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Happy Friday, everyone! Another week (almost) down, and we have a PACKED weekend ahead of us...

Let's get right to it.

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Good morning to everyone but especially to...



There are no two ways about it. The Celtics are playing their best basketball -- maybe the best basketball in the league -- right now. Their latest win proves it. Boston led nearly wire-to-wire en route to a 120-107 win over the Grizzlies. The Celtics have now won 13 of their last 15 and sit fifth in the Eastern Conference.

  • Jayson Tatum poured in 37 points (21 in the fourth quarter) to celebrate his 24th birthday.
  • Al Horford scored 21 points, nabbed 15 rebounds and had five assists. It was his first 20/15/5 game since 2019.
  • Every Celtic who played at least 15 minutes scored in double figures.
  • Boston did this all without star forward Jaylen Brown, who was out with an ankle injury.

It's not hard to see why this team has been successful.

  • Boston has the league's best defensive rating since Jan. 1. Every player who gets significant minutes is either an excellent or at least capable defender.
  • Tatum can take over. He has terrific body control, can always get his own shot off and can finish in a variety of ways at the rim.
  • In a league where seemingly every team wants to play smaller, Boston plays big men Horford and Robert Williams III together because they offer such different, important skills. Horford is very good defensively, and he stretches the floor on offense (four 3-pointers last night). Williams III is an uber-athletic rim protector on defense and rim runner on offense.

The Celtics went into last night without their second-best player and made quick work of the team with the third-best record in the league. Given their defense and depth, the Celtics are a team no one will want to see in the playoffs.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for...

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To be fair, it has been not such a good three months for MLB. The league's lockout remains in place, and on Tuesday commissioner Rob Manfred canceled the first two series of the regular season. Somehow, the news gets even worse.

According to reports, four owners actually voted against the last proposal the league presented to the players before Tuesday's deadline. The players' union leaders rejected that proposal unanimously.

As we reviewed in this newsletter Wednesday and Monday, a big issue is the Competitive Balance Tax, essentially a salary cap that would force owners to pay extra if they go over (explained in full here.) Players want the cap to be significantly higher, so that owners can -- and, hopefully, will -- spend more money on their roster before entering the tax. Owners don't want the cap as high, because they don't want to spend as much on players.

  • MLB proposal: $220 million in 2022, increasing to $230 million by 2026
  • MLBPA proposal: $238 million in 2022, increasing to $263 million by 2026

So four owners didn't even approve their own $220 million proposal, (look at those numbers above -- it isn't even close to what the players want, either), and even more owners would have voted "nay" if that number had been higher. Remember, MLB needs 23 of its 30 owners to approve the CBA for it to pass. Meeting the players in the middle on this crucial issue seems even less likely now.

Anyway, three of our MLB reporters expect the season to be delayed until at least May. Sorry, baseball fans.

Not so honorable mentions

Coach K's 42 best players in his 42 years at Duke 🏀

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Mike Krzyzewski's 42nd and final regular season at Duke wraps up Saturday night when the No. 4 Blue Devils take on UNC in one of college basketball's greatest rivalries. While Duke has its eyes set on much more than the ACC regular-season title it has already won, it will undoubtedly be an incredible scene inside Cameron Indoor Arena.

Krzyzewski has coached 208 players in his 42 seasons in Durham, ranging from four-year icons like Christian Laettner and J.J. Redick to one-and-done superstars like Zion Williamson and Jahlil Okafor -- plus pretty much every type of player imaginable.

So, who are Coach K's 42 best players from his time at Duke? We gave our college basketball experts Matt Norlander, David Cobb and Kyle Boone the excruciating task of narrowing it down and then deciding the order. I think they nailed number 1:

  • Norlander: "Christian Laettner is the greatest. A two-time NCAA champion, the MOP of the 1991 Final Four and the consensus 1992 national player of the year. Laettner personified what made Duke both irresistible and polarizing. He was cocky, he knew it, he let you know it, and he never apologized for it. He has one of the three or four best college careers in history, guiding Duke to the Final Four every year he played there. His shot to beat Kentucky in the 1992 Elite Eight is among the most important and memorable moments in American sports history."

Krzyzewski's most recent superstar -- Williamson -- isn't far behind, but I won't give it away. You'll have to read the story yourself to find out. 😉

Winners and losers from the NFL Combine 🏈


Players finally took part in drills at the NFL Combine yesterday, with quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends taking to the field. There were plenty of big winners -- especially in the speedy wide receiver class -- but the biggest storyline wasn't exactly a positive one.

It was Kenny Pickett's hand size.

The former Pitt quarterback registered 8.5-inch hands, which would be the smallest of any quarterback in the NFL. Furthermore, 663 QB prospects have had their hand measured since 1987. Only nine have been smaller than Pickett's.

Listen, I don't think hand size is a huge deal -- Joe Burrow has small hands, and look how that worked out -- but it's definitely not a plus for Pickett, who is a contender to be the first quarterback selected. You can see all the official measurements here.

Charlotte FC expected to shatter attendance records this weekend ⚽

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Charlotte FC played its first game ever last weekend. It's likely going to break an MLS record this weekend.

Major League Soccer's newest club is expected to have nearly 75,000 fans in attendance at Bank of America Stadium in Saturday night's inaugural home opener against the Los Angeles Galaxy. The current MLS record is 73,019 from an Atlanta-Portland match in the 2018 MLS Cup.

It will be a huge moment for the club and league, writes soccer reporter Chuck Booth:

  • Booth: "The goal is to take the momentum from this home opener and use it as a selling point to new players. Fan support goes a long way to adding designated players which is something that Charlotte struggled with heading into the inaugural season. ... In a budding soccer market with fans clearly on their side as they try to unite South and North Carolina, Charlotte will get where they'd like to go by sticking with the plan. It's a long road but as long as there is progress on and off the pitch, time is on their side."

What we're watching this weekend 📺


🏀 Bucks at Bulls, 7:30 p.m.. on ESPN


🏀 No. 14 Arkansas at No. 13 Tennessee, Noon on ESPN
🏀 No. 21 Texas at No. 6 Kansas, 4 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 UNC at No. 4 Duke, 6 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Warriors at Lakers, 8:30 p.m. on ABC
🏀 Men's Ohio Valley Tournament Final, 8:30 p.m. on ESPN2
🏀 No. 16 USC at No. 17 UCLA, 10 p.m. on ESPN


🏀 Men's Big South Tournament Final, Noon on ESPN2
🏀 Women's ACC Tournament Final, Noon on ESPN
🏀 Michigan at No. 23 Ohio State, 12:30 p.m. on FOX
🏀 Nets at Celtics, 1 p.m. on ABC
🏀 Women's SEC Tournament Final, 2 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 No. 24 Iowa at No. 20 Illinois, 7:30 p.m. on FS1