Seahawks Senior Bowl Updates: DL and DB prospects making waves in practice

Senior Bowl week is in full swing, and a number of players are making a strong case for themselves in practice throughout the last week. As you are likely aware, Pete Carroll and John Schneider love players with experience, and you will find that in droves here. Last year alone they drafted a number of participants; Tariq Woolen, Coby Bryant, Abe Lucas, Tyreke Smith, Bo Melton and Boye Mafe. All three had sizeable impacts on the team in year one, to say the least. So who are some standouts this year who may pique their interest?

Karl Brooks—DL—Bowling Green

The Seattle Seahawks love versatility and unique traits, and Karl Brooks possesses both. While he may not have ideal physical traits in certain respects, he was one of the most productive pass rushers in the nation over the last two seasons. Originally projected as an EDGE, Brooks reportedly tipped the scales at over 300 lbs, but he still put up 10 sacks in 2022. He has the capability to play inside and out, and could have potential as a 3T/5T. He is the kind of guy who just seems to flash every time you watch him.

Derick Hall—EDGE—Auburn

Hall is earning comparisons to Montez Sweat. You may recall that there was some speculation that the Seahawks were interested in Sweat in 2019, but after their trade down with the Green Bay Packers, he was off the board and they ended up selecting LJ Collier, who was himself a Senior Bowl participant that year. Obviously, Sweat has been a productive player in the NFL and LJ Collier has not. Hall was recently mocked as a first round pick, but some project him as a second round prospect. He has a long wingspan, explosive hands, and looks to have the ability to set the edge in the run game. He was a productive pass rusher in the SEC (19.5 sacks over the last three season, with a career high 9 in 2021), and has been making waves at the Senior Bowl.

JL Skinner — Safety — Boise State

A tall rangy safety with ball-hawk tendencies who can hit? Who is projected as a mid-round prospect? Sign Pete Carroll up.

Here is a snippet from The NFL Draft Bible:

His exceptional length is really what gets the adrenaline pumping when eyeing up Skinner. Today he showed a knack for getting to the deep ball and range that likely impressed NFL scouts in attendance. The All-Mountain West First Team safety held back on one play. If he were full contact, he would have leveled the receiver. Skinner maintained his composure and left the moment to unleash a magnificent hit left to our imaginations.”

Julius Brents—DB—Kansas State

A versatile defensive back who can line up at safety or corner, Brents reportedly has the same wingspan as Tariq Woolen. Also like Woolen, he is projected as a mid/late round pick. By his own admission, he is a student of filmand he looks to be a potential ball hawk after picking off multiple passes during practice, as well as posting 4 interceptions for the Wildcats in 2022.

These are just a few of the players who caught my attention. Senior Bowl participants are typically on the older side for NFL prospects, obviously, but as noted above, that hasn’t dissuaded the team from going after these guys in previous drafts. Most of the players listed above are currently projected as Day Two/Day Three picks, but this week of practice can do a lot to elevate their draft stock. With a majority of the focus on the fact that Seattle has two first round picks, the reality remains that many of their most productive players last season (and in seasons of old) have been drafted in the mid/late rounds. Could one of the above guys follow in the footsteps of Tariq Woolen, Kam Chancellor, or even Boye Mafe?


Kellen Winslow Jr. requests 14-year prison sentence be reduced due to ‘physical trauma’ from football

Kellen Winslow Jr., once a Pro Bowler for the Browns, is ineligible for parole until 2028. (Hayne Palmour/San Diego Union-Tribune via AP, Pool, File)

Content warning: This post contains mentions of rape and sexual assault.

Former NFL tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. has requested his 14-year prison sentence be reduced with the argument that the physical trauma he sustained while playing football entitles him to a shorter stay behind bars under a new California law, according to USA Today’s Brent Schrotenboer .

Winslow reportedly mailed a handwritten habeas corpus petition in November from a state prison in Tehachapi, California, and is representing himself without an attorney.

The former Cleveland Browns first-round draft pick and Pro Bowler received his 14-year sentence in March 2021 under a plea arrangement that saw Winslow convicted of forcible rape, rape of an unconscious person, assault with intent to commit rape, indecent exposure and lewd drive in public. He had originally been facing life in prison.

Why Kellen Winslow Jr. thinks he should get out of prison early

The petition reportedly argues that Winslow’s trauma from football played a role in the offenses that landed him in prison and currently have him ineligible for parole until July 2028:

“Petitioner contends he suffered physical trauma as a result from mild traumatic brian (sic) disorder, as well as potentially CTE. and this trauma was a contributing factor in the commission of the offense,” Winslow wrote by hand, referring to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease associated with head trauma in football. “Petitioner now seeks a remand for resentencing based on AB 124. Petitioner argues because physical trauma contributed to the offenses … the court is required to impose the lower term (of the sentencing considerations).”

The bill Winslow refers to, Assembly Bill 124, was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021. Per USA Today, the bill was intended to help criminal defendants who have previously experienced “psychological, physical, or childhood trauma, including, but not limited to, abuse, neglect, exploitation, or sexual violence,” requiring such issues to be considered during plea bargaining, sentencing or resentencing.

Winslow’s attorneys reportedly made a similar argument during his sentencing, claiming he had potentially sustained more than 1,000 blows to his head during his football career, as well as head trauma from a 2005 motorcycle accident. He still received a 14-year sentence.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office reportedly said it had not yet received Winslow’s petition, but would consider it whenever it happens:

“We have not received Mr. Winslow’s habeas,” San Diego County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Tanya Sierra said. “Once it has been received we will evaluate it for next steps. We do believe that Winslow received a fair trial and sentence for this serious sexual assault case. We will review everything, but with justice for the victims at the forefront of our consideration.”

In an earlier petition, Winslow also reportedly asked the court to waive a prohibition against him leaving California during his parole period, as he wants to move to Florida, where he attended college at Miami, to begin a coaching career.

How Kellen Winslow Jr. received his 14-year prison sentence

The 14-year sentence was the result of a years-long legal battle after Winslow was accused of multiple rapes and sexual offenses committed against five women in Southern California. He was originally found guilty in 2019 of raping a 58-year-old homeless woman in San Diego, but the jury was deadlocked on six additional felonies.

Winslow subsequently pleaded guilty to raping an unconscious 17-year-old girl in 2003 and to sexual battery of aa 54-year-old hitchhiker in 2018 and later revised the plea deal in a way that set his maximum sentence at 14 years, which he received.


New York Liberty sign star guard Courtney Vandersloot

Star point guard Courtney Vandersloot will sign with the New York Liberty, she announced Thursday, further bolstering the Liberty’s prospects of winning a franchise-first championship in the near future.

The Liberty — the only still-active original franchise yet to win a title — made the biggest splash in free agency by recruiting Vandersloot, signing Breanna Stewart and trading for Jonquel Jones. Stewart and Jones won league MVP awards in 2018 and 2021, respectively, and are considered top-three players in the world.

The details of Vandersloot’s contract are still being negotiated as the Liberty determines how to fit the salaries of her and Stewart under the hard cap, league sources told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.

Stewart, a two-time Finals MVP who is currently playing alongside Vandersloot on Turkish team Fenerbahçe, chose New York on Wednesday and is expected to take substantially less so the Liberty can add Vandersloot, sources told ESPN.

Vandersloot, a four-time All-Star and five-time all-WNBA selection, is widely regarded as one of the best point guards in league history. After becoming the first WNBA player to average double-digit assists in a season in 2020, she guided the Chicago Sky to a franchise-first championship in 2021.

Vandersloot had spent her entire WNBA career with the Sky, who drafted her at No. 3 in 2011 out of Gonzaga, before announcing via Instagram on Monday that she would not be returning to Chicago in 2023.

ESPN previously reported that Vandersloot was also considering the Sky, Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm and that her free agency decision would factor into Stewart’s. Vandersloot grew up in Kent, Washington, not too far from Seattle, so joining the Storm would have marked a sort of homecoming for the point guard, whose jersey will be retired at Gonzaga later this month.

A source close to the situation told ESPN that Vandersloot had a difficult time saying no to the Storm.

Vandersloot’s wife and former Chicago teammate, sharpshooter Allie Quigley, is sitting out the 2023 WNBA season but is not officially retiring.

New York, which has been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs each of the past two seasons, will have its sights set on a championship in 2023 after bringing in Vandersloot, Stewart and Jones to surround 2020 No. 1 draft pick Sabrina Ionescu.

Although Ionescu can play point guard, she fared much better in the 2022 season — securing her first All-Star and All-WNBA nods — when she was moved to an off-ball role with Crystal Dangerfield running the point. Vandersloot should then feasibly slide in nicely next to Ionescu in the backcourt.

On paper, New York’s toughest challenger appears to be defending champion Las Vegas, with the Aces not only returning two-time MVP A’ja Wilson, 2022 Finals MVP Chelsea Gray and All-WNBA selection Kelsey Plum but also having signed two-time MVP Candace Parker and two-time champion Alysha Clark earlier this week.


UPDATED: Orange Krush’s annual road trip stymied by Iowa | Sports

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CHAMPAIGN — Nineteen times, the Orange Krush has snuck into an opposing arena wearing the colors of the opposing team, only to pull off their outer layer to reveal their true identities just before tipoff.

This year, the Illinois basketball student section planned its biggest trip yet, ordering 200 tickets to Saturday’s game at Iowa, four times the amount they usually bring.

The trip won’t be happening.

“Unfortunately, the University of Iowa Athletic Department has today notified us that they have invalidated all 200 tickets that the Orange Krush had legally purchased,” the group said in a statement Wednesday night. “It is highly unfortunate that the University of Iowa and their athletic department refused to face the consequences of the mistake THEY MADE in selling tickets to a billing address in Champaign, Illinois. It is against the spirit of competition and rivalry, two outstanding attributes of the Big Ten Conference, to make this decision.”

In order to attend the trip, students were required to raise money for local charities, and they wound up raising $2,649.41, the statement said.

Because the cancellation happened so close to game day, the group won’t be able to cancel the buses they chartered for $6,000, which, the statement said, accounts for a fifth of its budget.

The loss is so steep that the group won’t be able to make another trip, the statement said.

Later Wednesday night, Iowa athletics issued a statement via the Hawkeyes men’s basketball Twitter account, noting that the tickets have been purchased under false pretenses and would be given instead to the Boys and Girls Club of Cedar Rapids.

The Krush — who weren’t mentioned by name in the tweet — will receive a full refund but won’t be on hand at “a sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena this Saturday,” Iowa officials wrote.

“The Iowa athletics department became aware of a discounted group ticket order for the Iowa-Illinois men’s basketball game on behalf of an Illinois chapter of the Boys and Girls Club,” the statement read. “In following up with that organization, it became clear this was not factual. When contacting the individual who made the original ticket order, they admitted to falsely ordering tickets under the non-profit organization.”

The Krush called the news “disappointing” but added: “We take it as a great compliment that the Orange Krush is a strong enough section to be so feared that an opposing athletic department is willing to sacrifice $5,400 and ruin a sellout in order to turn us away.

“(Iowa athletic director) Gary Barta and staff, we issue great thanks to all of you for the adoration you have shown the Orange Krush through your cowardice.”



2023 Senior Bowl: Trio of edge rushers among prospects with most to gain, Max Duggan’s draft stock could slide

With prospects in the Senior Bowl, there’s never any questions about facing less than top competition. The all-star event provides an awesome opportunity for prospects to showcase their skills against the best senior talent entering the NFL Draft. Without fail, every year, a handful of players rise boards while others see their stock drop due to what transpires on the field during practices and the game held in Mobile, Alabama.

Who has the most to win this week? What about the most to lose? Let’s review.

Most To Gain

Keion White, EDGE, Georgia Tech

White is an oversized defensive end with first-round pass-rusher flashes. But that’s just it — consistency wasn’t a staple of his game at Georgia Tech. At the Senior Bowl, one-on-one battles between defensive linemen and blockers are all the rage, and they usually favor the defenders given how much space there is to operate. This event is primed for White to flourish and drop jaws of evaluators while doing so given his thickness, power, and hand-work talent.

Tyson Bagent, QB, Shepherd

This is a down quarterback class for the Senior Bowl. Period. That means Bagent, the quarterback from Division II Shepherd, has a magnificent chance to sixteen some eyes of scouts and media members more so than one from a lower-level passer would. At just under 6-3 and almost 220 pounds, Bagent is one of the largest quarterbacks in Mobile this week.

Dylan Horton, EDGE, TCU

Horton remarkably managed 48 pressures on just over 400 pass-rush snaps in 2022 despite efficiently rushing as an end in a three-man front in TCU’s famed 3-3-5 defense. There were not many opportunities from a wide alignment for the sleek, 6-foot-4, nearly 260-pound rusher. In Mobile, Horton will be given more opportunities to rush the passer — even in one-on-ones — in a more classic sense. That opportunity alone makes Horton an easy selection here.

Andrei Iosivas, WR, Princeton

Any Ivy League Senior Bowl participant will get the nod from me in this section every year. Iosivas is precisely the type of prospect who makes the Senior Bowl such an awesome event. We know he rocked against Ivy League competition, as he had over 100 grabs and 1,600 yards with 12 receiving touchdowns over the past two seasons. Now let’s see how he fares against NFL talent from the Power 5 conferences. At nearly 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds with serious vertical speed, Iosivas has NFL-caliber size and speed.

Andre Carter II, EDGE, Army

Carter was as unblockable as Aidan Hutchinson in 2021. No question about it. Carter tallied 59 pressures on just 293 pass-rushing snaps, good for a ridiculous 20.1% pressure-creation rate. Then, in 2022, defenses dedicated copious amounts of attention to him on Army’s defensive line. Doubles and chips galore. Carter still generated a pressure 13.2% of the time. At 6-foot-6 and 252 pounds with vines for arms, there’s plenty to like from a physical perspective with Carter. If he can collapse the pocket like he did in 2021, he’ll cement himself in the first round. He’s that talented.

Evan Hull, RB, Northwestern

Hull hardly felt the spotlight in 2022 on a 1-11 Northwestern team after a rocky 3-9 campaign the year before. But if wins aren’t a quarterback stat, then they certainly aren’t a running back stat. Hull is an absolute joy to watch on film. Sudden, choppy steps, outstanding vision, impressive contact balance, and exceptional comfort as a receiver — Hull’s game was tailor-made for the NFL in Evanston, Illinois. I’m looking forward to watching him operate among top-tier talent at the Senior Bowl.

Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State

Musgrave flies, erupts and explodes down the football field. Use whatever similar word you’d like. And he’s not one of those tall receivers masquerading as a tight end, either. At over 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, he has serious NFL tight end size. He’s featured in this portion of the article because the Oregon State star only played in two games in 2022 due to a knee injury, which apparently he’s completely recovered from because he’s taken part — and demonstrated his blazing speed — during the first two days of practice in Mobile.

Most To Lose

Jammie Robinson, DB, Florida State

Robinson played a unique, safety-linebacker role at Florida State and looked tremendously fast to the football his entire career with the Seminoles. At under 5-foot-11 and 194 pounds, he’s actually on the small side for the safety spot, particularly if he’s going to roam in the box as a nickel linebacker or strong safety. Robinson will have to be very dynamic during team work and the game itself to provide some evidence to scouts and GMs that he can live in the box at the next level.

Max Duggan, QB, TCU

Duggan had a remarkable season at TCU; we all know that. He launched on-target long balls all season and was arguably the toughest quarterback in college football in the open field or even in the pocket. Take plenty of hits and continued to get up. He won’t necessarily be able to show off his trademark ruggedness at the Senior Bowl, and at 6-foot-1 and 204 pounds, the TCU icon doesn’t have the body typically thought to handle that type of beating in the NFL.

Elijah Higgins, WR, Stanford

The Senior Bowl favors small, quick-twitch route-running extraordinaires, particularly in the receiver-cornerback one-on-one drills. Of course, during the week of practices, there’s not tackling to the ground. At 6-foot-3 and nearly 230 pounds, Higgins’ greatest selling point as a prospect is his large running back frame and contact balance he showcases after the catch. This isn’t really an event made for his type at the receiver spot.


Eagles vs. Chiefs prediction, spread, line, odds, start time: Super Bowl 57 picks from NFL model on 17-6 roll

The Philadelphia Eagles will attempt to set the franchise record for total victories in a season when they face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 57 on Sunday, Feb. 12. Philadelphia (16-3) recorded the most regular-season wins in team history with 14 and has matched the club mark for combined wins, which was achieved during a 2017 campaign that concluded with its first Super Bowl title. Kansas City (16-3) also can establish a new franchise record for combined victories after equaling its total from two years ago. The Chiefs are making their third Super Bowl appearance in four years, a stretch that began when they ended their 50-year championship drought in 2019.

Kickoff from State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. is set for 6:30 p.m. ET. Philadelphia is a 1.5-point favorite in the latest Eagles vs. Chiefs odds from Caesars Sportsbook, while the over/under for total points scored is 50.5. Before locking in any Chiefs vs. Eagles picks, make sure you see the latest NFL predictions from SportsLine’s proven projection model.

The model, which simulates every NFL game 10,000 times, is up well over $7,000 for $100 players on top-rated NFL picks since its inception. The model enters the 2023 Super Bowl on an incredible 163-113 run on top-rated NFL picks that dates back to the 2017 season. It is also on a 17-6 roll on top-rated NFL picks since Week 7 of this season and identified both the Eagles and Chiefs as its value Super Bowl picks at the beginning of the 2023 NFL playoffs.

The model ranked in the Top 10 on NFLPickWatch four of the past six years on straight-up NFL picks and beat more than 94% of CBS Sports Football Pick’em players four times during that span. Anyone who has followed it is way up.

Now, the model has set its sights on Eagles vs. Chiefs in Super Bowl 57. You can visit SportsLine now to see the picks. Here are the NFL odds from Caesars Sportsbook and trends for Chiefs vs. Eagles:

  • Eagles vs. Chiefs spread: Philadelphia -1.5
  • Eagles vs. Chiefs over/under: 50.5 points
  • Eagles vs. Chiefs money line: Philadelphia -125, Kansas City +105
  • PHI: Eagles are 7-2 against the spread in their last nine playoff games
  • KC: Chiefs have covered in their last three meetings with Philadelphia
  • Eagles vs. Chiefs picks: See picks here

Why the Eagles can cover

Jalen Hurts had an MVP-type season in 2022 as he threw for 3,701 yards and 22 touchdowns while running for 760 yards and 13 scores, which was tied for second-most in the NFL. The 24-year-old suffered a shoulder injury that sidelined him for two games late in the season and hasn’t been asked to do much in the 2023 NFL playoffs thus far. He has made significant contributions nonetheless, making a pair of TD passes against the New York Giants in the Divisional Round and rushing for a touchdown in both of Philadelphia’s contests.

Hurts has set the NFL record for most rushing scores by a quarterback in a season, surpassing the previous mark of 14 set in 2011 by Cam Newton. The Eagles led the league with 32 rushing TDs during the regular season and have added seven in the postseason, breaking the league record of 38 held by the 1924 Frankford Yellow Jackets. Miles Sanders and Boston Scott both have run for two touchdowns in the NFL playoffs 2023, while Kenneth Gainwell, who leads the team with 160 rushing yards on 26 carries, has scored once on the ground. See which team to pick here.

Why the Chiefs can cover

Patrick Mahomes’ mobility was limited in the AFC Championship Game due to a high-ankle sprain, but his arm was in strong form, as he threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns in the 23-20 victory against Cincinnati. The 27-year-old, who led the NFL with 41 TD passes during the regular season, has made multiple scoring throws in six of his last seven contests. Conversely, Mahomes has thrown just one interception over his last six outings.

In 13 career playoff games, Mahomes has completed 66.7% of his pass attempts for 3,902 yards with 32 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He will try to redeem himself after a subpar effort in Super Bowl 55, a 31-9 loss to the Buccaneers in which he was 26-of-49 for 270 yards with two picks and no TD tosses. Mahomes is hoping to come up with a performance similar to the one he had a year earlier, when he threw for two scores and ran for another en route to being named Super Bowl MVP in the Chiefs’ 31-20 win against the 49ers. See which team to pick here.

How to make Eagles vs. Chiefs picks

SportsLine’s model is leaning Under the total, calling for 48 combined points. The model also says one side of the spread cashes in over 50% of simulations. You can only see the model’s picks at SportsLine.

So who wins Chiefs vs. Eagles in Super Bowl 57? And which side of the spread cashes more than 50% of the time? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Chiefs vs. Eagles spread to be all over in the 2023 Super Bowl, all from the advanced model that is up well over $7,000 on its top-rated NFL picks, and find out.


As sluggish NBA trade market nears deadline, history has shown a player’s desired trade destination may not matter

The NBA trade market continues to hum along quietly, with little chatter of substantive deals gaining actual development. There are frameworks being passed around front offices and role players being made available, but this transaction landscape ahead of the Feb. 9 buzzer is desperately lacking significant talent on the block, in the eyes of lead executives, particularly for teams that are searching to add a true All-Star into their respective builds.

That is why someone like Zach LaVine, the Bulls’ two-time All-Star who’s in the first season of a five-year, $215 million maximum contract, would have no shortage of suitors if Chicago decided to move the 27-year-old guard before next Thursday’s deadline — despite some concern about his recovery process from offseason arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. The Lakers, Heat, Knicks and Mavericks have consistently been mentioned by league personnel as holding motivations to land LaVine if the time does happen. Portland also showed interest in signing LaVine last offseason, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Atlanta loomed as a potential LaVine destination before the Hawks splurged for Dejounte Murray.

For any team holding onto hope for LaVine’s availability, or that Bradley Beal will one day ask out of Washington, or whether Trae Young ever seeks a trade from the Hawks, it might actually be wise for stars to avoid creating a proverbial list of destination teams . Recent NBA history seems to suggest that when such a player expresses his preferences for his next employer, those very teams often come up empty.

James Harden landed in Brooklyn after asking out of Houston, but told reporters upon his 2022 arrival in Philadelphia that he always preferred joining the 76ers. Anthony Davis calling his shot in 2019 — pinpointing the Lakers with LeBron James and then landing in Los Angeles — might be the only clear example in modern memory of an All-Star directly reaching his desired location by trade request.

Carmelo Anthony got his wish of joining the Knicks … way back in 2011. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

You have to go back to 2011 to find another, when Carmelo Anthony was traded to New York as he always wanted, and yet the Nuggets nearly sent him to the then-New Jersey Nets instead. Chris Paul punched his ticket to Houston in 2017 not by requesting a trade but by opting into the final year of his contract, which helped facilitate a package of seven players and a first-round pick to the Clippers in return.

The following fall in 2018, when Jimmy Butler requested a trade away from the Timberwolves, Butler had told Minnesota officials he wanted to be dealt to the Clippers or the Knicks, with the Nets listed as a third preference. And yet to Philadelphia he went.

Brooklyn, Los Angeles and New York, one may recall, were stacking their decks for 2019 free agency, focused on clearing cap space to add two maximum-contract level players. Word of Kawhi Leonard’s interest in heading to Southern California that summer had permeated the league, certainly influencing Butler’s eye toward the Clippers and weighing heavily over Leonard’s own 2018 trade request from San Antonio.

At that time, teams that coveted Leonard, such as Boston and Philadelphia, worried about Leonard’s impending flight risk that following summer — he indeed bolted to the Clippers during the 2019 offseason. Few suitors were therefore willing to meet the Spurs’ asking price for Leonard, and the Finals MVP, of course, wound up traded from San Antonio to Toronto, about as far from Los Angeles as Leonard could have hoped. Don’t forget Paul George, Leonard’s ultimate running mate with the Clippers, was dealt from Indiana to Oklahoma City in 2017 after he’d also communicated plans to flee for Los Angeles when he reached the open market.

It took gap years in temporary locations for George and Leonard to both reach the city they wanted to call home. And the Lakers, of course, missed out on both All-Stars, despite obvious intrigue from George and Leonard. What would have happened to James’ tenure in Hollywood if Davis had chosen to join Kyrie Irving in Boston instead?

The All-Star point guard was indeed recruiting Davis to the Celtics after Irving requested a trade from the Cavaliers in 2017. Irving did not have Boston on the list of preferred teams his representation had delivered to Cleveland leadership either. However, that omission was by design. According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, while Irving’s then-agent Jeffrey Wechsler informed Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert that his client preferred to be dealt to either the Spurs, Knicks, Timberwolves or Heat, the list intentionally excluded the Celtics — the Cleveland franchise had just faced in that previous season’s Eastern Conference finals.

Irving, sources told Yahoo Sports, considered the Cavaliers to be in flux. Cleveland was in conversation with former Pistons guard Chauncey Billups to become his next general manager after Gilbert and lead executive David Griffin couldn’t agree to terms for a new contract. Irving and his representation were already hearing credible rumblings around Cleveland and James’ camp that he too was eyeing Los Angeles in free agency following that 2017-18 campaign. Plus, the Celtics had draft capital and ready-made veteran players to send to the Cavs in return.

Once Wechsler secured permission from Gilbert to contact opposing teams, sources said, he and Celtics president Danny Ainge engaged in frequent dialogue about Irving’s trade market. This is not to characterize Irving-to-Boston as some elaborate, clandestine operation. Cleveland’s front office valued the 2018 Nets draft pick that Boston held — by way of the fabled 2013 Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade to Brooklyn — as a top-five pick in that upcoming draft, sources told Yahoo Sports. The Cavaliers considered that selection the premier draft asset that was offered to Cleveland as part of the incoming packages for Irving. The Celtics, though, would not have been as emboldened to trade for Irving, himself two years away from reaching unrestricted free agency, without learning of his untold interest in Boston first.

Lo and behold, after those two seasons in Massachusetts, Irving of course departed the Celtics in favor of teaming with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn during 2019 free agency after the Knicks were once considered the frontrunners to land the pair of All-Stars. New York famously dealt Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks ahead of that 2019 trade deadline after Porzingis, then a one-time All-Star, met with Knicks officials and requested to be moved. Parting ways with Porzingis then, and clearing a road to a massive amount of cap space, signaled New York’s confidence it could secure two max-level players like Irving and Durant.

Porzingis’ agent at the time, Andy Miller, also proffered the list of preferred next teams for his client: the Nets, Raptors, Heat, Clippers and Spurs. “Dallas was top six, for me,” Porzings told Yahoo Sports. It does not appear that the Mavericks’ absence from his communicated group of desired teams was as intentional as Irving’s with Boston. In this instance, Porzingis felt unappreciated in New York and was merely looking for a fresh start, and the 7-foot-3 center then recalled carrying out directions from Miller that he didn’t necessarily agree with. He did not want to meet with Knicks leadership and awkwardly demand a trade. He did not want to be the center of a Midtown-based news cycle, where a sweepstakes unfolded for his services.

Dallas Mavericks center Kristaps Porzingis (6) walks the floor during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in Dallas, Wednesday, Jan.  19, 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Kristaps Porzingis had an interesting experience getting traded to the Mavs. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

“Just the way things escalated to get there, it’s just not my style. It’s completely not my style,” Porzingis said. “I would have done things completely different if I had the mind that I have now. But you’re young and you trust people, and people do things for you or it seems like you’re doing things people are telling you. You are doing the things, but it’s somebody else’s mind.”

Brooklyn’s front office discussed the possibility of trading for Porzingis “ad nauseam,” said a Nets staffer at that time. Toronto held bonafide interest in Porzingis as well, sources said, which carried all the way through the 2022 trade deadline. The Clippers were preparing for their splashy 2019 summer, and Los Angeles’ front office, spearheaded by Lawrence Frank — also a longtime client and close friend of Miller’s — was interested in Porzingis, too. And still it was Dallas, with a quiet mind toward pairing budding superstar Luka Doncic with an All-Star counterpart, that swept in under the radar to land Porzingis without any preliminary fanfare. “No matter how it was going to be done, it was probably going to be talked about,” Porzingis said. “But you end up with a team nobody was talking about.”

Buyers beware. Even this past summer, when the Jazz put All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell on the market, Mitchell’s known determination to join New York, coupled with the Knicks’ obvious yearning for Mitchell, seemed to have somehow derailed New York’s approach to landing Mitchell. Utah personnel maintain that the Knicks’ approach for Mitchell suggested New York felt that the franchise was negotiating against itself, sources told Yahoo Sports, because no rival suitor could offer more draft capital and a more favorable destination for Mitchell. Even Cavaliers front office members didn’t believe they were truly in the running for Mitchell, sources said, until Utah redialed Cleveland and moved forward with its package of five years of Cavs draft capital, Lauri Markkanen and Collin Sexton — the player Cleveland ultimately selected with the 2018 first-rounder it received for Irving.

Mitchell has thrived with the Cavaliers, most recently being named an All-Star starter. Leonard lifted the Raptors to a championship. That’s the thing about worldly basketball talents. The best players in this game seem to thrive so long as the ball finds their hands, no matter their location. There’s no telling which team will pounce on the opportunity to land their services, even if it’s not the apple of that player’s eye.


Purdue has ‘best team, best player, best coach’

WEST LAFAYETTE − Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry was asked to provide an opening statement.

Keep in mind, the Nittany Lions are a good team, one that just thumped Michigan by 22 points last Sunday.

But on this night, try as they might, they could do nothing to stop the top-ranked team in the country.

Purdue 80, Penn State 60. Endgame. On a night where Shrewsberry said his team didn’t play poorly.

“This opening statement is going to be very short, very succinct and very to the point,” Shrewsberry said with a stoic look on his face. “Best team in the country. Best player in the country. Best coach in the country.”


College football recruiting storylines to follow in the 2024 class

The 2023 recruiting cycle is behind us – with the exception of No. 1 ranked tight end Duce Robinson who elected not to put pen to paper or even commit during Wednesday’s National Signing Day – allowing us to turn our attention to a 2024 class that’s already off and running.

Let’s get up to speed on what’s already happening.

Georgia Tops The 247Sports Recruiting Rankings

Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs staff have 10 early commits headlined by two five-stars in top-ranked cornerback Ellis Robinson IV and the No. 1 tight end in the land Landen Thomas. The class also includes Top247 defensive backs Peyton Woodyard and Jaylen HeywardTop247 linebacker Demarcus RiddickTop247 receiver Ny Carr and Top247 running back Dwight Phillips Jr. and his 4.2 speed in the 40-yard dash. Those prospects are all 247Sports Composite Top100 players.

As Smart and company are positioned well for a third No. 1 ranked recruiting class since they arrived in Athens, they are in great shape to ultimately secure future verbals from the nation’s top-ranked overall recruit in five-star quarterback Dylan Raiola247Sports No. 2 ranked prospect in safety/receiver KJ Bolden and the No. 1 linebacker in the land in Sammy Brown, although there will be plenty of competition for all three of them. More on Raiola in a second. Bolden is also high on Ohio State, Clemson and Alabama among others while the Tigers, Tennessee, Buckeyes and Oklahoma are a few other contenders for Brown.

With the players Georgia is in on, this could very well end up the highest-ranked recruiting class in the 247Sports era dating back to 2010. Texas A&M’s haul in 2022 is the current bar.

The Raiola sweepstakes

The Phoenix (Ariz.) Pinnacle passer thought he had found his future home in Ohio State, committing to the Buckeyes back in May. By December that didn’t feel right any long and Raiola reopened his recruitment.

Georgia has quickly emerged as the 247Sports Crystal Ball favorite but Raiola is no lock to end up in Athens. Nebraska, USC and Oregon are a few other major contenders.

UGA was the first program to prioritize Raiola and they were the early favorite before things shifted to Ohio State. He has a long-standing relationship with Smart, Todd Monken and company and has been to campus several times. He looks forward to returning in March, loves the program’s winning pedigree and culture, thinks Monken’s offense would prepare him for the next level and a chance to play in the SEC for the nation’s premier program is also exciting. Raiola’s older sister plays volleyball at TCU and the family attended the Bulldogs National Title game win over the Horned Frogs.

Nebraska will not be out-recruited by anyone for Raiola. New head coach Matt Rhule was in the area to see Raiola two weeks ago and last week all nine of his assistants (including Raiola’s uncle Donovan who is the offensive line coach) went by to show him how much time and effort they’re going to put into recruiting him to his father’s alma matter. The elder Raiola Dominic was an All-American, Rimington Trophy winner (given to the best center in college football) and his number is retired in Lincoln. The younger Raiola has already started to click Rhule and offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield and the whole family is excited about the trajectory of the program.

lincoln riley and the Trojans had Raiola back on campus last weekend and Riley’s track record developing quarterbacks, engineering high-octane offenses and just the relationship he has with the USC head man has the Pac 12 program in prime position. This past weekend was about getting Raiola’s mom on campus for the first time and she loved it.

Raiola has several relationships with folks in the building at Oregon and with that the Ducks are near the top of the list as well.

More quarterback dominoes

Five of 247Sports Top10 ranked quarterbacks are committed to Julian Sayin (No. 4) to Alabama, CJ Carr (No. 5) to Notre Dame, DJ Lagway (No. 6) to Florida, most recently Austin Mack (No. 7) to Washington (announcing on Wednesday) and Luke Kromenhoek (No. 9) to Florida State. In this past cycle we saw four of our Top10 passers decommit for various reasons so future movement with one of these guys should never surprise. Sayin in particular already has Ohio State and Miami pushing hard but he’s saying all the right things about his pledge to Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.

The No. 2 ranked quarterback in the country Jadyn Davis has at times looked to be close to coming off the board and Michigan continues to trend for the North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year. Beyond the Wolverines, the five-star continues to have high interest in programs like Clemson, Ohio State, Penn State, North Carolina and Tennessee.

After a wave of visits, the nation’s No. 8 quarterback Walker White could be close to coming off the board with places like Auburn, Baylor and Clemson well positioned.

The quarterback that programs seem to be buzzing about now is Air Noland out of Fairburn (Ga.) Langston Hughes who threw for 4,095 yards and 55 touchdowns in a state championship junior campaign. Auburn, Miami and Texas A&M have built some nice momentum with the No. 11 quarterback in our rankings, and an offer from Alabama during a visit this last weekend also moved the needle with the talented lefty.

This quarterback class also includes Top247 recruit isaac wilson (No. 12 in the position rankings nationally), the younger brother of New York Jets signal-caller Zach Wilson.

Other quarterbacks that have made early declarations include Ryan Puglisi to Georgia (the Bulldogs would like to sign two in 2024 after not taking one in 2023), dangerous dual-threat signal-caller Demond Williams to Ole Miss, four star Dante Reno to South Carolina and four-star james resar to Iowa.

LSU has their guy in Colin Hurley who has reclassified from 2025 and Trey Owens is the one that’s going to follow Arch Manning to Texas and is excited to compete in the Longhorns very talented position room.

Programs having fast starts

LSU has eight commits and ranks No. 2 nationally with the class jewel being Pearland (Texas) Shadow Creek safety Maurice Williams Jr. who could blossom into a terrific linebacker on the next level. Brian Kelly and the Tigers finished No. 6 in 2023 and are looking to sign another one of America’s best classes coming off an appearance in the SEC title game.

Florida State won 10 games for the first time since 2016 and the momentum is carrying over to the trail where the Seminoles have nine early commits and sit at No. 3 in the standings. It’s a class that in addition to the talented Kromenhoek, includes five-star running back Kameron Davis and a pair of dynamic receivers in Camdon Frier and Tawaski Abrams. FSU hasn’t finished with a Top10 class since 2017.

Carr headlines a Notre Dame class ranked No. 4 nationally. Marcus Freeman and the Irish have put together three-straight Top10 hauls heading into this cycle and look poised for another.

Nick Saban has had 10 No. 1 classes since coming to Tuscaloosa and they’ll be in the mix again in 2024, strongly positioned at No. 5 right now. Sayin’ is the jewel with special talent in cornerback Jaylen Mbakwe also in the fold.

More Notable Items

Texas Tech nearly signed a Top25 class in 2023 finishing No. 26 in the first full cycle of the Joey McGuire era and the Red Raiders are out fast in 2024 sitting at No. 6 including a verbal from four-star running back Johann Cardenas. Duke is another using the momentum of a strong first season under a new regime and have five early commits and ranked No. 14 early in the cycle.

Ohio State has no surprise secured a verbal from top-ranked receiver Jeremiah Smith.

Shane Beamer and South Carolina closed 2023 extremely strong with a signature from five-star Nyckoles Harbor, putting the finishing touches on a haul ranked No. 16 nationally. They are No. 10 early in 2024 and with the prospects on the board like America’s No. 2 offensive tackle Josiah Thompson they could be tracking for the program’s best class in our network’s history.


The Last Fight for the Last Emperor

In the fight game, you can never be 100 percent sure, but Fedor Emelianenko—arguably the greatest MMA heavyweight of all time—says that this weekend’s clash against Ryan Bader will be his last. He said something similar back in 2012 after he polished off Pedro Rizzo, but that retirement ended up being nothing more than a three-year hiatus. This time, at the advanced age of 46, he really seems to mean it.

Fedor’s gloves are finally coming off on Saturday night in Los Angeles at Bellator 290, signaling the end of an era in MMA. Want to put things in perspective? When Tom Brady debuted for the New England Patriots nearly 23 years ago, Fedor already had three professional fights under his belt, the third of which kicked off his godlike run in Japan. Young Brady lasted until the first Wednesday of February in 2023 before calling it quits (again), while Fedor made it all the way to the first Saturday to do the same (again). Another quiet victory for “the Last Emperor.”

What can you say about Fedor’s mostly understated, particularly improbable run? That reign saw him go on a 28-fight unbeaten streak, win titles in PRIDE FC and Strikeforce, stand up against giants like the 7-foot-2 Hong-man Choi, clobber ruthless opponents like Mirko Cro Cop, survive slams from Kevin Randleman , and take out “Big Nog” Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, all while the yakuza stood smoking in the shadows of the Saitama Super Arena.

Part of what makes Fedor such an alluring figure is that he’s a throwback to places and times we can’t fully understand, this prehistoric MMA fighter that fans can study in the same way ichthyologists study the gar. Fedor was fighting when MMA was still a barely sanctioned taboo in the United States, a full year before Zuffa purchased the UFC and began to change the perception of the sport. He predates the unified rules. Weight classes. Even Dana Freaking White, who was still an aerobics instructor when Fedor was laying hands on poor Levon Lagvilava at Rings out in far-off Tula Oblast.

At the same time, he’s this displaced holdover from a Dostoyevsky novel, a sober-faced 19th-century Russian who is built of indestructible emotional gray matter. He’s always been stingy with words, and—as far as public records show—has never raised his voice in anger. A God-fearing man, he’s stoic in ways that don’t make sense in the age of TikTok. He possesses reserves of power that his not-all-that-intimidating frame can’t possibly budget. He’s what comes to mind when you hear a word like “Siberia.” Just profoundly cold.

There will never be another Fedor Emelianenko, the greatest mixed martial artist to never compete in the UFC. His demeanor before a fight has always been enough to cast spells. With the cameras swirling and some colossal heavyweight or another mashing their fists together with clear intent to do harm, he’s never been anything other than unnervingly serene. It’s like he’s deadened to the excitement and hype of mortal fools. I’m telling you, that shit goes fathoms deep. For more than two decades Fedor’s had a cathedral calm that plays beautifully against the hysteria, the bombast, and the pyrotechnics of fight promotion. It’s why he’s one of the most beloved fighters to ever do it.

I can still remember being at the Affliction event he headlined back in 2008, when he choked out the 6-foot-8 former UFC champion Tim Sylvia in 36 seconds, as easily as one would subdue a drunk outside a college bar.

Affliction thought it was a good idea to have Megadeth perform at intervals to rev up the crowd in Anaheim that night, yet the band was nothing next to the magnitude of pure power that Fedor possessed. Fedor went harder than anyone. He had more wattage, more amplitude, more payoff. He didn’t need to talk smack to his opponents. He was a soft-spoken reckoning that turned live events into near-religious experiences. When Brett Rogers wobbled him in his Strikeforce debut in Chicago, a hush fell over the crowd that was immediately followed by a collective groan. Would the mighty Fedor fall?

Of course not. Fedor survived the onslaught like he did countless times in Japan and knocked Rogers out in the second round. It was as close to an out-of-body experience as I’ve had at a live sporting event. There was something cathartic about what we were witnessing. Even the pair of long-bearded orthodox priests whom Fedor traveled with from Stary Oskol were high-fiving each other as Fedor extended his unbeaten streak to an impossible 28 fights.

Fedor is a part of MMA’s history, its mystique, and probably a few of its regrets. We never did get to see him stand in there against Randy Couture during Couture’s title run in the mid-aughts, nor did we get to see him fight Brock Lesnar when Lesnar was breaking UFC pay-per-view records as his heavyweight champion. It’s a shame it didn’t happen. The UFC made attempts to sign him, but Fedor—who is tied to the Russian-based M-1 Global—never did see eye-to-eye with White and UFC brass.

Still, Fedor did things in MMA that may never be done again. He fought in times that can never be duplicated. He snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat like it was the game within the game. He didn’t even really try to evolve over the near quarter-century he competed. His game plan was to fight you, to knock you out, or to submit you, depending on how things went. I doubt he even knows what a gogoplata is. When presented a fancy menu, he was always happy to order a hamburger. Sometimes it looked like he didn’t have a plan at all, that he just intended to take your best punch and to figure out if you could take his.

Of course, in MMA nobody who fights 23 years comes out in mint condition, and that mindset would eventually catch up to him. Fedor lost and lost magnificently down the stretch. When he got submitted by Fabricio Werdum in San Jose, I saw people crying in the stands. The magic had run out. Did Werdum dupe him into that submission by playing hurt? Maybe, but when the reign finally ended, the talk of Fedor’s legacy picked up, because we knew where it ended. He had a decade-plus run where nobody could beat him.

After that he got just hammered by Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in what might have been the ugliest, most-lopsided beatdown of his career. He lost his next one to fellow PRIDE legend Dan Henderson, who drank a gallon of water just to make the minimum heavyweight. Then came some twilight fights against washed-up names like Jeff Monson and Rizzo, then the retirement, the return, and the robbery of a decision the partisan judges gave him against Fabio Maldonado in Russia. He has been knocked out twice since returning, the last one coming live on Paramount Network against Bader—the man he faces once again in his retirement fight.

Will a section of the audience watch through their fingers as Fedor trades blows with Bader? Definitely. He’s 46 years old, a little slower, a little flabbier. There are very few graceful exits in MMA, and as we’ve seen with legends like Frankie Edgar and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua recently, retirement fights have a way of turning melancholy fast. Both were brutally knocked out and unceremoniously push-broomed off the stage.

But when the great Russian makes that walk one last time at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, he’ll be carrying a great deal of MMA history with him. There will be arguments as to who the best heavyweight of all time is, and names like Francis Ngannou and Stipe Miocic will get the loudest claims.

Yet anyone who was there will not have to raise their voice to be heard when they say the name, Fedor Emelianenko.