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07-Jul 2022 Thursday 5:26 PM (81 days ago)               #1
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Wimbledon: Banged-up Nadal Survives to Set up Kyrgios Semis Showdown

The hope of a dream Wimbledon final between the ATP Tour’s top two stars – Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal – is still alive as the Spaniard survived an abdominal injury to win a five-set war against American Taylor Fritz.

However, Nick Kyrgios could prove to be a formidable foe after the Australian took care of Chile’s Cristian Garin in straight sets to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final.

The winner of the Nadal-Kyrgios clash will go on to face either defending champion Djokovic, who came from two sets down to stun Jannik Sinner, and hometown hero Cameron Norrie.

So read on as SBOTOP catches you up on the latest Wimbledon 2022 news on the men’s singles tournament.

Rafael Nadal plays through pain to foil Fritz

Rafael Nadal added another entry to his already long list of memorable Grand Slam performances as he overcame injury to defeat Taylor Fritz in their quarter-final clash in five gruelling sets.

The 36-year-old Nadal looked to be on the verge of retirement as he called a medical timeout due to what appeared to be an abdominal injury midway through the match.

However, the No. 2 seed found a way to play through the pain as he came from behind to beat Fritz 3-6 7-5 3-6 7-5 7-6(4) after nearly four and a half hours.

“It was a tough afternoon against a great player,” said Nadal in his on-court interview. “All the credit to Taylor, he has been playing great during the whole season. From my personal side, it was not an easy match at all, so I’m just very happy to be in the semi-finals.

“The body in general is fine. In the abdominal [area] it is not going well, being honest. I had to find a way to serve a little bit differently, for a lot of moments I was thinking maybe I would not be able to finish the match, but I don’t know. The court, the energy [helped me].”

Nadal says he hopes to be ready to play in his semi-final showdown with Nick Kyrgios.

Nick Kyrgios cruises to first Grand Slam semi

Speaking of Kyrgios, the Australian has reached the first Grand Slam semi-final of his career as he crushed Cristian Garin in straight sets 6-4 6-3 7-5(5).

Kyrgios, who knocked out World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas earlier in the tournament, continued his strong service game as he fired 17 aces and won 73 per cent of 1st serve points. He also saved eight of nine break points as he wrapped up the win after just over two hours.

Nick Kyrgios has qualified to the Wimbledon 2022 semi-finals after thrashing Cristian Garin in straight sets
Nick Kyrgios celebrates after winning his Wimbledon quarter-final match against Cristian Garin

“An amazing atmosphere out here again. I just never thought that I would be in the semi-finals at a Grand Slam. I thought that ship had sailed,” Kyrgios said in his on-court interview. “I didn’t go about things great earlier in my career and may have missed my window. I am really proud of the way I have come back out here.”

The Wimbledon 2022 betting odds will be against Kyrgios, who is 3-6 in his nine career matches against semi-final opponent Nadal. Kyrgios won their first-ever meeting at Wimbledon in 2014, but Nadal has won each of the last three matches, including one in Wimbledon in 2019 as well as their most recent match in the Indian Wells quarter-finals earlier this year.

But with Nadal’s questionable health status, Kyrgios could have a much better chance of making his first Grand Slam final.

Djokovic duels with Norrie in other semi

The winner of the Nadal-Kyrgios semi-final will face either World No. 1 Novak Djokovic or British No. 1 Cameron Norrie in the final.

Both players needed to come from behind to win their respective quarter-final matches in five sets.

Djokovic was surprisingly in a more precarious position as he went two sets down against Jannik Sinner. But the three-time defending champion stormed back in spectacular fashion as he extended his winning streak at the All England Club to 26 matches.

“Happiness, love, fulfilment, pride, [I feel] everything on this court,” said Djokovic in his on-court interview, when asked about extending his winning streak. “I love it. I think the majority of the players would agree this is the biggest tennis tournament in the history of our game, so this court is the most important one, definitely in my career and my life.

As for Norrie, he rallied from a 2-1 deficit to defeat David Goffin 3-6, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 and reach his first Grand Slam semi-final.

“Just winning a match like this, I’m in shock. I don’t know what to say now,” an emotional Norrie said in his on-court interview. “But just straight flashbacks to all the hard work, all the preseasons and all the sacrifices I’ve had to make. So it definitely pays off and it feels pretty good.”

Djokovic won the only meeting between him and Norrie. That came in the ATP World Tour Finals last year.


 

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 07-Jul-2022 at 5:26 PM




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07-Jul 2022 Thursday 7:21 PM (81 days ago)            #2
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Austrian Grand Prix: Red Bull Eye Resurgence as Sprint Returns

After missing out on most of the excitement of the British Grand Prix due to a car mishap, reigning F1 champion Max Verstappen will look to bounce back in the Austrian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver has dominated at the Red Bull Ring in recent years, with the Dutchman winning four of the last six races at the track, including both races from last season.

Moreover, Verstappen won the first sprint race of the season in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and will look to pick up another victory when the sprint returns in Austria.

However, he will face some stiff competition this year from team-mate Sergio Perez, who has been in impressive form this season, as well as the Ferrari’s of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, who is coming off his first career F1 win, not to mention a resurgent Lewis Hamilton.

Talking Points

Red Bull’s race to lose?

It shouldn’t come as much of a shock that Red Bull have fared quite well on their namesake track. Max Verstappen, in particular, has loved driving at the Red Bull Ring. He has won the Austrian Open in three of the last four years, and also won the Styrian Grand Prix, which was also held last season at the track.

Moreover, the reigning world champion has been in terrific form this season. After two retirements in the first three races, he went on to win six of the next seven races. And he arguably could have added another victory at Silverstone had it not been for damage from debris that derailed his race.

And as dominant as Verstappen has been, don’t discount his Red Bull teammate, Sergio Perez. The Mexican has been right there with Verstappen with six podium finishes in his last eight races and is capable of producing some Austrian Grand Prix 2022 highlights himself.

With their two drivers in such fine form, it’s no surprise that the Austrian Grand Prix 2022 betting odds are leaning heavily toward another Red Bull victory. So barring another unexpected setback like the one Verstappen had at Silverstone, it will be hard to bet against Red Bull continuing their reign at the Red Bull Ring.

Can Ferrari mount a serious challenge?

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. will be looking to dominate the upcoming Austrian Grand Prix
Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. celebrates winning the British Grand Prix

However, Ferrari remain a realistic threat to Red Bull. Carlos Sainz picked up his first career F1 win last weekend and has now finished second or better in three of the last four races. Meanwhile, Charles Leclerc continues to show he has the pace to compete with Verstappen.

Unfortunately, Ferrari are not doing Leclerc any favours with their faulty strategy. The Scuderia were widely criticised for their decision to leave Leclerc out during the late safety car at the British Grand Prix, which ended up costing him a podium finish and possible victory.

Sainz performed better than Leclerc in both races in Austria last season and will be keen to extend his recent run of finishing above his Ferrari team-mate in four of the last five races.

Can Hamilton continue resurgence?

Lewis Hamilton looks to be out of title contention after a poor start to the season. But the 37-year-old Silver Arrows star is showing signs of life with back-to-back third-place finishes. Hamilton even led his first laps of the season at his home Grand Prix.

Although, it remains to be seen whether Hamilton and Mercedes’ revival can continue at the Red Bull Ring, where they have historically underperformed relative to other tracks. Hamilton only has two win in his career in Austria, which came back in 2016 and in the 2020 Styrian Grand Prix.

Hamilton finished second again in the Styrian GP last season, but came in fourth in the Austrian Grand Prix, the fourth time in five years he has finished fourth or lower. He suffered a rare retirement in Austria in 2018, one of his two DNFs in the last five-plus seasons.

History

As mentioned previously, Max Verstappen has been the man to beat at the Red Bull Ring in recent years. He has won three of the last four Austrian Grands Prix, with the exception being in 2020 when he retired due to an electronic issue. And Verstappen also won last year’s Styrian Grand Prix, which was also held at the Red Bull Ring.

Surprisingly, Valtteri Bottas is the active driver with more success in the Austrian Grand Prix. The Finnish driver won the race twice when he was with Mercedes, in 2017 and in 2020.

What are the odds?

After his disappointing seventh-placed finish at Silverstone, SBOTOP odds fancy Verstappen to bounce back in Austria. The Dutch driver is priced at 1.90 to come out on top over the field, with any other driver priced at 1.92 to win.

And in the team-mate battles, Hamilton is slightly favoured at 1.85 to finish ahead of Mercedes team-mate George Russell, who suffered an early retirement due to a big crash at his home Grand Prix.

Meanwhile, Charles Leclerc is an overwhelming 1.45 favourite to top Ferrari team-mate Sainz, who has outperformed Leclerc in four of the last five races.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 07-Jul-2022 at 7:21 PM




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12-Jul 2022 Tuesday 1:39 PM (76 days ago)            #3
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Wimbledon: Rybakina Overcomes Jabeur to Claim Maiden Championship

For the fifth time in a row, a new champion has been crowned in the Wimbledon women’s singles tournament as Elena Rybakina defeated Ons Jabeur in the final.

Rybakina rallied from a set down to overcome the Tunisian Jabeur 3-6 6-2 6-2 to win her maiden Grand Slam title. The 23-year-old, who is one of the rising young stars on the WTA Tour, was thrilled with her incredible accomplishment as she became the first Kazakh to win a tennis Grand Slam.

And despite her defeat, Jabeur still kept an optimistic perspective about the future, and she is not alone in believing this is the beginning of bigger and better things for the 27-year-old.

So read on below as SBOTOP shares all the coverage from the Wimbledon women’s singles final.

Rybakina rallies to claim historic Wimbledon win

Elena Rybakina made history by becoming the first player from Kazakhstan to win a Grand Slam championship after she came from a set behind to beat Ons Jabeur 3-6 6-2 6-2 in the Wimbledon final.

Rybakina admitted post-match that she was still in shock that she accomplished the historic feat of claiming a Grand Slam title.

“I still can’t believe it,” she said. “Maybe one day, in a few days, I [will] sit down and I realise what I did. But for now I’m super proud of myself. Of course, my team and everybody who worked with me. It’s been tough, but I think we made it all together.”

Despite defeating former World No. 1 Simona Halep in the semi-finals, the Wimbledon 2022 betting odds still had Rybakina as the underdog heading into her final matchup against World No. 2 Jabeur, and the 23-year-old had a rough start as she lost the first set.

But after that nervy opening set riddled with 17 unforced errors, Rybakina made adjustments and grew stronger as the match wore on as she won the next two sets to complete her comeback.

“Maybe in the first set I was too nervous. Of course, Ons, she played well. I needed time to adjust to her game. But then I thought that I’m going to fight till the end no matter what. Just tried to focus on every point because it was very tough. “

Ons Jabeur remains optimistic about her future

Ons Jabeur missed her chance at making her own bit of history as her bid to become the first African and Arab woman to win a Grand Slam final in the Open era fell short.

But Jabeur was still upbeat despite suffering that final defeat and believes her time to win a Grand Slam will eventually come.

Ons Jabeur seems happy despite failing to seal the Wimbledon championship against Elena Rybankina
Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur looks delighted after receiving the runner-up silverware during the Wimbledon championship

“I’m definitely positive about [holding the runners-up shield],” she said.

“I’m very glad with my results. I don’t regret anything. I gave it all today. A final, I lose so many at the beginning, then step back and win one more. I don’t disbelieve in myself and I know that I’m going to come back and win a Grand Slam, for sure.”

After taking a well-deserved break, the No. 2-ranked player on the WTA Tour will return to competition at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, which begins in August, as begins her preparation for the US Open. She is already excited to get back in action and chase more titles.

“I really cannot wait to play my next tournament, especially that I’m going to the States, and I know there is a lot of crazy fans there,” Jabeur said.

“This is just the beginning of so many things. I’m very positive about it. I wanted really bad that title. Maybe because I want it too much, I didn’t have it.”

Calm Rybakina tipped for more Grand Slam glory

Elena Rybakina made plenty of Wimbledon 2022 highlights as she came back from a set down to win the final. But perhaps her most memorable highlight of the entire tournament was her calm and stoic reaction to winning her first Grand Slam title.

Former World No. 1 and seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander believes the Kazakh’s calm and collected personality will be key to her winning more Grand Slams in her career.

“You’re seeing the reactions here of a woman who’s very calm on the inside,” Wilander said.

“Most probably wild in terms of emotions, but that’s how she turned the match around. I don’t think you can ask someone who’s come back from a set down – and win against somebody who is as complicated as Ons Jabeur – to go crazy afterwards in her speech.

“You see what you get with Elena Rybakina – she’s going to win many more majors if she stays that calm.”


 

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 12-Jul-2022 at 1:39 PM




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14-Jul 2022 Thursday 12:03 PM (75 days ago)            #4
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NBA: Top Contenders for Kevin Durant Deal Facing Big Dilemmas

Where will Kevin Durant be traded? That is the biggest question yet to be answered in the NBA offseason. The 33-year-old superstar has requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets, listing the Miami Heat and the Phoenix Suns as his preferred destinations.

But while the Heat are reportedly the most determined team to land Durant, they have some significant challenges in getting a deal done as the Nets continue to have a high asking price for KD. Similarly, other top contenders in the Phoenix Suns and the Toronto Raptors face major obstacles in their chase for Durant.

So read on below as SBOTOP breaks down the latest developments surrounding the top teams in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes.

Miami Heat

As recently reported by top NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the Heat are the team with the most interest in Durant at the moment. Although, Woj adds that the Heat will likely need to add a third or even a fourth team to the trade in order to meet Brooklyn’s steep asking price for Durant.

The Heat can offer reigning Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and some additional pieces, but the Nets might push for All-Star big man Bam Adebayo to be included in the deal. Although, there’s the added issue of Adebayo not being able to be on the Nets with Ben Simmons, which further complicates matters for Miami.

And now, there is a new wrinkle to the whole saga with the massive NBA 2022 news that the Jazz are open to trading All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell. The Heat have long been linked with Mitchell and reportedly even made a trade offer for him, but the Jazz shot it down.

While Durant is clearly the superior player, Mitchell might be the more attainable star of the two, so if the Durant negotiations with the Nets become too complicated, the Heat may have to decide whether to pull out of the KD sweepstakes and focus on Mitchell instead.

Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns are one of Kevin Durant’s preferred NBA teams for the next season
Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul reacts during an NBA match against the Dallas Mavericks at Footprint Center

The Suns have gone to the Finals and had the best regular-season record in the NBA in back-to-back seasons, but Chris Paul and co. have not been able to get over the hump and win their first NBA title in franchise history.

Durant’s arrival would obviously boost the Suns’ NBA 2022 odds significantly, and on paper they seem to have the pieces to put together a compelling trade package for KD, with Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson possibly part of a deal.

But the Suns’ pursuit of Durant could be complicated by Deandre Ayton, who is a restricted free agent, possibly signing an offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers.

If Ayton does sign the offer sheet and the Suns match, then he wouldn’t be eligible to be traded until December, by which time Durant could be off the market. And if the Suns decline to match, which is a significant possibility after they decided against offering Ayton a max contract, then they would lose him for nothing.

However, Phoenix and Indiana are reportedly working out a potential sign-and-trade to get some assets back in return. Pacers big man Myles Turner could be part of a trade package for Ayton, which they could then use in a Durant deal.

 Having said all of that, though, the Suns are also in a similar predicament to the Heat where they likely need a third or fourth team to swing a trade for Durant, which will not be easy to do.

Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors are no strangers to swinging a blockbuster trade for a disgruntled superstar forward. They famously got Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs in 2019 and went on to win the NBA championship with him.

So, will lightning strike twice in Toronto?

Maybe not. Woj also reported that there has been no progress in trade talks with Toronto since the Raptors are not willing to offer reigning Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes into any potential Durant deal.

The Raptors have other interesting assets they could offer in the form of Pascal Siakam, who was voted All-NBA Third Team last season, OG Anunoby, and Gary Trent Jr. But apparently, the Nets are not willing to listen to any deal that doesn’t include Barnes, which is understandable on their part. Barnes is one of the most promising young players in the league as he averaged 15.3 points and 7.5 rebounds as a rookie.

While the Raptors willingly traded away franchise great DeMar DeRozan to acquire Leonard, team president Masai Ujiri may not be as quick to part with the 21-year-old Barnes, who has flashed legitimate star potential. But it will take a huge haul to get a great player like Durant, and it remains to be seen whether the Raptors are willing to pay such a heavy price.


 

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 14-Jul-2022 at 12:07 PM




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28-Jul 2022 Thursday 6:12 PM (60 days ago)            #5
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NBA: The Lakers Big 3 are Vowing to Make it Work

It’s highly likely that the oft-criticised “Big 3” of LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, and Anthony Davis will remain intact next season, which is bad news if you’re a Lakers fan.

After all, this core is fresh from a disappointing 2021/22 season where they couldn’t even make it to the NBA play-in tournament as they finished with a 33-49 record – good for only 11th in the Western Conference.

On the other hand, James Harden is taking a different approach this free agency in order to help the Sixers build a competitive group that could vie for a championship, while the Suns have maintained their title contending core by bringing back one of their key starters.

Read on below as SBOTOP reviews the latest NBA 2022 news.

Lakers to run it back since there’s no imminent trade

Since Russell Westbrook was a horrible fit alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis last season, the Lakers were looking to bolster their NBA 2022 odds by trading him for Kyrie Irving, who’s also in a patchy situation with the Nets.

The Lakers and the Nets went back and forth with their trade proposals for a possible mega swap, but talks have bogged down, so it’s likely that both teams will be sticking to the status quo next season.

Furthermore, Chris Haynes from Yahoo Sports recently reported that Westbrook, James, and Davis huddled up over the phone to re-affirm their commitment to one another in their pursuit of a title.

Russell Westbrook is about to earn $47-M for the 2022/23 season after exercising his player option before he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2023 alongside LeBron James, while Anthony Davis’ current contract runs up to 2023/24.

The 2017 MVP has also parted ways with his longtime agent Thad Foucher of Wasserman after they apparently disagreed over his Lakers future. Foucher had represented Westbrook since the beginning of his NBA career.

The Lakers fired head coach Frank Vogel at the end of last season and they replaced him with Darvin Ham, who has been vocal about Westbrook’s starting role ahead of next season.

James Harden makes a huge sacrifice

James Harden hoping for Philadelphia 76ers to improve their roster in the next NBA season
James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers in Game Six of the 2022 NBA Playoffs

The wise financial move for James Harden was to opt in of his $47.4-M player option for the 2022/23 season. But instead, he declined in order to give the Sixers more flexibility.

Harden mentioned that he talked with Sixers president Daryl Morey about their cap situation and said that following their upcoming additions, he just wants “whatever is left over.”

“I told Daryl to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over. This is how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship,” said Harden.

The Beard was traded to the Sixers by the Nets last February to team up with Joel Embiid, but they only went to as far as the Eastern Conference semi-finals since they were eliminated by the top-seeded Heat.

Harden not opting in was a blessing in disguise for the Sixers since he hasn’t lived up to his market value with his subpar campaign, but to be fair, he was bothered by multiple injuries all throughout this past season. 

So far this summer, Philadelphia have done just that by bringing in De’Anthony Melton, Danuel House, and PJ Tucker on a three-year deal.

Deandre Ayton extends Suns stay after almost switching teams

Deandre Ayton plans to put free agency behind him as he’s ready to run it back with the Suns. For a while, there was some uncertainty surrounding his future as he couldn’t meet halfway with the team’s management.

He then signed a four-year $133-M max with Indiana since he was a restricted free agent, but Phoenix quickly matched the largest offer sheet in NBA history as soon as they received it.

Phoenix had an underwhelming campaign last season after making their second Finals appearance in franchise history during 2020/21. The Suns won an NBA-best 64 regular season games but were eventually eliminated by the Mavericks in the second round.

In Game 7 against Dallas, Ayton was benched after a confrontation with head coach Monty Williams. But looking back, the 23-year-old brushed off the notion that he and his coach don’t have a great relationship – which was reportedly the main reason why the Suns took too long to bring him back.

“Game 7 was an anomaly. We let that get away from us as a team. That is all in the past. We’re going to look forward. We are going to move on,” said Ayton.


 

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 28-Jul-2022 at 6:12 PM




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28-Jul 2022 Thursday 6:15 PM (60 days ago)            #6
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NBA: Harden’s Sacrifice Gives Sixers Good Shot at Title

James Harden finally signed his new contract with the Philadelphia 76ers last week, a 2-year, $68.6 million pact that was one of the surprises of the NBA offseason.

Despite his status as a bona fide superstar, the former NBA MVP took a significant discount, which then allowed Philadelphia to make some key signings this summer.

As a result, Harden and the Sixers’ NBA 2022 odds of winning the championship are in much better shape overall. They are currently priced at 13.00, the eighth-lowest odds in the league. But can the Sixers actually succeed in their search for a first NBA title in nearly 40 years?

Read on as SBOTOP breaks down the Sixers’ offseason and why Harden and co. could be legitimate championship contenders.

Sixers get stronger, deeper

Last season’s playoffs unfolded in an unfortunately familiar way for Philadelphia. Joel Embiid suffered yet another freak playoff injury which kept him out of a couple of games in their series against the Miami Heat.

And after the Sixers traded Ben Simmons for James Harden, it was The Beard who played the role of left-handed, offensively inept point guard as they crashed out in the East semi-finals for the fourth time in five years.

There were a few factors that played into this latest episode of Sixers playoff failure, and one of them was their lack of depth. The Sixers hardly had any bench to speak of, which put too much pressure on the starters.

GM Daryl Morey sought to address that glaring weakness this offseason, and he has succeeded. First, Morey swung a trade for De’Anthony Melton, a player he had originally drafted with Houston in 2018. Melton is an athletic guard who shot a career-best 39 per cent from 3-point range last season, which seems like a fine fit alongside Harden.

Morey then added two more Rockets old boys in forwards PJ Tucker and Danuel House in free agency. Those two deals would not have been possible if it hadn’t for the huge NBA 2022 news that James Harden would take an enormous discount on his next contract.

With those three new players, the Sixers have improved their depth by adding three capable defenders who are also decent 3-point shooters. On paper, they fit perfectly with Harden, who is a defensive liability that needs shooters around him to space the floor and hit the 3-point shots he can set up.

And if the Sixers can add another Rockets alum in veteran guard Eric Gordon – with whom they have been strongly linked – then they could get even more dangerous.

Embiid still elite

Joel Embiid has been names in All-NBA second team for the fourth time in five years
Joel Embiid playing for Philadelphia 76ers against Toronto Raptors

The Sixers’ offseason moves will not only be beneficial to Harden, but also to the Sixers’ other superstar, Joel Embiid. The All-Star big man had another outstanding season as he won the scoring championship with a career-high 30.6 points, and added 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.5 blocks to finish second in NBA MVP voting behind Nikola Jokic for the second straight year.

Now heading into his age 28 season, Embiid is entering the prime years of his career, which makes it even more important for Philadelphia to surround him with as much talent as possible to compete for a championship.

The Harden-Embiid pick-and-roll was one of the most effective plays in all of basketball as they quickly struck up a strong connection upon teaming up together. And with more capable shooters around Embiid, that play has the potential to be even more lethal this upcoming campaign.

Harden can still help

Based on his performance last season for both the Brooklyn Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers, particularly in the playoffs, it seems that the James Harden that was once a perennial MVP candidate is now gone.

At age 32, with nearly 1,000 regular-season games played and a rash of hamstring injuries in recent years, Harden’s body is starting to break down to the point where he is no longer among the truly elite superstars in the NBA.

But that’s not to say Harden is washed up and no longer capable of contributing. He still averaged some impressive numbers last season, with 22 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 10.3 assists in 65 total games. Although, he shot just 41 per cent, the lowest since his rookie year, and a career-low 33 per cent on 3-pointers.

But the great thing about Harden’s situation in Philadelphia is that he no longer needs to be the one-man offence that he often was in Houston. He now has Embiid and young guard Tyrese Maxey to help shoulder the offensive load during the regular season, which could help keep him fresh for the postseason. The added shooting provided by the Sixers’ new signings could also help give Harden the space he needs to be more effective.

And perhaps more importantly, he can finally begin to make alterations to his playing style now that he is entering a new stage in his career. With his move to take significantly less money in order for the team to sign Tucker and House, Harden sent a clear message that he is willing to do whatever it takes for the team to win, so that may very well include altering his game. If Harden does succeed in adjusting his game and becoming the perfect complimentary star alongside Embiid and around an improved supporting cast, the Sixers could very well be a top contender for the NBA championship next season.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.


 

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28-Jul 2022 Thursday 6:18 PM (60 days ago)            #7
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NBA: Celtics Suddenly Join the Kevin Durant Sweepstakes

The Nets remain at the forefront of the NBA trade talks as the unsettled future of Kevin Durant continues to loom large. Recent reports claim that the Celtics are the newest club to enter the race for the Nets’ superstar, who requested for a trade during the start of free agency.

The Celtics reportedly offered a package around Jaylen Brown for Durant which has caught the attention of the Nets’ management, although there’s nothing imminent between these teams just yet.

On the other hand, Kyrie Irving expressed his desire to stay this upcoming season and has no intention to move elsewhere. And over in the West, there are three other teams that have discussed a possible deal with the Lakers involving Russell Westbrook since talks between LA and Brooklyn have reached an impasse.

Learn more about the latest NBA 2022 news by continuing to read down below.

Celtics have an intriguing package for Kevin Durant

The list of Kevin Durant suitors wasn’t as big as most would’ve anticipated despite his world-class calibre. Here at SBOTOP, we previously listed the Heat, Suns, and Raptors as possible trade destinations for the 2014 NBA MVP.

But with the Suns recently signing Deandre Ayton to a long-term extension, along with the unwillingness of both the Raptors and the Heat to part with their young stars, Durant’s market has dwindled and many believe that he will suit up for the Nets next season whether he likes it or not since he still has a four-year contract with them.

Many pointed out that the Rudy Gobert trade has limited the Nets’ realistic options since the Jazz got five first-rounders and several rotation players for the French center, and Brooklyn are likely to demand a similar package or even better.

So a lot were surprised when the Celtics emerged as a possible destination, including Jaylen Brown himself as shown in his most recent tweet. After all, the Celtics were two wins away from winning their record-breaking 18th NBA title last season, and they got even better with the acquisitions of Danilo Gallinari and Malcolm Brogdon.

The initial offer was to include Jaylen Brown, Derrick White, and a draft pick for Durant, but the Nets wanted more. Instead, they’re proposing to include Brown, Marcus Smart, a couple more draft picks, and possibly one more rotation player, per sources.

Boston are mulling over Brooklyn’s counteroffer but they’ll be taking their time as there’s still more work to be done for both sides.

Should any of these deals happen, the NBA 2022 odds have the Celtics as the huge title favourites alongside the Warriors. However, Boston’s championship window would be significantly shortened since Durant is turning 34 years old this September.

Kyrie Irving committed to the Nets

Kyrie Irving is focused with the Brooklyn Nets ahead of the new NBA season
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving reacts during an NBA game against the Milwaukee Bucks

Amid the speculation in Brooklyn, Kyrie Irving is apparently focused on playing for the Nets for the foreseeable future regardless of whether Kevin Durant leaves or not, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

Earlier this summer, Irving opted into his $37-M player option for the 2022-23 season despite being linked to several teams. Him staying is good news for Brooklyn at least, since it gives them an ounce of competitiveness with his talent. 

Last season, Irving played in only 29 regular season games largely because of his decision not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 – which made him ineligible to play in majority of the Nets’ home games.

After being swept by the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, Irving said that he planned on remaining with the Nets, even talking about managing the franchise alongside Durant, general manager Sean Marks, and team owner Joe Tsai.

Several teams expressed interest in Russell Westbrook

The Jazz, Knicks, and the Pacers are reportedly among the teams that have inquired about a potential trade involving the Lakers’ Russell Westbrook and draft capital.

Russell Westbrook recently exercised his $47-M player option to stay in Los Angeles for one more year. Despite averaging 18.5 points, 7.1 assists, and 7.4 rebounds per game last season, he struggled to fit with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, which led to their 33-49 record – which is good for only 11th in the Western Conference.

Meanwhile, another report has surfaced that LeBron James no longer has interest in playing with Russell Westbrook, which was mentioned by ESPN’s Dave McMenamin during his latest podcast appearance with Zach Lowe.

Based on McMenamin’s comments, the Lakers are under pressure to rid themselves of Westbrook in order to increase their chances of keeping LeBron James beyond this upcoming season.


 

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28-Jul 2022 Thursday 6:23 PM (60 days ago)            #8
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French Grand Prix: Leclerc Mistake Leads to More Ferrari Misery

A promising French Grand Prix for Ferrari quickly went pear-shaped. First, Charles Leclerc made a crucial mistake and crashed out a third into the race, which likely cost him a much-needed victory. Then, Ferrari made another questionable call to send Carlos Sainz in for a late pit stop that saw him lose out on a potential podium finish.

Leclerc’s crash allowed defending champion and championship leader Max Verstappen to cruise to a comfortable victory. Meanwhile, Mercedes continued their renaissance as Lewis Hamilton and George Russell joined Verstappen on the podium.

Read on below as SBOTOP delivers three key takeaways from the 2022 French Grand Prix.

Leclerc lacking Verstappen’s championship composure

Charles Leclerc is clearly a talented driver and based on the form he’s shown this season, he really should be right up there challenging Max Verstappen for the world championship.

But despite his undoubted ability, the 24-year-old Ferrari driver’s flaws were there for all to see in the French GP as he missed a great opportunity to close the gap on the defending champ.

After seemingly reviving his title challenge with his impressive win at Austria, Leclerc’s French Open 2022 odds of claiming back-to-back victories were looking good after securing another pole position. But the Ferrari driver committed what he described as an ‘unacceptable’ mistake which caused him to crash on Lap 18 while being in the lead.

Leclerc simply lost control of his car despite not being in any pressure whatsoever, and he was right that it was a mistake no one with serious title aspirations should be making.

That’s now the third time this season where Leclerc has retired from a race while he’s been in the lead, and he really should be considering it as 25 more valuable points dropped.

With Verstappen hardly putting a foot wrong this season, Leclerc cannot afford to make any more of these sorts of mistakes. He simply must cut out these costly errors if he is to compete for a championship in his career.

Faulty Ferrari strategy strikes again with Sainz pitstop call

Ferrari’s late pit stop call was criticised as Carlo Sainz Jr. finish fifth in the French Grand Prix
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. during a pit stop

Meanwhile, Ferrari – who have been making questionable strategic moves all season long – made another controversial call to send Carlos Sainz into the pits late in the race.

Sainz, who started all the way at the back of the grid after changing his engine due to his engine blow-out in Austria, had done extremely well to be in contention for a podium place. But his hopes of reaching the podium were all but lost after making his late stop.

Ferrari were previously under fire for not calling Charles Leclerc in for a pit stop during a late safety car in the British Grand Prix. That decision proved costly for Leclerc as he was overtaken by Sainz – who did go in for a pit stop – and went from the race lead to a disappointing fourth.

Ferrari certainly have their reasons for making these decisions, and Sainz also came to his team’s defence after the race. But the fact remains that their decisions are having a detrimental effect on their drivers, and they simply must do better if they are to compete with Red Bull.

Mercedes capitalise on Ferrari foibles

While Ferrari keep shooting themselves in the foot, Mercedes are slowly but surely getting their act together. Lewis Hamilton finished second – his highest finish of the year – while George Russell was right behind at third. It was the first time this season that the two Silver Arrows made it to the podium.

Hamilton was understandably delighted by his team’s French Grand Prix 2022 results, their best showing of the season to date.

“What a day and weekend,” Hamilton said. “I’m so proud of the team, this is an incredible result.

“Winning races and getting results like this, it’s about the whole package. Of course, we know that we don’t have quite the pace of the two teams ahead but reliability is a huge fundamental part of the process. I’m so proud of my team for having the reliability that we do have.”

After a slow start, Hamilton is finally back to competing at the top of the grid as he is accustomed to doing and has now reeled off four consecutive podium finishes.

Granted, he acknowledges that he does not have the pace to fully compete with the Red Bulls and Ferraris, but with the Prancing Horse’s frequent pitfalls, Hamilton is making the most of his opportunities to grab a higher position.

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04-Aug 2022 Thursday 8:09 PM (53 days ago)            #9
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Hungarian Grand Prix: Can Mercedes Get Back Into the Championship Picture?

Mercedes are showing signs of life in these past few races and they’ll be aiming to gain more momentum at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The reigning constructors’ titlists are fresh from a superb performance in the French Grand Prix as they were the primary beneficiaries of Ferrari’s misery. However, they still have a long way to go in order to get back into the championship mix.

Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel made headlines when he finally launched his Instagram account, although he caught everyone off-guard with his first-ever post.

Learn more about the latest Hungarian Grand Prix 2022 updates here at SBOTOP.

Mercedes hopeful to follow up spectacular outing in France

It was all smiles for Mercedes during the French Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton finished P2 and teammate George Russell was third. But despite getting their best result of the season so far, the Silver Arrows aren’t satisfied at all.

 “I think it’s simply we’re just lacking performance on the single lap and we’re lacking performance on the initial stages of the stint so there’s something to understand. Second and third is a good result but we need to work out how to win and there’s still a gap,” said team principal Toto Wolff.

Wolff specifically pointed out their qualifying in France where Hamilton and Russell were both off pace. Normally, backing the Silver Arrows in Hungaroring is the sensible thing to do, but it’s no longer the case this time.

However, despite Red Bull and Ferrari’s dominance, this weekend’s race might provide another opportunity for Mercedes to narrow the gap since there’s a high chance of heavy rain that could even out the playing field.

Esteban Ocon hungry for more at Hungaroring

Ocon is fresh from a P8 finish in his home race last week, while teammate Fernando Alonso was at P6 to move Alpine four points clear of McLaren for P4 in the constructors’ standings.

The Frenchman is excited to return to Hungary for the first time since standing on top of the podium 12 months ago and he won’t be simply aiming for points this weekend since he wants to prove that last year’s victory isn’t a fluke.

“It will be emotional to be back in Budapest for sure,” said Ocon. “I can already feel all the memories of last year coming back. But that was last year, and we need to be fully focused as a team to deliver another solid weekend.”

Sebastian Vettel’s farewell tour

Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel waved at the fans ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix
Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel acknowledges the fans ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix

After weeks of speculation about his future, Sebastian Vettel confirmed that he’ll be stepping away from Formula 1 at the end of this season.

The four-time Formula 1 champion made the announcement on Thursday, saying that his goals “have shifted from winning races and fighting for championships to seeing my children grow.” He also added that he’ll be focusing on other interests such as raising awareness for issues such as LGBTQ+ rights and climate change.

Vettel joined Aston Martin in 2021 after spending six seasons with Ferrari. Before racing for the Prancing Horse, the German driver won all four his world championships at Red Bull from 2010 to 2013.

His final race at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November will be the 300th race of his career – a milestone that only six other drivers have reached.

History

Hungaroring is more known as a Red Bull circuit, but it is Lewis Hamilton who has reigned supreme here with eight poles along with eight victories.

The 2021 edition of this race saw two major crashes on Lap 1 that eventually led to six total DNFs. Valtteri Bottas and Lance Stroll, given their roles in causing multiple-car collisions during the opening lap, were each given five-place grid penalties afterwards.

Esteban Ocon notched his first-ever Formula 1 win while Sebastian Vettel finished second on the track, but was later disqualified since his team couldn’t present the sufficient fuel sample to the FIA from the car post-race.

As a consequence, Lewis Hamilton – who was behind Vettel in the track – was promoted to P2 while Carlos Sainz Jr. took P3.

What are the odds?

Red Bull are poised to end their Hungaroring drought with Max Verstappen leading the way at 1.35, while teammate Sergio Perez is at 2.13.

Assuming they can overcome themselves, the Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. can go toe-to-toe with the pacesetters since they’re priced at 1.45 and 1.91 respectively.

But Mercedes are in form so their Hungarian Grand Prix 2022 odds look good. They can genuinely threaten for the podium once more as Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are pegged at 1.65 and 2.07.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

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04-Aug 2022 Thursday 8:10 PM (53 days ago)            #10
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Formula 1: Sebastian Vettel Deserves to Be Remembered

After 15 years in Formula 1, Sebastian Vettel is ready to call it quits. The 35-year-old German recently announced that he will retire at the end of the current 2022 season, thus marking the end of one of the most successful careers in F1 history.

Despite all of his success and dominance, especially early in his career, Vettel has expressed several times over the years that he doesn’t believe he will be remembered like other great F1 drivers once he retires, and that he does not need to be.

However, it is quite clear that Vettel’s body of work begs to differ. With all of his amazing achievements and accomplishments in the sport, he fully deserves to be remembered as one of Formula 1’s all-time greats.

So read on below as SBOTOP goes back in time to refresh your memory about the greatness of Sebastian Vettel.

Young Vettel rampages into F1 record books

Vettel burst onto the F1 scene with BMW Sauber and made his F1 debut at the ripe old age of 19, becoming the then-youngest F1 driver to take part in a Grand Prix.

He would move on to Toro Rosso halfway through the 2007 season, and his second season with the team would turn out to be a special one. The young German made more history as he became the youngest pole sitter when he grabbed pole at the Italian Grand Prix.

And he did the unthinkable later that weekend as he went on to win at Monza, becoming the youngest Grand Prix winner in F1 history at 21 years and 74 days. (Max Verstappen would then come along and obliterate that record.)

By this point, it looked clear to many that Vettel had a very bright future. As it turned out, the future was much sooner than many had expected.

Vettel moved to Red Bull at the start of the 2009 season, and after a slow start, he quickly emerged as one of the top drivers on the grid. The 22-year-old won four races that season and finished second to eventual world champion Jenson Button.

But Vettel’s seemingly inevitable rise to the top was finally realised as the Red Bull driver came out on top in a very tight four-horse title race to become the youngest-ever world champion at 23 years and 134 days, overtaking the great Lewis Hamilton.

That marked the start of one of the most dominant stretches in F1 history as Vettel would go on to win four world championships in a row, which put him in an exclusive list along with Juan Manuel Fangio, Schumacher, and subsequently, Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel set several more records during that amazing four-year stretch. He tied fellow German Michael Schumacher’s record for the most race wins in a single season (13) in 2011. And he shattered Schumi’s record of seven straight wins in a single season by recording nine in a row to end 2013.

With so many world championships and a handful of entries in the Formula 1 record books already at age 26, it was easy to assume that Vettel was well on his way toward becoming the all-time greatest driver in F1 history.

However, Vettel was finally knocked off their perch the following season by Lewis Hamilton, and he never quite found his way back.

Vettel falls short of expectations at Ferrari

Formula 1: Sebastian Vettel had a difficult ending with Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel during one of his 2021 Formula 1 races with Ferrari

After that disappointing 2014 season, Vettel made his ‘dream’ move to Ferrari in 2015. The Scuderia had not had a world champion driver since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, and they were hoping Vettel’s arrival could bring back the glory days of Schumacher in the early 2000s.

Unfortunately, the dream turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. After a somewhat promising start, Vettel was unable to keep up with the two Mercedes drivers, Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. And the following season was even worse as Vettel finished a disappointing fourth in the drivers’ standings.

The 2017 and 2018 seasons went a bit better, but after once again starting strong, Vettel still finished a distant second to Hamilton, who was having his own Vettel-esque run of dominance.

Those two seasons turned out to be the high water mark of Vettel’s largely disappointing spell at Ferrari. After another dispiriting fifth-place finish in 2019, Vettel would plunge to an unfathomable 13th in 2020. By then, the writing was on the wall; his time at Ferrari was well and truly done, but not before leaving a significant dent in his legacy for some.

Vettel still a bonafide F1 legend

Vettel moved on to Aston Martin in 2021, and it hasn’t been all that successful. He had just three top-five finishes last season and his Formula 1 2022 odds have not been much better, with no top-five finish to date.

But Vettel’s underwhelming time in Ferrari – which wasn’t entirely his fault – should not detract too much from his overall legacy. In his prime, he was as dominant a driver as there has ever been in F1. As things stand, he ranks third all-time with 53 wins (behind only all-time leader Hamilton and Schumacher) and tied for fourth with four world championships.

Those are truly incredible achievements, ones that have earned Vettel the right to be remembered among the sport’s all-time greats – whether he likes it or not. Here’s hoping he can create a few more Formula 1 2022 highlights before he drives off into the sunset.

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04-Aug 2022 Thursday 8:12 PM (53 days ago)            #11
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NBA: Knicks, Sixers Subject to League Investigations

The New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers were two of the big winners of the NBA offseason as they made some major signings. The Knicks landed one of the biggest free agents on the market with Jalen Brunson, while the Sixers re-signed superstar James Harden, who took a significant discount on his deal that allowed the team to add two key free agents.

However, those deals have put the two Atlantic Division teams in hot water with the league office, which is investigating them for tampering.

Elsewhere, the Knicks’ pursuit of Utah Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell has apparently stalled, while disgruntled superstar Kevin Durant is set to meet with Brooklyn Nets ownership to discuss his future.

Read on below as SBOTOP rounds up all the latest news and updates from around the NBA.

Knicks, 76ers being investigated for tampering

The New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers are both being investigated by the NBA for possible tampering in their offseason signings of Jalen Brunson and James Harden, PJ Tucker, and Danuel House, respectively.

The league is looking into whether the two teams made contact with the players prior to the start of free agency, which is illegal.

The Knicks, who have earlier been linked with Brunson, locked up the point guard from the Dallas Mavericks on a four-year, $104 million contract on the first day of free agency.

As for the Sixers, Harden declined his $47 million player option and then decided to take pay cut by signing a new two-year, $68 million deal. This cut-price contract gave the Sixers the cap space to make two key free-agent signings in Tucker and House, which have improved their title ambitions.

If the league finds both teams guilty of tampering, they could face fines or the loss of draft picks. Just last year, the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat were both found guilty for their deals for Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry, respectively, and were each stripped of a second-round pick.

Knicks, Jazz talks for Donovan Mitchell stalled

Donovan Mitchell is poised to leave Utah Jazz before the start of the new season
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell passes the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers during the third quarter

In more Knicks news, their pursuit of Utah Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell has hit a snag, with the two teams going without contact in the last two weeks.

The Jazz had previously demanded a return of six first-round draft picks, Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin and Miles McBride from the Knicks, who were unwilling to meet such a steep asking price.

After trading away star big man Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Jazz are open to receiving offers for Mitchell in a bid to rebuild their team.

With Knicks talks stalled, the Jazz are now ready to start talking to other teams who are interested in Mitchell, namely the Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards.

However, don’t expect the Knicks to drop out of the race entirely as players of Mitchell’s quality don’t become available very often.

Durant to meet with Nets owner amid trade request

Kevin Durant is still on the Brooklyn Nets a month after demanding a trade from the team. There does not appear to be too much progress involving his two preferred destinations – the Miami Heat and the Phoenix Suns – while the Boston Celtics have also explored a potential deal but nothing seems imminent.

Amid his uncertain future, Durant is set to meet with Nets owner Joe Tsai later this week to discuss his situation, per veteran NBA reporter Steve Bulpett.

“What I’m hearing is that KD is going to meet with the owner this week,” the source told Heavy Sports. “He’s going to go directly to the owner, Joe Tsai, sometime this week. We’ll see how that works.”

It’s unclear whether the meeting is meant to persuade Durant to take back his trade request and stay with the team – which the Nets are reportedly still hoping he’d do – or to discuss the possible trade options on the table.

Should Durant decide to stay in Brooklyn, he will be part of a Nets team that will still be among the title favourites according to the NBA 2022 betting odds. Kyrie Irving opted into the final year of his contract, while Ben Simmons should finally make his much-awaited return after missing the entirety of last season.

Celtics legend Bill Russell passes away at 88

The entire sports world was saddened by the NBA 2022 news that Boston Celtics great Bill Russell passed away at the age of 88.

Russell died “peacefully” with his wife, Jeannine, at his side, a statement posted on social media read. The statement did not give the cause of death, but Russell had been unwell due to a long illness.

Tributes from across the NBA community poured in for Russell, who was the bedrock of the Boston Celtics dynasty that won 11 NBA titles, the last two of which saw Russell take up the role of player-coach.

“Bill Russell’s DNA is woven through every element of the Celtics organization, from the relentless pursuit of excellence, to the celebration of team rewards over individual glory, to a commitment to social justice and civil rights off the court,” the Celtics said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with his family as we mourn his passing and celebrate his enormous legacy in basketball, Boston, and beyond.”


 

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04-Aug 2022 Thursday 8:15 PM (53 days ago)            #12
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National Bank Open: Medvedev, Nadal In, Djokovic, Zverev Out in Montreal

The hard court season is in full swing, with the final Grand Slam of the year – the US Open – coming up later this month. But before flocking to Flushing Meadows, some of the top players on the ATP Tour will first head to Montreal to take part in the National Bank Open, which will begin next week.

World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev is the tournament’s top seed and will be out to successfully defend his title. Rafael Nadal could be his main challenger, with the Spaniard expected to make his comeback after his disappointing withdrawal from Wimbledon due to injury.

However, Novak Djokovic looks set to miss out due to his unvaccinated status, while World No. 2 Alexander Zverev is still not ready to return from his ankle injury.

So read on below as SBOTOP shares the latest National Bank Open 2022 news.

Daniil Medvedev getting ready for title defence

Defending champion Daniil Medvedev has been announced as the top seed in this year’s National Bank Open. The 26-year-old won the tournament in Toronto last year as he beat American Reilly Opelka in straight sets.

Medvedev is currently taking part in the Los Cabos Open, his first tournament since the Mallorca Championships in June. He scored a routine 6-4 6-3 win over Rinky Hijikata in his round of 16 match.

Medvedev is the No. 1 player in the ATP Rankings, although he only leads World No. 2 Alexander Zverev by 775 points. He is hoping to preserve his lead in Canada ahead of the US Open, and the National Bank Open 2022 odds have him among the top favourites to win the tournament.

“For sure I’m watching [the battle for No. 1] a little bit,” Medvedev told ATPTour.com. “Depends also the moment because I know at the end of the year, unless I try to win every tournament that is left, it’s probably going to be Rafa [Nadal] for [year-end No. 1]. But at the same time, I can keep it for quite a long time I feel like if I play good here in the [North American hard-court swing].”

Unjabbed Djokovic unlikely to play

Novak Djokovic is unlikely to participate in the upcoming National Bank Open
Novak Djokovic in action during his recent US Open tennis championship

World No. 6 Novak Djokovic was listed on the National Bank Open’s entry list, which was released last month.

However, it’s highly unlikely that the Serb will play in Montreal since he remains unvaccinated and Canada continues to have strict Covid vaccination rules in place.

When discussing Djokovic’s status last month, National Bank Open director Eugene Lapierre said the Serb had get to jabbed if he wants to compete at the National Bank Open in Montreal.

“The situation is clear – either Canada will change the rules regarding vaccination or he (Novak Djokovic) will have to roll up his sleeves and receive the vaccine,” said Lapierre. “However, I do not consider either of those two scenarios likely.”

Djokovic could also face a similar problem with the upcoming US Open. The Serb already missed this year’s Australian Open due to his unvaccinated status.

Zverev withdraws amid ankle injury

Aside from Djokovic, Alexander Zverev is another big name who will miss out in Montreal. The World No. 2 officially withdrew from the tournament last week as he continues to recover from the serious ankle injury he suffered at the French Open.

The German underwent surgery to repair torn ligaments in his ankle and has not been in action on the ATP Tour since.

Although, Zverev – a former National Bank Open champion back in 2017 – is still hoping to come back in time to play in the US Open later this month.

Rafa Nadal getting ready for return

While Zverev is still not ready to return to action, Rafael Nadal is on the verge of making it back on the court and could very well feature in Montreal.

The Spanish superstar had to pull out of the semi-finals at Wimbledon due to an abdominal injury, but he is on the National Bank Open entry list and recently posted pictures of himself back in training on social media.

Last month, National Bank Open director Eugene Lapierre confirmed that Nadal had already made plans to play in Canada.

“He’s made hotel reservations and he has asked us to send him a case of the balls we’re using for the tournament,” Lapierre said.

Nadal is the record five-time champion in the Canada Masters, with titles in 2005, 208, 2013, 2018, and 2019.


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09-Aug 2022 Tuesday 3:54 PM (48 days ago)            #13
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NBA: Celtics, Hawks, and Sixers Were the Most Productive in Free Agency

Even with the unsettled NBA futures of Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell, the bulk of the transactions are completed already in this summer’s free agency.

Notable teams in the Eastern Conference have improved their NBA 2022 odds because of their shrewd deals. On the other hand, some Western Conference clubs have gone into rebuild mode.

Without further ado, read on below as SBOTOP lists some of the biggest offseason winners and losers thus far.

Winner: Celtics

Boston didn’t rest on their laurels after their Finals appearance last season as they’ve added a pair of veterans that can contribute right away. Malcolm Brogdon gives them another heady playmaker, while Danilo Gallinari was signed only via the taxpayer midlevel exception and he brings additional shooting and height.

The Celtics recently emerged as the newest suitor in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes as they reportedly offered a package around Jaylen Brown for the Nets’ wantaway star. However, there’s no imminent deal for both sides as of the moment.

They’re probably better off with the roster that they currently have. And now that they’re armed with Finals experience, the Celtics are one of the biggest favourites to go all the way next season.

Loser: Nets

Speaking of the Nets, it’s highly likely that they’ll enter the 2022-23 season with virtually the same lineup that they had few months ago.

Kyrie Irving opted into his $37-M player option despite being linked to several teams, while Kevin Durant was in the NBA 2022 news for the wrong reasons once again when he reportedly threatened the team to choose between him and head coach Steve Nash and GM Sean Marks.

Team governor Joe Tsai voiced his support towards the front office and coaching staff as a response, and overall, this isn’t a good look for them ahead of next season.

Furthermore, their offseason moves didn’t help them much either since they’ve only traded for Royce O’Neale while they’ve added a couple of injury-prone wings in TJ Warren and Edmond Sumner.

Winner: Hawks

The Hawks now have a solid backcourt tandem after getting Dejounte Murray in exchange for three first-round picks. Murray is coming off an All-Star campaign last season, and he’ll add athleticism and defence to complement Trae Young.

Atlanta dealt Kevin Huerter to the Kings while adding Maurice Harkless and Justin Holiday. Also, they drafted AJ Griffin with the No. 16 overall pick during the most recent draft.

The biggest question heading into the new season is how their new pieces will mesh together. The good news, though, is that time is on their side since their cornerstones are just 25 years old or younger.

Loser: Spurs

The Spurs finally embraced a full rebuild this summer as they now have bigger cap space and draft capital. But as far as the 2022-23 season is concerned, they aren’t expected to win many games after they blew up their roster.

This summer, the Spurs signed Keldon Johnson to a four-year rookie extension and they’ve brought in three first-round rookies in Malaki Branham, Jeremy Sochan, and Blake Wesley.

Look for San Antonio to tank in order to put themselves in great position to try and draft Victor Wembanyama – who is a highly-touted prospect for next year’s draft.

Winner: Sixers

Philadelphia 76ers are determined to be a force to be reckoned with in the NBA Eastern Conference
Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden celebrates a play by his team against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center

James Harden’s decision to decline his $47-M player option for a lower annual salary has given the Sixers more flexibility to improve their roster, and that’s what they did this summer.

Philadelphia swung a trade for De’Anthony Melton while signing free agents PJ Tucker and Danuel House. Those three should fit in seamlessly since they can all shoot the three and defend on a high level.

These offseason moves will not only benefit James Harden, but also Joel Embiid, who is currently their best player approaching his prime. If he and Harden can stay healthy all season, the Sixers are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference.

Loser: Lakers

The Lakers wisely pivoted towards signing younger players in free agency. However, none of their recent additions are moving the needle.

They’ve signed Damian Jones, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Lonnie Walker IV, Thomas Bryant, and Troy Brown Jr., while drafting Max Christie using their second-round pick. But they also lost Malik Monk – who was one of their top outside shooters last season – to Sacramento.

Moreover, what makes the Lakers losers this free agency is that they still can’t rid themselves of Russell Westbrook. LeBron James reportedly “badly” wants to replace Westbrook with Kyrie Irving, but talks between the Lakers and the Nets haven’t progressed toward an agreement.


 

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11-Aug 2022 Thursday 2:10 PM (46 days ago)            #14
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Formula 1: Vettel’s Retirement Prompts Shakeup in the Drivers’ Market

The retirement of Sebastian Vettel from Formula 1 has triggered a domino effect in the drivers’ market for next season.

With the four-time champion leaving at the end of this year, Aston Martin had a spot available and they’ve decided to bring in another former world champion in Fernando Alonso to pair up with Lance Stroll for 2023.

Alonso’s surprising switch means that Alpine are currently short of one racer for next season, and the France-based outfit were left aghast after they were recently spurned by one of their top candidates.

With the midseason summer break now in full swing, continue to read on below as SBOTOP brings to you the newest Formula 1 2022 updates.

Fernando Alonso to take Sebastian Vettel’s place at Aston Martin

Lawrence Stroll, majority owner of Aston Martin, has always wanted a big name to headline their team and he had one in Sebastian Vettel – who is one of the most successful drivers in Formula 1 history.

But while Vettel’s move to Aston Martin has been a positive, at least business-wise, it hasn’t translated much to on-track success as he had just three top-five finishes last season and none this year – which is in stark contrast to his prior stints with Red Bull and Ferrari.

Despite this, the Silverstone-based outfit is likely to maintain the same approach, which makes it a no-brainer for them to swoop up Fernando Alonso when Vettel handed in his notice that he’ll leave at the end of this season.

Fernando Alonso will be the new Aston Martin’s Formula 1 driver
Alpine’s Fernando Alonso after the Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying

Alonso, despite his advancing age, gives Aston Martin a proven talent that can boost their competitiveness, and the 41-year-old can also serve as a mentor for Lance Stroll.

His transfer to Aston Martin is going to be a big challenge for him, though, since he’s moving down from the team who’s P4 in the constructors’ table to the one who’s currently at P9.

Aston Martin’s Formula 1 2022 odds aren’t optimistic on their chances this season, but they’ll be hoping to change that upon Alonso’s arrival in 2023.

Oscar Piastri rules out driving for Alpine

Following Alonso’s switch to Aston Martin, Alpine announced the promotion of Oscar Piastri as their second driver for next season alongside Esteban Ocon – to which the Australian vehemently denied.

“I understand that, without any agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year. This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year,” Piastri said on his Twitter account.

Oscar Piastri’s announcement caught everyone off-guard, especially Alpine. The reigning Formula 2 champion has been long poised for a Formula 1 seat since he is one of the best young drivers today.

Alpine have invested heavily on preparing Piastri for Formula 1, so they’re understandably unhappy with the 21-year-old’s blunt statement.

“I expected more loyalty from Oscar than he is showing. I started in 1989 in Formula 1 and I’ve never seen anything like this. And it’s not about Formula 1, it’s about integrity as a human being,” said Alpine principal Otmar Sznafnauer.

“There should be some loyalty to the fact that we have invested literally millions and millions of euros to prepare him. So I don’t understand it either,” he added.

The France-based manufacturer could seek substantial compensation via legal means if the Australian doesn’t race for them next year. Furthermore, Sznafnauer added that they’re looking at other candidates for next season should their standoff with Piastri continues.

“I have about 14 phone calls from drivers who are interested, because the Alpine seat is the most valuable seat left,” bared the Alpine boss.

Daniel Ricciardo might have another change of scenery

Because of his lacklustre run thus far with McLaren, Daniel Ricciardo could be on the move once more, paving a way for the Woking-based team to possibly bring in Oscar Piastri to their ranks.

Ricciardo’s three-year contract with McLaren will expire at the end of the 2023 season, and the eight-time race winner has reportedly asked for a payout worth $21-M if he is to walk away next year.

If Piastri does indeed take Ricciardo’s place at McLaren, there’s a possibility that Ricciardo could end up with Alpine, which was formerly known as Renault where he spent two seasons from 2019 to 2020 after a successful stint with Red Bull in the years prior.

However, Ricciardo’s potential return is merely speculation for now since Alpine could opt for younger options on the market such as Nyck de Vries and Mick Schumacher.

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16-Aug 2022 Tuesday 7:33 PM (41 days ago)            #15
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Formula 1: The Sad Decline of Daniel Ricciardo

The Formula 1 ‘silly season’ revved up recently with the whole Oscar Piastri-Alpine controversy. Earlier this month Alpine announced that Piastri – the team’s talented reserve driver – would take over Fernando Alonso’s seat for the upcoming season.

However, the 21-year-old denied that he would drive for Alpine in 2023. He has since been strongly linked to a move to McLaren, where he would most likely replace fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who has been having a disappointing season.

And now, there is speculation that Ricciardo could leave Formula 1 entirely at the end of the season with McLaren set to terminate his contract.

To think that Ricciardo, who was once tipped to be a potential world champion, would be on the brink of exiting the sport due to awful form seemed unfathomable just a few years ago.

But as his Formula 1 2022 results have shown, the 33-year-old has declined to the point where it’s hard to see why any team would continue to take a chance on him.

So just how did it get to this point? Read on below as SBOTOP recounts the rise and fall of Daniel Ricciardo.

Rising star at Red Bull

Ricciardo got his start in Formula 1 in 2011 with Red Bull Racing. He served as Toro Rosso’s test and reserve driver at the start of the season before being contracted to Hispania Racing Team midway through the campaign.

Ricciardo then switched to Toro Rosso the following year and spent the next two seasons as a back marker. The Aussie’s results weren’t particularly impressive, but Red Bull nonetheless took a chance on him as they picked him to replace fellow Aussie Mark Webber as world champion Sebastian Vettel’s team-mate.

And Ricciardo certainly made the most of his tremendous opportunity to drive a top-tier car. He won three races that year – in Canada, Hungary, and Belgium – and to the surprise of many, finished third in the drivers’ standings, 71 points ahead of his world champion team-mate.

Vettel left for Ferrari the following season, leaving Ricciardo as Red Bull’s No 1 driver. After disappointing in 2015, Ricciardo bounced back the following year as he again finished third in the title race behind the two Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

Shock Red Bull exit and mediocre form

After two third-place finishes in three years, it seemed like a matter of time before Ricciardo would reach the top of the Formula 1 mountain. But the next two seasons were quite a bit underwhelming for the Aussie, who finished fifth and sixth, respectively. And in 2018 he was outperformed by his precocious young team-mate, future world champion Max Verstappen, although Red Bull’s reliability issues certainly played a part in his disappointing results.

The following season, Ricciardo made the shock switch to Renault, which was an inferior team that was far from championship contention. Many saw that move as a step down in Ricciardo’s career, and they would be proven correct. Ricciardo spent two mostly disappointing seasons with Renault as he made just two podiums and no wins.

Carlos Sainz is continuously improving with Ferrari this 2022 Formula 1 season
Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz in an interview ahead of the 2022 Hungarian Grand Prix

But despite those two seasons in the doldrums, the shine had not completely worn off Ricciardo’s reputation. He was still being linked with top teams, most notably Ferrari. He was being touted as a contender to replace Vettel in 2020.

However, that fabled Ferrari move did not come to fruition, with the Scuderia instead selecting Carlos Sainz. Ricciardo then moved on to McLaren, where he has spent the last couple of seasons.

Decline continues and demise coming

While Ricciardo’s first season with McLaren in 2021 saw him win at Monza – his first victory since his last Red Bull season in 2018 – it was again a mostly disappointing campaign. He finished eighth in the drivers’ standings, some distance behind team-mate Lando Norris, who finished on the podium three more times.

And the 2022 season has been even worse for the Aussie, who is once again being significantly outperformed by Norris and has claimed just 19 points, 12th in the standings. At this point, Ricciardo’s Formula 1 2022 odds of claiming another win are extremely remote.

With that sort of form, it’s no surprise why McLaren feel the time is right to move on from the 33-year-old, whose best days seem to be well behind him.

In hindsight, Ricciardo’s questionable move to leave Red Bull looks so much worse as his career has been on a downward trajectory ever since. Although, there’s no way to know if this steady decline would’ve happened regardless of whether he had stayed or not. As we’ve seen with the retiring Sebastian Vettel, even the very best drivers can suddenly go downhill and never quite get back up.

Still, it’s sad to see a driver of Daniel Ricciardo’s talent and promise suffering this sort of precipitous drop. With several years’ worth of subpar performances, there’s no doubt that his time as a title contender has long since passed, and his days as a Formula 1 driver could very well be numbered.

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 16-Aug-2022 at 7:33 PM




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17-Aug 2022 Wednesday 1:19 PM (40 days ago)            #16
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NBA: Durant’s List of Desired Landing Spots Doubles

It has now been a month and a half since Kevin Durant dropped his bombshell trade request on the Brooklyn Nets, but the former NBA MVP still has not gotten his move.

Durant recently met with Nets owner Joe Tsai and demanded the team sack head coach Steve Nash and GM Sean Marks for him to stay. Meanwhile, Durant’s list of desired landing spots has expanded, with Boston and Philadelphia joining Phoenix and Miami among his preferred destinations.

Elsewhere, the NBA has decided to retire the No 6 for all 30 teams after the passing of the great Bill Russell, while some NBA 2022 news has emerged about marquee games involving the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

So read on below as SBOTOP rounds up all the latest news and updates from around the NBA.

Durant delivers ultimatum to Nets, who stand firm

Amid the lack of progress following Kevin Durant’s trade request, the Nets superstar and Nets owner Joe Tsai met in London to discuss his future.

In said meeting, Durant expressed his lack of faith in the team’s direction. Moreover, he reportedly gave Tsai an ultimatum, demanding the team either trade him or sack head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks.

However, Tsai made it clear what he thought about Durant’s demand.

“Our front office and coaching staff have my support. We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets,” Tsai wrote in a tweet.

The Nets have reportedly set a high price in trade talks for Durant, who is on the first year of a four-year $194 million contract extension he signed last year.

Durant includes Sixers, Celtics in list of ‘desired landing spots’

As the Durant saga drags on, the superstar has reportedly expanded his list of desired landing spots, adding the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers to his initial list that included the Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat.

Durant reportedly wants to play with Celtics guard and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart.

Marcus Smart might be included in the deal if Kevin Durant moves to Celtics ahead of the new NBA season
Boston Celtics star Marcus Smart looks delighted during an NBA game in season 2021/22

However, Smart would most likely have to be included in a possible deal for Durant. After Boston engaged in trade talks, the Nets asked for both Jayson Tatum and Brown, which the Celtics unsurprisingly turned down. Brooklyn then touted a trade centred on Brown, Smart, and multiple first-round picks, which Boston also refused.

As for Philadelphia, Durant appears to be open to a reunion with James Harden, who forced a trade out of Brooklyn last season. The Sixers are looking like strong title contenders after making big free-agent signings, although they are under investigation by the NBA for those deals.

However, the Sixers’ NBA 2022 odds of landing Durant with a package of Tyrese Maxey and not much else don’t seem to be too promising.

NBA retires Russell’s No 6 leaguewide

In honour of the late Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, the NBA has announced it will be retiring his No 6 jersey for all 30 teams.

Russell, who passed away at the age of 88 late last month, becomes the first player in NBA history to have his jersey retired throughout the league.

“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honoured in a unique and historic way,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “Permanently retiring his No 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”

Starting with the 2022-23 season, no NBA team will be allowed to issue No 6 to any player. But players who currently wear No 6 – like Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James — are still able to do so.

Warriors to host Lakers on opening night, Grizzlies on Christmas

Speaking of LeBron James and the Lakers, they will be in action on the road against Stephen Curry and the defending champion Golden State Warriors on opening night of the 2022-23 NBA season on Oct. 18.

That means James and co. will witness Curry and the Warriors receive their championship rings.

The Lakers and Warriors also met on opening night last season. The Warriors went on to win 121-114 in Los Angeles, with Curry recording a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Meanwhile, the Warriors will also be at home on Christmas Day as they host Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies.

This will be a rematch of the Western Conference semi-final playoff series, which the Warriors won 4-2 en route to winning the title.


 

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17-Aug 2022 Wednesday 7:46 PM (40 days ago)            #17
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NBA: Notable Games Ahead of the 2022/23 Season

The NBA is set to unveil their full schedule for all 30 teams in the upcoming season soon, but we do already know some of the marquee matches to look out for.

Shams Charania from the Athletic took the liberty of informing basketball fans what certain big-time games to look forward to, namely those that have either the Warriors or the Celtics – who were the finalists from last season.

The new campaign can’t come soon enough, so continue to read on below as SBOTOP breaks down the five most exciting matchups of 2022/23 given what we’ve learned thus far.

October 18 – Los Angeles Lakers @ Golden State Warriors

The new season kicks off on October 18 with two games on the schedule as the Sixers head to TD Garden to face the Celtics, while the Warriors will raise their championship banner before hosting the Lakers.

The game at the Chase Center is our pick of the day given the history between the Warriors and the Lakers stars. Steph Curry and LeBron James have had so many battles against each other, so this adds another chapter to their historic rivalry.

The last time LeBron James took on the Warriors, he dropped 56 points to beat them in Los Angeles. The 37-year-old forward will be hoping for a similar outcome, although he would prefer a more balanced effort from his supporting cast.

The Lakers are coming off a disastrous year as they missed out on a playoff appearance due to injuries and poor roster construction. They are basically running it back with their Big 3 in LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis, hoping to re-establish themselves as a powerhouse in the Western Conference. 

October 20 – Los Angeles Clippers @ Los Angeles Lakers

Few days after their match against the Warriors, the Lakers head back home to take on the Clippers as the NBA isn’t wasting any time in reuniting the four LA-based superstars. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George have yet to share the court together since December 22, 2020.

These two clubs are expected to play three more times after this encounter, and hopefully again in the postseason since they’ve never met there in the past three seasons.

October 21 –Boston Celtics @ Miami Heat

Boston
Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown attempts a shot over Golden State Warriors forward Otto Porter Jr.

There will be a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals tilt between the Celtics and the Heat. This game is part of a difficult week for Boston as they’re fresh from a tough curtain-raiser three days earlier against a retooled Philadelphia roster.

These two teams last met in South Beach where the Celtics eked out a 100-96 win in Game 7 to advance to the Finals. Boston were leading throughout the game, but Miami clawed their way back and almost stole the victory if only Jimmy Butler knocked down his go-ahead three-point attempt late in the game.

December 25 – Memphis Grizzlies @ Golden State Warriors

Golden State will be playing on Christmas Day for the 10th year in a row and they’re slated to host Memphis, who were their opponents in last season’s WCSF.

It was a series which saw Draymond Green ejected in Game 1 after his flagrant two foul on Brandon Clarke and Dillon Brooks drawing the ire of the Warriors fans due to a hard foul on Gary Payton II – who was sidelined for several games with an elbow injury. The Warriors advanced to the next round after defeating the gritty Grizzlies in six games.

Few weeks ago, Draymond Green predicted this matchup when he and Ja Morant had a beefy exchange on Twitter, so both are understandably ecstatic after the league has decided to make this particular matchup happen.

January 19 – Golden State Warriors @ Boston Celtics

On January 19, the Warriors are scheduled to face the Celtics in a Finals rematch at the TD Garden, where they beat them in Game 6 to clinch their fourth title in the last eight seasons.

During the offseason, the Warriors lost several key players and they’re hopeful that the additions of Donte DiVincenzo and JaMychal Green along with their youngsters will be enough to help them defend their title.

The Celtics, meanwhile, have boosted their NBA 2022 odds with the additions of Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari. But they may not be done with their offseason just yet since rumours of a possible trade for Kevin Durant continue to swirl in the NBA 2022 news. Celtic fans are still stinging from their Finals loss so they’ll be keen on exacting revenge against the defending champions.


 

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22-Sep 2022 Thursday 12:57 PM (4 days ago)            #18
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NBA: Lakers Lock Down LeBron in Historic Deal

LeBron James is staying in LA. The 37-year-old superstar has signed a massive contract extension with the Lakers that has made him the highest-paid player in NBA history.

James reportedly signed his new deal, which has a player option in the second year that could see him remain with the Lakers until the 2024-25 season, after assurances that the Lakers would make moves that would improve their roster.

The Lakers have been heavily linked with James’ former running mate Kyrie Irving, but the Brooklyn Nets are apparently interested in getting a win-now player in any Irving deal, as well as future assets.

Meanwhile, the New York Knicks are reportedly back in the hunt for Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, who has also been made available for a trade.

Read on below as SBOTOP shares the biggest news stories from around the NBA.

LeBron James signs historic contract extension with Lakers

LeBron James has signed a two-year, $97.1 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers that has made him the highest-paid player in NBA history.

The 37-year-old James was in the final year of his 2-year, $85.6 million contract, but his new deal could see him stay in LA until the 2024-25 season if he opts into his player option worth $50.4 million.

With his new deal, James has now earned over $532 million in guaranteed money during his illustrious NBA career, overtaking Kevin Durant as the league leader in all-time earnings.

But according to NBA insider Marc Stein, there are apparently some strings attached to James’ new contract, with the Lakers promising to improve the roster around James.

“L.A. has nonetheless pledged to James that it will indeed continue to aggressively pursue upgrades. League sources say James, in fact, has been assured that the Lakers are willing to trade both of their available future first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 if a trade that costs them both picks can realistically position the Lakers to return to contender status,” Stein wrote.

The Lakers are coming off a disappointing 33-49 season in 2021-22 as they missed the playoffs for the first time in three years. James averaged 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists, but he only played in 56 games due to injuries.

Nets want ‘win-now player’ in Kyrie Irving trade

Will Kyrie Irving’s trade saga finalise before the new NBA season starts?
Kyrie Irving heads for the net during their Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at Barclays Center

One of the stars the Lakers have been most strongly linked with has been Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving. Like close friend Kevin Durant, Irving reportedly wants out of Brooklyn and is being discussed in trade talks.

But the Lakers face a significant problem in landing Irving as Brooklyn have set a hefty price on their disgruntled point guard.

Aside from future assets in the form of draft picks and young players, the Nets are reportedly also looking for a legitimate star who can help them win right away included in a potential Irving deal.

“The Nets’ current stance, sources say, is that they are unwilling to send out Irving in a trade if the deal solely brings back future assets. They apparently want win-now talent in return to part with Irving, despite all of the turmoil that has engulfed the Nets for months,” per Stein.

A popular trade construction has involved Irving heading to LA for Russell Westbrook, as well as one or two of the Lakers’ available first-round draft picks.

But while Westbrook is a former NBA MVP and multiple-time All-Star, he showed considerable signs of decline last season, which raises doubts as to whether the Nets still consider him as a ‘win-now player’. If they don’t, then the Lakers’ NBA 2022 odds of landing Irving appear to be significantly unlikely.

Knicks, Jazz have ‘re-engaged’ in Donovan Mitchell trade talks

The New York Knicks have ‘re-engaged’ in trade talks with the Utah Jazz for All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, The Athletic reports, although no deal is imminent.

The Athletic also reported that the Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards have joined the Mitchell trade sweepstakes.

The Knicks had pulled out of trade talks after the Jazz asked for a huge haul of six future first-round draft picks plus Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin and Miles McBride for Mitchell.

The Jazz made major NBA 2022 news when they traded centre Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a massive move, and they are hoping to get a similarly great deal for Mitchell, who is significantly younger and arguably better than Gobert.

The Knicks have stockpiled a lot of draft assets after their offseason trades, as well as some promising young players, but it remains to be seen whether they will meet the Jazz’s hefty asking price for Mitchell.


 

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22-Sep 2022 Thursday 1:03 PM (4 days ago)            #19
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NBA: The Kevin Durant Trade Saga is Finally Over

After a protracted trade saga, the Nets have declared that they’re running it back with the same core as they have agreed with Kevin Durant to move forward with their partnership.

Durant caught everyone in the NBA by surprise when he demanded for a trade on the eve of free agency. But with no viable offers for the Nets, the 33-year-old swingman will remain in Brooklyn for the time being.

Elsewhere, the Lakers made a move to get a serviceable veteran, while one of the top rookies in this year’s draft suffered a huge injury blow recently.

Continue to read on below as SBOTOP keeps you up-to-date with the latest around the Association. 

Kevin Durant rescinds trade demand, Nets pull out Kyrie Irving in trade talks

The Nets training camp before the start of the 2022-23 season is going to be awkward to say the least.

Kevin Durant was adamant on moving out of Brooklyn but the market was dry for the 2014 MVP, and it got so ugly to the point that he reportedly made an ultimatum to the Nets’ top management – making them choose between him or GM Sean Marks and HC Steve Nash.

Team owner Joe Tsai was firm that he’ll stick with Marks and Nash, and perhaps he made Durant realise that staying in Brooklyn was his best chance of winning another title given their high NBA 2022 odds.

Many have also pointed out that the Rudy Gobert trade to the Timberwolves indirectly ruined Durant’s chances of getting traded to another team.

The Jazz got a massive haul from the said deal which included five first-round picks and several rotation players, so the Nets wanted more given Durant’s calibre.

Ultimately, the high trade value set by Brooklyn worked in their favour, and Durant now has no choice but to fulfill his ongoing four-year contract with them.

Kyrie Irving has also been the center of trade talks in the NBA 2022 news, but the Nets have told interested teams that they plan on keeping the 2016 NBA champion, at least for now.

The 30-year-old guard exercised his $37-M player option last month so he’s locked in for one more season. However, there’s still a chance that he could get dealt ahead of the midseason trade deadline.

Lakers get a 3-and-D guard, Russell Westbrook’s status in limbo

Russell Westbrook will be Lakers’ active roster in their upcoming NBA campaign
Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook calls to his bench during the second half against the Charlotte Hornets

The Lakers have acquired Patrick Beverley from the Jazz in exchange for Stanley Johnson and Talen Horton-Tucker last Thursday.

Beverley returns to Los Angeles after playing for the Clippers in 2017 to 2021. Last season, he was vital for the Timberwolves’ playoff return before going to Utah as part of the Rudy Gobert trade.

The 34-year-old is well-known for his defencive presence and leadership which the Lakers badly need. He is also a good three-point shooter with a career average of 38-per cent.

On its face, Beverley is going to be the backup point guard behind Russell Westbrook. But Beverley and Westbrook have shared a near-decade long beef and the idea that these two will suddenly put their differences aside seems unthinkable.

Now with Beverley on board, several reports claim that his arrival makes it more likely that Westbrook will not be on the Lakers’ active roster come training camp, either through a trade or he’ll get the John Wall treatment by the Rockets.

Russell Westbrook has been in numerous trade rumours after a difficult first season with the Lakers. One of which is a possible deal with the Pacers, involving Myles Turner and Buddy Hield.

Chet Holmgren to miss debut season due to foot injury

The Thunder announced that the No. 2 pick of this year’s NBA draft, Chet Holmgren, is going to be out indefinitely due to a Lisfranc injury on his right foot.

Holmgren suffered the injury while playing at a pro-am in Seattle. He attempted to defend a fast break layup by LeBron James, but came up limping and was eventually held out. The game, though, was cancelled in the second quarter because of the condensation buildup on the court.

The 20-year-old center was one of the NBA players to participate in the games hosted by former NBA player Jamal Crawford, along with James, Jayson Tatum, Dejounte Murray, Paolo Banchero, and Aaron Gordon.

Several notable top picks have also missed their first years in the NBA due to injuries: Greg Oden (2007), Blake Griffin (2008), Ben Simmons (2016), and Joel Embiid (2014). Griffin, Simmons, and Embiid are still in the league today while Oden last played in 2014.


 

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22-Sep 2022 Thursday 1:05 PM (4 days ago)            #20
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NBA: These Free Agents Can Still Ball When Given the Chance

Just like in years past, this summer’s NBA free agency saw a ton of player movement as well as money being splashed around.

While much of the NBA 2022 news were focused on the Kevin Durant trade saga that was recently concluded, the Celtics, Hawks, and the Sixers were among those who used this time to be productive as they’ve strengthened their respective squads.

Options are now limited to the other teams compared to before, but there are still players out there who can contribute and all they need is to be given a chance to show what they’ve got.

So who are those ballers that are still finding a new home? Read on below as SBOTOP reviews the best available free agents out there in no particular order.

Carmelo Anthony

He may no longer be the superstar that he was back in the day, but he’s still a serviceable rotation piece because his exquisite shooting stroke never left him.

Last season with the Lakers, Carmelo Anthony averaged 13.3 points per game while shooting 38-per cent from three – making him one of their top outside threats – and he operated primarily as their score-first sixth man.

Few years ago, he was struggling to find a team because of his unwillingness to accept a more auxiliary role, so kudos to him for adjusting his game.

There’s still a handful of teams who could use his perimeter shooting and veteran leadership despite already at 38 years old. Recent reports claim that the Syracuse product has interest in returning to the Knicks where he played from 2011 to 2017.

Dennis Schroder

After missing out on a huge payday with the Lakers, Dennis Schroder played for the Celtics last season but was traded to the Rockets, where he was frozen out of the rotation.

Dennis Schroder averaged 10.9 points and 5.9 assists per game, although his shooting percentages have a lot left to be desired.

Dennis Schroder still has the potential to prove his worth if he joins another NBA team
Dennis Schroder shoots during Houston Rockets’ game against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center

As his stats indicate, Schroder can score and assist pretty well and he’s an underrated defender with his good lateral movement and hand speed.

Also, the German is only 28 years old, so he has a few more good years left in him. Teams who are in need of a backup point guard shouldn’t hesitate to pick him up.

Montrezl Harrell

Assuming he is going to be cleared from his ongoing felony drug charges, Montrezl Harrell can still provide a huge lift off the bench for your team.

The Louisville product is a force offencively since he can finish down low and grab boards. However, his lack of a three-point shot and lower height (6’7”) compared to other NBA bigs are what hold him back.

He does make up for it, though, with his high motor and hustle and he’s also only 28 years old. Harrell played for the Wizards and the Hornets last term, posting decent norms of 13.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game on 65-per cent shooting from the field.

Collin Sexton

Collin Sexton is currently a restricted free agent this offseason. The No. 8 pick of the 2018 NBA Draft hasn’t played in a game since November 7 because of a major knee injury.

In the 16 games that he played last season, Sexton averaged 16.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 45-per cent from the field.

The 23-year-old has the potential to become a solid two-way guard since he’s a confident scorer and he brings tenacity on the defencive end despite his small stature.

But with the Cavaliers focused on building around Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen, Sexton is now deemed as a surplus and perhaps he may need to find a new home.

Mileas Bridges

As he’s improved year after year, Miles Bridges emerged as one of the league’s top young forwards last season. The 24-year-old stalwart averaged 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game while shooting 49-per cent from the field for the Hornets.

Bridges was in line for a huge payday this offseason, but he blew his chance after he was recently arrested for domestic violence and child abuse allegations.

Although he pleaded not guilty to those charges, Bridges’ reputation is already tarnished so teams are now hesitant to give him a lucrative offer and he may not play in the league anytime soon which is a shame.

It will be fascinating to see where he ends up as the offseason rolls on. But overall, this is a massive setback for the Hornets, who enter the 2022-23 season with one of the lowest NBA 2022 odds. 


 

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22-Sep 2022 Thursday 1:06 PM (4 days ago)            #21
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NBA: Antetokounmpo and Doncic Headline MVP Candidates List Ahead of 2022-23

After winning the NBA MVP for the second straight year, Nikola Jokic will be vying for his third this 2022-23 season but it’ll be much easier said than done.

Because of voter fatigue and the ever-increasing level of competition around the Association, the Denver Nuggets star isn’t a top favourite by the NBA 2022 odds just like last year, but he still has a good chance since he has shown the capability to carry his team night in and night out.

Will we see a new guy win this upcoming season or will a familiar face take it home once more? Continue to read on below as SBOTOP examines the top contenders for the MVP award.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

The Greek Freak just keeps on improving year after year. In fact, he averaged more points (29.9) and assists (5.8) per game last season than he did during his second MVP in 2019-20, so he should finish at least in the Top 5 when it’s all said and done.

The Bucks superstar can do it all on both ends of the floor. He can score, pass, defend on the perimeter, protect the rim, and his outside shooting is the only thing that’s left to nitpick about.

Last season, he led Milwaukee to a 51-31 record in the Eastern Conference, but lost to the finals-bound Celtics in the second round.

Many would argue that if he had Khris Middleton by his side, he would’ve won his second consecutive NBA championship last season. Still, with him leading the way, the Bucks should vie for the title once more.

Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Luka Doncic had a slow start last season due to injuries and COVID-19. But after that, he went on a tear over the final three months of the season, averaging around 31 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game.

When Dallas traded away Kristaps Porzingis to the Wizards, Doncic took it upon himself to shoulder the offencive load and he eventually led his team to their first WCF appearance since their championship-winning year in 2011.

This summer, the Slovenian guard focused on improving his conditioning and he’s in much better shape than he’s ever been in before, which is bad news for the rest of the league.

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia Sixers

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid is one of the favourites to win the NBA MVP award
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid reacts after making a basket and getting fouled against the Cleveland Cavaliers

For the second year in a row, Joel Embiid came up short of winning his first MVP award. The Sixers center was understandably disappointed with the result, especially since he was the league’s leading scorer at 30.6 points per game.

Not only is Embiid a force offencively but he is as well defencively since he was the only player in the Eastern Conference to have at least 70 steals and 90 blocks.

The biggest knock so far in Embiid’s career is his lack of an ECF appearance after losing to the Heat last term. If he stays healthy throughout the 2022-23 season, he and James Harden are going to wreak havoc across the Association.

Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

After getting swept by the Celtics last season, the narrative has considerably changed around Kevin Durant. But now that his protracted trade saga is finally over, the 2014 MVP has a chance to redeem himself.

Durant averaged 29.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game last season, and he remains the Nets’ best player. Injuries have slowed him down these past few years, though, and he’s no longer getting any younger.

At least on paper, the Nets are easily a top contender in the Eastern Conference. Kevin Durant and his co-star Kyrie Irving are more than capable of producing many NBA 2022 highlights next season because they’re extremely talented offencively.

Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

The 2021-22 season didn’t end with Jayson Tatum hoisting up the Larry O’Brien Trophy, but he should vie for more major awards for the foreseeable future. The Duke product posted healthy norms of 26.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game in the regular season last year.

His Celtics fell short in the finals, losing to the Warriors in six games, but it showed a bright outlook for the team moving forward with Tatum leading the way.

Tatum was named First-Team All-NBA for the first time in his budding NBA career and he was also the recipient of the first-ever Larry Bird ECF MVP award. If Boston has plans to win the 2022-23 NBA title – which would be their first since 2008 – it will likely be on the back of an MVP-calibre campaign for Tatum.


 

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22-Sep 2022 Thursday 1:08 PM (4 days ago)            #22
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NBA: One Euro MVP Down, One to Go

A number of top NBA stars are currently representing their countries in EuroBasket, which is now in the knockout round.

One of the tournament’s biggest stars, two-time defending NBA MVP Nikola Jokic, is no longer in title contention, though, as his Serbia side were stunned by Italy in the Round of 16. But former two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is in the quarter-finals after Greece got past the Czech Republic.

Elsewhere, the Basketball Hall of Fame inducted its Class of 2022, which included NBA greats Manu Ginobili and Tim Hardaway Sr., while details of an exciting new tournament have emerged.

Read on below as SBOTOP shares some of the latest and most relevant NBA offseason news and updates.

Jokic’s Serbia ousted as Giannis’ Greece still going strong

The ongoing EuroBasket 2022 is getting good. The tournament just concluded the Round of 16, which saw a major upset as Italy knocked out a Serbia side led by two-time defending NBA MVP Nikola Jokic.

Jokic, who produced plenty of NBA 2022 highlights with the Denver Nuggets, had a strong game with 32 points and 13 rebounds, but the Italians went on a 16-2 run in the fourth quarter to stun the Serbs.

Meanwhile, another two-time NBA MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is still alive in the tournament as he led Greece to a 94-88 win over the Czech Republic.

Antetokounmpo, who is again among the favourites for the MVP award for the 2022-23 season, didn’t had 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists.

Other NBA stars in the quarter-finals of EuroBasket are Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic, who had 35 points in Slovenia’s 88-72 win over Belgium, and new Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, who erupted for 43 points in Finland’s 94-86 win over Croatia.

Manu Ginobili, Tim Hardaway headline 2022 Hall of Fame class

NBA legends Manu Ginobili and Tim Hardaway were among the nine-member class that was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame over the weekend.

Joining them were Swin Cash, Bob Huggins, Del Harris, Lindsay Whalen, Marianne Stanley, Theresa Shank Grentz and George Karl.

The Argentinian Ginobili won four NBA champions with the San Antonio Spurs, with whom he spent his entire 16 years in the NBA.

But aside from his glittering NBA career, Ginobili also had a brilliant career in Europe as well as a decorated international basketball career. He won two Olympic medals with Argentina: gold in 2004 in Athens and bronze in Beijing in 2008.

As for Hardaway, he was a five-time All-Star and All-NBA guard who played 15 seasons in the NBA. He spent six seasons each with the Golden State Warriors and the Miami Heat and averaged 17.7 points and 8.2 assists over his career.

Jazz wanted too much from Knicks for Donovan Mitchell?

Despite being engaged in trade talks for Donovan Mitchell as well as having the assets to acquire him from the Utah Jazz, the New York Knicks lost out on Mitchell, who eventually landed with the Cleveland Cavaliers in a blockbuster trade.

NBA: Donovan Mitchell moves to Cleveland Cavaliers from Utah Jazz
Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell tries to shoot the ball during their NBA game against Atlanta Hawks

So why did the Knicks miss out on Mitchell? Hall of Famer and TV analyst Charles Barkley claims he has the answer. Barkley said Knicks senior executive William Wesley (also known as World Wide Wes) told him that the Jazz were asking for too much in a trade for Mitchell.

“I’m gonna give you inside information. I actually had this conversation last night with World Wide Wes at dinner,” Barkley said. “I said, Wes, why didn’t y’all make the trade? He says, ‘Oh man. Don’t go by the media stuff. [The Jazz] wanted my wife, my kids.’

“… He says, ‘We wanted the deal, obviously,’ but he said, ‘They wanted my wife, they wanted my kids, they wanted my grandkids. They were just trying to rip somebody off.’ So he says, ‘Dude, we’re gonna have to pass on it.’ And I give those guys credit, because you can’t give away everything.”

Of course, Wesley is far from the most objective source, so take his word with a grain of salt. But whatever the Knicks’ reasons for not landing Mitchell, the fact remains that they missed out on a star who would have significantly boosted their NBA 2022 odds of returning to the postseason.

NBA could add in-season tournament by 2023-24

The NBA made a major change a few years ago when it instituted a play-in tournament for the final playoff spots. And it seems another ground-breaking innovation could be coming in the form of an in-season tournament, which could potentially be played as soon as the 2023-24 season.

According to NBA insider Shams Charania of The Athletic, the tournament would see teams playing “Cup games” through November, which would still count as regular-season games. The top eight teams would then advance to a single-elimination final.

All eight final teams will likely receive some sort of prize, but the league and the NBPA are still in the process of finalising those details.


 

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22-Sep 2022 Thursday 1:09 PM (4 days ago)            #23
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NBA: Who Stood Out in EuroBasket?

August and September are typically the most boring months in the NBA, so basketball fans were in for a treat when there was the FIBA EuroBasket.

The 2022 edition of Europe’s showpiece basketball competition will be remembered fondly since it was filled with NBA stars – from old and young – as well as some memorable upsets at every stage.

2022-23 MVP candidates Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, and Nikola Jokic all got to strut their stuff as expected, but there were others who also performed well for their nations in this tournament.

Continue to read on below as SBOTOP lists down those under-the-radar ballers who stood out.

Willy Hernangomez

Willy Hernangomez was arguably the most consistent player for the best team in Europe, so he gets the 2022 EuroBasket MVP award. He recorded norms of 17.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game in this tournament and he’ll bring this valuable experience back to New Orleans come training camp.

The Pelicans center managed to put up those stats in just 21.7 minutes per game and he shot at an efficient rate of 63-per cent from the field. Because of his gravity in the interior, he would often command double teams which helped generate better looks for his teammates.

His performances more than made up for the absence of the Gasol brothers as he basically led La Roja to their fourth EuroBasket triumph in the last six iterations.

Juancho Hernangomez

Willy’s brother Juancho also played a key role to Spain’s latest EuroBasket triumph. The younger Hernangomez sibling had his ups and downs in this tournament as he posted okay norms of 12.8 points and five rebounds per game, but he stepped up when it mattered most.

Juancho channeled his inner Bo Cruz during the final against France. The sweet-shooting swingman converted seven out of his nine attempts from three to finish with 27 points, earning for himself the finals MVP and the gold medal.

This summer, Juancho Hernangomez signed a one-year deal with the Raptors. Hopefully for him, his solid stint in EuroBasket can help him find a more consistent role in Toronto.

Lauri Markkanen

NBA player Lauri Markkanen averaged 27.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for Finland
Finland’s Lauri Markkanen celebrates after scoring a basket against Croatia in the Round of 16

Finland got to as far as the Top 8 for the first time since 1967 and Lauri Markkanen was the huge reason why. The new Jazz forward led his country to a historic run in this competition, averaging 27.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.

In three of Finland’s seven games, Markkanen breached the 30-point mark and his best performance came against Croatia during the Round of 16. The stretch forward dropped 43 points versus the Kockasti, which is the second-highest scoring output in a EuroBasket game for the last 20 years.

Utah are hopeful that they can get this version of Markkanen next season. He will surely get his chance to prove his worth by providing NBA 2022 highlights for the rebuilding Jazz.

Franz Wagner

Franz Wagner certainly left a huge impression in his first major FIBA competition. At just the tender age of 21, the Magic forward emerged as one of Germany’s vital cogs with averages of 16.1 points and four rebounds a game.

His best game in this tournament was against Lithuania where he had 32 points and eight rebounds. Known initially as a 3-and-D guy, Wagner displayed his improved playmaking and off-ball skills which would boost the Magic’s NBA 2022 odds for next season.

NBA pundits are proclaiming that Franz Wagner has the potential to be the league’s next big star, and it’s easy to see why after looking at his performances here at EuroBasket. 

Dennis Schroder

Dennis Schroder was a free agent earlier this summer and he needed EuroBasket to show why NBA teams should go out and get him.

The 29-year-old point guard was the undisputed leader for Germany, tallying norms of 22.1 points and 7.1 assists per game to lead them to a bronze finish – the country’s first medal in the FIBA-sanctioned tournament since 2005.

Because of his impressive EuroBasket campaign, Schroder finally secured a one-year $2.6-M deal with the Lakers. This will be his second stint with the team after averaging 15.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.1 steals per game in 61 games during the 2020-21 season.

2020-21 was also the last time the Lakers made the playoffs when Schroder was their starting point guard. The German will vie for PG minutes alongside Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley this upcoming season.

Schroder averaged 13.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game when he played for the Celtics and Rockets last term.


 

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22-Sep 2022 Thursday 1:29 PM (4 days ago)            #24
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US Open: Serena’s Last Grand Slam Stand

The 2022 US Open women’s singles tournament will be a special one. The last Grand Slam of the season is also set to be the last Grand Slam the great Serena Williams will take part in.

The 40-year-old has dominated the WTA Tour for over two decades, but she is finally ready to say goodbye. And based on the soaring ticket sales and prices, her fans are also hoping to see her last stand in the US Open.

Meanwhile, fans will also be treated to the other Williams sister, Venus, who is set to play in the US Open via a wild card berth. However, the status of both Simona Halep and Coco Gauff remains uncertain amid their recent injuries.

So read on as SBOTOP serves up the latest US Open 2022 news.

Ticket sales, prices soar for Serena’s last Grand Slam

Serena Williams is set to play in her last Grand Slam at the US Open, and fans will have to pay a high price for the privilege of watching her in action for one of the last times.

The U.S. Tennis Association sold over 16,500 tickets alone on Aug. 9, when the tennis champion announced her upcoming retirement, and the ticket sales have continued to the point where they have sold out.

“We are now basically sold out for Monday (Opening night), Tuesday and Wednesday nights,” a USTA spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, secondary ticket reselling sites have seen prices and sales jump significantly since Williams’ announcement.

If Williams wins the US Open, she would tie Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 career Grand Slam titles.

However, the US Open 2022 odds do not fancy the 40-year-old to do so. Serena, who just returned from a lengthy injury layoff at Wimbledon, has struggled for form since returning. After winning her return match, she lost in straight sets to Belinda Bencic in the Canadian Open, then smashed 6-4 6-0 by reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu.

Venus Williams earn wild card berth for US Open

While Serena Williams prepares for her Grand Slam swansong, her sister, Venus Williams, will also be participating in Flushing Meadows after she received a wild card berth for the tournament.

Venus Williams is continuously returning to action as she is set to play in the 2022 US Open
Venus Williams is in action during the Cincinnati Masters against Karolina Pliskova

Venus, a seven-time Grand Slam champion and two-time US Open winner, has missed significant time over the last year due to injury. She finally made it back to action in singles earlier this month during the Citi Open, but she lost to Rebecca Marino in the first round.

Williams has also gone on to lose her next two matches – to Jil Teichmann in the Canadian Open and Karolina Pliskova in the Cincinnati Masters – both in straight sets.

Iga Swiatek slams US Open tennis balls

World No 1 Iga Swiatek made headlines recently as he called out the U.S. Open due to the tournament’s use of separate tennis balls for the men’s and women’s players.

The US Open is the only tennis Grand Slam tournament to use different balls for men and women.

“I don’t know why they are different than men’s ones,” Swiatek said. “I don’t know, like, 15 years ago probably women had some elbow injuries because the balls were heavier and they changed them to women’s balls, but right now we are so physically well prepared that I don’t think it would happen. Plus we can’t get those balls in Europe, or actually, when we buy them at store, they are totally different than the tournament balls, so when I’m prasticing with U.S. Open balls at home [in Poland], I’m practising with men’s ones.”

Other players in the WTA Tour have previously complained about the difference in balls at the US Open, and World No 4 Paula Badosa recently voiced her support for Swiatek’s comments on Instagram.

“Very much agree,” Spain’s Badosa said, placing her comments over a screenshot of Swiatek’s statement. “Very unfavourable conditions for the players and for the spectacle,” she wrote with an added poop emoji.

Simona Halep, Coco Gauff dealing with injuries

Simona Halep and Coco Gauff are both hoping to shake off their respective injuries before the start of the US Open.

Halep suffered a thigh injury that forced her to withdraw from the Cincinnati Open and could be in doubt to play in New York.

That would be a disappointing blow for the 30-year-old Romanian, who has regained her form this season and was coming off a title win in the Canadian Open.

As for Gauff, she sprained her ankle and was forced to retire from her match against Marie Bouzkova at the Cincinnati Open.

The 18-year-old Gauff – who made a run to the French Open final earlier this year but lost to Iga Swiatek – was also victorious in the Canadian Open as she won the women’s doubles tournament, which saw her climb to top spot in the women’s doubles rankings.


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22-Sep 2022 Thursday 1:34 PM (4 days ago)            #25
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US Open: Rafael Nadal Aiming for a Triumphant Flushing Meadows Return

It’s been a while since Rafael Nadal has played in the US Open. After missing the previous two editions of this competition, the Spaniard will return to action with his eyes set on winning another Grand Slam crown.

The last time he played at Flushing Meadows, Nadal claimed his fourth US Open title in 2019 by beating Daniil Medvedev in the final – who subsequently won his first-ever Grand Slam here after he defeated Novak Djokovic last year.

Elsewhere, SBOTOP tennis fans are gutted to see two of the top contenders in Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic out for different reasons. However, defending champion Daniil Medvedev should still face stiff competition nonetheless.

Check out the latest US Open 2022 updates by continuing to read down below.

Rafael Nadal’s pursuit of No. 5

Nadal is fresh from a three-set loss to eventual champion Borna Coric during the Cincinnati Masters. Prior to that, the Mallorca native missed out on the final four of Wimbledon since he was forced to retire due to an abdominal injury.

Despite having little momentum and with his fitness problems recently, the second-seeded Nadal is still a top player to beat in New York – according to the US Open 2022 odds – because he has won multiple titles thus far this term.

After sitting out the second half of 2021 due to injuries, Rafael Nadal made a perfect comeback this year. He won at Melbourne before taking his first Australian Open crown in more than a decade, which was followed by victories in Acapulco, Mexico and France while reaching the Indian Wells Masters final.

Because of his solid performances, the 36-year-old is likely to qualify for the next Nitto ATP Finals in mid-November, which is reserved for the top eight players of each year.

In the end, though, the biggest question mark on Nadal is his health. The 36-year-old may be as tough as nails and you can never write him off, but Father Time is always undefeated. 

Alexander Zverev injured, Novak Djokovic still banned in the US

Because he’s still recovering from a serious injury, Alexander Zverev announced his withdrawal from the US Open. The 25-year-old hasn’t played since June after suffering a ligament tear in his ankle during his semis clash versus Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.

The World No. 2 was fighting to be fit for the Flushing Meadows event, but he will have to wait even longer for his first-ever Grand Slam.

The closest chance he got was in this same exact tournament two years ago before Dominic Thiem rallied to beat him in five sets. Last year, Zverev won the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo before losing to Novak Djokovic during the US Open semi-finals.

Alexander Zverev announces his withdrawal from the 2022 US Open due to injury
Alexander Zverev suffers an injury during the 2022 French Open semi-final against Rafael Nadal

Zverev won’t be the only Top 10 ATP player who is going to be absent in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, unless the US relaxes their border restrictions on Novak Djokovic.

“I am preparing as if I will be allowed to compete, while I await to hear if there is any room for me to travel to the US. Fingers crossed!” he posted recently on his social media.

Djokovic won’t change course on his stance to not get vaccinated for COVID-19. The 21-time Grand Slam winner was forced out of the Cincinnati Masters and the Montreal Open recently for this exact reason.

“I’m not planning to get vaccinated, so the only good news I can have is them removing the mandated green vaccine card or whatever you call it to enter United States or exemption,” said Djokovic last month after winning Wimbledon.

American player John Isner and tennis great John McEnroe criticised the decision to keep Djokovic from playing, with Isner calling it a “lunacy” while McEnroe saying that it’s “BS”.

However, there’s a glimmer of hope that Djokovic might play since the CDC updated their COVID-19 guidelines few days ago, which includes a pending review of the guidelines concerning unvaccinated foreign travelers.

Daniil Medvedev not in the best of form

Medvedev have had a mixed bag of results lately and he’ll look to be more consistent ahead of his US Open title defence.

Since being banned from Wimbledon for his country’s invasion of Ukraine, the Russian won the Los Cabos Open, but lost early to Nick Kyrgios in the Canadian Open Round of 32 and most recently to Stefanos Tsitsipas in Cincinnati.

The 25-year-old enters the Flushing Meadows as the No. 1 player in the ATP rankings. However, he has yet to play like one in these past few tournaments.


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22-Sep 2022 Thursday 1:36 PM (4 days ago)            #26
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US Open: Serena Williams Making It Count in Her Last Hurrah

Emma Raducanu may be the defending US Open champion, but the spectators in New York are more focused on Serena Williams – who started her last Grand Slam stand with aplomb last night.

The 40-year-old WTA star defeated Danka Kovinic In straight sets 6-3, 6-3, showing everyone why she is still a force to be reckoned with given her vintage performance.

She’ll look to make the most out of this tournament since she’s still gunning for her record 24th Grand Slam to finally draw level with Margaret Court, although her US Open 2022 odds to achieve such aren’t that promising.

Meanwhile, Simona Halep and Coco Gauff – who are dealing with injuries prior to the start of this tournament – have had contrasting results in the first round.

Read on below as SBOTOP serves you the newest US Open 2022 updates.

Serena Williams opens with a win, tougher test awaits in Round 2

Serena Williams felt at home during her return to the Arthur Ashe Stadium that was filled with more than 29,000 fans – especially with her daughter Olympia cheering her from the stands – but she had a shaky start against Danka Kovinic.

The six-time US Open Titleist lost three of the first four points with two on double faults. But she recovered by stroking two aces to equalise and eventually took the opening game after a fault from Kovinic.

Williams and Kovinic went back and forth in the succeeding games, but the former surged to a 5-3 lead and she was serving for the set point. She closed the set with her impeccable serve and she let out a primal roar to hype the home crowd.

Danka Kovinic threatened to take the succeeding set when she led 2-1, but Williams fought back by using her powerful weapon – the serve – once again to defeat the feisty 27-year-old Montenegrin.

Serena Williams has now won 107 matches in New York, with 102 of them coming from the Arthur Ashe Stadium. She’s slated to take on World No. 2 Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday, who beat out Jaqueline Cristian in the straights sets too.

Simona Halep on the receiving end of an upset

Simona Halep suffers a shocking first-round defeat at the US Open against Daria Snigur
Simona Halep hits to Daria Snigur on day one of the 2022 US Open

Simona Halep was on a roll prior to the US Open. The two-time Grand Slam champion had won 19 of her previous 22 matches en route to her returning to the Top 10 in the WTA rankings (7th).

But that didn’t matter at all against Daria Snigur, who was making her main draw debut of a Grand Slam after fighting through the qualifiers last week. The 20-year-old outlasted her veteran adversary, 6-2, 0-6, 6-4 for her first ever tour-level victory.

Snigur won six of the first eight games to take the first set, but Halep got even by winning 24 of 30 points in all six games during the second set.

In the penultimate third set, Snigur reclaimed control but Halep tried to mount another comeback when she was trailing 5-1. The World No. 7 closed to 4-5, but Snigur showed composure through her solid serve and her winning moment came when Halep’s late backhand found the net.

“I’m very happy,” said Snigur, who was in disbelief after the victory. “I’m very, very, very nervous, but I tried to do my best.”

“It’s very good because I won this match,” she added. “I tried to play for Ukraine, for Ukrainian people because I want to support Ukraine. I want to live in the country after war is finished.”

Daria Snigur will face Rebecca Marino in the second round on Wednesday.

Coco Gauff amazing in the opener

Coco Gauff kicked off her 2022 US Open campaign with a scintillating performance against Leolia Jeanjean in the opening round. After the 6-2, 6-3 rout, Gauff said that she embraces the pressure of being a favourite in this competition.

“Yeah, there’s definitely more expectations on me. People expect you to get over that final hurdle, and that’s something I expect of myself too because I know I feel it in me that I can repeat it and do it again,” said Gauff.

Her serve and ground game were outstanding as she fired eight aces, won 91-per cent of her first-serve points, didn’t face a single break point, and tallied 34 winners compared to her French counterpart’s nine.

The 18-year-old has yet to advance past the third round of the US Open as a singles player. She managed to reach the final in the doubles last year. With Simona Halep’s loss, Gauff is now the highest-ranked player in her part of the bracket, and her road to the final just got a little bit easier.


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22-Sep 2022 Thursday 1:38 PM (4 days ago)            #27
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US Open: The Swiatek-Jabeur Final is Going to be Epic

The 2022 US Open final will feature an epic clash between Iga Swiatek and Ons Jabeur in Flushing Meadows. The penultimate matchup is going to happen this Saturday, and it promises to give tennis fans a ton of US Open 2022 highlights to enjoy.

The World No. 1 and No. 5 may be highly favoured in the SBOTOP US Open 2022 odds, but both had long and winding roads to get this far. This is Jabeur’s second consecutive Grand Slam final after Wimbledon, while this is Swiatek’s first since successfully defending her French Open crown last June.

The head-to-head between these two form players is level with two wins apiece. So not only would this match determine who brings home the crown, but it’ll also give the winner the bragging rights over the loser.

Ons Jabeur continue to blaze trails

Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia fails to beat Tunisia's Ons Jabeur at the 2022 US Open semi-finals match
Caroline Garcia hits a backhand against Ons Jabeur on day eleven of the US Open

Known as the Minister of Happiness, Ons Jabeur brought more smiles to her country when she demolished Caroline Garcia 6-1, 6-3 in their semi-finals matchup on Thursday.

Jabeur just became the first Arab and African to make it this far in Flushing Meadows, which is quite impressive considering that her nation has never produced a Top 10 tennis player ever, and it’s clear that she won’t be content until she wins her first-ever Grand Slam.

She also became the first player to advance to the final in Wimbledon and at the US Open in the same season since Serena Williams three years ago.

Caroline Garcia came into this game with lots of confidence following her impressive victories over the likes of Bianca Andreescu and Coco Gauff in this event. She was enjoying a 13-match winning streak and has won 31 matches and three tournaments since June.

But that didn’t matter at all against Jabeur, who extended her Grand Slam winning streak over the French international to three matches. If you go back to their junior days, all in all, Jabeur has defeated Garcia seven times in seven tries.

The World No. 5’s powerful serve was the key to her win. Ons Jabeur had eight aces, 21 winners, won points on 83-per cent of her first serves compared to only 48-per cent for Caroline Garcia, and she never faced a single break point throughout the match.

“It was so important,” bared Jabeur. “I know she comes in the court and puts a lot of pressure on my second serve, so I had to put my first serves in.”

Following her dominant performance which lasted for only 66 minutes, Jabeur tossed her racket away and let out a loud scream to soak it all in.

“It feels amazing. After Wimbledon there was a lot of pressure on me. I’m really relieved I can back up my results. The hardcourt season started a little bit bad, but I’m really happy I could make the final here,” said Jabeur.

Iga Swiatek eager to be back on top once again

In stark contrast, Iga Swiatek had to fight tooth and nail in order to make it to her first-ever US Open final, beating Aryna Sabalenka 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in two hours and 11 minutes to be exact.

This marks the third career Grand Slam final for Iga Swiatek – her second this season and first that’s not on the clay courts of Roland Garros. She boasts a 2-0 record thus far and she’s keen to extend it to three.

Swiatek got off to a slow start as Sabalenka took the lead in the opener when she converted her fourth break point of the 2-2 game with her strong forehand. The big-hitting Belarusian launched a volley which gave her a second break to claim the first set.

However, the World No. 1 cut out most of the errors she had earlier to turn things around. The Pole broke the Belarusian at love in the opening game, and her improved defence was the key for her to draw level.

In the decider, Sabalenka took a 3-2 lead but Swiatek stayed composed. The Pole saved her best for last as she broke back at love for 4-4 and she didn’t look back ever since.

This was the fifth-ever meeting between Swiatek and Sabalenka. The Belarusian won their first encounter at last year’s WTA Finals, but the Pole has won all four of their matches this season.

“I feel like Aryna served pretty well today, better than on our other matches,” said Swiatek.

“I just went all in, you know. I’m pretty happy because I feel like we were both kind of sometimes risking, because the pace was really, really high,” she added.


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22-Sep 2022 Thursday 1:40 PM (4 days ago)            #28
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ATP: Roger Federer is Class Personified

Roger Federer’s retirement still feels like a shock even if it seems inevitable. Citing injuries and his advancing age, the Swiss icon said that next week’s Laver Cup is going to be his final ATP event.

This piece of ATP 2022 news that will certainly affect the ATP 2022 odds arrived a month after Serena Williams also made her decision to retire from tennis, signaling an almost end to a momentous era that has shaped the game of tennis.

“The Laver Cup next week in London will be my final ATP event. I will play more tennis in the future, of course, but just not in Grand Slams or on the Tour,” said Federer on his social media post.

“As many of you know, the past three years have presented me with challenges in the form of injuries and surgeries. Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt, and now I must recognize when it is time to end my competitive career.” he added.

Federer ends with 20 Grand Slam titles, a record for 237 consecutive weeks at No. 1, and he helped create a golden era of men’s tennis alongside Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Without further ado, SBOTOP takes a look at some of the top matches of Federer’s long career.

Federer- Moya, Marseille Open 1999 First Round

Entering his second pro year, 17-year-old Roger Federer entered Marseille as a wildcard and he was slated to take on Carlos Moya in the opener, who was the reigning French Open champion.

Federer would upset the top seeded Moya 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3, which would start his surge to the top as he cracked into the Top 100 for the first time, finishing as the 64th best ATP player.

He would also reach the final in Marseille the following year, but he lost to compatriot Marc Rosset. The young Federer would have to wait a few more years before claiming his first-ever Grand Slam.

Federer- Philippoussis, Wimbledon 2003 Final

After a four-year wait, Roger Federer would finally win his first Grand Slam during the 2003 Wimbledon final against Mark Philippoussis in straight sets, 7-6, 6-2, 7-6.

Federer had all the momentum heading into the final when he dismantled tournament favourite Andy Roddick in the semis. At this point, it felt as if it was only a matter of time for the then-21-year-old Swiss to have his first major crowning moment.

Some would say that Philippoussis should’ve won the final if he cut back on his errors. Still, it was a relatively close match and Federer fell to his knees when the Australian faulted on his backhand for the championship point.

Federer- Roddick, Wimbledon 2009 Final

The Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick in 2009 was a classic. This was basically the finals rematch that everyone was waiting for five years in the making.

Roger Federer owned an 18-2 advantage against Andy Roddick prior to the 2009 final, but that didn’t matter as the American claimed the first set and then had a commanding 6-2 edge in the tiebreaker.

Roddick was keen to take the insurmountable two-set lead but Federer ended up winning the tiebreak en route to getting the second and third sets before eventually sealing the deal in the fifth set. The match ended with a final score of 5-7, 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 3-6, 16-14.

Federer-Nadal, Australian Open 2017 Final

ATP: Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic have won 62 of the last 75 Grand Slams
Roger Federer plan to team up with Rafa Nadal to play doubles at the Laver Cup in London

Saving the best for last is probably the greatest triumph of his career. Roger Federer bested his Big 3 nemesis Rafael Nadal in the 2017 Australian Open final, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, to clinch his 18th Grand Slam.

The two big shots went back and forth throughout this game as both were eager to end their Grand Slam droughts.

Federer came out of the gates hot by only dropping four points to take the opener, while Nadal won convincingly in the second after an early break gave him the 4-0 lead.

In the third set, Federer broke Nadal in his first serve and only dropped a single game to regain the lead. However, a seemingly possessed Nadal fought back in the fourth to force the deciding fifth set.

The fifth set proved to be pivotal for Federer’s resurgence. The then-35-year-old – who wasn’t 100-per cent fit at the time – fell behind but broke back to draw level at 3-3. When the match was at 5-3, Federer had to overcome a 15-40 deficit to reach the championship point. His forehand at the second championship point landed on the line of the alley to which Nadal challenged, but the call was upheld in Federer’s favour following a hawk-eye review.


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22-Sep 2022 Thursday 1:42 PM (4 days ago)            #29
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Belgian Grand Prix: Nine More to Go to Determine the World Champions

After a one-month hiatus, Formula 1 is back and next up is the Belgian Grand Prix to kick off the second half of the 2022 season.

There’s nine races left before someone takes home the crown. But so far it’s Max Verstappen who’s at pole position with an 80-point lead in the drivers’ championship, while his team Red Bull have a 97-point edge in the constructors’.

Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo recently announced that he and McLaren have “mutually agreed” to end their relationship at the end of this season, which leaves us to wonder what’s next for his career.

With another exciting race on the horizon, continue to read on below as SBOTOP brings to you the latest Belgian Grand Prix 2022 updates.

Mercedes and Ferrari sound optimistic, but Red Bull remain the favourites

The tug of war between Red Bull and Ferrari continues at Spa with the former seemingly pulling away. However, Mercedes’ upturn of form means that they could have a bigger say both in the drivers’ and constructors’ championships.

Lewis Hamilton, in particular, is on a roll. The seven-time world champion headed into the summer break with five consecutive podiums – including a P2 in Hungaroring – and he believes that they’re bound to win at least once in the final nine races.

“I do, definitely. Of course we’ve been improving, we’ve had this consistency of the recent races and great progress that the team is making, everyone pulling together and continuing to push,” said Hamilton.

As for Ferrari, who are trailing behind Red Bull, it’s just a matter of putting it all together since they have arguably the most powerful car in the paddock. The summer break is probably the reset that they need after a string of lacklustre results –majority of them self-inflicted.

“I still believe in the championship of course. It’s going to be a very difficult challenge, but I will believe in it until the very end,” said Leclerc.

Daniel Ricciardo to explore options after McLaren exit

Daniel Ricciardo wants to win the Belgian Grand Prix before his departure with McLaren
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo ahead of the second practice session

It’s sad that it has come to this for Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren. When he joined them in 2021, the Australian was expected to lead them back to the championship race, but the partnership has never quite clicked.

Ricciardo had a three-year contract with the Woking-based outfit that will expire at the end of the 2023 season. But because of the shakeup in the drivers’ market prompted by Sebastian Vettel’s retirement, there were murmurs that he was going to be replaced sooner than later.

Oscar Piastri was tipped to take his seat, although there’s nothing imminent just yet. Furthermore, Ricciardo emphasized that he still has a lot in his tank.

“I still love the sport,” said Ricciardo in a press conference. “I still want to do it competitively, but I want to do it in the right place. If I’m here, I want to be here for a purpose.”

Now that he’s a free agent, he is probably going to take his time to weigh his options, although he revealed that he would be open to return to Alpine if they can give him a “competitive” car.

For now, Ricciardo has to finish nine more races for McLaren this term. He’s currently 12th in the drivers’ standings on 19 points, which is 57 adrift of his teammate Lando Norris.

History

Inclement weather is a norm in Spa and that was the case last season where we witnessed the shortest race in Formula 1 history.

The said race was delayed multiple times due to the torrential rainfall. But after a few more tries, they decided to stop the event altogether for safety reasons. Since Max Verstappen was on pole for the three laps, he was given the win while George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished P2 and P3.

George Russell earned his first-ever podium finish in 2021, which was also Williams’ first since Lance Stroll at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton is the active racer who has the most victories with four and he last won it in 2020. All in all, the iconic Michael Schumacher leads the pack in the all-time wins list with six.

What are the odds?

Max Verstappen is the obvious favourite in Spa, as per the Belgian Grand Prix 2022 odds. The Dutchman is priced at 1.40, but behind him are Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. – who are priced at 1.55 and 1.77 respectively. Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez is at 1.80, while Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are also in contention since they’re at 1.91 and 2.05.

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22-Sep 2022 Thursday 1:44 PM (4 days ago)            #30
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Italian Grand Prix: Ferrari Hope to Find Momentum at Monza

While Max Verstappen is looking likely to defend his world championship after a four-race winning streak, the race for second is still very much on.

Charles Leclerc is locked in a tight battle with Sergio Perez, George Russell and team-mate Carlos Sainz for second spot, and the Ferrari driver will be hoping to solidify that place in the upcoming Italian Grand Prix.

The Scuderia have not had much success in their home race in recent years, and they will face some stiff competition from resurgent Mercedes in their quest to turn their fortunes around at Monza.

Talking Points

Ferrari need to find some form at home

At this point, it’s safe to say that Charles Leclerc and Ferrari are out of the running for both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships, with Max Verstappen and Red Bull simply too good and too consistent to catch.

But the Scuderia better be careful, because Mercedes are breathing down their neck for second spot as they’ve capitalised on Ferrari’s lack of form.

Leclerc finally got back on the podium for the first time in four races in the Dutch Grand Prix, but he was still decidedly off the pace compared to Verstappen and Mercedes’ George Russell, who finished second.

Leclerc’s team-mate Carlos Sainz also had a disappointing race as he similarly lacked in pace and dropped down to eighth – his lowest finish of the season – after a five-second penalty.

Italian Grand Prix: Carlo Sainz will race for Ferrari in Monza
Carlo Sainz determined to enjoy Ferrari’s home race at Monza

So it goes without saying that Ferrari simply need to provide some Italian Grand Prix 2022 highlights in their home race at Monza. While it won’t do much for this season, they need to start building momentum during the last few races for next year.

More Verstappen dominance at Monza?

Max Verstappen has been on a massive tear of late. He’s won four races in a row – the first time he’s achieved the feat in his career – and is odds-on to win his second successive championship.

The Dutchman did get a decent challenge from Lewis Hamilton last time out in the Dutch Grand Prix. The Brit had a legit shot at winning, but the Red Bull driver still came out on top.

That just seems to be how things go nowadays. With 10 wins in 15 races this season, Verstappen is simply on a different level from his competition. Even when he starts in 14th as he did in the Belgian Grand Prix, he still finds a way to come storming back to the top.

And while the Italian Grand Prix 2022 betting odds have Verstappen as the overwhelming favourite, whether that dominance will carry over to Monza remains to be seen, though. Verstappen does not have a particularly good record at Monza; he’s retired there in each of the last two races and his best-ever finish there was fifth in 2018.

But this is as good a time as any for Verstappen to end his Monza struggles. He is in the form of his life at the moment, and it doesn’t seem as if anyone is capable of stopping him.

Mercedes look to offer stiffer competition

It seemed earlier in the season that Ferrari would be the team that would offer the biggest challenge to Red Bull’s dominance. But as the season has progressed, it has been Mercedes who have offered the stiffest competition.

George Russell has been a revelation in his first season with the Silver Arrows. He has been mister consistent on the grid, finishing in the top five in every single race bar the British Grand Prix, where he suffered his lone retirement of the season. And after five third-place finishes, the young Brit finally climbed a step on the podium as he finished second in the Dutch GP.

Not to be outdone, his team-mate Lewis Hamilton has been resurgent after some early-season struggles. The 37-year-old is still searching for his first victory of the season, but as mentioned earlier, he was very much in contention for the chequered flag at Zandvoort.

With Ferrari failing to get out of their own way for most of the season, Mercedes have simply minded their business and continued their steady improvement. They now pose the most realistic threat to Red Bull and will look to keep that momentum going at Monza.

History

The Italian Grand Prix has thrown up some surprising results in recent years. Last season, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo came from nowhere to claim his first chequered flag in three seasons. And the year before that, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly shocked the F1 world has he claimed the first victory of his career at Monza.

Charles Leclerc won in 2019, which was Ferrari’s first victory in their home Grand Prix since Fernando Alonso in 2010. During the years in between, Lewis Hamilton dominated Monza as he won the race five times. With those five wins, Hamilton remains tied with the great Michael Schumacher with the most Italian Grand Prix titles.

What are the odds?

To the surprise of no one, Verstappen is still quite clearly the man to beat at Monza. SBOTOP odds have the Red Bull driver as a 1.40 favourite over any other driver to win the Italian Grand Prix for the first time. Perhaps the more interesting odds are the team head to head between Ferrari and Mercedes. Despite the Silver Arrows consistently outperforming the Prancing Horse in recent races, the two teams are dead even at 1.91 apiece to come away with the most points.

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22-Sep 2022 Thursday 1:48 PM (4 days ago)            #31
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Italian Grand Prix: Verstappen Outduels Leclerc for Maiden Victory at Monza

At long last, Max Verstappen is victorious at Monza as he claimed his maiden Italian Grand Prix title over the weekend. It was also the Red Bull driver’s fifth consecutive victory as he continues to close in on his second straight drivers’ championship.

Meanwhile, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc gave it his all, but despite sitting on pole, he was unable to bring home the win in his team’s home Grand Prix.

Leclerc’s Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz finished in fourth as he was sandwiched in between the two Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, who started the race second to last but still fought his way up to fifth.

Read on below as SBOTOP lists down the key takeaways from the Italian Grand Prix.

Verstappen on the verge of title

It doesn’t seem to matter where Max Verstappen starts – he began in 14th in Spa, pole in Zandvoort, and seventh in Monza – he still finds a way to win.

The Italian Grand Prix 2022 betting odds were already overwhelmingly in Verstappen’s favour. And even after getting a five-place grid penalty that sent him from second to seventh, the defending champion needed just a few turns to jump up to fourth and was back to second behind Leclerc by Lap 5.

It seemed like an inevitability by that point that Verstappen would eventually eclipse Leclerc and go on to win.

To Leclerc’s credit, he held onto the lead much longer than many would have thought. But Verstappen would not be denied as he finally wrested the lead from Leclerc on Lap 34 and never looked back. A late safety car allowed Verstappen to cruise toward his fifth straight win as he closes in on another championship.

There’s a possibility that Verstappen could clinch the title next time out in Singapore, but he will have to outscore Leclerc by 22 points to do so. The more realistic scenario would be that Verstappen will wrap up the title in Japan.

But it is all just a formality at this point. As Verstappen made clear once again in Monza, he is head and shoulders above the competition at the moment, and it’s now just a matter of when – not if – he wins it all again.

Ferrari give a good fight in home GP

Ferrari and their fans may not have been celebrating a win in their home Grand Prix, but they nevertheless gave it a good fight.

There were no disastrous mistakes or questionable strategic decisions, which have been much too prevalent this season. Both Charles Leclerc, who claimed pole, and Carlos Sainz ran good races for the most part, and they were good value for their top-five finishes.

Tifosi celebrate after Charles Leclerc takes the second podium in the 2022 Italian Grand Prix
Ferrari fans celebrate during the awarding of the winners in the 2022 Italian Grand Prix

Unfortunately, though, Ferrari’s best was not quite good enough as Verstappen and Red Bull showed the gap between the two teams at the moment. Leclerc was nearly 20 seconds behind Verstappen after the Dutchman took control of the race, and it needed a late safety car to close the gap.

Still, Ferrari fans should be pleased by their team’s strong showing in their home Grand Prix. They made the podium for the first time since Leclerc’s win in 2019.

Those precious points helped keep the resurgent Mercedes at bay in the race for the second spot in the constructors’ championship. Hopefully, the Scuderia can finally build some momentum during the crucial stretch run of the Formula 1 season.

de Vries steals the show with dream debut

While there weren’t any surprises at the top at Monza, there were some notable Italian Grand Prix 2022 results in midfield.

First, Zhou Guanyu gave Alfa Romeo their first point in seven races as he finished a respectable 10th. The Chinese driver has had the upper hand over his more experienced team-mate Valtteri Bottas in recent races, and he did so again in Monza as he drove a fine race.

But by far the story of the weekend has to be Nyck de Vries. The 27-year-old made his Formula 1 debut for Williams in place of the ill Alexander Albon, and the Dutchman delivered a terrific drive as he finished ninth and picked up two points.

Without a doubt, this fine performance should be a big boost to de Vries’ hopes of getting a seat in next year’s Formula 1 season.

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 22-Sep-2022 at 1:48 PM




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