No matter where Lehtonen eventually lines up with Leafs, he should be impactful — Toronto Sun

Memo to those pockets of Leafs Nation wringing their hands because the Maple Leafs have signed a defenceman who just happens to shoot left. Read More

No matter where Lehtonen eventually lines up with Leafs, he should be impactful — Toronto Sun

Memo to those pockets of Leafs Nation wringing their hands because the Maple Leafs have signed a defenceman who just happens to shoot left.

It comes from Mikko Lehtonen himself.

“Doesn’t matter, right or left side, I am OK with both,” Lehtonen said during a conference call with reporters on Monday. “Actually, sometimes I like more (the) right side.”

Fact is, the Leafs have brought aboard a player who should make an impact no matter where he eventually lines up on the blue line. Thanks to determination from Jim Paliafito, the Leafs’ senior director of player evaluation who has helped the club sign several players out of Europe, including most recently Alexander Barabanov and Ilya Mikheyev, Toronto was able to beat the NHL competition to sign Lehtonen to a one-year, $925,000 US entry-level contract for the 2020-21 season.

Lehtonen led Jokerit of the KHL in scoring this past season (as well as the league’s defencemen), putting up 49 points (17 goals and 32 assists) in 60 games. Regarded as one of the top defencemen in Europe, Lehtonen has the ability to run the power play, but more immediately, fits into the mould the Leafs have in mind for their blueliners. He’s a heads-up skater who reads the play well.

“I’m a two-way defenceman who can skate and move the puck,” Lehtonen said. “My game should fit pretty well with Toronto because they want to skate well and those are my strengths.”

Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas, who went to scout Lehtonen at the Karjala Cup in Helsinki last year following Paliafito’s positive reports, joined Lehtonen on the call.

“I agree with Mikko 100% why it’s a fit for us and for him,” Dubas said. “It’s the way he plays and the way we want to play.

“With regard to whether he will play the left or right side, it’s such a hard thing to answer right now. It would be easier if our season was over and we knew where we were at. We want to hopefully get back and finish our season and evaluate things from there and determine whether we want to try him on both sides, but I think the versatility certainly helps.”

Lehtonen and Jokerit mutually agreed late last week to terminate his contract so he could get a crack at the NHL. A native of Turku, Finland, Lehtonen never was drafted by an NHL club.

Lehtonen played in the 2020 KHL all-star game and was named the league’s defenceman of the month in November, December and January.

At the international level, Lehtonen has represented Finland several times, including at the 2018 Winter Olympics, the world championship in 2017 and 2019 and the 2014 world junior championship. He won gold at the ’19 worlds, making the tournament all-star team.

It’s going to be intriguing to see where the six-foot, 196-pound Lehtonen finds his stride with the Leafs. Once what remains of the 2019-20 season is done — whether it’s the regular season and playoffs, just the playoffs, or cancellation in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic — Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci will be unrestricted free agents. Travis Dermott is going to be a restricted free agent.

For 2020-21, the lone right-handed shot under contract in the defence corps is Justin Holl, though Timothy Liljegren could be in the mix as well.

What does Dubas think of his defence group as a whole now?

“It’s always a big topic of conversation,” Dubas said. “We know we’re going to have Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, Holl, we’re going to be able to bring back Dermott, who will be a restricted free agent, and you have our younger guys in Rasmus Sandin and Liljegren and Teemu Kivihalme and Calle Rosen and so on, and then you have the decisions on Ceci and Barrie.

“We like our options, but it’s certainly an area we need to see progress in, whether it’s the development of Dermott, development of Sandin and Liljegren, or the acquisition of players like Mikko. We like the group and we’re looking forward to seeing it play healthy.”

tkoshan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/koshtorontosun

Clippers owner Ballmer closes $400M deal to buy The Forum — Lokol Buzz

[ad_1] INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer on Monday completed his purchase of The Forum from Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. for $400 million. Newly created Forum Entertainment LLC will continue operating the building that opened in 1967 as a concert venue. The current management team will remain in place and […]

Clippers owner Ballmer closes $400M deal to buy The Forum — Lokol Buzz

 Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer on Monday completed his purchase of The Forum from Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. for $400 million.

Newly created Forum Entertainment LLC will continue operating the building that opened in 1967 as a concert venue. The current management team will remain in place and report to Gillian Zucker, president of business operations for the Clippers.

All of The Forum’s California-based staff are expected to stay on as employees of the new company and help with the transition.

”The talented team at The Forum has created a world-class live entertainment venue, and we are committed to building upon that reputation,” Zucker said in a statement.

The Clippers’ plans for a new, privately financed NBA arena in Inglewood near The Forum are progressing, with public hearings slated to start this summer. The Clippers said that having a basketball arena and The Forum under the same ownership will allow for coordinated programming between the venues, improving traffic congestion around basketball games and concerts.

Last year, the Forum hosted nearly 100 events, including concerts, boxing and mixed martial arts. It was previously the home of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and NHL’s Los Angeles Kings until both teams moved to Staples Center in downtown LA in 1999.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Alex Verdugo Says It’d Be ‘Crazy’ If Mookie Betts Never Played For Dodgers — NESN.com

It feels like a lifetime since the Boston Red Sox traded Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers. As you likely may know, Betts and pitcher David Price were sent to the Dodgers on Feb. 11 in exchange for outfielder Alex Verdugo and prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong. All five players participated in spring…

Alex Verdugo Says It’d Be ‘Crazy’ If Mookie Betts Never Played For Dodgers — NESN.com
As you likely may know, Betts and pitcher David Price were sent to the Dodgers on Feb. 11 in exchange for outfielder Alex Verdugo and prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong. All five players participated in spring training before Opening Day was indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19outbreak. And there’s a chance Betts, who’ll be a free agent following the 2020 season, might never play a game for the Dodgers depending on Major League Baseball’s decision regarding the season. On Monday, Verdugo weighed in on the possibility of that happening. “That would be pretty crazy,” Verdugo said, per MassLive’s Chris Cotillo. “That would be pretty nuts. I really haven’t thought about it much, but I think it’s tough. It’s a tough situation, if that is the scenario, for the Dodgers. That’s part of life. We can’t expect these things. I think for the Dodgers, that’s tough. That’s a tough deal. But everything happens for a reason.” It certainly would make for an unusual situation for Betts should the season be canceled. And while some suggest the season could begin as early as July, nothing is certain right now.

Read more at: https://nesn.com/2020/05/alex-verdugo-says-itd-be-crazy-if-mookie-betts-never-played-for-dodgers/

NFL Announces It Will Not Play Any International Games Next Season — NESN.com

The NFL will not go abroad until 2021 at the earliest. The league announced Monday that it will not play any international games next season due to ongoing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Mexico City and London were scheduled to host one and four games, respectively, in 2020. “After considerable analysis, we believe the decision…

NFL Announces It Will Not Play Any International Games Next Season — NESN.com

Magic Johnson says players don’t need fans in the stands to compete — Sixers Wire

Magic Johnson says players don’t need fans in the stands to compete — Sixers Wire

The spread of the novel coronavirus has had the world on hold and the NBA has been in hiatus since March 11. However, there is a chance that there will be a resumption of the 2019-20 season with both Disney World in Orlando and The Strip in Las Vegas offering a sort of “bubble” for the league to resume the season.

The biggest aspect of this “bubble” is that there will be no fans at the games. For the Philadelphia 76ers, who have the best home record in the NBA, this could play a factor for them. However, NBA legend Magic Johnson has said that that does not matter for the players.

Johnson told The Los Angeles Times:

“When you’re going for something and you get past those first few minutes, you don’t know the difference because your competitive juices kick in,” Johnson said during a recent interview. “They’re going to play the game that they love and they’re going to play it 150% like they do with the fans in the stands.

“The only thing they won’t get is that juice when they make a good play or they go on a 12-0 run. There’s nobody there to take them to another level. The crowd takes you to another level. If you’re down, the Lakers fans are some of the best fans in the NBA when they start screaming and hollering. They’ll miss that, but if you think they’re not going to perform just because fans aren’t there, no.”

The NBA is desperate to crown a champion for 2020 and they will stretch out the season as long as they have to, but it will also continue under safe conditions.

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“The Last Dance” Episode 5&6 Review — IPOTTER SPORTS BLOGS

And just like that, there is only four episodes left of the ten part Chicago Bulls documentary series “The Last Dance”. Episode five and six were released on Sunday talking about the 1992 USA Basketball Dream Team, The Bulls winning the ’92 and ’93 championship, Michael Jordan’s gambling issue, and the late Kobe Bryant talking […]

“The Last Dance” Episode 5&6 Review — IPOTTER SPORTS BLOGS