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This Week in Sports

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Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James drives to the basket during second quarter action against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, March 11, 2018 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Welcome to another weekly roundup in the world of sports. This week, free agency in the NBA and NHL began Sunday, and in both sports, some of the biggest names have already made a decision on where they will be playing next year. The Detroit Tigers went in to Sunday’s game on an 11-game losing streak. They tried to end the suffering in Toronto on Sunday afternoon. Jameis Winston received his punishment from the NFL while another big name appears to be calling it a career and in the World Cup, the field keeps shrinking down and the host country, Russia has advanced to the field of eight.

National Basketball Association

Less than 24-hours into NBA free agency, the biggest names were off the board. Paul George attended a house party thrown by Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City on Saturday night. Even though free agency didn’t officially start until Sunday, George announced at the party that he was staying in Oklahoma City for the foreseeable future to help the Thunder try and win a championship. George and the Thunder agreed to a four-year deal worth $137 million with a player option.

With George signed, all eyes shifted to LeBron James. There was much speculation on where he would end up. Some of the free agents like Kevin Durant and Chris Paul were expected to remain with their teams, which both players did indeed end up re-signing with their respective teams. James on the other hand had his name rumored to more than five teams. All speculation aside, James made his decision Sunday evening.

James announced that he and the Los Angeles Lakers agreed to a four-year deal worth $154 million with a player option for the fourth year. James’ decision leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers in the dark for the second time and leaves the Eastern Conference in the hands of the Boston Celtics.

There are still more names to be signed in free agency, but with George and James signed, the focus of the NBA off-season will shift to the impending trade of Kawhi Leonard. He would love to join James in Los Angeles, but the Spurs can trade him where they get the best offer. The Spurs also have to decide that even if the Lakers have the best offer, do they want to send him to a potential super-team in the Western Conference?

National Hockey League

Like the NBA, free agency started Sunday for the NHL as well. And like the NBA, arguably the biggest name in free agency was signed on the first day.

Just weeks after winning the Stanley Cup as the head coach of the Capitals, quitting, then signing as the head coach of the New York Islanders, Barry Trotz has lost his captain to free agency. John Tavares signed a seven-year deal worth $77 million to join the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team he grew up rooting for. Tavares grew up just outside of Toronto in Mississauga, Ontario. He was obviously very excited to sign with his favorite childhood team as he tweeted a picture of him as a little boy tucked in bed with his Toronto Maple Leafs sheets.

After getting knocked out of the playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the Pittsburgh Penguins addressed their defensive issues by signing Jack Johnson, a former Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman. The Penguins signed Johnson to a five-year deal worth $16.25 million. In his introductory press conference with the Pittsburgh media, Johnson said he was looking forward to playing in a “winning culture.” These comments rubbed his former coach the wrong way. John Tortorella, the head coach of the Blue Jackets, called his comments a “backhanded slap” and said his comments were “utter bulls**t.” The Penguins have owned the Blue Jackets over the years and both Johnson and Tortorella’s feelings could be stemming from this.

The Penguins also signed a familiar face on Sunday. Matt Cullen, 41, signed a one-year, $650,000 deal to return to the Penguins. Cullen won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Penguins in the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons. Cullen played with the Minnesota Wild last year and there was a lot of speculation that he would retire after the season. Cullen will be the oldest active NHL player in the upcoming season.

Major League Baseball

Early in the month of June, the Detroit Tigers were playing surprisingly well and were on the heels of the Cleveland Indians for the division lead in the American League Central. Since then, the Tigers have come back down to reality in a major way. On Sunday, the Tigers were in Toronto taking on the Blue Jays trying to avoid their 12th straight loss. They eventually did stop the bleeding with a 9-1 win over the Blue Jays. But after 11 losses in a row, they have fallen in the standings and let the Minnesota Twins overtake them in the division. The Indians remain in first place and hold a nine-game lead over the Twins and a nine and a half game lead over the once promising Tigers.

The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox did battle this weekend in the Bronx for the division lead. All three games played were blowouts with the Yankees taking Game 1 of the series 8-1 and the Red Sox taking Game 2 by a score of 11-0. Sunday night the two teams played the Yankees just one game back in the AL East. The Yankees ended up winning 11-1 to jump in a tie with the Red Sox atop the division.

Last week, it looked as if the Houston Astros were going to start running away with the AL West. The Seattle Mariners had other plans however and didn’t lose a game all week winning seven straight games. The Astros’ lead in the division is now down to just a half game over the Mariners. The Oakland Athletics, eight and a half back, and the Los Angeles Angels, 11.5 games back, both remain above .500, but have their work cut out for them if they want to get back into the thick of the division.

The Arizona Diamondbacks remain in first place in the National League West, but after three straight losses have the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants hot on their trail. Both teams are just two and a half games out of first place. The Colorado Rockies aren’t far behind, but with a 41-43 record, they’ll have to make some major improvements if they want to climb back toward the top of the division.

The Atlanta Braves have ripped off three wins in-a-row to get a little breathing room in the NL East. The Philadelphia Phillies are just three games back of them and have won six of their last 10 games. The Washington Nationals have continued their struggles. They’ve dropped seven of their last 10 games and are hovering just above .500 at 42-40. They are six games behind the Braves for the division lead.

The Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs continue to jockey for the NL Central division lead. Currently, the Brewers have a half game lead over the Cubs. Chicago has gained ground in the division as they’ve won four straight while Milwaukee has lost their last two. The St. Louis Cardinals were getting close to being in the mix, but after four losses in a row, have fallen to five and a half games back of the division leading Brewers.

ESPN’s top five power rankings

1. Houston Astros (55-31)
2. New York Yankees (54-27)
3. Boston Red Sox (56-29)
4. Chicago Cubs (47-35)
5. Cleveland Indians (45-37)

The Collegiate’s top five power rankings

1. New York Yankees (54-27)
2. Houston Astros (55-31)
3. Boston Red Sox (56-29)
4. Seattle Mariners (54-31)
5. Atlanta Braves (48-34)

West Michigan Whitecaps

The West Michigan Whitecaps had a promising start to their week but finished poorly, getting swept in a four-game series.

On Monday, June 25, the Whitecaps traveled to South Bend for a three-game series with the Cubs. The Whitecaps had an impressive showing on the road sweeping the series. The highlight of the series was their win on Tuesday where they put up 10 runs on 10 hits. Their pitching allowed 11 hits in the game but got the outs when they need them the most. With those 11 hits, the Cubs could only manage to plate one run in the game.

Riding a road three-game sweep, the Whitecaps came home for a four-game series with the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The Hot Rods quieted the West Michigan bats all weekend long. The Hot Rods managed to score 13 runs in back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday while only allowing the Whitecaps to score three runs in the two games. On Saturday, the Whitecaps finally cooled off the bats of the Hot Rods, but once again couldn’t forward much offense and lost the game 3-1. Trying to avoid being swept at home, the Whitecaps hosted Bowling Green for the fourth and final game of the series on Sunday. Unfortunately for the Whitecaps and their fans who braved the sweltering heat, the Hot Rods proved too much to handle for West Michigan and completed the sweep of the Whitecaps with a 5-3 win.

The Whitecaps are now 5-6 in the second half of the season and are four games back of the division leading Lansing Lugnuts who are off to a hot 9-2 start.

The Whitecaps will host the first place Lugnuts for two games on Monday and Tuesday before traveling to Lansing to play them in their home ballpark for two games. After their four games with Lansing, they’ll travel to take on the Lake County Captains for a four-game series starting Friday night. To find tickets to upcoming games click here.

National Football League

On Monday, June 28, The NFL announced they will be suspending Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback for the first three games of the 2018 season.

The alleged incident for which Winston is being suspended happened in March of 2016 in Arizona. He was accused of grabbing a female Uber driver’s genitals while waiting in line at a fast food drive-thru. The accuser’s name has not been released, and she did not press charges. The incident wasn’t public knowledge until the driver shared her story with BuzzFeed News late in 2017.

Winston has not admitted to what he’s being accused of, but after being suspended by the league this week did apologize to the Uber driver for the “position he put her in.”

The NFL doesn’t have to have proof of a wrongdoing to suspend one of its players. The league has suspended other players in recent years with no actual proof, most notably Tom Brady and Ezekiel Elliott. Instead, they can suspend a player for “personal conduct violations.” This has been a topic of discussion that will surely be addressed by the National Football League Players Association during the the next collective bargaining agreement. The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire in 2021.

Winston will not appeal the suspension and Ryan Fitzpatrick will begin the season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as their starting quarterback.

While Winston is being forced to sit out, it appears Seattle Seahawks pro-bowl strong safety Kam Chancellor will be sitting out by choice. It looks like Chancellor has played his last game in the NFL. He has had injuries in recent years that have sidelined him, and he seems to have recognized the dangers that are possible going forward.

While he has not actually used the phrase retirement, he sent out a tweet on Sunday making it appear that he’s played professional football for the last time.

“To walk away from the game by choice is one thing,” Chancellor said in a tweet. “To walk away from the game because of the risk of paralysis is another.”

Chancellor, 30, had a career-threatening injury to his neck last season and said he would listen to his body. Apparently, he has listened, and his body has told him not to go forward.

The World Cup

The field of 16 in the knockout round of the World Cup started Saturday. The first game featured one of the games’ best players in Lionel Messi as he and Argentina played France. Messi couldn’t help his country overcome the offense of France. Argentina added a late goal, but it wasn’t enough. France won the game 4-3.

Later in the day, Uruguay faced off against Portugal. Portugal dominated in ball control but despite that, Uruguay got on the board in the seventh minute of the game with an Edinson Cavani goal. Portugal would tie it up in the 55th minute, but Cavani struck again scoring the game winning goal in the 62nd minute to secure a 2-1 win for Uruguay.

On Sunday, Spain took on the host country of Russia. Full time was not enough to decide this matchup and with a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation, the game went to a shootout. With their home country cheering them on, Russia won the shootout 4-3 to secure a victory and move on to the next round.

Russia vs. Spain wasn’t the only game to go to a shootout on Sunday. Croatia and Denmark also couldn’t figure things out in regulation. The game ended in a 1-1 tie and was forced to a shootout. Croatia ended up winning the shootout 3-2 to move on to the next round.

Mexico and Brazil will face off Monday followed by Belgium and Japan. To keep up with all the matchups, scores and results, click here.

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