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W.N.B.A. Will Hold ‘Virtual’ Draft in April

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“Draft preparation has not changed too drastically, as video has always been an extensive part of the evaluation process,” said Cheryl Reeve, the head coach and general manager of the Minnesota Lynx.

Reeve, whose team has the sixth overall pick, said the cancellation of the N.C.A.A. basketball tournament did affect how teams could prepare for the draft.

“What we miss is watching the next class of W.N.B.A. talent rising up, making big plays to help her team win on a big stage,” Reeve said. “But most of the evaluation work had already been completed prior to the N.C.A.A. tournament.”

As for underclassmen who wish to declare early for the draft — eligible if they turn 22 any time in 2020 or if they are four years past their high school graduation date — the deadline remains April 7. The league’s dates for training camp to begin, April 26, and the regular season’s tip in mid-May, however, seem unrealistic, given widespread orders to stay home and limit contact with other people. Whether the league can play at all this year will be decided in large part by outside forces, like government and health officials who have urged against large gatherings.

The N.B.A., whose team owners partially own the W.N.B.A., postponed its season on March 11 after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus. Engelbert was meeting with her team in the W.N.B.A. offices that night when she heard about the shutdown. But seeing how the virus was advancing, she had already begun planning for such an eventuality.

The next morning, she checked in with Terri Jackson, head of the W.N.B.A.’s players’ union, and started generating plans for a season delayed by 30 days, 60 days or 90 days. A day later was supposed to be a work-from-home test for league officials. Instead, it became the first day of a new reality, with everybody working from home.

Should men’s and women’s pro seasons eventually start and overlap dates, Engelbert noted that there are just a few W.N.B.A. teams that play in N.B.A. arenas, making the N.B.A.’s plans less of a stumbling block than they would have been in the early days of the league, when more teams shared space. Only the Sparks (Staples Center in Los Angeles), the Lynx (Target Center in Minneapolis) and the Liberty (Barclays Center in Brooklyn) were scheduled to play in N.B.A. arenas in 2020.



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Bears Make Signings of Robert Quinn, Germain Ifedi Official – NBC Chicago

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The Chicago Bears have continued to confirm the signings
they made early in NFL free agency, as the team announced contracts with
offensive lineman Germain Ifedi and linebacker Robert Quinn.

Both signings, previously reported when the new NFL league
year began in mid-March, were both made official on Wednesday.

Quinn, a two-time Pro Bowler who most recently played for
the Dallas Cowboys, agreed to a five-year contract with the Bears. Ifedi, let
go by the Seattle Seahawks after the conclusion of the 2019 season, signed a
one-year deal with the Bears.

Quinn is joining a dynamic Bears front seven that is one of
the best in the NFL. Last season, Quinn started 14 games for the Cowboys,
racking up 11.5 sacks in those contests for Dallas. He also had 22 quarterback
hurries and 13 tackles-for-loss, and according to the Bears it was his fourth
career season with double-digit sacks.

Ifedi, a first-round pick of the Seahawks in 2016, will hope
to bolster an offensive line that struggled at times during the 2019 season. He
primarily played right tackle for the Seahawks last season, and will be one of
the Bears’ main candidates to replace Kyle Long, who retired from football
after the 2019 campaign.





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Podcast: Jim Jackson, Marc Zumoff, Tom McCarthy talk careers in sports, and more

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Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Taryn Hatcher and Jordan Hall.

The topic: Predicting who wins the Flyers’ 2019-20 Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy as most improved player.

Destra

When it comes to most improved from last season, Travis Konecny is the first that comes to mind. He didn’t have a poor 2018-19 season by any means but when looking back and the leaps and bounds he has made since then, it just makes sense to award him the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy. 

Before the season started, I noted that Konecny was the most important puzzle piece for a successful year and he has continued to prove that with every game played. 

Konecny bettered his two-way game, cleaned up his puck work in the neutral zone and can be on a line with just about anyone and still find a way to drive play. He’s grown every aspect of his game and now leads the team in points, as well. 

Not to mention, he’s also a pest to play against, a ton of fun to watch, made his first All-Star appearance back in January … and he’s only 23 years old. 

Emmer

Konecny is the most improved player.

Fans were expecting a breakout season from Konecny and he’s having it. With 61 points through 66 games, he’s already 12 points past his previous career high of 49 points in 82 games last year. 

Konecny’s average ice time has gone up by almost two minutes more than last season and he has continued to dominate in his 5-on-5 play, while his presence on the Flyers’ power-play units has grown as he leads the team in man advantage assists with 18.

The Flyers’ 2015 first-rounder obviously had talent from the start, but this season he really blossomed on the score sheet and grew that confidence Flyers fans had certainly seen hints of before, but now see it on another level. 

His confidence could have spiked for many reasons: his offensive success, his coaching staff and new linemates and maybe even that six-year, $33 million contract he inked at the start of the season.

Whatever it was, that confidence is hopefully here to stay. Konecny certainly improved the most this season and I think Flyers fans have plenty to look forward to out of this 23-year-old for the next five-plus years.  

Hatcher

The Flyers have quite a few players who have taken the next step in their game this season, but Scott Laughton deserves this one in my opinion.

Statistically speaking, Laughton played 82 games last season, netting 12 goals and tallying 20 assists. After battling through two injuries this year (finger, groin), he’s still managed to pass that goal total with 13 in just 49 games so far in 2019-20. Laughton has also jumped from a minus-11 rating last year to a plus-13. He’s a key piece of the Flyers’ significantly improved penalty kill.  

Not to mention, when Alain Vigneault has needed to shake up lines, Laughton has been able to find success as a top-six player. But, when called upon to contribute in the bottom six, he’s assumed the role without issue. Laughton still finds ways to distribute the puck well and produce with a different cast of players.  

Hall

With Konecny making such an important jump for the Flyers, he’ll rightfully be the favorite for this award and should even be in consideration for the Bobby Clarke Trophy.

However, Oskar Lindblom won’t be counted out for most improved. Don’t be surprised if some teammates cast their votes for the 23-year-old forward — and those votes would be deserved.

Before being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma during mid-December, Lindblom was thriving in his biggest role yet, scoring 11 goals and 18 points through 30 games. He was projected to finish with 30 goals after a promising rookie season in which he recorded 17 while playing fewer minutes.

Lindblom, who continues to undergo treatment, quickly won over Vigneault with his smarts and skill. His improvements were significant and evident.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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‘It’s Just So Devastating’: Olympic Delay Is Especially Hard for Gymnasts

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“I was never doing it for them anyway,” she said. “I’m just playing it by ear. I have to listen to my mind and body and go into the gym and see how I feel.”

Skinner is also listening to her body, and the two gymnasts have commiserated about their aging bodies in the past — including just last week when they texted each other and said they both dreaded a possible postponement because, to paraphrase, they are old and their bodies hurt.

To compete at the Olympics, Skinner would need to weather another year of wear and tear, with achy knees and stinging elbows. And taking another year off from the University of Utah might mean that Skinner’s N.C.A.A. eligibility for her final year of college gymnastics would expire. She has been looking forward to her senior year, which would not be nearly as intense as her Olympic training and, frankly, much easier on her body and more fun.

Holding on for Tokyo next summer also would mean putting off her real life, yet again. She married Jonas Harmer in November and they recently were looking for a starter home in Utah.

These days, nothing is unfolding the way Skinner had expected. Her best friend’s bridal shower didn’t happen last week because of concerns over the coronavirus — the partygoers instead pulled up in their cars, handed their gifts over, waved and left. The bachelorette party that Skinner, a bridesmaid, had planned didn’t happen, either. Skinner was upset that she couldn’t even attend a casual gathering for the bride, fearing that she had been exposed to the virus through her parents or, possibly, relatives who recently had taken a cruise.

She has leaned on her husband and other relatives to vent her stress and anger over the situation. Her mental trainer, Clay Frost, has also helped her refocus when her mind starts spinning.

She says a few key phrases, like “be the best you can be,” and punches her hand to snap her back. Or, to put things in perspective, she makes lists of the things she can and can’t control.



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