Good morning to everyone but especially to...
SHOHEI OHTANI AND JAPAN
We often throw around words like "dream matchup" and "instant classic" too generously. Not this time.
Shohei Ohtani vs. Mike Trout with world baseball supremacy on the line in the ninth inning really was as good as it gets -- and then some. Ultimately, it was Ohtani striking out Trout in the World Baseball Championship title game to close Japan's 3-2 triumph over the United States.
- After touching 102 miles per hour on a fastball low to make the count 3-2, Ohtani got his fellow Angels superstar on an 87-mph slider to clinch the victory. Ohtani stretched his arms wide, yelling and then throwing his mitt and cap as teammates stormed the field to celebrate.
- Ohtani also collected a hit and a walk as a batter before entering in the top of the ninth as a pitcher. He walked Jeff McNeil but then got Mookie Betts to ground into a double play before fanning Trout.
- Ohtani, unsurprisingly, won MVP. He hit .435 and posted a 1.86 ERA. Yeah, pretty good.
- Trout, for his part, is ready for revenge: He's already committed to the 2026 WBC.
Japan's pitching staff got big outs all night against a star-studded Team USA lineup, save for solo home runs from Trea Turner (yes, again) and Kyle Schwarber. Team Japan got solo home runs from Munetaka Murakami and Kazuma Okamoto sandwiched around a Lars Nootbar RBI fielder's choice to have just enough offense to take their third WBC --most of any country -- and first since 2009.
There was plenty of heartbreak to go around in the WBC. Major injuries to Edwin Díaz (knee) and Jose Altuve (thumb) made some wonder if this tournament is even worth it. But the final last night was baseball at its best: high drama, overwhelming star power and, ultimately, a true dream matchup in every sense of the phrase.
If it didn't get you excited for the MLB season just around the corner, nothing will. And that, truly, means the World Baseball Classic did its job. Bring on the season!
- Ja Morant addressed the media ahead of his likely return.
- Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns are close to returning, too.
- Congrats on an awesome career, Dont'a Hightower.
- Fresh off leading 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson to an upset of 1-seed Purdue, Tobin Anderson accepted the head coaching job at Iona. Here's our coaching tracker.
- Alex Ovechkin registered his 13th 40-goal season, passing Wayne Gretzky for most ever.
- Martina Navratilova is cancer-free.
And not such a good morning for...
THE BALTIMORE RAVENS
Lamar Jackson is ready to move on. At least that's what one of his representatives is telling teams, according to a report. This report emerges two weeks after the Ravens gave Jackson the non-exclusive franchise tag, which pays him $32.4 million in 2023.
- However, that non-exclusive tag also allows other teams to negotiate with Jackson. If another franchise were to offer Jackson, the Ravens would have a chance to match that deal.
- If they chose not to, the team signing Jackson would send Baltimore two first-round picks.
- Several teams have said they won't pursue Jackson.
There hasn't been much news on the Jackson front since he got franchise tagged, which makes this latest report significant. The negotiations between Jackson and the Ravens have been strained at best and certainly not very successful with regards to reaching a long-term deal. In fact, the last news from Jackson himself was him disputing a report that he turned down $200 million guaranteed.
It's not 100% clear what this new piece of info means. Is Jackson trying to pressure the Ravens into stepping up their negotiations? Is he simply trying to get his own market going? As I've said for a while, this situation is far from over.
Not so honorable mentions
- Antoine Davis feels "cheated" out of the NCAA D-I scoring record.
Knicks legend Willis Reed dies at 80 🏀
The numbers tell their own story.
- Two-time NBA champion.
- Two-time NBA Finals MVP.
- One-time MVP.
- All 10 seasons of his career with the Knicks.
- 1980 Hall-of-Fame inductee.
No numbers, no matter how impressive, can capture what Willis Reed meant to the Knicks, though. The iconic big man died Tuesday at the age of 80.
Reed's most memorable moment, of course, is playing in Game 7 of the 1970 Finals with a torn muscle in his thigh. Reed scored each of his team's first two baskets and gutted out 27 minutes as the Knicks beat the Lakers for the first NBA title in franchise history. Reed's No. 19 jersey hangs in the rafters of Madison Square Garden, and he was named to the NBA's 50th and 75th anniversary teams.
As part of a longer statement, NBA commissioner Adam Silver called Reed "the ultimate team player and consummate leader" who "played the game with remarkable passion and determination."
Expert NFL mock drafts: An early run on quarterbacks? 🏈
We're just over a month away from the NFL Draft, and that means mock draft season is in full swing. Well, it has been for a while, actually, but our Pete Prisco has finally entered his first mock into the fray.
We know there are four quarterbacks likely to go in the first round, but Pete has them going within the first five picks.
- 1. Panthers: QB Bryce Young, Alabama -- "He is the best passer in this class. But will the Panthers take a risk on picking a 5-10, 200-pound quarterback first overall?"
- 2. Texans: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State -- "Stroud is a pure pocket passer and would make sense in terms of building the team around him for the future."
- 3. Cardinals: EDGE Will Anderson Jr., Alabama -- "His play wasn't as good last year, but he's still a quality edge rusher."
- 4. Colts: QB Will Levis, Kentucky -- "The word is they really like Levis and see his skills translating to the NFL game. Levis is liked a lot more by NFL people than the draft Twitter cult."
- 5. Seahawks: QB Anthony Richardson -- "The Seahawks have Geno Smith, so Richardson can wait to play, which he will need to do. He has all the tools to be a star, but inconsistency is his problem."
As Pete notes, though, this can and likely will change over the next few weeks, and you can keep track of his thoughts -- plus all of our other draft experts' -- on our mock draft page.
Another great way to keep up with everything draft-related? Be sure to subscribe to our "With the First Pick" newsletter, which will have you covered on all things draft-related from next week until the NFL Draft concludes.
Cam Newton comeback: Where could he land? 🏈
Cam Newton has officially announced his intentions to come back to the NFL, first posting a video on Twitter and then throwing at Auburn's Pro Day on Tuesday.
Newton hasn't been on an NFL roster since the 2021 season, when he played in eight games for the Panthers, starting five. His last season as a full-time starter was 2020 with the Patriots.
- In that 2020 season in New England, Newton became the first quarterback to start at least 15 games and throw eight or fewer touchdowns since Trent Dilfer in 1995. He also threw 10 interceptions. Newton did, however, rush for 12 touchdowns.
- The major issues aside from performance are age -- he's 34 -- and injuries. Newton had foot and shoulder issues late in his career, including multiple surgeries on his right (throwing) shoulder.
- Newton also clearly views himself as a starter. In his video, Newton says there aren't 32 quarterbacks better than him, suggesting he wants a starting role.
Still, he's a former NFL MVP and three-time Pro Bowler. Even though his best days are behind him, teams could give him a look based on his reputation and legitimate red-zone rushing skills alone. Our Cody Benjamin ranked six potential landing spots, and at No. 1 is...
- Benjamin: "Raiders -- Yes, they just paid Jimmy Garoppolo to replace Derek Carr, and yes, they may pursue a successor early in the draft. But former undrafted rookie Chase Garbers, who's yet to make his NFL debut, is the only other QB in tow, and Garoppolo has stayed healthy for a full season just once in his nine-year career. Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels worked with -- and spoke highly of -- Newton during their lone year together in New England."
What we're watching Wednesday 📺
🏀 Warriors at Mavericks, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Penguins at Avalanche, 8 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Suns at Lakers, 10 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Coyotes at Oilers, 10:30 p.m. on TNT