Hi everybody! This is Gabe Fernandez bringing you your daily morning dose of CBS Sports news.
Today we're chock full of stories about a round orange ball bouncing around and occasionally falling into a round hoop. That's right, it's basketball. There's been a plethora of jokes about how people have lost some of their social skills during the pandemic, but the thing I'm most concerned about is how rusty my jump shot is. Let me be clear: I'm not lighting up rec centers like I'm Steph, but I could hold my own in pickup games for a long time -- provided no one was within 10 feet of me.
Now, I'm almost afraid of going back to a court to practice as what's likely to happen is I get asked to play a quick game, think I'm ready to play again, and totally embarrass myself in front of strangers. A miserable experience just to think about. When's the last time you played a game of pickup of any sport? Let me know on Twitter.
Anyways, let's get it started.
📰 What you need to know
It wouldn't have been too much of a surprise if newly-minted MVP Nikola Jokic came out of the gate firing and helped the Nuggets tie the series against the Phoenix Suns. However, that's not what happened Wednesday as the Suns quickly reminded the Nuggets that their stars were still around and (relatively) healthy enough to put Denver on its heels.
While the average paranoid Suns fan might not be quick to admit it, this Phoenix team is absolutely legit. The win was their fifth straight in the postseason, and the ageless Chris Paul continued to show out and prove that he is truly the Point God himself. Not only was last night's stat line 17 points, 15 assists and zero turnovers, his assist-to-turnover ratio for this series thus far is a whopping 26-to-1.
Of course, it's only been two games and the series now heads to Denver, but it's just kind of awe-inspiring to watch this Suns team not just play well, but outright dominate. Keep in mind: the franchise made the major roster move of bringing in Chris Paul after the top brass saw what the team could do in an eight-game sample size in the Orlando bubble. That this gamble has paid off in such a way goes to show that front offices putting in work to actively make rosters better in the short term just puts a better product out on the court.
2. Indiana Pacers fire Nate Bjorkgren after one season 🏀
The Nate Bjorkgren experiment has come to an end in Indiana after one less-than-stellar season. The details of the firing mostly focus on Bjorkgren's inability to develop meaningful relationships with players and other members of staff, as Jasmyn Wimbish notes in her write-up of the story.
- Wimbish: "But this seemed to be an issue bigger than just players not being able to stay on the court. During team president Kevin Pritchard's end-of-the-season press conference last month, he painted a picture of a coach that was lacking in interpersonal skills, and said 'that's got to be improved.' Clearly, though, Indiana didn't want to wait around and find out if he could rebuild the trust within the locker room."
A lack of patience seems to be the main characteristic of Indiana's coaching decisions over the last couple seasons. After Nate McMillan put up solid season after solid season, even with a rotating cast of talent on the roster, the organization decided that he wasn't putting together a championship contender fast enough, and moved on to Bjorkgren after the end of last season's bubble. After this past season, the Pacers have shown they aren't even going to wait and see if things improve in year two.
McMillan has now gone on to serve as the interim head coach of the Hawks, and taken them to the second round of the playoffs, with the series against the top-seeded 76ers tied, 1-1. The Pacers, meanwhile, crashed out of the play-in tournament. Sure, there were injuries the team had to deal with, but there was just something missing in the Bjorkgren regime that just didn't quite work.
The good news for the former Raptors assistant is that given how things went for the last Pacers coach, he should be expecting a prominent role on a playoff team next season.
3. Pete Alonso has a crazy MLB conspiracy ⚾
Mets first baseman Pete Alonso has a take: MLB altered the physical properties of baseball so that free agent salaries would be lower for frugal owners. Here's the full quote that reporters heard when the Mets star spoke to the media on Wednesday.
- Alonso: "The biggest concern is MLB manipulates the baseballs year in and year out depending on the free agency class... Oh, no, that's a fact. Yes, guys have talked about it. It's not a coincidence. It definitely is something that they did."
Alonso's two sources for this take are the 2019 and 2021 season. After 2019, a year that saw league-wide home run records that will likely hold for years to come, most of the top free agents were pitchers. While the biggest names got signed, some of the proverbial upper middle-class of stars saw themselves receive serious pay cuts based on what they were expected to get, or had to wait a while to get signed at all.
This year, as the top free agents are expected to be sluggers, the ball appears to have been deadened to the point where there was actual fear that no-hitters would become too common. I could surmise what this all means, but why would I do that when our CBS Sports baseball scribe R.J. Anderson has.
- Anderson: "Whether or not one finds merit in Alonso's conspiracy theory -- and it's reasonable to doubt that MLB is a competent enough organization from top to bottom to pull off such maneuvers -- his willingness to publicize it, and to suggest other players hold the same belief, points to the distrust that exists within clubhouses toward commissioner Rob Manfred and the owners."
It's been a while since sports have had a good ol' labor stoppage. This could be a sign that the next one is on its way sooner rather than later.
4. LeBron is once again changing his number 🏀
There comes a point in every man's life where he recognizes his own mortality and begins to start making changes that remind him of his use. This, I have to assume, is the impetus for LeBron James changing his jersey number from 23 to 6.
The Lakers star last wore this number in 2014, back when he was at the apex of his villainhood in the league as part of the Miami Heat with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He'll be making the change this upcoming season following the release of his summer flick, Space Jam: A New Legacy.
If you'll remember, LeBron initially wanted to switch to No. 6 the season that Anthony Davis came over so that his new star teammate could keep the number he wore in New Orleans. However, because of the timing of his request, the LeBron jerseys had already been made so it would've been a logistical (and costly) nightmare to make that switch.
This begs the question of what LeBron's reason for this switch is. Is he trying to see if he can be successful in a different jersey number like Kobe Bryant was during his Lakers tenure? Is he switching to his Heat number because he's trying to revert to a playing style he had in those days? Did Anthony Davis win a bet and get to take James's number next season? Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure: he probably won't retire now until the number of rings he's earned matches his new number, because that's just the narrative-obsessed individual LeBron is.
📝 Odds & Ends
- The New York Islanders defeated the Boston Bruins in the second round to make it to the Stanley Cup Playoff semifinals.
- NASCAR is changing its rules to slow cars down at Daytona and Talladega in response to a scary crash this past April
- The USMNT defeated Costa Rica, 4-0, in an international friendly
📺 What to watch tonight
🏒Avalanche vs. Golden Knights, 9 p.m. | LV -140 | TV: NBCSN
🏆 Florida State vs. Oklahoma (WCWS, Game 3) 3 p.m. | TV: ESPN
🥇 Best thing I saw on the internet
Credit where credit is due: Eric Sogard made a diving effort towards first in an attempt to reach base safely so that he could help out his team on Sunday. Unfortunately, he forgot an important part of the base-running process was, well, touching the base, which he missed. You can catch his hilarious dive attempt here.