Dan Feldman

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Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Warriors win ESPYS

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Russell Westbrook won best male athlete at The ESPYS.

Westbook was the NBA MVP, led the league in scoring and set a record for most triple-doubles in a season with 42. The Oklahoma City Thunder star won the trophy over Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.

“It’s been an unbelievable journey for me,” said Westbrook, a fashion fiend who adjusted his black shirt and green pants with wide white stripes before he spoke. “I want to make sure I look good first.”

LeBron James, a five-time winner last year, was named best NBA player. The NBA champion Golden State Warriors earned best team honors, while Warriors newcomer Kevin Durant received the championship performance trophy.

“It was an unbelievable year,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “A lot of noise and hype around it from the beginning of the year, but we tried to keep our head down and focus on the process. Hope to represent exactly what a team means.”

The 25th annual show honoring the past year’s top athletes and sports moments was hosted by Peyton Manning, who humorously mocked his reputation as a control freak and an overexposed commercial pitchman in the retired NFL quarterback’s opening monologue.

Olympic gymnast Simone Biles earned best female athlete honors Wednesday night.

Biles became the most decorated U.S. Olympic gymnast at the Rio de Janeiro Games, winning five medals, including four golds and a bronze. She beat out Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky, WNBA star Candace Parker and Serena Williams for the honor.

“Ever since Rio it has been an amazing year,” Biles said. “I want to thank you all for believing in me.”

She was one of three double winners. Biles also won best female Olympic athlete.

Phelps won record-setting performance for extending his record Olympic medal haul and as best male Olympic athlete.

Aaron Rodgers won best NFL player and shared best play with then-Green Bay Packers teammate Jared Cook. Another Packer, Jordy Nelson, earned best comeback honors.

The biggest ovation of the night belonged to former first lady Michelle Obama, who posthumously honored Eunice Kennedy Shriver with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for championing the rights and acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities through her founding of Special Olympics. Her son, Tim Shriver, accepted the trophy.

“Once a great first lady, still a great first lady,” Shriver told Obama as the crowd roared its approval.

The Patriots and Falcons shared the best-game award for the Super Bowl, won in a furious comeback by New England.

Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels won best MLB player, while Crosby won best NHL player.

The show’s most bizarre bit involved Bill Murray accepting the best moment award for the Chicago Cubs’ World Series victory that ended a 108-year championship drought.

Wearing a red party hat on top of a backward Cubs cap, Murray cracked, “One hundred eight years of waiting is hardly a moment. This is the culmination of 108 years of momentum by momentous men.”

The actor and comic plucked a bottle of champagne out of a mop bucket being pushed by retired Cubs catcher David Ross disguised as a janitor. Murray used a sword to open the bottle and took a swig. He gave presenter Nick Offerman a bottle to open with the sword, and the longtime Cubs fans toasted and drank.

Ross eventually shed his disguise and writhed on the stage mimicking moves from his “Dancing With the Stars” appearance. Ross opened his own champagne bottle with the sword and chugged as Cubs owner Tom Ricketts watched from the audience at Microsoft Theater. The trio then poured champagne on each other’s heads.

 

Actor Bryan Cranston presented the Icon Award to 89-year-old Vin Scully, who retired in October after a record 67 years broadcasting for the Dodgers.

“Hi everybody and a very pleasant good evening to you,” Scully said, drawing cheers at his signature greeting. “I hope you don’t mind, but I wanted to hear it one more time.”

Comedian Jon Stewart gave the Pat Tillman Award for Service to Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro for his strength through adversity and continued service to his country.

The Jimmy V Award for Perseverance was given to 15-year-old New Orleans Saints superfan Jarrius “JJ” Robertson, who is fighting a rare and chronic liver disease.

Report: Hawks signing Ersan Ilyasova to one-year, $6 million contract

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The Hawks are rebuilding – or at least should be.

They let their best player walk (Paul Millsap to the Nuggets) and traded their second-best player from last season (Dwight Howard to the Hornets). Arguably their third- and fourth-best players also left in free agency (Tim Hardaway Jr to the Knicks, Thabo Sefolosha to the Jazz).

Sure, rebuilding around Dennis Schroder, Taurean Prince, John Collins and DeAndre’ Bembry is uninspiring. But trying to win immediately with this roster is downright terrifying.

Yet, that continues to be Atlanta’s apparent direction under new general manager Travis Schlenk.

After signing Dewayne Dedmon (who turns 28 next month) to a 1+1 contract, the Hawks are adding Ilyasova (listed at 30) on a one-year deal.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

As a player on a one-year contract who’d have Early Bird rights next summer, Ilyasova will have the right to veto trades this season. Maybe he’d approve a trade to a better team, but he has a solid shot to start in Atlanta – an opportunity is unlikely to exist on a playoff team.

There’s a good chance Ilyasova’s value to the Hawks is tied completely to what he provides on the court this season.

And he’ll help. Ilyasova is a good 3-point shooter who takes enough charges to hold his own defensively. He has high basketball intelligence.

He’s just not good enough to lift Atlanta into relevancy. None of the other Hawks are, either. Maybe they’ll collectively exceed the sum of their parts, but this feels like a team – that if it gets all the breaks – tops out at just OK.

Now, the Hawks are also less likely to bottom out and draft a difference-maker or even just find a long-term contributor from this roster spot.

Indiana Pacers sign second-round draft pick Ike Anigbogu

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Pacers have signed second-round draft pick Ike Anigbogu, a center from UCLA who comes with injury baggage.

The Pacers announced the signing Wednesday. Terms weren’t disclosed.

Anigbogu, who is 6-foot-10, was the 47th overall pick in the draft. He played one season at UCLA and averaged 4.7 points, 4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks.

 

Report: Jazz signing Jonas Jerebko to two-year, $8.2 million contract

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The Jazz have avenged the Celtics poaching Gordon Hayward.

Utah is signing Jonas Jerebko, who spent the last few years in Boston.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

When the Jazz agreed to terms with Thabo Sefolosha earlier today, it was unclear whether they’d sign him with the mid-level exception or clear cap room for him. This suggests they’ll waive Boris Diaw, whose $7.5 million salary is fully unguaranteed and becomes fully guaranteed Saturday,* to create cap space. Jerebko wouldn’t fit into the remainder of the mid-level exception or bi-annual exception.

*Utah could also clear space by trading someone, including Diaw. Waiving him is the simplest, and therefor most likely, outcome.

Jerebko would fit into the room exception, allowing the Jazz to use the rest of their cap space before finalizing his deal. If they also delay making Joe Inglescontract official – his cap hold is low, and they have his Bird Rights – they’d have a little less than $3 million available.

I’m not sure how far that money would go for Utah, which was already pretty deep even before adding Jerebko.

The 30-year-old Jerebko has seemed to figure out that his place in the league is as a hustle player who makes 3-pointers, not as the scorer he flirted with trying to become. As long as he maintains that mindset, he should be helpful as a combo forward.

Derrick Favors is better than Jerebko, but considering the tough fit with Rudy Gobert, Jerebko might even start at power forward. Though injuries factored, Diaw held down that role late last season for similar reason. Jerebko isn’t nearly the distributor Diaw is, but Utah has less use for frontcourt playmaking with Ricky Rubio. Jerebko’s floor-spacing could be sufficient, even if Joe Johnson takes over to close games.

Boston had to renounce Jerebko to clear room for Hayward. Though Jerebko had some nice moments there, I’m sure the Celtics are just fine with the de facto swap.

Report: NBA trying to implement rest days before nationally televised games

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver practically confirmed the 2016-17 season would start Oct. 17 – the earliest start date (by eight days) in 37 years. That will allow the league to spread 82 games per team over a longer period, offering more rest days.

Some of those off days will be reserved for the day prior to nationally televised games.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

This is a good idea, but hardly foolproof.

Travel and arena conflicts will arise. The league should also try to ensure nationally televised games are followed by rest days, because teams don’t always pick the second game over the first game of a back-to-back for resting. Games will get flexed onto national television later in the season, and those won’t necessarily include teams with ideal surrounding schedules.

The rest issue isn’t going away, but this is a small step the NBA can take on the margins to improve the product when it matters most – when the most people are watching.