🐫 Happy hump day from San Francisco where I can't stop thinking about this question:
For the second straight year, baseball free agency is moving at a snail's pace as a new crop of risk-averse general managers are refusing to pay players for past results and increasingly embracing the rebuild (it's not "tanking" but it's close).
Why it matters: "For decades, players thrived under the current setup — club-imposed salaries for their first three years, arbitration-inflated numbers for the next three, the riches of free agency after six," writes The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal (subscription).
Closing remarks, via the WSJ's Jared Diamond: "It's perfectly reasonable to say that it's smart for teams not to pay free agents the enormous sums of money they want as long as you acknowledge how anticapitalist it is for players to be forced into below-market wages for as many as seven years before they hit the free market."
Basque Country. Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Europe's midseason soccer transfer window just opened, giving clubs at the top of the table one last chance to splurge on talent — and clubs at the bottom of the table one last chance to improve and avoid relegation.
"[Bilbao] is a throwback," writes the NYT's Tariq Panja. "Tradition dictates that it can only field players who were born [or raised] in the Basque Country — territory that includes seven provinces that stretch from northern Spain into France."
The big picture: Bilbao has been a member of La Liga since its inception in 1929 and has never been relegated — an accomplishment it shares with only Barcelona and Real Madrid.
⭐ Andrew Wiggins (Timberwolves): 40 points (11-24 FG, 16-18 FT), 10 rebounds, 4 assists // MIN 119, OKC 117
⭐⭐ Nikola Jokic (Nuggets): 29 points (11-21 FG), 11 rebounds, 10 assists // DEN 103, MIA 99
⭐⭐⭐ Kawhi Leonard (Raptors): 31 points (11-18 FG), 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 steals // TOR 104, ATL 101
📺 Tonight, 8 pm ET (ESPN): MVP frontrunners collide, as Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks (2nd in East) visit James Harden and the Houston Rockets (5th in West).
Ryan Gosling — whoops, I mean Kliff Kingsbury — is headed to Arizona. Photo: John Weast/Getty Images
Just 44 days ago, Kliff Kingsbury was fired from Texas Tech after three straight losing seasons. 10 days later, he was hired as the offensive coordinator at USC. Yesterday, he got his own NFL team. Life comes at you fast.
Why it matters: The hiring of Kingsbury is further proof that NFL teams are desperate for young, offensive minds — particularly those perceived to be "quarterback whisperers."
Be smart: While Kingsbury is inheriting a similar situation to the one Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay did in 2017 (highly drafted QBs in Jared Goff and Josh Rosen who struggled as rookies), let's not get lazy and start thinking of every "offensive mind" as a potential McVay clone.
NFL coaching carousel:
The West Coast Conference currently has three teams — Gonzaga (3), Saint Mary's (38) and San Francisco (44) — ranked higher in KenPom than the PAC-12's highest-ranked team (Oregon, 45). Not a great look for a power five conference.
A check for $857.20 changed Rutgers' basketball recruit Maori Davenport's life — but not for the better, Michael Sykes writes.
What's happening: The check was sent to Davenport by USA Basketball for "lost wages" during her time with the U-18 team over the summer. Once she cashed it, she was declared ineligible by the Alabama High School Athletic Association, which does not allow payments of more than $250.
What they're saying:
P.S. This isn't the first time a high school athletic association has punished a student for unfortunate circumstances, and it won't be the last.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who was pretty good, shoots over Wilt Chamberlain, who was also pretty good. Photo: Getty Images
47 years ago today, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Milwaukee Bucks snapped Wilt Chamberlain's Los Angeles Lakers' 33-game win streak — still the longest in American pro sports history. Enjoy.
The longest winning streaks in the three other major sports:
A helicopter pilot flew within inches of a steep mountain slope to rescue an injured French skier. Special breed, those helicopter pilots.
In the history of the NHL, 7,596 players have played at least one game (regular season or playoffs).
❤️Bernice Sandler, the "Godmother of Title IX," died on Saturday at the age of 90. Talk about having a positive impact on the world. RIP, "Bunny."
🏀Zion Williamson scored a career-high 30 points in Duke's blowout win over Wake Forest last night. Fun fact: The season began on Nov. 6, and last night was Duke's first true road game. So weird.
🛥Cowboys owner Jerry Jones spent $250 million on a custom 357-foot yacht because he's rich and rich people do stuff like that. Look at this thing.
🎮 Mario Kart done right.
Kendall "I'm leaning towards five hours of double energy" Baker