Following an uncharacteristically poor 2018 season, the Green Bay Packers recorded a profit of $724,000 in the latest fiscal year, down 97.9 percent from $34.1 million the previous year, The Associated Press reports.

The Packers brought in a record $75 million the fiscal year prior to that.

Green Bay finished 6-9-1 and missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year. The team made the postseason each year from 2009-16.

Also affecting the franchise’s bottom line was the $134-million contract extension given to quarterback Aaron Rodgers in August and the expensive firing of Mike McCarthy and hiring of Matt LaFleur as head coach.

“From a financial standpoint, it was a unique year for the Packers,” admitted team president Mark Murphy.

During free agency, the team handed expensive deals to Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Adrian Amos, and Billy Turner.

“We were a little more aggressive than we’ve been in a number of years,” Murphy said.

In an absolute shocker, the Houston Rockets acquired Russell Westbrook to pair with James Harden as they continue to covet an NBA title.

Harden pushed for an opportunity to reunite with his former teammate following seven years apart after the Oklahoma City Thunder decided to move their stars for draft picks. It was a win-now move that has Harden excited about playing with Westbrook again.

“I’ve been knowing Russell since I was 10 years old. We grew up together,” Harden said Friday. “Obviously, when I left Oklahoma City, I was sad. But then Houston made a home for me. Rockets is my home. And now an opportunity became available where Russ wasn’t happy. Now we’re back.”

He added: “It’s going to be a lot of fun this year, I guarantee you that. There’s going to be a lot of excitement.”

The Thunder franchise drafted Harden one year after selecting Westbrook. The pair – along with Kevin Durant – reached the NBA Finals in 2012. Oklahoma City fell to the Miami Heat in five games and Harden was subsequently traded to Houston, where he became one of the craftiest scorers in league history.

Neither Harden nor Westbrook has reached the NBA Finals since 2012. The Rockets have made it to the Western Conference finals twice in the last five seasons, while Westbrook’s Thunder were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in each of the last three campaigns.

Batista recently spoke with GQ to promote his new “Stuber” movie that hit theaters today. Batista revealed that some of his friends in Hollywood were surprised this year when he returned for a match at WrestleMania 35 because they never knew he was a pro wrestler. The interviewer said he must have learned to really “play up” his intimidating presence coming from WWE.

“Oh yeah, way over the top,” Batista said. “That is the stigma I was stuck with when I wanted to become a real actor. There was a point in my career where none of my social media contained anything that said WWE. I just wanted to completely remove myself from that world. Not because I was embarrassed or ashamed to have come from that world, but I needed people to lose that stereotype with me being a professional wrestler. Open their eyes, broaden their minds a little bit of who I could be. Then when I felt like I had finally established that respect, that credit, I started owning it. I had more than a few people when I went back for WrestleMania this year, more than a few of my peers in acting, who were surprised that I was ever a professional wrestler. They had no idea. To me, that’s an accomplishment. That’s a statement.”

Batista reiterated recent comments on the No Holds Barred loss to Triple H being his last match, but he did say that he’s told WWE he will go back and make appearances for them, and he would like to stay connected to the company.

“It was my last match,” he said of WrestleMania 35. “I’ve told them I’ll go back and do the show. I’ll be a personality on the show. I love the company. I love the fans and I would like to stay connected to them. But as far as going back and have another wrestling match, it will never happen. I think it’ll just never happen. I couldn’t have ended my career any better than I did this year. It was something I fought very hard for. So for me to go back and wrestle again after all that would be taking a huge dump on my career. I just won’t do it.”

Batista also talked about the recent WWE Super ShowDown match between The Undertaker and WWE Hall of Famer Bill Goldberg. Batista said he called Taker and tried to talk him out of the match. He also said he would not have traveled to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“I called, man,” he said. “I called ‘Taker and said, “Is there any way I could change your mind?” He laughed, and I knew I couldn’t change his mind. He said it sounded good when we first started talking about it. I only saw highlights which were, you know, low lights. It was not good. It’s just bad circumstances all the way around. 

“I feel like Taker’s there for the right reasons. I think he’s there because he still loves it. But I wish that they would utilize him in the right way. I think a novelty match with Goldberg is the wrong way. I just don’t think it’s good for anybody and especially it’s not good for the fans. I wouldn’t have gone to Saudi at all. I don’t care who they would’ve booked me with. I just would not have gone.

“But I loved my final match at WrestleMania, with Hunter. The fans wanted to see two old guys go to war. That’s what we did. That’s the way the match was designed.”

Every NFL head coach wants to win a Super Bowl, and all 32 would likely sacrifice almost anything to do so.

However, the Tennessee Titans’ Mike Vrabel may be willing to go to greater lengths than his fellow head coaches are when it comes to securing a Lombardi Trophy.

Vrabel was asked by Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan on the “Bussin’ With the Boys” podcast if he’d “cut off his dick” to win a Super Bowl, and the coach barely hesitated before giving his answer.

“(I’ve) been married 20 years. Yeah, probably,” Vrabel answered amid an eruption of laughter.

An incredulous Lewan pointed out that Vrabel has already won three titles as a player with the New England Patriots, and asked whether it would be an issue for the head coach’s wife.

According to Vrabel, it wouldn’t be hard to get his partner on board.

“She’d be like, ‘Do you want me to do it? Do you want to do it now?'” said Vrabel.

The Titans haven’t reached the big game since 1999 and have made just one postseason appearance since 2008.

So, if the AFC South team finds itself celebrating in Florida come February, Jen Vrabel should’ve already locked down the MVP award.

David Beckham is teaming up with LeBron James for a documentary series about his new MLS franchise.

Beckham’s newly formed media venture, Studio 99, has inked a development agreement with Uninterrupted – the company founded by James and Maverick Carter. The two will co-produce a series following the journey of Inter Miami from conception to their spring 2020 launch, according to Todd Spangler of Variety.

The series is one of several documentary projects in development by Studio 99 that will cover the worlds of sports, travel, and fashion.

“I have always enjoyed creating content of all kinds and working on set with creative people,” Beckham said. “It’s amazing to see what guys that I admire so much, like LeBron and Maverick, have achieved. It’s inspired me to see what’s possible in my world. It’s just very cool to be working with friends and meeting so many new people who are doing great things and want (to) create exciting new projects with us.”

Studio 99’s name is an homage to 1999, which was the year Beckham married Victoria Adams, welcomed his first child, and won the treble with Manchester United.

AEW announcer and Senior Advisor Jim Ross appeared on Busted Open Radio earlier today with WWE Hall of Famer Bully Ray and Dave LaGreca, to promote Saturday’s AEW Fight for the Fallen event. You can download the full show at this link.

One of the topics discussed on the show was the unprotected chair shot that Cody Rhodes took from Shawn Spears at AEW Fyter Fest last month. Bully asked JR his opinion on chairs and chair shots in general, and Ross said he believes chairs have run their course in pro wrestling.

“I think the chairs have run their course to be honest with you,” Ross said. “The chair shot back in the day, the chairs were there as usable objects because we are sitting on them. The ringside fans and the studio audience were sitting on them. Those steel chairs and folding chairs were everywhere because they were handy, easy to stack, cheap, easy & inexpensive staging. Now, then nobody sits on a steel metal folding chair. They’re all locked up on ringside. Usually nicer chairs. And the announcers don’t sit on folding chairs. Maybe the timekeeper does, I don’t know. It’s a work that it’s such an expose. Another thing, the boys know, if they’re gonna use the chair they gotta assume the doggy-style position. They’re on all fours waiting to get hit in the back. And I can’t recall ever in the last many years that a chair shot to the back has beaten a single soul.

“So, why are we doing it? I’m not b—hing about our creative. It was edgy. It was out there. In hindsight I wouldn’t have done it. But it happened and we [the announcers] called it the best we could. But I think the chairs are kinda like the authority figures – I think they’ve kinda run their course. Unless somebody can figure out a way to make them more innovative and current, I’d say lets ‘table that stuff’. No pun intended Bubba. Let’s get rid of those chairs for a while.”

Ray responded and said, “Sounds like you’re not in favor of the chair more from the psychology perspective of it than the actual physicality of it. Because it seems like the physicality of it is what people wanted to harp on.”

Ross mentioned CTE and how important it is to protect the wrestlers.

“I’m a big person to want to protect the CTE issues and people’s brains,” JR said. “Because obviously we know that some of those injuries are irreversible. Guys get their brains rattled so many times over and over again – you’re asking for trouble. If you dodge the bullet then God bless you. I just think that we gotta protect the CTE, protect the talents. I’m big on that. But again, it’s kinda run its course. I feel when a guy assumes the position you think you’re getting ready to watch a scene from a prison movie. He’s on all fours here. Come on. We have a lot of high flyers here in AEW. But at some point in time they gotta start winning matches with their high flying moves instead of using them as segue spots to get from point A to point B.”

Arizona Coyotes fans are thrilled to see Phil.

Following the acquisition of Phil Kessel, the club’s ticket sales have increased by 550 percent compared to the same week last summer, according to the Arizona Republic’s Richard Morin.

The Coyotes have also seen an uptick in their website traffic, mobile app visits, and social media engagement since the June 29 trade that brought Kessel to the desert. Additionally, 94 percent of season-ticket holders have renewed for next season – the highest mark since 2004.

“It’s certainly satisfying and exciting to see us doing something as a franchise that we feel makes us a much more competitive team and puts us in a better position to win,” Coyotes president and CEO Ahron Cohen said, according to Morin. “The fact that other people in this market are seeing that, fans are seeing that, and they’re jumping on board, it’s good, positive momentum for this organization.”

Kessel ranks eighth in the NHL in goals since entering the league in 2006-07 and hasn’t missed a game since 2009-10. He’s totaled 174 points over the past two seasons, marking the most productive two-year stretch of his career.

“Obviously, Phil is an elite player,” Coyotes general manager John Chayka said earlier in July. “Personally I can’t (recall) the last time we’ve had a player of this caliber who has had this production and this resume on this team. I think it’s exciting for our fans and it’s exciting for our players.”

The Coyotes finished just four points out of the playoffs last season despite an injury-riddled campaign. They were one of the league’s top defensive teams but finished 27th in scoring – a weakness that Kessel will certainly help address.

WWE RAW Woman’s Champion Becky Lynch spoke with Fair Game about her success in WWE. Speaking of her historical main event match at WrestleMania 35, Lynch said that the public demanded the match to be a main event because they felt the personal animosity between Lynch, Charlotte, and Ronda Rousey. Lynch admitted without the feel of a real feud, people would have not been as interested.

“The beauty of that story was that it was real and people felt it and that’s why people got so invested,” Lynch said. “What I wanted was people to want to see this as the main event and the way to make people want to see it as the main event was to make it personal. There was no way in hell I was allowing this to be a corporate main event. It was the first time ever women were the main event. It had to be because the people demanded it and not because it was a good publicity move and it wasn’t. It was what the people wanted and people stayed to watch the main event even though it had been a seven hour long show and people cared about that story because it was personal.”

Lynch furthered her argument on making her programs must-see. After striking a nerve with Rousey’s intentionally condescending nickname ‘Ronnie’, Lynch knows it takes some ruffling of the feathers to create a good television product. Lynch adds that such segments can lead to more overall success.

“I’m constantly trying to make this the coolest thing on TV,” Lynch admitted. “I want people to be invested so sometimes I’ll go a little bit far. If people don’t understand that and often times they don’t understand that I’m trying to make you money, I’m trying to make me money, I’m trying to make the company money and I’m trying to make people outside care about what we’re doing. I want people to think this is cool. I want it to be higher than it’s ever been because I love this business. I’m a wrestling fan. I grew up watching it. When I was younger, I just thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I want everybody to feel that feeling and I still think that and want everyone to feel that and be like, ‘Oh, they’re going a little bit far.'”

Continuing to speak of Rousey, Lynch says she hasn’t spoken to Rousey since their WrestleMania 35 match. Lynch added that despite Rousey being a tough competitor physically, the way to beat Rousey is via mental strategy. 

“I haven’t talked to Ronnie since,” Lynch said. “I thought I’d see here since we were nominated for ‘Best Fight’ for the the MTV Movie and TV Awards but she’d been hiding. That’s what Ronnie does. She hides when she loses. Let’s she if she comes back. I still want that one on one match with her. The way to beat Ronnie, its not to beat her body cause she’s tough, but it’s to beat her mind. That’s what I went after. Constant mind games.”

Lynch is scheduled to team with WWE Universal Champion Seth Rollins this Sunday at Extreme Rules to defense their respective championships against Baron Corbin and Lacy Evans in a mixed tag match.

Joe Pavelski is providing a window into the thought process that led him to bid farewell to the San Jose Sharks after more than a decade.

“Oh yeah, it was tough,” the Dallas Stars forward and former Sharks captain told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Josh Schrock on Wednesday. “I don’t want to say it was harder than I thought it was going to be because I knew it was going to be hard once we got to that state and started looking at different teams and understanding that it was a real possibility that we should be prepared in case it gets there.”

Pavelski, who’ll turn 35 on Thursday, signed a three-year, $21-million deal with the Stars on July 1 after playing the last 13 campaigns with the Sharks.

The veteran center, who wore the ‘C’ in San Jose for the last four seasons, ranks among the club’s all-time leaders in goals, assists, points, and games played.

“I’ve only got good things to say about San Jose and the organization there,” he said. “The way the guys have treated me and the teammates that I’ve had that are still there. It was tough to leave. You don’t stay somewhere for 13 years and not grow attached to it.

“I’ve just got some tremendous friendships there and you know it’s not really goodbye; it’s more of a thank you to the fans and everyone that was involved and helped turn me into the player and person I am today. Those decisions never come lightly and it wasn’t easy.”

Pavelski was an unrestricted free agent who also reportedly garnered interest from the Tampa Bay Lightning and Minnesota Wild.

ESPN published the latest ‘Blockbuster’ issue of their monthly magazine – and it featured two of the most famous faces in the world of wrestling, both fictional and slightly-less-fictional, on its cover.

Current Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch is posed on the front spread alongside GLOW star Alison Brie, as the issue explores the intersection between Hollywood and sports – guess you could call that ‘sports entertainment’?

The pair conducted an interview with ESPN in which they each discuss the challenges they’ve had to overcome in their respective industries, and why women continue to take both entertainment and wrestling by storm in 2019.

Interestingly, despite the company’s long partnership with the sports broadcaster, Lynch is the first WWE superstar to ever appear on the cover of ESPN The Magazine whilst under their employ. The issue will be available in all good newsagents this Friday.

Masai Ujiri addressed the media for the first time since Kawhi Leonard‘s departure, and while the Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations had hoped things would transpire differently, he wished the superstar nothing but the best.

“I was confident but I understand how free agency is … We won a championship, it went well, blah, blah, blah,” Ujiri told reporters at summer league, including TSN’s Josh Lewenberg. “But I know, I’m not naive to think that in free agency it doesn’t change.”

He added: “He definitely has our blessings. He gave it everything while he was with us and we really appreciated that. I communicated with him afterwards and it was very good. We got a great deal out of this. We won a championship.”

The reigning NBA champs acted swiftly following Leonard’s reported departure to the Los Angeles Clippers, reportedly adding a pair of above-average wing defenders in Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

While the two-time Finals MVP is virtually irreplaceable, Masai insists he’s already turned the page and urges the fan base to do the same.

“There’s no time to go out and cry,” Ujiri added. “Honestly, I’ve lost no sleep. I’m not disappointed. It’s on to what’s next. I’m telling Raptors fans, don’t lose one day of sleep, one second of sleep. We’re going to be just fine. We’re going to (be) all right.”

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred denied Tuesday the notion held by some players that the league is intentionally juicing baseballs.

“Baseball has done nothing, given no direction, for an alteration of the baseball,” Manfred told reporters, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.

Manfred also said this season’s record spike in home runs is alarming for everybody involved in the game.

“The flaw in logic is that baseball wants more home runs,” Manfred said, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. “If you sat in (an) owners meeting and listen to people on how the game is played, that is not a sentiment of owners for whom I work.”

He added: “There’s no desire among ownership to increase homers in the game, to the contrary, they are concerned about how many we have.”

A total of 1,142 homers were hit in June, setting a new single-month record and besting the previous one-month benchmark set in May (1,135).

Asked whether MLB would alter the balls to reduce the number of round-trippers, Manfred acknowledged it’s not out of the question.

“If we were going to do it, we would do it in a way that was transparent to the media and fans before making that change,” he said, according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.

Manfred was also questioned about comments from Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander after the right-hander slammed the league Monday over the balls used this season. 

“I’m not going to respond specifically. What we need (to) be is transparent,” he said, according to Scott Miller of Bleacher Report. “I’m more than happy (to) have input, and I’ve had input, from starting pitchers.”

Major League Baseball Players Association head Tony Clark also spoke Tuesday, answering bluntly when asked about the topic.

“I believe the ball suddenly changed and I don’t know why,” he said.

Bud Selig has a new book out, and the former MLB commissioner was no fan of the most famous athlete in the sport during his tenure.

“Summer of 2007 was unpleasant for me, and when I look back, that’s putting it mildly,” Selig recounts in “For The Good of The Game,” according to excerpts acquired by Cody Benjamin of CBS. “It was one of the few times in my life I wasn’t excited about going to ballparks, and if you know me that’s all you need to know.”

In that passage, Selig is referring to Barry Bonds, who broke Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record in 2007 with the 756th dinger of his decorated career. Bonds ultimately finished with 762 homers, which currently stands as the MLB record.

In the book, Selig states that the San Francisco Giants slugger “simply wasn’t likable” compared to Aaron, and that he encountered “misery” while traveling around to watch Bonds’ pursuit of the record.

“While I felt a responsibility to be on hand for Bonds’ moment, I’ll admit I had a fantasy that I’d be spared when I went to Cooperstown to see (Cal) Ripken and (Tony) Gwynn be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Selig says in the book. “Nobody would have blamed me for being there rather than on the road with Barry. But I received no reprieve, so I trudged on.”

Selig served as MLB commissioner from 1998-2015, which included the height of baseball’s steroid era. He was succeeded by current league commissioner Rob Manfred and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017. Selig currently holds the position of Commissioner Emeritus of Baseball.

Bonds, who also holds the record for single-season home runs, along with the career records for walks and intentional walks, has not been inducted into the Hall of Fame due largely to widespread suspicions of steroid use. The seven-time MVP and 14-time All-Star missed out this past winter while receiving 59.1 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in his seventh year on the ballot. Players require 75 percent of the vote to be inducted.

At last night’s Impact Slammiversary PPV, the main event saw Sami Callihan defeat Tessa Blanchard in an intergender match which saw both competitors take plenty of hard-hitting shots.

Many fans were expecting Tessa to get the victory in this one, yet Dave Meltzer has confirmed that there was never once a time when Blanchard – the daughter of the legendary Tully – was going to be the one getting the victory at Slammiversary.

Despite being booked to be on the losing side of the encounter, Blanchard still looked like a total badass throughout the match as she went toe-to-toe with one of the most brutal players in the business right now. In fact, after the match there was a showing of respect where Callihan presented Tessa with her baseball bat.

Meltzer added that one of the main reasons for not having The Queen of the Carolinas win the match was because Impact didn’t want to give her too much exposure or for Tessa to be seen as forced down the fans’ throats. Seemingly, Impact is being careful not to put Tessa Blanchard in a Roman Reigns-esque spot where the fans rejected Roman due to him being the focal point of every show and always standing tall at the end of a fight.

The Undertaker’s recent return to WWE television will lead to him teaming with Roman Reigns to face Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre at this weekend’s Extreme Rules pay-per-view (14 July), but it doesn’t look like this will be the last stop on ‘The Deadman’s’ latest Sports Entertainment voyage.

Per local advertising in Toronto, Ontario, ‘Taker will compete against McIntyre at SummerSlam on 11 August.

This comes just over a week after reports that Undertaker had handpicked ‘The Scottish Psychopath’ to work alongside in the future. Now, it looks like Extreme Rules will serve only as a teaser for what’s to come later.

The Undertaker’s facial expression after Super Show-Down’s botchy mess versus Goldberg looked like one of two things at the time: either the 54-year-old was getting his Danny Glover on, or he immediately knew he that had to right that bout’s wrongs against future opponents. The McIntyre situation makes it seem like the latter.

If the bout comes to fruition, Drew makes sense as a young, strong, athletic opponent who can hopefully guide the battle-ravaged legend to a solid match. Here’s hoping he’s able to do so should they collide.

A Russell WestbrookJames Harden reunion could be in the works.

The Houston Rockets are interested in trading for Westbrook, but executing a swap for the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard is considered a “long shot,” sources told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

Though they play the same position, acquiring Westbrook wouldn’t necessarily lead to Houston sending Chris Paul to the Thunder, MacMahon’s source said. Moving Paul could, however, make a swap much easier to pull off, as the two are earning identical $38.5-million salaries next season, though Westbrook’s contract is guaranteed for a year longer.

After the Los Angeles Clippers shocked the NBA by reportedly acquiring Paul Georgefrom the Thunder while also signing Kawhi Leonard, Oklahoma City and Westbrook have reportedly been discussing parting ways via trade, potentially this summer.

Westbrook, who has been with the franchise since being drafted fourth overall in 2008, is set to earn approximately $124 million over the next three seasons – not including a $47-million player option in 2022-23. The Thunder, however, now look geared to rebuild after acquiring a handful of first-round picks from the Clippers for George.

Houston could also be eyeing more than just Westbrook. The Rockets are interested in signing free agent Tyson Chandler as a backup center, a source told MacMahon.

The team likely won’t be alone in its pursuit of Westbrook. The Detroit Pistons and Miami Heat are also “very real possibilities” as trade destinations for the 30-year-old, sources told The Athletic’s Sam Amick and Brett Dawson.

One of the more shocking moments at last month’s AEWFyter Fest was Cody taking an unprotected chairshot to the head at the hands of Shawn Spears. The result of the attack was Cody requiring 10 staples to close up the wound in the back of his head.

During the lead-up to the show, Cody had given his thoughts about Spears in an episode of Road to Fyter Fest, which looks to be the reason for Spears lashing out.

“He could potentially be a player/coach, eventually a coach,” Cody said. “Great for the young guys, and he’s a great hand. A utility guy, a good worker — not a star.”

Earlier today, AEW announced Spears will have a sit down interview with Jim Ross to explain his actions. The interview will take place on the first episode of The Road to All Out. 

All Out takes place on August 31 at the Sears Centre in Chicago, featuring Chris Jericho vs. Adam Page to determine the inaugural AEW World Champion, and Kenny Omega vs. Jon Moxley.

With AEW having finished their second event and WWE hiring legendary wrestling minds Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff, a new pro wrestling war is on the horizon. WWE two-time Hall of Famer Booker T spoke about this on his Hall of Fame podcast. 

“AEW is on the rise, WWE is making changes,” Booker said. “With Paul Heyman placed in charge of Monday Night Raw and Bischoff has been placed in charge of Tuesday night SmackDown, which we will be changing to Friday Night SmackDown on Fox. This is just going to the blueprint of what wrestling was, and that’s giving the fans some great wrestling.”

Booker knows what it takes to be a complete performer. While he was great at entertaining the fans, when it came time to perform in the ring, he knew he had to do deliver there as well.

“When I was King Booker, I went out and tried to entertain very well,” Booker recalled. “When I got into the ring with guys like Bobby Lashley, John Cena, I tried to make sure my performance was at another level and give you guys what you came to see, which is what is on the marquee, professional wrestling.”

Booker has had the chance to work with both Heyman and Bischoff and knows what they bring to the table. He also wants them to understand what they need to do. He concluded with a prophetic thought on the seemingly impending pro wrestling war. 

“Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff, they both have an agenda now,” Booker stated. “That agenda is to do well. I was reading today that Eric Bischoff is moving his family to Connecticut. To do that is a huge commitment. That means I want to get close to my work and I really want to throw myself into it.”

“One thing Eric Bischoff knows is, time is running out,” Booker exclaimed. “He is never going to get another chance like this ever in a lifetime. I mean he slipped on a banana peel to become President of WCW, then to get this dropped in his hand? Paul Heyman made ECW a legitimate company by doing the right things and taking them in the right directions, they gave the fans what they wanted to see, they had it all. The war could be over before it even starts.”

In light of Kawhi Leonard‘s reported recruitment of Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, Damian Lillard believes it’s clear players hold more sway in attracting stars to their respective teams than executives.

Lillard says stars recruiting one another has become part of the game and that it’s become a “more powerful” tool than traditional pitch meetings with prospective clubs. 

“It’s become huge,” Lillard told reporters, including ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “Because sometimes the coaches and the front offices, they don’t have as much power as the players. The players are so friendly now.

“I think in the past it was like (Michael) Jordan probably didn’t go out searching and trying to get guys to come join him. It was like they were competing against each other.”

The All-Star guard officially signed a four-year, $196-million super-max extension with the Trail Blazers on Saturday and feels that winning a title in Portland would be more meaningful than doing so elsewhere.

“I’ve said also in the past that I want to do it here,” Lillard said. “They haven’t won a championship since ’77, the one and only, and it would just feel so much better to know that I just kept it solid and I did the work.

“In the end, I know that if it gets done, it will feel much better to know that I did it in a solid way. I didn’t have to go and play with the best players just to get it done. For me, this is the way I want to do it. And I know that if it don’t happen I can live with it because I know the route that I chose. I accepted it a long time ago.”

Lillard averaged 25.8 points, 6.9 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per contest across 80 appearances this past season. The 28-year-old’s share of playoff heroics helped Portland reach their first Western Conference finals in 19 years.

Since leaving WWE, Jon Moxley has already claimed the IWGP United States title, entered into the G1 tournamentand become a major player in AEW. Moxley took time to sit down with the Store Horseman and discussed his thoughts on WWE and the catharsis he felt speaking about those problems. 

“The only problem I really had with anybody was Vince,” Moxley stated. “That’s not even an actual problem, if he called me and asked what I’m doing and how it’s going, I’d be like what’s up man, it would be cool, we have never had a conversation that didn’t involve wrestling. It’s just creatively we stopped speaking the same language. Creative problems are not life and death problems.”

Moxley detailed his problems with WWE creative last month on Chris Jericho’s podcast, Talk Is Jericho. Despite Moxley being cool with WWE, he understands that some talent may not feel that way. His former Shield partner Seth Rollinsrecently said that it was a “little presumptuous” of Moxley to bash the company that “gave him such an opportunity.” Regardless, Moxley feels it was healing for him to address the issues.

“I’m sure I’m persona non grata there,” Moxley guessed. “For me, the fog is continuously being lifted, I realize how unhappy I was, how much it affected me. I found pro wrestling again, even when I did the podcast, it had been months of me being silent. People telling me about my career, it was frustrating hearing everyone talk about you when they don’t know what the f–k they are talking about. I could never replicate that podcast.”

Moxley said the down feelings were feelings he did not even recognize he had while in WWE. He also offered advice for people going through a similar situation. 

“It’s all in hindsight,” said Moxley “In the moment it just felt good to get out. It wasn’t even real to me. I was just like everything is good, punching the clock, working 9 to 5, living the dream. Once I said it out loud, it became real, but it is all good now. My advice for anyone is if you can identify that, don’t be afraid to identify that and don’t be afraid to be just honest with the situation. It can only get better from there. Keeping it to yourself just exasperates the problem.”

Cleveland Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco revealed to a Dominican news channel that he has been diagnosed with leukemia, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports.

Carrasco said he is receiving treatment and that the cancer is under control, Heyman notes, adding that the hope is he’ll be able to return to the mound this season.

“At the end of May, they shut me down because they saw something wrong with my blood,” Carrasco told the news station in Spanish, according to Mandy Bell of MLB.com. “The doctors got a little worried and they sent me for a blood test, another blood test. The blood levels were off, the platelets were really high. The following week, my wife and I went to the hospital, and they told us I have leukemia.

“That’s one of the reasons why I’m not playing right now, but I’ll be back at the end of July.”

The 32-year-old has been out since June 5 after the team announced he was dealing with a blood condition that was making him feel lethargic. The Indians held a team meeting on June 4 to discuss the situation with Carrasco in attendance, Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal/Ohio.com reports.

Carrasco has a 4.98 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 65 innings this season. He owns a 3.78 career mark and finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting in 2017.

Cleveland’s starting rotation – the strength of the club – has been hit hard this campaign with ace Corey Kluber (broken forearm) and right-hander Mike Clevinger (back) also missing significant time because of injuries.

Anthony LeBlanc has tempered his enthusiasm.

LeBlanc said Friday the expectation now is for the CFL’s Atlantic Schooners to be ready to play in 2021 in Moncton, N.B., while a new stadium is being built in Halifax. This past winter, LeBlanc contended if all went well, the expansion franchise could begin play in 2020.

“We want to get started as soon as possible but we have to be cognizant of the work that goes into this,” LeBlanc said in a telephone interview. “It’s not a surprise it’s taking longer than we expected . . . and we just need to be realistic.

“I don’t think it’s realistic at this point to even consider 2020. Look, nobody’s more frustrated with the timing than I am but the last thing we want to do is rush this. We’ve got to ensure we’re good partners and whatever we provide we want it to be fully baked and give us the best shot at this working.”

LeBlanc is co-founder of Schooners Sports and Entertainment (formerly Maritime Football Limited), which is the group looking to secure a CFL franchise for Halifax. Also on Friday, LeBlanc announced SSE has lowered ticket prices for the Aug. 25 Touchdown Atlantic game in Moncton between the Montreal Alouettes and Toronto Argonauts.

Admission now will be as low as $29. When the game was confirmed in March, tickets started at $65.

“Whenever it’s a single event versus season tickets or nine regular-season games, there’s always going to be some level of uptick,” LeBlanc said. “But I think we were way too aggressive when we first went out.

“Admittedly when the prices were suggested to me, my initial thought was, ‘Those seem high.’ It’s one of those cases that I wish I would’ve said something then but we still have two months to go so I think it’s fine.”

LeBlanc said early ticket sales were solid, especially with the higher-end ones, before fans in the region began voicing their concerns. The $29 tickets are in a general-admission area in one of the end zones at Croix-Bleue Medavie Stadium while those in the other end zone, also general admission, are $45.

“We started hearing from many people throughout the region that the ticket prices were just not accessible, in particular, for families and students,” he said. “So we decided to create a family zone so people could bring their kids.

“That allowed us to put together a much more fan-friendly price point. Then many key sponsors who we’re working with on this game put their hands up to help be a part of the ticketing package to kind of cushion the blow and it was their support that allowed us to come out and kind of re-launch.”

The cheapest grandstand ticket is $65. The stadium has 10,000 permanent seats and can be expanded to a capacity of 20,725.

The Ticketmaster seating map for the game Friday had large chunks of unsold seats on the sidelines.

Original ticket prices for the game — which will be the fourth CFL regular-season contest in Moncton — were significantly higher than what both the Argos ($21) and Alouettes ($26) have as their cheapest seats for their next home games.

Fans who purchased tickets at higher prices will be offered credit towards additional tickets, season tickets for the Atlantic Schooners inaugural season or a refund for the difference between the price points.

However, the biggest hurdle facing SSE is the construction of a suitable stadium for the CFL franchise.

The initial proposal called for a facility to be built at Shannon Park for between $170 and $190 million. In April, SSE unveiled a proposal for a scaled-back stadium that could be built for $130 million but expanded in the future.

SSE has signed a letter of intent with Canada Lands Company, the federal Crown corporation that owns Shannon Park.

“We’re basically hunkered down with Canada Lands Company,” LeBlanc said. “What we’ve done jointly is hire two or three best-of-breed consultants to come in and assist us with the business plan that we’re putting together for HRM (Halifax Regional Municipality).

“Basically when we present this to Halifax, it will have independent third-party analysis of what that site can support along with other things like traffic studies and environmental studies. We still feel confident we’ll be able to present and have Halifax senior staff review and hopefully get a recommendation to council by the end of the calendar year.”

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is alleging a member of Ontario’s provincial Parliament spewed a profanity-laced rant to his face at a Rolling Stones concert just outside of Barrie, Ontario on Saturday, according to the Ottawa Sun’s Blair Crawford.

“So I’m just there, we’ve got families and friends in a small group and I’m surrounded by people from Ottawa – and I see from the corner of my eye somebody trying to bust through,” Melnyk told the Sun in a phone interview Thursday.

“I’m thinking, ‘OK, might be a crazed fan’ and that’s fine. I’ve gotten used to it. And all of a sudden it’s this woman and she yells at me, ‘Do you know who I am?’

“I can’t place her so I said, ‘I’m sorry. No.’ And she yells, ‘I am your minister and you’re a fucking piece of shit and you’re a fucking loser.'”

Lisa MacLeod, the Conservative party Ottawa-based MPP who approached Melnyk, did not provide an account of the exchange to The Sun, but she did take to Twitter on Friday morning to address it.

Melnyk claimed he didn’t recognize MacLeod but said he was familiar with Susan Truppe, MacLeod’s director of public affairs and deputy chief of staff, standing a few meters behind her. Truppe had introduced herself to Melnyk and handed him her card just an hour before the incident.

“So I said, ‘Are you Lisa MacLeod? I just met your…’ I didn’t even get to finish my sentence and she said ‘Fuck you’ and turned around and walked away,” Melnyk continued.

“I see Susan Truppe and she just kind of shrugs and puts her hands up, and they all just walked away,” he said.

“I’m ‘Whoa. What just happened?'”

Truppe told the Sun she saw Melnyk and MacLeod talking but didn’t hear what was said.

“I don’t even know what he’s talking about,” Truppe said. “I certainly didn’t hear that. I remember watching what it was, but I didn’t hear that whatsoever.”

Melnyk said he wrote a letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, telling him he has a “loose cannon out there,” referring to MacLeod. Melnyk added he later received a call from Ford regarding the incident.

The Senators’ outspoken owner has made headlines for all the wrong reasons as his team has toiled in the NHL’s basement over the last couple of seasons. MacLeod, meanwhile, hasn’t been perfect herself. She was criticized for her handling of the provincial autism file and was recently demoted in a shuffling of Ford’s cabinet.

2019 has seen Jon Moxley become one of the hottest names in wrestling, with the former Dean Ambrose making headlines all over the world since leaving WWE in late April.

It started with his electric debut at AEW’s Double Or Nothing pay-per-view. Arriving after the main event between Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho, he destroyed everything in his path, and is now set to meet Omega in an All Out grudge mat after throwing ‘The Best Bout Machine’ from the DoN stage, then brawling with him at Fyter Fest last week.

AEW announced that Moxley had signed a three-year deal with the promotion soon after Double Or Nothing. Now, it looks like the 33-year-old has a huge opt-out clause.

Per Rajah.com, the terms of Moxley’s contract allow him to walk away after one year if, for whatever reason, he decides he isn’t happy with how things are going.

This sounds like a sensible safety not from Mox’s point of view. After years of frustration in WWE, the last thing he wants is to be stuck in another major promotion should he find himself dissatisfied and unfulfilled. Besides, there’s no guarantee AEW will find any kind of long-term success.

Last week brought news that WWE were going “big league” for SmackDown’s apparent 4 October debut on Fox, with the network supposedly testing new TV cameras as well as inviting a host of celebrity guests to attend the Staples Center, Los Angeles show.

Now, it looks like WWE are going all out themselves, with the Barnburner Radio Network claiming Vince McMahon wants as many legends in the house as possible. 

Brock Lesnar and Ric Flair were mentioned by name, as was Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who is comfortably the biggest old name WWE could pull off for the event.

A guaranteed ratings bump, The Rock’s appearance would represent a major, major coup, particularly with WWE trying to paint their promotion as the big time in the wake of AEW’s emergence. Johnson would almost certainly guarantee a strong viewership for the Fox debut; it’s a no-brainer if they can make it work.

AEW’s Tuesday/Wednesday Night Dynamite show is expected to debut on the very same week. They aren’t going head-to-head on the same night, but we can therefore expect WWE to do everything in their power to put AEW over as the “minor leagues.” The Rock would help accomplish that.

WWE SmackDown’s move from Tuesday nights on the USA Network to Fridays on FOX is little over three months away and the past few weeks have been rife with rumours on how the promotion are gearing up for the big launch, with all kinds of “big league” stunts mentioned.

Inviting celebrity guests is reportedly part of this, with FOX seemingly reaching out to all manner of guests for the debut episode. One of them might – might – just be the current President of the United States of America.

This is according to Sportskeeda’s Tom Colohue, who claims that a source within WWE’s creative team has told him that “FOX have asked for Trump,” and that said person is “trying to write something short and easy for him that makes him look good.”

This shouldn’t so much be taken with a pinch of salt, but a whole bucket of the white stuff. It’s a crazy, crazy story, and the idea of Trump making time to appear on a wrestling show seems fanciful. Regardless, he is a WWE Hall-of-Famer, Linda McMahon used to sit on his Small Business Association, and the company love him. The crowd reaction would be hilarious, too.

In the 11th installment of the Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling’s FEATURE SERIES we welcomed WWE Hall of Famer, “The Showstopper”, “Mr. WrestleMania” and Former WWE World Champion, “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. HBK is making his TMPToW debut to promote his role in the film “90 Feet From Home” where Michaels tackles a very serious part playing an abusive and alcoholic father of a former Major League Baseball player. The film also stars screen veterans Dean Cain and Eric Roberts. In this excerpt in addition to discussing the movie, HBK also touches on his current job in NXT as a trainer, how important it is to have one of the top stars of the late 1990s and 2000s prepare the next generation of superstars for in ring success and his own in ring future. The full episode can be downloaded at this link:

90 Feet From Home Film:

“It was very different and way out of my wheelhouse and kind of my comfort zone and especially now. I’ve mentioned in a few of these interviews and of course those who are familiar with my wrestling career and even the bad guy version of me there was still a little bit of fun and some charm and almost a “Dennis The Menace” quality to the bad guy version of me and this was totally different than anything that I’ve ever done. It was clearly evil and a great deal of hatred and dysfunction and honestly, that was the most intimidating part of all of this and especially now at this point in my life. I am a relatively happy-go-lucky 53 year old man so the later version of Jimmy Devine I felt was something that I would be more comfortable with but the early version with the violence and abuse and honestly the hatred and vitriol that this character has was something that I don’t know if I’ve ever even at my worst had maybe quite that bad. So that was the most challenging part and through this experience trying to create that was a bit of an uncomfortable process I’d have to admit.”

Channeling a non-traditional role as an abusive step-father:

“The one thing that I guess helps me is that there is a yin and a yang to everything. For humility and all of those things there is evil, there is hate, there is pride and I really don’t think you can appreciate the one truly unless you have a real understanding of the other so from that standpoint I was certainly at peace within myself of doing the role but honestly the challenge was knowing and wondering if I could commit to going there in a very uninhibited no hold barred way. I was very concerned because I know you bring out qualities that even if they are in all of us, a majority of us work all of our lives to get away from those and keep them under wraps and secure them in a little lock box in our heart or our mind or something and you work very hard to not allow them to get out until a time when you are supposed to. It is a bit kind of strange but I’ve told everybody that I certainly don’t have the experience to be able to turn something like that on and off and it is a switch where I haven’t been acting long enough to manufacture that on command. For me it was a process of trying to get there and allow yourself to engage in this side of you that you have really have never been in touch with and certainly those areas that you have at one time in your life you’ve tried to distance yourself so far from that it is kind of strange to want to allow yourself to willingly go there.”

First impressions of the WWE Performance Center:

“What they’ve got going on there is so phenomenal. I’ve got to be honest it doesn’t matter what respectfully the kind of credentials you’ve got coming in. You’ve got the most important thing one needs to understand about working for the Performance Center and NXT is you want to add to what is already a part of a phenomenal system and you notice it as soon as you come through the door. That is something that kicks you right in the face when you come in and that was honestly the most important thing that I expressed with Hunter and Matt is my goodness what you’ve guys got here is really great and I’d love to be a part of this but only if I can enhance it and make it better and can add to what was already a fluid and efficient system.”

How does he feel he has fit in so far?

“A lot of that is just trying to find you place and again because they’ve got so much covered you start to look at it as where can I help the most. I hope I’ve been able to do that and it has been a sheer joy to be a part of it and a great learning experience for me, which is one of the things that I strangely enough said to everyone when I got there was that I really feel like if I am to do well here I will learn as much as I’d hope to be teaching and I really do think that has happened. I am hoping that the product has and will continue to get better with all of the people that we are adding (myself included) but it’s exciting for me because at this stage of your life learning other aspects of the wrestling business a business that I have loved since I was 12 is pretty special. You don’t always imagine yourself at 53 years old being in the same line of work that you’ve been in since you were 19 and still learning different aspects of it. To do that with your buddies and of course with a bunch of talent that is a joy to work with and clearly makes it easy when it is a generation that grew up with me and Road Dogg and Hunter so right now I feel like it is something that works for all of us in a positive way.”

Is Bret Hart his greatest opponent?

“I think everyone would be certainly say on paper and you look at Bret and I and say, ‘I guess it is no stretch that they had chemistry’. But still every now and then you run into somebody that does have as much talent but isn’t quite there, and fortunately Bret and I knew that the first time we ever got in the ring together I think in a tag team. It is one of those things that you do and it only takes a couple of touches of one another and you know that there is something special here. You find little ways to know that it is going to come to fruition in an even better way and a more positive way in the future and again that is something that Bret and I had and I had that with Jericho and I was fortunate enough to have that with a decent amount of guys but when you put together certainly the ability of a Bret Hart and you know I certainly feel like I had the capability too and then you have that chemistry with each other it is a pretty tough combination to beat.”

Is an in ring return ever possible again:

“No. I will leave it to the younger generation, they’re doing a fantastic job. I’m good with what has been done and I’m all set.”

WWE officials have been very aware that they have lost touch with a key demographic – teenagers, according to Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio.

There’s reportedly been concern that the company will completely lose their teenage viewers when AEW TV starts on TNT in the fall.

WWE’s recent attempts at an edgier product will work with keeping teenage fans and making new ones in that demographic. There was a feeling that they had to take this new edgier direction to help with the demo, and for other obvious reasons.

Regarding Superstars that could connect with teenagers, Meltzer noted that there aren’t many younger top talents on the main roster, but we could see some called up soon.

The new push for WWE United States Champion Ricochet is likely being done, at least in part, to help with the teenage demographic. New RAW Executive Director Paul Heyman is said to be very high on Ricochet. Meltzer noted that Ricochet is a talent that can likely appeal to teenagers and that is a new goal for the company – to make sure teenagers don’t go to AEW before their weekly TV show starts later this year.

Breadman is headed to Broadway.

The New York Rangers have signed free-agent superstar Artemi Panarin, the club announced Monday. The contract is for seven years and worth $81.5 million, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

With a reported average annual value of $11.642 million, Panarin is now the second-highest-paid player in the league after Connor McDavid.

Panarin, one of the most coveted free agents on the market, joins the Rangers after two seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He notched 28 goals and registered a career-high 87 points in 79 games this past campaign and added five goals and 11 points in 10 playoff contests.

After going undrafted, Panarin began his career in the KHL before signing a two-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks prior to the 2015-16 campaign. He made an immediate impact in the Windy City, tallying 30 goals and 77 points during his first season to win the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.

Columbus acquired Panarin in June 2017 in a five-player trade with Chicago that sent Brandon Saad to the Blackhawks. The 27-year-old has never recorded fewer than 74 points during any of his four NHL seasons and has been essentially a point-per-game scorer, totaling 320 points in 322 career appearances.

His addition to the Rangers puts a bow on a gigantic offseason for New York, which has already added Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox via trades and drafted Finnish phenom Kaapo Kakko second overall.

Kevin Durant just wanted to hoop. However, playing with the Golden State Warriors apparently made it difficult for the 10-time All-Star to go about his business.

Durant reportedly found the team’s glut of commanding personalities and overall outspokenness distracting, according to Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck.

From head coach Steve Kerr to the star backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to ornery forwards Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, the Warriors during Durant’s tenure were populated by individuals willing to extend the conversation beyond basketball – to topics including interpersonal dynamics, politics, race, and religion.

Additionally, Durant reportedly sought to distance himself from the alpha-dog debate surrounding Golden State. He was perpetually compared to homegrown star Curry – a tall task, considering Curry had endeared himself to local fans with a pair of MVP trophies and the Warriors’ 2015 title run.

Durant – who’s expected to miss the 2019-20 campaign – will get to experience a change of scenery with Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets once he recovers from his ruptured Achilles tendon. Time will tell if that new locale proves any less dramatic for one of the most famous athletes on the planet.

After struggling through week after week of dull and dour episodes of Raw, last night’s episode of the WWE’s Monday flagship surprised fans by giving them a show that wasn’t completely awful.

Filled with (literal!) explosive action, some good in-ring work, the ever-entertaining 24/7 content, and an AJ Styles heel turn, Raw was given a major shot in the arm as Paul Heyman took control of the red brand. One of the most eye-catching moments of the episode, though, involved Mike and Maria Kanellis. And now, we’ve got an update on where things may be heading for the married couple.

Via Pro Wrestling Sheet’s Ryan Satin, Heyman was heavily involved in the angle that saw Maria announce she’s pregnant yet completely berate her husband for not being “man enough” to get the job done. Satin clams that upon Mike and Maria recently signing new five-year deals with WWE, there were rumblings of a “cucking angle” for the duo; an angle that seemingly began during this week’s Raw broadcast.

To save you the trouble, we’ve taken to the depths of Urban Dictionary to get an official definition for cucking: “To enjoy arranging for and watching other men have rough demeaning sex with one’s wife. Often perceived as a masochistic humiliating experience for the husband as opposed to normal swinging.”

This would certainly fall in line with Maria mocking Mike and referring to him as her bitch.

In real life, Maria is indeed pregnant. How this all plays out, we’ll have to wait and see. But hey, it’s at least something different to another drab Elias performance or a Baron Corbin promo.

Former ECW World Champion Tommy Dreamer candidly spoke on his House of Hardcore Podcast this week about his personal struggles with depression. Dreamer revealed that his mental health has lead to multiple instances where he has contemplated suicide, even confessing that one such instance would have seen him murdering Paul Heyman at WrestleMania X-Seven in the process. 

Dreamer’s first brush with depression that he recounted seemed to be spawned by a sense of loneliness in his high school years. He recounted how hopeless it felt to have his heart broken by a girl and then feel like he was abandoned by a close friend. 

“[I was] fifteen, knocking on sixteen, and a girl broke up with me,” Dreamer began. “And, shockingly, I dated this girl for a while and never slept with her; I wanted to give her my flower and that’s all I thought about. That’s what most fourteen or fifteen-year-olds think about – doing it for the first time. I was obsessed with it. Then I started thinking, how could I ever be faithful to a girl if she left me to go off with a guy that had a car? [I thought] stuff like that, stupid stuff. And I remember being so upset and not wanting to get up, not wanting to get out of bed, and I didn’t want to tell my parents.

“I had a perfect family; I had a perfect parental life,” Dreamer explained. “I had a loving father, a loving mother, and I grew up like the Cunninghams from Happy Days. Yes, there were arguments, but not really. My father was as laid back as I am, and I had a great life. I really did. I didn’t want to tell my parents [about her]. 

“I remember going to bed crying over a girl, and waking up sad, and having to go to school,” Dreamer continued. “My best friend dated this [same] girl’s sister, and he was my best friend from 1st Grade until all the way to high school – college – I still talk to him. I love him. And I remember calling him up and I was like, ‘Hey man, can we get together?’ Because we’d all do couple things and now I’m not part of the couple, and I’m fifteen-years-old. I’m like, ‘Hey man, can we get together because I don’t know what to do and I don’t have anybody?’ I really did feel lost. And I had other friends, but we all have people that get so wrapped up with their girl that they forget about everything else.”

Despite the two friends making a plan to spend their Friday night together, once the day arrived, Dreamer unfortunately found himself without anyone to confide in. Dreamer admitted that this was the moment that he started physically harming himself. He first took a knife to his wrist and then hovered near his windowsill, considering leaping to his death.

“I begged and pleaded to my friend that, ‘Can we just get together?,'” Dreamer imitated. “He’s like, ‘Yeah man, we’ll hang out Friday night and play video games or whatever.’ Then Friday night comes. There’s no cell service [in these times], and I called his house and his mom’s like, ‘No, he’s not home. I think he’s out with said woman.’ He no-showed me. I was devastated and I, truly, was like, ‘I’m alone, my best friend in life isn’t there for me.’ I remember it was a Saturday and, normally, I love Saturdays.

“I remember first getting a knife and I was like, ‘Man, maybe I’ll just slit my wrists.’ It was a big butcher knife, and I have the scar right here,” Dreamer says while gesturing towards his wrist. “And when I cut myself, it hurt, and I didn’t cut it deep. And you can see I have a scar right there. It’s healed, but it’s a reminder of how stupid I was because I was doing it over a girl… So now, I have this stupid little cut. And then I was like, ‘Maybe I’ll just jump out my window.’ I had the window open and I was literally, like, hanging out of it. And when I tell you it was like a sign from God – I just pictured my mom, and what my mom would have to deal with, and how my mom would find me. And I remember crying like a baby even though I had never cried before; and again, it was over a a girl. I closed the window, hid my arm, and I moved forward.”

Dreamer’s second wave of struggling with mental illness came following the tumultuous ending of ECW. Throughout the process, Dreamer says he trusted and supported Paul Heyman, both emotionally and financially; nevertheless, Dreamer would ultimately feel betrayed by Heyman and his affiliation with WWE.

“[At the time], I’m an addict. A lot of people don’t realize this, but when ECW went out of business, I was 29-years-old,” Dreamer explained. “I had a lot of my money, my parents’ money, trying to float the company. Paul Heyman, who I thought me and him were super tight, he screwed me over big time. He was in the WWE the whole time. I had turned down hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to WCW and now was unemployed. I went from a $750,000 offer and Paul Heyman crying to me that if I leave ECW, it will go out of business. Meanwhile, he was getting a paycheck from WWE. I don’t begrudge him but then I did. I was depressed as depressed can be. I had women, I had fame, I had everything, and yes, it was the worst time of my life…”

In his unstable state, Dreamer would discover that firearms were completely legal to carry on your person into the Astrodome. This further encouraged his thoughts about creating an infamous moment at WrestleMania X-Seventhat would have potentially seen two lives ending on live pay-per-view.

“This is crazy for me to admit it but I am doing this for a reason, just like I admitted to other things previously,” Dreamer said. “Wrestlemania [X-Seven] in Houston, Paul Heyman told me I was going to debut – all this stuff when they had TLC, and Spike Dudley came in, and Rhyno came in, and Lita came in. That was supposed to be my spot and then that got ixnayed. Then they’re going to do this whole hardcore, 24/7 thing that is, ‘Gonna be all about you.’ That was when I was supposed to debut. 

“I remember I did a show there, and I saw a sign [in the arena] that said ‘Guns Welcome’ and I was in Houston,” Dreamer recounted. “I did an indie show, and I said, ‘What is this? I’m from New York, what do you mean, ‘Guns Welcome?” And they said, ‘Oh you are allowed to bring a firearm into the venue.’ And I was right across the street from the Astrodome. When I tell you it resonated in my head so, so much.

“I’ll tell you what I wanted to do – it’s sick that I think this. At WrestleMania, I was gonna hop the rail and I was gonna whack Paul E. [Heyman] in the back of the head right at the announce table. Then, I was going to whack myself. [I would] be an ultimate martyr – hit my pose, crack, boom, pull the trigger. Because I was that insane in thought. Don’t know if I would have went through with it, but that’s what I was thinking about every day leading up to this. I was like, ‘I will go down in history.’ Hit my pose, pop, boom. First they’d think it as an angle, until I shot him.”

Some much needed help came in the unsuspecting form of a phone call from “Good ‘Ol” J.R., Jim Ross. Ross didn’t say much to Dreamer, however, he created a glimmer of hope for a man that was otherwise doomed for tragedy. Dreamer remains grateful for how the situation ultimately turned out.

“I was so, so severely depressed and so, so mental with rage. I needed help,” Dreamer confessed. “That help came from a phone call from Jim Ross. Randomly, I get a phone call from a number I didn’t know… I didn’t pick up. And I remember having these thoughts, and it was bad – I had a gun – could you think about the horribleness that I would have done for my legacy? I would have ruined WrestleMania, which I love WrestleMania, for everybody. These thoughts were so, so crazed in my head. How dare that person! He screwed my parents over, and I come from a mobster mentality. In my head, I was like, ‘I would become infamous.’ Which is famous for the wrong reason. I’m glad I didn’t do it.

“But when that phone call came from Jim Ross – again, he just left a message,” Dreamer continued. “It said, ‘Hey Tommy, it’s Jim Ross. Just want to let you know we are still thinking about you, we are gonna get the deal done. Just got to hang tight. Thank you.’ And I never revealed that to anybody; I never revealed that to Jim Ross. I always tell Jim Ross that he’s the only boss that never lied to me, which is important and why I don’t lie to people. Think of how stupid I would have been, how dumb and how messed up my thoughts would have been, if they would have come to fruition. I am so happy I didn’t do it. I am so happy that I did get that phone call from someone who was a stranger. I barely knew the guy. There was another day, there has been a lot of other days.”

One former WWE star that didn’t ultimately receive a second chance was Ashley Massaro. Dreamer acknowledged this untimely, tragic loss, revealing that he had a close friend that spoke to Ashley just the night before she took her own life. Dreamer believes that even though the fundraisers for Alexa Massaro’s (Ashley’s daughter) continued education are a positive outcome from this, they can’t heal the emotional wounds that are bound to linger for Alexa. 

“With one person, Ashley Massaro, she was talking to my friend the night before she passed away and took her own life,” Dreamer said. “She reached out and he was talking to her, talking to her, and talking to her, and she said things weren’t that good, and things hadn’t been going well, but she said, ‘Tomorrow will get better’. But it didn’t because later that night, she took her own life. And that really, really resonated with me and stuck with me. And yes, they’ve raised a lot of money for her daughter so she goes to college. And Mick Foley has done a lot and all the other ex-Divas have done a lot, but that’s not going to heal anything for her daughter and for her family.”

One of the NBA’s biggest free agents will waste little time with his decision Sunday.

Kevin Durant will announce on his media platform that he will join the Brooklyn Nets, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. It’s a four-year, $142-million max contract, sources told The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

Durant is reportedly set to join Kyrie Irving with the Nets. Durant’s close friend DeAndre Jordan will also sign with Brooklyn, according to Wojnarowski.

In making the move, Durant has again shifted the balance of power in the NBA, similar to his move to the Warriors in 2016 – although he may not play at all next season. The 10-time All-Star is rehabilitating from surgery after rupturing his right Achilles tendon during Game 5 of the NBA Finals three weeks ago.

The 30-year-old Durant had been widely linked to both New York City clubs throughout the regular season, although mostly with the Knicks. The Nets have developed a reputation around the NBA in the last few years as a forward-thinking organization, led by general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson.

The Warriors were reportedly offering Durant a full max contract, a five-year, $221-million deal. Without him – and with Klay Thompson expected to be sidelined several months with a torn ACL – their dynasty that produced three NBA championships in five years appears to be in tatters.

Durant also leaves Golden State amid controversy. He hadn’t played in over a month due to a right calf injury when he returned for Game 5 of the Finals, and subsequently tore his Achilles after less than 12 minutes on the floor. Warriors president Bob Myers took personal responsibility for the decision to play him afterward. Earlier this past season, Durant butted heads with teammate Draymond Green, with Green reportedly daring Durant to leave as a free agent during a locker-room argument.

Durant ends his tenure in Golden State having averaged 25.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 5.4 assists in 208 regular-season games. In 48 playoff contests, he averaged 29.6 points and won two NBA championships – being named Finals MVP both times.

At last night’s AEW Fyter Fest, danger accepted the invitation. 

In an angle following Cody’s time-limit draw against Darby Allin, Shawn Spears hit the ring, to, as alluded to on Twitter, make clear he was infuriated by the reduced position Cody had envisioned for him. He expressed this by cracking Cody over the head with the sort of unprotected chair shot effectively banished from mainstream wrestling. This, of course, added to the drama of a scene swarmed by various AEW personnel (including storyline frenemy MJF). The hardway (?) blood pouring from Cody’s head indicated a serious situation, but then, you’d expect such a dangerous angle to be sold with that level of conviction. 

In an age of CTE awareness, this resonated immediately as an unwise move, particularly since Cody is beloved by the crowd. This wasn’t necessary to extract sympathy from the audience. Given what we know of CTE, an unprotected chair shot is difficult to justify in any context. 

AEW President Tony Khan, speaking to the press after the event, explained that a carefully planned stunt had gone awry, resulting in this “regrettable” situation. A further investigation is to follow. AEW’s official Twitter account, meanwhile, revealed that Cody received stitches, but did not suffer a concussion. AEW exists to present an alternative to WWE. 

Beyond any subjective takes, this is one area from which inspiration should be taken.

Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford and Phil Kessel are telling two different stories regarding the forward’s alleged trade demands leading up to his departure from the team.

Kessel was traded to the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday, and Rutherford claims the three-time All-Star asked to be moved on several occasions, according to The Athletic’s Sean Gentille.

When asked about Rutherford’s comments, Kessel offered a different account.

“I’m not sure that’s exactly what happened. Jim came to me one time and said… I’ll never be a Penguin again,'” Kessel said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Jonathan Bombulie. “I think he’s mistaken a little bit there. But I don’t want to get involved in that. I’m not here to tell what really happened and the real truth, but whatever Jim wants to say.”

Kessel had been featured in trade rumors multiple times throughout his tenure in Pittsburgh, but it’s unclear if the winger ever requested to be dealt.

The Wisconsin native had an eight-team trade list and reportedly nixed a deal to the Minnesota Wild last month.

Kessel never missed a game with the Penguins, contributing 303 points in 328 games.

Robin Lehner‘s days with the New York Islanders could be numbered.

The club and the goaltender are far enough apart in contract talks that a league source told The Athletic’s Arthur Staple that Lehner will almost certainly play elsewhere next season.

After the unrestricted free-agent negotiating window opened Sunday, the pending UFA said he had no plans to talk to another team at that point. Last week, he said he loves the organization and wants to be back.

Lehner is coming off the one-year, $1.5-million pact he inked with New York last July.

The netminder, who’ll turn 28 in July, was one of the best stories of the 2018-19 season. He won the Jennings Trophy along with teammate Thomas Greiss, was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, and won the Masterton Trophy, awarded annually to the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.

During training camp last fall, Lehner revealed his bipolar disorder diagnosis as well as his struggles with substance abuse.

He had a career season on the ice, posting a .930 save percentage in 46 appearances while helping the Islanders complete a turnaround that also earned head coach Barry Trotz the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top head coach.

CazXL, f.k.a Big Cass in WWE, was featured in a recent DDP Yoga awareness video which highlighted his struggles with depression, anxiety, and alcoholism. Cass spoke candidly about his issues encouraging those going through similar situations to seek proper help.

“Being depressed is one thing,” Caz said. “Having depression on a daily basis is another thing… It’s hard to tell people about it because who knows what they’re going to say, ‘You’re looking for attention. You have everything you ever wanted…’, so you just keep it to yourself. You just hide it deep down which is the worst thing you can do.

“[I] didn’t seek help for years,” Caz admitted. “Self medicated with alcohol. Went to the bars trying to drink beers and couldn’t really fall asleep. When I woke up I was like, ‘I wish that God would have just taken me in my sleep.’ Why am I thinking this? ‘I wish that I wouldn’t be alive today’.”

During a match on RAW in August of 2017, Caz suffered a knee injury. He said that the injury caused him to eat unhealthy and drink in excess.

“I wrestled Enzo and tore my ACL,” Caz recalls. “The amount that I was drinking was ridiculous, the food I was putting into my body was ridiculous, no physical activity, chain smoking cigarettes. [WWE] had every right in the world to get rid of me.”

Last December, Caz had a seizure and fell to the floor in the lobby of a House of Hardcore event. Caz felt that the incident was actually a sign from God. 

“I went to do the House of Hardcore show in Philadelphia,” Caz said. “Going into the show, I hadn’t slept in two days. Don’t remember walking out through the curtain, don’t remember going to the autograph table, came to in the ambulance. And they told me I had a seizure. I took that as a sign from God. God spoke to me that day and he was saying, ‘If you want to live this life, you’re going to end up dead because this is where your life is heading.’ I could have died the night. That’s what I was told in the ER.

“This guy walks up to me while I’m signing autographs and says, ‘You’re deeply depressed. You’re down, and I’m going to help you out.’,” Caz claimed. “After the seizure I immediately went to live with him in Delaware. Sober living, clean living, healthy positive attitude and he turned my life around.

“I am sitting here right now telling you that I should be dead with the amount I drank and the seizure I had,” Caz admitted. “I shouldn’t be here. If anybody out there suffers with depression, anxiety, and you’re hiding it because there’s a stigma that you’re weak, you’re not weak. Whatever it is, you need to seek help. Whether it’s medication or talk therapy, or whatever it is that you need, you need to get it because hiding it deep down, it’s not going to work and that’s what I did for a long time and eventually… pop, it’s just an explosion. Whatever you need to do to fix it, make sure you do it. Keeping that sh*t bottled deep down, it aint worth it. Trust me from somebody who lived it. Seek help.”

Caz was released from WWE in 2018 for behavioral issues and public intoxication. Caz has since worked the independent circuit including an appearance for Ring of Honor.

You can Big Cass’ Interview from DDP Yoga in the link below:

The Major League Baseball Players Association has concerns about the Tampa Bay Rays‘ proposition to split regular-season home games between Florida and Montreal.

Union head Tony Clark said the team would need to get player approval for this change to be implemented, stating it would be a “significant burden” for players to live in both places during the season.

“There is a lot of work that is going to need to be done before that consideration becomes closer to a reality,” Clark said, according to Ronald Blum of The Associated Press. “We look forward to being a part of that conversation, as well. A lot of challenges there.”

Clark maintains the idea would be a mandatory topic under the National Labor Relations Act and that the union would need to approve it in a bargaining process.

MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem disputed the need to discuss the subject under the act.

“I believe that under the NLRA there is no obligation to bargain over the decision itself, which is a management prerogative, but an obligation to bargain over the effects of the decision on terms and conditions of employment,” Halem said. “It’s akin to plant relocation.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred recently said the Rays have been given permission to explore the possibility of splitting time in the two locales. There is no timeline for a decision at this time.

The New Jersey Devils have gone a long way in adding significant star power to their roster early in the offseason, pulling off a blockbuster trade for blue-liner P.K. Subban and drafting American phenom Jack Hughes first overall.

New Jersey’s moves have impressed star forward Taylor Hall, who can’t wait to get going with his new teammates.

“As a player in the offseason, that’s what you want to see,” Hall said, per TSN. “It’s exciting. We’re going to have more than a couple new faces next year. Just injecting some new blood in the team is going to be really good.”

Hall’s 2018-19 season was tarnished by injuries – a disappointing follow-up to his Hart Trophy-winning campaign the year prior, when he carried the Devils to a playoff berth.

With Subban and Hughes now available to help carry the former MVP’s load, Hall sees a turnaround for his team on the horizon.

“Whether he’s playing on the power play or he’s playing against the other team’s top lines, he’s going to be a guy that makes everyone else’s jobs on the ice easier,” Hall said of Subban.

“I’m really excited to play with him.” 

The developments come at an opportune moment for Hall, who is an unrestricted free agent next summer and intends to prioritize winning a Stanley Cup at this stage of his career.

Hall is eligible to sign an extension as of July 1 but said he and the Devils haven’t begun talks yet.

Aside from a tailgating appearance at a Chicago Bears game that went viral, Joel Quenneville kept a low profile between the time he was fired by the Chicago Blackhawkslast November and hired by the Florida Panthers in April.

However, he recently opened up about his decade-long run in the Windy City and admitted that when the NHL schedule was released Tuesday, his return to the United Center on Jan. 21 was “definitely on the radar screen.”

“You’ll be into the season now, and you’re just worried about Florida,” he told The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus. “You’re consumed with hockey and your team and that’s your focus. But the memories of 10 tremendous years, that’s going to be a special moment. You reflect back and think of everything that we were able to do, and the people you were with, and the fans and the city – you could keep going on and on.”

Quenneville led the Blackhawks to the playoffs in each of his first nine seasons in Chicago, winning Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013, and 2015.

He was relieved of his duties after a 6-6-3 start to the 2018-19 season. Despite the abrupt end to what had been a successful tenure, he felt no ill will toward management for their decision.

“The other times it was bitter,” Quenneville said, referring to his previous stops with the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche. “This one I can say it wasn’t bitter. And I’m sure it had everything to do with the memories and the relationships. … I can honestly say we moved on, and that’s part of the business.”

He added: “Our time there was too special, the memories were too great. And that’s how we’ll leave it.”

Quenneville admitted that missing the playoffs in 2017-18 may have led to a shorter leash last season. However, he wouldn’t concede that the controversial moves made during the 2017 offseason contributed to the team’s struggles.

In the summer of 2017, general manager Stan Bowman traded core players Artemi Panarin and Niklas Hjalmarsson in two separate deals, acquiring Brandon Saad and Connor Murphy in return. Bowman also fired Quenneville’s right-hand man, assistant coach Mike Kitchen.

“I was not happy with losing Kitch,” he admitted. “And we had a good rapport and a lot of success with Hammer. And knowing the Bread Man’s a special guy. But everybody has to make decisions nowadays, and coaches are getting fired on the staff but the head coach is still there. That’s more in play than it’s been in the past.”

The Blackhawks went 30-28-9 last year with Jeremy Colliton behind the bench, missing the playoffs for a second straight season. Quenneville said he didn’t watch a single game after he was relieved of his duties.

Last week brought news that All Elite Wrestling had registered “Wednesday Night Dynamite” as a trademark months after doing the same for a Tuesday evening show, and it looks like previous reports of an October start date still ring true.

Per Dave Meltzer in this week’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter, AEW plan on holding the first episode on 2 October – the very same week that WWE SmackDown transitions over to Fox on Friday nights.

This looks set to be one of the biggest wrestling weeks of the year, particularly with Fox supposedly asking boatloads of celebrities to attend the 4 October SmackDown, and WWE desperate to present themselves as the “big leagues” against AEW’s supposed small-time operation.

AEW are yet to confirm the news themselves. This will come in time, and with the promotion teasing something big on 4 July, perhaps that’s when they’ll drop the bomb. Alternatively, they may choose to do it during this week’s Fyter Fest pay-per-view or at Fight for the Fallen on 13 July.

Let’s hope that whatever happens, AEW Dynamite knocks it out of the park, and the renewed competition spurs WWE to better themselves (and their opponents) with Raw and SmackDown.

Police in the Dominican Republic said Friday that they have arrested the mastermind behind the shooting of Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz, according to The Associated Press.

Victor Hugo Gomez, who was believed to be living in the United States, was detained in the Dominican Republic and is accused of ordering the killing of his cousin Sixto David Fernandez. Ortiz was apparently mistaken for the target when the shooting occurred June 9.

Ortiz and Fernandez are friends and were sitting together in a Santo Domingo bar at the time of the shooting.

The former slugger was flown to Boston following his first surgery for his injuries. He underwent a second surgery in the city and continues to recover.

Despite being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray knows it will take time to mesh with his new teammates under first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s system.

“Everybody is not on the same page like I was with my guys in college right now,” Murray said Tuesday on Fox Sports Arizona. “I’ve only been here for a couple of months so it’s going to take time, it’s going to take reps. But I’m prepared for the ups and the downs, but so far for me, it’s been great. The guys have been very accepting of me and I can’t wait to get the season started.”

Murray has been praised throughout offseason workouts by his teammates, including Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson.

Arizona’s offense, which was ranked 32nd in yards last year, could be revamped this season under Kingsbury. The former Texas Tech coach’s Air Raid system should give the rookie quarterback an opportunity to shine in a pass-heavy offense, but Murray knows he has more to learn before the season kicks off.

“I think it will all be an adjustment,” Murray said. “Just for all of us rookies, it’ll be an adjustment. But I’ve always been confident in myself, just trust in my abilities, and trust what I can do on the football field along with coach Kingsbury’s coaching, teaching me. I think us together, along with the players that we have can be very dangerous.”

The 2018 Heisman winner threw for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns in his final year at Oklahoma. He added another 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.

Following WWE Stomping Grounds, the WWE Network premiered a new 365 on WWE superstar Alexa Bliss. The special focuses on Bliss’s journey in wrestling and personal life from WrestleMania 34 until WrestleMania 35.

One segment of the special hones in on Bliss’s emotional and controversial storyline with Nia Jax which crescendoed in a WWE RAW Woman’s Championship match at WrestleMania 34. Bliss said that the feud was based from real life situations around the two performers past body image issues. According to Bliss, Jax had experienced body shaming while Bliss had suffered from eating disorders. 

“The storyline with Nia Jax is my favorite one because we touched on real issues,” Bliss said. “We both are really big on body positivity. Nia had had a past of getting bullied and body shamed. I had struggled with eating disorders that almost took my life. It was a great story because it was real.

“It’s no secret that Nia and I are best friends,” Bliss claimed. “To see Nia holding the title up and knowing that my best friend is having her Wrestlemania moment and I was able to share that with her was awesome. We did the best job at our abilities to make the payoff and show that bullies never win and the good guy will prevail because of the story we had told leading up to it.”

Another personal note that 365 highlighted was Bliss’s physical and emotional issues she experienced due to her past eating disorders. Bliss notes that she had implant surgery at seventeen to help her feel more womanly and eventually move beyond her body image problems. 

“There’s a lot of rumors about it like, ‘Oh did Alex Bliss get implants?’ I’ve had implants since I was seventeen,” Bliss said. “I’m very open and honest about it. When I had my eating disorder I got down to eighty-five pounds. My doctor told my mom said if [I] don’t get admitted I will die. They treated my health symptoms, they didn’t treat the mental side of it.

“The second time I was hospitalized they treated it like a mental disorder and a mental illness and that’s actually when it started getting better. So, I was very self-conscience about my body and the fact that I felt like I looked like a seven year old boy. There are studies that show [implants] helps women recover from eating disorders because they feel more womanly and they feel better about their bodies and their self image. All the doctors in on this one procedure were my pediatrician, my eating disorder doctor, my psychologist, my psychiatrist. I will never regret doing that for myself because it helped me get over my eating disorder and my body image issues.”

Bliss also credits her best friend Erin for helping her move past her mentally move beyond her disorders. Bliss said that it took Erin’s advice to help shape a new perspective on her issues which was ultimately the catalyst for Bliss’s recovery.

“My friend Erin was with me, my best friend Erin,” Bliss said. “She was my rock to the point where I didn’t feel comfortable eating unless Erin was there. She was one of the things that mentally made me say I needed to get over my eating disorder because I remember her asking me one day, she’s like, ‘Lex, if you think you’re out of shape and fat, what do you think I look like?’ That was really hard to hear because the fact that what I was doing was affecting other people, my best friend for that matter. I wouldn’t wish what I had gone through to my worst enemy, let alone my best friend. 

What I was doing was making her so insecure herself and that was something that clicked with me and mentally made me want to get better. It was for me but it was for Erin as well because I couldn’t be the responsibility for her feeling bad about herself.”

Alexa Bliss fell short to SmackDown Woman’s Champion Bayley on Sunday night at Stomping Grounds for the SmackDown Woman’s Championship.

Los Angeles Lakers governor and controlling owner Jeanie Buss spoke publicly for the first time since Magic Johnson abruptly resigned before the club’s final game of the season, admitting that his decision caught her “off guard” while expressing confidence in the team’s current management.

“I didn’t see that coming,” Buss said prior to Monday’s NBA Awards show, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “But everything else has been pretty much as any organization moves forward and changes going into a new season. So as much as has been speculated as to what the Lakers are doing, to me, we are in a really good place and we are following our path, and our plan, going into the next season.”

General manager Rob Pelinka has taken over the Lakers’ basketball operations and recently executed the reported blockbuster deal for New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis. The former agent apparently had a falling out with Johnson, who accused Pelinka of “backstabbing” him shortly after leaving the Lakers.

When asked about Johnson’s comments, Buss attributed them to his unpredictable nature.

“I can’t really anticipate what he thinks,” Buss said. “He has to answer those questions. He’s always full of surprises. Like as surprising as it was, it kind of reminded me of back in 1981 when he asked to be traded after winning a championship with the Lakers because he wasn’t happy with the way the offense had changed. And that led us to getting Pat Riley as our head coach.

“So he’s got good instincts. He’s got to stay true to who he is and do what is right for him. I wish I would’ve had a little bit more notice, but I think we are going to be just fine.”

The Lakers finished with a 37-45 record in 2018-19 and missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season.

One of hockey’s greatest netminders has decided to hang up his skates.

Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo announced his retirement via social media Wednesday after 19 NHL seasons.

“This is one of the toughest decisions I’ve faced in my life and it took me a long time to make it,” Luongo wrote in an open letter to the fans on the Panthers’ website. “After thinking about it a lot over the past two months and listening to my body, I made up my mind. It just feels like the right time for me to step away from the game.”

The 40-year-old finishes his career ranked second all time among goalies with 1,044 games played, third in wins with 489, and ninth in shutouts with 77.

The Montreal native never captured a Stanley Cup, but was a five-time All-Star and had tremendous success on the international stage. Luongo captured back-to-back gold medals at the World Championship in 2003 and 2004 and a pair of Olympic gold medals at the 2010 Games in Vancouver and the 2014 Games in Sochi.

Luongo still had three years remaining on the 12-year, $64-million contract he signed with the Vancouver Canucks ahead of the 2010-11 season. The Canucks will get hit with a cap recapture penalty of slightly more than $3 million in each of the next three seasons, and the Panthers’ recapture penalty will be slightly more than $1 million over the same period of time, according to CapFriendly.

The penalty leaves the Canucks with a projected cap hit of $66 million and a projected $15.5 million in cap space. The Panthers now have a projected cap hit of $57.6 million and $23.9 million in projected cap space. The penalty, part of the latest CBA, was designed to punish teams that signed cap-circumventing contracts.

James Reimer is now the only goaltender under contract for next season, but the team has been linked to Columbus Blue Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, who becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Luongo was selected by the New York Islanders with the fourth overall pick of the 1997 NHL Draft and spent one season on Long Island, eight with the Canucks, and 11 with the Panthers.

WWE have been rightfully, if a little cynically, lauding Sonya Deville as their first openly gay female superstar during Pride Month – and now it seems as if the former MMA star’s sexuality is set to become part of an on-screen angle.

There have been some slight teases suggesting a budding romance between Deville and friend Mandy Rose in recent weeks, but the amorous tension between the pair seemed to step up a notch on this week’s episode of SmackDown.

After her victory over Ember Moon, Deville affectionately stroked Rose’s hair as they exchanged a lingering look. There was a definite romantic implication in the brief gesture.

After the show, WWE referred to Deville as ‘The Pridefighter’ – a cute play on ‘Prize Fighter’. The performer herself said she “digged” that appellation.

WWE have ran angles with lesbian superstars previously, but they’ve rarely been positive. Infamously, Mickie James was presented as predatory in her pursuit of Trish Stratus, in a manner which wasn’t particularly edifying for the LGBT+ community.

Hopefully, they’ll get things right with Sonya – and not entirely define her character by her sexuality. If they pull it off, she could prove a positive role model and one of the few genuinely progressive aspects of the company.

WWE Universal Champion Seth Rollins spoke with the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast this week and addressed comments made by Jon Moxley during his recent “Talk Is Jericho” podcast with Chris Jericho.

“Ambrose can do what he wants,” Rollins said (H/T to Bleacher Report). “He’s a big boy, he’s got his big boy pants on. He can go out there and say whatever he wants, but the bottom line is not everybody’s equipped to handle the rigors of WWE and the schedule and how it affects you mentally and emotionally. And Ambrose gave everything he had to the company for the entire time he was here. He put his heart and soul into the travel, into the schedule, into the injuries, into the work in the ring and all that stuff. But at the end of the day, he took his ball and he went home, or he went elsewhere at least. And I think it’s a little presumptuous of him to get on a podcast and talk down about the company that gave him such an opportunity.”

Rollins went on about his love for the former Dean Ambrose, but said they share different perspectives about life. Rollins acknowledged that Moxley did talk about some of the good experiences with WWE, like meeting wife Renee Young, but Rollins still took issue with how Moxley expressed his thoughts. Rollins noted that he’s kept tabs on Moxley and he knows Moxley is doing very well for himself in post-WWE life.

“And like I said, I love the guy. I love him, I’ll always love him, but at the end of the day, we just share different perspectives about what we want out of life and about where we’re at in our own lives,” Rollins said. “I hope that he does well. I’ve kept enough tabs on him to know that he’s doing super well for himself right now and I’m happy for that, but I just don’t think there’s any reason to hop on a soapbox and complain after the fact. You need to take the first step, and that’s looking in the mirror and asking yourself did you do every single thing you possibly could to make yourself and your situation what you want it to be, and if the answer is yes you did, then you can go elsewhere and complain. If that’s where he’s at mentally then go right ahead, but if he hasn’t done that, he hasn’t looked in the mirror and made that decision, then maybe he should think about that. That goes for any other disgruntled talent past or present.”

The big topic coming out of Moxley’s first post-WWE interview with Jericho was how he had issues with Vince McMahon and WWE’s heavily-scripted creative process, wondering if Vince should be calling the shots still. Rollins talked about how some talents, those who have that power, should speak up and be heard. Rollins, noting that he’s happy with the amount of input he has and with the overall process, also pointed to the experience of the WWE Chairman.

“Absolutely I’m satisfied with it because I make a point to be satisfied with it,” Rollins said of the creative process. “I make a point to contribute my ideas and my thoughts, and if I feel strongly about something the way it should be or the way it should be portrayed, then I will make my voice heard. And look, not everybody gets that leeway. And also, not everybody should get that leeway. That’s not how it works. You have to build equity with your audience, with your boss, with your co-workers. You have to build equity over time and then you can get the leeway to have that kind of say in your story if that’s your complaint. Or you can just stand up for yourself and do it instead of going on somewhere else and b—hing about it. I’m very satisfied with the amount of input I have. Do I do things that I don’t always want to do? Yes, but you know what, sometimes that stuff works because I can’t see things perfectly every single time. I don’t have the perspective that other people around me have. Vince McMahon has been doing this 20 years longer than I’ve been alive. So he’s got some ideas and he knows things that I just don’t know that I have to learn.”

The New Jersey Devils‘ prized acquisition has a familiar goal in mind.

“I want a Stanley Cup ring and I want it in New Jersey,” P.K. Subban told reportersSunday, about 26 hours after the Nashville Predators traded him to his new club.

“I’m coming to win, I’m not coming for participation,” Subban added, according to team reporter Amanda Stein.

And as if that wasn’t clear enough, the star rearguard also revealed his top priority.

“Winning is the most important thing to me,” Subban said. “The most important thing in my life has been to win a championship.”

Subban has never won hockey’s ultimate prize. He reached the Stanley Cup Final with the Predators in 2017, but Nashville lost that series to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.

The Devils have won it all three times – in 1995, 2000, and 2003 – while losing in the championship round in 2001 and 2012.

New Jersey has quickly transformed its roster and suddenly boosted its Cup aspirations in the last 48 hours. The Devils drafted potential generational talent Jack Hughes first overall Friday night before acquiring Subban for defenseman Steven Santini, blue-line prospect Jeremy Davies, and a pair of second-round draft picks Saturday afternoon.

Subban joins a Devils squad that already boasts 2018 Hart Trophy winner Taylor Halland 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier, as well as Hughes and consistent scorer Kyle Palmieri.

Rumblings continue to suggest Kyrie Irving has one foot out the door in preparation to leave the Boston Celtics as a free agent.

The perennial All-Star reportedly isn’t happy living in Beantown and has a tarnished relationship with members of the coaching staff and front office.

“Kyrie Irving didn’t like Boston,” ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan said during a Friday appearance on the “Brian Windhorst and the Hoop Collective” podcast. “I’ve been told this by many people. He didn’t like living in Boston. He just didn’t. By the end, he had issues with Brad (Stevens). By the end, he had issues with Danny (Ainge). By the end, he had issues with pretty much all of (Boston).”

Irving is a polarizing figure who tends to handle things his unique own way; he forced his way out of Cleveland one year removed from a championship with the Cavaliers, and more recently said he’d like to re-sign with Boston before walking back his comments months later, saying “I don’t owe anybody shit.”

Rumors suggest there is mutual interest between Irving and the Brooklyn Nets, although the organization is now reportedly uncertain about adding the crafty point guard without also signing injured Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant.

Irving, 27, remained among the most talented players in the Association in 2018-19, averaging 23.8 points, five rebounds, and 6.9 assists en route to second-team All-NBA honors.

Nobody can deny that Good Ol’ JR, Jim Ross is one of the all-time greatest commentators in professional wrestling history. His voice is recognizable and match-calling skills are unparalleled. He and Jerry “The King” Lawler formed an epic partnership every Monday Night Raw during the attitude era. As his time at the commentary booth in WWE began to dwindle, many fans started to feel that the WWE they grew up on was slowly slipping away. 

Today, JR is back where he belongs: calling all the in-ring action with such passion and grit that only he can deliver. This time, however, he isn’t in WWE. He’s a full-time play-by-play announcer for All Elite Wrestling. 

Ahead of Fight for the Fallen, JR sat down with entertainment reporter and wrestling fan Chris Van Vliet to discuss his time in WWE, and how AEW revived his love for commentating again.

“My WWE contract ended at the end of March of this year,” said Ross. “I knew I wasn’t going to renew it because I was inactive, and players want to play. I wasn’t being utilized. For example, in 2018, I worked twice. I went to Saudi Arabia for about eight hours. Then I went to New York City to do Raw 25. Apparently, some of the powers that be there perceived I was too old or I couldn’t get my job done any longer. So I knew that I didn’t have a home there in that respect. I’m not the kind of guy that would sit at home and take my money. That is not my style.”

Chris brought up the recounted stories of Vince McMahon being in the ear of commentators, yelling at them during live episodes of Raw and SmackDown. Ross said that there is nobody in his ear in AEW the way Vince was in WWE. He recalls an episode of Raw where such an instance took place.

“Lawler and I were out there broadcasting. Vince tells me to say something and it was ridiculous. He was telling me to say it and I was holding out on him. He was screaming like crazy. Bottom line is that I didn’t say it.”

Ross recounted that during a commercial break, Vince came onto his headset asking if Ross had heard what he wanted him to say. Ross said that he did, to which Vince replied: “Well it’s a !*$% good thing you didn’t because it would have been wrong.”

He also discussed suggestions that AEW will put WWE out of business.

“Are you crazy? That’s ludicrous! That’s not even remotely feasible,” said Ross. “That’s like saying the XFL is going to supplant the NFL as America’s football league. They’re not, but they don’t have to to make a profit. The AEW brand doesn’t have to do anything with WWE or be affected by it one way the other. All we have to worry about is ourselves. We have to get better.”

Ross also spoke about the origin of “Slobberknocker”, Chris Benoit, and how long he plans to continue his career as a commentator.

Click here to watch the full interview.

The Montreal Alouettes relieved Kavis Reed of his duties as general manager, on Sunday, the team announced.

Alouettes president and CEO Patrick Boivin said the reason behind the dismissal couldn’t be revealed because it could “potentially expose us at the legal level,” according to Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette.

Boivin also said the decision wasn’t related to the team’s on-field performance or the impending sale of the franchise.

“A number of things were brought to my attention over the course of the last number of weeks that made it such that we had to make this decision immediate, right now,” Boivin said. “It would be inappropriate to start getting into specifics of what that is.

“It has nothing to do with performance,” Boivin added. “We could have been 4-0 and the decision would have still been made.”

Day-to-day management duties will be split by assistant general manager of player personnel Joe Mack, head coach Khari Jones, and director of football operations Patrick Donovan.

“Joe Mack will now have oversight of all football operations, but the team will be jointly managed with Khari Jones,” Boivin said in a statement. “Specifically, coach Jones will now be responsible for our active roster on a daily basis, and Joe will oversee all player personnel and football operation matters, including salary cap, contracts, operations and logistics. Patrick Donovan remains Director of Football Operations. These are standout individuals and are steadfast on collaboratively doing what is best for this team to win.”

The Alouettes are 2-2 this season after beating the Ottawa Redblacks on Saturday. They sit second in the East Division.

Reed had been with the club since 2015, first as the special team coordinator before being anointed as GM in 2016. He previously served as the Edmonton Eskimos’ head coach from 2011 to 2013.

In June, Montreal parted ways with head coach Mike Sherman and promoted offensive coordinator Khari Jones on an interim basis.

Lonzo Ball knew his name was being floated around in trade discussions for Anthony Davis.

So when Ball learned that he was dealt to the New Orleans Pelicans, the former UCLA Star was more than prepared for the news.

“I was kind of excited, honestly,” Ball told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “I kind of figured someone was going to get moved soon enough. I knew Anthony Davis wanted to come bad. Anytime you can get a guy like that, you are going to have to do what you have to do to get him.

“So I was kind of already just waiting for it, honestly, and I was happy to go with two guys I am comfortable with in B.I. (Brandon Ingram) and JHart (Josh Hart). I am excited to see what we can do.”

California is virtually all that Ball has ever known. He was born in Anaheim, played his high school basketball at nearby Chino Hills, went to college at UCLA, and was drafted second overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017.

But Ball isn’t upset that he’s leaving home and is thankful to have been traded a couple of years into his NBA career rather than earlier on.

“I tell people when I was a rookie, I probably would have been sad,” Ball said. “Just being from L.A., having my whole family here and wanting to be a Laker. But being in the league for two years, knowing it’s a business, as long you get to play, that’s a blessing in itself.”

Ball had an up-and-down two years with the Lakers, during which he averaged 10 points, 6.4 assists, 6.2 boards, and 1.6 steals per contest across 99 appearances.

Injuries have limited Ball’s ability to stay on the court and he’s struggled with his shot, connecting on 38 percent of attempts from the field – including a 31.5 percent mark from distance.

However, Ball is still just 21 and has shown promise defensively with his size and wingspan.

Houston Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney didn’t receive a long-term contract extension before the 4 p.m. ET franchise-tag deadline passed Monday.

Clowney was hit with the $15.98-million tag March 4 but has yet to sign it. He hasn’t attended any of the team’s offseason activities and is expected to miss a significant portion of training camp, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

No trade is apparently in the works for the star pass-rusher.

Clowney’s contract impasse is apparently complicated by an issue over his positional designation.

The NFL Players Association is expected to file a grievance against Houston due to the team tagging Clowney as a linebacker rather than a defensive end, league sources told Schefter. Clowney played the majority of last season’s snaps as a defensive end.

Tagging a defensive end costs $1.7 million more than the linebacker tender.

The Texans’ negotiations with Clowney were made more difficult by the recent firing of general manager Brian Gaine and the team’s decision not to hire a replacement for the 2019 season.

Gaine and head coach Bill O’Brien reportedly disagreed on Clowney. The former GM apparently wanted to make a long-term commitment to the 2014 No. 1 overall pick.

Clowney made three straight Pro Bowls and has racked up 18.5 sacks over the last two seasons. After struggling to stay healthy early in his career, he’s played in 45 games from 2016-2018.

He must now wait until after Houston’s final regular-season game in 2019 to sign an extension, or he can wait until the conclusion of the league year to test free agency.

The two other remaining franchise-tagged players – Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and San Francisco 49ers kicker Robbie Gould – both received contract extensions at the 11th hour.

Jarrett signed a four-year deal worth a reported $68 million to replace the $15.21-million tender he agreed to April 22. He stayed away from most of the Falcons’ offseason workouts but reported for mandatory minicamp in June.

Meanwhile, the 49ers ended their standoff with Gould – who requested a trade to be closer to his family in Chicago – by agreeing to a four-year extension.

The Colorado Avalanche signed restricted free-agent forward Andre Burakovsky to a one-year contract on Monday, the team announced.

It’s reportedly worth $3.25 million, a source told The Athletic’s Ryan Clark.

The Avalanche acquired Burakovsky in a trade with the Capitals on June 28. The 24-year-old recorded 12 goals and 25 points in 76 regular-season games with Washington last season and added two points across seven playoff contests.

Washington selected Burakovsky with the 23rd overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. He’s recorded 62 goals and 145 points in 328 career games and helped the Capitals capture their first Stanley Cup in 2017-18.

Ben Simmons is securing the bag.

The guard reached an agreement with the Philadelphia 76ers on a five-year, $170-million contract extension, his agent told The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

Simmons’ new max deal will kick in for the 2020-21 season. He’s currently set to earn $8.1 million this coming campaign – the final year on the rookie deal he signed in 2016.

Philadelphia was reported to have offered Simmons a max contract extension on July 2.

After missing what would have been his rookie year in 2016-17 due to a broken right foot, Simmons quickly cemented his star status the following season. The former No. 1 pick averaged 15.7 points, 8.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 0.9 blocks in 81 games and was named Rookie of the Year. The 6-foot-10 ball-handler put up similar numbers in his sophomore campaign and earned his first All-Star nod.

Despite his well-rounded production, Simmons has received criticism for his lack of a 3-point shot. The 22-year-old has yet to hit from deep over his two seasons and only made six attempts last year.

The Atlanta Falcons and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett agreed to a four-year contract to replace his franchise tag, the team confirmed Monday.

The deal is worth $68 million, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. It contains $42.5 million in guarantees, a source told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Jarrett would’ve made $15.2 million under the tag. His new deal averages $17 million annually, which trails only Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox among interior linemen in the league.

The agreement was reported about an hour before the deadline for franchise-tagged players to ink new pacts. It marked a surprising turn of events, as a report Monday morning said the two sides were unlikely to strike a deal.

Jarrett collected 52 tackles in 2018 and posted career highs in sacks (six) and forced fumbles (three). He’s emerged as one of the game’s top defensive tackles over the last couple of seasons.

In June, Falcons owner Arthur Blank said he wanted Jarrett, wide receiver Julio Jones, and linebacker Deion Jones to be “Falcons for life.” So far, Jarrett is the lone member of that trio to get a new contract.

With Jarrett taken care of, Atlanta will turn its attention to Deion Jones, whose agent will meet with the team Wednesday, according to Schefter. Julio Jones, meanwhile, has already been promised a mega-extension.