July 19, 2024

How Simone Biles is breaking the sport … again. Plus NBA free agency and some stinky news

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Good morning! Are you reading this on a toilet?

Money Moves: NBA free agency is here

We’ve made it through the playoffs and draft, and at last, the time has come: NBA free agency officially begins tonight at 6 p.m. ET. But we’ve already had a few news nuggets of consequence this weekend:

Also: The Hawks moved on from their Dejounte MurrayTrae Young backcourt after two seasons, sending Murray to the Pelicans in exchange for a haul that includes two first-round draft picks. Zach Harper gave Atlanta a C+ for this deal. 👀

Stay locked on our free-agency live blog for news and other tidbits at all hours over the next few days.

Sh– Shows: This news stinks

We’ve got two equally important pieces of news on the intestinal front. The short version:

📈 Toilet Row
📉 Poop River

On the first: MiLB’s Lake County Captains have a new, premium seating option — a row of luxury toilets, sponsored by Roto-Rooter. We get it’s an ad, sure. But for 16 bucks?! We’d very happily watch a game on the john for the ‘gram. No notes.

The second? Woof. Paris’ Seine River, which is supposed to host various open-water swimming events during the Olympicsis still at dangerous contamination levels for E. coli (bacteria that can cause various, um, digestive maladies if ingested). Sounds ideal for some of best athletes on Earth. Reminder: Before plans were made to use it for the Games, the river had been illegal to swim in … since 1923.

Read more: Matthew Futterman did a deep dive (not literally, mercifully) into the river conditions earlier this month.

News to Know

Another draft in the books
Not only did the San Jose Sharks take the clear choice at No. 1 in Friday’s NHL Draft — Macklin Celebrini, a center who draws comps to Sidney Crosby — but they made Scott Wheeler’s round 1 winners list thanks to landing defenseman Sam Dickinson at No. 11 (Wheeler had him slotted as the No. 6 player in the draft). Hopefully the Sharks’ marketing people come up with a better nickname for Celebrini, their new franchise cornerstone, than Steph Curry did.

For more, The Athletic’s NHL staff has you covered on every single other angle of the draft. Our picks:

So, so much more in the draft live blog.

Copa America cruises on 
Argentina — without Lionel Messi — logged its third win in three Copa America games, this time against Peru, to advance to the quarterfinals. The side will face the runner-up in Group B. Meanwhile, Canada and new coach Jesse Marsch advanced by holding Chile to a draw. They’ll play the winner of Group B on Friday; the group will be decided later today. Over in Group C, the USMNT returns to action in a high-stakes game against Uruguay on Monday. Winger Tim Weah, whose embarrassing red card derailed the Americans against Panama, is suspended for two games. Here’s what the USMNT needs to do to advance. 

More news:

  • Dick Vitale is battling cancer again. The Basketball Hall of Fame broadcaster shared Friday that a recent biopsy of the lymph node in his neck was cancerous.
  • Noah Lyles and Gabby Thomaswon the men’s and women’s 200-meter races at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials.
  • Andrew Wiggins is sitting out the Canadian men’s basketball team’s training camp in Toronto and won’t be eligible for the Olympic team. The Warriors said it was a mutual decision, but Team Canada leadership seems peeved about it.
  • One of the most difficult first stages in Tour de France history took place yesterday, beginning in Italy(!). Two-time podium finisher Romain Bardet won the stage, while general classification favorites Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard cruised in with the peloton.

Three Questions: Simone Biles is more back than ever

Outside of gymnastics diehards, the last time most Americans saw Simone Biles compete was three years ago at the Tokyo Olympics. Biles, the greatest gymnast the sport has ever seen, left Japan in a mental battle.

A lot has happened in those three years. Biles has moved on — and she’s breaking the sport again, even at 27 years old, ancient for a gymnast.

This week, Tess DeMeyer wrote a great story on Biles’ new floor routine, which boasts her journey proudly. I snagged Tess for a couple of questions on how Biles has fully shed her 2021 demons:

Biles has been through a lot in the last three years. Can you succinctly explain how she’s somehow even better now than she was before?

Tess: Biles performs some of the hardest skills in the sport, and she consistently does them without major flaws. Her landings on floor exercise look more controlled this time around versus in the lead-up to Tokyo, and she’s been vocal about the work she does to protect her mental health. Given the pressure-packed and inherently dangerous nature of gymnastics, that mental training is vital.

(I mean … come on):

The full Olympic team will be decided tonight. Who else do you think can break out?

Tess: Given all the injuries and how the standings shook out on Friday, there may only be one gymnast on the team who wasn’t in Tokyo. That Olympic rookie will obviously be thrust into a new spotlight. Elsewhere, Jordan Chiles, who helped the team to a silver medal at the 2020 Games, also has a ton of star power on and off the floor. She’s a name to know.

Give us a prediction for the final crew: 

Tess: Simone Biles, Suni Lee, Jordan Chiles, Jade Carey and … ?

After three major contenders withdrew from trials, I’m impressed by anyone who can name the fifth gymnast with confidence, but I’ll venture a guess that it will be Hezly Rivera or Tiana Sumanasekera.

Read Tess’ full story here. The final events of the women’s competition starts tonight just after 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

Watch This Game

WNBA: Fever at Mercury
3 p.m. ET on ESPN
Phoenix has not faced Caitlin Clark yet after its main star spent the offseason talking about the reckoning coming for Clark. This will be theater, and Clark has played well of late.

Euros: Spain vs. Georgia
3 p.m. ET on Fox

Sure, England plays a nervy match against Slovakia at noon, but I want to watch these Georgians as much as I can. They’ve already pulled off the upset of the tournament. Can they do it again?

Get tickets to games like these here.

Pulse Picks

Nick Baumgardner has a good look at the best NFL Draft-eligible underclassmen in college football. Travis Hunter is the headliner, but there’s plenty more there.   

Jake Ciely has more fantasy football gems for us. Today, it’s breakout wide receivers.

Ken Rosenthal makes his MLB All-Star picks.

 F1’s silly season is gaining speed. Luke Smith takes a look at what could be a messy 2025 drivers’ market.

We’re still reeling a bit from the Turkey-Czech Republic match last week, which is already remembered as the dirtiest game in Euros history.

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(Photo: Matt Krohn / USA Today)