Silver and Black in that New England snow more than two decades ago. Sure, Brady will be 46 next season, but he fits like a glove in McDaniels’ system. Giving Brady the money that was due Carr might seem a reach, but that’s the price. Throw in an explosive supporting cast, and what’s not to like? Re-signing Jarrett Stidham as Brady’s backup becomes a priority, though not as pressing as addressing the offensive line and the defense. — Gutierrez


2022 team: Raiders

Panthers’ offer: Three years, $102 million ($68 million guaranteed). He’ll have a stable offensive line, a solid defense and a new offensive-minded head coach committed to making this work in an NFC South that will be winnable with QB uncertainty throughout the division. The deal will include a $40 million signing bonus and would void after the second year if he doesn’t start 70% of games in 2024. — David Newton

Buccaneers’ offer: Two years, $80 million ($30 million guaranteed). Incentives will be included for trips to the playoffs and the Super Bowl. This is a team built to win and has made the playoffs in three straight seasons with two 1,000-yard receivers. — Jenna Laine

Jets’ offer: Three years, $120 million ($55 million guaranteed). That will include a total of $75 million in total compensation for the first two years, and for cap purposes, the deal will have void years in 2026 and 2027. Carr has played with mostly bad defenses with the Raiders, but New York boosts a top-five unit. He also has two potential stars at offensive skill positions in receiver Garrett Wilson and running back Breece Hall. — Rich Cimini

Saints’ offer: Three years, $90 million ($40 million guaranteed). We will include void years in 2026 and 2027 to help out the cap situation, and the contract would also include $10 million roster bonuses in 2024 and 2025 that can be converted into signing bonuses. The Saints liked Carr enough to try to trade for him, and if he does ultimately want to join New Orleans here, he can reunite with Dennis Allen, who drafted him. — Katherine Terrell

Falcons’ offer: Three years, $57 million ($24 million guaranteed). The deal will also have a $6 million signing bonus. It’s a lower offer than Carr is likely to get elsewhere, but it’s also a hedge because we like what we’ve seen out of Desmond Ridder in the four games of his rookie year. But we’re definitely willing to talk, and between running back Tyler Allgeier, receiver Drake London and tight end Kyle Pitts, we’ve got young talent at every skill position. — Michael Rothstein

CARR’S DECISION: Accept the Jets’ offer. The Panthers offered a solid deal, and I seriously considered the Saints’ offer — they’re still in their win-now window with good skill position talent and an offensive line that will improve with better health next year. But the Jets fit that description as well, and it feels like they’re operating in an earlier part of their window. And they offered $10 million more per year. Start spreadin’ the news. — Dan Graziano

The Jets’ aftermath: Carr is a significant upgrade for the Jets because he’s an experienced, durable quarterback with a background in the West Coast offense, which they will run under new coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. He has averaged 24 touchdown passes per year over his career, and the Jets would’ve been a playoff team in 2022 with that kind of production. And the defense should reduce the pressure on him. The Jets’ pursuit of Carr could be influenced by whether Aaron Rodgers becomes available, but that’s a big question mark. — Cimini


2022 team: Seahawks

Seahawks’ offer: Three years, $90 million ($50 million guaranteed). The deal would include a $42 million signing bonus, along with base salaries of $2 million guaranteed in 2023, $13 million in 2024 ($6 million of that is guaranteed against injury at signing and becomes fully guaranteed six days after the 2024 Super Bowl) and $26 million in 2025. And there is a $5 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the 2025 league year and $2 million in per-game roster bonuses that season. Smith can stay with a team that has a promising young core, plenty of offensive assets and an offensive system in which he played by far his best football. — Brady Henderson

SMITH’S DECISION: Accept the Seahawks’ offer. Pretty simple. Seattle’s offer is a strong one, and Smith is happy here. Why mess with a good thing? — Dan Graziano

The Seahawks’ aftermath: A short-term deal makes sense for both sides here, allowing Smith to get back to the bargaining table in a few years if he continues to ascend while also giving the Seahawks the flexibility to move on after two years if his play regresses. Seattle looks like the best situation for him given his familiarity with their offense, the impact players around him and all the resources the Seahawks have this offseason to continue building up their roster. Part of that will be trying to re-sign Drew Lock to continue his development behind Smith and maybe spending a middle- or late-round pick on a quarterback in the draft. — Henderson


2022 team: 49ers

Texans’ offer: Two years, $50 million ($30 million guaranteed, all in Year 1). The deal has a signing bonus of $15 million. Yes, we are heavily considering drafting a quarterback this year, but Garoppolo can revive his career and market value in Houston while the rookie learns behind him. — DJ Bien-Aime

Saints’ offer: Three years, $66 million ($44 million guaranteed). The contract includes a $20 million signing bonus, $6 million cap hit in Year 1, $10 million roster bonus in Year 2 and $6 million roster bonus in Year 3. And we’re going to tack on two additional void years at the end of the deal for 2026-27 to help our cap situation. The Saints have no quarterback waiting in the wings, so the starting job would be all Garoppolo. The team has stability with its ownership, coaching staff and front office, and it has shown a willingness over the years to spend in free agency. — Katherine Terrell

GAROPPOLO’S DECISION: Accept the Texans’ offer. Sure, I know they could draft a guy with one of their two first-round picks, but (A) I’ve been through that before and (B) they might not. I could totally see a situation where they draft a defensive star at No. 2 and a wide receiver at No. 12, and now the team is all of a sudden better around me. Plus, no state income tax! As usual, everything’s coming up Jimmy G. — Dan Graziano

The Texans’ aftermath: Garoppolo has experience with Texans GM Nick Caserio, and he has completed at least 67% of his passes for a 70-34 touchdown-to-interception ratio since 2019. He has proved he’s capable of being a mentor to young QBs, too, which he’ll likely have to do in Houston. — Bien-Aime


2022 team: Commanders

Commanders’ offer: One year, $6 million ($3.5 million guaranteed). We will have a $3 million signing bonus and per-game roster bonuses up to $250,000 for the season. Heinicke knows the players and works well with the team’s other QB (Sam Howell), and the town loves him. — John Keim

HEINICKE’S DECISION: Accept the Commanders’ offer. It’s the only one he got here, and he likes it here. Heinicke could probably start six or seven games when something inevitably goes wrong, too. — Dan Graziano

The Commanders’ aftermath: Washington wants to give Howell a shot to be the starter, but Heinicke provides insurance, especially if it continues with a similar system. It’s a one-year deal, and with uncertainty about ownership, there’s no reason to push money into the future on a backup QB. Heinicke likes Howell quite a bit, so he’d be fine backing him up or starting if necessary. — Keim


2022 team: Saints

Colts’ offer: One year, $6 million ($3 million guaranteed). He’ll have an opportunity to start, at least initially (Indy will be looking at QBs in the draft). The Colts want to resurrect their downfield passing attack, which meshes with Winston’s strengths. — Stephen Holder

WINSTON’S DECISION: Accept the Colts’ offer. He has to get on the field for someone, and even if the Colts take a quarterback in the first round, he can take his chances on being able to beat out the rookie for at least one year. — Dan Graziano

The Colts’ aftermath: Before learning of Matt Ryan’s availability in March 2022, the Colts were actually in discussions with Winston and were strongly considering him as an option. In this instance, the Colts go back to him as a veteran fallback plan for the rookie they plan to draft in April. One hope is that Winston’s willingness to push the ball downfield could help revitalize the Colts’ deep passing game and perhaps give life to their play-action game with running back Jonathan Taylor. One thing’s for sure: The Colts intend to finally put a stop to their quarterback carousel this offseason. — Holder


2022 team: Saints

Saints’ offer: One year, $10 million (fully guaranteed). The Saints missed out on other free agent targets, so Dalton would be the assumed starter going into this season. He gets a chance to come back to a place he has said he really enjoyed — and he could be the starter at a stage in his career when he’s a journeyman. — Katherine Terrell

DALTON’S DECISION: Accept the Saints’ offer. It’s the only offer on the table, and Dalton is the expected starter? I’ll take it. — Dan Graziano

The Saints’ aftermath: This might not thrill Saints fans hoping for a change, but general manager Mickey Loomis spoke recently about needing to get “back to the middle” on the salary-cap situation. For now, that means they have to sit back and watch other teams outbid them on the top free agent quarterbacks. They don’t seem to be leaning toward major changes this offseason and are keeping offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael in the fold, so it would make sense to try to give him and Dalton another go together and use the extra money toward adding offensive help in free agency. — Terrell


2022 team: Panthers

Panthers’ offer: One year, $7.5 million ($2 million guaranteed). He can enter training camp as the starting quarterback and be given a full opportunity to earn the starting job and get a long-term extension. — David Newton

DARNOLD’S DECISION: Accept the Panthers’ offer. He has gotten used to it here, and while he still thinks he can make starter money in this league, those opportunities aren’t out there right now. So Darnold chooses to stay in a place where he’s comfortable and looks forward to his next opportunity to prove himself. — Dan Graziano

The Panthers’ aftermath: Darnold was 4-2 as the starter to end the 2022 season and flashed with seven touchdown passes to three interceptions. He might just be capable of getting Carolina to the playoffs if given ample protection and a solid running game. He also gives Carolina insurance as the team develops 2022 third-round pick Matt Corral and one of the top quarterbacks from the 2023 draft as a long-term solution. — Newton


2022 team: Buccaneers

Buccaneers’ offer: Two years, $7 million ($3.5 million guaranteed) We will include incentives for starts, passing yards, completions, completion percentage and playoff starts. This has been Gabbert’s home for four years, and he has done a great job helping Tom Brady prepare each week. Now he gets a shot to start again. He has relationships with the coaching staff and all the receivers, and he can help a younger quarterback learn behind him. — Jenna Laine

GABBERT’S DECISION: Accept the Buccaneers’ offer. An honest shot at a starting job is more than Gabbert could ask for at this point in his career, and he’s glad the organization wants him back. Down the road, maybe it means more money, too. — Dan Graziano

The Buccaneers’ aftermath: There are other veteran options, but Gabbert makes the most sense here in that he and coach Todd Bowles have a great relationship. Bowles called him “one of my favorite players.” Gabbert is a strong leader, knows these receivers, has the respect of the locker room and can serve as a bridge toward the future. — Laine


2022 team: Browns

Falcons’ offer: One year, $5 million ($2 million guaranteed). It would include a $1 million signing bonus, plus incentives up to $3 million for playing time and team success. Brissett can compete for the starting job with Desmond Ridder and have a chance to hit free agency again in 2024. — Michael Rothstein

BRISSETT’S DECISION: No deal. Brissett would likely wait this one out, since he can likely do better by being patient and seeing if a team’s situation changes and offers him more. Brissett’s performance in 2022 merits more than this; he was eighth in QBR (59.8). — Dan Graziano

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DRAFT PICKS

There are still some free agents out there who could potentially start (Brissett?), but the quarterback market has essentially come down to the draft. Our reporters continued serving as their teams’ general managers and simulated the quarterback-only picks for the first two rounds — including four first-rounders.

2. Texans: C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

We already have Jimmy Garoppolo, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t drafting a quarterback of the future with this high pick. Stroud is an excellent prospect, and his performance against Georgia in the College Football Playoff was special (348 yards, four touchdown passes). If he can make those elite flashes consistent in the NFL, we’re talking about a Pro Bowl, top-of-the-league quarterback. — DJ Bien-Aime

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C.J. Stroud scrambles, finds Marvin Harrison Jr. in end zone for TD

Ohio State finds the scoreboard first with a pristine pass from C.J. Stroud to Marvin Harrison Jr. in the first quarter.


The size knocks (6-foot, 194 pounds) on Young are legitimate and perfectly fair. He is an outlier when it comes to measurables. But his unique talent supersedes those concerns, from his accuracy to his playmaking ability to his elite pocket presence — all of which can help immediately jump-start a punchless Colts offense. And Young wouldn’t be forced to start right away with Jameis Winston also in the fold. — Stephen Holder


9. Panthers: Will Levis, Kentucky

The Panthers like Levis a lot, and to have him fall to No. 9 now feels like a gift. But don’t count out a trade-up if needed. One of the reasons that Carolina traded running back Christian McCaffrey was getting the ammunition to do just that. Either way, Levis joins Sam Darnold and can be the Panthers’ franchise quarterback. He has a big arm and can make all the throws but needs to clean up the turnovers (23 interceptions over the past two seasons). — David Newton


Bucs coach Todd Bowles said, “You never want to rebuild; you’re always reloading.” But if they don’t get Tom Brady back, it will certainly feel like a rebuild and will warrant some patience. Drafting Richardson and having Blaine Gabbert serve as a bridge makes sense. Richardson is still a raw prospect but won’t be asked to start right away. The interceptions are concerning (nine), but he has a big arm and plenty of mobility, and his ability to improvise when plays break down brings another dimension to the offense. — Jenna Laine


This would be a great scenario for the Saints after failing to acquire a QB in free agency and missing out on the top four passers in the draft class. The idea would be that 35-year-old Andy Dalton is the bridge quarterback for 2023 and Hooker could either sit behind him or push him for a starting job if he’s ready — though he is still recovering from a torn ACL. The Saints haven’t developed a young QB in a long time, and being able to get a signal-caller on a rookie contract would be ideal for their cap situation. — Katherine Terrell

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AFTERMATH

There are still some unsigned starter possibilities, including Jacoby Brissett, Mike White and Baker Mayfield. The Falcons, having waited out the cycle of quarterback movement, still have their offer to Brissett, which would allow him to compete for the job there if he wants. The Cardinals might be looking to add, depending on when Kyler Murray is expected to return from a torn right ACL. Perhaps a team might look to sign Cooper Rush, Drew Lock or Jarrett Stidham as high-end backups who could spot-start, too. And don’t forget about Rounds 3-7 in the draft, where the likes of Tanner McKee, Jaren Hall and Jake Haener should be available. But the dust has mostly settled here for our exercise. Here’s the full QB landscape.

By |2023-02-01T08:11:21-05:00February 1st, 2023|News|
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