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HBO premiers ‘Westworld’ with guns blazing

10.03.16 at 12:46 pm ET
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Westworld (HBO)

James Marsden and Evan Rachel Wood star in “Westworld.” (HBO)

My favorite video game of all time is “Red Dead Redemption,” a 2010 PS3 game overlaid “open world” gameplay onto a cowboy movie. When it came time to upgrade to a PS4, I held off for six months longer than I should have largely in part because PS4 can’t play PS3 games and I wasn’t ready to hang up my digital spurs yet.

As “Red Dead Redemption” was an open world concept, you could go anywhere and do anything. It featured hundreds of extra missions you could play based on the characters you interacted with. You couldn’t help but wonder what happened to the storylines you didn’t engage in or the missions you chose to skip. “Westworld” answered that question in its premiere and the answer is when “newcomers” (real people) don’t engage the “hosts” (robots/AI/characters at the theme park), they get woke.

Based on the 1970s movie written and directed by “Jurassic Park” author Michael Crichton, “Westworld” arrives on HBO just as the endgame has been announced for “Game of Thrones.” Whether “Westworld” is the successor to Westeros remains to be seen. If not, it won’t be for lack of trying. This world is HUGE. The possibilities extend as far as the eye can see, or at least as far as the meticulously crafted landscape have been designed to go.

Despite being a high-concept sci-fi show, “Westworld” opens — not surprisingly — like a western. The first 15 minutes of the show looks like an homage to John Ford’s technicolor classic “The Searchers” right down to the do-gooder audience proxy, Teddy (James Marsden) and wide-eyed, optimistic, dusty rose of the old West, Delores (Evan Rachel Wood). It’s obvious we’re watching a fantasy be played out in front of us in all of its classic Western trope gloriousness, but it isn’t until the end of the first act that we’re sure whose fantasy it is. What is set up to be a completely immersive experience for some guests is a chance for others to explore the darkest fantasies they can dream up. Regardless of which camp is occupying “Westworld,” our “hosts” deal with the consequences. It’s a real TV funhouse mirror type of realization once we meet the other half of the cast, lead by Jeffrey Wright and Anthony Hopkins, as we watch them reset all of their walking, talking set pieces for another day of making the dreams of “newcomers” come true.

“Westworld” feels more realized and cinematic than its HBO contemporaries, and maybe that’s because there is just so much history and recognizable stereotypes to pull from given the genres on display. The performances — specifically by Marsden and Wood — are so good, but given that we know we’re watching a play-within-a-play, they seem almost over the top. This is no mistake, either; it’s a genre-bending gift. It’s a very clear signal for the audience to look for glitches in the matrix and to start to wonder just how deep in trouble the creators and patrons of this park will be when the programs they have designed start to do their job too well.

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Thinking Out Loud: Red Sox’ AL East title celebration an embarrassment

09.30.16 at 5:44 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering how Arnold Palmer actually came up with the idea for an Arnold Palmer.

— I am not one for wild celebrations when it comes to winning championships. Always have preferred the “Been there, done that” philosophy of carrying yourself like a champion should — with grace, maturity and some modicum of sportsmanship. And I’ve never been more convinced of this after watching the Red Sox flop their way into one of the most awkward, ill-placed, ill-timed victory celebrations I’ve ever seen.

— Do the Sox deserve to celebrate winning the AL East? Of course they do. After two last-place finishes in a row since their last one, I’d ask: What took you so long?

— But does that give you the right to appear as if you’ve been unleashed from the La Brea Tar Pits, replete with foul language bombs going off every 10 seconds during an amateurish, ungraceful and coerced locker room celebration after getting walked-off by the New York Yankees on Wednesday night?

— “Hey, at least they won. Better than the alternative,” says the overwhelming majority of Red Sox Nation. Fine, I certainly can accept that. But personally, it’s embarrassing. Having had the chance to be in a few locker rooms where champagne with beer chasers were wild and plentiful, none of those moments compared to the unbridled, ill-mannered exhibition witnessed Wednesday night by a regional/national audience.

— NESN is just as bad as the players, in terms of the lack of class and decorum the network happily allowed to be displayed. I’m all for celebrating titles, but try to stay classy Boston, will ya? You just had your butts beaten, by your arch rivals. Families with kids watch this, you know. No need to resort to Cro-Magnon-like behavior. We’ve advanced as a species — I think — over the past few centuries, haven’t we?

— Maybe I should lighten up. It’s all in fun. But maybe we all should continue to subscribe to the “dumbing down of America” we’re witnessing every day during this election period, too? Does anyone care about raising our collective level of intelligence and decorum around here?

— Not for nuthin’, but it’s as if our brains and our common sense have begun a slow, spiraling descent into various forms of lawlessness and disorder, all melting into a giant cesspool of greed, avarice and feeble simplemindedness. Pardon me, pass the pabulum.

— And speaking to that, the pitching meltdown displayed by alleged closer Craig Kimbrel and fellow reliever Joe Kelly on Wednesday night was a perfect example of precisely why I don’t believe this team has the legs to win it all. Or the arms, either.

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Friday’s Morning Mashup: Kevin Garnett considers offer to be assistant coach with Cavaliers

09.30.16 at 8:03 am ET
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Welcome to Friday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Blue Jays at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. (NESN, ESPN2; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Dodgers at Giants, 10 p.m. (MLB)
College football: Penn at Dartmouth, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
College football: Stanford at Washington, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
College football: Toledo at BYU, 10:15 p.m. (ESPN2)
WNBA playoffs: Mercury at Lynx, 8 p.m. (ESPNews)
WNBA playoffs: Sky at Sparks, 10 p.m. (ESPNews)
Soccer: Bundesliga, Augsburg at RB Leipzig, 2:20 p.m. (FS2)


Editor’s note: This will be the final Morning Mashup. Thanks for spending your mornings here with us the past seven years. We hope you continue to check out’s other offerings.

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett

— Kevin Garnett might be done as a player, but you might still see him around the NBA this season. Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said the recently retired Timberwolves legend is considering his offer to join the Cleveland coaching staff.

“I talked to him about it. I know his wife is pushing for it a lot,” Lue told reporters after Thursday’s practice. “Brandi is pushing for it, trying to get him to come and coach. He says he’s not ready yet. He goes back, ‘I might do it,’ but he’s back and forth. We’ll see. But I’d definitely make a spot for him if he wanted to come back and coach.”

Lue was an assistant for the Celtics under Doc Rivers during Garnett’s last four seasons in Boston, and he said KG is inspiring to other players.

“Everything he’s done, he’s been a trendsetter,” Lue said. “Just seeing him leave the game and the way he played every night on a night-to-night basis, every practice from me being with him in Boston, just how he approached the game every single day. He was just like LeBron [James]. One of the easiest guys to coach as far as being a superstar, as far as telling him what to do, they would do it. If they didn’t like what you were doing, they’d pull you out to the side and tell you. They’d never call you out in front of everybody.

“Just having respect for everybody from the janitor to the owner. Him, Kobe [Bryant] and [Tim] Duncan [retiring] at the same time is bad for the game. But we all get old. It’s all part of the game.”

— Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, who appeared to be on track to make his return to the NFL against the Patriots in Week 5 after serving a year-long suspension in 2015 and another ban for the first quarter of this season, instead will enter a rehabilitation facility as he tries to get his issues under control.

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Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Theo Epstein agrees to 5-year extension to remain Cubs president

09.29.16 at 8:01 am ET
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Welcome to Thursday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Red Sox at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Indians at Tigers, 1:10 p.m. (ESPN)
MLB: Reds at Cardinals, 7 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Rockies at Giants, 11 p.m. (MLB Network)
NFL: Dolphins at Bengals, 8:25 p.m. (NFL Network)
College football: Hampton at North Carolina A&T, 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
College football: UConn at Houston, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
College football: Kansas at Texas Tech, 8:30 p.m. (FS1)
Hockey: World Cup of Hockey, Canada vs. Europe, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Soccer: Europa League, FSV Mainz at Gabala, 11 a.m. (FS2)
Soccer: Europa League, Internazionale Milano at Sparta Praha, 1 p.m. (FS1)
Soccer: Europa League, Red Bull Salzburg at Schalke 04, 1 p.m. (FS2)
Soccer: Europa League, Astra Giurgiu at AS Roma, 3 p.m. (FS2)
Soccer: Europa League, Zorya Luhansk at Manchester United, 3 p.m. (FS1)


— Theo Epstein apparently is finding it a lot easier to work for management in Chicago.

The Cubs announced Wednesday that the former Red Sox general manager agreed to a five-year extension to continue as president of baseball operations of the long-suffering franchise. Epstein, who was GM when the Red Sox ended their 86-year championship drought in 2004, has turned the Cubs into 100-game winners for the first time since 1935 as they pursue their first World Series title since 1908.

“In the five years under Theo’s leadership, he has brought in a strong executive team and acquired and developed some of the best players in the game,” Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said. “Now, the results are on the field.”

General manager Jed Hoyer and senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod — also former Red Sox employees — will receive extensions as well, Ricketts said.

Rickets explained that he and Epstein first discussed an extension over dinners in early March, although the deal was not finalized until this week.

“We sat down at spring training, had a nice dinner, talked about getting an extension done,” Ricketts said. “Basically, I told him I thought he was the best in the game at what he did. He told me no matter what I paid him he wasn’t going to leave Chicago, so we were off to a good start. We checked back in on it a couple times during the summer. There was no real time pressure.”

— Marlins players walked alongside as a hearse carried the body of Jose Fernandez, the pitcher who died over the weekend in a boating accident in Miami.

During the Wednesday procession, the players and coaches wore T-shirts featuring Fernandez’s image and the letters “RIP.” Crowds along the route chanted “Jose! Jose!” while some waved Cuban flags in honor of the 24-year-old Cuban-American.

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Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Jose Fernandez’s teammates discouraged him from taking boat ride

09.28.16 at 8:09 am ET
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Red Sox at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. (NESN, ESPN2; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Mariners at Astros, 8 p.m. (MLB Network)
Hockey: World Cup of Hockey, Canada vs. Europe, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Soccer: Champions League, Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Monaco, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Soccer: Champions League, Real Madrid at Borussia Dortmund, 2:30 p.m. (FS1)
Soccer: Champions League, Tottenham at CSKA Moscow, 2:30 p.m. (FS2)


— More details are emerging about Jose Fernandez’s fatal boat trip in Miami over the weekend, and apparently some of his teammates warned the pitcher not to go.

Center fielder Marcell Ozuna said he and a couple of teammates were invited to join Fernandez but declined the offer, and they tried to discourage the 24-year-old from going on the midnight ride.

“It was a bad decision for him,” Ozuna told reporters. “He heard everybody say, ‘No, go back to your house and take it easy.’ Then you wake up and see the news.”

Also killed in the accident were 27-year-old Emilio Jesus Macias and 25-year-old Eduardo Rivero. A friend of Rivero’s posted on social media texts he exchanged just before the boat left the dock.

Will Bernal texted his friend to be careful and “keep Jose cool.” Rivero texted: Trust me, it’s not my time yet.

The Marlins announced that a funeral procession will start at 2:16 p.m. Wednesday at their ballpark, followed by a public viewing at a Miami church.

— Meanwhile, in St. Louis on Tuesday night, Cardinals Aledmys Diaz, Fernandez’s childhood friend, returned from spending time with Fernandez’s family and hit his first career grand slam.

Diaz had attended a private ceremony for Fernandez on Monday in Florida, where he made a promise to Fernandez’s family.

“I told them that every single time I put on the uniform, I would be thinking of him,” Diaz said. “And that I would give 100 percent because that’s how he played the game.”

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Tuesday’s Morning Mashup: Emotional Marlins pay tribute to Jose Fernandez in win over Mets

09.27.16 at 8:13 am ET
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Welcome to Tuesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Red Sox at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Mariners at Astros, 8 p.m. (MLB Network)
Hockey: World Cup of Hockey, Canada vs. Europe, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Soccer: Champions League, Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Monaco, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Soccer: Champions League, Real Madrid at Borussia Dortmund, 2:30 p.m. (FS1)
Soccer: Champions League, Tottenham at CSKA Moscow, 2:30 p.m. (FS2)


— The Marlins held a pregame ceremony Monday night to honor Jose Fernandez, the 24-year-old pitcher who died in a boating accident early Sunday morning. The players all wore jerseys with the number 16 and “Fernandez” written on the back as they played the Mets on a night when Fernandez had been schedule to pitch.

Things really got emotional when Marlins leadoff batter Dee Gordon took his first pitch batting from the right side while wearing Fernandez’s helmet, as a tribute to his late friend. He then switched helmets and switched to the left batter’s box — and proceeded to hit his first home run of the season. Gordon started crying as he rounded the bases. He tapped his chest and looked skyward after crossing home plate, and he was greeted in the dugout by his equally emotional teammates.

Gordon, who called it the most difficult game he’s every played, said he didn’t even remember circling the bases.

“It seemed like it took forever,” he said. “I was trying to get back to my teammates as fast as possible. I was just wondering why Jose wasn’t there standing on the top step cheering for me.”

Teammate Giancarlo Stanton said he had trouble seeing the ball during his plate appearances.

“We were hitting balls underwater pretty much,” Stanton said after Miami’s 7-3 victory. “Our eyes were full of water.”

Stanton gave a speech to his teammates just before the start of the game, but he said he can’t remember the content.

“Honestly I went kind of numb in that moment,” Stanton said. “I don’t know if I was stuttering. I don’t even know if I was saying the right stuff. A lot of us were talking about ‘Why are we here right now? What’s the main purpose of this? How do we get through this together?’ I was trying to ease all that, telling them we’re all here for Jose. We’re the last hope and the last heart for him, and we need to come together, as hard as it’s going to be.”

Mets players joined the Marlins for hugs after the national anthem, which was preceded by a slow version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” played by trumpet.

“Hearts are heavy,” Mets outfielder Jay Bruce said. “From a professional standpoint, you just try to prepare and play the game and respect the game. But I can’t even imagine what it’s like over in that other clubhouse.”

— Former Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy remains a free agent, and Monday’s arrest for possession of cocaine won’t help his bid to return to the NFL.

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Monday’s Morning Mashup: Tributes pour in following death of golf legend Arnold Palmer

09.26.16 at 8:10 am ET
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Welcome to Monday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

NFL: Falcons at Saints, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
MLB: Yankees at Blue Jays, 7 p.m. (MLB Network)
Soccer: Premier League, Watford at Burnley, 2:55 p.m. (NBCSN)


— The sports world, already mourning the tragic death of Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez on Sunday morning, took another blow when it was announced that golf legend Arnold Palmer passed away Sunday afternoon at the age of 87.

Arnold Palmer Enterprises CEO Alastair Johnston said Palmer was admitted to a Pittsburgh hospital on Thursday for some cardiovascular work and died Sunday afternoon of complications from heart problems.

A 62-time PGA Tour winner, including seven majors, “The King” continued to rank among the highest earners in golf until his death due to his endorsement deals.

“It is not an exaggeration to say there would be no modern-day PGA Tour without Arnold Palmer. There would be no PGA Tour Champions without Arnold Palmer. There would be no Golf Channel without Arnold Palmer,” PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement.

“No one has had a greater impact on those who play our great sport or who are touched by it. It has been said many times over in so many ways, but beyond his immense talent, Arnold transcended our sport with an extraordinarily appealing personality and genuineness that connected with millions, truly making him a champion of the people.”

President Barack Obama paid tribute Sunday, tweeting: Here’s to The King who was as extraordinary on the links as he was generous to others. Thanks for the memories, Arnold.

— When the Jets and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick finally ended their contract dispute just before training camp, there was hope in New York that the Harvard product could repeat his performance of last season and make the Jets playoff contenders.

That does not appear to be the case.

Fitzpatrick had an especially rough day Sunday, throwing a career-high six interceptions and posting a passer rating of 18.2 as part of a miserable overall performance by the team in a 24-3 loss to the Chiefs.

“Went out there and didn’t play well today, obviously that’s an understatement,” Fitzpatrick told reporters afterward.

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Thinking Out Loud: Bill Belichick offers further proof of his supremacy

09.23.16 at 5:44 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Mikey, and does he still like it?

— Lou Merloni tweeted this week: Would the Sox get more attention if Brady weren’t suspended? Maybe, but hey, Lou? Would the Sox get more attention if they weren’t up against the Patriots playing?

— Or if most MLB games didn’t last more than three hours? Or if the season were shorter? Or if players stayed in the batter’s box? Or if pitchers stopped scratching and adjusting themselves before pitches? Or if the sport actually allowed home plate or basepath collisions to happen again? Just sayin’.

— We now resume our regularly scheduled football discussion. Find me on Twitter under the hashtags #killeverybodytour and #scorchedearthtour.

— What did we witness Thursday night? Two things, the way I see it. One, if there was ever any doubt that Bill Belichick is one of the best to have ever plied his trade (I’m looking at you, Steve in Fall River), it has been snuffed out. Or, you’re just ignorant (again, straight at ya, Steve).

— Two, Houston, you still have a problem. Turtling in big games won’t earn you any more respect than those letter jackets you wore a couple of years ago.

— I love Thursday night games. And I hate them, too. I’ll wager if you polled NFL players on “love or hate,” hate would conquer overall. Part of that is, of course, the short recovery time they get after a Sunday beatdown.

— Chris Gasper of The Boston Globe wrote an excellent piece this week on the double standard the league has with instituting new injury prevention rules and making $$$ on Thursday nights. All you need to know is if the league really cared about its on-field employees’ health and well-being, they’d do away with TNF. Spot-on stuff.

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Friday’s Morning Mashup: Vikings-Panthers game still on despite violent protests in North Carolina

09.23.16 at 8:16 am ET
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Welcome to Friday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Red Sox at Rays, 7:10 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Cardinals at Cubs, 2:20 p.m. (ESPN)
MLB: Yankees at Blue Jays 7:07 p.m. (ESPN2)
MLB: Giants at Padres, 10:30 p.m. (MLB)
College football: Wyoming at Eastern Michigan, 7:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
College football: TCU at SMU, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
College football: USC at Utah, 9 p.m. (FS1)
Soccer: Bundesliga, SC Freiburg at Borussia Dortmund, 2:20 p.m. (FS1)


— Sunday’s game in Charlotte, North Carolina, between the Panthers and Vikings remains on as scheduled, despite a state of emergency in the city due to protests over a police shooting earlier in the week.

Panthers president Danny Morrison said in a statement that the team has been in contact with local authorities and the league, noting: “We are continuing to monitor events as we prepare for Sunday’s home game.”

Players interviewed Thursday showed support for playing the contest despite the violence that has gripped the city.

“If you take this game away I think it is going to just continue to add to the stress and add to what is already going on in a negative way,” Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said.

However, there was concern among players.

“My wife usually takes the kids uptown and they tailgate with family and friends, but we said maybe this week we should just come to the game, park in our lot and go up to your seats and get settled in,” Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said. “Is it worth moseying around in a town that is in such a heightened state of chaos?”

Panthers safety Tre Boston said he is considering joining Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest, but he plans to do more research before coming to a decision.

“You have to find a way you are not disrespecting people and that everybody understands where we are coming from, but at the same time you want to get your message across,” Boston said. “And sometimes it can feel disrespectful when you send your message across and somebody doesn’t believe in it. We’ll see.”

— Mariners catcher Steve Clevenger apologized Thursday after sending out tweets critical of protesters in Charlotte and President Barack Obama, including one that read, “Everyone involved should be locked behind bars like animals.”

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Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Timberwolves reportedly working on buyout of Kevin Garnett

09.22.16 at 8:17 am ET
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Welcome to Thursday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

NFL: Texans at Patriots, 8:25 p.m. (CBS, NFL Network)
MLB: Red Sox at Orioles, 7:05 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Yankees at Rays, 7 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Giants at Padres, 11 p.m. (MLB Network)
College football: Clemson at Georgia Tech, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Hockey: World Cup of Hockey, United States vs. Czech Republic, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Hockey: World Cup of Hockey, Finland vs. Russia, 3 p.m. (ESPN)


Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett

— Kevin Garnett’s second stint with Minnesota appears headed for an end, as reports emerged Wednesday that the Timberwolves are working on a buyout of the former Celtic’s contract if he does not retire.

With training camp set to open Tuesday, the 40-year-old Garnett reportedly has yet to inform the team if he plans to return for a record 22nd NBA season — 13 1/2 of which he has spent with Minnesota. He is under contract for $8 million this season.

Garnett, who was sent from the Nets to the T-Wolves late in the 2014-15 season, was limited to 38 games last season due to knee and leg issues. Although he only averaged 3.2 points and 3.9 rebounds, he still provided solid defense and has been lauded for his leadership role on the young team.

Garnett has expressed an interested in eventually becoming an owner of the team. He apparently was going to partner with former coach Flip Saunders, but Saunders died a year ago after a battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Tom Thibodeau, who was an assistant coach for the Celtics when Garnett led the team to the 2007 NBA title, is about to begin his first season as T-Wolves coach.

— Colin Kaepernick might be the most disliked player in the NFL (at least according to a poll of 1,100 people conducted by E-Poll Marketing Research), but his protest continues to grow.

During the national anthem before Wednesday night’s WNBA playoff game in Indianapolis, the entire Indiana Fever team kneeled and locked arms. Two members of the visiting Phoenix Mercury also kneeled.

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