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Tribune News Service

Sports Budget for Saturday, May 23, 2020

Updated at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 UTC)

This budget is now available at http://www.TribuneNewsService.com, with direct links to stories and art. See details at the end of the budget.

^TOP STORIES<

^Former Rams player turned firefighter fighting for hope amid ALS<

FBN-RAMS-STEVENS-SPORTSPLUS:LA — The question returns to Eric Stevens each morning in the hazy seconds after waking up.

"Is this really happening? Do I have ALS?"

The answer is always the same. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, hasn't left. He hauls himself out of bed at his Costa Mesa apartment and takes the first halting steps of another day without a way to slow the disease that's consuming his body.

Stevens used to make so many things look easy.

2150 by Nathan Fenno in Los Angeles. MOVED

PHOTOS

^Senators eager for football to start, but maybe not as eager as Trump<

CORONAVIRUS-SENATE-FOOTBALL:CON — It's been more than two months since a major American sport has held a contest. March 11 was the day the NBA suspended play indefinitely after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. The NHL followed suit, as did Major League Baseball, postponing opening day while it works on a plan to start the season, possibly without fans in the stands.

But professional and college football are perhaps in the best position of all the leagues, having ended their seasons just before the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up in the United States.

1150 (with trims) by Clyde McGrady in Washington. (Moved as a Washington story.) MOVED

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^NBA says it is talking with Disney about resuming season in Florida<

^BKN-SEASON-DISNEY:LA—<The NBA confirmed what's been reported on and speculated about for the past week — that the league, along with the players union — are in discussions to restart the NBA season in Orlando, Fla., later this summer.

In a statement Saturday morning, NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the league and players are engaged in "exploratory conversations" with Walt Disney Co, about restarting the season in late July at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida as a single site.

In the statement, the NBA referred to the Orlando site as a "campus" that would contain "games, practices and housing."

350 by Dan Woike. MOVED

PHOTO

^Ryan Leaf, NFL bust and current ESPN college football analyst, arrested on domestic battery charge<

^FBN-LEAF-ARREST:NY—<Former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf was arrested for misdemeanor domestic battery on Friday in Palm Springs, Calif. Leaf was released late Friday night from Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility on $5,000 bail. He is due back in court on Sept. 25 to answer to the charges.

Leaf was arrested early afternoon on Friday by Palm Desert cops. It is unclear who the victim is in the case.

Leaf, 44, one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history, has dealt with a slew of drug, legal problems and mental health issues since flaming out of the league by the time he was 25.

350 by Charles McDonald. MOVED

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^CORONAVIRUS<

^Mike Sielski: In the age of coronavirus, we're finding out just how much sports matters<

SIELSKI-COLUMN:PH — More than 96,000 people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control, have died from the coronavirus, and still we want sports to return.

In April, 20.5 million Americans lost their jobs, a record for a single month, and the unemployment rate keeps rocketing higher and higher, and still we want sports to return.

We wear our masks. We take our walks. We socially distance. We home-school our kids. We forget which day it is because they all feel the same. We worry when our loved ones cough. And still we want sports to return.

1750 by Mike Sielski in Philadelphia. MOVED

PHOTO

^BASEBALL<

^Bob Brookover: Former Phillie Darin Ruf's three years in South Korea provided memories and another big league chance<

BBO-BROOKOVER-COLUMN:PH — Darin Ruf spent three years playing baseball in South Korea and he knows not many people back in the United States paid much attention.

"I chose the three uncool years to go play there and now it's the cool year and I'm back here trying to play again," the former Phillie said Wednesday from his home in Omaha, Neb.

It's cool to play in the KBO this season simply because that league is having a season despite the global COVID-19 pandemic that shut down Major League Baseball before it even started.

1500 by Bob Brookover in Philadelphia. MOVED

PHOTO

^Cubs reliever Jeremy Jeffress — with his food truck — delivers 70 meals to hospital workers in Phoenix<

BBN-CUBS-JEFFRESS:TB — Like every other fan, Chicago Cubs reliever Jeremy Jeffress is crossing his fingers and hoping for an agreement between Major League Baseball and the players union to restart the season in July.

But if baseball strikes out, he knows the ramifications could be far-reaching.

"It's going to impact, the game, the city, a lot of stuff," Jeffress said Thursday from his Phoenix home. "I would say (to fans) just be patient, like we are. Something is going to happen, and understand that the wait for us to play baseball, if we do happen to play baseball, is going to be well worth it, because everyone is going to come out and give you a great show. It's going to be fun."

650 by Paul Sullivan in Chicago. MOVED

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^Larry Stone: As MLB negotiations near critical juncture, mutual motivation will be key to saving weird 2020 season<

BBO-STONE-COLUMN:SE — In case you haven't checked your pocket schedule lately, the Mariners would be in New York facing the Yankees this weekend, more than 50 games into their 2020 season. You're left to your own imagination what their record would be — or to phrase it differently, how many games would they be sitting behind the Astros?

By now, we'd have a good idea of how the Mariners' youth movement was progressing, with Evan White, Shed Long, Jake Fraley, Kyle Lewis, Justus Sheffield and maybe Justin Dunn having had two months to show whether or not they were ready for The Show.

1000 by Larry Stone in Seattle. MOVED

^NFL<

^Vahe Gregorian: Can a Super Bowl defense get even better during a pandemic? 'Spags' is on the case.<

FBN-GREGORIAN-COLUMN:KC — A year ago at this time, the Chiefs were consumed with converting their Achilles' heel into an asset. Or at least something more stable than the precarious defense that had become the only unit able to thwart Patrick Mahomes and their offense — the brilliant collaboration that might have been rendered a novelty act without a supporting cast.

So the Chiefs overhauled defensive schemes, and they purged personnel to make money and room for the crucial likes of Tyrann Mathieu and Frank Clark. But hiring Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator was about as pivotal as anything.

1000 by Vahe Gregorian in Kansas City, Mo. MOVED

PHOTO

^Russell Wilson may want Seahawks to sign Antonio Brown, but a lot would have to happen first<

FBN-SEAHAWKS-BROWN-WILSON:SE — As any close observer of the Seahawks should know by now, the public stance of coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider is that the team will always research any player who becomes available if they think can help.

In September the Seahawks acknowledging that they were ready to try to make a run at receiver Antonio Brown if there had been a legitimate chance to sign him.

"We were involved in that one," Carroll said then. "We were ready if something was there."

Nothing was, as Brown almost immediately signed with the Patriots after being released by the Raiders, who had grown frustrated with the talented-but-troubled receiver.

950 by Bob Condotta in Seattle. MOVED

^Super Bowl champ Patrick Mahomes addresses Texas Tech's class of 2020 virtually<

^FBN-CHIEFS-MAHOMES-TEXASTECH:FT—<Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes made a guest appearance during Texas Tech's virtual graduation ceremonies on Saturday.

Mahomes, the reigning Super Bowl MVP, told the future generation to "go out and win your Super Bowl" during a speech that lasted less than two minutes.

"I'm beyond excited that I get to share this celebration with my fellow Red Raiders," Mahomes said. "I know this isn't the graduation ceremony that you and your families had envisioned but that doesn't change the outcome or all the hard work, long hours and sacrifices that you made to achieve this milestone."

350 by Drew Davison. MOVED

PHOTO

^NBA<

^Phil Jackson left the Bulls after 'The Last Dance.' Here's how the franchise's 7 full-time coaches have fared since his departure.<

BKN-BULLS-COACHES:TB — There was no singular reason for the dissolution of the Bulls dynasty. Michael Jordan's retirement, Scottie Pippen's health and Dennis Rodman's commitment were all concerns entering the 1997-98 season.

But ESPN's "The Last Dance" documentary, a 10-part series that ended Sunday, has highlighted the strained relationship between coach Phil Jackson and general manager Jerry Krause, emphasizing the role that very real rift played in the end of the Bulls' historic run.

1000 by DeAntae Prince in Chicago. MOVED

PHOTOS

^Arash Markazi: Lakers guard Quinn Cook returns to roots for Showtime documentary<

BKN-MARKAZI-COLUMN:LA — The last time Quinn Cook was at Staples Center was March 10. The Lakers, after defeating the Milwaukee Bucks and Clippers over the weekend, were taking on the Brooklyn Nets in front of a sold-out crowd.

Despite losing to the Nets in an upset, everything felt good as Cook caught up with his former teammate Kevin Durant, whom he has known since he was 7.

He never expected that would be the last time he would leave Staples Center this season.

Later that night, the NBA season was suspended indefinitely and sports leagues around the world were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

1000 by Arash Markazi in Los Angeles. MOVED

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^NHL<

^Helene Elliott: Mental health no longer dirty words in macho world of NHL<

HKN-ELLIOTT-COLUMN:LA — Hockey players are celebrated for their toughness. It's common for a player to absorb a booming hit without flinching, or to lose a row of teeth to an errant puck and say he's sorry he had to miss a shift to get sewn up. Tape an aspirin to it and get back out there was the game's unofficial slogan.

The idea of suffering in silence also applied to mental health issues. No one spoke publicly about depression or anxiety. You toughed it out. That's how it always had been done.

That archaic code is fading, its departure hastened by former NHL goaltenders Kelly Hrudey and Corey Hirsch.

1100 by Helene Elliott in Los Angeles. MOVED

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^Paul Zeise: Penguins' path is extremely favorable under proposed 24-team format<

HKN-ZEISE-COLUMN:PG — The NHL Players' Association is supposed to vote on a proposed 24-team playoff format to get the NHL season underway soon. The most important details are that there will be 12 teams from each conference that will make the playoffs and the two sides will compete in separate hub cities until the Stanley Cup Final.

That would mean the Penguins would be the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference a play against No. 12 Montreal in a best-of-five "play-in" round. The winner of that series would then move on to face the Flyers, at least under the latest proposal we have seen.

500 by Paul Zeise in Pittsburgh. MOVED

^COLLEGE FOOTBALL<

^Bobby Roundtree suffered a spinal cord injury last year. But the Illinois football player, after a year of rehab, vows to walk again.<

FBC-ILLINOIS-ROUNDTREE:TB — Bobby Roundtree kept calling teammates, hoping someone would pick up in the middle of a wild celebration.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in mid-October, Illinois kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired for a 24-23 upset of No. 6 Wisconsin for one of the biggest upsets of the college football season. Fans streamed onto the field and Illini players partied in the locker room.

Players' phones were buzzing with a call from Chicago, where Roundtree was rehabilitating from a summer swimming accident in Florida that damaged his spinal cord.

800 by Shannon Ryan in Chicago. MOVED

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^COLLEGES<

^Mike Anthony: The only answer for UConn is to cut numerous athletic programs<

CMP-ANTHONY-COLUMN:HC — Years into an expanding fiscal nightmare that includes a gap between revenue and expenses of more than $40 million, the UConn athletic department is well past the point of combining half-measures with belt-tightening in search of a sustainable remedy.

The time has come to blow up the operational model in place — by lopping off the bottom third of it.

UConn must do away with some teams and programs.

A bunch of them.

Eight of the existing 24, I'd say.

That's awful to write or suggest for many reasons, primarily the ruination of college experiences and the elimination of jobs and people that comes with such extreme action.

1300 by Mike Anthony in Hartford, Conn. MOVED

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^AUTO RACING<

^6 things you may not know about NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway<

CAR-NASCAR-COCACOLA600-HISTORY:CH — Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 is going to be always known as the first (and hopefully last) race at Charlotte Motor Speedway held without fans, due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the 600 — the longest race on NASCAR's Cup circuit — has had plenty of other unique and memorable moments.

Here are a few of them.

450 by David Scott in Charlotte, N.C. MOVED

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