Happy Friday, everyone! Congrats on making it through another week. There’s a weekend full of football as your reward.
Let’s get right to it.
Good morning to everyone but especially to…
SERIE A FANS
Welcome back, Serie A! The top Italian soccer league begins this weekend, and you can watch all season long on Paramount+.
Last year’s title race wasn’t decided until the last day, when AC Milan claimed their first league title since 2010-11. Our Serie A expert Francesco Porzio says they’ll be hard-pressed to defend that title; his pick to win the Scudetto is Juventus.
- Porzio: “After a very solid transfer window, Juventus have to be considered as the leading candidates to win the Scudetto alongside Serie A title holders AC Milan and Inter Milan. [Coach Massimiliano] Allegri has explicitly told the press that Juventus’ main target of the season will be to win the domestic competition with the same ambition to go as far as possible in the UEFA Champions League and also try to win the Coppa Italia, which they lost last season in the final against Inter Milan.”
- The Cubs beat the Reds, 4-2, in the Field of Dreams Game.
- Duane Brown signed with the Jets.
- Tom Izzo and Michigan State agreed to a 5-year rollover contract.
- Congrats to James White on an incredible career.
And not such a good morning for…
THE NEW YORK YANKEES
Yes, they didn’t play last night, but the dog days of summer are here and they’re hitting the New York Yankees hard. Since the All-Star Break, the Yankees are:
- 7-13 (tied for 23rd in MLB)
- 2-6 in games decided by one run (down from 19-11 prior to the break)
- Scoring 4.7 runs per game (down from 5.4 before the break, which was best in MLB)
- Pitching to a 4.36 team ERA (24th in MLB).
Are the Bronx Bombers just slogging through the summer, or are there bigger issues? It’s that final bullet point that’s been a big issue, says MLB expert Mike Axisa.
- Axisa: “The problem is obvious, right? New York’s rotation has gone from being an elite home run prevention unit to nearly the worst in baseball. Their walk rate is up a bit but still well below the MLB average (8.2 percent of batters faced), and the strikeout rate is unchanged. Basically, the rotation is pitching like it did before, only with way more balls leaving the yard. … Having a great rotation and then suddenly having an ineffective rotation is a surefire way to go from the sport’s best record to playing .500 ball for two months.”
This is a really good look into the four biggest reasons the Yankees have cooled off as summer has heated up, and whether they can turn things around. As Mike points out, “it’s important to note they still have a 10-game lead in the AL East and also a 10-game lead for a Wild Card Series bye. At the start of this 22-25 stretch, they had a 12-game lead.”
This weekend could provide a perfect turnaround opportunity against the struggling Red Sox. Boston is running out of time to get into the playoff race. The Yankees could start their turnaround by pushing their arch rivals further out of things… or they could stay mired in their slump as the stretch run nears.
Not so honorable mentions
- Tom Brady won’t return to the Buccaneers until at least Aug. 21 due to “some personal things.”
- Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith is out for the rest of the season due to a personal matter.
NBA retires No. 6 in honor of Bill Russell 🏀
The NBA is giving Bill Russell‘s No. 6 special treatment: the number will be tired across the league ahead of the 2022-23 season. Russell, who died in late July at 88, is the first NBA player to have his number retired league-wide.
- Other players to have their number retired in major North American sports include Jackie Robinson (No. 42) and Wayne Gretzky (No. 99).
- Russell, an 11-time NBA champion, was also noted for his impact off the court. In 1966, he became the first Black head coach in major American sports, and he was known for his activism regarding social and racial issues throughout his life. On the court, his list of accomplishments is truly incredible.
- Current NBA players wearing No. 6 — including LeBron James — do not need to change numbers if they don’t want to. However, no player will be issued a No. 6 jersey going forward.
- The NBA also plans to add commemorative patches on the right shoulder of every jersey for the 2022-23 season, and every court will have a clover-shaped logo with the No. 6 inside of it on the sideline.
James is the most notable of the active players who wear No. 6, but he’s far from the only one. The entire list is 16 players deep, and that includes five who were born in the 2000s and could end up being the last NBA player to wear No. 6 ever:
- Kenneth Lofton Jr. (born Aug. 14, 2002)
- Jaylin Williams (born June 29, 2002)
- Keon Johnson (born March 10, 2002)
- Kenyon Martin Jr. (Jan. 6, 2001)
- Quentin Grimes (May 8, 2000)
There’s yet another team that’s caught Kevin Durant’s eye 👀
Another day, another Kevin Durant rumor. The Nets superstar reportedly views the 76ers as a “welcome landing spot.” If you remember yesterday’s newsletter, this report comes on the heels of reports saying he also views the Celtics as a “desired landing spot.”
The Celtics actually made an offer for Durant; it’s not known if the 76ers have done the same, but there appears to be at least some mutual interest. Here’s what a possible offer could look like, according to our NBA reporter Michael Kaskey-Blomain.
- Kaskey-Blomain: “In order to execute a deal, the Sixers would have to part with a huge haul that would likely include several draft picks, Tobias Harris and promising young guard Tyrese Maxey. Such a deal isn’t necessarily a no-brainer for the Sixers. Obviously, acquiring Durant would widen the team’s current championship window, but it may limit their long-term prospects. … It’s also fair to wonder if the Nets would even want to trade Durant to the Sixers after trading James Harden to them earlier this year. The two teams are in the same division, after all.”
Preseason bowl projections: Who’s making the College Football Playoff? 🏈
Ah yes, the preseason. When hope springs eternal, every team’s loss column is blank, and bowl projections are the perfect thing to get us fans excited. That’s right, Jerry Palm’s preseason bowl projections have arrived, and I would love to see his prediction for the College Football Playoff field turn out to be true.
- Peach Bowl: (1) Alabama vs. (4) Oklahoma
- Fiesta Bowl: (2) Ohio State vs. (3) Georgia
Alabama looking to get back atop the college football mountain after melting down late in last year’s championship game? Ohio State back after a down year? Georgia trying to repeat? Oklahoma making it less than a year after Lincoln Riley departed for USC? Sign me up for that.
Speaking of USC, Jerry is bullish on the Trojans. He projects them to play Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl. You can see Jerry’s CFP and New Year’s Six predictions here and his projections for every single bowl game here.
What we’re watching this weekend 📺
🏈 Falcons at Lions, 6 p.m. on NFL Network
🏀 Liberty at Dream, 7:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
🏈 Packers at 49ers, 8:30 p.m. on NFL Network
🏀 Storm at Lynx, 9 p.m. on ESPN 2
🏈 Chiefs at Bears, 1 p.m. on NFL Network
🏈 Colts at Bills, 4 p.m. on NFL Network
🏈 Seahawks at Steelers, 7 p.m. on NFL Network
⚾ Yankees at Red Sox, 7:15 p.m. on FOX
🏈 Cowboys at Broncos, 9 p.m. on NFL Network
🏀 Lynx at Sun, 1 p.m. on ABC
🏀 Storm at Aces, 3 p.m. on ABC
🏈 Vikings at Raiders, 4:25 p.m. on NFL Network
⚾ Yankees at Red Sox, 7 p.m. on ESPN
⛳ St. Jude Championship Final Round, 3 p.m. on NBC