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This Week in Sports Talk: August 9, 2020

this week in sports talk August 9, 2020

This Week in Sports Talk (TWIST) is our weekly roundup of top headlines from the past seven days in the world of sports, plus a preview of what’s up next. Heading into the week of August 9, 2020, here’s the top sports news, with a twist. Skim it, and you’ll be good to go all week.

This Week in Sports Talk: August 9, 2020

On a lazy summer Sunday morning, here are the top 10 stories in the world of sports to know heading into the week of August 9, 2020.

1. NBA finishes a successful week

the Disney bubble hasn’t burst (at least, not yet)

On Wednesday, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association announced that no players tested positive in the weekly testing period for the third consecutive week.

Kudos to the league and the players for crafting a smart plan that is actually working! This is a great deal harder than looks (and yes, MLB, we’re looking right at you). There are still two months left, but so far, so good.

This week in sports talk August 9, 2020: the NBA “bubble” is working so far. Photo Credit: USA Today Sports.

Kind of makes you wonder what America would look like right now if rapid accurate tests were available, and we were all following a strict health protocol and doing our part to protect our communities, doesn’t it?

But we digress.

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the bucs reign in the nba eastern conference

The Milwaukee Bucks and their star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo have locked up first place and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. There’s relatively little suspense surrounding who makes the playoffs in the East. As of this posting,  the Orlando Magic have clinched the No. 8 spot. The Brooklyn Nets are No. 7. And the Wizards have been eliminated.

After a big-time match-up between the No. 3 Boston Celtics and the previously undefeated (in Orlando) No. 2 Toronto Raptors on Friday night, though, there’s some intrigue brewing over who will face the Bucks in the Eastern Conference final. The Celts demolished the Raptors, 122-100.

In the third quarter, the Celtics outscored the Raptors 39-20. Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker are the names to remember if the Celts keep playing this way.

This week in sports talk August 9, 2020: Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and team are the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Photo Credit: USA Today Sports.

nail-biting fight for No. 8 in the nba western conference

In the West, there’s no drama at the top of standings. The Lakers – led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis –  have locked up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference (despite a 105-86 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night).

However, there’s a serious dogfight underway for the number 8 spot in the Western Conference playoffs. The contenders? The Memphis Grizzlies; Portland Trail Blazers; Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs. Oh, and the Sacramento Kings and the New Orleans Pelicans are not far behind. That makes 6 teams fighting for one playoff spot.

Personally, our hopes are pinned on the dreamy Damian Lillard. With a 125-115 win over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday, his Blazers are just one game behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the number 8 spot. The Grizzlies managed to stay in contention with a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night. As our Sports Desk notes: “This could be exciting.” Um, yeah.

The NBA postseason begins on August 17th.

2. Coronavirus continues to plague MLB’s Cardinals

COVID-19 flare-ups in Major League Baseball started with the Miami Marlins. Who passed it on to the Philadelphia Phillies. Then it was the St. Louis Cardinals‘ turn, and their outbreak has had the longest duration so far.

The Cards had all games postponed this week because of an outbreak that emerged last weekend. And their hiatus has been extended again through this weekend, due to new positive tests. Eight players in total have tested positive, including star catcher Yadier Molina.

This week in sports talk August 9, 2020

This week in sports talk August 9, 2020: the St. Louis Cardinals saw further positive COVID-19 tests, and all their games this week were postponed. Photo Credit: Jeff Robertson, Associated Press.

In response, MLB has mandated even more stringent controls: masks are mandatory pretty much everywhere except on the field. And a doctor must accompany the team at all times to ensure that protocols are followed. There’s an adorable clip of the reaction by his teammates when the Atlanta Braves’ Nick Markakis hits a walk-off home run to cinch a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. They celebrate his feat by essentially dancing around him in a circle, waving their hands in the air. You can see it here. It’s actually really sweet.

meanwhile, the Yanks have been on fire

The New York Yankees started the season hitting at least one home run in each of first 12 games. That streak only ended Thursday night,  as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Yanks 1-0. The Yanks evened the score yesterday, though, hitting three home runs in a 8-4 win over the Rays in the first game of a Saturday double-header.

this week in sports talk August 9, 2020

The New York Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays in the first game of a double-header on Saturday. Courtesy Photo.

Even though his team won that game, it was a disappointing outing for Yankees ace Gerrit Cole. He came within one strike of earning his 20th straight regular-season win before he was pulled from the game.

The Rays battled back to win the nightcap 5-3 – this after Yankees manager Aaron Boone and hitting coach Marcus Thames were ejected from the game. Turns out there’s bad blood between the two franchises dating back to an incident in 2018 when Yankee CC Sabathia, irked over the Rays’ Andrew Kittredge throwing a fastball over Austin Romine’s head, plunked Jesús Sucre. Last evening, when it appeared to the Yanks dugout that the Rays were tossing too many “brush back” pitches in an attempt to throw their power sluggers off balance, words were exchanged. Joe Biden may not hold grudges, but these guys clearly do. 

Aaron Judge has hit 8 home runs in the first 12 games of 2020. The most recent was a two-run homer in the 6th inning yesterday against the Tampa Bay Rays. At that pace, in a normal season he would hit 103 home runs. Sadly, there won’t be 162 games this season. But man, the dude is hitting a lot of home runs! All rise . . . 

New York Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge has been on fire this season. Courtesy Photo.

As of this posting, the Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Oakland A’s, Miami Marlins, Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies are first in their divisionsthe first 5 by a lot, the Rockies only by a little.

and now for something a little different . . . 

MLB Fun fact 1: This week Mike Trout hit a homer for the 5th time on his birthday in seven seasons.

MLB Fun fact 2: CBS Sports reports that home field advantage is real, and may have nothing to do with the excitement of the fans. The MLB home-field win percentage is 54.1 percent under normal circumstances.

this week in sports August 9, 2020

this week in sports August 9, 2020

Has that changed now that all the stadiums are empty this season? Nope. As of mid-week, the home teams were 72-65, or .526, which is awfully close to the percentage when the seats are filled. Ponder that over a beer this evening . . . the cardboard cutouts could replace us!

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3. NFL braces for its own fight with coronavirus

As the NFL gets closer to starting the 2020-21 season, nerves are on edge as a few COVID-19 cases emerged this week. In a particularly confounding episode, Detroit Lions star quarterback Matt Stafford first tested positive, but then in two subsequent rounds, he tested negative.

Good news for him, but bad news for those who want to believe that these tests are actually accurate and worth doing.

The NFL’s opt-out deadline was yesterday, and a total of 66 players are going to skip the season. While most NFL teams are opting to have no fans in the stadium, some are still planning to open their stadiums at 25% capacity.

aaron rodgers speaks

Meanwhile, in an interview this week quarterback Aaron Rodgers opened up about his reaction to the Green Bay Packers drafting quarterback Jordan Love in this year’s college draft. It was a surprise move, but the player says he bears no ill will towards the team for their decision.

Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Rodgers clearly would have much preferred as a  draft pick a wide receiver, tight end or defensive position. Something that would shore the team up this season, after they finished a strong 13-3 last year. Instead, management opted to invest for future success. And now Rodgers sounds resigned to the fact that despite his desire to do so, he probably won’t finish his career in Green Bay.

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4. Tampa Bay Watch

At a press conference call in Florida this week, new Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady outlined the difficulty of switching teams after 20 seasons in New England – and injected a more human element into the coverage of a move that’s gotten huge amounts of press attention.

This week in sports talk August 9, 2020

This week in sports talk August 9, 2020: Tom Brady at Tampa Bay training camp. Photo Credit: Kim Klement, USA Today Sports.

“You’re trying to not only learn an offense but learn your way to work,” Brady said. “Or learn guys’ names. I didn’t even know where the quarterback room was or the full team meeting room was. You get in here, and your brain is trying to figure out a lot of different things.”

We feel you, man.

Brady has had to learn the terminology of a new playbook under Bucs coach Bruce Arians, something he hasn’t done since his rookie year in New England.  Good thing Gronk is there as a familiar face. As of this posting, pending COVID-19 schedule changes, the Bucs begin the regular season at New Orleans on September 13. 

5. Tiz the Law wins again

The 2020 Travers Stakes was run yesterday at Saratoga Race Course in New York, with a strong field of eight horses and a $1 million purse on the line. Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law triumphed again.

This week in sports talk August 9, 2020: Tiz the Law wins the 2020 Travers Stakes. Courtesy Photo.

We feel the need to point out that he’s a New Yorker, just like us. You go, boy!

6. Champions League soccer resumes

UEFA Champions League play resumed on Friday in Lisbon, Portugal. The challenges of getting to this point were not trivial. The New York Times notes: “UEFA had to find a way to restart a partly finished international competition in which some teams had advanced further than others, and to complete it amid ongoing restrictions on cross-border travel and strict quarantine rules.”

Lisbon’s Estádio da Luz, the home of Benfica, will host this year’s Champions League final.Credit…Mario Cruz/EPA, via Shutterstock.

The competition – which was put on hold as the coronavirus pandemic swept through Europe – will now be completed as an eight-team knockout tournament conducted over the course of 12 days. At the end of this weekend’s Round of 16, Maurizio Sarri was fired by Juventus after the club failed to advance to the quarterfinals. Real Madrid and Chelsea also failed to advance.

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7. 23-year old wins PGA Championship 

The first major of the season, the 102nd PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park, was this weekend. And it was a thriller!

This week in sports talk August 9, 2020

This week in sports talk August 9, 2020: Collin Morikawa, 23, wins the 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park. Courtesy Photo.

23-year-old Collin Morikawa captured the 2020 PGA Championship. It’s his first major championship victory. His 65-64 finish is the lowest score over the final 36 holes by a winner in major championship history. Morikawa joins Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only 23-year-old winners of the PGA Championship.

8. NHL players take a knee

During the first two days of the NHL’s postseason, one player – the Minnesota Wild’s Matt Dumba – took a knee during a national anthem to show solidarity with those protesting system racism and police brutality. On Monday, two players each from the Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights did the same.

this week in sports talk August 9, 2020

This week in sports talk August 9, 2020: four NHL players took a knee during a national anthem to support those protesting racial violence and injustice.

Ryan Reaves, Tyler Seguin, Robin Lehner and Jason Dickinson all decided to kneel during the National Anthem ahead of Monday’s Stars-Golden Knights game.

9. Epic changes in college football this fall

Many college football conferences (including the SEC and the Big Ten) have announced that they’ll play conference-only schedules this season. Now, some notable programs have announced that they are cancelling the fall season altogether.  

The Mid-American Conference (MAC) officially canceled its 2020 college football season yesterday because of concerns about the health and safety of its players amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, the 12-member league will become the first FBS conference to decide not to play this fall.

Detailed view of the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship logo. Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The lack of a coordinated response across all Division 1 schools is creating some worries of its own. For example, there is growing worry across the Mid-Atlantic league that if the Power Five and other conferences go ahead with their fall seasons, some of their top players could transfer. 

Meanwhile, a group of Pac-12 athletes are threatening to sit out this college football season while they lobby for change and equitable treatment across a number of areas. Thousands of miles away, another large group of Big Ten players are coming together to lay out their own requirements for a possible 2020-21 season. Reportedly, as many as 1,400 Big Ten and Pac-12 students are involved in the potential boycott. Though their lists of demands are separate and somewhat different, the students have been talking and working together for weeks.

10. US Open Tennis field is shrinking

More and more big name players are taking a pass on this year’s US Open. This week, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray announced their withdrawals amid COVID-19 concerns.

This week in sports talk August 9, 2020

This week in sports talk August 9, 2020: Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from this year’s US Open, but Novak Djokovic has committed to playing. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

Roger Federer is also out of the Grand Slam tournament, after undergoing knee surgery earlier this year. However, top-ranked Novak Djokovic was on the USTA’s early list of entries. Perhaps he’ll glide to an easy victory in a much-diminished field? Watch this space for further updates.

This Week in Sports News August 9, 2020

That’s it. You’re good to go with the top headlines and coming attractions heading into the week of August 9, 2020. Stay safe and healthy, dear reader. See you next week.

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