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Sue Bird: Caitlin Clark can be an All-Star next year

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Sue Bird: Caitlin Clark can be an All-Star next year

Caitlin Clark’s transcendent play, from her logo 3-point shooting to her unique skills as a “get ahead” passer, has captivated basketball fans from Maine to California. A question that often arises is how will her game translate to the next level. In a wide-ranging 60-minute interview that will air in full Thursday on the “Sports Media Podcast,” WNBA legend Sue Bird said Clark can be a WNBA All-Star in her first year.

“I think if she plays up to her potential, yes, that’s realistic,” Bird said. “And, by the way, that’s not a knock on anyone in the WNBA. It’s going to be hard, but I think she can do it. You do have to see what happens when they get there. You are now playing against adults and this is their career. But I do think she has a chance at having a lot of success early, and I think a lot of it comes down to her long-distance shooting. That is her separator. You’re not really used to guarding people out there.”

Bird went on to say that the era Clark is stepping into helps complement her style of play. Another WNBA legend, Diana Taurasi, “could have been playing the way Caitlin is playing right now,” Bird said, but did not come of age in an era to play the way Clark plays today.

Players in the WNBA just aren’t used to guarding shooters that far, Bird said. Bird retired in 2022 after a 20-year WNBA career.

Clark has the option to return to Iowa next year due to the extra year of eligibility thanks to an NCAA waiver for student-athletes affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. But if she opts to go pro and is selected by the Indiana Fever with the No. 1 pick, “that is a really good roster for her,” Bird said.

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“She’s going to be teaming up with right out the gate with two really good post players (Aliyah Boston and NaLyssa Smith) that are going to complement her,” Bird continued. “There is precedent for people coming out of college and coming in and playing amazing, players such as Candace Parker, Breanna Stewart, Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi and others. But she still has to come in and do it and there’ll be some growing pains just like all those players I just listed had.”

GO DEEPER

Caitlin Clark’s journey to 3,528 points: The Iowa star’s greatest highlights of the past 4 seasons

Bird spent time with Clark last December in Iowa City as part of an episode of her ESPN+ Original series,“Sue’s Places,” a 10-episode college basketball travelogue produced alongside Omaha Productions and Words + Pictures that features Bird darting across the country to learn about the history and traditions of college basketball. (The Clark episode ran on Feb. 14.). The fourth-ranked Hawkeyes will next play at No. 14 Indiana on Thursday night (8 p.m. ET, Peacock).

Asked why Clark had captured the imagination of the broader basketball public during her time at Iowa, Bird said it was a combination of her long-distance shooting and being one of the faces of women’s college basketball during such an ascendent time.

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“There are two that stand out the most with her, and let’s start with her long-distance shooting,” Bird said. “The one thing that cancels out people’s obsession with dunking as it relates to the comparison between men’s and women’s basketball is deep shooting. If we want to call it the logo 3, let’s call it that. For whatever reason, men in particular, they don’t hate on it. There’s nothing to hate on because it is what it is. So I think that part of her game lends to people cheering for it. I think it’s also captivating, right? The way that she plays with the long-distance shooting, it’s captivating. Everybody’s interested in it. So that’s one part of it.”

Bird added: “I think the other part is that women’s basketball is having a moment and that moment needed somebody to team up with it. So Caitlin, based on just the year in which she was born and doing what she is doing in college right now, is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this moment. There are other players right now in college basketball where you can feel excitement. JuJu Watkins is killing it at USC and could arguably end up being one of the best players ever. I’m not saying that loosely; it’s because of the way she is starting her career.”

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Caitlin Clark’s scoring record makes her historic. Her greatness makes her unmatched

Clark’s decision about whether to leave Iowa has become a major debate in sports media and among sports fans. Recently, former WNBA MVP Sheryl Swoopes discussed that potential rookies like Clark and LSU’s Angel Reese will take time to develop in the WNBA because it’s a veteran-heavy league.

When asked what she would do if she were Clark, Bird did not hesitate.

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“If I am Caitlin Clark, I am coming out of college,” Bird said.

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(Photo: Morgan Engel / NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

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Rangers' Matt Rempe makes immediate impact in 1st postseason game: 'I think I'm built for the playoffs'

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Rangers' Matt Rempe makes immediate impact in 1st postseason game: 'I think I'm built for the playoffs'

New York Rangers rookie Matt Rempe set the tone early for the team in their 4-1 Game 1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon.

Rempe scored the team’s first goal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The score came in the second period. And before anyone knew it, the Rangers were up 3-0 by the time the game was in its second intermission.

New York Rangers’ Matt Rempe is seen during the third period in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals, April 21, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The forward, who has become a fan favorite during the year, heard his name chanted across Madison Square Garden. It only amplified his performance even more and appeared to give him the confidence to do it again through the rest of the postseason – as long as the Rangers are in it.

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“I know my game. I know I can skate well and be physical. I think I can be a real pain to play against down low, protecting pucks and going to the net,” Rempe said, per ESPN. “I think I’m built for the playoffs. I think that that’s where you want to play, and I was happy how tonight went.”

Rempe didn’t only turn the heads of fans at the Garden, but he made an even bigger believer of his veteran head coach, Peter Laviolette.

Rangers celebrate

The New York Rangers celebrate after winning Game 1 of the first-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals, April 21, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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“That was a big goal to put energy in the building, maybe because it was him, too, put a little more extra juice in the building,” Laviolette said. “And then be able to get another one right after that. That was a turning point in the game.”

Rempe’s score came off the stick of Jimmy Vesey, who also scored in the second period.

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“(Rempe) scoring sent the fans crazy, and we scored two more goals in the next few minutes,” Vesey said. “He definitely gets the crowd into the game and, as the team with home-ice advantage, you’re going to try to feed off that energy in the crowd.”

Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider also scored for the Rangers.

Jimmy Vesey breaks away

New York Rangers’ Jimmy Vesey, center, races for the puck with Washington Capitals’ T.J. Oshie, left, and Dylan McIlrath during the first period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 21, 2024, in New York.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Washington’s Martin Fehervary put the Capitals on the board in the second period.

Game 2 is set for Tuesday night in New York.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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The Lakers weren't as good (or as bad) as you thought in Game 1

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The Lakers weren't as good (or as bad) as you thought in Game 1

There was a feeling around the arena and in the media room Saturday night that the Lakers had fired their best punch and that, maybe, it just wasn’t good enough.

But fresh eyes on Game 1 combined with some time gave coach Darvin Ham and the Lakers the ability to properly contextualize what happened in their 114-103 loss to the Denver Nuggets in their first-round Western Conference playoff series.

“We got great looks that we just didn’t knock down. Shots that we’ve been knocking down. And then our pace is off,” Ham said in a call with reporters Sunday. “There’s no question, we just watched with the team, of us walking up and down, walking back toward the offensive end and not getting in and out of our actions quick. We’re a completely different ball club when we’re sprinting up the floor. Even after a made basket, we have to have urgency offensively.

“That has to be a part of our defense as well. How to defend this team is to put more pressure on them on offense. Try to put them on their heels too.”

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The Lakers’ Game 1 offensive woes were overshadowed, in part, by the 59 combined points of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but the two also had nine turnovers (seven by James).

And the Lakers shot eight for29 on three-pointers, scoring only 103 points. During the regular season, the Lakers were held to 103 or fewer only eight times. D’Angelo Russell, in particular, was one-for-nine shooting from three-point range after making 41.5% of his shots from deep in the regular season.

Denver coach Michael Malone even pointed out Sunday the quality of shots the Lakers got — and missed — in Game 1.

Ham said he thought the Lakers’ half-court defense in Game 1 looked better on film — the bigger issues coming in transition.

“They made some tough shots, but we didn’t do a bad job defensively. We forced them into some tough shots,” Ham said. “They made a couple tough shots. But our biggest problem was transition defense, getting back, getting matched up so we weren’t crossmatched.

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“We didn’t do that as well as we should and obviously giving up second-chance points and some untimely turnovers on our part.”

Those problems in the playoffs, especially against a team that’s as good as Denver, are critical.

“So it’s the intangible game and that’s the game you really have to fight with good teams like Denver, championship teams like Denver. The little things matter,” Ham said. “The details and the discipline. It’s more so that than anything else, than the big stuff or the post coverage or pick-and-roll coverage. It’s the intangible things.

“So that’s what’s what really came to light as we went back to the hotel after the game and rewatched the film.”

Regarding Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, a two-time league MVP, Ham said the Lakers have a practically impossible task.

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“It starts with trying to limit his touches, which is damn near impossible,” he said. “But that’s what it takes if you’re trying to win.”

Wood nearing a return?

A report from the Athletic’s Shams Charania said reserve big man Christian Wood is “planning to return to action” for Game 3 on Thursday in Los Angeles. Wood, who has been out since the All-Star break because of a knee injury that required surgery, isn’t with the team in Denver.

“All I say is he’s still going through his recovery process from injuries, rehab process,” Ham said. “…Obviously, he has size, he has length, he has rebounding capabilities, he can stretch the floor. But first and foremost, he has a couple more boxes to check before we even consider that.”

The team is still without forward Jarred Vanderbilt, who is recovering from a foot injury suffered on Feb. 1.

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Patriots looking for 'unprecedented deal' to move out of No 3 pick in 2024 NFL Draft: report

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Patriots looking for 'unprecedented deal' to move out of No 3 pick in 2024 NFL Draft: report

The New England Patriots are “open for business” with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, but they want an “unprecedented deal” to move out of that slot, per ESPN. 

With director of scouting Eliot Wolf saying this past week that the Patriots’ phone is being watched to hear about potential offers at No. 3, the only way they’re going to move is if another team blows them away with a deal. 

The Patriots understand that a top-three selection in the NFL Draft is a franchise-altering pick – for better or for worse – and a “blockbuster” deal is the only way they would want to leave it. And considering the Patriots need a new franchise quarterback after Mac Jones was traded away to the Jacksonville Jaguars, it only makes sense for them to stay put. 

New England Patriots director of scouting Eliot Wolf speaks to the media during the NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis on Feb. 27, 2024. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

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Many evaluators have had the Patriots taking one of three quarterbacks: LSU Heisman winner Jayden Daniels, North Carolina’s Drake Maye, and national championship winner J.J. McCarthy from Michigan. 

Wolf and Jerod Mayo, who is taking over as head coach for Bill Belichick, both understand the importance of the pick, and everyone in the NFL knows that a team is usually as good as their quarterback play. 

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ESPN added that Mayo and “some top decision-makers” acknowledged that this No. 3 pick will be tied with their legacy in New England.

Where the Patriots decide to go with the pick, granted they stay put, will be determined by what the Washington Commanders do at No. 2 overall. The Chicago Bears, owners of the top pick, are expected to go with USC’s Caleb Williams.

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Jerod Mayo smiles

Jerod Mayo of the New England Patriots speaks during a press conference at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Jan. 17, 2024. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Commanders are expected to also take a quarterback despite going with Sam Howell last season. 

But what if a team like the Minnesota Vikings, desperate for a quarterback but own the No. 11 and No. 23 picks, wants to jump other potential competition like the New York Giants at No. 6 to get the signal-caller they want? Could they come calling the Patriots to give them those first-round picks and more? 

This is what makes the NFL Draft so much fun, especially the week of the draft when general managers and owners take calls left and right to hear what other teams have to offer. 

Teams like the Cincinnati Bengals in 2020 didn’t bother to entertain a trade when they went with Joe Burrow out of LSU at No. 1 overall, but the Patriots are taking a different approach. 

Patriots helmet

(Winslow Townson/Getty Images/File)

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It doesn’t hurt to pick up the phone. We’ll see if Wolf and the Patriots hear an offer they can’t refuse when it’s their time on the clock Thursday night in Detroit.

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