Blackhawks

LeBron leads the way with 3 ESPY Awards

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LeBron leads the way with 3 ESPY Awards

From Comcast SportsNet
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- LeBron James collected the biggest trophy of his career when the Miami Heat won the NBA championship. That title run netted him some more hardware at the ESPY Awards. James won a leading three individual trophies, including male athlete of the year, and shared in another at the 20th annual show celebrating the year's best athletes and moments in sports. He wasn't on hand to accept because he was in Las Vegas with the rest of the U.S. national team preparing for the upcoming London Olympics. James outpolled tennis player Novak Djokovic, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in fan voting for male athlete honors. He also won in the championship performance and NBA player categories, while sharing in the best team award, with Juwan Howard and Mike Miller accepting for the Heat. "He's had a magnifying glass on him since he was 17 years old and I think he's handled himself really, really well," Miller said of James backstage. "Unbelievable teammate, unbelievable father, so those are the most important things. He's just a likeable guy. He's a great basketball player to boot." Baylor basketball star Brittney Griner won two trophies, including female athlete of the year in which she beat out French Open champion Maria Sharapova, skier Lindsay Vonn and soccer player Abby Wambach. Quarterback Robert Griffin III, who like Griner starred at Baylor, won male college athlete honors. Griner took female college athlete honors for leading the Lady Bears to a 40-0 record and the NCAA championship. "Just excited. I wouldn't be here without Title IX," Griner said backstage. "Everything is just coming together, and it feels good to be here." Los Angeles was well represented, with Kings goalie Jonathan Quick winning best NHL player after helping the franchise win its first Stanley Cup title, and Galaxy star David Beckham earning best MLS player honors. The Kings won for best upset after their run to the NHL championship as an eighth seed in the Western Conference. Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton won as best MLB player, while Rodgers earned best NFL player honors. Mario Gutierrez, who rode I'll Have Another to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, won as best jockey. Skateboarder and snowboarder Shaun White won his fifth consecutive ESPY for male action sports athlete. Host Rob Riggle of "The Daily Show" and "The Hangover" fame zinged some of the famous faces in his opening monologue. He touched on the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal in singling out quarterback Drew Brees, who won for record-breaking performance after shattering Dan Marino's single-season passing mark. Brees and the Saints are haggling over his contract with a Monday deadline looming. "If only the Saints had some sort of fund that they could pull extra cash from to reward people for doing things on the field," Riggle cracked as Brees looked down from his seat, and the crowd roared. Riggle teased Anthony Davis of Kentucky, the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft known for his connected eyebrows. Davis recently trademarked the phrases "Fear the Brow" and "Raise the Brow." "It looks like two caterpillars just making sweet love on your forehead," Riggle told Davis. "Is that like one of those Mr. Potato Head eyebrows you just take on and off?" Riggle skewered Jeremy Lin and the "Linsanity" he created playing for the New York Knicks, which won Lin the trophy for breakthrough athlete. "What a heartwarming story," he said. "It's so refreshing to see a young Asian kid graduate from Harvard, move to New York and make a ton of money." The Arthur Ashe Courage award went to former Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt, who revealed her diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's last August. She retired in April after 38 years. Summitt's son, Tyler, escorted her to the stage to accept the trophy from Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, who went to college at Tennessee, while the Nokia Theatre crowd stood applauding. "I am deeply touched," she told the crowd. "I'm going to keep on keepin' on I promise you that." The Jimmy V Award for Perseverance was given to former Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand. He is recovering from a spinal cord injury that ended his playing career. "My dream is to get back on my feet and walk again," he told the audience after a standing ovation. "You can best believe that I'll never give up."

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

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AP

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

After being on the receiving end of some racist taunts while he was in the penalty box during Saturday's game against the Blackhawks, Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly spoke publicly about the incident.

Smith-Pelly, a 25-year-old Canadian, reacted to the fans while he was in the box, going up to them from the other side of the glass. He addressed questions from the media about the incident on Sunday.

"I just heard some chanting, some, I guess, racially charged chanting," Smith-Pelly said. "You can tell by my reaction that I got pretty upset.

"What was said this time around crossed the line."

The Capitals released a statement about the incident:

"The Washington Capitals are extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior extended toward Devante Smith-Pelly by a select group of fans during Saturday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The Capitals organization strives to be inclusive and has zero tolerance concerning any form of racism. Such behavior is unacceptable and has no place in hockey or society. As such, it is crucial to confront such appalling conduct, and the Capitals extend their appreciation to the Blackhawks organization and United Center security for swiftly removing the fans from the game."

The Blackhawks released a statement after the game with a similar tone.

Smith-Pelly said this has happened previously in his career.

"It's sad that in 2018 we're still talking about the same thing over and over," Smith-Pelly said. "It's sad that athletes like myself 30, 40 years ago were standing in the same spot saying the same thing. You'd think there'd be some sort of change or progression, but we're still working towards it I guess and we're going to keep working towards it."

The Capitals released the full interview.

Ben Zobrist knows reality of Cubs' crowded lineup: 'There are going to be good players that have to sit on the bench'

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USA TODAY

Ben Zobrist knows reality of Cubs' crowded lineup: 'There are going to be good players that have to sit on the bench'

MESA, Ariz. — Ben Zobrist has long been known for his versatility on the field. But it might take a new kind of versatility to get through what’s facing him for the 2018 season, being versatile when it comes to simply being on the field.

Zobrist was among several notable Cubs hitters who had a rough go of things at the plate in the follow-up campaign to 2016’s World Series run. He dealt with injuries, including a particularly bothersome one to his wrist, and finished with a career-worst .232/.318/.375 slash line.

And so, with younger guys like Javy Baez, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. forcing their way into Joe Maddon’s lineup, it’s a perfectly valid question to ask: Has the 36-year-old Zobrist — just 15 months removed from being named the World Series MVP — been relegated to part-time status for this championship-contending club?

Obviously that remains to be seen. Joe Maddon has a way of mixing and matching players so often that it makes it seem like this team has at least 12 different “starting” position players. But Zobrist, ever the picture of versatility, seems ready for whatever is coming his way.

“I’m prepared for that, if that’s what it comes to. I told him, whatever they need me to do,” Zobrist said Sunday, asked if he’d be OK with being in a platoon situation. “You’ll see me at some different positions. As far as at-bats, though, I’ve got to be healthy. That was the biggest thing last year that kept me from getting at-bats and being productive. So if I can be healthy, I think I can play the way that I’m capable of, and the discussion then at that point will be, ‘How much can you play before we push you too far?’

“We’ve got a lot of great players, and there are going to be good players that have to sit on the bench on our team at times. But no one ever rusts because you know how Joe uses everybody. You’re still going to play. Even if you don’t start, you’re probably going to play later in the game. It’s just part of the National League and the way Joe Maddon manages.”

It’s no secret, of course, that when Zobrist is on, he’s the kind of player you want in the lineup as much as possible. It was just two seasons ago that he posted a .386 on-base percentage, banged out 31 doubles, smacked 18 home runs and was a starter for the team that won the World Series.

But he also admitted that last year’s injury fights were extremely tough: “Last year was one of the most difficult seasons I’ve ever had as a player.” Zobrist said that while he’s feeling good and ready to go in 2018, with his recent physical ailments and his advancing age, he’s in a different stage in his career.

“At this point in my career, I’m not going to play 158 games or whatever. I’m going to have to manage and figure out how to play great for 130,” he said. “And I think that would be a good thing to shoot for, if I was healthy, is playing 130 games of nine innings would be great. And then you’re talking about postseason, too, when you add the games on top of that, and well, you need to play for the team in the postseason, you’ve got to be ready for that, too.

“From my standpoint, from their standpoint, it’s about managing, managing my performance and my physical body and making sure I can do all that at the highest level, keep it at the highest level I can.”

Maddon’s managerial style means that Zobrist, even if he’s not technically a part of the everyday starting eight, will still get the opportunity to hit on a regular basis, get a chance to play on a regular basis. Baez figures to be locked in as the team’s No. 1 second baseman, but he’ll need days off. Maddon mentioned Sunday that Zobrist, along with Happ, have been practicing at first base in an effort to be able to spell Anthony Rizzo. It’s the crowded outfield where Zobrist could potentially see the most time. He’ll be a piece of that tricky daily puzzle along with Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and the aforementioned Almora and Happ.

Unsurprisingly, in the end that versatility, combined with how Zobrist has recovered physically and whether he can get back to how he’s produced in the past, will determine how much he will play, according to the guy writing out the lineups.

“I think he’s going to dictate that to us based on how he feels,” Maddon said. “Listen, you’re always better off when Ben Zobrist is in your lineup. He’s a little bit older than he had been, obviously, like we all are. I’ve got to be mindful of that, but he’s in great shape. Let’s just see what it looks like. Go out there and play, and we’ll try to figure it out as the season begins to unwind because who knows, he might have an epiphany and turn back the clock a little bit, he looks that good. I want to keep an open mind.

“I want to make sure that he understands we’re going to need him to play a variety of different positions. He’s ready to do it, he’s eager, he’s really ready. He was not pleased with his year last year, took time to reflect upon it and now he’s really been refreshed. So I think you’re going to see the best form of Ben Zobrist right now.”

Two years ago, Zobrist played a big enough role to go to the All-Star Game and get named the MVP of the World Series. In the present, that role might be much, much smaller. But Zobrist said he’s OK with anything, admitting it’s about the number of rings on the fingers and not the number of days in the starting lineup.

“I’m 36 as a player, so I’m just trying to win championships at this point. It’s not really about what I’m trying to accomplish as an individual,” Zobrist said. “Everybody wants to have great seasons, but I’ve told (Maddon), ‘Wherever you need me, I’m ready.’ Just going to prepare to fill the spots that need to be filled and be a great complement to what’s going on.”