Tagged in: star

Cleveland Browns reach 3-year, $36.6 million deal with star RB Nick Chubb

The Cleveland Browns and star running back Nick Chubb have reached an agreement on a three-year, $36.6 million contract extension, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Saturday.

Chubb’s $20 million in guaranteed money is the seventh-highest total in the league among running backs. He will be a free agent again at age 29.

Chubb has been the backbone of the Cleveland offense the past two seasons, averaging 5.25 yards per carry during that span. In 2019, he came within 47 yards of besting Derrick Henry for the rushing title.

Last season, Chubb missed four games because of a knee injury, but he still concluded seventh in the league with 1,070 rushing yards.

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Proving to be one of the top closers in the league, Chubb led the NFL with an average of more than 10 yards per carry in the fourth quarter of games last campaign.

During Cleveland’s first playoff triumph in 26 years, Chubb delivered one of the game’s decisive plays, taking a screen pass 40 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown, propelling the Browns to the 48-37 win in Pittsburgh.

Chubb, whom Cleveland selected out of Georgia in the second round of 2018 NFL draft, was entering the final season of his rookie deal.

“I think you all know the affinity that we have for him both as a player and as a person,” general manager Andrew Berry said when asked in the offseason about a potential Chubb extension.

“He has modeled that over the first three years of his career here. I think that is something that we certainly see every day and that you all can see externally.”

Last summer, the Browns extended Chubb’s backfield sidekick, Kareem Hunt, to a two-year extension worth $13.25 million, keeping Hunt under contract in Cleveland through the 2022 season.

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Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo returns from knee injury in Game 1 loss

As the Milwaukee Bucks played their first NBA Finals match in nearly half a century Tuesday night versus the Phoenix Suns, they did so with superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in the starting lineup.

Antetokounmpo, who suffered a hyperextended left knee on an awkward and ugly-looking fall in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals a week ago against the Hawks in Atlanta, played 35 minutes in the opener and battled throughout. He concluded with 20 points, 17 rebounds and four assists, but the Suns took a 1-0 lead via a 118-105 victory.

Antetokounmpo was listed as doubtful for Games 5 and 6 of the East finals, and he was ruled out early in the afternoon before each of those games. On Tuesday, however, Antetokounmpo was upgraded from doubtful to questionable on the league’s initial injury report, which is released at 1:30 p.m. ET.

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Then about two hours before the game, Antetokounmpo was on the court testing out his knee, going through some shooting and dribbling drills to see if it would feel good enough to go versus the Suns.

During his pregame media availability, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer declined to get into specifics regarding where Antetokounmpo was at in his recovery.

Antetokounmpo, 26, who averaged 28.2 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists in the 15 postseason games leading into the Finals, is coming off a third straight first-team All-NBA season and fifth straight All-Star campaign for the Bucks.

The two-time league MVP signed a five-year supermax contract extension with Milwaukee in December to remain with the franchise for the foreseeable future, a move that came in the wake of the Bucks sending several future first-round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for star guard Jrue Holiday.

The Bucks are in the Finals for the first time since 1974 and hoping to win their first NBA championship since 1971, when Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were starring for Milwaukee. The Suns, on the other hand, have never won an NBA title and are in the Finals for the first time since 1993, when Charles Barkley’s team lost to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in six games.

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Khris Middleton lifts Milwaukee Bucks past Atlanta Hawks, into NBA Finals

The Milwaukee Bucks are headed to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974 — and they secured the final wins of the series without star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Milwaukee defeated the Atlanta Hawks 118-107 in Game 6 on Saturday behind 32 points from Khris Middleton. Jrue Holiday added 27 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists.

After the final buzzer sounded and the Bucks swarmed the center of the court, putting on caps and T-shirts that announced them as Eastern Conference champions, players hugged each other and laughed. Coaches embraced.

“It feels awesome,” Holiday said. “I’m still kind of on this high, but I’m going to the Finals. It’s cool to think as a little kid, this is what you watch the playoffs for. This is all the moments that I felt as a little kid watching TV. I lived them and went through them and now I get to go to the Finals and see what this is about.”

Antetokounmpo, who has been out since injuring his knee in the third quarter of Game 4 when he landed awkwardly after contesting an alley-oop, was in the middle of it all — a triumphant fist raised in the air.

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Thursday marked the end of a slew of Milwaukee playoff runs that were cut short or went awry. In the 2019 postseason, the Bucks swept the Detroit Pistons, defeated the Boston Celtics in five games and built a 2-0 lead versus the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals. Then, after losing back-to-back games only once during the entire regular season, the Bucks lost four consecutive games to the Raptors and were eliminated.

Last season in the NBA’s bubble, the Bucks fizzled to a disappointing end in the playoffs.

Milwaukee earned the No. 1 seed and defeated the Orlando Magic in five games. But Antetokounmpo sprained his ankle in Game 3 of the team’s series against the Miami Heat.

He gave it a go in Game 4, but re-sprained his ankle in that game and was unable to play in Game 5, when Milwaukee was eliminated. Back then, Antetokounmpo said that “nobody was going to be happy” with the outcome of Milwaukee’s 2019-20 playoff run. He said he hoped the Bucks could learn from that loss.

It appears they did — and those losses, Middleton said, made their success this season that much better.

“It’s been a long journey,” Middleton said. “But it’s been a great journey. It’s been worth it. After winning 15 games in our first year here and seven years not making the playoffs, to the last two years thinking we had a chance and just didn’t do enough and now we’re here. This is what we’ve worked for.”

The Bucks avenged last season’s loss and rolled the Heat in four matches in the first round. Midway through that series, starting guard Donte DiVincenzo injured his ankle. He had season-ending surgery on a ligament in his left ankle in June and P.J. Tucker slid into a starting role.

Still, Milwaukee kept rolling. After falling down 3-2 in a wild series versus the betting title favorite Brooklyn Nets, the Bucks outlasted them in a seven-game series. And after losing at home for the first time in the playoffs in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Bucks battled back, including winning two games without Antetokounmpo.

All the while, Antetokounmpo stood — almost never sitting down — on the sidelines in black shorts and a Bucks warm-up shirt. A protective sleeve swaddled his hyperextended left knee. But even injured and unable to play, Antetokounmpo was in the middle of the celebration. His longest hug was reserved for his brother and teammate, Thanasis.

“There’s a bittersweetness to him not being able to play these last two games,” Budenholzer said. “Khris and Giannis are the key to this team, to this organization. To have the opportunity to coach them and come here three years ago and try to build something special, those two guys are special, and it starts with them.”

And while there has been no public decision on whether or not Antetokounmpo will be available to play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, one thing is certain: The Bucks are sitting atop a hill that Antetokounmpo has envisioned summiting for years.

Now, they have just one more leg to complete. “We ain’t did nothing yet,” Tucker said.

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James Harden (hamstring) struggles in 5-point return, but Brooklyn Nets win Game 5

Brooklyn Nets star James Harden was held to five points in his return to the starting lineup Tuesday night, but the Nets went on to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-108 in Game 5 in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Brooklyn leads the series 3-2.

The decision to let Harden to play was made after he tested his right hamstring on the court before tipoff. He played 37 minutes and shot 1-for-10 from the field, missing all eight of his 3-point attempts, and went scoreless in the first half. He added six rebounds, eight assists and four turnovers.

It was the first time Harden was available to play in a game since June 5, when he injured his hamstring in the first minute of Game 1 of the series. Since then, he has been dealing with what the team has called hamstring tightness.

“I’m not sure the level of risk,” head coach Steve Nash said before the game. “I think it is James’ decision. He wants to play. Ultimately, he wants to play. He’s been pushing.”

Harden participated in the Nets’ shootaround Tuesday morning with improvement in his hamstring, and that prompted the team to upgrade his status from doubtful to questionable for Game 5, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Nets are preparing to be without guard Kyrie Irving (right ankle sprain) for the rest of the series, sources said. The team hasn’t officially ruled Irving out beyond Game 5.

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Nash stated Sunday that the team would try to approach the injuries as isolated incidents and not let Irving’s ankle sprain rush Harden back to the floor before his hamstring is fully healed.

Still, Nash admitted Monday that Irving’s injury was a “driving” factor for Harden in pushing to return.

“He wants to play,” Nash said. “He wants to win a championship. He loves the playoffs and the ability to play this time of year. So, I think it’s been really difficult for him on how much he cares, how much time he puts in, how much effort he’s put in to get to this position.”

Irving was injured midway through the second quarter of Sunday’s Game 4 in Milwaukee when he landed awkwardly on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot after making a layup over Jrue Holiday. Antetokounmpo crashed the paint in what was an attempt to help Holiday, who was the primary defender.

Irving remained on the ground for several minutes as Nash and the team’s athletic trainers attended to him. Eventually, Irving walked to the locker room without assistance but was limping. He left the arena in a walking boot and on crutches. An MRI on Monday confirmed Irving’s ankle sprain.

The Nets have battled injuries all campaign.

The Big Three of Harden, Irving and Kevin Durant played just eight games together in the regular season and six games together in the playoffs — including the game in which Harden was injured after just 43 seconds.

Harden missed 18 games in the regular season with a hamstring strain, and before that he missed two with hamstring tightness.

During warm-ups Tuesday, Harden was moving well as he shot, did cutting motions and threw passes to Jeff Green. Harden had protective kinesiology tape stretched over his right hamstring.

“We have to support him the best way we can,” Nash said of Harden, “and be an aid for him to figure this out, but it’s a tricky situation — but one that we are willing to go down with James. He’s just been unbelievable for us this year, and we want to support him.”

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Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout doesn’t have timetable for return

Mike Trout says his right calf is starting to feel better, but the Los Angeles Angels superstar still doesn’t know when he will be able to return.

The time-time AL MVP went on the injured list on May 18 after straining his calf the night before versus the Cleveland Indians. The Angels said at the time that Trout would miss six to eight weeks, which would sideline him through the All-Star break.

“Today was probably my best day yet, just tolerance-wise. As far as activities, I’m doing as much as I can to strengthen around the calf muscle,” Trout said before Monday’s game versus the Kansas City Royals.

Trout said he would like to start jogging soon but doesn’t have a timetable on when he would be able to do that, much less resume baseball activities. He said he is walking on a treadmill but not with any intensity.

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“I’m happy with my progress so far. It has been good the last couple of days,” he said. “I should have a better idea on a return date once I start moving around, as in jogging and running.”

At the time of his injury, Trout was leading the majors in on-base percentage (.466) and OPS (1.090), with eight home runs and 18 RBI. His .425 batting average in April was the best of his 11-year career.

Juan Lagares has started in center field in 16 of the 19 games that Trout has missed, with Taylor Ward starting the other three.

Lagares and Ward have combined to go 13 of 70 with no homers and seven RBI in games they have started in center.

Los Angeles is 9-10 since Trout went on the IL. It went into Monday’s game trailing Oakland by seven games in the AL West.

Trout said during home games he usually watches the first couple innings from the dugout before going into the clubhouse to continue his rehab. He also continues to attend hitter’s meetings.

“It seems like there are games where we score a bunch of runs and then the next game it is pretty quiet,” he said. “It’s tough being on the bench. You know, there’s only so much you can do and you want to be out there.”

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Atlanta Falcons trade Julio Jones to Tennessee Titans

The Atlanta Falcons agreed to star trade wide receiver Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

In exchange for Jones, the Titans will send a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round selection to the Falcons. Along with Jones, the Falcons will send a 2023 sixth-round selection to the Titans.

The deal is pending a physical, the Titans stated.

Titans players Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown have expressed on social media their interest in having Jones as a teammate. Late last month, Brown posted a TikTok video to Jones explaining why the Titans would be the perfect fit for the star receiver.

The Titans lost two of their top pass-catchers in free agency as wide receiver Corey Davis signed with the New York Jets and tight end Jonnu Smith signed with the New England Patriots.

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Jones has been the subject of trade conversation over the past two months as Atlanta tries to remedy its salary-cap situation. On FS1 on May 24, Jones said, “I’m outta there,” when asked about the Falcons in a telephone call with Shannon Sharpe on the network’s “Undisputed” show.

It is unclear whether Jones knew the phone call was being televised.

Jones, whose base salary of $15.3 million is fully guaranteed for this season, was programmed to cost the Falcons $23.05 million against the cap in 2021 and has cap hits of $19.263 million in 2022 and 2023.

By moving him after June 1, it offers the Falcons relief against the cap this season because the dead money owed to him would be split between this season and next.

The Falcons drafted Jones sixth overall in the 2011 draft, trading a massive amount with Cleveland to be able to take the Alabama standout. Atlanta, when it moved up to acquire Jones, traded its first-round pick in 2011 (No. 26 overall), its second-round pick, two fourth-round picks and its 2012 first round pick.

Jones, 32, is the Falcons’ career leader in catches (848) and yards (12,896) and is second to Roddy White in touchdown receptions (63). His 95.5 receiving yards per game is the best per-game average in NFL history, almost 10 full yards better than first-ballot Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson, who is second (86.1).

Jones, though, had one of his worst seasons in 2020, limited to nine matches because of injury with 51 catches for 771 yards and three touchdowns. While his 15.1 yards per catch was his highest since 2017 and his catch percentage of 75 percent was the best of his career, his 85.7 yards per game was his lowest since 2012, his second year in the league.

The Falcons do have options to fill in for Jones. Calvin Ridley, whose fifth-year option Atlanta picked up in May, will slide into the No. 1 role, and a combination of 2021 first-round pick Kyle Pitts, Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus and sixth-round pick Frank Darby could see bigger roles with Jones elsewhere.

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Star receiver Julian Edelman, 34, retires, ending 12-year career with New England Patriots

Patriots star receiver Julian Edelman, who helped New England win three championships and was the MVP of Super Bowl LIII, declared his retirement in a video posted on social media Monday.

The NFL transaction wire released Monday stated that Edelman had his contract terminated by the Patriots, but the roster move is expected to be a technicality as part of his retirement, a source told ESPN.

“It was a hard decision, but the right decision for me and my family,” Edelman said. “And I’m honored and so proud to be retiring a Patriot. … It’s been the best 12 years of my life.”

Edelman, who turns 35 next month, was limited to six matches last season because of a chronic knee injury. He spent his entire 12-year career with the Patriots and ranks second in NFL history with 118 postseason receptions, behind only Jerry Rice’s 151.

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Edelman caps his career in second place on the all-time Patriots chart for receptions (620), behind only Wes Welker (672).

He is fourth on the team’s career receiving yards list with 6,822 receiving yards, behind only Stanley Morgan (10,352), Rob Gronkowski (7,861) and Welker (7,459).

Edelman was still playing at a high level last campaign, totaling a career-high 179 yards in a Week 2 loss to the Seahawks. But the nagging knee injury ultimately landed him on injured reserve in late October, and while there was hope he might return late in the season, he wasn’t healthy enough to be activated.

Because of his health, the Patriots went into the 2021 offseason unsure of Edelman’s status, which contributed to their agreeing to contracts with receivers Nelson Agholor (two years, $26 million, with $15 million guaranteed) and Kendrick Bourne (three years, $22.5 million, with $5.25 million guaranteed) on the first day of free agency.

Edelman was also entering the final year of his contract.

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James Harden’s return for Brooklyn Nets short-lived due to ongoing hamstring tightness

Brooklyn Nets star James Harden played just four minutes before he was ruled out for the remainder of Monday night’s 114-112 victory versus the New York Knicks because of right hamstring tightness.

Harden’s brief return came after he missed the Nets’ past two games while dealing with the same tightness.

Before the match, Brooklyn coach Steve Nash stated Harden would not be on a minutes restriction and the team would monitor him throughout the night. “We definitely don’t want to wear him out,” Nash said before tipoff. “So we’ll try our best, which is very difficult to do sometimes. We’ll try to limit his minutes if we have the opportunity.”

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Nash reiterated both pregame and postgame that the imaging on Harden’s hamstring did not reveal structural damage, so the team looked to him and its training staff to decide when he felt well enough to play.

“So who knows — this may linger, it may be all behind us like we thought it was before the game,” Nash said. “But it’s just one of those things where the scan is clean, the strength tests are clean but he feels something, so we’re going to err on the side of caution.”

The Nets were already without Blake Griffin (injury maintenance), Kevin Durant (hamstring strain), Tyler Johnson (knee soreness) and Landry Shamet (ankle sprain).

Nash said that he does not anticipate playing Griffin in both halves of any remaining back-to-back games.

Harden, one of the frontrunners for league MVP, entered Monday’s game averaging 26.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 11.2 assists for the Nets.

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Baltimore Ravens’ Marlon Humphrey signs contract extension

The Ravens have signed All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey to a five-year extension that keeps him in Baltimore through the 2026 season.

“Marlon is the type of player we want in Baltimore,” Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta said. “Besides his obvious talents as a playmaking corner, he’s a passionate competitor who craves winning. Marlon has been a stalwart in our community, and we are excited that he’s going to remain with us for seven seasons.”

Humphrey had two years left on his rookie deal, so he’s now on a seven-year contract. According to reports, the extension is worth $98.75 million with an average salary of $19.5 million per year, making Humphrey one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL.

The Ravens have a handful of young stars that they are working to keep in Baltimore, so inking Humphrey to the long-term deal crosses one big-ticket item off the list. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley, outside linebacker Matthew Judon, quarterback Lamar Jackson, tight end Mark Andrews and right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. are other 2019 Pro Bowlers who will be up for an extension in the coming years.

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“These are difficult deals to reach, and the credit goes to Pat Moriarty and Joel Segal for working together to get it done,” DeCosta said. “We give a big congratulations to Marlon and his family. This is a good day for the Ravens.”

The Ravens signed Humphrey’s fellow starting cornerback, Marcus Peters, to a three-year, $42 million extension near the end of last season, so Baltimore will have arguably the NFL’s top cornerback duo for years to come.

Humphrey has grown into one of the best cornerbacks in the game and perhaps the Ravens’ most indispensable defensive player.

The 2017 first-round pick out of Alabama has been everything the Ravens could have asked for and more.

He has the speed and agility to keep up with any wide receiver, yet also plays with the physicality of a safety. He’s been a big-time playmaker the past two campaigns. Last year, Humphrey made three interceptions, forced two fumbles and returned two fumbles for touchdowns. His punchout and recovery in Pittsburgh last year essentially won the game in overtime.

Humphrey has picked up where he left off this season. He intercepted the Browns’ Baker Mayfield in Week 1, then made a game-changing punchout in Houston in Week 2. Humphrey showed off his physicality in the “Monday Night Football” loss to the Chiefs.

Humphrey has played in 49 games (31 starts), racking up 150 tackles, eight interceptions, 44 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Since 2017, Humphrey is one of two NFL defenders (joining Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore) to produce at least 40 passes defensed, eight interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

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