Griner’s Tearful W.N.B.A. Teammates Play On After Her Conviction | Big Indy News
Connect with us

Sports

Griner’s Tearful W.N.B.A. Teammates Play On After Her Conviction

Published

on

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Phoenix Mercury Coach Vanessa Nygaard and her coaching staff stood in the empty Mohegan Sun arena on Thursday, puzzled.

The Mercury were set to take on the Connecticut Sun at 7 p.m., and her players were supposed to be on the court going through their normal pregame shoot-around, but no one showed up.

Instead, the Mercury players were back in the locker room, glued to the television screen watching their teammate Brittney Griner’s conviction and sentencing on drug smuggling and possession charges earlier that day in a Russian court thousands of miles away. “It was like you’re waiting for a bomb to drop,” Mercury guard Diamond DeShields said.

They watched with tear-filled eyes as Griner fought through her own tears and pleaded with a Russian court not to “end her life” for an “honest mistake.” Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony and fined 1 million rubles, or about $16,000. The sentence opens the door for Griner to be returned to the United States through a prisoner swap, but for the players, the news was still heartbreaking to hear.

“And we’re still supposed to play this game,” Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith said after the game, adding an expletive. “Nobody even wanted to play today. How are we even supposed to approach the game and approach the court with a clear mind when the whole group is crying before the game?”

Nygaard said the team had eventually gone through a “version” of the shoot-around, but nothing about the day or game felt normal. The most atypical moment of the night for Nygaard happened moments before tipoff, as the lights dimmed and players, coaches and referees locked arms in solidarity for 42 seconds — matching the number of Griner’s jersey. Fans chanted “We are B.G.” and “Bring her home.”

“I even linked arms with a referee, so you know you’re never going to see that again,” Nygaard said with a smile.

Griner has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17 after customs officials said they found hashish oil, a cannabis derivative, in Griner’s luggage at an airport near Moscow when she was traveling to the country to play for UMMC Yekaterinburg, a professional women’s basketball team. Griner said during her trial on drug charges that the hashish oil, in a vape pen, had been packed by mistake. Players across the W.N.B.A. and other professional athletes have campaigned fiercely for her freedom. In May, the U.S. State Department said that it had determined that Griner was “wrongfully detained” and that its officials would work to free her. Experts have said a prisoner swap is the most likely path for Griner’s release; the White House recently said it had made a “substantial” proposal.

In the meantime, Griner’s teammates and fans have continued their public campaign of support.

As fans filled the arena on Thursday night, they were greeted by Connecticut Sun dancers and arena staff members wearing “We are BG” T-shirts. Griner’s purple and orange No. 42 Mercury jerseys filled the stands along with variations of clothing with messages calling for her freedom. Mercury players donned the “We are BG” shirts in pregame warm-ups, as did the Connecticut coaching staff and several Sun players. Sun point guard Jasmine Thomas, who has been out injured, wore a hooded sweatshirt with a picture of Griner on the front and her No. 42 on the back.

Sharon White, a Sun fan and a season-ticket holder since 2002, was among those wearing Mercury colors. She was wearing a purple T-shirt that featured Griner’s name and number, which she said she wears to every game regardless of the opponent.

“When I get home, I wash it and I wear it again, even when they’re not playing,” White said, adding that her friends often make fun of her for how much she wears the shirt. White said she had cried as she watched Griner’s verdict on Thursday.

“It just hurts — I love her as a player, and it’s just a sad situation,” White said, wiping tears from her eyes. She added: “She doesn’t need to be there. When she comes home, she doesn’t need to go back. I think none of our players should go over there.”

Many W.N.B.A. players go overseas during the off-season to play for international teams to supplement their income. Griner was shown holding up a picture of her UMMC Yekaterinburg team photo from behind bars on Thursday.

Among those in the picture were Jonquel Jones, the Sun forward who won the W.N.B.A.’s Most Valuable Player Award last season. Jones, like Griner, has played for the Russian team for several years.

Jones said she had never expected something like Griner’s detention to happen. After Griner’s arrest, Jones said she had learned that even cannabidiol oil, which she always carries with her to help with recovery from pain and injuries, was illegal in Russia.

“My experiences over there have been so good,” Jones said. “Our team was top notch. They treated us like the professionals we are. We loved going over there because of that. So we just always felt safe. We never felt like anything would ever happen. So to see it happen to one of my teammates and be so close to it and understand that it could’ve been me, it puts it into perspective.”

Jones said getting excited for Thursday’s game had been difficult; the moment of solidarity made her even more emotional.

“It was like, ‘Dang, we did that, and now I got to go play basketball; my friend is still locked up overseas,’” Jones said. “So you just kind of go out there and do the best that you can do and not take the moment for granted, knowing that this is where she would want to be.”

The Mercury lost the game, 77-64, with an 18-0 Sun run in the third and fourth quarters that put the game out of reach. Diggins was the game’s leading scorer, with 16 points, and Jones finished with 14. But for both sides, the numbers seemingly didn’t matter.

“We’ll wake up tomorrow, and B.G. will still be in a Russian jail,” Nygaard said. “It’s day 169 or something tomorrow, and the clock continues, and we just want her to come home.”

Read the full article here

Sports

College Football Playoff predictions: Georgia vs. Ohio State, Michigan vs. TCU

Published

on

And then there were four. 

After a dramatic conference championship weekend that saw two of the nation’s top four teams suffer losses, the committee finalized one of the least controversial fields in the history of the College Football Playoff: Georgia, Michigan, TCU, and Ohio State. 

There was little drama heading into Sunday’s selections, but there’s plenty of intrigue within the matchups themselves. Can Georgia maintain its title defense against a talented and hungry Ohio State squad? And will Michigan stay undefeated against this plucky TCU squad? 

Here are the odds at BetMGM for the two semifinal matchups and our early lean on each:

Warren Brinson #97 and Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins #93 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrate
Getty Images

College Football playoff predictions and picks 

No. 1 Georgia (-6.5, 60.5) vs. No. 4 Ohio State (Dec. 31, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

When I first saw the odds for this game, I was surprised that Georgia wasn’t dealing as a touchdown favorite or bigger. Sure enough, bettors have already pushed this line to 6.5, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see this one cross the key number before kickoff later this month. 

That’s no disrespect to Ohio State, which clearly owns one of the three best rosters in the country. In fact, the argument for the underdog here is simple: These teams were seen as near-equals when the season began, and the Buckeyes lost one game all year to one of the other playoff finalists. 

Clearly, that’s an oversimplification. That loss came on the heels of a tricky win at Maryland, which came two weeks after a near-stumble at one-win Northwestern. Compare that to Georgia, which made quick work of LSU in last week’s SEC final — flashing elite offensive upside with a 50-piece to go alongside the most dominant defense in the country. 

Emeka Egbuka #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes
Emeka Egbuka #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes
Getty Images

Yes, there’s plenty of talent on this Ohio State roster. That wasn’t enough to hold up against Michigan’s offense, which gashed this unit with four touchdowns of 69-plus yards even with superstar Blake Corum (knee) on the sidelines for most of it — a somewhat predictable result for a Buckeyes secondary that hadn’t truly been tested all year. 

I’m skeptical of that unit holding up against Stetson Bennett and this resurgent Bulldogs offense, while C.J. Stroud and Co. have their toughest test yet against this monstrous Georgia front. Kirby Smart’s team blew out Michigan in a similar spot in last year’s semifinals, and I don’t expect this one to be all that much closer. 

Pick: Georgia -6.5 (BetMGM)

Members of the Michigan Wolverines celebrate with Donovan Edwards #7 of the Michigan Wolverines
Members of the Michigan Wolverines celebrate with Donovan Edwards #7 of the Michigan Wolverines
Getty Images

No. 2 Michigan (-9, 59.5) vs. No. 3 TCU (Dec. 31, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN) 

The biggest question heading into this year’s playoff selection wasn’t really whether TCU deserved to be one of the top four teams in the country. Its résumé answered that. The bigger issue at hand: are the Horned Frogs any good? 

Obviously, that’s a bit hyperbolic. This team had to be good to survive a sneakingly loaded Big 12 unscathed before losing in the conference title game to a team it had already beat earlier this season. It also ranked in the top 10 by most advanced metrics with a Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback in Max Duggan. 

Did this group ever really look the part of a playoff team, though? The Horned Frogs won seven straight games by 10 or fewer points at one point, regularly falling behind before relying on late-game heroics. That came back to bite them last week, when their second big deficit of the year against Kansas State was too big to overcome. 

There was rarely a doubt for Michigan, which led the country in average scoring margin (+26.7) and won nine of its 12 games by at least 20 points. That includes the best win by any team this season: a 22-point romp over the very Ohio State team that most consider to be better than TCU, rankings aside 

Max Duggan #15 of the TCU Horned Frogs
Max Duggan #15 of the TCU Horned Frogs
Getty Images

Losing Corum late in the season was a tough blow on paper, but quarterback J.J. McCarthy has come alive late in the year to round out one of the most complete teams in football. TCU deserves credit for its phenomenal season to date, but that should end in convincing fashion on the big stage. 

Pick: Michigan -9 (BetMGM)

Read the full article here

Continue Reading

Sports

Fantasy football Week 14 waiver wire advice: Act quick after big injuries

Published

on

Quick hitters and waiver wire advice for a handful of notable players after Week 13 of the fantasy football season:

Hire learning

Zonovan Knight RB, Jets

A week late to this, because we thought James Robinson would get worked into a significant role. We no longer harbor that belief. We like Knight as long as Michael Carter remains sidelined.

DeeJay Dallas RB, Seahawks

Rashaad Penny and Travis Homer already were out. Then rookie starter Kenneth Walker went down with an ankle issue Sunday. If he misses time, expect Dallas to lead a two-headed committee with Tony Jones Jr.

D.J. Chark WR, Lions

The Detroit offense is rolling, and with Chark looking 100 percent again, he should provide enough production to warrant an occasional fantasy start as Amon-Ra St. Brown’s sidekick.

Greg Dulcich TE, Broncos

Led all tight ends in Week 13 targets (8) heading into Monday. With that kind of volume, he can produce even with the nadir version of Russell Wilson as his QB.

The Seahawks’ DeeJay Dallas
Getty Images

Promote from within

Geno Smith QB, Seahawks

With “Seattle running back” now the most dangerous job in America, expect the Seahawks to lean more heavily on the passing game. So the Great Geno Awakening becomes even “awakener.”

Brian Robinson RB, Commanders

Washington has a bye next week, but we like the volume we’ve seen recently from Robinson. Reminds us of James Conner: Not terribly flashy, but good enough to produce if given enough opportunity.

AJ Dillon RB, Packers

Had a nice game while Aaron Jones was dealing with a shin issue. If that issue lingers past the upcoming bye week, we’re on board with starting Dillon, even against a relatively stout Rams run D.

Cam Akers RB, Rams

Akers has at various times been the assumed heir to the feature role to banished to the bench. Now, he’s back to toil with our emotions and rosters again. Gets bad run defenses next two weeks — Raiders and Packers.

Read the full article here

Continue Reading

Sports

NFL power rankings for Week 14: Bengals rising with new team on top

Published

on

Any predictions of a Super Bowl 47 rematch took a big hit last weekend.

The San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens both lost their starting quarterbacks. Make that two season-ending injuries at quarterback in the top-heavy NFC for the 49ers, as free-agent-to-be Jimmy Garoppolo joins Trey Lance on the bench.

The news is potentially better for the Ravens, who consider Lamar Jackson’s availability “week to week” with a sprained knee. The Ravens’ 2021 season fell apart in December when Jackson missed five starts. The AFC — and the North Division’s hard-charging Bengals — doesn’t offer much margin for error again.

Here are The Post’s NFL power rankings for Week 14:

1. Philadelphia Eagles 11-1 (2)

A.J. Brown finished with eight catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns in his first game back in Tennessee since a blockbuster trade on draft night. Jalen Hurts keeps climbing up MVP ballots, as he threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in a 35-10 win against the Titans. The Eagles are 11-1 for the fourth time — first since 2004.

Jalen Hurts and the Eagles are back at No. 1.
AP

2. Buffalo Bills 9-3 (4)

Josh Allen became the first player in NFL history with three seasons of at least 25 touchdown passes and five rushing touchdowns as the Bills won in Foxborough, Mass., for the third straight time, with a 24-10 victory against the Patriots. The Bills, who had started 0-2 in the AFC East, pressured Mac Jones plenty, even without the injured Von Miller.

3. Dallas Cowboys 9-3 (5)

Who needs free agent Odell Beckham Jr.? Dak Prescott threw two touchdown passes to Michael Gallup and another to CeeDee Lamb in a 54-19 demolition of the Colts. Tony Pollard rushed for two scores. One interception helped turn a one-point lead into eight before halftime and a second essentially ended the game with less than 11 minutes remaining.

4. Minnesota Vikings 10-2 (6)

The Vikings improved to 9-0 in one-score games and completed a four-game sweep of the AFC East with a 27-22 win against the Jets. Camryn Bynum sealed the victory with an interception at the 1-yard line with 10 seconds remaining, assuring that a 20-3 third-quarter lead didn’t go to waste. Justin Jefferson scored a touchdown and set up another with a tough over-the-middle catch.

5. Cincinnati Bengals 8-4 (8)

Joe Burrow is proving to be a worthy nemesis for Patrick Mahomes. The Bengals beat the Chiefs for the third time in the 2022 calendar year, with Burrow completing 6 of 7 passes on the game-winning 53-yard touchdown drive. Ja’Marr Chase returned, but Joe Mixon did not. Samaje Perine rushed for 106 yards in Mixon’s absence.

Bengals
Tee Higgins celebrates during the Bengal’s win over the Chiefs.
USA TODAY Sports

6. Kansas City Chiefs 9-3 (1)

Harrison Butker missed a potential game-tying field goal as time expired in a 27-24 loss to the Bengals. The bigger surprise was that Travis Kelce lost a fumble at the end of a 19-yard gain with the Chiefs leading by four points early in the fourth quarter. The loss allowed Buffalo to take the lead in the chase for the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.

7. San Francisco 49ers 8-4 (7)

Welcome to the Brock Purdy Era. Garoppolo suffered a broken foot in a 33-17 win against the Dolphins. The last pick of the 2022 draft, Purdy didn’t look like a Mr. Irrelevant as he threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns. A dominant defense forced two interceptions that led to field goals and scored a touchdown on a fumble return.

8. Miami Dolphins 8-4 (3)

Head coach Mike McDaniels’ first game against the 49ers since spending five years there as an offensive assistant did not go well. Lip readers caught him admitting that he “f–ked up” after burning a first-half timeout. The Dolphins’ streaks of five straight wins and four games with 30-plus points were snapped despite one Tua Tagovailoa-to-Tyreek Hill touchdown bomb.

9. Baltimore Ravens 8-4 (9)

Tyler Huntley led a 16-play, 91-yard drive (aided by two defensive penalties) that he capped with a 2-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds remaining to beat the Broncos, 10-9. The defense’s 14-game streak of forcing a takeaway ended, but Roquan Smith (11 tackles) had his most-active game since he was acquired at the trade deadline.

Ravens
Lamar Jackson
Getty Images

10. Tennessee Titans 7-5 (10)

Treylon Burks — drafted with the pick acquired from the Eagles for A.J. Brown — caught a touchdown pass, but Ryan Tannehill (141 passing yards and six sacks) and Derrick Henry (11 carries for 30 yards) couldn’t get anything going. In losing a second straight, the Titans’ last six possessions ended with five punts and a turnover on downs.

11. Seattle Seahawks 7-5 (12)

12. Washington Commanders 7-5-1 (11)

13.New York Giants 7-4-1 (13)

Five different players had sacks, including Azeez Ojulari’s that led to a fumble he also recovered. That takeaway set up Daniel Jones’ lone touchdown pass in a 20-20 tie against Washington, which has lost just once in its last eight games. Nearly automatic kicker Graham Gano missed a 58-yard field goal into the wind as time expired in overtime.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6-6 (17)

15. New England Patriots 6-6 (15)

16. New York Jets 7-5 (16)

One touchdown on six trips into the red zone and three conversions on 16 third downs weighed down all the positives in the loss to the Vikings. Garrett Wilson went off with eight catches for 162 yards, but a late fourth-and-goal throw went to Braxton Berrios and slipped through his fingers. Mike White’s 57 passes are too many for a supposedly run-based offense.

17. Los Angeles Chargers 6-6 (14)

18. Pittsburgh Steelers 5-7 (22)

19. Detroit Lions 5-7 (23)

20. Las Vegas Raiders 5-7 (25)

21. Atlanta Falcons 5-8 (18)

22. Arizona Cardinals 4-8 (21)

23. Cleveland Browns 5-7 (28)

24. Green Bay Packers 5-8 (26)

25. Indianapolis Colts 4-8-1 (20)

26. Jacksonville Jaguars 4-8 (19)

27. New Orleans Saints 4-9 (24)

28. Carolina Panthers 4-8 (27)

29. Los Angeles Rams 3-9 (29)

30. Chicago Bears 3-10 (30)

31. Denver Broncos 3-9 (31)

32. Houston Texans 1-10-1 (32)

Read the full article here

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest news directly to your inbox.


Trending