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Any silver linings in Barcelona's elimination from the Champions League after losing to Bayern Munich?

Knowing their Champions League fate was sealed before kick-off, the Catalans played like a club in mourning against an always strong Bayern side. (Author: Gardener)

BarcelonaFC Bayern Munich beat Barcelona 3-0 at the Camp Nou on Wednesday evening and qualified as group winners for the round of 16 of the Champions League. Xavi Hernandez's side went into the game knowing they were without a chance to reach the knockout stages for the second straight year after Internazionale defeated Viktoria Plzen 4-0 in the early window on Wednesday . First-half goals from Sadio Mane and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and an injury-time header from Benjamin Pavard ensured Bayern secured first place in Group C on 15 points with a game to go, while Inter Milan finished second . Barcelona, ​​third regardless of the results of the final matchday, are heading towards the Europa League.- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, more (US)Wednesday's results are another setback for the Catalan club and could prove more expensive last season when the team went on a summer shopping spree to strengthen their squad, hoping to recoup some of that money with a deep run in European competition. Barcelona knew their Champions League with Inter Milan's win over Viktoria Pilsen earlier Wednesday, their hopes of another season dashed and they played against Bayern like a team in mourning at times. Although Xavi Hernandez insisted ahead of the game that this was a chance to show Barca can compete on the biggest stage, they again failed to deliver against one of Europe's best players, as happened in the recent Clasico defeat by Real Madrid was the case. Barca will do it and have already lamented missed chances in Munich, refereeing decisions in Milan and individual errors in the 3-3 draw with Inter, but the fact is that they haven't been good enough in their five Champions League games. The ease with which Sadio Mane and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting found the net will have upset Xavi. Serge Gnabry, the creator of all three goals, had to rule out another for offside before an unmarked Benjamin Pavard added the third after an injury-time set piece. Barca, meanwhile, never really tested Bayern for all their passing, huffing and puffing from backup goalkeeper Sven Ulrich. The closest thing to a goal was a missed penalty after Matthijs de Ligt tackled Robert Lewandowski, who endured another painful night against the side he left for €45m in the summer. Barca invested over €150m in the summer squad after selling the club's assets with the aim of reaching the final stages of the Champions League. They've gotten off to a good start despite losing to Madrid and are just three points off the top after 11 games and just one defeat. With a much-improved squad, the league's top scorer in Lewandowski and a burgeoning bevy of young talent led by Pedri and Gavi, they should tightly lead Carlo Ancelotti's side. However, they are certainly not favorites at the moment and Xavi has even said if he doesn't win a trophy this season, he knows he could be replaced. That leaves the Europa League, in which they are seen as favourites, although they know the dangers when the European second division side unexpectedly lost to Eintracht Frankfurt in last season's quarter-finals. It's not what they dreamed of over the summer when they introduced Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Kounde, but there's still plenty of room for improvement from last season's trophy-less season. The fans seem to have some patience. Having club legend Xavi as the project's figurehead helps and an average attendance of over 80,000 at the Camp Nou this season shows there is a connection. It was 84,016 for the Bayern defeat and those who stayed to the end didn't stop singing. Bayern are one of the benchmarks for where Xavi wants to take his Barca side. This was their sixth consecutive win against the Catalans, a streak dating back to 2015 and including an 8-2 and three 3-0s, and their 11th in 15 official encounters. Their performance at the Camp Nou was as professional as it gets. With their place in the last 16 already secured, they still played as if something was at stake as they finished top ahead of their last home game against Inter, where they will be looking to go for six wins from six the toughest group of the competition. That victory was all the more impressive considering they were without Manuel Neuer, Lucas Hernandez and Leroy Sané through injuries, while Thomas Muller was only deemed fit for a second-half cameo. Still, with talents like Mane, Gnabry and Jamal Musiala, they are among the most feared sides in Europe, even if Union Berlin are still keeping them away from the Bundesliga top spot for the time being. A minor offside prevented him from adding a third in the second half. Lost him for the first goal and then played Choupo-Moting for the second down the side. Took the wind out of the already subdued crowd at the Camp Nou with his early goal. A tweet from Inter Milan ahead of kick-off will certainly not include Barcelona. But at least the Catalans get a warm welcome from Europe. After the game: What the coaches, players said Barcelona's Xavi Hernandez after the game: “We weren't at Bayern level today. In Munich we were ourselves, but today they were better, more intense.” . There were a lot of expectations but we have a tough group. All sorts of things happened to us in the group stage. It was cruel for us but we didn't play well today. Disappointment. We didn't lose it today but the moment at the moment is universally painful. One of the goals was to stay in the Champions League focus on what's to come in LaLiga. Of course knowing we're already eliminated had an impact. It was more of a pride issue but we couldn't keep up with Bayern tonight. They scored at key moments and we couldn't keep up the same Motivation [after the Inter win] We owe a lot to these fans We owe them wins and trophies I hope we can give them to them from now on We're a young team with a lot of room for improvement We need to improve a lot "We're not there yet to play in the Champions League. It's really disappointing what happened today. When we see what we've seen it's clear we're not ready are able to compete [at the highest level] since the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons.- Attention Cules. Barcelona are already favorites to win the UEFA Europa League with a 27% chance, according to FivethirtyEight's SPI.- Bayern have won six games in a row against Barcelona, ​​drawing with Espanyol's streak from 1940-42. The longest winning streak against Barcelona was Real Madrid's seven-game stretch from 1962 to 1965. - Overall, a disappointing Champions League performance by LaLiga clubs as Real Madrid progress, but Sevilla and Atletico Madrid also fail to reach the round of 16, this is the first time since 1998/99 that Spain does not have multiple teams in the knockout stages. Only eight teams made it to the knockout rounds that year, with Real also being the only representative. Barcelona : Back to La Liga action on Saturday against a rising Valencia squad. After that, a Tuesday trip to Viktoria Pilsen hoping to end a disappointing Champions League season on a high note. Bayern Munich: Next up is a Bundesliga game against Mainz on Saturday. They then look to match their Champions League group stage record with the final game of the round against Inter Milan on Tuesday.


From Russian imprisonment to the court rejecting an appeal against a nine-year sentence

More than 250 days have passed since Brittney Griner was arrested in Russia. We followed her arrest, her trial, President Biden's efforts, and the reactions of her wife and teammates. (Author: Gardener)

RussianOn Tuesday, a Moscow court denied Brittney Griner's appeal of her nine-year sentence on drug-related charges, a fully expected outcome in a trial that US and international officials have called an illegitimate trial -- as reported by ESPN's T.J. quinn Officials have said they believe Russia will eventually send the WNBA star home in a prisoner swap, but have expressed frustration at what they say about Russia not responding to the "significant" bid by the United States in June reacted. Griner's absence continues to weigh on everyone in the basketball community who knows and cares about her as each milestone date in 2022 has passed. Griner missed the start of the WNBA season, the All-Star Game, the start of the playoffs, and the FIBA ​​World Championship. She was expected to be a part of everything, just as she had been as star center for Phoenix Mercury and the U for the past decade. Instead, she's been jailed in Russia as the 2013 No. 1 draft pick and NCAA, WNBA and Olympic champion since she was arrested in February on charges of bringing vape cartridges into the country containing a small amount of cannabis oil. Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison in August, and her appeal was dismissed on Oct. 25, 250 days after her arrest. The United States continues to try to negotiate for her release, along with that of fellow American inmate Paul Whelan. Griner's professional basketball peers, in both the WNBA and NBA, keep saying her name. NBA Finals MVP Stephen Curry publicly endorsed Griner on Oct. 18, her 32nd birthday and the night of the Golden State Warriors ring ceremony, telling the crowd, "We hope she comes home soon and that everyone does their part to hol." her home." Griner's ordeal began when she returned to Russia to complete her overseas season there. Here's a look at the events of the past eight months that Griner has been incarcerated, and how the White House and those closest to her The people standing by have tried to do everything they can to get her home.While she is traveling to Russia to play abroad in the off-season, Griner is arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport outside Moscow after customs officials claim they have vape cartridges found in her luggage with cannabis-derived oil Griner returned to play for club team UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia, where she has competed in the WNBA offseason since 2014. Ru Russian forces invade Ukraine under the orders of Vladimir Putin, unraveling a series of harsh economic sanctions imposed by the United States on other Western nations, complicating efforts by US officials to bring Griner home. As first reported by the New York Times, Russia's Federal Customs Service announces it has taken Griner into custody on drug-related charges. The WNBA and Griner's agent say they are working to bring her home. Griner faces a maximum sentence of 10 years; Russia has strict drug laws with no exceptions for cannabis under any circumstances. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States would "provide all the assistance it can" to citizens detained abroad. "We have an embassy team working on the cases of other Americans who are being held in Russia," he adds. Russian media reports that Griner's detention has been extended until May 19, meaning she will be held for at least three months before her case is solved. The prosecutor requested the incarceration to further investigate the Griner case. S. officials say they still haven't spoken to Griner since she was arrested. A State Department official issued a statement to ESPN, saying, "We insist that the Russian government grant consular access to all U.S. citizens detained in Russia, including those who, like Brittney Griner, are in pre-trial detention." Source close to Griner said she was frequently briefed about her by her team of Russian lawyers. The statement marks a slight but significant change in the government's tone when it comes to Griner. So far, the government has deliberately held back its case, hoping not to raise its profile enough to become a valuable political asset for the Russian government. It has generally avoided any comment, and when asked about Griner at a press conference last week, Blinken made a lukewarm statement that didn't mention her by name. Based on State Department guidance, Griner's officials have asked the WNBA, the NBA, the media, and Griner's supporters in general to give "low-level" attention to her case, a source said. Consular officials visit Griner for the first time in Russia and report that she is "fine". The US State Department had said Russian officials were denying them access to Griner and two detained American men, contrary to international law. WNBA players are reluctant to speak out about Griner's incarceration and potentially hurting her case, and have said little since her arrest, but Breanna Stewart and Angel McCoughtry discuss WNBA salaries and why a handful of players travel to Russia each offseason. It was BG, but it could have been anyone," Breanna Stewart, who makes over $1 million playing in Russia, told The Associated Press. “WNBA players need to be valued in their country, not play abroad. Under the WNBA's collective bargaining agreement, which runs through 2027, players are paid an average of $130,000, with top players earning more than $500,000 through salaries, marketing deals, a seasonal tournament and bonuses. Prior to the 2022 WNBA draft Cathy Engelbert said the league is doing everything it can to "bring her home." "This is an unimaginable situation for BG," said the WNBA commissioner, which has been collecting new and badly used shoes for the homeless in Phoenix this coming season in all 12 WNBA cities instead of S. Marine released from Russian custody in prisoner swap S. Marine, who has been held in Russia since August 2019, is unexpectedly released in exchange for Russian national Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was serving a 20-year term in the US for drug smuggling year in prison, released from Russian prison For Griner's family, the exchange is the first sign of hope that, despite the war in the Ukr a diplomatic channel remains open between the two countries. US State Department Declares Griner a Wrongful Detainee The S. government now considers Griner to be "wrongly detained" by the Russian government, signaling a marked change in how officials will attempt to bring her home . The United States will seek to negotiate their release rather than waiting for the Russian case against them to come to a conclusion. Additionally, Griner's supporters have kept a low profile up to this point in case she might be released before trial. But after the announcement, they are actively pushing the White House to bring them home. S. Ambassador to the United Nations (and former governor, cabinet member, and congressman) works with his organization to secure Griner's release. May 3: WNBA announces it will pay tribute to Griner for a season Just days before the 2022 season openers, the WNBA announces that a sticker with Griner's initials and jersey number #42 will be placed on every seat in the league. May 13: Griner's detention extended by 30 days; Russian state media say Griner could be bartered for a convicted Russian arms dealer Griner appears in court in Moscow as her pre-trial detention is extended by a month. At the same time, the Russian state news agency TASS published a story that there were talks between the United States and Russia to swap Griner for Viktor Bout, a Russian serving a 25-year sentence in the United States on terrorism financing charges. US officials, speaking to ESPN, expressed skepticism about the coverage and said it was likely a tactic used to pressure the US. May 17: NBA commissioner says league is working to bring Griner home NBA commissioner Adam Silver tells ESPN's Malika Andrews that the league is working "side-by-side" with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert to track Griner home, adding that the NBA followed expert advice when it failed to take an aggressive approach in the early stages of Griner's detention in Russia. "We have been in contact with the White House, the State Department, hostage negotiators, all levels of government and also through the private sector," Silver said. May 20: State Department continues to urge regular contact with Griner For the second time in a week, a consular officer is granted access to Griner, but the State Department claims that sporadic visits to the WNBA star are not enough. "Our message is clear and simple: We remain insistent that Russia provide consistent and timely consular access to all detained U.S. citizens," State Department Representative Ned Price said. "One-off visits are not enough, and we will continue to urge Moscow to honor its commitments under the Vienna Convention, including for consistent and timely access." May 25: Cherelle Griner calls on President Biden to bring Griner home In her first TV interviews since Griner's incarceration, Cherelle Griner says she hasn't spoken to his wife, Brittney Griner, since February 17, the day the WNBA star was arrested in Russia. "There's one person who can get them, and that's our president," Griner told Angela Rye in an interview on ESPN. Cherelle Griner also spoke to Robin Roberts on "Good Morning America" ​​that same day. The United States is secretly offering to trade Bout for Griner and Paul Wheln - another American wrongly imprisoned and in Russian custody since December 2018 on espionage charges. The offer will not be announced until the end of July. June 20: Cherelle Griner: 'No trust in our government' after Griner's calls went unanswered due to logistical errors More than four months since they last spoke on the phone, Griner was scheduled to call Ms. Cherelle Griner on the couple's fourth wedding anniversary on June 18. S Embassy in Moscow, which the couple had been told would put the call through to Cherelle Griner in Phoenix. Instead, the calls went unanswered because the counter at the embassy where the phone rang was apparently unmanned on Saturday, Cherelle Griner said. "We deeply regret that due to a logistical error, Brittney Griner was unable to speak to her wife," the State Department said Monday. "I find it unacceptable and I have no faith in our government right now," Cherelle Griner told The Associated Press. "If I can't trust you to take an after-hours Saturday call, how can I trust you to actually negotiate on my wife's behalf to get home?" Biden administration officials said the following day, the call had been postponed. The trial begins in Khimki, a Moscow suburb, on charges that Griner tried to smuggle drugs into Russia. White House officials confirm that President Joe Biden received a handwritten letter from Griner appealing for her release. Citing her father's military service, Griner writes that the Fourth of July has a new meaning for her. "It hurts to think how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something very different to me this year." President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris speak to Cherelle Griner to assure her that they are working to The White House announced that Griner would be released as soon as possible. Cherelle Griner, who also spoke at a rally in Phoenix later that day, said: "I am confident that the President read my wife's letter and took the time to respond. Griner pleads guilty but says she accidentally brought hash oil to Russia and had no intention of breaking the law. Under Russian law, an admission of guilt does not automatically end a trial, which continues until the prosecutor's entire case has been filed. The WNBA All-Stars each wear Griner's No. 42 jersey in the Griner was named an honorary All-Star at the June 22 release of the roster Sharpton, Seattle Storm star Sue Bird, and union leader Terri Jackson one Press conference calling for clemency in Brittney Griner's sentencing and focusing on her humanity Members of Griner's Russian club team tell the judge how they will act as character witnesses in her trial. UMMC Ekaterinburg teammate Evgeniya Belyakova and Maxim Ryabkov, the team's general manager, appear during a brief afternoon court session, while Griner sat in the defendants' cage not far away. Her appearance is believed to be the first face-to-face contact Griner has had with anyone she knows since her Feb. 17 arrest — aside from the Russian attorneys hired on her case for Pain The White House announces, President Biden to sign an executive order to hold accountable anyone involved in the wrongful detention of an American citizen. Nneka Ogwumike, Steph Curry and Skylar Diggins-Smith honored the WNBA for their recognition as Humanitarian Sports League of the Year to encourage the sports community to continue working to free Griner. “BG is a WNBA champion. She is an eight-time WNBA All-Star. An Olympic gold medalist,” said Ogwumike. Curry added, "We urge the entire global sports community to continue to stay active for her because Brittney isn't just on the Phoenix Mercury. She is not only in her team in Russia. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announces that the United States made a "significant offer" for Griner's release in June. CNN reports that the offer included trading bout for Griner and Whelan. July 28: Russia responds: Negotiations should be kept secret Russian officials say a possible prisoner swap with the United States would involve Griner should proceed without fanfare and only after Griner's trial is complete Aug. 2: WNBA players set to play in Russia this offseason Former UMMC Ekaterinburg players like Jonquel Jones and Breanna Stewart will not play in Russia this WNBA offseason was sentenced to nine years in prison.During the sentencing hearing, Judge Anna Sotnikova said she found Griner intentionally broke the law and also fined her $1 million rubles (about 16.70 US dollars) imposed 0).The completion of the process should speed up negotiations on a prisoner exchange. The nine-year sentence nearly equaled the maximum 10-year sentence Griner faced on the charges; Prosecutors had asked for a prison sentence of 9½ years. Griner's defense attorneys say they will appeal. That same night in the WNBA, members of the Phoenix Mercury and Connecticut Sun stand arm in arm in a circle on the halfcourt before their game to watch "a 42-second moment of solidarity" for Griner. As expected, Griner's lawyers Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov are appealing her nine-year Russian prison sentence for drug possession. Following Griner's conviction, Blagovolina and Boykov said the sentence was excessive and that defendants in similar cases had been sentenced to an average prison term of about five years, with about a third of them being paroled. President Joe Biden is meeting with Cherelle Griner and Elizabeth Whelan - the sister of incarcerated former US Marine Paul Whelan - in separate meetings in the Oval Office to reassure families that those incarcerated are "first and foremost," White House officials say . Oct. 6: Griner at 'weakest moment' in Russia says Wife Cherelle Griner says Brittney Griner is right now at her 'absolute weakest moment in life' before appealing her nine-year sentence. "She's very afraid of being left behind and forgotten in Russia," said Cherelle Griner. As Griner appears via video conference, a Moscow court is rejecting her appeal against her nine-year sentence on drug charges, an expected outcome in a trial US and international officials have described as an illegitimate trial. Several officials have said in recent weeks that they believe Russia will not seriously engage in prisoner swap negotiations until the U.


Grant Williams has suspended a game after contacting an officer

Grant Williams is suspended for "recklessly contacting an officer and using inappropriate language" on Monday. (Author: Gardener)

Grant WilliamsBoston Celtics forward Grant Williams has been suspended for a game without pay for "recklessly contacting a game official and directing inappropriate language," which led to his sacking in Monday's loss to the Chicago Bulls, the authorities said NBA announced on Wednesday. Williams will serve out his suspension in the Celtics' next game against the Cavaliers in Boston on Friday. Williams was ejected in the fourth quarter of Monday's loss with 8:58 left when he was called for a blocking foul while defending Zach LaVine. A frustrated Williams - who had just been called out about a questionable illegal screen - quickly stood up and contacted official Cheryl Flores, who immediately threw him out. Marc Davis, the team principal for Monday's game, said in a pool report that Williams' contact with the official was intentional. "After being correctly judged a blocking foul on Williams, he jumps up and approaches and intentionally makes physical contact with the official (Cheryl) Flores and is ejected under rule for that sporting act," Davis said. DEFENSIVE PROBLEMS: The Celtics are missing a key starter and are still adjusting to a new interim manager, but their defense should still be among the best in the league. Boston finished last season No. 1 in defensive standings, relying on a unique system and strong players who were more than willing to defend consistently. But early defensive returns this season have been lackluster. Those struggles culminated in Monday's 120-102 loss to the Bulls, their first loss of the season and the second straight game in which the Celtics gave up 120 points as they were also consistently scored against the Magic. "We're just a step too slow," said Malcolm Brogdon. “Not as physically as in the last three games. Still only four games into the season, the Celtics currently sit 24th in the league with a 117.0 defensive rating. However, her 118.3 offensive rating ranks third in the NBA. The Celtics were able to overwhelm their opponents offensively in the early stages, but defense was not up to par in comparison. Of course, the Celtics aren't quite done yet. Robert Williams III was a crucial part of their double-size starting line-up last season but he isn't expected back for a couple of months at the earliest after knee surgery. The Celtics are also preparing for interim coach Joe Mazzulla. Even last season's Boston team got off to a slow defensive start before picking up the track. "Defense is something you have to do every day, every game," Mazzulla said. And I think our guys did a great job today focusing on that.” The Celtics have an impressive test against the Cavaliers at TD Garden on Friday. Cleveland played great ball early and slipped in with the fifth-best offensive rating. Mitchell has started with an impressive 33.3 points and 7.0 assists per game. He's caught offense while guys like Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen are two big men who will challenge the smaller Celtics. But the Celtics have reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Marcus Smart, and the guard is still a crucial part of the defensive equation. But there's a reason the Celtics were so successful defensively last season: They have so many capable defenders. But the Celtics said they hope they can once again base themselves on the defensive identity they forged last season. "Boston definitely plays a completely different scheme to the rest of the league because of the way the team is set up," Brogdon said. Everyone can defend multiple positions 1-5 so you switch up and down a lot so it's definitely an adjustment for me.


Warriors, Bucks Lead Top Teams in 2022-23 NBA Power Rankings

NBA basketball is back. The Warriors go into the season as a top team, but where does the rest of the league fall in the NBA power rankings? (Author: Gardener)

2022-23Warriors, Bucks Lead Top Teams in the 2022-23 NBA Power Rankings originally published on NBC Sports Philadelphia. Four words that pierce nothing but pure joy and produce the serotonin your body craves, as your NBA team seeks a championship or as a lifelong affliction around the league, teams in the west seek redemption from the Phoenix Suns, while teams in the Ostens attempt to take the crown from them in their hunt for Banner #18. If they're a franchise not fighting for a playoff spot, then they're probably hoping to land top pick in 2023. Let's rank all 30 NBA teams based on their performances over the past two weeks: They were statistical Not exactly the worst seen, but for a relatively raw team that has faced the Celtics, Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks three all-time better teams, this start is not surprising. Two losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves and one to the Denver Nuggets were expected since their first win against the Clippers came without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. On the plus side, the race for Wembanyama could get interesting if Chet Holmgren returns next year. I could have been more reckless here and put them last because of their terrible offensive numbers, but under Darvin Ham they were strong defensively. Still, I'm not exactly confident that they'll consistently beat anyone given their depth and shaky roster construction as the Russell Westbrook saga drags on. If you want a fun watch, but not a really good one, the Pistons are your go-to choice. Another Wembanyama contender along with Orlando and OKC. The Rockets are probably the Western Conference version of Detroit: young, fun, not yet a playoff team and on #WembanyamaWatch. Wembanyama alongside them would be special, and Indiana should look to move its veterans throughout the season. A Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving pair should not have a roster that is last in defensive standings or second to last in net standings. I was skeptical about Miami last year, and it did little to change my mind. They are offensively rough and defensively subpar. Considering they did next to nothing to improve on their first place last year, they could be in for a decent fall in May. New head coach Mike Brown has the Kings playing average, which is an improvement by their standards. They didn't plan on beating the Clippers or Warriors, but the foundation looks solid so far. Joel Embiid will have them in the playoffs and James Harden is looking a little fresh but P. And we know what happens to Harden when it matters most, although it's early 2022-23. Can DeMar DeRozan, a dynamic two-level scorer but not a superstar, continue to save the offense? Toronto should be able to beat most teams that don't have an elite, physically strong man (ref: 76ers last postseason). Other than that, their formula doesn't seem to have changed all that much, but they'll still be a step up here if other teams lose form. Christian Wood and Spencer Dinwiddie need to be your third-fifth best players against a serious contender, although there's still plenty of time to improve. Their only two wins were against OKC, and they've lost games against Utah and San Antonio. As someone who went into the year with high hopes for Denver, the defense was far too leaky in the early stages. The shots are falling No. 1 field goal percentage in the league, but it doesn't matter if you can't get stops on the other end. hasn't exactly impressed so far, with Kawhi Leonard's injury-related stress management being a key factor. They should rise in due course, but expect them to take a few weeks to set before peaking later. I don't know if they can jump any higher but I'm still keeping an eye on Kyle Kuzma who is a hot trading target for a serious contender. The offense hasn't clicked yet Trae Young's poor shooting is key here, but Dejounte Murray's trade is already bearing fruit. Their defense wasn't as good as we've seen before and they're lucky to have a 3-1 record. But outperforming your opponent when your defense allows for the second most points per game is not a healthy strategy. You can never really rule out a team coached by Gregg Popovich, can you? They'll likely fall behind in the roster due to inexperience, but they'll play their socks off every night and be an underdog team. We know Steve Clifford will get a group to buy in defensively, but Charlotte has six players who have averaged double-digit points so far without LaMelo Ball playing a game. I doubt it, but the Hornets can't afford another play-in blowout. They started well and seem to have integrated Cam Reddish into the core, but the Test will play against the rest of the league at this level. Utah really should be 4-0 after beating Denver, Minnesota and New Orleans only to fall to Houston to end their flawless start. A team without a real star will tend to play better together, and on an individual level these players are too good to tank, which is probably what the Jazz expected after beating Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. The Suns escaped early disaster after returning in their first game against Dallas. Devin Booker's offensive load could become an issue if Chris Paul's early vulnerability is actually a sign of slowing down, but they're a top-10 team for now. It's a good time to be a Cleveland fan. If the Cavaliers get their second-best scorer back and stay defensively elite, they can be a top-four team in the East. The Celtics were supposed to be in contention for another NBA Finals draw, but a close encounter with Orlando followed by a horrific meltdown that turned into a blowout to Chicago has left them lower than originally planned. The defending champions could have made a more convincing start. Losing to a Nuggets team without Jamal Murray stabbing and they're just a solid game from Harrison Barnes away from potentially having a losing record. They beat Philly in a game in which Khris Middleton was not playing and Jrue Holiday shot 2-for-15 and 0-for-6 from deep on aggregate. Milwaukee also has the best defensive rating in the NBA. Given their recent history, that should be sustainable. New Orleans flew past Brooklyn and dealt with Charlotte. A point loss to Utah hurts, but Brandon Ingram only played 11 minutes. The Pelicans face a Grizzlies-like leap in 2021-22 as long as they can stay healthy. Win all your games and you will be number 1. Portland is currently the only undefeated NBA team to have 24/7 Dame Time clicking. The return of the ladies, the rise of Anfernee Simon and the consistency of Jerami Grants was a compelling watch with rookie Shaedon Sharpe looking intriguing in minutes.


What Arsenal, Chelsea wins over PSG, Lyon mean in the Women's Champions League

The first round of the women's Champions League group stage provided an exciting narrative, but what can we learn about the health of the WSL and L1F? (Author: Gardener)

ChelseaMatchday one of the 2022-23 UEFA Women's Champions League group stage last week was intended to be a crude litmus test for the Women's Super League's chances of another winner, as the two English sides who remain standing were drawn against the top two from the Division 1 for women (D1F). Olympique Lyonnais' eight Champions League titles did not come overnight, nor were they a product of luck, but the fruit of the investment made by OL President Jean-Michel Aulas. First, Lyon conquered France and worked their way up to the top of Division 1 Féminine before gaining a foothold in UEFA's brand competition. As Sweden's Damallsvenskan - which won back-to-back European crowns between 2002 and 2004 courtesy of Umeå - began slipping off its pedestal in international competition, Lyon announced itself in style, with its investments and facilities surpassing its rivals on the continent in eclipsed The team just kept getting bigger and better. The lure of Lyon's professionalism in the south of France was seemingly too much for most footballers to refuse. Yet Lyon have pushed the rest of that 1% of teams in Europe and challenged them to find a way to find everything they can offer and produce to dethrone them as the de facto queens of Europe. until Lyon stopped them in the Champions League final.) The team was built to compete against the continent's best teams who could boast a similar level of talent, but the football landscape in France was a far cry from the upper echelons of the Champions League and domestic competition always seemed too easy for Lyon as they made blowing part-time and amateur teams out of the water their favorite pastime. The argument has always been that the team is so talented that the level of training would be sufficient to keep players fit rather than playing more strenuous league games. D1F, which has had its champions through the years, carried on as before, with one or two dominant teams sitting over a veritable abyss to the rest of the field. In recent years, teams have worked their way up and attracted some attention as they invested to challenge the Lyon/PSG duopoly, but due to financial difficulties and a change in majority ownership, the Kibosh saw such grandiose plans from Olympique Marseille and Bordeaux taken away. Despite being home to the most successful club side in Europe, the French league has rarely been able to offer the highest level of competition, or especially the highest level of competition. Given the perfect platform to showcase the best of French football after the country won the 2019 Women's World Cup, the tournament fell apart on many adjacent fronts, apart from the hosts' sub-par tournament alignment. The lack of foresight is arguably still felt in France, where crowds remain modest; While getting bums into seats is clearly still a major problem in women's soccer, the improved numbers in the WSL and America's National Women's Super League (NWSL) show that it's possible, although long-term interest is still an unknown size is. Against the backdrop of a boom in England after the Lionesses' win in the summer and a domestic season that was set to be hard-fought by several teams, the WSL were drawn against D1F in Europe and it was all too easy to argue that it was an accurate match would be temperature control. Chelsea, who toiled their way into Europe's crowning elite with a Champions League title, represented the entire WSL, while Lyon was the face of the French league. But the runners-up from both leagues (Arsenal and PSG) also faced each other in the group game, although both would have been outsiders on paper. Last Wednesday, Arsenal traveled to the Rhône-Alpes in good form but lost a point in the league despite losing the central defender pair (Leah Williamson and Rafaelle) to semi-serious injuries. But Arsenal's injury woes paled in comparison to Lyons; The eight-time Champions League champions went into the game without nine potential starters. The problem for Lyon was not only that they couldn't muster the attacking prowess of Ada Hegerberg, midfield maestro Dzsenifer Marozsán or centre-back Griedge Mbock, but that the players available were simply the wrong mix of young and old. Rather than being balanced with experience and youth, the younger players on the team like Alice Sombath were just beginning their rise, while the veterans like Wendie Renard had already peaked and were beginning to descend the other side of the hill. The only positive for Lyon was the return of Perle Morroni, although the defender could only start on the bench and showed the gridiron that comes with an injury spell on her introduction. Despite Lyon being just a shadow of their former selves, Arsenal displayed the caution that comes with European experience and remained composed throughout, picking and choosing the moments to bat and when they did, they did so with deadly accuracy and more surgically Precision. The game itself was reminiscent of Chelsea's 4-1 away win over Arsenal in 2019/20, when each of the Blues' four shots on goal was on the net; It was just about being clinical and just hitting the ball in a way that gives it the upper hand. At Parc OL, Arsenal actually finished the game with a lower xG of 1.77 than Lyon's 1.9, despite the 5-1 win, according to Opta, further underscoring how good they were at defeating Lyon their most humiliating defeat of the pro era inflicting their heaviest Champions League defeat and their first defeat in the competition by more than one goal since 2009. The London side were favorites as PSG had been upset for some time. After a decade of working in the shadow of Lyon, the Parisians stepped out and rose as they finally clinched the league title in 2020/21 after threatening a great season the previous year before the pandemic curtailed France's national campaign. Against Chelsea, the lack of a clear No9 was painfully evident as the team did little to change their approach: Kadidiatou Diani still played the role of stalwart winger and creator for her absent striker partner, yet her service was in vain as no player is able to give the hosts that crucial penalty area presence. It was one of the clearest parallels with Lyon this week: the French side's managers refused to adapt their approach and play to the strengths of the players at their disposal, instead insisting on a plan designed for different personalities. Like Arsenal, Chelsea had traveled to France without their full squad: the enigmatic attacker Fran Kirby was absent, as was manager Emma Hayes, who had rarely missed a game since taking over the Blues in 2012. It was a cold and rainy night in the French capital and served to come back from the previous night's goal frenzy, but it was a box-office hit for Chelsea. The away side had done whatever it took in Paris to get away with three points and were more focused on a regimented midfield form that left even fewer options for a bland PSG attack. There might have been a division between attack and midfield for Chelsea, but that didn't matter, their mature performance made it two out of two for the London teams in France. Speaking to the media after Chelsea's win, general manager Paul Green wanted to stress that there is still a long way to go in the group stage but that "it's a really positive thing for the English league and shows how far they've come has come when she's in A few years ago it was probably unthinkable that English teams would come to France and win these kinds of games. Maybe English teams wouldn't have been in that position five or six years ago.” Players and coaches are notorious for refusing to push themselves and favoring a game-by-game approach, but Green's comments ring true , particularly for a Chelsea side that have for so long been billed by the English media as the team to topple Lyon when in reality it was Barcelona who broke Lyon's stranglehold in Europe. But it's not the French opposition that has sunk Chelsea in the past, it's the Germans - notably VfL Wolfsburg - which drove the Blues out of Europe year after year (until they didn't). As Green said, just a few years ago it would have been unthinkable for a WSL team to come to France and do what Arsenal did, but regardless of Lyon's injuries, the results go against the broader picture of women's football in England France and Of the two different tracks, the game can be found in the two countries. It would be wrong to say that everything is rosy in England and that all clubs that have a women's team treat them with respect instead of just talking about a good game for PR, but the game in England is in the best form, that ever existed. While it's still generous to say anyone can beat anyone in the league, every day WSL is looking more and more like the Premier League, which is an ambivalent mix of positives and negatives. There is a knee-jerk concern that these group stage games will have a bigger impact when it comes to top players looking to come to France. As for Lyon, recovering from a brand-new defeat and the natural emotional blow of such a humiliating loss, the concern for this season is that the players Bompastor needs to get back to full fitness won't be back any time soon become too much time. Worst of all, Lyon are coming from a -4 goal deficit in what could be a tight group, leaving the defending champions and record holders looking to get a foot out of the door far too quickly. While it may be a little too early to say that the final will be an all-English affair, the early volleys in the Women's Champions League do suggest that women's football in France needs some love and attention.