Good morning to everyone but especially to ...
If you didn't wake up and immediately blast/watch "One Shining Moment"... well, there's still time to catch up. It's March! Conference tournaments are underway, Selection Sunday is under two weeks away, the bubble is heating up and Jerry Palm's Bracketology is here to guide you through it all.
Unfortunately for some teams, March is as much about heartbreak as it is for triumph:
- Iowa State is heading in the wrong direction. The Cyclones have lost eight of their last 10 and fallen to an 8 seed in Bracketology.
- Of course, one team's loss is another's gain: West Virginia is in the "Last Four In" after its win over the Cyclones. But it's only March 1. There's a long way to go.
Most of all, remember that the magic and madness of March isn't just in who wins it all. It's in the teams that make the tournament, especially in those tiny conferences that only hand out one bid. It's in Antoine Davis chasing down Pete Maravich's all-time scoring record. It's about teams that convert upset bids and teams that survive them. It's about the players who go from standouts to stars. Stephen Curry, anyone?
It's the very best college basketball has to offer, and I can't wait.
- Nikola Jokic posted his 100th career triple-double.
- The Bucks went undefeated in February.
- Leonard Fournette requested his release and got it. Here are potential landing spots.
- The Eagles promoted Brian Johnson to offensive coordinator and hired Sean Desai as defensive coordinator.
- The Browns and Jets will open the preseason.
And not such a good morning for ...
DANIEL SNYDER AND THE WASHINGTON COMMANDERS
It's another day and another major scandal for Commander owner Daniel Snyder. This one involves Roger Goodell, millions of dollars and, allegedly, financial fraud, per reports. Here are key details:
- In late 2018, Snyder took out a $55 million loan without the required approval of then-minority owners of the Commanders, Robert Rothman, Dwight Schar and Frederick W. Smith. An important detail to note: Snyder bought out Rothman, Schar and Smith's ownership stakes in 2020.
- Rothman, Schar and Smith demanded an investigation of the loan. Neither Goodell -- who granted league approval for the loan -- nor the NFL arbitrator decided to investigate.
- A federal grand jury issued subpoenas for the team's financial documents, and this loan is a key part of a criminal inquiry led by a team of FBI and IRS agents. The former minority owners told the NFL the loan had been secured fraudulently and that Snyder had misrepresented that he had gotten the minority owners' approval, per the report.
- Also in the report: Snyder pays himself $10 million annually and charged the franchise $4.5 million to put the team logo on his private jet as an "advertising fee."
- The three minority owners said Snyder was using the team as his "personal piggy bank."
This report emerges one day after a different report said Snyder is frustrating fellow owners with his demands should he sell the team.
I don't have a ton to add here. It's hard to keep track of each individual scandal, but that shouldn't minimize this one or any of them. Snyder potentially acting as a rogue agent -- and getting Goodell's permission to do so -- is a big, big deal.
Not so honorable mentions
- There's still no timetable for Zion Williamson's return.
- Here's why the Super Bowl field stunk.
- The Falcons cut Marcus Mariota.
- Gavin Lux (ACL) is out for the season.
- Joe Musgrove fractured his toe in the weight room.
Rangers finally acquire Patrick Kane from Blackhawks 🏒
After weeks of speculation, Patrick Kane is on the New York Rangers. The Blackhawks dealt the star winger to the Big Apple as the Rangers load up for the stretch run of the regular season.
- Kane, 34, is a former MVP, a four-time All-Star and a three-time Stanley Cup champion. He was named to the 100 Greatest NHL Players in 2017. This season, Kane has 45 points in 54 games.
- The Rangers sent a conditional 2023 second-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round pick to Chicago. That second-round pick will become a first in 2024 or 2025 if the Rangers make the conference final.
- The Coyotes are retaining 25% of Kane's salary; they received a 2025 third-round pick.
Kane reunites with former teammate Artemi Panarin, and this marks the second big trade the Rangers have made this season. They also acquired Vladimir Tarasenko in early February. Getting Kane earns the Rangers an A+, writes our Austin Nivison.
- Nivison: "Slam dunks don't get much easier than this. The Rangers were Shaquille O'Neal playing with a Little Tikes hoop. ... The bottom line is that the Rangers got another excellent offensive playmaker for a bargain bin price. Kane's best days may be behind him, but it's hard to believe he won't improve on a Rangers team that now boasts one of the best top-six forward groups in the league. Keeping the blueshirts off the board will be a tough task for their playoff opponents."
They aren't the only team making moves ahead of the March 3 trade deadline.
- Mattias Ekholm is heading to the Oilers.
- Here's our trade deadline tracker.
- Here are Austin's bold predictions.
Kevin Durant will make Suns debut tonight 🏀
The Kevin Durant era in Phoenix begins tonight when the 13-time All-Star makes his Suns debut against the Hornets. Durant last played Jan. 8, when he sprained his MCL against the Heat.
The Nets traded Durant to Phoenix roughly a month later.
- In case you forgot, Durant was playing as well as ever before the injury: 29.7 points per game on career-best 55.9% shooting (and NBA- and career-best 93.4% free throw shooting).
- The Suns are currently the No. 4 seed in the West. They are +450 to win the championship at Caesars Sportsbook, only behind the Celtics (+310).
With Durant, Chris Paul and Devin Booker all sharing the floor together, expect a ton of midrange jumpers from three of the league's best, writes our Doug Clawson.
- Clawson: "There have been roughly 1,700 instances of a player taking 250+ midrange shots in a season in the last 25 seasons. Durant's rate this season is the highest on the list, and he actually has the top three marks. ... I'm from the school of thought that making midrange shots can actually be a good thing. ... There's a reason the Suns were an NBA-best 33-9 in clutch time (final five minutes, score within five points) last season and Booker and Paul had the best two field-goal percentages in the entire NBA in those situations (min. 40 FGA)."
So the Suns have three midrange masters plus a very good center in Deandre Ayton? No wonder why Giannis Antetokounmpo jokingly called out Durant for joining superteams -- or, rather, read host Hasan Minhaj's roast for Durant on The Daily Show (which you can stream on Paramount+).
And yes, it was a joke. Antetokounmpo couldn't even contain himself and ended up complimenting Durant, much to Minhaj's hilarious chagrin.
NFL Combine: Burning questions, led by one about Bryce Young 🏈
The NFL Combine is a time for teams to ask questions and get answers. On-field drills begin tomorrow, and we'll start to get some of those answers.
Arguably the most important answer won't require any football activities, though, writes our Ryan Wilson.
- Wilson: "Bryce Young's height and weight. There have been small QBs at the combine before -- Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray are among the most prominent -- but never has there been a quarterback that was under 5-foot-11 and weighed less than 190 pounds. We'll see if Young has added weight, but whatever the measurements are, he's still the best QB in the class."
Young, of course, won't throw at the combine. After a magnificent career at Alabama that included a Heisman Trophy, he doesn't have much to prove. That's the exact opposite for Anthony Richardson, who we talked about in yesterday's newsletter. I really enjoyed our Doug Clawson's comparison of the two signal callers.
You can see our combine snubs here and the schedule here.
What we're watching Wednesday 📺
🏀 Auburn at No. 2 Alabama, 7 p.m. on ESPN2
🏀 Cavaliers at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Rangers at Flyers, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 No. 9 Texas at No. 22 TCU, 9 p.m. on ESPN2
🏀 Pelicans at Trail Blazers, 10 p.m. on ESPN