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🏈 Good morning to everyone but especially …
MIKE MACDONALD AND THE SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
The Seahawks are going from having the NFL’s oldest head coach to having the NFL’s youngest head coach. After an outstanding two-year run as the Ravens’ defensive coordinator, 36-year-old Mike Macdonald signed a six-year deal to become Seattle’s head coach.
- In 2023, Macdonald’s defense became the first ever to lead the league in scoring defense, sacks and takeaways.
- He started his coaching career with the Ravens in 2014 and has been with Baltimore every year since except for 2021, when he was Michigan‘s defensive coordinator .
- Macdonald succeeds Pete Carroll, 72, who was moved to an adviser role after coaching the team for 14 seasons, a stretch that included two Super Bowl trips and one title.
Macdonald has big shoes to fill, and I think he’ll be up to the task. I was super impressed with him this past season as he not only got the most out of his superstar, Roquan Smith, but also elevated the game of his upcoming youngsters (Kyle Hamilton, Justin Madubuike, Patrick Queen) and his veterans (Jadeveon Clowney, Kyle Van Noy). Clowney, who didn’t even sign with Baltimore until well into the preseason, finished with a career high-tying 9.5 sacks. Van Noy, who wasn’t on any team at season’s start, finished with a career-high nine sacks.
That bodes well for Macdonald’s prospects in Seattle, which has some young defensive talent, led by rookie Pro Bowl corner Devon Witherspoon, but needs reinforcements. The unit finished 30th in total defense last year. I’d expect an immediate improvement.
- Benjamin: “On paper, he’s a solid fit for a team with lots of young defensive pieces. How he outfits the other side of the ball is, of course, a pivotal question. One thing’s for sure: His hire is more intriguing than going back to the well of familiar old friends.”
The Commanders are the final team looking for a head coach.
👍 Honorable mentions
- Caitlin Clark became the Big Ten’s all-time leading scorer. She’s also second all-time on the Division I leaderboard.
- The Packers are hiring Boston College coach Jeff Hafley as defensive coordinator.
- Tim Lester should provide Iowa a much-needed offensive boost, Tom Fornelli writes.
- The Padres signed Wandy Peralta.
- The PGA Tour is partnering with Strategic Sports Group, which will invest up to $3 billion into the PGA Tour’s new for-profit entity, PGA Tour Enterprises. Jordan Spieth is a fan.
- The NBA Draft will be a two-day event.
- Here are Senior Bowl Day 2 winners.
😓 And not such a good morning for …
JOEL EMBIID AND THE PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Joel Embiid will miss tonight’s game against the Jazz after sustaining a knee injury against the Warriors on Tuesday. He won’t travel with the team and will instead get evaluated and receive treatment in Philadelphia.
- The 76ers said Embiid’s latest injury is not related to the knee injury that kept him out of games recently.
- Overall, this will be Embiid’s 13th missed game this season. That trend is obviously (and most importantly) worrying for the team, but individually, players can only miss 17 games before becoming ineligible for MVP and other season-ending honors.
- That new 65-game minimum is causing increasing consternation across the league. Tyrese Haliburton, who is also nearing the threshold, called it “a stupid rule.” Draymond Green had more explicit criticism.
I understood (and even was a fan of) the NBA instituting the rule ahead of the season. It wants stars to play more. Everyone does. But what the NBA needs is stars healthy when it matters most — in the playoffs. That’s why Brad Botkin says Embiid should forget about MVP in his latest Star Index.
- Botkin: “It’s possible that Embiid was coming back sooner than he should have to try to stay in the race for MVP, which now requires a minimum of 65 games played. … If Embiid tries to force himself into games and allows even a nagging injury to hang around, this season, which has been so promising for the Sixers and the best of Embiid’s career, will be for naught, because the Sixers are not going anywhere that the big man doesn’t take them.”
👎 Not so honorable mentions
- Micah Parsons didn’t mince words about his performance in the playoffs.
- Travis Kelce explained his side of the Justin Tucker pregame theatrics.
- The NBA fined Anthony Edwards $40,000 for criticizing officials.
- Adam Fantilli (calf laceration) will miss eight weeks.
🐊 Florida beats No. 10 Kentucky in overtime
Another night, another top-10 team going down. Florida went into Lexington and topped No. 10 Kentucky, 94-91, in overtime. It’s the Gators’ first top-10 road win since 2003; they had lost their previous 19 entering Wednesday.
- Walter Clayton Jr. made a deep 3-pointer to force overtime. Kentucky had led by four with under 20 seconds left.
- Clayton also hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in overtime, and the visitors would never trail again. Overall, Clayton finished with 23 points and made seven 3-pointers.
- Florida is now 6-65 all-time against top-10 teams on the road. Four of those six wins have come at Kentucky.
Kentucky was without D.J. Wagner and Justin Edwards, but this is still a very impressive win for Florida, which has won four straight improves to 15-6 overall (5-3 SEC) and is rounding into form in its second year under Todd Golden.
We very nearly had an even bigger upset, but No. 2 Purdue survived at home against Northwestern, 105-96, in overtime. Northwestern coach Chris Collins had an all-time ejection/handshake/crowd pump-up.
🏀 WNBA free agency opens, trades and signings already underway
WNBA free agency officially starts today, but the news started coming in droves Wednesday, with a pair of trades and several notable signings.
The biggest transaction so far is the Storm sending the No. 4 overall pick and Kia Nurse to the Sparks for Los Angeles’ 2026 first-round pick. The Sparks received an “A” for the blockbuster move, Jack Maloney says.
- Maloney: “They’ll have two of the top-four picks in what is widely believed to be one of the best draft classes of all time. That is somewhat dependent on how many of the top prospects end up declaring for the draft, but even in a worst-case scenario, the Sparks will be adding two extremely talented players to the mix for next season. … Nurse made the All-Star Game in her second season, but missed all of 2022 while recovering from a torn ACL and struggled to regain her form with the Storm last season. Now two years removed from the injury, Nurse could be in for a bounce-back campaign and is a smart low-risk bet for Curt Miller and Co.”
Seattle received an “incomplete” because it has major free agency plans. Speaking of those plans, Jack ranked the top 10 free agents. Here’s his top five:
- Breanna Stewart
- Jonquel Jones (re-signing with Liberty)
- Skylar Diggins-Smith
- Satou Sabally (re-signed with Wings)
- Nneka Ogwumike
We also had another trade between the Sun and Lynx.
Finally, our free agency tracker is up and running.
NOTE: The following section contains sensitive and disturbing content.
🏒 Four NHL players charged with sexual assault in 2018 case
Flyers goaltender Carter Hart, Devils forward Michael McLeod, Devils defenseman Cal Foote and Flames forward Dillon Dube were charged with sexual assault in London, Ontario, on Tuesday, according to their respective legal teams.
- All four legal teams said their respective clients are innocent. Former Senators forward Alex Formenton — now playing in Switzerland — turned himself in to police to face a similar charge. His attorney also said his client is innocent.
- All five players had taken leaves of absence from their teams before the charges became public.
- The alleged assault involved members of Canada’s world junior team in 2018. The victim alleged that one man, “John Doe #1,” took her to a hotel room, and invited seven other individuals in the room to engage in sexual acts following a Hockey Canada Foundation gala.
- The victim had sought $3.55 million in damages and later settled with Hockey Canada.
The NHL launched its own investigation in 2022. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league would release a statement once it was appropriate.
📺 What we’re watching Thursday
🏒 NHL All-Star Draft, 6 p.m. on ESPN2
🏀 Virginia at No. 17 Virginia Tech (W), 6 p.m. on ACC Network
🏀 Lakers at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 No. 24 UNC at No. 5 NC State (W), 8 p.m. on ACC Network
🏀 No. 6 Wisconsin at Nebraska (M), 8:30 p.m. on BTN
🏀 No. 12 Texas at No. 13 Baylor (W), 8:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 76ers at Jazz, 10 p.m. on TNT