Category Archives: Sports

Chuck Pagano to retire, while Chicago Bears likely to retain Matt Nagy, Ryan Pace

Chicago Bears defensive coordinator and former Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano has decided to retire, league sources told ESPN, confirming multiple reports.

The Bears are likely to keep head coach Matt Nagy and general manger Ryan Pace, sources said.

Pagano, 60, spent just two seasons in Chicago after a six-year run as head coach of the Colts. He was hired by the Bears on Jan. 11, 2019, to replace decorated defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who left to become head coach of the Denver Broncos.

In Pagano’s first season, the Bears’ defense lead the NFC in points permitted per game (18.6) and ranked second in the conference in net yards per game (324.1).

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Chicago’s defense again appeared to be the club’s strength in the early parts of the 2020 season, but the group’s performance leveled off as the year wore on. Chicago ended the regular season 15th in run defense and 11th versus the pass as the Bears (8-9) backed into the playoffs in Week 17.

Chicago was eliminated from the postseason by the New Orleans Saints in a 21-9 loss Sunday in the Superdome.

In six seasons as head coach of the Colts, Pagano went 53-43 in the regular season and 3-3 in the playoffs.

The fates of Nagy and Pace had been unclear after the Bears lost eight of 11 to end the year and concluded 1-7 versus playoff teams in 2020.

Nagy — named NFL Coach of the Year in 2018 — has guided the Bears to two postseason berths in the past three years. Pace just completed his sixth year as Chicago’s general manager.

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Sebastian Korda, Hubert Hurkacz advance to Delray Beach Open final

Building on momentum from the French Open, American Sebastian Korda has reached his first ATP Tour final.

Korda, the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, defeated Cameron Norrie of Britain 6-3, 7-5 in the Delray Beach Open semifinals Tuesday night.

Korda’s opponent Wednesday will be No. 4-seeded Hubert Hurkacz, who defeated American qualifier Christian Harrison 7-6 (4), 6-4.

Korda, 20, is a former world No. 1 junior who earned his first three tour-level wins in September at the French Open to reach the round of 16.

“For me the biggest thing was getting my consistency up,” the 6-foot-5 Florida native said. “Before, I would miss balls I don’t miss now. It’s super big for me to be playing these matches, and getting a feel for my body and growing into my body.”

Korda trained in December with Andre Agassi, and they talked by phone after his latest triumph.

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“He’s super pumped,” said Korda, who arrived at Delray Beach ranked 119th. In his first career quarterfinal, he beat No. 2-seeded John Isner on Monday.

Against Norrie, Korda squandered two match points serving at 5-4 and lost the game, but broke back and then easily served out the match. He lost only seven points on his first serve.

Hurkacz’s only other career final came in 2019, when he won at Winston-Salem to become the second Polish tour-level champion in the Open era.

He’s ranked 35th, and his success at Delray Beach means he might be seeded at next month’s Australian Open. That would permit  him to avoid such title contenders as Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic in the first round, he noted.

“Obviously it’s a step forward, and I want to be playing better and better,” Hurkacz said. “It’s a great start of the year.”

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Jokic, Nuggets win easily again, rout Knicks 114-89

Nikola Jokic had 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in another short night, and the Denver Nuggets reached .500 for the first time this campaign with a 114-89 triumph over the New York Knicks on Sunday.

The Nuggets opened 1-4 after reaching the Western Conference finals last season but have now answered with four wins in five games.

The last two were easy. The Nuggets pulled away from the seven-man 76ers in the third quarter and rested their starters in the fourth of a 115-103 victory Saturday. They jumped on the Knicks much earlier Sunday and it was never a game after halftime.

This was the first time the Nuggets permitted fewer than 100 points this season. “I think our defense in the last five has been a lot better than it was to begin the season in the first five games,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “A marked improvement.”

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Gary Harris added 14 points for the Nuggets, who got only nine from star guard Jamal Murray.

“I think Jokic puts a lot of pressure on you, so you can’t let your guard down for a second,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau stated. “And I thought we got in a hole early and when you give a team like that that type of confidence, it’s very difficult to come back on them.”

Julius Randle had 29 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for the Knicks, which the team said made him the only player other than Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson to have at least 200 points, 115 rebounds and 70 assists in his team’s first 10 games of a season.

But Randle had little help with nobody else over 12 points as the Knicks dropped their second straight following a three-game winning streak. They were held to an anemic 89 points in both games.

Denver led 28-21 after one, then made its first six shots of the second with its reserves on the floor to open a 40-22 lead on JaMychal Green’s layup. The lead ballooned to 22 late in the first half before the Nuggets took a 59-38 advantage to the break.

“We huddle up before the tipoff and just say let’s be better than the other team’s bench,” reserve Monte Morris said. “Let’s go out there and try to bring the energy and if the starters start slow let’s pick them up ,and if they start fast let’s sustain whatever they got going on.”

Jokic had eight points while playing the whole third quarter and the Nuggets led by as much as 30 in the fourth.

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Dallas Cowboys fire defensive coordinator Mike Nolan

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will not be returning to the Dallas Cowboys for the 2021 campaign, the team revealed Friday.

Last season, the Cowboys (6-10) allowed the most points in franchise history (473) and concluded 31st in the league in run defense. In the season-ending loss to the New York Giants, they allowed 23 points, including 20 in the first half, to an offense that had not scored more than 19 in five weeks.

The unit played better down the stretch with 12 takeaways in the final four matches after getting just 11 in the first 12 games, but that was aided in part by facing backup quarterbacks in Cincinnati, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

“I am appreciative of my relationships with both Mike and Jim, and I am grateful for the contributions that both of them made to our team under difficult circumstances in 2020,” coach Mike McCarthy said in a statement. “These are never easy decisions to make, and we wish them, and their families, the very best in the future.”

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Speaking on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas at different times during the season, owner and general manager Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones lamented the jarring scheme switch — from a 4-3 look to a hybrid look — made by the Cowboys during an offseason in which the coaches could only meet virtually with the players.

Unable to get hands-on experience until the start of an abbreviated training camp, the Cowboys defense struggled badly. They finished 23rd in yards per game (31st vs. the run, 11th vs. the pass) and 28th in points (29.6). The Cowboys allowed 69 plays of 20 yards or more, including 51 passes and 18 runs.

In the three other times the Cowboys allowed a franchise record in points, the organization either made a scheme modification or a coaching change.

After allowing 436 points in 2010, Jason Garrett was named the full-time head coach after taking over for Wade Phillips at midseason, and he hired Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator. In 2013, they allowed 432 points in Monte Kiffin’s first year as coordinator, and he was replaced by Rod Marinelli. After giving up 405 points in 2004, Bill Parcells switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme but kept Mike Zimmer as his coordinator.

McCarthy and Nolan have a long background together.

In 2005, Nolan hired McCarthy as his offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers, which helped propel him to earning the Green Bay Packers head job a year later.

But the defense could not find its footing. While they suffered some injuries to Leighton Vander Esch (collarbone, ankle), Trysten Hill (knee) and Trevon Diggs (foot), they were not hit as hard as the Cowboys’ offense.

Their bigger free-agent pickups were either hurt in training camp (defensive lineman Gerald McCoy), did not make the team out of camp (safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix), were traded (Everson Griffen) or were released because of poor play in the middle of the season (defensive tackle Dontari Poe, cornerback Daryl Worley).

If the Cowboys look in-house for a substitute, George Edwards spent the year as a senior defensive assistant. He was Zimmer’s defensive coordinator from 2014 to 2019.

But the first question that must be answered is what type of scheme the Cowboys want to use. In Green Bay, McCarthy employed a 3-4 scheme for most of his tenure. If he wants to continue with the hybrid look Nolan attempted to use, adding players to fit the scheme will be an offseason priority. In all but three years of his time in Green Bay, the Packers used a 3-4 scheme.

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New York Mets acquire Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco from Cleveland Indians

Francisco Lindor is moving to a new city and team that is willing to meet his salary demands.

The four-time All-Star shortstop — and one of baseball’s best all-around players — was traded Thursday by the Cleveland Indians along with pitcher Carlos Carrasco to the New York Mets, who have a new owner willing to spend at baseball’s highest levels.

“They did not come cheaply,” Mets president Sandy Alderson stated. “What we’re trying to do is create a new reality rather than deal with perception.”

The cash-strapped Indians sent Lindor and Carrasco to the Mets for infielders Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario, right-hander Josh Wolf and outfielder Isaiah Greene — a move Cleveland hopes will keep it competitive and capable of ending baseball’s longest World Series title drought.

Dealing Lindor, who will be eligible for free agency after the 2021 season, was inevitable for the midmarket Indians, who are unable to compete financially with MLB’s big spenders and dropped roughly $30 million in dealing two prominent players and fan favorites.

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“These are people we care about, not just players, and guys that loved the organization and have great memories here,” said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, who said he was in tears when he spoke with Lindor and Carrasco. “Trades like this are really tough. But it’s the right thing to do.”

For the Mets, landing Lindor is a home run and another major move by hedge fund owner Steven Cohen, who bought the team on Nov. 6 from the Wilpon and Katz families and has pledged to increase spending.

The 27-year-old Lindor can affect the game with his bat, glove and legs.

A two-time Gold Glove winner, he’s a career .285 hitter and has averaged 29 homers, 86 RBIs and 21 steals in his six major league seasons — all with the Indians, who drafted him in 2011 and developed him.

He has also been the face of the Indians franchise, with an infectious smile and joy for playing that has made him one of Cleveland’s most popular athletes. But he’s gone now, leaving the Indians without their best player and the team’s fans grumbling about owner Paul Dolan.

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Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey resigns

Veteran assistant coach Chan Gailey has resigned after one year as Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator, the team informed Wednesday morning.

This means the Dolphins will have a new offensive coordinator for the third consecutive season under coach Brian Flores as they continue to find the right scheme and playcaller to get the most out of rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

“I want to thank Chan for all of his hard work and dedication in what was a unique year,” Flores said in a statement. “He played an important role on the staff and in the development of our young roster. I wish him all the best.”

Gailey’s resignation comes less than 24 hours after Flores said he expected all of his assistants back for the 2021 season — barring any surprises. It’s unclear whether Gailey’s departure comes as a surprise or whether the team had been planning for this possibility.

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When Gailey was asked multiple times throughout the season whether he planned to return in 2021, the 69-year-old was noncommittal, commenting only that this was the most unusual season of his coaching career given the COVID-19 pandemic and its ripple effects.

Flores hired Gailey, who was a former head coach of the Bills and Cowboys, out of retirement in January 2020 to replace offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea.

The Dolphins will now start evaluating their own staff and possibly external candidates to find a new offensive coordinator. If Miami looks to promote internal options, tight ends coach George Godsey and running backs coach Eric Studesville are the top candidates.

Godsey took on an increased role coaching Tagovailoa over the second half of the campaign, and he was often seen breaking down the previous drive with the young quarterback on game days.

Tagovailoa went 6-3 as a starter, but all five of his interceptions came in the final four games, including three in the season-ending loss to the Bills.

Earlier this year, Flores also lauded Studesville as a “phenomenal coach, teacher and communicator” who has a future as an offensive coordinator and head coach.

The 2020 Dolphins finished 22nd in total offense (339 yards per game) and 15th in scoring (25.3 points per game). Gailey’s offense didn’t appear to bring out the most in Tagovailoa in their short time together. Now the 22-year-old will have a new playcaller and a full offseason to learn under him.

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Sam Querrey defends decision to breach COVID-19 protocols in Russia to protect family

American Sam Querrey, who was sanctioned by the ATP for breaching COVID-19 protocols at the St Petersburg Open in October, has defended his actions and said he did what he felt was right as a father and a husband.

Querrey left Russia in a private jet with his wife and baby son after all three tested positive for the virus before the beginning of the tournament, sneaking out of their hotel early in the morning without informing reception.

The ATP, the men’s governing body, handed the 33-year-old a suspended $20,000 fine which will be lifted if Querrey does not commit further breaches of health and safety protocols related to COVID-19 within a probationary six-month period.

“Again, we were very happy at the hotel,” Querrey told Sports Illustrated in an interview. “We were distancing ourselves. We weren’t around anyone, we were staying in the room, and never had a complaint, or a problem.

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“So I said, ‘Please try to have the doctors come the next morning at 10 a.m., not Sunday night at 10 p.m.’ The tour finally agreed to that, and because we were still going to get help from the tour, the embassy.

“But I kinda had to make a decision between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. the next day. I had my wife there, and I had my baby there, and as a human decision, I was like, ‘Hey, I don’t feel comfortable with this.’ So we made the decision to charter a plane and leave.”

Querrey said he was ready to quarantine in the tournament hotel for two weeks after testing positive but after two days he was told he was no longer welcome at the hotel and doctors would determine if they had to quarantine in a hospital instead.

The American said lack of clarity made it necessary for him, his wife, and their seven-month-old son to fly to London and quarantine at an Airbnb.

“I felt as a father and a husband there’s a human element to this, and I had to do what I feel like is right,” he said, adding that the flight cost him about $40,000 plus and he had to also pay for the stay in London for two weeks.

“I wasn’t willing to let our family go to a hospital for a minimum of two weeks where we were at.” Querrey stated he was “frustrated” with the media coverage of the incident and added: “It made it seem like I just got COVID and bounced. I didn’t feel how it was portrayed after that was fair.”

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Free agent Corey Kluber to throw bullpen session for interested teams next week

Free agent Corey Kluber, the two-time Cy Young Award winner who has been derailed by injuries over the past two years, is on calendar for a normal spring training and will throw for interested suitors next week.

Kluber will conduct a 30-pitch bullpen on the morning of Jan. 13 at Cressey Sports Performance in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, where the 34-year-old right-hander has spent half his offseason, his agent, B.B. Abbott of Jet Sports Management, told ESPN on Monday.

Kluber established himself among the game’s most dominant starting pitchers while with the Cleveland Indians from 2014 to 2018, winning 83 games, posting a 2.85 ERA and averaging 218 innings per season.

But he suffered a fractured ulna bone in his right arm on a comebacker in early May 2019, then strained his oblique as he neared a return in late August.

The Texas Rangers traded for him four months later, then watched him suffer a season-ending strain of his teres major muscle — near his right shoulder — 18 pitches into his Rangers debut on July 26, 2020.

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The Rangers declined their $18 million option on Kluber’s contract near the end of October.

Kluber was cleared to resume throwing shortly thereafter and has since thrown three bullpen sessions, Abbott said. He is expected to throw off the mound once more and receive a final MRI within the next nine days.

Kluber’s showcase comes amid a slow-moving offseason, particularly for pitchers.

Of the 30 starters who made up Kiley McDaniel’s top 120 free agents in early December, only seven have committed to teams for 2021 — two of whom did so by taking the qualifying offer.

In a time when teams are especially concerned about pitcher workloads coming off a shortened season and owners are hesitant to spend with another season without fans in attendance, Kluber can provide an established track record at a discount rate.

The risk, however, is obvious — Kluber has accumulated only 36⅔ innings over the past two years.

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Tatum lifts Celtics past Pistons for weekend split

Jayson Tatum hit a fallaway as Blake Griffin stumbled with 2.9 seconds left, then tied up the Detroit veteran on the other end to help the Boston Celtics defeat the Pistons 122-120 on Sunday for a weekend split.

Jaylen Brown led Boston with 31 points. He hit a late 3-pointer and was 13 of 16 from the field, two nights after his late miss sealed a loss in the opener in Detroit.

“We haven’t been good, especially down the stretch, executing-wise,” said Marcus Smart, who added 17 points and eight assists. “We got to our spots, we got the ball where we wanted it, and those two players made great shots and great reads. They won us the game.”

Tatum had 24 points and 12 assists for Boston. The Celtics shot a season-best 57%.

“It seems like they made every shot, especially Brown,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “I want to see how many teams do a good job on Jaylen Brown and Tatum. They’re probably two of the most dynamic players I’ve seen in a while.”

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Jerami Grant scored 22 points for the Pistons, his career-best fifth consecutive game with at least 20. 

Svi Mykhailiuk had 15 points despite not entering the game until under four minutes left in the third quarter.

Semi Ojeleye hit three 3-pointers in less than five minutes to open the fourth quarter for Boston. Sekou Doumbouya and Mykhailiuk responded with back-to-back 3s to give Detroit a 108-106 lead with 6:01 left.

Mykhailiuk scored eight straight Detroit points, and the Pistons took a 118-117 lead on Mason Plumlee’s free throws with 42.2 seconds left. That set up Brown’s 3-pointer with 34.0 seconds to go, and Grant made two free throws 12 seconds later to tie it at 120.

On Friday night, Detroit defeated Boston 96-93 for its only win of the season, with the Celtics missing their final 10 shots and going scoreless for the final 4:15.

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Emotional Yu Darvish caught off guard by Chicago Cubs trade, excited about San Diego Padres

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As he was announced by his new team Thursday, Yu Darvish said he was shocked by his trade to the San Diego Padres and grew emotional talking about his time with the Cubs and the bonds he created in Chicago.

“With what’s happening with the coronavirus, and the money the Cubs have, I wasn’t thinking about being traded,” Darvish said Thursday through an interpreter. “And also, they are a winning team and I thought we would be able to compete.”

Darvish, however, is excited about joining a “strong” Padres team that should challenge for the National League pennant.

“I’ve been having my kids watch highlights of the Padres’ lineup on YouTube,” the right-hander said. “They’re a strong team, and I’m really excited to watch batting practice.”

Darvish stated he has pitched better over the past 18 months than at any time in his career. He ended second in Cy Young voting this past season after going 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA, and he credited his improvement to a decision to work slow and “be himself.”

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“The Cubs were telling me to prepare however I wanted to prepare,” Darvish said. “The Cubs let me be myself. That helped me back to form.”

He was traded along with Victor Caratini, his personal catcher, to San Diego for starter Zach Davies and four prospects earlier this week. The move came one day after the Padres acquired lefty Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Darvish’s mom once told him that she thought he would play for the Padres, but he said he didn’t think that would materialize after signing a six-year, $126 million deal with the Cubs.

With Chicago in cost-cutting mode, however, that premonition came true.

Darvish hopes to find the same chemistry with his teammates in San Diego as he did in Chicago.

“A lot of [Cubs] people reached out to me and everyone was pretty shocked and felt bad,” Darvish said. “So this reality is great. I’m excited to play for the Padres.”

The 34-year-old Darvish said he found out about the trade on Twitter, though his representatives knew there was a possibility he could be moved that day.

“My first year with the Padres, going into spring training, I really want to be open and meet everybody,” said Darvish, who already has a relationship with Padres general manager A.J. Preller from their days with the Texas Rangers.

Darvish was asked what his trade might mean for Japanese baseball fans who live in San Diego. “With coronavirus and everyone being a little down with what’s going on in the world, I just hope to build excitement and help build happiness to the Japanese people around me,” Darvish said.

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