NBA Season Restart Preview: Biggest Names Sitting Out League’s Return

When NBA teams take the floor for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic suspended the season, rosters will look a lot different.
Some teams will be missing key contributors, while others won’t have the depth pieces they’ve grown to rely on throughout the 2019-20 season. And then there’s teams like the Brooklyn Nets, but we’ll get into that.
No matter if an absence is credited due to implications from coronavirus or injuries that prohibited them from playing, and thus traveling, approximately half the 22 teams traveling to Orlando will be impacted.
We’ve included a team-by-team breakdown of what players won’t be playing when games start July 30 at Walt Disney World’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.
You can check out those teams, and their respective seeding when regular-season games begin, below:
Eastern Conference
5. Indiana Pacers: Victor Oladipo
The NBA All-Star chose to opt out of Orlando, due to health concerns. Oladipo had been working to recover from a torn quad last January, and while he returned to play 13 games this season, it wasn’t worth it to return.
6. Philadelphia 76ers: Zhaire Smith
The Sixers forward will not travel due to injury, as he’s suffered a bone bruise in his left knew.
7. Brooklyn Nets: Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Taurean Prince, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, Wilson Chandler, Nic Claxton.
Prince, Dinwiddie, Chandler and Jordan all chose to sit out with Jordan testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this month. Irving and Durant, however, were due to injuries.
9. Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans
Beal chose to sit out, both so he wouldn’t have to travel to Orlando, while also allowing him to fully recover from right rotator cuff injury he’s dealt with throughout the 2019-20 season. Bertains is an impending free agent, and following a career-year, just wants to get to the offseason healthy.
More NBA: Winners, Losers Of League’s Return-To-Play Format
Western Conference
1. Los Angeles Lakers: Avery Bradley
The former Boston Celtic decided to opt out of the return predominantly because his son struggles with a respiratory issue. The Lakers signed J.R. Smith to replace him.
4. Utah Jazz: Bojan Bogdanovic
The Jazz forward was putting together a career year before undergoing wrist surgery in May.
6. Houston Rockets: Thabo Sefolosha
Seflosha opted out after having played just 10 minutes per game for the Rockets.
7. Dallas Mavericks: Willie Cauley-Stein, Courtney Lee
Caulet-Stein, the Mavericks big man, opted out as he is reportedly expecting a newborn child in July. Lee suffered a calf injury while working out during the shutdown.
8. Memphis Grizzlies: Justice Winslow
The Grizzlies forward opted out of the return after literally calling out both the NBA and NBPA for what he felt like was a lack of safety concern.
9. Portland Trail Blazers: Trevor Ariza
Like Bradley, Ariza chose to sit out for a family situation as he will stay at home to take care of his son in the midst of a custody situation.
12. San Antonio Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge
Aldridge had shoulder surgery in April.
13. Phoenix Suns: Kelly Oubre
Oubre is working to overcome a knee injury suffered before the shutdown.
We’ll see how that impacts teams as they NBA Playoffs get started.
More NBA: Five Takeaways From League’s Return-To-Play Plan

Liverpool Vs. Burnley Live Stream: Watch Premier League Game Online

Another record is within Liverpool’s reach.
Liverpool will host Burnley on Saturday at Anfield in a Premier League Round 35 game. The Reds enter the contest having clinched the Premier League title already. Burnley is in 10th place but can climb as high as seventh if results if results in other games break its way.
Liverpool has won all 17 Premier League games it has played at Anfield this season. A win over Burnley would tie the Premier League record for most home wins in a season.
Here’s how to watch Liverpool versus Burnley.
When: Saturday, July 11, at 10 a.m. ET
TV: NBCSN; UNIVERSO
Live Stream: FuboTV — free trial | NBC Sports Live
More Liverpool: Jordan Henderson Confirms Injury To Cost Him Rest Of Season

Red Sox Pitcher Nathan Eovaldi Reveals Challenges Going Into Season

Major League Baseball will implement new rules for the shortened 2020 season to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Some of those guidelines include no high-fives, no spitting and no hugging after home runs. Pitchers also won’t be able to lick their hands between pitches — a common practice often seen on the mound.
It certainly will be an adjustment, and Boston Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi knows it.
“That’s obviously going to be the biggest issue, I feel like,” Eovaldi said on “The Greg Hill Show,” as transcribed by WEEI. “Certain guys, it’s hard for them. I try to work on that in the offseason. I don’t dip, but just the spitting. When I’m on the mound, my mouth gets dry, I want to spit. I lick my fingers sometimes, too, to get a better grip on the ball. I feel like I’ve broken those habits. Try to find new ways, wipe my hand on the sweat instead of the mouth. It’s been different, but I feel like it’s been helpful.”
The right-hander also added how players need to hold their teammates accountable in order to make the adjustment a bit easier.
“I think that’s going to be one of the biggest challenges,” Eovaldi said. “You have to kind of hold each other accountable for it. Being trapped in a hotel now, and then being trapped in a hotel on the road, it’s not easy by any means. But you just have to hold each other accountable. We’ve had a couple Zoom meetings already about making sure you’re wearing your mask all the time, keeping your hands clean. That’s going to be the ultimate goal, is for everyone to try to stay healthy. I think the team that has the least amount of corona cases, that’s going to be the team that’s going to be in the playoffs.”
It sure sounds like the Red Sox have a good handle on things already.
More Red Sox: Sam Kennedy Hopeful Fans Can Return To Fenway Games In 2020

NASCAR’s Noah Gragson, Harrison Burton Throw Post-Race Punches After Alsco 300

Things got a bit heated Friday night in Sparta.
Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton exchanged punches at Kentucky Speedway following Friday’s Alsco 300.
It took place after Gragson’s No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet got into the rear of Burton’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota while battling for position. Both clipped the wall before Gragson finished seventh and Burton took 12th.
Check out the ensuing fight:

PUNCHES THROWN! Noah Gragson vs. Harrison Burton at Kentucky. pic.twitter.com/4R8mqA3OD5
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) July 11, 2020

And here’s what the two drivers had to say after the race:

"That was a long time coming."
Harrison Burton and Noah Gragson talk with @JamieLittleTV after the post-race fight at Kentucky. pic.twitter.com/IC5TsBGRZM
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) July 11, 2020

Austin Cindric went back-to-back at Kentucky, claiming Friday night’s Alsco 300 after Thursday’s Shady Rays 200.
The last driver to win on consecutive nights in the same series was Richard Petty in 1971, according to NASCAR.com.
More Racing: NASCAR Reveals Revamped National Series Schedule Through August 

Pro Football Focus Predicts Best, Worst Case Scenario For Patriots Record

The recent signing of quarterback Cam Newton has many asking questions regarding the New England Patriots.
Will Newton win the starting job? How will he change the offense? What will the Patriots record be with him under center?
Pro Football Focus did their part to answer the final question as the outlet released the best- and worst-case scenarios for all NFL teams.
Best case scenario for New England? PFF notes the Patriots could finish with a 11-5 record.
More NFL: Patriots Insider Shares Expectations For Quarterback Battle
How they get there: Newton not only stays healthy, but Josh McDaniels and company utilize his talent and skill set to the best of their ability. That means taking advantage of Newton’s ability as a designed runner — where he has added more expected points than any other runner, regardless of position, since 2006 — and incorporating a heavy dose of play action. If the Patriots do that and limit the effects of what has been shaky down-to-down accuracy for Newton throughout his career, they can once again challenge the top of the AFC sans Brady. Having one of the more talented secondaries and defensive play-callers in the NFL doesn’t hurt, either.
Worst case scenario? Well, PFF explained how the Patriots could finish 6-10.
How they get there: Cam Newton is injured for a significant portion of the season. A contingent of the New England faithful is firmly behind Jarrett Stidham, but the odds are stacked against him becoming a quality NFL starter. He recorded just a 57.8 PFF grade in his final season at Auburn, and the only NFL action we have to go off is an up-and-down preseason performance last season. Few mid-to-late-round quarterbacks turn out to be half of what Tom Brady was for the Patriots. If Stidham is called to start on, chances are there will be some speed bumps for New England.
Even if Newton does play a full season, a limited receiving corps and some of the losses the Patriots saw on defense this offseason (namely, Danny Shelton, Jamie Collins and Duron Harmon) could lead to a group that underwhelms in 2020.
We’re eager to see how it plays out.
More NFL: Patriots Draftee Devin Asiasi Worked Out With Cam Newton, N’Keal Harry

Sam Kennedy Hopeful Fans Will Return To Fenway For Red Sox Games In 2020

Major League Baseball will look quite different in 2020 with a 60-game schedule and venues likely to not allow fans to start due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Massachusetts is one of the better states at containing the novel virus, but fans will not be allowed to attend Boston Red Sox games at Fenway Park when they open the season July 24 against the Baltimore Orioles.
Sam Kennedy, though, is hopeful that will change as the season progresses.
“Commissioner (Rob) Manfred said it well: we’re going to walk before we run,” the Sox president said on MLB Network Radio, as transcribed by MassLive. “So we’ll start the season without fans, which I think regardless of where you’re playing is the absolute right thing to do. Let’s get up and running and see how things go. But I will tell you: given the data in Massachusetts — and given our operational plan thanks to our chief operating officer Jonathan Gilula and his entire staff — we feel that we are in a position now to accommodate fans on a limited basis. Just to give some normalcy to our fan base and our city and our region. This is not about money, per se. People equate that. Of course there’s revenue associated with fans at the park. And I’ve been very clear about that. We’ve got to have fans in our ballparks in the years ahead. It’s a key driver of our business.”
There’s no telling how coronavirus data will look in the coming weeks and months. But if it keeps trending in the right direction in Massachusetts, fans very well may be able to head back to America’s Most Beloved Ballpark at some point this season.
But only time will tell.
More Red Sox: Watch J.D. Martinez Launch Homer Over Green Monster In Boston’s Intrasquad Game
 
 

Bruins Notes: What Ratified CBA, Return To Play Protocols Mean For Boston

At long last, direction.
The NHL and NHLPA on Friday announced that it had ratified both the return to play protocols and a four-year extension of the CBA, which now will run into Sept. 2026. It was impressive work from all sides, as the negotiations, contrary to the baseball, largely were kept out of the public, and the league really only made announcements along the way only when it was to make something official. It was a pragmatic way of handling an uncertain situation by both the league and players.
While the particulars of the agreements impact each team differently, one consistent for all teams is the roster sizes. It’s now confirmed that teams only can bring 31 players (with a maximum of 28 skaters) to the hubs, and they’re only allowed to have 52 people total in their travelling party — so that includes coaches, medical staff, front office personnel and team public relations, for example.
So, there won’t be any Black Aces, per se, for the Boston Bruins this season beyond the extra skaters and goalie(s) they will carry on the roster.
In a way, that makes training camp all the more interesting, as there will be guys competing for those fringe roster spots. Anyone who doesn’t go with the team to Toronto cannot join midway, so the Bruins have to make sure they don’t bungle their decision. Back in late May, when it first was rumored teams would be able to bring 28 skaters, we took a crack at predicting who would make it. Our last guys in ended up being Trent Frederic, Karson Kuhlman, Jack Studnicka, Paul Carey, Steven Kampfer and Jakub Zboril.
We’ll see how it all shakes out with training camp beginning Monday, but it’s finally something hockey-related to look forward to.
Bruins Schedule: Dates Of Round-Robin Games As NHL Unveils Qualifying Round Schedule
Here are some other notes and takeaways from Friday’s news:
— The salary cap will be staying at $81.5 million for, at the very least, next season. The Bruins have a slew of notable free agents to take care of, among them Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara, as well as RFAs Matt Grzelcyk and Jake DeBrusk. For a look at the B’s cap situation, click here.
Now, with just under $20 million to work with, the Bruins aren’t completely in cap hell. They probably will place extra emphasis on not making any moves that cripple them down the road, but in the eyes of this particular writer, this news seems to point toward the possibility of Krug re-signing more likely.
Hear out a theory: Teams probably won’t be as willing to throw out big, big money deals as they might’ve been as recently as this time last year. And since there’s a chance the cap might start rising again in, say, 2021-22, maybe we’ll see top free agents stay put on one- or two-year deals at a more modest figure in hopes of cashing in more when the cap rises.
But for a guy like Krug, who just turned 29, he pretty much has to sign a deal with plenty of term now. If teams aren’t going to give out John Carlson-esque contracts this offseason, Krug’s best bet might be to take a modest raise with the Bruins on a lengthy deal that will at least give him long-term security.
Of course, this is all conjecture, but it’s one way to look at the situation. The overarching point here is that it seems teams right now will be dubious of making huge financial commitments right now that could bite them in the keister in a couple years if the cap doesn’t rise, so it puts guys in their late 20s like Krug in a precarious spot.
— The inclusion of the Olympics in the new CBA is significant for the Bruins, who figure to have plenty of guys that could end up on Olympic rosters in 2022 and 2026.
This hardly is a scientific list, but here are some guys that might be getting looks to represent their country (while fully acknowledging some might be a reach and that this all is predicated on some of these guys re-signing with the Bruins/not retiring).
Canada — Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand
Czech Republic — David Pastrnak, David Krejci
Finland –Tuukka Rask, Urho Vaakanainen
United States — Brandon Carlo, Charlie Coyle, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy
Teams are skeptical of sending their players to the Olympics because of injury risk, but it’s clear the players want to do it if they get the chance. And it’s worth mentioning the 2013-14 Bruins had five players go to the Sochi Olympics, then they came back and Boston went 17-3-5 following the break, so it’s not like that set the Bruins back too much.
— Players have until 5 p.m. ET on Monday to opt out of the return to play, and they won’t be penalized for doing so.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy indicated last month that he had not heard of any players planning on not playing, but he would have a conversation with and respect the decision of anyone who did.
For what it’s worth, the only Bruins not confirmed to have taken part in an on-ice workout at Warrior Ice Arena since the start of Phase 2 are Pastrnak, McAvoy, Coyle, Chris Wagner, Ondrej Kase and Anton Blidh. Pastrnak and Blidh went overseas during the shutdown, so it’s possible they just haven’t been given the green light to rejoin the team since they travelled internationally.
Regardless, as of now it seems as though the Bruins will have their full arsenal of players. If anyone opts out though, we should know that soon.
— There has been curiosity as to whether or not Cassidy will rest players or not during the round robin tournament.
The structure of the schedule seems to make it more unlikely that he does rest guys. Each round robin team has two days off in between games, and considering the Bruins probably will be trying to ramp guys up instead of giving them added time off, it would appear that the schedule setup will result in just regulars playing in each game right from the jump.
Making Sense Of NHL’s Latest CBA, RTP News | NESN Bruins Podcast Ep. 72

Watch Highlights From Celtics First Practice In Walt Disney World Ballroom

The Boston Celtics got back on the court Friday in Orlando, Fla., the team’s first practice together since March.
Head coach Brad Stevens said all players were able to participate after all tested negative for COVID-19. The practice was held in a “convention center ballroom,” according to Stevens, which he noted was “an excellent environment to practice.”
The organization tweeted out a video, showcasing some highlights from the workout, which you can watch below.

First practice pic.twitter.com/wKWKPjtk3e
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) July 10, 2020

We travelled to Orlando on Wednesday and were cleared for our first practice today. pic.twitter.com/pJvvXCZNl2
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) July 11, 2020

The Celtics will have a bit longer until they officially return to competitive basketball, as they’re scheduled to face the Milwaukee Bucks on July 31, their first “seeding game” of the league’s return-to-play plan.
The Celtics, along with the 22 NBA teams who made the trip to the Walt Disney World campus, will play eight seeding games before starting the postseason.
More Celtics: Jaylen Brown Sees Full Picture Amid NBA Return 

NESN Diary: Celtics’ Jaylen Brown Sees Full Picture Amid NBA Return (And Other Random Thoughts)

NBA players have spent the last few days sharing photos and videos of their meals or hotel rooms since arriving to Orlando, Fla.
Boston center Enes Kanter was among them, as was ex-Celtic guard Rajon Rondo and even recently-signed Los Angeles Lakers guard J.R. Smith. They complained about the amenities, and while we all have our own opinions on how that makes players look, we’re going to look past that.
Instead, let’s look to Celtics guard Jaylen Brown, who won’t be among those complaining as he’s making the most of the unprecedented experience.
Brown explained that himself Friday, while speaking to reporters after the Celtics concluded their first practice on the Walt Disney World campus.
“It was an interesting experience (entering the bubble),” Brown said, per NBC Sports Boston. “I’m not going to do too much complaining, or do any complaining at all, to be honest. I come from humble beginnings just like everybody else. It’s not exactly what we’re accustomed to, but it’s fine.
“For me, I’m just trying to find a routine to just pass the time. I’m not trying to be on social media. I deactivated my Instagram account, not because I feel like it is a distraction. But until I get a routine, I want to not pick up bad habits and things like that.”
I mean deactivating an Instagram to prohibit “bad habits” should alone garner some praise, and maybe it does from the younger generation. But more than anything, can you think of a player that sees the full picture more than Brown does int his regard?
He’s taking steps to create a more positive experience, whether it be for his on-court benefit, or the off-court mindset which has players focusing more on conversations about systemic racism and social justice.
“I feel like we’re down here with a purpose,” Brown said, per NBC Sports Boston. “I want to educate myself. Spend time doing research, spend time talking to my teammates or other people in the NBA trying to figure out how we can all come together and use our time to divert our attention to things outside of basketball. While we’re down here, we got nothing but time. So I’m trying to make myself available to any players that are around and might have questions or anything they want to build off of, and also my teammates as well. So we can figure out ways to put our heads together and be a part of change.”
Kudos, Jaylen.
Here are some other random things from the day in sports Friday:
— Hockey is coming back.
The NHL Players’ Association on Friday signed off on the return-to-play agreement, and also an extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The two hub cities will be, as long rumored, Toronto and Edmonton. Key dates, however, have not been released.
The Boston Bruins, specifically, seem like they’re ready to go as the organization had a number of players return to the ice Friday. You can watch highlights from the workout here.
— Newly-signed New England quarterback Cam Newton has added to the list of Patriots pass catchers that he’s already met with.
Patriots tight end Devin Asiasi, a third-round pick in 2020, was among those to work out with Newton, doing so on the West Coast along with N’Keal Harry.
With Newton getting increasingly comfortable with his receivers, one Patriots insider believes it will be “his job to lose.”
— Are the Boston Red Sox underdogs for the 2020 season? Xander Bogaerts certainly doesn’t believe so.
The Red Sox shortstop told WEEI on Friday that with the roster Boston has, they’re not a team “destined to be last place.” Bogaerts went on to express his optimism in the Red Sox “talented” roster.
And that’s not taking into account the prospects that could debut with Boston this season.
Tweet of the Day
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski found himself in hot water with The Worldwide Leader on Friday after sending an expletive-filled response to U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (Missouri) after Hawley had criticized the NBA.
And while both Wojnarowski and ESPN released statements apologizing, many of the reporter’s fans tweeted their support of the NBA insider.

NBA Twitter defending Woj today and making #wojbomb trend pic.twitter.com/mGpbPtrY5H
— Freddy Paulenich (@fpaulenich15) July 10, 2020

Video of the Day
J.D. Martinez got back to doing what he does best Friday — launching balls over the Green Monster at Fenway Park.

Wow, we missed this @JDMartinez28 | @RedSox pic.twitter.com/LSUQKne2EY
— NESN (@NESN) July 10, 2020

Stat of the Day
Not a bad way to go out, Cal.

On this date in 2001, in his final MLB All-Star Game appearance, Cal Ripken Jr. homers & is named the game's MVP as the American League defeated the National League, 4-1, in Seattle. pic.twitter.com/589ehDD8DW
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 10, 2020

More Celtics: Semi Ojeleye Will Wear Powerful Message On Jersey Upon NBA Return

NHL Return: Here’s Dates For Training Camp, Qualifier Games, Stanley Cup Final

Mark your calendars, NHL fans, hockey officially is back.
The league and NHLPA ratified the new CBA Friday night, meaning the NHL teams will be back on the ice to fight for the Stanley Cup in just three weeks.
We know games begin Aug. 1, with the Boston Bruins returning Aug. 2 against the Philadelphia Flyers in their round-robin tournament to determine conference seeding.
Here are some other critical dates to know, per TSN’s Frank Seravalli:
July 13 — training camps open
July 26 — team travel to hub cities
July 28-30 — exhibition games begin
Aug. 1 — Stanley Cup Qualifying Games begin
Aug. 10* — Phase 2 of NHL Draft Lottery begins
Aug. 11 — Round 1 begins
Aug. 25* — Round 2 begins
Sept. 8* — Conference Finals begin
Sept. 22* — Stanley Cup Final begins
Oct. 4* Last possible day of Stanley Cup Final
Oct. 9-10* — NHL Draft
* Tentative date
It’s been a long four-plus months, but hockey finally is on the horizon.
More NHL: Here’s Bruins’ Salary Cap Situation With Limit Officially Set At $81.5 Million