Yahoo Sports AM: Morant magic

By | December 21, 2023

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🏈 Rodgers update: Aaron Rodgers has all but ruled himself out for this year, saying it would be three to four weeks before he would be 100% medically cleared to play.

⚽️ Highest paid player: Houston Dash forward María Sánchez has signed a four-year contract worth $1.5 million, making her the NWSL’s highest-paid player.

🏀 Curry sinks Celtics: After a rare game with no three-pointers, Steph Curry hit six (including a stepback dagger) to lead the Warriors past the Celtics in overtime.

🏈 First bowl win: UTSA rallied from a 14-0 deficit to defeat Marshall 35-17 in the Frisco Bowl for the program’s first-ever bowl victory.

⚽️ MLS SuperDraft: Tyrese Spicer (Lipscomb), Wayne Frederick (Duke), Logan Farrington (Oregon State), Kimani Stewart-Baynes (Maryland) and Nate Jones (Washington) were taken with the first five picks in Tuesday’s MLS SuperDraft. See all 87 choices.

🏀 Morant shines in debut, hits game winner

Ja Morant is swarmed by teammates after scoring the winning shot.  (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)Ja Morant is swarmed by teammates after scoring the winning shot.  (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Ja Morant is swarmed by teammates after scoring the winning shot. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Ja Morant wasted no time in announcing his return. In his first NBA game in nearly eight months, the Grizzlies star rallied Memphis from a 19-point halftime deficit and then hit the game-winning shot to beat the Pelicans 115-113 in New Orleans.

According to the numbers: Morant finished with 34 points, eight assists and six rebounds in his return after a 25-game suspension for multiple gun-related incidents. “Basketball is my life, which I love, therapeutic for me,” he said after the game. “I’m just excited to be back.”

From Dan Devine of Yahoo Sports: “The Grizzlies came in last in offensive efficiency tonight… They scored just 120 points per 100 [possessions] against a near top-10 Pelicans defense. It’s not always as simple as one man, but sometimes it isn’t not That’s simple.”

Read further: For Morant, real redemption won’t happen on the field

🏒 Chase Gretzky (or not…)

(Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)(Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

(Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Wayne Gretzky’s goal scoring record (894 career NHL goals) was long considered untouchable until Alexander Ovechkin started threatening his target. With Ovechkin in the worst slump of his career, his chances of catching ‘The Great One’ could be diminishing.

Where it says: The 38-year-old Ovechkin has scored just five goals this season – and two were scored on empty nets. He’s had a career-worst 13 games in a row without scoring a goal against the Islanders tonight (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT) and is 67 goals away from Gretzky’s goal.

Side by side:

  • Gretzky: 894 goals on 5,088 shots (17.6%); 204 power play goals

  • Ovechkin: 827 goals on 6,459 shots (12.8%); 300 power play goals

Looking forward: The chase still continues, but Ovechkin passing Gretzky no longer feels like a certainty. Two primary concerns: injuries and opportunity, notes Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post ($).

Ovechkin has remained remarkably healthy throughout his career, but playing power forward in the NHL takes its toll on a player’s body, especially at age 38. And if this slump continues, coach Spencer Carbery may have no choice but to tinker with the power play. , something he has admitted to thinking about, perhaps moving Ovechkin from his usual spot in the left faceoff circle. If any of these things happen, Ovechkin’s pursuit of Gretzky’s coveted goal could become a lot more complicated.

🏈 NFL power rankings: Bills rise

(Yahoo Sports)(Yahoo Sports)

(Yahoo Sports)

If the playoffs started today, Buffalo wouldn’t be in the field. That hasn’t stopped the red-hot Bills from rising to No. 3 in this week’s NFL rankings and improving their Super Bowl odds to +1200 (seventh best at BetMGM).

Top 10: The Bills moved up two spots after destroying the Cowboys, who fell two spots. The Ravens and Dolphins both moved up one spot after beating the Jaguars and Jets, while the Eagles fell two spots after losing to the Seahawks.

  1. 49ers: 11-3

  2. Raven: 11-3 (up to 1)

  3. Accounts: 8-6 (up to 2)

  4. Cowboys: 10-4 (2 down)

  5. Dolphins: 10-4 (up to 1)

  6. Eagles: 10-4 (2 down)

  7. Leaders: 9-5

  8. Lions: 10-4

  9. Brown: 9-5

  10. Bengal: 8-6

Elsewhere: The Raiders (up five to No. 23), Buccaneers (up three to No. 17) and Colts (up three to No. 13) were this week’s biggest risers. The Broncos (down six to No. 18), Packers (down four to No. 19) and Steelers (down three to No. 22) were the biggest decliners.

⚽️ Barcelona continues to sell pieces of its soul to stay afloat

Robert Lewandowski and Joao Felix.  (David Ramos/Getty Images)Robert Lewandowski and Joao Felix.  (David Ramos/Getty Images)

Robert Lewandowski and Joao Felix. (David Ramos/Getty Images)

In 2021, FC Barcelona was “technically bankrupt” – a result of reckless spending and mismanagement that led to the departure of Lionel Messi. Two years later, the once-respected institution is still trying to recover.

From Henry Bushnell of Yahoo Sports:

On Wednesday evening in Catalonia, sometime around 11 p.m., two hours after the 24th match of a fast-developing season, embattled FC Barcelona players boarded a plane bound for Dallas.

At any healthy club they would be decompressing and preparing for a week’s Christmas break. But here, at a club that continues to sell parts of its soul to stay afloat, they fly 13 hours across the Atlantic Ocean, land around 5:15 a.m. Central Time and play a football match that evening.

When the match, a friendly against Club América, the recently crowned Liga MX champions, starts at 8pm on Thursday, their bodies will be tired. Their internal clocks, still set to European time, read 3am. They probably won’t be happy about being dragged 5,000 miles from home for an exhibition, 32 hours after a meaningful La Liga match, while they could rest and recover.

But they will go because their employer said they will, and for one reason: the friendly will reportedly earn Barcelona around $5 million.

It won’t help them climb from fourth place in La Liga. It won’t help Robert Lewandowski recharge his aging, faltering legs. It won’t keep Ilkay Gündogan or Frenkie de Jong fresh for a Champions League run this winter. It won’t help the current stars at all.

But it will temporarily help the club get out of the financial mess he himself has created.

Keep reading.

📆 December 20, 1921: Back to the best-of-seven

Kenesaw Mountain Landis at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn in 1921. (Bettmann Archives/Getty Images)Kenesaw Mountain Landis at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn in 1921. (Bettmann Archives/Getty Images)

Kenesaw Mountain Landis at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn in 1921. (Bettmann Archives/Getty Images)

102 years ago today, MLB Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis* cast the deciding vote to return to a best-of-seven World Series from the best-of-nine format the league had used in 1903 and from 1919-21.

Best-of-nine World Series:

  • 1903: Boston Americans 5, Pittsburgh Pirates 3

  • 1919: Cincinnati Reds 5, Chicago White Sox 3

  • 1920: Cleveland Indians 5, Brooklyn Robins 2

  • 1921: New York Giants 5, New York Yankees 3

More about this day:

  • 🏀 1966: The NBA awarded Seattle a franchise, expanding the league to 11 teams. The SuperSonics debuted the following year before moving to Oklahoma City in 2008.

  • 🏀 2005: Kobe Bryant then scored a career-high 62 points against the Mavericks despite sitting the entire fourth quarter. A month later, he scored 81 points against the Raptors.

*What’s with that name? MLB’s first commissioner received his unique name from Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia, where his father was seriously wounded during the Civil War.

📺 Watchlist: Triple-header College Hoops

RJ Davis from North Carolina.  (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)RJ Davis from North Carolina.  (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

RJ Davis from North Carolina. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Men’s college basketball takes center stage tonight, with a triple-header on ESPN featuring some of the sport’s biggest programs playing in NBA arenas.

  • 7:00 PM ET: No. No. 21 Duke vs. No. 10 Baylor (at Madison Square Garden)

  • 9 o’clock in the evening: No. 11 UNC vs. No. 7 Oklahoma* (at Charlotte’s Spectrum Center)

  • 11:00 PM: No. 4 Arizona vs. Alabama (at Phoenix’s Footprint Center)

More to watch:

  • 🏀 NBA: Timberwolves at 76ers (7 p.m., NBA); Celtics at Kings (10 p.m., NBA)

  • 🏒 NHL: Islanders in capital cities (7:30 p.m., TNT); Squatting at Kings (10 p.m., TNT)

* Still perfect: The Sooners are one of only four undefeated teams in men’s basketball, joining James Madison, Ole Miss and Houston.

⚾️ MLB Trivia

(Michael Reaves/Getty Images)(Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

(Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Andrew McCutchen returns for his 16th MLB season after signing a contract one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates.

Ask: McCutchen is one home run away from becoming the third active player with 2,000 hits and 300 home runs. Which two players would he join?

Tip: One is a free agent. The other plays in the Netherlands.

Answer below.

🏈The year of the Mont



And now, for a useless but very fun fact: We are one Montana win away from an all-out “Mont” North American College Football National Championship.

  • Canada: The University of Montreal won this year’s Vanier Cup with a 16-9 victory over the University of British Columbia.

  • Mexico: The Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education won this year’s ONEFA championship with a wild final.

Shortly: No. 2 MontAna will play No. 1 South Dakota State in the FCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7.

Trivia answer: Joey Votto and Freddie Freeman

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