This Week in US Sports: NFL free agency gets cooking, but trades keep coming

By Sports Desk March 14, 2019

The NFL stole all the headlines in the US this week.

The first official day of free agency was Wednesday and there were plenty of moves made official, but there were several more that popped up and surprised some people.

In the meantime, the MLB season is crawling to the open and the NHL is roaring to its finish.


1. Free-agent frenzy

While a lot of what would happen in NFL free agency was known, the first official days of the signing period were full of surprises.

Le'Veon Bell finally found a home, but it was with the New York Jets which was somewhat unexpected. Earl Thomas signed with the Baltimore Ravens after the team released Eric Weddle. Tyrann Mathieu went to the Kansas City Chiefs and Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater could not make up their minds.

Things still are not done as big names like Ronald Darby, Justin Houston and Eric Berry remain available.

This is just getting started.


2. Trade bait

As crazy as the opening hours of free agency may have been, the trade market was even more bizarre.

No move was weirder than the one the New York Giants made as they traded Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns just one year after signing him to a five-year, $90million deal. The move caught everyone off-guard and had Giants fans fuming.

Beyond that though, the Antonio Brown saga came to an end not once, but twice. First, last Friday, it looked like Brown had been traded to the Buffalo Bills. Then the wide receiver reportedly nixed the deal and it fell through.

Then on Saturday he was officially dealt to the Oakland Raiders. He got his career off to an interesting start as well as he showed up to his introductory news conference some 25 minutes late. He is going to have a lot of fun with Jon Gruden.


3. MLB injuries already piling up

This is why you do not draft your fantasy team further than a week out from the season.

Several prominent names have gone down, especially on the pitching side, before the season has even begun. St Louis Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez is likely to start the season on the injured list while Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw still is not throwing at full strength. Also in Los Angeles, potential Angels opening-day starter Andrew Heaney has been shut down.

All of this happens soon after Yankees ace Luis Severino was scratched before a start last week and likely will not start the season in New York's rotation.

The list of walking wounded keeps growing in MLB and the season does not start officially until next week.


4. Fan interference

Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook is not the best player in the world with fans, but by all accounts, what happened this week in Utah was not on him.

While Westbrook was fined for yelling at a fan, "I'll f*** you up," upon review of the incident the spectator was clearly out of line and subsequently banned for life from Vivint Smart Arena by the Jazz.

"Racism and hate speech hurts us all, and this is not the first time something like this has happened in our arena," Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said in a statement. "The Utah that I have come to love is welcoming and inclusive and last night's incident is not indicative of our fanbase. We don't want to create a negative reputation for athletes who potentially may want to come to Utah."


5. NHL milestones

The NHL season is coming to an end and this is shaping up to be a good close to the campaign, but as that is going on, several players are checking off career milestones as they go.

In fact, two players hit serious marks this week in the same game as Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin tallied his 1,000th career point and Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin got his 1,200th in Pittsburgh's 5-3 win over Washington on Tuesday.

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    Giannis Antetokounmpo insisted there is no pressure on the Milwaukee Bucks despite allowing the Toronto Raptors to tie their Eastern Conference Finals series on Tuesday.

    The Bucks held a 2-0 lead after the opening pair of games in Milwaukee, but Toronto - after a thrilling double overtime win in Game 3 - levelled the series at 2-2 with a 120-102 victory at Scotiabank Arena in Game 4.

    Milwaukee trailed by 10 points at the half and were unable to overturn that deficit, with Antetokounmpo blaming a poor third quarter for their inability to produce a turnaround.

    "Obviously I think we started aggressive, in the third quarter we came out flat," Antetokounmpo said. 

    "It's something we can get better at, something we can fix, it's something that we've been doing all season.

    "Usually in the third quarter we come out and we're aggressive, making shots, moving the ball but we weren't able to do it.

    "But at the end of the day we're not going to lose our confidence, hopefully when we get back home we can execute better in the third quarter and the whole game."

    Performing in the third will be pivotal for the Bucks not only in this series but also if they do make it to the NBA Finals, where a Golden State Warriors team renowned for game-changing third-quarter runs will be the opposition.

    But Antetokounmpo does not believe there is any extra burden on the Bucks after this loss, adding: "There's no pressure, obviously we've got to take care of [our] home [matches], it's our job but I don't think there's pressure. We've just to go out there and have fun, play good basketball, be us, and try to win.

    "Just got to play with more energy, execute better, but our feeling is the same, doesn't change, they did their job. They protected home and we've got to do our job now.

    "Got to give them credit, obviously they are doing a great job defensively, helping one another, closing the drive lanes, using their hands in the passing lanes but we've got to execute better, got to take better care of the ball.

    "We've been playing good basketball the whole year, if you lose one or two games it's not the end of the world."

  • Raptors' VanVleet ends shooting slump after birth of second child Raptors' VanVleet ends shooting slump after birth of second child

    Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet credited the birth of his second child for helping him return to form after the worst shooting slump of his playoff career, as they levelled the Eastern Conference Finals with the Milwaukee Bucks.

    VanVleet flew to Illinois on Monday to witness the birth of his son Fred Jr, before hurrying back to Toronto for the Raptors' 120-102 Game 4 victory over the Bucks, which tied the series at 2-2.

    The 25-year-old went seven for 44 and three for 25 from three-point range since the start of the Conference semi-finals with the Philadelphia 76ers.

    However, in Game 4 he went five for six shooting and nailed all of his three-point attempts as he, Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka added 48 points from the bench.

    "It makes you tired," VanVleet said of the arrival of his second child. "It gives you a little perspective, I guess, on life.

    "I had a lot of time to think. Had to sit at the hospital all day, had a lot of time to think, obviously a plane ride back.

    "It just changes the way you're looking at things. You are not so down on yourself about everything."

    The bench's performance took the strain off Kawhi Leonard, with Toronto able to level things up despite the former San Antonio Spurs star tallying just 19 points after racking up 36 in their Game 3 win.

    "We know we have to be better," VanVleet added. "We see all the stuff. We understand what the narrative has turned into, that it is kind of 'Kawhi Leonard and The Backup Singers.'

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    The Raptors are aiming to make the Finals for the first time in franchise history, with defending champions the Golden State Warriors awaiting the winner of the series.

    Leonard said of the production his team-mates delivered: "It was big time. Everybody contributed, knocking down shots, playing great defense.

    "[I] feel good. Keep going, keep fighting. We have a chance to make history."

  • Yankees stay hot, pull away for win over Orioles Yankees stay hot, pull away for win over Orioles

    The New York Yankees are on a roll in MLB, continuing their run of good form on Tuesday.

    New York scored six runs in the first three innings and cruised to an easy 11-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.

    They have now won seven of their past eight games.

    Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier went two for four with five RBIs in the victory while Gary Sanchez drove in four runs, including a first-inning homer.

    Domingo German picked up the win for New York after allowing two earned runs over five innings. David Hale was credited with the save after he pitched four innings of one-run ball.

    Stevie Wilkerson hit a three-run homer for the Orioles.

    The Yankees and Orioles will play the third game of their four-game series on Wednesday.


    Marvellous Marquez

    German Marquez threw eight scoreless innings and struck out seven in the Colorado Rockies' 5-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    Chad Wallach put the Marlins ahead with a double in the 11th inning. Miami held on to beat the Detroit Tigers 5-4.

    Mets win despite Familia struggles

    Mets reliever Jeurys Familia allowed two runs and recorded just one out against the Washington Nationals. New York, however, still managed to win 6-5.

    Eric Thames was 0 for four with two strikeouts in the Milwaukee Brewers' 3-0 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.


    Soto, Trout go deep

    The Nationals' Juan Soto hit a huge home run against the Mets.

    Mike Trout did likewise for the Los Angeles Angels.

    Tuesday's results

    Oakland Athletics 5-3 Cleveland Indians
    New York Yankees 11-4 Baltimore Orioles
    Chicago Cubs 3-2 Philadelphia Phillies
    Colorado Rockies 5-0 Pittsburgh Pirates
    Toronto Blue Jays 10-3 Boston Red Sox
    Miami Marlins 5-4 Detroit Tigers
    New York Mets 6-5 Washington Nationals
    Los Angeles Dodgers 7-3 Tampa Bay Rays
    Cincinnati Reds 3-0 Milwaukee Brewers
    Texas Rangers 5-3 Seattle Mariners
    Houston Astros 5-1 Chicago White Sox
    San Diego Padres 3-2 Arizona Diamondbacks
    San Francisco Giants 4-3 Atlanta Braves
    Minnesota Twins 8-3 Los Angeles Angels


    White Sox at Astros

    Houston have defeated Chicago in the first two games of this series and have won 12 of their past 13 overall. The Astros will send Gerrit Cole (4-4, 3.56 ERA) to the mound while the White Sox will counter with Ivan Nova (2-4, 7.42 ERA).

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