Source: Lakers to skip White House on D.C. trip

5:57 PM ET

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers will not visit President Joe Biden at the White House to celebrate their 2020 NBA championship when the team travels to Washington, D.C., for a game against the Wizards later this month, a source with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.

Scheduling challenges and continued COVID-19 protocols will prevent a visit in the April 27-28 window when the Lakers are in the nation’s capital for the Wizards game, but a future meet-and-greet with the 46th president of the United States has not been ruled out, the source told ESPN.

No NBA team has commemorated their title with a White House visit since LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were honored by former President Barack Obama in November 2016, just days after Donald Trump won the presidential election to succeed Obama in the Oval Office.

When asked in January if the Lakers planned to resume

Saturday Night Open Thread: Substitute edition


New England Patriots Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers At Heinz Field
Every football fan knows it was a touchdown! | Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Come and join this merry band of Steelers’ faithful for some lively debate about our Steelers, good food and the merits of the odd cold beverage.

This week we will substitute some of my questions with some of yours. You know, the opposite of “me for him” or your gin for my coke! I’m hoping that with all this time saved at least I’ll get my washing done. I understand that some of you might call this lazy while others might know that the simple things you see are all complicated.

  1. Ok, call your shot. What will happen with the 24th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft?
  2. With the news that we are indeed getting the band back together (looking at you Mr. VinnyVidiVici and you too Mr. Rocket Scientist) why are the Steelers waiting so long to get the Outlaw back into the fold?
  3. Last week YourBlitzIsShowing gave this as one of his responses … “love rock and metal, but I can’t stand the things like air guitar and other stereotypical stuff that gets associated with the fans of the music.” I can understand the sentiment but I can tell you I don’t really care what other people think of my music. In my humble opinion, good music is meant to be played loud and celebrated. Anyway, give us your best stereotype of a metal head or an 80’s hairband lover.
  4. Next up is SNW… clearly the man loves words. I mean check out this suggestion for a future question. And I quote “literature”. That’s it folks! That’s what got thrown out there. I know, about as useful as maple syrup on a pancake... Can you read? Do you read? Maybe we will go with, what book would you recommend to this group?
  5. Last but not… we have Les. You know that guy in your group that loves to not only argue about everything BUT has to be right all the time? No, I am not talking about myself (disclaimer, I am but this post is titled “Substitute”) but Les Norton dropped this suggestion on us “During the week I caught up with some buddies and as usual it descended into a “———-” contest, this time on who each of us would have in a all-time band, any genre, and era.” He later added that his rules also specified that you could only choose one band member from each band to make this super band. So, give us your Les Norton All Star Band! However, nothing in the rules as laid out by Les say you can’t use a lead singer (say Roger Daltrey) from the band ‘the Who’ and then the lead guitarist (say Pete Townshend) as a solo artist… #winning!

2021 RBC Heritage scores: Stewart Cink sets another scoring record, in cruise control after Round 3

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HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — Stewart Cink maintained his five-stroke lead and set another scoring mark at the RBC Heritage with a 2-under 69 on Saturday, moving closer to his third victory at Harbour Town Golf Links.

Cink, 47, cooled off from his pace in the first two rounds, when he shot a pair of 63s for his lowest career 36-hole score and shattered the event’s halfway scoring mark shared by Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson.

This time, Cink scrambled his way to 18-under 195, also a tournament mark for lowest 54-hole score. The record had been held by Justin Leonard at 16-under 197 in 2002.

PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa was at 13 under after a 67. Emiliano Grillo of Argentina had a 69 and was another shot behind in third.

Matt Wallace of England and

The MVP race has turned into a Nikola Jokic runaway

Apr 15, 2021

Tim BontempsESPN

Two months ago, this year’s race for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award looked as competitive as any in recent memory.

But injuries have laid waste to the deep field of contenders, leaving Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic clearly standing above the rest of the field.

Jokic, who has not missed a game this season, took 90 of the 101 first-place votes cast in ESPN’s latest MVP straw poll, conducted this past weekend. If that result holds when the official ballots are cast next month, Jokic would be the first center to win MVP since Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal in 2000.

To gauge where the race stands with a month left in the season, ESPN asked 101 media members to participate in an informal poll that mimics the postseason awards voting. To make the balloting as realistic as possible, there were at least two voters from each

The All-Underrated Team for the 2020-21 season

With talk of which NBA players are the most underrated right making the rounds on social media this week, we thought it would be a good time to come up with our own All-Underrated Team for the 2020-21 season, both a starting five and an accompanying bench to go along with it.

In total, we picked 15 players at different positions who we believe still don’t get enough respect, be it from fans or the media at large.

Below, check out our All-Underrated Team for the 2020-21 NBA campaign.

Point Guard: Terry Rozier

There was a time where Charlotte Hornets point guard Terry Rozier was considered an inefficient chucker, a player capable of scoring 20 points on any given night but one who’d require a lot of shot attempts to do so.

Now, that couldn’t be farther from the truth, as Rozier has blossomed into one of the most underrated lead guards in basketball, averaging 20.3 points nightly this season to go along with 4.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.3 steals.

Even Rozier’s shooting marks are tidy this year, as the Louisville product is hitting 40.4 percent of his outside looks and 83.2 percent of his attempts from the foul stripe, making him a very efficient high-volume scorer on the year.

Rozier is also a feisty defender, using tenacity and quick feet to make life difficult on a nightly basis for opposing guards.

Despite being given a huge role that has led to him posting the highest usage rate of his career this season (24.0 percent), Rozier has responded fantastically for the Hornets, producing inarguably his best campaign as a professional.

Eventually, more people will take notice of how good of a point guard Rozier has become, but that probably won’t happen at least until the playoffs, where the Hornets will have a bigger platform to show fans what they’ve been missing out on in 2020-21.

For the latest Terry Rozier rumors, click here.

Shooting Guard: DeMar DeRozan

During his time with the Toronto Raptors, it’s possible DeMar DeRozan was properly rated, or perhaps even a bit overrated thanks to inflated scoring numbers.

However, that is no longer the case whatsoever, as DeRozan hasn’t made an All-Star Team since joining the San Antonio Spurs in 2017-18, despite still quietly being one of the best shooting guards in the league during that span of time.

This season, the one-time 2nd Team All-NBAer probably deserved an All-Star nod, though being in the Western Conference makes that exponentially more difficult than being a player in the East, as DeRozan has been downright elite on the year, putting up 21.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 7.2 assists nightly in a role that has him playing one or two spots up the positional scale most of the time.

According to Basketball-Reference, DeRozan has actually played power forward for the Spurs roughly 67 percent of his time on the floor, something that would have been unheard of for the high-level scorer a few years back.

And DeRozan has responded brilliantly in that role for San Antonio, posting the best Box Plus/Minus (BPM) mark of his career (3.5), as well as the highest Win Shares per 48 Minutes (WS/48) clip of his time in the NBA (0.181).

League-wide, DeRozan actually ranks 26th overall in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) this campaign, 26th in WS/48 and 28th in BPM.

Now, outside of San Antonio, has DeRozan been talked about as being roughly a Top-30 player in the league this season, which is what multiple advanced metrics say he is?

Certainly not.

And that’s why DeRozan is the starting 2-guard in our All-Underrated Team in spite of being a four-time career All-Star.

For the latest DeMar DeRozan rumors, click here.

Small Forward: Mikal Bridges

When discussing the Phoenix Suns’ spectacular 2020-21 campaign, most of the praise goes either to Devin Booker or Chris Paul, and rightfully so, as the team’s star backcourt has been absolutely spectacular all season long in leading the Suns to a 40-15 record and the No. 2 seed in the brutal West.

But one player who deserves more recognition for his role in helping lead the Suns to such great new heights is third-year swingman Mikal Bridges, who has blossomed into one of the most effective 3-and-D wings in the Association on the year.

For the season, Bridges is averaging 12.9 points and 4.5 rebounds while posting an extremely tidy 61.8 effective field-goal percentage, which takes into account field-goal and three-point percentages.

What’s more, according to Synergy Sports, Bridges grades out as an excellent transition scorer, as well as a very good spot-up shooter and cutter, three areas that any role-playing wing needs to excel in to be effective.

Bridges is fantastic in all three key facets, as well as on the defensive end, where his length, agility and basketball IQ help him thrive.

So although Bridges may never be a star putting up over 20 points per game, in his role, that of a complementary piece on the wing who has to focus on both ends of the floor, there aren’t many small forwards you’d take over him.

And yet, the casual fan who mostly just tunes into nationally broadcasted games probably couldn’t tell you who he is.

Hence, his spot on the wing in our All-Underrated Team.

For the latest Mikal Bridges rumors, click here.

Power Forward: Tobias Harris

Given that he’s now playing his most natural position of power forward 90 percent of the time he’s on the floor while seeing action as a small forward for zero minutes this season (that figure comes courtesy of Basketball-Reference), it should come as no surprise that Tobias Harris is currently enjoying his best campaign as a professional.

Not only is Harris averaging a career-high 20.5 points per game while chipping in 7.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks nightly, his BPM and WS/48 marks are also the best of his career at 4.1 and 0.183 respectively, figures that place him in the Top 25 of the NBA on the season.

And yet Harris wasn’t even given an All-Star nomination this year despite playing in the weaker Eastern Conference, proving that his contributions to the East-leading Philadelphia 76ers have been completely underrated on the campaign.

No matter, as both Harris and Philadelphia probably care more about postseason success this year than individual awards, and considering how effective he’s been as a floor-spacing, face-up 4 next to Joel Embiid and setting screens/cutting for Ben Simmons, postseasons success could be right around the corner for Harris and the Sixers.

For the latest Tobias Harris rumors, click here.

Center: Clint Capela

It was a razor-tight decision here between Clint Capela and a player coming up in our bench section, but we decided to go with Capela thanks to the outrageous numbers he’s been posting this season, as well as his huge impact on both ends of the floor.

For proof of how great Capela has been for the Atlanta Hawks this season, look no further:

According to WS/48, which, in fairness, tends to favor the production of ultra-efficient big men who don’t space the floor, Capela has been a Top 10 player this season with a 0.211 mark. The other advanced metrics, VORP and BPM, have him in the Top-36 range league-wide, still very solid for a player who isn’t considered a star.

Capela’s mobility for a center, in particular, as well as his quick jumping ability, make him a special big man, as not only is he blocking 2.2 shots per game (the third-best mark in the NBA), he also grades out as an excellent transition scorer, per Synergy, as well as a very good pick-and-roll roll man.

In all, Capela’s growth this season has been huge in Atlanta’s resurgent campaign, one that has them fourth in the East with a 30-26 record.

Considering Capela doesn’t even have 90,000 followers on Twitter, despite being an above-average starter on various good teams for years now, there’s no doubting his status as an underrated player.

For the latest Clint Capela rumors, click here.

Bench: Guards

For the guard rotation off the bench on our All-Underrated squad, we went with four players: Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana Pacers), TJ McConnell (Indiana), Matisse Thybulle (Philadelphia) and Joe Ingles (Utah Jazz).

It may seem unfair that the Indiana Pacers got two guards on this list considering they’ve been a bit disappointing this season with their 26-29 record, but Brogdon and McConnell have both been great on the year with little fanfare to show for it.

Brogdon is putting up over 21 points and six assists nightly while shooting 40-plus percent from three while McConnell has been beastly in his role off the bench, averaging 6.5 assists and 1.7 steals nightly in under 26 minutes of action per contest.

Ingles, meanwhile, leads the league in three-point percentage (48.7 percent) as well as in effective field-goal percentage (69.4 percent), an outrageous feat considering 71.0 percent of his shot attempts come from beyond the arc.

And Thybulle, like McConnell, has been a monstrous defender in his smaller role for the Sixers, averaging 1.5 steals per game despite playing fewer than 20 minutes nightly.

Bench: Forwards

As far as reserve All-Underrated wings, we had another four guys come to mind, again two of who came from the same team: Brandon Clarke (Memphis Grizzlies), Kyle Anderson (Memphis), Jae Crowder (Phoenix) and Thaddeus Young (Chicago Bulls).

According to BPM and WS/48, Clarke, averaging 11.2 points and 5.6 rebounds this season, has been around a Top-60 player in the league this year, while his teammate Anderson has been right around the same range, with his BPM actually putting him in 33rd spot league-wide.

The pair of two-way wings have been extremely reliable for the Grizzlies all year long, and without them, Memphis wouldn’t be in the playoff position they’re in now.

Crowder, meanwhile, has added toughness as well as floor spacing as a 3/4 for the Suns and been another important piece to their massive resurgence this season.

And the annually underrated Young has given the Bulls solid face-up and around-the-basket scoring, as well as defensive versatility that is not easy to find for players who can man either forward spot.

Bench: Centers

The toughest choice for our starting five here was between Capela and Jonas Valanciunas, who actually grade out quite similarly as far as advanced stats are concerned.

Regardless, Valanciunas has been a borderline elite center all season long for Memphis, averaging 17.0 points and 12.8 rebounds while shooting 57.5 percent from the floor. His tenacity on the glass and bruising shoulders/elbows have made him an absolute force down low in 2020-21 for the Grizzlies.

And finally, our third center on the team will be Richaun Holmes, who actually recently talked to our friends at Basketball News about the fact that he feels he’s underrated:

Do you think your name should get mentioned more when people are discussing the best two-way centers in the NBA? Do you feel like you’re underrated?  Holmes: “I feel like my name has always been one that kind of flies under the radar. It’s always kind of an afterthought and things of that sort. I just want to continue to prove and continue to show [my value] on the floor, and let my talking get done on the floor. I just want to show the type of player that I am, just show that I’m one of the best two-way players, just show that I’m deserving of the All-Defensive Team and just continue to show [what I can do]. I want to continue to get better on the floor and just let my numbers and things of that sort prove my case.”

We agree with that assessment; the 14.1-point, 8.9-rebound, 1.6-block-per-game big man is definitely slept on nationally.


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MLB DFS: Best DraftKings, FanDuel daily Fantasy baseball picks, strategy for April 17, 2021

USATSI

The 2021 MLB season continues on Saturday and oddsmakers are expecting it to be a low-scoring day, which narrows the options for MLB daily Fantasy. The highest total of the night at William Hill Sportsbook is just nine runs, which will make finding MLB DFS stacks a challenge and puts an emphasis on individual matchups. Clayton Kershaw is always a difficult matchup, but there are some Padres hitters who have had some success against the three-time NL Cy Young winner.

Manny Machado is 6-for-21 lifetime off Kershaw with three home runs, while Eric Hosmer has gone 10-for-30 with two home runs despite it being a lefty-lefty matchup. So does the mean that you should be leaning on past experience like that as you set your MLB DFS lineups, or are there better options in the MLB DFS

Stephen and Ayesha Curry's foundation provided 16 million meals to children in Oakland over the past year

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Golden State Warriors star guard Stephen Curry isn’t just having a major impact on the court this season, he’s also doing the same off of the court. Through the foundation that he formed with his wife Ayesha, Eat.Learn.Play., Curry has helped provide 16 million meals to children and families in Oakland that are at risk of food insecurity over the past year. You read that right — 16 million. 

“It’s pretty crazy,” Stephen said recently, via The San Francisco Chronicle. “We’ve been able to mobilize quickly. We didn’t expect to have such an impact — we only launched a year and a half ago. But so many kids were hanging in the dark. It was alarming. “We are excited about the work we’re doing but it’s hard to celebrate because it means the need is so

What did Chelsea and Manchester City learn from their potential Champions League Final preview at Wembley?

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Suffice to say if Manchester City and Chelsea do indeed make it to the Champions League final then, on the basis of today’s game, organizers in Istanbul ought not to waste all that much on fireworks. There could be precious little to shout about at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium.

Plenty could change in a month, not least the fact that Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain will be no less confident of winning their semifinals than their English opponents. Injuries such as the one suffered by Kevin De Bruyne early in the second half could yet have a seismic impact on matters domestic and continental. It is also reasonable to assume that City, and quite possibly Chelsea, will employ different attacking setups to those that started today’s FA Cup semifinal.

Whether that will change tactical plans defined

Braves' Sean Kazmar makes history with first MLB appearance in more than 12 years

USATSI

The Atlanta Braves made numerous roster moves on Saturday ahead of their game versus the Chicago Cubs. The most notable among them was the decision to promote 36-year-old utility player Sean Kazmar, whose pinch-hit appearance during the fifth inning made history — even if he did ground into an inning-ending double play.

Kazmar hadn’t played in the majors since September 23, 2008. That means it had been 12 years and 206 days since his most recent big-league appearance, which in turn was the longest stretch in between MLB games since Minnie Miñoso resurfaced in 1976 at the age of 50, according to Elias Sports

Kazmar’s absence (4,589 days) eclipsed Miñoso’s (4,451) by a fair margin. Prior to Miñoso, the longest stretch between MLB appearances belonged to Satchel Paige, who made an outing as a 58-year-old in 1965, some

Zach Banner and former linemen speak glowingly of offensive line coach Adrian Klemm


NFL: JUL 26 Steelers Training Camp
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a new offensive line coach, and the players who play/played for him are excited to get to work.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ coaching ranks underwent some overhaul this offseason. Gone were the likes of Randy Fichtner and Shaun Sarrett, and promoted to replace those aforementioned individuals were Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm.

Canada’s ability to mold an offense has been on display for years, but not many knew what to expect from Klemm. As a former player, and a two year assistant offensive line coach in Pittsburgh, Klemm has a tall task ahead of him with his first year in charge of the men up front.

While the task might be daunting, the players who played for Klemm are more than confident in his ability to improve the Steelers’ up front.

“Our offensive line needs to get better. We know that, not only as individuals, but as a unit,” tackle Zach Banner told Dale Lolley courtesy of Steelers.com.

“I wouldn’t want to go into an offseason like this with anyone other than Klemm.”

In fact, Banner has credited Klemm for his overall development the past two seasons, seasons where he has gotten new contracts with the Steelers. On top of that, Banner sees a tremendous improvement not just in his game, but also his fellow linemates.

“My development in these past two years is a huge chunk (owed) to him. Head offensive line coaches are so into the week to week, they don’t really get to work with developmental guys. My game, Chuks (Okorafor), Kevin Dotson, J.C. (Hassenauer) a lot of that individual work came from Klemm,” Banner said of backups who have been called into duty for one reason or another.

“That’s one thing I’m very excited about. From a technique standpoint, I’m very excited.”

Talk about a ringing endorsement for the first year offensive line coach. Then again, with Banner just signing a new two-year contract, what else would you expect him to say? What about someone who isn’t affiliated with the team anymore? That is exactly what former left guard Ramon Foster is now after his retirement, but if you thought because he wasn’t in Pittsburgh anymore he wouldn’t still tell the truth about Klemm, think again.

“Man, his ability to relate,” said Foster, who spent only one year with Klemm, but was impressed. ”Never taking the hype of a what the other person can do and focus on yourself. No matter how good the media portrays your opponent, it’s about what you’re willing to do to them instead. The idea of being the hammer and not the nail.

“He takes his job very serious and expects the guys to be the same way. Even while being the assistant offensive line coach, he was well involved with the younger guys and did a lot for us vets too as far as film study and confirmation of what we did right or wrong. He’s a guy I would have loved to play for in a head OL role because I know it’d be all accountability and the focus on pulling the absolute best out of you. Knowing when to press guys and when to pull back in coaching.”

When you see comments like this about a coach like Klemm, you wonder if it is more of an endorsement for the new coach, or a damning comment on the former coach, in this case Sarrett. Either way, the Steelers haven’t had the same offensive line since Mike Munchak departed Pittsburgh for a lateral job with the Denver Broncos. Will Klemm be able to get the Pittsburgh line back to those standards? Only time will tell, but the players who know him best certainly think so.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the rest of NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.