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Tampa Bay Lightning keeps three-peat hopes alive with Game 5 win over Colorado Avalanche

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ondrej Palat breaks a tie in the third period for a 3-2 Game 5 win over the Colorado Avalanche. (Author: Gardener)

Bay LightningAfter a tough Game 4 loss that left a violation too many men on the ice, two-time defending champion Lightning won 3-2 on Friday night to prevent the Colorado Avalanche from winning the Stanley Cup on home ice . Instead, the series switches back to Tampa's Amalie Arena on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, ABC), with the Avalanche still holding a 3-2 lead in the series. From NFL games to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day. "You're down in the series, the trophy is in the building, a great environment for the home team and how do you show spirit? You're doing whatever they just did," Lightning coach Jon Cooper told reporters of his team's efforts. Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (left) celebrates with center Steven Stamkos for his go-ahead goal against the Colorado Avalanche. The Lightning pulled off a performance of 35 saves from goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, another clutch goal from Ondrej Palat, a rare goal from Jan Rutta, and a rare power play goal to defeat Colorado. "We talked today about not having a choice," said captain Steven Stamkos. Sometimes you get caught looking ahead a little, and this group did a great job focusing on the present The Avalanche had the Lightning in the first half in the first two games of the series with a total of surpassed 6-1, but the Lightning led 1-0 on Friday thanks to Rutta's first goal of the year's playoffs after a slap shot that went through goalie Darcy Kuemper. Colorado leveled the game at 5:07 of the second period, as Vasilevskiy Cale failed to handle Makar's floating deflected shot and the puck landed in the crease where Valeri tapped in Nichushkin. It was Nichushkin's fourth goal of the series and ninth of the playoffs. Tampa Bay, stopped on their two first-half power plays and scoring a power-play goal in their first four games, eventually achieved a 4-on-3 power play at 8:10 of the second period with Makar Bein g called for a trip . Nikita Kucherov with a 4-on-3 goal to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead pic.twitter.com/Rat4HnIUxB - Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) June 25, 2022 The Lightning moved well around the puck, and Stamkos faked a shot and passed back to Nikita Kucherov, who scored his eighth goal of the playoffs and first of the series. "I didn't love that call just because there was no intention," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said of Makar's penalty. Makar leveled the game at 2:31 of the third period with a lucky goal after Vasilevskiy made the original save, but the rebound came from Erik Cernak's skate. But Palat gave Tampa Bay the win at 1:38 p.m. with his 11th goal of the playoffs. "I was just trying to open up, get a little lost," Palat said. "I saw Heddy. He saw me. Ondrej Palat's late goal against the Avs forces a Game 6 at Tampa Bay After coming down in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, they saw off the New York Rangers in the Conference Finals after losing their first two games away from Us had to work to get that tonight and we have to repeat that at home," Stamkos said. The Avalanche lost in Game 5 to the St. Louis Blues in the second round with a chance to win at home, but you have Won game 6 away, they're 8-1 away in the playoffs "The boys dug into the road," said Bednar. The boys come hungry and ready to play." Makar would have been the leading contender to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP if the Avalanche had won the championship Friday night. But if the Flash can come back and win the series, they would Palat should be given serious consideration. Seven of his 11 goals came in the third period. Three of them were game-winners, including two who scored in the last two minutes of regulation time. "Every year he plays with some of the best players in the World," Cooper said of the pending unrestricted free agent, who scored 12 goals to win the playoffs. The Lightning are flying all of their full-time staff to Denver for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Owner Jeff Vinik is flying all of Lightning's full-time staff to Denver to cheer on the team. This guy is worth his weight in gold," Cooper said of Vinik. Injured Lightning forward Brayden Point and Avalanche forward Andre Burakovsky sat out again. Fired New York Islanders coach Barry Kross told NHL.com that he won't be going behind the bench this season so he can spend more time with family This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tampa Bay Lightning Keeps hopes of three peat alive with Game 5 win over Colorado Avalanche

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Winners, grades, reactions and highlights from June 24th

Welcome to the Bleacher Report coverage and recap of AEW Rampage on June 24th. (Author: Gardener)

June 24thThis may have been the last AEW show before Sunday's Forbidden Door pay-per-view, but most of the matches focused primarily on the All Elite Wrestling roster. Two of the men set to compete in Sunday's Triple Threat Tag match were in singles action as Jeff Cobb took on Cash Wheeler. We also saw The DKC Hook, Serena Deeb teaming up with Mercedes Martinez and Rey Fenix ​​take on Andrade El Idolo in a high-flying spectacle. Let's take a look at what happened on Friday's show. Andrade and Fenix ​​were already in the ring and ready to go when the show took off. Their initial exchange put El Idolo under control, but Fenix ​​didn't let his opponent outplay him in the high-flying department. This is one of those matches that looks great on paper and yet ends up exceeding expectations because both men are so good at what they do. Even the few minor glitches or communication glitches that the most observant fans might notice weren't enough to make this game anything less than a fantastic performance. They've done a good job of portraying Andrade as a slightly stronger forward, while making Fenix ​​look like he's just a tad more agile. This was a perfect blend of their individual interpretations of lucha libre style. Rush made his AEW debut during this match when he attacked Fenix ​​with a low punch and Andrade paved the way to victory with his signature Hammerlock DDT. Andrade countered a hurricanrana before hitting his own was a nice sequence. It's always fun to see an Eddie Guerrero tribute during a game, especially when the crowd joins in. At one point, Andrade's pants began to tear near the pocket. Fenix ​​is ​​so good at selling fake injuries that he scares people into thinking he might actually be injured. Serena Deeb and Mercedes Martinez vs. Laynie Luck and Sierra Two talents hoping for more time on AEW TV got a chance this week when Laynie Luck and Sierra took on Deeb and Martinez in a tag team match. Unfortunately for the young talents, Deeb and Martinez are two of the best in the game so this wasn't as competitive as they had hoped. This match lasted a few minutes before the ROH Women's Champion and former NWA Women's Champion achieved the win. Although Deeb looked upset at one point, she still helped Martinez when Sierra tried to save her partner. It was short, but it was a decent display of talent from all four women. However, a few more minutes would have made a huge difference. The game between Deeb and Martinez "Anything you can do I can do better" is a fun dynamic. Luck and Sierra both showed some good skills, especially when it came to selling for their opponents. Deeb really tugs at her submissions to make them look as painful as possible. Everyone's best friend von Danhausen took on another young man named DKC this week. Hook immediately went into a takedown and applied a knee bar to confirm his dominance. When DKC tried to fire off a shot, the limp-haired fighter discharged himself on him. After a brief struggle, the second-gen star grabbed another win to improve his record even further. He needs more competitive opponents and matches soon. Hooks is so smooth with some things like takedowns and submissions, but he still needs a bit of polishing when it comes to his transitions. This Sunday, the ROH and IWGP Tag Titles are at stake in a Winners Take All Triple Threat match. Before that happens, half of each group of champions struggled as Cobb and Wheeler went head-to-head in Rampage's main event. Cobb had the size and power advantage, so Wheeler relied mostly on his speed and technical ability. These two men are great performers so it wasn't surprising that they put on a good show. The real value of this match is that it proves that we should stop categorizing people as singles and tag team wrestlers. Anyone great in the ring is good at both, so separating them seems pointless unless we're just talking about the majority of the matches they have. This match was both competitive and creative. This led to their tag team partners coming out for a fight, and they were soon joined by Roppongi Vice to end the show in a brawl, as did Dynamite. FTR's opening music will go down in history as one of the best original themes. Cobb standing on Wheeler's back like he was a surfboard was pretty funny.

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Drew McIntyre, Sheamus defeat The Usos to qualify for Money in the Bank

McIntyre and Sheamus had to qualify not once, but twice for the upcoming Premium Live Event (Author: Gardener)

SheamusRoman Reigns doesn't seem particularly interested in dating Drew McIntyre or Sheamus in the future. Special Counsel Paul Heyman used his influence with WWE decision-makers to put a final thwart on McIntyre and Sheamus' plans to compete in the Men's Money in the Bank Ladder Match. McIntyre and Sheamus were added to the marquee match after battling for a double disqualification on a previous episode of WWE SmackDown. To qualify, McIntyre and Sheamus would have to put their differences aside and defeat undisputed tag team champions Jey and Jimmy Uso. Two more Money in the Bank qualifier matches took place on Friday night's SmackDown: Sami Zayn vs. McIntyre and Sheamus had an additional obstacle to overcome before earning their spots in the men's Money in the Bank Ladder Match . McIntyre and Sheamus were added to the match after previously battling for a double disqualification. Heyman, Special Advisor to the Undisputed Champion Reigns, convinced the WWE Board of Directors to remove McIntyre and Sheamus from the match. Authority figure Adam Pearce opened the show by announcing that McIntyre and Sheamus must defeat undisputed tag team champions The Usos to qualify for the ladder match. Later that night, McIntyre and Sheamus - old friends turned enemies - faced each other backstage. McIntyre told Sheamus to get out of his way and allow him to defeat the Usos alone. Drew McIntyre and Sheamus defeated. The Usos qualify for the men's Money in the Bank ladder game via pinfall. McIntyre and Sheamus argued over who would start the match, leading to a blindside attack from the Usos. McIntyre and Sheamus came together and focused on their opponents. McIntyre and Sheamus played a game of superiority, using their opponents' bodies as punching bags. McIntyre attacked Butch after Sheamus' cohort interfered in the match. A subsequent argument between McIntyre and Sheamus led to a slugfest between the tag partners. The Usos took advantage of the communications breakdown and pounced on their opponents. Later in the match, Zayn attempted to strengthen his allegiance to The Bloodline by attacking Sheamus outside of the ring. Angelo Dawkins - who was in the commentary booth with Street Profits tag partner Montez Ford - intercepted Zayn. McIntyre secured the win after giving Jimmy Uso a brogue kick. A fine conclusion to SmackDown en route to Money in the Bank. McIntyre and Sheamus make a powerful tag team and paired well against the Usos. Heyman continues to use The Bloodline's championship dominance to influence decision making. Further credit to WWE for including other Superstars in The Bloodline's story rather than walling them in their own little universe. Zayn is always a pleasure to watch and having The Street Profits involved was a nice touch. Ultimately, however, we're back where we started with McIntyre and Sheamus. * Money in the Bank Qualifier - Sami defeated Zayn. Shinsuke Nakamura via pinfall after hitting him with the Helluva Kick. * Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods refused to participate in a rematch against Jinder Mahal and Shanky. The New Day begged Shanky to dance instead. Shanky pushed an angry Mahal out of the way and danced with the New Day. * The Viking Raiders (Erik and Ivar) made their SmackDown return, wreaking havoc on New Day and Shanky. * Defeated Lacey Evans and Raquel Rodriguez. Pearce booked Sonya Deville in a handicap match against Raquel Rodriguez and Lacey Evans. * The Street Profits (Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins) catch a glimpse of SmackDown ahead of their tag team title match against The Usos on Money in the Bank. * Natalya parodied Ronda Rousey before her SmackDown Women's Championship game. Natalya attacked Rousey with the stroller before retreating. * Zayn, a volunteer Uso, angered Heyman when he promised to cash Money in the Bank's briefcase for Brock Lesnar, inadvertently implying that Roman Reigns would lose. * Money in the Bank Qualifier - Shotzi defeated. Tamina via pinfall to qualify for the Women's Money in the Bank Ladder Match. * Pat McAfee challenged Happy Corbin to a match at WWE SummerSlam following their confrontation last week

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Winners, grades, reactions and highlights from June 24th

The Gunther era swept across SmackDown a week ago when he defeated Ricochet for the Intercontinental Championship. Friday night The Ring General... (Author: Gardener)

June 24thThe era of Gunther swept across SmackDown two weeks ago when he defeated Ricochet for the Intercontinental Championship. Friday night, The Ring General defended its title in a rematch against The One and Only to further consolidate dominance over the brand while eliminating the threat of Ricochet reclaiming the title. The rematch was the headline of a program that also featured Drew McIntyre charts his path to the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship and final Money in the Bank qualifier between two familiar opponents. Money in the Bank Qualifier: Shinsuke Nakamura vs Undisputed WWE Universal Championship. However, Sheamus and The Brawling Brutes were interrupted, causing a back-and-forth between the rivals. Paul Heyman and WWE Official Adam Pearce next attended the celebrations, with the latter revealing his decision to add McIntyre and Sheamus to Money in the Bank as they coexist to earn their way to the high-stakes ladder match and defeat the Usos in tonight's main event. To survive this magical time of chaos and unpredictability, it is above all this storytelling crutch. That's not to say the match itself won't be good, as the talent involved can always make a match of the year candidate, damn it pleases. It's just a shame that such a convoluted setup that doesn't make any sense and didn't have to exist has to get us there. McIntyre pointed out that Brock Lesnar was coming back and given a championship opportunity, then swore to Claymore whoever won the match between The Beast and Roman Reigns. Sheamus beat up Arch Manning, the University of Texas' newest football recruit and son of Fox's Cooper. The Celtic Warrior rightly reminded the WWE Universe that he was cashing in on Reigns to win the WWE Championship the last time he won money in the bank. Pearce announced that his decision to add both McIntyre and Sheamus to Money in the Bank had been overturned by WWE management. Money in the Bank Qualifier: Shinsuke Nakamura vs He was in contention for a spot in the Money in the Bank match, battling longtime rival Shinsuke Nakamura in a qualifying match. The Honorary Uce defeated The Artist twice at ringside, almost winning once by countout and seizure trol of the fight during the commercial break as a result of the others. Nakamura overcame his opponent's onslaught and fought his way back into the match, making it more competitive on the track. Fueled by a promise to protect his Bloodline leader, Zayn thwarted the comeback and scored the clean victory with the Helluva Kick to cash in his money in the bank on July 2nd. Zayn and Nakamura can have a good match with their eyes closed and have their hands tied behind their backs. They have incredible chemistry in the ring, to the point that even a good match is still better than many less talented competitors. This was no different. Zayn's win is the right decision as he's more creatively busy at the moment, but one has to wonder what exactly is the point of presenting Nakamura as a potential challenger to Reigns, only to back away from it and leave him in limbo allow. I will not exploit Roman Reigns. I'm doing this to protect him," Zayn told Kayla Braxton, who asked if he would be tempted to betray The Tribal Chief should he make it to the ranked match and win a guaranteed title shot. Nakamura narrowly made it back into the squared circle and avoided a countout loss.Michael Cole called Pat McAfee for forgetting the arena's name was great fun and emphasized their chemistry on the mic.New Day vs. So, while it may seem like he would help deal with the audience now, it will ultimately prevent him from achieving true greatness in WWE. New Day is better than that, too. Luckily, the bright spot came in the form of the Viking Raiders and a heel turn that not only benefits Erik and Ivar, but also freshens up a tag team division that badly needs them. The matches between these two tandems should be damn good, if nothing else. Xavier Wood's claim that New Day isn't about rematch after rematch after months of repeatedly battling the Brawling Brutes was a nice, tongue-in-cheek promo piece. "I'm glad we didn't get a rematch and got this instead," McAfee said while Shanky danced, which definitely came across as more sarcastic than anything else. Sonya Deville ran down Adam Pearce only to be booked in a handicap match against Lacey Evans and Raquel Rodriguez. Backstage trash talk ended with the former WWE Official Sonya Deville booked in a two-on-one handicap match against Lacey Evans and Raquel Rodriguez. The Pride Fighter fought admirably, but the two babyfaces, both of whom qualified for the Money in the Bank ladder match, ultimately achieved the Evans' Womens' Right victory. After the match, Xia Li and Shayna Baszler jumped over the babyfaces but were dropped by Rodriguez and Evans, who stood upright to end the segment. Deville felt too babyfaced here and doggedly fended off both women before succumbing to the numbers game of losing. Any chance of rekindling the Heat with a post-match beatdown came to an abrupt end as she, Li and Baszler were knocked out by the victorious Babyfaces and driven out of the ring, with Heels forming a great trio. Deville, Li, and Baszler could prove to be the dominant faction and a perfect match for a babyface champion like Ronda Rousey. Speaking of Rousey, No. 1 contender for the SmackDown Women's Championship, Natalya dressed up like her and did a mocking promo. The choice of words, intended to raise eyebrows and spark discussion, came across as mean above all else and made Rousey look like a bully. Sure, both women have traded insults on social media, but in this context, it was mainly Rousey who came across as the attacker. The match on Money in the Bank is going to be very good, but like almost everything else on the show, it will be despite the creativity. C for the handicap match, C- for the promo segment Rodriguez and Evans cleared the ring from Deville, Li and Baszler in a moment that did more heel damage than good to the latter's looks, presentation and the Hart family. Two weeks ago, Gunther added his first main roster championship to his impressive resume by defeating Ricochet. On Friday, they met in a much-hyped rematch. That shouldn't have been. Gunther knocked The One and Only down, stopped a comeback attempt with a nasty clothesline, and continued with a stunning shotgun dropkick into the corner. The Powerbomb ended a much less competitive match than their previous encounter. This was a massive disappointment considering what the competitors delivered the last time they shared the square circle. It was a quality win for Gunther, however, as he continues to establish dominance as the next unstoppable force in WWE. Unfortunately, its use suggests Ricochet is once again an immensely talented wrestler with no direction just three months after it appeared he'd earned a rejuvenated push. Gunther's evil clothesline turned Ricochet completely upside down. The babyface sold it perfectly. Backstage, Sami Zayn interrupted an interview Kayla Braxton was conducting with Paul Heyman, accusing the former of stirring the pot. He then put his foot in his mouth and said he would redeem Brock Lesnar as if to imply Roman Reigns won't stay at SummerSlam. The death glare Heyman gave him was brilliant and the latest in excellent storytelling from The Great Liberator and the Special Counsel.Money in the Bank Qualifier: Tamina vs. Shotzi; The latest between McAfee and Corbin Tamina stepped in for an injured Aliyah and fought for Shotzi to get her foot under the bottom rope and force the break in a money-in-the-bank qualifier against Shotzi on Friday night. Shortly thereafter, Shotzi sent her into the ring post and followed up with a modified DDT for the pinfall win. Not much from a ring point of view, at least the match didn't give Shotzi an important win after being used so inconsistently since her heel turn last year. Hopefully that win and the other handful of performances she's compiled lately are evidence of an expanded role on Friday nights. She's far too unique a performer (with a larger than life personality) with too much potential to be wasted as she had been. Back in the arena, Pat McAfee challenged Happy Corbin to what should be a lot of fun, if nothing else. The color commentator has been happily chattering about the villain for the past year, and balancing that with a high-profile match is just what WWE needs to spice up the SummerSlam card.McAfee is a star beyond WWE. Capitalizing on that and pairing him up with someone he'll work that well with, at least in character, is a great booking. C- for the match; A+ for the McAfee-Corbin ChallengePat McAfee calling the referee for a botched count was interesting but justified as it appeared Jason Ayers' hand had hit the mat three times. The Usos With their money-in-the-bank fortunes tied to their ability to coexist, Drew McIntyre and Sheamus took the fight to the Usos at the start of Friday's Main Event. However, egos got in the way, allowing the Usos to take control of the fight that led into the evening's final commercial break. After a few moments on the defensive, Sheamus made the hot tag with McIntyre exploding into the match. The Scottish Warrior bested his opponents but found himself on the receiving end of Stereo Superkicks. He bounced back, obliterating the Usos ringside after the tag champions feuded with The Street Profits, and carrying Jimmy to victory with the Claymore emphasizing the raw energy McIntyre brings to his performances and Sheamus' ability, ever Deliver both babyface and heel consistently in the ring depending on the situation. They are exceptional talents and deserve all the television exposure and hype that has been broadcast over the past year in the weeks to come. Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford joined the commentary team to cheer on their tag title match against the Usos at Money in the Bank. An early disagreement between Sheamus and McIntyre allowed the Usos to take control. including the heels' own superkick party, made for some great drama. Sami Zayn tried to get involved but paid for it.

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Gunther vs. Ricochet IC Title Rematch

SmackDown will also feature two Money in the Bank qualifiers. (Author: Gardener)

GuntherBrock Lesnar returned to face Roman Reigns last week after Reigns retained the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship against Riddle. Lesnar fought off The Bloodline and hit Reigns with an F-5. Lesnar in a Last Man Standing match for SummerSlam. Shinsuke Nakamura meets Sami Zayn in a men's Money in the Bank qualifier tonight. Seth Rollins, Omos, Sheamus and Drew McIntyre have already qualified for the ladder match. McIntyre will appear tonight and "explain the path he will take to win the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship." In today's women's Money in the Bank qualifier, Shotzi goes head-to-head with Tamina. Raquel Rodriguez, Lacey Evans, Alexa Bliss and Liv Morgan also qualified. Also, Intercontinental Champion Gunther defends against Ricochet in a rematch. Gunther won the title from Ricochet two weeks ago. They summarized the return of WWE Undisputed Universal Champion Roman Reigns vs. Riddle and Brock Lesnar last week. Michael Cole and Pat McAfee discussed Reigns vs. Pearce took McIntrye and Sheamus out of the Money in the Bank ladder match. They can get their spots back if they later defeat The Usos in a tag team match. Cole stated that if they win, the tag team titles are not at stake and the Usos would not qualify for MITB. Cole believes that whoever wins the Money in the Bank ladder game will have to cash against either Lesnar or Reigns at SummerSlam. Sheamus from two weeks ago and Pearce puts them in the ladder match last week. McIntyre noted that when he came to SmackDown he decided to work his way up and earn a title shot. McIntyre realizes he must win MITB to earn a title shot. He pointed out that Lesnar showed up last week and got a title shot. McIntyre hopes they destroy each other because after that he'll cash in and win the Universal title. Sheamus doesn't think McIntyre deserves to be in the match. He mentioned that Miz conceded and won McIntyre's title. Sheamus added that it was against Reigns when he conceded and he won the title. Paul Heyman interrupted him and went on stage. Adam Pearce slowly walked out behind him. Heyman promised Reigns would beat Lesnar at SummerSlam. Despite being the GOAT, Reigns is still vulnerable to a cash in after a Last Man Standing match. The fans started booing and McIntyre noted they wanted him to make his point. Heyman then said that Pearce had an announcement. Pearce said he acted rashly last week when he added them to the ranked match. He noted that McIntyre and Sheamus neither won nor lost their qualifier. Pearce said McIntrye and Sheamus are out of the match after some impact. However, they have a chance to qualify tonight if they can team up, put their differences aside and defeat undisputed tag team champions The Usos. Kayla Braxton interviewed Sami Zayn behind the curtain. Zayn praised Reigns and The Usos. He even thinks getting rid of McIntyre and Sheamus is awesome. Zayn promised to win tonight and win the briefcase. Braxton tried to hint that Zayn would benefit from Reigns. Nakamura caught Zayn with an armbar at the bell. Zayn lured Nakamura to the ground and took over. Zayn attempted to win by countout, but Nakamura got back in the ring. Zayn yelled at the referee saying he should have won. Nakamura took advantage and caught Zayn with a small package for a near fall. Zayn recovered and knocked Nakamura out of the ring. Back from the break, Zayn was in control. He jumped off the center turnbuckle, but Nakamura countered with a kick. Zayn hit back and hit the Michinoku driver for a close two count. Zayn tried to gain his feet on the ropes but the referee caught him. Nakamura knocked Zayn off the middle rope with a knee for a near fall. Zayn rolled out of the ring. Nakamura went after him and knocked the Kinshasa to the ground. He rolled Zayn back in the ring for not wanting to win by countout. Zayn took advantage and hit the Helluva kick as Nakamura stepped in for the win. Zayn qualifies for the ladder match with Seth Rollins and Omos. The match didn't materialize and instead turned into two angles. First, Shanky turned to Mahal to dance with New Day. Then the Viking Raiders returned to attack New Day. The fans were in the corners. New Day noted they defeated Mahal & Shanky last week. They don't do rematches; Apparently Kingston and Woods were mad at Mahal for not letting Shanky dance last week. Kingston asked fans if they wanted a dancing shanky. Woods played the trombone and Shanky danced. They played New Day's music and Shanky and New Day danced to a loud response. Shanky kicked him in the face, urging him to answer in the affirmative. Suddenly the music of The Viking Raiders started playing. The Raiders run through the crowd and throw Shanky out of the ring. The Viking Raiders then dealt a brutal blow to New Day. Sonya Deville entered Adam Pearce's office from the back. She was upset that she wasn't in the Money in the Bank ladder game. She mocked Lacey Evans and Raquel Rodriguez. Pearce told her she has a match with Rodriguez and Evans next. This was a good game. Baszler distracted Rodriguez and Deville chopblocked Evans. Deville was briefly in control, but Evans fought back. Rodriguez got the hot tag and ran wildly at Deville. Deville tried to fight back, but Rodriguez knocked her to the ground. Rodriguez hit the snake eyes and grabbed the chokeslam bomb, but Baszler created another distraction. Evans made the blind tag and hit the women's rights for the win. After the match, Rodriguez and Evans jumped heels. Deville jumped onto Rodriguez's back, but she still managed to hit Li. The faces left the ring. In the background, The Street Profits went backstage and faced Los Lotharios, Drew Gulaks and Madcap Moss. Rousey got a big reaction for a few lines about Natalya. Ronda Rousey's music started playing and the fans banged. Natalya came out dressed like Rousey, pushing a stroller. Back from the break, Natalya introduced herself as Rousey. They recap how Natalya attacked Rousey and put her in the Sharpshooter. Natalya, as Rousey said, wants to give up the title and leave with her stroller. Suddenly Rousey's music played again, but this time the real Ronda Rousey walked out. Rousey added that she doesn't try to achieve unrealistic beauty standards like Natalya. Rousey said that Natalya could only be the main attraction if she dressed up as her. Rousey tried to take off Natalya's jacket and they argued. Natalya tried to hit Rousey with the stroller and ran away. In the background, Megan Morant later interviewed Drew McIntrye and Sheamus about their match. McIntyre and Sheamus feuded until Ridge Holland and Butch pulled Sheamus back. Gunther and Ricochet had a good match while it lasted. Ricochet catches Gunther with a dropkick at the bell. He rocked Ricochet in the face with one knee. Ricochet tried to fight back and fired for a takedown. Ricochet dodged Gunther and went onto a diving board. Gunther catches him in mid-air and hits a German suplex. Ricochet landed on his feet but Gunther took over with a clothesline. The finish came when Gunther hit the shotgun dropkick and powerbomb for the win. In the background, Kayla Braxton interviewed Paul Heyman and wondered if he was doing Brock Lesnar a favor. Sami Zayn interrupted and claimed Braxton previously twisted his words. He promised that he would not pay off Reigns if he won the MITB ladder game. He added that he would make money off Lesnar, but Heyman didn't like that comment. Shotzi and Tamina had a good match. McAfee noted that Aliyah was supposed to be in the game but picked up an injury. Shotzi jumped onto Tamina's back. Shotzi kicked back and secured a submission. Tamina rocked her to a near fall with a superkick, but Shotzi got her foot on the bottom rope. Shotzi recovered and hit her finisher for the win. Shotzi qualifies for the Women's Money in the Bank Ladder Match. They summarized the Viking Raiders' earlier attack on New Day. Back from the break, Dupri was in Adam Pearce's office. They summarized last week's Corbin-McAfee angle. McAfee spoke about the first time he entered the Thunderdome. McAfee then challenged Corbin to a match at SummerSlam. Fans rushed to McAfee's challenge. McIntyre & Sheamus and The Usos had a good, hard-hitting match. The stipulation of the match was: If McIntrye & Sheamus win, they qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder match. The Usos titles were not at stake, and they would not qualify for ranked play if they won. The Street Profits joined Cole and McAfee in comment. McIntrye and Sheamus had the early advantage. The Usos briefly took over, but Sheamus gave Jey the ten bodhran hits. Sheamus prepared for the brogue kick but taunted McIntyre. Jey dodged Sheamus and rolled out of the ring. McIntyre jumps off the apron and hits Butch. Sheamus jumped out and got into a fight with Mcintrye. The Usos then did a double dive, wiping out McIntyre and Sheamus. Cole wondered if McIntrye and Sheamus could coexist. Sheamus broke free, but the Usos took over. Jey fell out with The Street Profits. Jimmy hits Sheamus with the rikishi splash. Jey turned his back on him and argued with the Street Profits again. Jimmy goes for the splash a second time, but Sheamus gets a knee in the face. McIntyre got the hot day and ran wild. The Usos caught McIntyre with super kicks. Jimmy hit the splash for a near fall, but Sheamus parried. McIntyre hit the neckbreaker and set up the claymore. The Usos rolled out of the ring. McIntyre chased after them, but Jimmy hit a super kick. Butch and Holland ran back to the ring when they were sent back at halftime. Suddenly Sami Zayn appeared at ringside. He tried to kick the hell out of McIntyre. Dawkins jumps up and takes out Zayn with a tackle. The Usos and Street Profits fought ringside. McIntyre then hit a big swoop on all four. Sheamus rocked Jey with the brogue kick at ringside. The finish came when McIntyre went for the claymore, but Jimmy hit a superkick instead. McIntyre recovered and hit the claymore kick for the win. McIntyre and Sheamus qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Next week: All participants in the Money in the Bank ranked games for women and men will be on SmackDown the night before Money in the Bank.

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Rebel Wilson's greatest hits over the years

Australian actress Rebel Wilson rose to international fame in the early 2010s thanks to roles in projects such as Bridesmaids and A Few Best Men. (Author: Gardener)

Rebel Wilson'sAustralian actress Rebel Wilson rose to international fame in the early 2010s thanks to roles in projects like Bridesmaids and A Few Best Men. Since then, Wilson has become one of the most well-known comedy actresses and she has appeared in numerous famous blockbusters. Keep scrolling to see which Rebel Wilson film ended up grossing over $350 million at the box office! In it, Rebel Wilson portrays Janice, and she stars alongside Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Chace Crawford and Brooklyn Decker. What to Expect When You're Expecting is based on Heidi Murkoff's 1984 pregnancy guide of the same name - and currently has a 5.7 rating on IMDb. The film grossed $84.4 million at the box office. Next on the list is the action comedy Pain & Gain, in which Rebel Wilson plays Robin Peck. The film is an adaptation of Pete Collins' 1999 series of Miami New Times articles - and currently has a 6.4 rating on IMDb. Pain & Gain earned $87.3 million at the box office. In it, Rebel Wilson plays Miss Rahm, and she stars alongside Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Stephen Merchant, Sam Rockwell and Scarlett Johansson. See also: Rebel Wilson earned her law degree under the radar long before celebrity lawyers were a 'thing' Jojo Rabbit is based on Christine Leunen's 2008 book Caging Skies and currently has a 7.9 rating on IMDb. The film grossed $90.3 million at the box office. Next up is the 2019 comedy The Hustle, which stars Rebel Wilson as Penny Rust. The Hustle is a female-focused remake of the 1988 film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and currently has a 5.4 rating on IMDb. The film grossed $97.4 million at the box office. In it, Robin Wilson plays Robin, and she stars alongside Dakota Johnson, Damon Wayans Jr., Anders Holm, Alison Brie, and Leslie Mann. How to Be Single is based on the novel of the same name by Liz Tuccillo and currently has a 6.0 rating on IMDb. The film grossed $112.3 million at the box office. Among the top 5 on today's list is the 2012 musical comedy Pitch Perfect, in which Rebel Wilson portrays Patricia "Fat Amy" Hobart. The film is loosely adapted from Mickey Rapkin's non-fiction book Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate a Cappella Glory and currently has a 7.1 rating on IMDb. Pitch Perfect grossed $115.4 million at the box office. Let's move on to the 2017 musical comedy Pitch Perfect 3, the third and final installment in the franchise. The film currently has a 5.8 rating on IMDb and ended up grossing $185.4 million at the box office. Among the top 3 on today's list is the 2015 musical comedy Pitch Perfect 2, the second installment in the franchise. The film currently has a rating of 6.4 on IMDb and ended up grossing $287.5 million at the box office. Second on today's list is the 2011 comedy Bridesmaids. It stars Rebel Wilson Brynn and she stars alongside Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Melissa McCarthy. The film follows a maid of honor and bridesmaid who don't get along - and currently has a 6.8 rating on IMDb. Bridesmaids earned $288.4 million at the box office. Finally, the list ends at number one with the 2014 fantasy comedy Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. In it, Rebel Wilson plays Tilly, and she stars alongside Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Dan Stevens and Ben Kingsley. The film is the third and final installment in the Night at the Museum franchise and currently has a 6.2 rating on IMDb. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb ended up grossing an impressive $363.2 million at the box office.

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Steph Curry's Underrated Golf Tour makes its Cog Hill debut

Curry has helped start a new tour to help and provide opportunities for some potential future greats, particularly for those who are underserved and underrepresented in the game of golf. (Author: Gardener)

Steph Curry'sCHICAGO (CBS) -- Steph Curry just revealed he's one of the greatest basketball players of all time, but he also has a passion for golf. While Curry may not be one of the greatest golfers of all time, he has helped start a new tour to help some potential future greats and the first stop was at Cog Hill in Lemont this week. Shyell Lowe, 16, of Oswego East is one of over 60 young girls and boys from across the country teeing off at Cog Hill this week for the opening stop of Steph Curry's new Underrated Golf Tour. "When I was in middle school, I played basketball. So I was like, 'Oh, Stephen Curry is doing this.' It's a good combination of both sports that I like," she said. "I didn't even know stuff like that existed, so I think it's a really good opportunity for me and other people to play." "Underrated is pretty much a by-product of where he [Steph Curry] is from. Underrated began as a basketball tour. Underrated's message gives power and prominence to the underdog," said Underrated Golf Tour Ambassador Will Lowery. You know, if you think about golf at the introductory level, 17% of the black and brown kids are in representation, but when you get to the higher levels, college golf, it's less than 2%. So what do we need to do to raise the level of competition in golf? To this end, the tour covers all expenses for the golfers chosen to play. This is the first of five stops on the tour this year; with trips to Phoenix, Tampa, Houston and San Francisco on the horizon. "I'm super excited because I haven't been to a lot of places like Texas. And there will be college coaches everywhere, so it's going to be fun to have that kind of exposure to different places and to know that those places might be on my radar for colleges," Lowe said. Lowe obviously wants to come out on this tour and have her own success, but she also hopes others can be encouraged by what she does."To inspire other black people or girls in general and to show them that even though you're in a certain sport or something like that, you're a minority, you can still get to the top and be the greatest," she said. Count Lowery among those who are amazed at how much these young golfers, like Lowe, already have what it takes to succeed. I just love the fact what they're doing; they're already getting the it part of it," Lowery said. "I think my ultimate goal would be to go pro or go to a top university and just be able to explore and too rei sen and meet new people and make new connections," she said. "I think that will help a lot."

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Klay Thompson called out Jaren Jackson Jr. and confirmed these Memphis Grizzlies

By insulting Jaren Jackson Jr. and the Grizzlies after winning the NBA Finals, Golden State Memphis' Klay Thompson paid his biggest compliment yet. (Author: Gardener)

Klay ThompsonKlay Thompson thought of the Memphis Grizzlies. On the biggest stage in basketball after winning an NBA championship that cemented his Golden State Warriors as one of the great dynasties in league history, Thompson gave up to the Grizzlies after three injury-plagued years that made this special moment so gratifying perhaps her biggest affirmation yet by thinking of her. Stopping in the middle of a thought to challenge the team, these Warriors won the second round of the NBA playoffs more than a month ago. "There was this one player in the Grizzlies who tweeted 'strength in numbers' after they beat us in the regular season and that pissed me off," Thompson said during his postgame press conference after winning the Boston Celtics eliminated on Thursday night. Damn bum. I thought, "That damn clown." I'm sorry. Tangent soon went viral, and Jaren Jackson Jr. was quickly identified as the culprit who bothered Thompson so much with a March 28 tweet. This was undoubtedly an insult that Thompson deserved given the circumstances. If you win the title, anything goes. When you talk trash, like the Grizzlies did last season, and then get beaten by a team that's been the target of some of the boldest barbs, that kind of backlash is to be expected. This was a validation of how these grizzlies are now viewed across the league. In the mind of one of the Golden State stars, Memphis lived "rent-free," as one might put it on social media. The Grizzlies are a threat Golden State has been able to fend off this season, in part because Memphis has never been quite in this second-round series, and in part because Golden State's championship pedigree is really a driving force that has made it so has driven what trainer Steve Kerr has accurately described as the franchise's "most unlikely" title during its remarkable eight-year run. So ignore for a moment that the Grizzlies may have given these warriors their greatest test of the postseason. Ignore that they may have done so without star point guard Ja Morant for the last three games of the series and without Steven Adams and Dillon Brooks for two games each and with Desmond Bane injured. NBA DRAFT: The hypothetical question the Memphis Grizzlies are facing ahead of the NBA draft MORE BY MARK GIANNETTO: After 10 years, Memphis Grizzlies owner Robert Pera is a lot better than the unknown Ignore that Jackson after Thompson's injuries possibly the better player of the two at the moment, contrary to Thompson's "bum" label. Ignore the fact that Thompson waited until the very last game to fire that shot at Jackson, until the Warriors had hoisted the trophy window may have opened. Instead, focus on the fact that Thompson took the time to stab Jackson and Memphis amid the celebrations. That's the only evidence you need to know what Dillon Brooks declared after Golden State eliminated the Grizzlies. "You know we will come every year," he said. "We're young and they're getting old, so they know we're coming every year." The guess here is that Golden State has just had its final hooray of the Steph Curry era, and a particularly glorious one at that. This was the most vulnerable of the Warriors' championship teams, and yet their guile and togetherness and Curry's size propelled them to become the rare group to win titles in two different decades. Part of that accomplishment, however, is what Brooks said: You're not getting any younger. But Thompson rightly basked in the glow of what had just been accomplished Thursday, giving Memphis a taste of its own medicine and adding even more fuel to what appears to be a budding rivalry between the Grizzlies and Warriors. We've called Andre Iguodala at Brooks several times now because he was handling his trade from Golden State to Memphis three years ago. We had Kerr lecture us on how Brooks "broke the code" with his hard foul that injured Gary Payton II, and then we had Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins and Morant Poole called out for the injury that ultimately knocked Morant out of the series . Now Thompson is thinking about the Grizzlies and a tweet Jackson wrote almost three months earlier when he could and probably should have just been thinking about the title he just won. Of course, what he said hurt until you realized it was an insult he would never have inflicted on a team and player that didn't matter.

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What does the Juneteenth flag look like? It's complicated

A Virginia town faced some backlash for merging the July 4th and June 16th decor. Here's what one expert says about honoring the holiday. (Author: Gardener)

JuneteenthJune 16 represents black independence, and since its recognition as a federal holiday in June 2021, the holiday — like its flag — has sparked conversations about how people celebrate it. One such conversation took place this week in Newport News, Virginia, when a handful of Facebook users called on the city to merge decorations for July 4th and June 16th. A city employee hid social media comments on the post opposing the move before the city restored it. June 16, only recently established as a federal holiday, has many nuances that will need to be worked out by both Black people and the wider community in the years to come, said Tim Goler, assistant professor of sociology and urban affairs at Norfolk State University and Director of Research at the Center for African American Public Policy. The proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863, to the liberation of enslaved blacks in secessionist states, but news of the change was relayed almost two and a half years later, on June 19, 1865. On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the June 16 National Independence Day legislation establishing June 19 as a federal holiday. June 16 is known as Black Independence Day, Goler said. Most blacks celebrate June 16 with a red, green, and black flag, similar to the Pan-African flag or the Black Liberation flag, he said. The original Juneteenth flag was designed in 1997 by Ben Haith, activist and founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation. The flag has a blue and red stripe, a white star in the center, an outline, and an arc that spans the width of the flag. Some cities have chosen to celebrate June 16 and July 4 together in the colors red, white, and blue, which doesn't sit well with some black people. Goler of Norfolk State University said the problem is much more complicated than red, white, blue, black and green. "They have this church problem compared to the church," he said. "It's true that Ben Haith designed and patented this Juneteenth flag in 1997... But if you just do a simple Google search and google Juneteenth, just click on images and scroll as far as you can, (most of) the colors will turn red , be black and green." Goler said that while he thanked Haith for creating the red, white, and blue Juneteenth flag, even Haith himself said the purpose of choosing the colors was that he wanted them to be used as a reminder serve to ensure that black Americans descended from slavery are American. But for some black people, the American flag doesn't represent liberty, equality and liberty, Goler said. Just look at the failure of Reconstruction, the Jim Crow laws, the right to vote, the mass shootings, and "the ongoing injustices and discrimination against black people that we deal with on a daily basis," he told USA TODAY. "You can see why cities (the v on 1997)," Goler said. "Some cities use the colors red, white, and blue because they have a larger constituency than just African Americans, which they're trying to appease. Oftentimes (with red, black, and green) there can be problems, but if you look closely at most community-based organizations, pretty much every single black organization, they all use red, black, and green. Goler also said celebrating July 4th and June 16th together was "imprudent," "disrespectful," and an "oxymoron" since July 4th commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. "Black people were still slaves in 1776," he said. The Pan-African flag is really the most appropriate flag for Juneteenth. It is the Black Liberation flag and was designed to represent the people of the African diaspora. This flag also symbolizes black freedom.” June 16 and how it is celebrated has become a political issue, and places that try to celebrate it with other holidays are trying to play with both hands, he said . "They need to figure out how to appease not just the black people but the larger community," he said. They can make sure they quell any kind of opposition to celebrating or commemorating a black holiday." "We have a lot to do," Goler said. Discussion over how to honor June 16 came to light this week in Virginia, which declared it a national holiday in 2020. Social media users urged the city of Newport News to merge decorations for July 4th and June 16th. In response, a city worker hid social media comments on the post opposing the move, but the comments were restored Thursday morning. City spokeswoman Kim Lee said the comments on the post were "hidden by an employee who shouldn't have." "The comments have now popped up," she told USA TODAY on Thursday. City officials reported on the decorations on Facebook on Wednesday. The post included a photo of the city signature "LOVE NN", decorations with red, white and blue flowers. "The Love NN letters are now decked out in red, white and blue for the summer honoring both June 16th and July 4th," read the original post. On Wednesday and Thursday, at least 14 social media users criticized Newport News officials for their post claiming that red, white and blue represent both July 4th and June 16th. Some argued that the colors did not reflect the June 16 holiday. The city commented on the post to address the backlash. "We have seen many concerns about the colors of these letters not accurately representing June 16 and would like to address the confusion," the comment read. “The red, white and blue color scheme is taken from the 16th of June flag created by Ben Haith in 1997. You may have seen this flag all over town as we honor June 16th this week." One of the updates to the Facebook post read, "These colors not only represent the American flag, but also the official Juneteenth flag, the was created in 1997.” Saleen Martin is a reporter for USA TODAY's NOW team.

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Will Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving be traded? Zion Williamson to get the maximum deal?

And are Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert on the road to divorce? Is Deandre Ayton done in the desert? (Author: Gardener)

Will Russell WestbrookThe Golden State Warriors won the 2022 NBA championship, their fourth title in the past eight years. It seems like a good time for a breather, but the NBA isn't stopping these days. The draft is Thursday June 23rd and free agency opens at 6pm. on June 30th. Honestly, it feels like the Warriors title is already old news. So let's do it. The Lakers have a new coach in Darvin Ham, but they still have an old issue in Russell Westbrook, who is expected to settle for $47.1 million for the final year of his contract. There is no way around the Westbrook problems in L. A few smarter people will always try to sell the idea that it's just a role issue for Westbrook, who could still thrive with an offense befitting his strengths. Could Westbrook still put up big numbers if a team dumb enough to just hand him the ball and say do what you want? But this team will stink. Alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, you can't reasonably put the ball in Westbrook's hands, and he's failing to assert himself as one of the worst position shooters in history. That's not going to happen, and you can't survive on a transitional diet alone. So the Lakers just have to get rid of him. In theory, Westbrook should have some value on an expiring contract for a team not trying to win next season and could use an extra draft pick, but the Lakers, of course, say they won't give up a first. Round pick as Westbrook tax. On Monday, Shams Charania reported that contract talks between Irving and the Nets were "stalled," which "paves the way for the seven-time All-Star to consider the open market." Irving has a $36.9 million player option on the table. The Lakers are among three teams that Charania should list as potential Irving contenders. The Lakers and Clippers would need Irving to sign up and then act for him by matching salary, given their inability to create the kind of cap needed to fully sign Irving. The Knicks could clear the space if they wanted to go that route. The Lakers could bring in a third team for Russell Westbrook to facilitate an Irving deal. The Clippers have some players the Nets might want (Robert Covington, Norman Powell). I think the Heat are a team to watch. Would Miami want to deal with all the drama and uncertainty from Irving? And where are the Heat behind closed doors when they finally act for Bradley Beal? Dallas and New Orleans also strike me as teams that would have a high incentive to consider an Irving swap. Of course, keep an eye on this story. Darius Garland should be close by to get the most out of Cleveland. In his third season, he was an All-Star. After that, there are four players from the 2019 draft class with a maximum overtime opportunity: Zion Williamson (New Orleans), R.J. Barrett (Knicks), Tyler Herro (Miami), and Jordan Poole (Golden State). From the 2018 class, Anfernee Simons, DeAndre Ayton (whom we'll talk about later in this article), Miles Bridges, and Jalen Brunson could line up for maximum extension or something similar. It seems a nigh conclusion that the Pelicans would offer a maximum extension to Williamson, who has said he would sign such an offer immediately... The catch could be that New Orleans might not be willing to guarantee the entire contract as a precaution against Williamson's already long and troubling injury history. "From what I've been told, the Pelicans are not prepared to offer a full five-year warranty contract at this time. Gayle Benson, the owner, is also the owner of the New Orleans Saints. And I was told, "We're going to adopt a football-Saints-style mentality in these contract negotiations. They're going to offer him a huge contract, but they won't guarantee everything." Williamson is eligible to sign for up to $195 million, a number that would top $200 million if he makes an All-NBA team next season, but Windhorst mentioned $100 million as one number that New Orleans could guarantee. Embiid had to complete certain game minutes to get all his money. As for Barrett, he played extremely well throughout the season, but he was terrible in his only playoff series and was a volume scorer for the most part. The Knicks could wait and see, like the Suns did with Ayton. If they don't sign Barrett for a renewal by October, they can still match any offer he gets as a limited free agent next summer. Poole, Herro and Simons are all about defense. Pat Riley, in a not-so-subtle message to Herro and his stand-in at his season-ending press conference, said: "The next step for [Herro] -- and I think we're seeing that in the league -- is if you win a championship and be a starter If you want to, you really have to become a two-way player today." In other words, Riley won't even commit to playing Herro as a starter for the Heat, much less give him a maximum contract extension worth up to $190 million to grant as Herro is only playing at one end of the pitch at the moment. That could very well triple for Poole and the Warriors and Simons and the Blazers. Poole, Herro and Simons can all be electrifying scorers/creators of offense but what Riley is concerned, in the playoffs we are seeing more and more how detrimental poor defenders can be.Poole has been jumped into the rotation at times by Gary Payton II purely for defensive reasons.It w It would have been interesting if Erik Spoelstra would have caught up against Herro in tight conference finals if he had been healthy. Despite Kyle Lowry's descent on offense, he remains a defender who can carry his weight, which means he won't be targeted, and that can be worth more than a guy who can shoot in a league that isn't . It's not exactly short of one-way bucket getters, especially when that bucket getter will cost you nearly $200 million and spent much of last season getting off the bench, as did both Herro and Poole Simons before McCollum Handel/Lillard injuries. It feels like the end of this jazz era is near. When Quin Snyder resigned, Donovan Mitchell was reportedly "unnerved" about what it "means for the future of the franchise." There have been multiple reports of growing speculation, whatever that means, in the league that Mitchell may favor a larger market than Utah. Mitchell is under contract for over $97 million over the next three years. But we know that contracts are of minimal importance these days. When a star wants out, they usually get out. If the Jazz didn't feel like they'd been outdone with this list, I don't think Mitchell's desire for a bigger market, while perhaps still true, would not be such a factor. But it feels like the jazz is being surpassed. Gobert seems like the type that gets traded more, but Mitchell would likely yield a bigger return. Gobert gets a lot of flak for his alleged inability to defend smaller lineups, but that's way overkill. Rim protection and rebound are still important components of a championship equation, and it's okay on the edge. Where Gobert is a problem is on offense where he can't punish teams that play small and therefore has to defend him with small boys. He's a great roller and an elite screener, both of which go a long way towards an elite offense. Arm him with a decent group of full-backs who can at least get their job done by keeping drivers up front and not forced into constant over-revs, and Gobert will give you a championship defense. But Utah isn't built that way, and again, it feels like the beginning of the end there. Will trading happen around the draft or closer to the season or deadline? Jazz CEO Danny Ainge, a notoriously one-sided dealer, and GM Justin Zanik will not rush things. Utah is among the best teams that could look significantly different in a few months. The Trail Blazers lost a second lottery win as the Pelicans scraped into the playoffs, and their own tank job only earned them the No. 7. But that's what they have, and most people would be very surprised if they didn't package that pickup and ship it in exchange for a player who can bring them closer to the competitor conversation. A sign and trade with Phoenix for Ayton seems unlikely. Portland needs perimeter and perimeter defense, as well as off-court shooting and playmaking. Lu Dort has been hinted at as a possible target for the Blazers, who are prioritizing Toronto's Anunoby in exchange for the No. 7, according to Jake Fischer OG. Toronto, which is interested in the deal, could be a different story. I know he says he loves it there and wants to win there and that's all true I think. But more than one thing can be true, and Lillard wants a honest shot at a title. That only counts if the blazers do something with it. Atlanta accelerated its schedule with its surprise run to the 2021 Conference Finals, making its first-round jump this season all the more disappointing. Travis Schlenk and recently promoted GM Landry Fields will be looking to make a move, and they have a wealth of intriguing assets to work with. There have been reports that the Hawks plan to sign De'Andre Hunter on a long-term basis. Atlanta would likely want to stick with Onyeka Okongwu and create a bigger role for her. Fischer reported that "there has been a lot of talk among league staff" that Atlanta is a prime contender for Utah's Rudy Gobert should he become available. Kevin Huerter, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Clint Capela and Danilo Gallinari can all get in a deal -- so can Hunter and Okongwu if it's truly a home run -- and Atlanta has all of its draft picks in motion. Like Irving, Harden is eligible for a maximum extension this summer. The Sixers won't give him that, and neither will any other team. Harden already appears to be on the way down, maybe a steep one, and the Sixers or anyone else who ties into him for the next four or five years at a number north of $200 million could and likely would have disastrous effects on the Need - too distant future. "All signs point to Harden returning to the 76ers with a shorter-term contract extension," Fischer recently reported. Whether Harden exercises his $47 million player option this season with an extension for the next two years at a lower year number, or opts to start fresh, say with a three-year contract for maybe $100 million to $120 million, makes that approach from much more sense. If Harden agrees to lock more guaranteed years at a lower year number, an exit this season would give the Sixers more flexibility as it would lower his cap hit from the player option number and give them access to the full mid-level exception. If Harden truly wants to do his part to help the Sixers fight for a title, he'll opt out and sign for less. That's good because nobody's going to give him the maximum money anyway. Zach LaVine has been open about "wanting to enjoy a free hand," but a recent report suggests LaVine intends to re-sign with the Bulls, who would be accused in the case, LaVine and DeMar DeRozan with so much defense to have surrounded as possible . It will help bring Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso back together. They were one of the best defensive duos in the league when healthy last season. That means Williams could be Chicago's best negotiating tool for landing a true defensive whale. We were just talking about Rudy Gobert's probable availability. Chicago would be one of the teams perfect for him as a roll and rim guard, and a package headlined Williams and future draft picks could almost certainly start a conversation. We know Coby White would be available, but he wouldn't do anything for Utah's full-back, and the Jazz already have enough ball-controlling scorers who are better than White. Nikola Vucevic has an expiring contract. Would Chicago move Dosunmu and Williams? But DeRozan isn't getting any younger. It might be a stretch to expect him to repeat last season's performance. If the Bulls want to maximally re-sign LaVine and start fighting for championships right away, some of the future plays may need to be compromised. The Athletic reported that it was "more likely" Ayton's time at Phoenix is ​​up, and Marc Stein named Ayton as the most likely high-profile player to switch teams this offseason. Ayton is a restricted free agent after Phoenix decided not to grant him a rookie extension last summer. Ayton certainly didn't like that. The Suns have the right to match any offer Ayton gets in the open market, but the most likely scenario seems Ayton leading a mark and a trade. Phoenix won't watch him walk for nothing. It drafted him through Luka Doncic and it could have traded him on the deadline. The suns won't end with nothing. Detroit, Indiana, Orlando, Portland, Atlanta, maybe Toronto, all of these teams would make varying degrees of sense for an Ayton sign-and-trade. What if Jazz part ways with Gobert to bring in Ayton? Phoenix would likely need to attach more to entice Utah into this hypothetical deal. Whatever the outcome, it would be surprising if Ayton stays with the Suns. Bradley Beal, who is expected to turn down his $36.4 million player option next season to enter free agency, told The Athletic that he's made up his mind about his player future, his decision but not announced yet. All signs seem to point to Beal staying with the Wizards, who can pay him nearly $250 million over five years. Let's be serious: Beal has stayed with Washington for as long as he could have asked for a trade at any time. At least the wizards we know Beal tends to could have gotten something for him. At that point, take the money and then call for a trade on the street if things don't improve in Washington. But until we know for sure, there will, as always, be a lot of relocation speculation surrounding Beal's name.

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