Monday, August 15, 2022

NHL free agency gets nuts, plus who has the best shot to win at St. Andrews?

Happy Thursday, everyone.

Let’s get right to it.


Good morning to everyone but especially to…

Basketball: Jr. NBA Global Championship

USATSI

FUTURE HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE BASKETBALL STARS

The NBA and the players’ association could be negotiating for a new collective bargaining agreement within the next year. It will bring about big changes for the pros but also — if commissioner Adam Silver has his way — prep players, too. Yesterday, Silver said he is “hopeful” the age limit to enter the NBA Draft will drop from 19 to 18 under the new CBA.

  • The current CBA technically runs through 2023-24, but if both the players and the league opt out later this year, it could expire after the upcoming season.
  • The NBA changed its age limit from 18 to 19 in 2005, shortly after a number of notable high-schoolers including LeBron James and Dwight Howard made the prep-to-pro jump.

Plenty has changed since 2005. The popularity of recruiting has exploded, and players are being evaluated as NBA prospects earlier and earlier in their lives. Add in the emergence of college alternatives, such as G League Ignite, and it makes sense that the NBA wants to make this change:

  • Silver: “It may be the case that it’s in all of our interests that we start impacting with these young players — especially because in our sport they are identified at such a young age — and begin working with them on their development then, not just basketball skills but increasingly there’s a focus on their mental health, their diets, just helping them build character and all of the important values around the sport.”

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for…

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CHARLIE MONTOYO

The Blue Jays have a ton of offensive star power and are invested heavily in their pitching. Seems like a dream job for any manager, but also one with high, high expectations… expectations that Charlie Montoyo apparently wasn’t meeting.

Toronto fired its manager Wednesday after a disappointing start to the season. Bench coach John Schneider has been named interim manager.

  • The move comes despite Montoyo recently signing an extension through 2023 in April.
  • After going 91-71 last year and barely missing the playoffs, the Blue Jays entered yesterday 46-42 — just barely holding onto the third AL Wild Card spot — and having lost 18 of their last 28. After yesterday’s action, the Blue Jays and Mariners are tied for the second AL Wild Card spot.
  • Injuries have played a big part: Standout pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu had Tommy John surgery last month, and fellow starter Yusei Kikuchi is also on IR.

Montoyo finishes 236-236 in three-plus seasons as Toronto’s manager. He joins Joe Girardi and Joe Maddon as managers fired this season.

The Blue Jays still have more than enough firepower for a second-half surge, but they’ll need big names like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and José Berríos to perform better. They’ll likely be active at the trade deadline as well.

Not so honorable mentions

NHL free agency: Johnny Gaudreau, several other big names find new homes 🏒

NHL free agency wasted no time getting hectic, with several top players joining new teams on the first day. We’ll start with Johnny Gaudreau, the top available player, who reportedly signed a 7-year deal worth $68.25 million with the Blue Jackets.

  • Gaudreau, 28, is a five-time All-Star and has finished top-four in Hart Trophy voting (given to the league’s most valuable player) in two of the last four seasons.
  • He’s coming off a career-high 115 points (40 goals, 75 assists); only Oilers star Connor McDavid had more last season.
  • Gaudreau ranks fifth in Flames history in points, assists and game-winning goals.

That was far from the only notable move, though. Here were some other big ones that moved:

You can follow our free agency tracker here.

The Open Championship: Who can win, plus a big moment for Tiger 🏌

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USATSI

Welcome to the 150th Open Championship. If you’re in the United States, you may be finishing up your all-nighter of watching as you read this. Or, if you’re like me, you just woke up, checked the leaderboard and went to watch (here’s how).

As the tournament gets underway, check out golf insider Kyle Porter’s nine players who can win. Spoiler alert: Tiger Woods isn’t on it. But Woods — who tees off at 9:59 a.m. with U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick and Max Homa — will undoubtedly be the center of attention at a course where he’s raised two Claret Jugs. And Kyle’s story on him is a must-read:

  • Porter: “There is nothing he loves more than being in the arena. Specifically the arena that juts out from the edge of this little Scottish town upon which some of the best sport in history has been played and will be again for the 150th time. … The simple through line of Tiger Woods’ career — what he’s always wanted most — is to be ‘The Man in the Arena.’ Now, he gets the best arena in sport, perhaps for one last miracle triumph, but far more probably for a concluding defeat.”

If there’s one thing I want to stress during this tournament, it’s appreciation. Appreciate the historic nature of this tournament at this course, with this player able to be there, and maybe even be in the mix. It might be the last time you’ll be able to do so.

Comparing top MLB Draft prospects with their former MLB dads ⚾

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USATSI

The MLB Draft starts this weekend, and you’re going to hear some familiar last names at the beginning of it. Among the players expected to go early are

  • No. 1 prospect OF Druw Jones (son of Andruw Jones)
  • No. 3 prospect SS Jackson Holliday (son of Matt Holliday)
  • No. 17 prospect OF Justin Crawford (son of Carl Crawford)

As the son of a five-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner, Druw Jones probably has the biggest familial expectations to live up to based on accolades alone — and he has the tools to make a name for himself, writes MLB expert R.J. Anderson.

  • Anderson: “He’s a legitimate top pick, even in a class brimming with other intriguing high-school position players. Jones has the potential to peak with five plus or better tools, including (wouldn’t you know it) good center-field defense. There’s an All-Star ceiling here… Of course, that doesn’t mean Druw is going to have a borderline Hall-of-Fame-worthy career; it does, nevertheless, bode well for those who want to make the most obvious of comparisons.”

You can check out in-depth looks at Holliday and Crawford as well here.

What we’re watching Thursday 📺

The Open Championshiphow to watch

🏀 Aces at Liberty, 11 a.m. on NBA TV

USWNT vs Costa Rica, 7 p.m. on Paramount+

🏀 Sky at Sparks, 10:30 p.m. on Facebook

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