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Monday’s Morning Mashup: LeBron James reportedly headed for free agency

06.29.15 at 7:05 am ET
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Welcome to Monday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MONDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Red Sox at Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Rangers at Orioles, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Tennis: Wimbledon, 7 a.m. (Tennis Channel)

AROUND THE WEB:

LeBron James reportedly is headed for free agency again, but it appears to be nothing more than a formality for him to milk more money out of the Cavaliers.

According to an Associated Press report, James will decline the $21.6 million option on his contract and instead sign a new max deal that will give him a small raise.

Nonetheless, it has to be a little unsettling for Cleveland fans, as Kevin Love also is headed for free agency, and Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert are unsigned. And when James was a free agent in 2010, he left Cleveland for Miami.

Cavs general manager David Griffin said last week that James has made it clear he plans to be a part of the team going forward.

“We’ve heard from him every day pretty much relative to our roster,” Griffin said. “It’s been great. He’s been very much engaged with us on a lot of different levels, so it’s been positive.”

— Mets pitcher Steven Matz had a major league debut to remember Sunday, but it was more for his work at the plate than on the mound.

Matz became the first pitcher in MLB history to drive in four runs in his first game, going 3-for-3 in New York’s 7-2 victory.

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Women’s World Cup: U.S. edges China to advance to semis

06.26.15 at 9:37 pm ET
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Carli Lloyd scored on a header early in the second half to give the United States a 1-0 victory over China in the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup on Friday night in Ottawa.

The U.S. squad, ranked second in the world, advances to play top-ranked Germany in the semifinals Tuesday night. Earlier Friday in Montreal, the Germans ousted France on penalty kicks (5-4) after a 1-1 tie.

The Americans, who had been sluggish offensively to this point in the tournament, were more aggressive and it paid off. They outshot China 11-4 in the first half, although the teams entered the break scoreless.

In the 51st minutes, Julie Johnston served up a ball into the box that Lloyd headed into the lower right corner, passed the diving Wang Fei.

The United States, which has not won the World Cup since 1999, advances to the semifinals for the seventh time — every Women’s World Cup.

Read More: Carli Lloyd, Women's World Cup,

Thinking Out Loud: Tom Brady, Roger Goodell must come to compromise

06.26.15 at 8:04 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Vincent Council?

— We wait. And wait. And wait some more. It may be another month — or more — before we find out the results of Tom Brady‘s suspension appeal with the NFL. How can you possibly expect a league mired in its own mayhem to produce anything of a timely nature? You can’t. But you certainly can expect a decision sometime after the Fourth of July, at the very least, with briefs from both sides due by end of next week.

— Here’s a plausible scenario, just for kicks. The American Educational Institute report blew huge holes into the science behind the Wells Report. The Wells Report, more and more, appears to be an investigation into what the league “wanted” to find, not actually what was found. Maybe there was conspiracy, maybe not. Whatever the case, Roger Goodell is backed into a corner — he must reduce and/or eliminate TB12’s suspension based on actual findings and actual science, or he risks federal court proceedings. And if he does reduce and/or eliminate, there’s little bite left in the bark from the commissioner’s office.

— There has to be a compromise. Either one game, or no games and a fine for Brady’s initial refusal to completely cooperate with a sham investigation conducted by Ted Wells. Followed by the pronouncement from the commissioner that Brady did nothing wrong, to assist in clearing his name and reputation. It’s the only way in which both sides can claim a victory. It could have been done months ago. And trust me, right now both sides want to “win” this — badly.

— Uh, Brad? You meant “twit” when you referred to Ian Poulter‘s complaints about the greens during last week’s U.S. Open, right? Faxon’s comments this week on WEEI were apparently aimed at Poulter not only because of his griping about the putting surfaces, but also because Poulter has apparently used the bad word himself. In this case, the word used was not meant as a derogatory comment toward a part of the female anatomy, but used to describe someone who is obnoxious. Clears that up.

— He could be playing, but Fax is back on Fox Sports this week for the U.S. Senior Open in Sacramento, where his Newport, Rhode Island, buddy P.H. Horgan found himself in early contention. He is contracted for eight events, including the USGA’s majors — the Open, the Women’s Open, the Senior Open and the Amateur. Rogue comments aside, reviews on Faxon as a golf commentator have been pretty solid.

— You can say he was lucky. You can say Dustin Johnson choked away a major with a three-putt to lose the U.S. Open. But you also have to say Jordan Spieth is just what the sport of golf needs right now — a young, good-looking, nice guy, a potential glamor boy for a sport that has been haunted for too long by the specter of Tiger Woods‘ bad-boy misdeeds.

— Watching Tiger play is akin to rubbernecking on the highway. Sure, we want to see the accident. But let’s move on, people. Nothing more to see here.

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Read More: Brad Faxon, Deflategate, Roger Goodell, Tom Brady

First openly gay baseball player starts minor league game

06.26.15 at 11:17 am ET
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For the first time in professional baseball history, an openly gay player started a game. Sean Conroy, 23, pitched on Thursday for the Sonoma (Calif.) Stompers of the independent Pacific Association of Baseball Clubs.

The right-hander tossed a three-hit shutout, striking out 11 over nine innings in a 7-0 win.

Stompers general manager Theo Fightmaster says Conroy shared his sexual orientation with teammates and management before agreeing to come out publicly in advance of the team’s Gay Pride night.

“The first conversation I has with Sean was, ‘I want you to know this organization supports you, we respect who you are. We respect who you [are] as a pitcher and a person and to whatever degree you want your story told, we’ll help facilitate that,’ ” Fightmaster said. “His goal has always been to be the first openly gay baseball player, so he was very much in favor of telling the story, of carrying that torch.”

Conroy said he didn’t necessarily want to be a pioneer.

“It’s not that I wanted it to go public, but I didn’t care if it was open information. It’s who I am. I am definitely surprised that no one has been openly gay in baseball yet,” he said.

Conroy has been used as a closer for the Stompers, earning four saves and allowing just two hits over seven innings in the closing role.

“I’m just looking to play well and do as well as I can wherever they put me,” Conroy said.

Read More: Sean Conroy,

Friday’s Morning Mashup: Warren Sapp faces 3 domestic battery charges in Las Vegas

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

FRIDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Red Sox at Rays, 7:10 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Cubs at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m. (MLB Network)
NHL: Draft, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
Soccer: Women’s World Cup, China vs. United States, 7:30 p.m. (Fox)
Soccer: Women’s World Cup, Germany vs. France, 4 p.m. (Fox)
Golf: PGA Travelers Championship, 3:30 p.m. (TGC)

AROUND THE WEB:

— Hall of Fame defensive lineman Warren Sapp is in trouble again.

Sapp, who was fired from his job with the NFL Network after being arrested in Phoenix the night of the Super Bowl following a fight with two prostitutes, was charged with three domestic battery misdemeanors stemming from an April incident with his girlfriend in Las Vegas

Sapp is accused of biting his longtime girlfriend and stepping on her head after throwing her to the ground. He is due in court July 23 and faces up to 18 months in jail if convicted.

The incident began when Sapp allegedly threw a margarita in the woman’s face while the two were at the M Resort in Henderson, Nevada. Police say there is security footage showing Sapp aggressively pulling on the woman inside the resort. She told police they continued arguing during the drive home and at her Las Vegas condo, where Sapp allegedly assaulted her.

Sapp played in the NFL from 1995-2007 with the Buccaneers and Raiders. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013.

— The U.S. women’s soccer team will be without Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday when they play China in Friday’s quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup due to accumulated yellow cards, but at least they will have forward Abby Wambach.

Wambach escaped with just a warning from FIFA after questioning the intent of the referee in the Americans’ 2-0 win over Colombia on Monday. Wambach suggested the yellow cards Rapinoe and Holiday received were unnecessary.

“I don’t know if they were yellows,” she said after the game. “It seemed like [the referee] was purposefully giving those yellows to maybe players that she knew were sitting on yellows. I don’t know if that was just a psychological thing, who knows. Who knows?”

Wambach apologized a day later, something FIFA noted in its statement announcing the warning.

— Syracuse announced Thursday that longtime assistant coach Mike Hopkins will succeed the embattled Jim Boeheim in 2018.

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Read More: Abby Wambach, jim boeheim, Mike Hopkins, Warren Sapp

Thursday’s Morning Mashup: NHL takes next step toward expansion, with Las Vegas appearing likely to land team

06.25.15 at 8:15 am ET
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Welcome to Thursday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

THURSDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Orioles at Red Sox, 1:35 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Dodgers at Cubs, 2 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Yankees at Astros, 8:10 p.m. (MLB Network)
NBA: Draft, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Golf: PGA Travelers Championship, 3:30 p.m. (TGC)

AROUND THE WEB:

Gary Bettman

Gary Bettman

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced Wednesday that the league is beginning a formal expansion review process, adding to speculation that Las Vegas soon will land a team. Seattle and Quebec City also have expressed interest.

The Board of Governors met in Las Vegas before Wednesday night’s NHL Awards show in the city and said the league will take applications for new franchises starting July 6, with a deadline of Aug. 10. Bettman said prospective owners will have to be able to fork over an expansion fee of at least $500 million. He did not indicated how many clubs might be added — if any.

“The fact we are going through this process doesn’t mean we are going to expand,” Bettman told reporters. “All it means is we’re going to stop just listening to expressions of interest and take a good, hard look at what they actually mean and represent.”

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league isn’t likely to expand before the 2017-18 season.

Prospective Vegas owner Bill Foley already has more than 13,200 season-ticket deposits and has started construction of a multipurpose arena near the Las Vegas Strip.

“We’re going to take a deep dive and look at what there is in terms of the interest that’s being expressed,” Bettman said. “Obviously, Bill Foley got a great response to his season-ticket drive.”

— Following rumors that the Broncos were looking to move Peyton Manning this season comes a report that the team only was looking for him to agree to cut his salary for next season.

Mike Klis of Denver’s 9 News tweeted that the team was “never letting Peyton Manning go,” but it did ask for a $10 million reduction in pay.

Manning eventually agreed to a new deal that makes his 2014-15 salary $4 million less.

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Read More: Gary Bettman, Peyton Manning,

Monta Ellis opts out of Mavericks contract, will enter free agency

06.24.15 at 2:32 pm ET
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Mavericks shooting guard Monta Ellis is opting out of the final season of his contract and will go to free agency on July 1, according to his co-agent, Jeff Fried.

“This decision was made because it’s in the best interest of Monta,” Fried said Wednesday. “It was more about him taking his future into his own hands.”

With 18.9 points per game this season, Ellis became the first player not named Dirk Nowitzki to lead the Mavs in scoring since the 1999-2000 season. He was also second only to James Harden in clutch points this year, tallying 135 points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime with the score within five points, per ESPN.

The 29-year-old was trying to decide if he wanted to return to Dallas and earn $8.7 million in the final season of a three-year, $25 million deal or if entering free agency was a better move for him, a decision he had until Wednesday to make. Had he chosen to stay with the Mavericks, sources told ESPN.com that the team would have made an effort to trade him for a first-rounder and as a way to clear cap space.

Teams reportedly interested in Ellis include the Heat and the Pacers. And though the undersized shooting guard helped Dallas reach the playoffs for the past two seasons, ESPN sources also said that his moodiness “negatively impacted team chemistry last season.”

Read More: Monta Ellis,

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev apologizes at formal sentencing

06.24.15 at 2:28 pm ET
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After staying silent — and almost always emotionless — during his Boston Marathon bombing trial earlier this year, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev finally spoke Wednesday at his formal sentencing and apologized for the carnage he and his brother caused.

“I would now like to apologize to the victims and the survivors,” Tsarnaev said, according to reports from Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston. “I am sorry for the lives that I have taken.”

Tsarnaev, who asked Allah to help the victims and their families, also acknowledged his guilt along with that of his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed during a shootout with police in Watertown a few days after the 2013 bombing.

“If there is any lingering doubt, I did it along with my brother,” Tsanaev said. “I ask Allah to have mercy on me, my brother and my family.”

The 21-year-old was formally sentenced to death for killing three people and injuring more than 260 others at the Boston Marathon finish line, then murdering MIT police officer Sean Collier while he and his brother were trying to escape the city later in the week.

Some victims also spoke in court Wednesday, addressing Tsarnaev, although he reportedly refused to look directly at them, preferring to look down instead.

“I know life is hard, but the choices that you made were despicable,” said the mother of Krystle Campbell, who died from the bombing.

Rebekah Gregory, who lost a leg, explained that she was not giving a victim impact statement.

“To do that, I would have to be someone’s victim,” she told Tsarnaev. “I’m definitely not yours, or your brother’s.”

Added Gregory: “We are Boston strong. We are America strong.”

Bill Richard, who said he did not want Tsarnaev to face the death penalty despite the death of his 8-year-old son, Martin, expressed little sympathy Wednesday.

“[Tsarnaev] chose to do nothing to prevent all of this from happening,” Richard said. “He chose hate. He chose destruction. This is all on him. … We chose kindness. We chose peace.”

Read More: Boston Marathon bombing, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,

Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: NHL plans move to 3-on-3 OT

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

WEDNESDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Orioles at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Phillies at Yankees, 1 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Dodgers at Cubs, 8:05 p.m. (ESPN2)
College baseball: World Series, Virginia vs. Vanderbilt, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
NHL: Awards show, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
MLS: Revolution at Crew, 7:30 p.m. (CSNNE)
MLS: Timbers at Galaxy, 11 p.m. (ESPN2)

AROUND THE WEB:

— Good news for Bruins fans: There should be fewer shootouts next season.

NHL general managers and players agreed Tuesday to change the overtime format from four-on-four — which it has been since 1999 — to three skaters per side. Now the proposal needs approval from the Board of Governors during Wednesday’s meeting in Las Vegas.

“We’ve already seen that it works in the AHL,” Flames GM Brad Treliving said. “And when you translate that to the skill level of the NHL players, I think it’s going to be very exciting.”

The AHL starts with four minutes of four-on-four, then goes to three minutes of three-on-three. The NHLPA opposed that format last year, apparently preferring to avoid extending games, but supported this year’s proposal.

“I think management preferred what they’ve done in the American league,” Reds Wings GM Ken Holland said. “But management wanted a higher percentage of games decided in overtime, and three-on-three is going to do it. We think it’s going to be a much higher percentage.”

The shootout still remains should teams stay tied after the five-minute overtime. The Bruins had just four wins in 14 shootouts last season, tied for the third-worst percentage in the league.

Also agreed to Tuesday: Coaches will be able to challenge goals based on goalie interference and offsides, and the salary cap was set at $71.4 million.

— The fan who caught Alex Rodriguez‘s 3,000th hit — a home run to the right-field bleachers — has softened his stance somewhat on making a deal to return the ball.

Zack Hample, who claims to have caught thousands of baseballs over the years, initially was uncooperative when approached by Yankees management. And a day before he caught the ball, he tweeted that if he did come up with it he would “give [Rodriguez] the finger and a dummy ball. That man deserves favors from no one, least of all a fan.”

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Tuesday’s Morning Mashup: Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs arrested after allegedly attacking UCLA assistant football coach

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

TUESDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Orioles at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Cardinals at Marlins, 7:10 p.m. (FS1)
MLB: Astros at Angels, 10 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Diamondbacks at Angels, 10:05 p.m. (MLB Network)
WNBA: Sparks at Mystics, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Soccer: Women’s World Cup, Japan vs. Netherlands, 10 p.m. (FS1)

AROUND THE WEB:

— Hip-hop music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs was released from jail Monday night and given a July court date to answer charges that he attacked a UCLA assistant football coach with a kettlebell from the weight room.

Combs faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon, battery and one count of making terrorist threats. Combs’ target reportedly was strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi, the former Jets assistant known for tripping a Dolphins player on the sideline during a 2010 game.

Combs’ son, Justin, is a reserve defensive back for the Bruins. According to TMZ Sports, Combs — who routinely watches UCLA practices — was not happy after Alosi was riding his son during a conditioning session on the field. Combs later went to Alosi’s office, despite being told to leave by staff members, and that’s where the incident escalated and Combs allegedly swung a kettlebell at Alosi, narrowly missing him.

Combs is due back in court July 13.

“I’m thankful that our staff showed the level of professionalism that they did in handling this situation,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said in a statement. “This is an unfortunate incident for all parties involved. While UCPD continues to review this matter, we will let the legal process run its course and refrain from further comment at this time.”

Rap legend Snoop Dogg also has a son on the team, wide receiver Cordell Broadus.

— Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona reportedly is interested in succeeding Sepp Blatter as FIFA president, but it’s no sure thing he’ll be able to get on the ballot.

Maradona, who is perhaps as well known for his controversies as his soccer success, would need to have five of FIFA’s 209 member associations agree to nominate him and then pass an integrity check.

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Read More: Diego Maradona, Jeremiah Tate, Sal Alosi, Sean 'Diddy' Combs