Happy Wednesday, everyone.
Let’s get right to it.
Good morning to everyone but especially to…
Auston Matthews has won his first MVP award. It probably won’t be his last. The 24-year-old Maple Leafs superstar won the Hart Trophy, given to the league’s most valuable player, by a wide margin over second-place finisher Connor McDavid. Matthews also won the Ted Lindsay Award, given to the league’s most outstanding player.
- Matthews is just the third Maple Leaf — and the first in 67 years — to win the Hart Trophy, joining Ted Kennedy (1954-55) and Babe Pratt (1943-44).
- Matthews led the league with 60 goals and 0.82 goals per game this season.
- Matthews was also named to the 2021-22 First All-Star Team along with goalie Igor Shesterkin, defensemen Roman Josi and Cale Makar, right winger Mitchell Marner and left winger Johnny Gaudreau.
Here were the other award winners from last night:
- Norris Trophy (top defenseman): Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche)
- Calder Trophy (top rookie): Moritz Seider (Detroit Red Wings)
- Vezina Trophy (top goalie): Igor Shesterkin (New York Rangers)
- Aaron Judge and Mookie Betts lead the AL and NL, respectively, in All-Star voting.
- Carson Wentz is impressing with the Commanders.
- Ohio State continues to reel in five-star wideouts: Brandon Inniss yesterday after Carnell Tate on Monday.
- Nick Faldo will retire as a golf broadcaster from CBS following this season.
And not such a good morning for…
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have already been boosted by one retirement and un-retirement this offseason (thanks, Tom Brady). Now, they’ll be hoping for the same from one of his favorite targets. Rob Gronkowski called it a career yesterday, writing on Instagram, “[I’m] walking away from football again with my head held high knowing I gave it everything I had, good or bad, every time I stepped out on the field.”
This isn’t Gronkowski’s first retirement. He left the game in 2019, missed the entire regular season, and then reunited with Brady for 2020 and 2021 in Tampa. Gronkowski’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, even admitted he wouldn’t be surprised if Gronkowski returned if Brady called.
If Gronkowski is indeed done, though, he leaves as one of the greatest tight ends of all time:
- 2010s All-Decade Team, five-time Pro Bowler, four-time first-team All-Pro, four-time Super Bowl champion, 2014 Comeback Player of the Year
- Third all-time among tight ends with 92 regular-season receiving touchdowns, only behind Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez
- Second all-time with 15 playoff receiving touchdowns, only behind Jerry Rice
It’s hard to overstate Gronkowski’s impact. He was a terrific receiver, very good blocker and a constant source of joy both on and off the field. You can check out his best moments from both here. As for the on-field impact, this is a big loss for the Buccaneers. They have five tight ends on their roster. Only one, Cameron Brate, has caught an NFL pass. Three are rookies.
Also, Brady threw six touchdowns and zero interceptions while targeting Gronkowski last season, his best ratio of any target. Here’s how he reacted to the news.
SportsLine data expert Stephen Oh says that with Gronkowski retiring, the Buccaneers’ chance to win the NFC dropped from 22.1% to 20.6%, and their chance to win the Super Bowl fell from 11.8% to 11.2%.
Brooks Koepka joining LIV Golf, Collin Morikawa staying with PGA Tour 🏌
As you read briefly at the top of yesterday morning’s newsletter, LIV Golf has reeled in its latest star: Brooks Koepka is joining the Saudi Arabia-backed league ahead of its event in Portland next week. Let’s go a little deeper on this topic today:
- Koepka is a four-time major winner: 2017 and 2018 U.S. Open, 2018 and 2019 PGA Championship. He’s also a former world No. 1.
- At 19th in the latest Official World Golf Rankings, Koepka is the second-highest ranked golfer in LIV Golf, behind Dustin Johnson (15th).
- Like Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, Koepka reportedly received millions of dollars to make the switch.
- Abraham Ancer is also joining LIV Golf.
Koepka spent much of last week at the U.S. Open being annoyed with the amount of LIV Golf-related questions he received. However, it’s easy to see why LIV’s deep pockets and laidback schedule fit Koepka well. He hasn’t played in a non-major event since the end of March, and four of his eight PGA Tour wins are majors (which he’ll still be able to play in); he doesn’t seem to care as deeply or prepare as much for the other events.
Deshaun Watson settles 20 of 24 civil lawsuits against him
Still, Watson is not out of the woods either legally or regarding a potential suspension from the NFL.
- There are still four cases against Watson, including that of Ashley Solis, the original accuser. Tony Buzbee, who represents all 24 accusers, called Solis “one of the heroes of this story.”
- Watson could also face discipline from the NFL regardless of how the remaining four cases turn out. The NFL can fine or suspend players for violations of the personal conduct policy.
- NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy released a statement saying, “Today’s development has no impact on the collectively bargained disciplinary process.”
Watson, 26, did not play last season and was traded from the Texans to the Browns in March, shortly after a grand jury decided not to file criminal charges against him stemming from allegations of sexual misconduct. Cleveland immediately gave him a fully guaranteed five-year, $230-million contract.
Rest in peace, Caleb Swanigan 🏀
- Swanigan overcame an extremely difficult childhood in which he moved between Utah and Indiana many times, stayed in homeless shelters and struggled with weight issues. Former Purdue star Roosevelt Barnes coached Swanigan in grassroots basketball, took him in and became his guardian, helping him develop into a McDonald’s All-American and one of the nation’s top recruits.
- Swanigan was a force for Purdue, racking up Big Ten Player of the Year and several All-America honors as a sophomore in 2016-17 before entering the NBA Draft.
- The Trail Blazers selected him in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, and he also spent time in the G League and with the Kings. His last NBA season was 2019-20.
Swanigan struggled with weight issues in his post-playing days, and he died of natural causes, according to the Allen County coroner’s office. He was regarded as a great teammate who did lots of work with youth off the court, and his openness about his upbringing was truly inspiring
What we’re watching Wednesday 📺
🏀 Liberty at Sun, 7 p.m. on ESPN2
🏒 Stanley Cup Final Game 4: Avalanche at Lightning, 8 p.m. on ABC