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Game 2 of the WNBA Finals is tonight. Can the Chicago Sky, in search of their first title, take a crucial 2-0 lead over the Phoenix Mercury?

Too Early To Worry?

Kyle Terada & Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers’ brand new Big Three made their debut Tuesday on the wrong side of a 111-99 preseason contest with the Golden State Warriors.

One season after failing to defend their 2020 title, the Lakers committed $120.8 million to the Big Three for 2021-22 and $165 million to the entire team — approximately $33.1 million above the luxury tax line.

LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook will most likely work out playing together on the same team for the first time, but we can’t ignore the 0-5 preseason record.

  • James finished with 17 points but turned the ball over six times.
  • Westbrook turned the ball over five times, bringing his three-game TO total to 20 — and he’s shooting 24.2% from the field.
  • Davis was a bright spot: 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

“We’re going to have moments where we’re not quite right there,” James said after. “We may take steps backwards… but that’s all part of [it].”

Should we expect growing pains? The Lakers have 10 new faces on their 15-man roster, and four of them are recovering from injury. Plus, the Lakers are one of the oldest teams in the league, with eight players 33 or older.

L.A. might be worried about hosting these same Warriors in the opener, but we’re guessing eventually no one will question the investment in the Big Three.

Houston In Familiar Territory

Houston Astros

Like it or not, the Astros are back in the final four.

Houston blew out the White Sox 10-1 on Tuesday to clinch its fifth consecutive ALCS appearance.

After their infamous 2019 cheating scandal, much of the MLB-watching public didn’t believe they could hit without stealing signs — and without their Big Three rotation, the Astros’ run seemed to be over.

But Houston found value elsewhere.

  • Gerrit Cole signed with the Yankees this winter (record $324 million contract), Justin Verlander missed the entire season (Tommy John), and Zack Greinke has dealt with injuries.
  • Lance McCullers Jr. stepped up as Houston’s postseason ace (1 ER, 9 K, 10.2 IP in ALDS). The 28-year-old signed a five year, $85 million contract in March.
  • Key rotation pieces Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia are both on two-way contracts and making less than $640,000 this season.

And despite yet another allegation of home-field cheating — Carlos Correa had some choice words for accuser Ryan Tepera — the offense had no problem racking up 31 runs and 38 hits across four games.

The Astros have now tied the 1971-75 Athletics for all-time consecutive ALCS appearances and have the most in either league since the Braves rattled off eight straight from 1991-99.

Their matchup with Boston sees Houston reunite with former bench coach Alex Cora — who had to sit out last year for his involvement in the scandal.

Different Expansion Blueprints

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Kraken debuted with a 4-3 defeat to the Las Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday in a showdown of the NHL’s latest expansion teams.

It’s one loss, and no one is using it to count them out. But there are still some things to keep in mind before we assume every new team immediately goes to the Stanley Cup Final — like Vegas did in 2018.

Seattle had to go a different route in compiling a roster it hopes can match the Knights’ success — without as much help from the rest of the league.

  • Vegas used expansion draft rules as leverage to stockpile picks and build around core players plucked from other teams (Marc-Andre Fleury, Jonathan Marchessault, David Perron, William Karlson, and Brayden McNabb).
  • “Teams weren’t willing to make mistakes they made last time,” Kraken GM Ron Francis told reporters.
  • Vegas made 10 pre-draft trades, steered by teams toward selecting certain players in exchange for future picks, and five more post-draft.
  • The Kraken did not make any pre-expansion-draft trades and only three post-draft for three future picks.

They do have one part of the blueprint in common: spending against the cap.

Seattle paid more out of the gate for top players — captain Mark Giordano and goalie Philipp Grubauer carry respective cap hits of $6.75M and $5.9M, while Vegas’ top cap hit in 2017-18 was Fleury’s $5.75M.

But the Kraken and Knights ultimately ended up with similar cap space — $6.7M and $6M, respectively.

Making Headlines

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

MLB: In what is potentially his last postseason as a Brave, Freddie Freeman hit a go-ahead solo home run off Josh Hader to propel Atlanta past Milwaukee in their NLDS series. The Braves will face the winner of the Dodgers-Giants series starting Saturday.

Soccer: Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers is the frontrunner to take over as Newcastle United manager, per Gianluca Di Marzio. Newcastle’s new Saudi owners would reportedly have no issues paying the €16 million required to release Rodgers from his LCFC contract.

NHL: The Predators re-signed key defenseman Mattias Ekholm to a four-year, $25 million contract, per Elliotte Friedman. Ekholm was in the final season of a six-year, $22.5 million pact signed in 2015.

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