Good morning to everyone but especially to...
KEVIN DURANT AND THE PHOENIX SUNS
Maybe a handful of players can make the block. Maybe another handful of players can make the shot. But to be able to do both? Kevin Durant is truly one of one.
The superstar forward announced his Suns arrival emphatically with an incredible sequence on both ends to begin the game and didn't let up from there as Phoenix cruised to a 105-91 win over the Hornets in Durant's Suns debut.
- Durant, in his first game since spraining his MCL Jan. 8, scored 23 points in 27 minutes, shooting 10 for 15 from the field.
- Devin Booker was the true star with 37 points, and Deandre Ayton had 16 points and 16 rebounds.
There will obviously be tougher opponents than the LaMelo Ball-less Hornets. There are still things to work out, and there's still a long way to go. But it's so far so good, and the Suns' top-line talent is overwhelming.
They already have an air of inevitability, opines our Bill Reiter:
- Reiter: "Durant will put players in much easier situations to allow them to tap into their talents. He'll help shift much of the pressure to his own shoulders. He can cover up for off days, or even off weeks. He should add a level of utter talent that's just too good when mixed with Booker, Chris Paul and DeAndre Ayton to be anything other than a top team. It was one game. It was against a bad team missing its best player and with no real floor general. It's early in the KD experiment. But any and all overreactions are going to age just fine."
- Stephen Curry could return next week, and the Warriors have done their job (and then some) with him out.
- No. 2 Alabama overcame a 17-point second-half deficit to beat Auburn, 90-85 in overtime, and win the SEC regular-season title.
- The Red Wings signed Dylan Larkin to an eight-year extension.
No. 3 Kansas clinched the Big 12 after No. 22 TCU beat No. 9 Texas
And not such a good morning for...
THE TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS AND THE IOWA STATE CYCLONES
The best month in college basketball did not start in the best way for No. 11 Tennessee, nor for Iowa State. Not even close.
- The Volunteers announced starting point guard Zakai Zeigler tore his ACL in Tuesday's win over Arkansas, ending his season. Zeigler averages 10.7 points (3rd on the team), 5.4 assists (1st) and 2.0 steals (1st). He was named a Naismith Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist.
- It's a massive loss for the Volunteers, who own the nation's best defense (but an inconsistent offense). They are a 3 seed in Jerry Palm's latest Bracketology.
- Iowa State, meanwhile, dismissed guard Caleb Grill due to "a failure to meet the program's expectations." Grill led the Cyclones in 3-point percentage (36.8%) and was third in points per game (9.5). It comes at a tough time: Iowa State has lost four straight and eight of 10.
It's also not such a good morning -- or at least it hasn't been a good morning recently -- for Illinois forward Matthew Mayer, who missed several days of practice due to caffeine-induced poisoning after drinking too many Monster energy drinks. Yes, you read that right.
Of course, March is a time for excitement and anticipation, and our Matt Norlander took a look at wild NCAA Tournament resumes and major turnaround stories in his latest Court Report.
Not so honorable mentions
- The NFLPA put together its first-ever team report cards, and... yikes, Commanders.
- The PGA Tour will have smaller fields and no cuts at designated events in 2024. I get it, but I don't like it.
Jalen Carter, a potential top-five pick, faces arrest warrant after being tied to fatal crash 🏈
Former Georgia star defensive lineman and expected top-five NFL Draft pick Jalen Carter was issued an arrest warrant for his role in a Jan. 15 crash that resulted in two deaths. The Athens-Clarke County Police Department's warrant alleges Carter was driving recklessly and racing -- both misdemeanors.
- Shortly after a championship celebration, Georgia offensive lineman Devin Willock and football staff member Chandler LeCroy died in a single-car crash. Another offensive lineman, Warren McClendon, and recruiting staffer Tory Bowles were injured.
- Police believed the crash was caused solely by speeding. New evidence and statements revealed at least two other cars -- including one driven by Carter -- were at the scene. Carter then misled prosecutors, saying he was a mile away from the accident before acknowledging he was alongside the car that crashed.
- According to a police department statement, LeCroy's car was going about 104 miles per hour and that both her car and Carter's "switched between lanes, drove in the center turn lane, drove in opposite lanes of travel, overtook other motorists, and drove at high rates of speed..."
- Toxicology reports revealed LeCroy was driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .197, more than double the legal limit.
Carter was at the NFL Combine to speak with teams Tuesday and undergo medical testing Wednesday. He did not attend media sessions after receiving the arrest warrant. Carter, 21, released a statement on Twitter, saying he was returning to Athens "to answer the misdemeanor charges against me and to make certain that the complete and accurate truth is presented." He added that he expects to be "fully exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing."
A unanimous All-America selection last season, Carter is third in our prospect rankings. However, our Chris Trapasso now has Carter falling to the back half of the first round in his latest mock draft. Here's what one former NFL GM says about the situation.
Ja Morant allegedly threatened mall security, punched teenager in 2022 🏀
Ja Morant was involved in two serious incidents just days apart last summer according to a report from The Washington Post. Here are the details on both situations:
- The first incident was between Morant and the head of security at a Memphis mall. After Morant's mother got in a dispute with a store employee at a Memphis mall, she called her son. A member of Morant's group pushed a security guard in the head, and, according to the police report, Morant said, "let me find out what time [the security guard] gets off." No arrests were made.
- Four days later, Morant was accused of punching a 17-year-old boy during a pickup basketball game at Morant's home.
- Morant said he was acting in self-defense after the teen threw the ball at his head. The teenager says Morant hit him "like 12 to 13 times." The teenager and his mother filed a lawsuit against Morant and Davonte Pack, who is believed to have also attacked the teenager. The boy told police Morant then went inside his house and returned with a gun in his waistband.
- Morant and his family filed a police report against the teenager weeks later, alleging that he said he would "come back and light this place up like fireworks."
This is the second time this season Morant is part of the off-court controversies. The NBA investigated an altercation between Morant's entourage and members of the Pacers' traveling party after a Jan. 29 game.
NHL Trade Deadline: Jonathan Quick era over in Los Angeles; Jakob Chychrun finally dealt 🏒
The NHL trades keep pouring in -- and keep including big names. Perhaps the biggest is Jonathan Quick, the longtime Kings goalkeeper who is heading to the Blue Jackets.
- Quick, 37, has spent all 16 of his NHL seasons with the Kings, winning the Stanley Cup twice, the William M. Jennings Trophy twice and the Conn Smythe Trophy once.
- The Kings are sending Quick, a conditional 2023 first-round pick and a 2023 third-round pick to Columbus for defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov and goalie Joonas Korpisalo.
- "In Gavrikov, the Kings beef up their blue line and add a very necessary left-handed shot on a team full of right-handed shooting defensemen," writes Austin Nivison in our trade tracker.
As for the most impactful name on the move? How about Jakob Chychrun? The star defenseman -- on the trade block for the last year -- is heading to the Senators, with a 2023 conditional first-round pick, a 2024 conditional second-round pick and a 2026 second-round pick heading back to the Coyotes.
What we're watching Thursday 📺
🏀 Michigan at Illinois, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 76ers at Mavericks, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Arizona State at No. 4 UCLA, 9 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Clippers at Warriors, 10 p.m. on TNT
🏀 No. 8 Arizona at USC, 11 p.m. on ESPN