New Raptor Serge Ibaka excited to play ‘for something again’

Serge Ibaka is excited to play for a contender.The new Toronto Raptor, who was acquired in Tuesday’s trade that sent Terrence Ross to Orlando, says he’s looking forward to “playing for something again.”Ibaka met with the media Wednesday prior to the Raptors’ tipoff against the Charlotte Hornets but won’t play in the game. The power forward spent seven seasons in Oklahoma City before being acquired by the Magic last summer.Ibaka’s arrival injects some renewed hope into the Raptors, who’ve been mired in their worst slump in two years.Toronto has lost 11 of its last 15 games and plummeted to fifth in the Eastern Conference standings.

How Jays’ Marco Estrada found success in the slow lane

His 4.37 earned-run average was not where he wanted it to be.On the other side of the ledger was Happ, a 20-game winner and Sanchez, 15-2, whose 3.00 ERA led all AL starters.Liriano, a trade-deadline addition who essentially knocked R.A. Happ, on the other hand, received a team-best 6.3 runs an outing.When he first came to the Blue Jays for the start of the 2015 season in a trade with the Brewers, Estrada said it was a huge confidence boost and gave him a chance to learn from the slow-pitch master, Mark Buehrle.Buehrle won more than 200 games during a marvellous 16-year career and featured a fastball that was hard-pressed to top 85 mph.“Watching him pitch, he’s that guy throwing 80-83, 84, whatever it was and you see how quick his outs are, how well he locates and he just seems to get everybody out,” marvelled Estrada about the pitcher whose contract expired following the 2015 season. And better yet, he won’t have to pitch with an innings restriction hanging over his head, as he did in 2016.“I feel in our eyes we got five really good, above-average pitchers competing with each other every five days, making sure we stay together, making sure we feed off each other, making sure that we got each other’s backs from Day 1 to Day 162,” Sanchez said. And that’s basically what he taught me.”Sanchez remains his ever-confident self, and his steely-eyed nature should help him in his quest to emerge as one of baseball’s top throwers.Last season he added a good curve ball to his arsenal and this season he hopes to mimic Estrada and develop a better change-up. Marco Estrada’s road to slowness began early in the 2012 season, when the right-handed starter was with the Milwaukee Brewers and his pitches would top out in the mid-90-mile-an-hour range.Then, batting in a game against the San Francisco Giants, a quirk play led to an injury that forced his reinvention as a pitcher. I expect him to be better. I think a full year with Liriano in the rotation is going to be huge. “And we don’t expect anything less.“Obviously [Stroman] didn’t have the type of year that he wanted to have. “I hit a line drive down third base and I thought the guy was going to catch it,” Estrada recalled earlier this week at Blue Jays spring training. And I stopped, saw he missed it, pushed off turning it up and the next thing I know I hear, ‘Pop.’”That was the sound of his right quadriceps muscle tearing.“I have a hole there right now,” Estrada said, rolling up his right pant leg to proudly display the fading remnants of a scar.A trip to the disabled list ensued and when Estrada returned to the lineup he discovered he couldn’t throw as hard as he used to.The speed of his once-half-decent fastball, which used to race into the catcher’s mitt at somewhere around 95 miles an hour, was now lagging at around 88. Dickey out of his starting role, fit in very nicely, with eight starts over the final two months of the season, going 2-2 with a 2.92 ERA.And then there was Estrada, pitching all year with a herniated disk, who was selected to his first All-Star Game.His overall record of 9-9 does not seem over the top, but the Blue Jays did not do him any favours in his starts, averaging a staff-low four runs a game when he was on the mound. “And that’s what it takes.“We found a lot of success in that last year and it’s just something we can continue this year.” Estrada had to discover how to navigate life in the slow lane.For a major-league pitcher, a downturn of six or seven ticks on the radar gun is a huge slide, and Estrada had to rethink his game if he wanted to remain an effective big-leaguer.He became a control freak and learned how to live on the corners of the plate, keep the ball down, and deftly alternate pitch speeds to baffle hitters.He developed a change-up, and it is one of the best in the game. Estrada’s solid contribution helped elevate the Toronto rotation into one of baseball’s best.Wednesday, under mostly overcast skies off the Gulf of Mexico, was the Blue Jays’ first official workout for pitchers and catchers.This season, if the Blue Jays hope to make a third consecutive charge into the playoffs, they will need to see the continued success of their starting five.The group that finished last year, and helped lift Toronto into the AL Championship Series – Estrada, J.A. I expect him to be the same guy.”In a season in which the Blue Jays starters led the majors in total innings pitched, only Stroman had what could be considered a so-so year.At times effective, other times erratic, Stroman finished 9-10. Last season, he threw that pitch 26.6 per cent of the time to lead all major-leaguers.With his fastball averaging in the high-80s, Estrada’s change-up would usually creep in about 10 mph slower and the deception helped make him one of the toughest pitchers to hit.He held his opponents to a .203 batting average, the stingiest in the American League and third best overall. Obviously Sanchez is just starting to hit his stride and Happ’s been one of the best pitchers in the last season and a half. Happ, Francisco Liriano, Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman – are all back and looking forward to digging in.“I think they’re going to have to repeat what they did last year,” said Kevin Pillar, the Blue Jays defensive whiz in centre field. “And that makes you realize it’s not always about speed.“You locate a pitch and you can be really successful in this game. “But it went right over [the third baseman] so he didn’t catch it.

Arsenal outgunned in Champions League loss to Bayern Munich

The Germany forward had come on two minutes before.“We have to cope with the result,” Wenger said. Bayern Munich answered its critics with a comprehensive 5-1 rout of Arsenal in the first leg of their Champions League clash to put one foot in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.Thiago Alcantara struck twice in a superb performance, while Arjen Robben, Robert Lewandowski and substitute Thomas Mueller scored the other goals. “It’s not the final, unfortunately.”But Ancelotti will be relieved his side showed what it’s capable of after five unconvincing games since the winter break, when Bayern faced criticism for looking tired and lacking the dominance it displayed at the start of the season.There was little Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina could do to stop Robben from opening the scoring in the 11th minute. “The last 25 minutes was like a nightmare for us because we had no response.”In the night’s other first-leg match, defending champion Real Madrid recovered after conceding a stunning early goal to beat Napoli 3-1 on Wednesday and stay on track for its seventh straight appearance in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Casemiro all scored for Madrid after Lorenzo Insigne’s extraordinary goal for Napoli less than 10 minutes into the Round of 16 first-leg match at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.Bayern extended its 16-game winning run at home in the competition with a repeat of the score from the last time the sides met, in November, 2015.“It’s only one game,” Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti said, playing down the significance of the win. Instead, Arsenal was given a lifeline when Lewandowski took down central defender Koscielny and the referee awarded the penalty before the half-hour mark.Amid deafening whistles from the home fans, Manuel Neuer saved Sanchez’s weak spot kick and Sanchez then missed the rebound. Granit Xhaka should have scored when he shot straight at Neuer, and Mesut Ozil might have made it 2-1 at the break, only for Neuer to come to Bayern’s rescue again.But it was all Bayern after Arsenal lost Koscielny in the 49th minute.Robben and Philipp Lahm combined on the right ring, the latter producing an inviting cross for Lewandowski to rise above two defenders and head inside the right post in the 53rd.The Poland striker produced a brilliant back-heeled flick to send Thiago through to score another three minutes later.Bayern had a host of chances thereafter, first through Lewandowski, who struck the crossbar after rounding the ’keeper, and then through Robben, who was blocked by Kieran Gibbs, illegally according to the Bayern players, who demanded a penalty.Those claims were forgotten when Thiago grabbed his second, minutes later, with a deflected shot after a corner, before he set up Mueller to complete the rout with two minutes remaining. “No matter what we say now, it’s detrimental to us.” “It should do.”The Premier League side, which lost captain Laurent Koscielny to a hamstring injury early in the second half, looks set to exit at the same stage for the seventh season in a row.“The real problems came after the third goal, because we lost our organization and looked really jaded,” Arsenal coach Arsène Wenger said. But the Chilean cut the Bayern fans’ cheers short when he prodded in a third attempt.Suddenly the momentum was with Arsenal. Arsenal now faces what seems a near-impossible task in the second leg of the Round of 16 on March 7, despite a first-half equalizer from Alexis Sanchez. “It’s a very, very good position,” Bayern captain Philipp Lahm said with a smile. Given too much space, the Dutchman cut inside as he’s done so often before and let fly with a shot that went in off the underside of the bar.Bayern dominated and it looked only a matter of time before the home side would add to its tally.

Own The Podium cuts funding for Canadian men’s rugby sevens team

“Unfortunately our on-field performance last year with our men’s sevens side and our failure to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games has had an impact on our ability to access financial support through the Summer Team Sport Strategy,” Rugby Canada CEO Allen Vansen said in a statement. Rugby Canada said it is still determining the impact of the funding cuts on the men’s sevens program for the remainder of the 2017 season. “It is our mission to run a highly competitive, world-class men’s sevens program, as we have done for the past four years, with the objective of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and competing for a medal.”The funding cut comes just weeks before the Canada Sevens, the home stop on the World Series. “While we are disappointed that our men’s sevens funding recommended by OTP has been cut for 2017/18, we have taken steps to improve our on-field performance and to further develop our men’s sevens pathway.”The Canadian men currently stand 12th in the World Series standings after four events, although they did finish fourth in Wellington under new coach Damian McGrath. They are due to receive $1,970,000 for 2017-18 thanks to OTP’s Enhanced Excellence funding recommendations, according to Rugby Canada. Like the women’s sevens players, the men are centralized in Langford, B.C.“With six stops remaining on the HSBC World Sevens Series we know our men’s sevens team are as motivated as ever and have shown they can compete with the best in the world,” Vansen said. He backs his starting seven players against anyone but says the program is suffering from lack of depth.The team was 13th over all last season, ninth in 2014-15 and sixth in 2013-14. In its second year on the circuit, the Vancouver event has already become a hit with organizers releasing more tickets after the original allotment of 66,000 over the two days at BC Place Stadium sold out.The Canadian women won bronze in Rio and are third in their World Series standings. Rugby Canada is facing a big blow to the wallet with news that Own The Podium won’t fund the Canadian men’s sevens program for the 2017-18 fiscal year.The men’s sevens team, which has struggled on the field in recent years, got $850,000 in OTP recommended funding in 2016-17.

Ibaka brings defensive play, energy to Raptors

And Ibaka has heard plenty about the city from a former Raptor he got to know well as a member of the Magic these past few months – Bismack Biyombo.“Since we met, me and Biz, he always tell me great stories about the city, the fans here, the team,” said Ibaka, who speaks four languages – Lingala, French, English and Spanish. 24, so Ibaka’s debut as a Raptor will have to wait.“It’s not gonna be just like one game, boom, we’re back just because Serge walks in the door,” Casey said. Those are the things I’m really going to bring.”There is much speculation about how he could be used, since he has experience at both the No. “One thing he adds to our team is just overall physical toughness and in this league, in playoff basketball, in big-game situations, in fourth-quarter time, you’ve got to have that physical toughness and athleticism, speed and quickness at multiple positions.”He was greeted at the airport by the Open Court documentary crew that follows the Raptors, but Wednesday’s walk-through was his first meeting with new teammates.He’s friends with another Toronto assistant coach, Patrick Mutombo, who is also from the Congo. The trade with the Orlando Magic had exchanged Terrence Ross plus a first-round draft pick for Ibaka – the rim-protecting, floor-spacing specialist expected to fill the Raptors’ biggest void: the power-forward spot.Ibaka didn’t play with his new team Wednesday night. “When you have guys like Kyle and DeMar you don’t need an offensive, scoring guy really. The newest Raptor had a brief introduction to the media before Wednesday’s game against the visiting Charlotte Hornets. You need a guy who can bring some physicality and defensive plays, energy, running up and down. He’d arrived from sunny Florida to chilly Ontario less than 24 hours earlier, and the 6-foot-10, 235-pound power forward was already dressing the part. Serge Ibaka was wearing a winter tuque and a Toronto Raptors hoodie along with bright red sneakers, as he entered a packed news conference room Wednesday night. 5 positions.“He could be power forward, and also when we go small, the centre position is a possibility,” Casey said. 4 and No. Yet, he had arrived on an overnight flight, and with the Raptors travelling back from their Tuesday night game in Chicago and preparing for Wednesday’s contest at home, there was little time to bring him up to speed on the team’s plays.The 27-year-old player acknowledged that his situation in Toronto shares similarities with the one he experienced as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2009-16, before he was traded to Orlando. Having lost 10 of their past 14 games, they could have used him. He reunites with Toronto assistant coach Rex Kalamian, who had been on OKC’s staff during its memorable run to the 2012 NBA final. It was a standing-room-only gathering at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre that lasted just eight minutes before the big man was whisked off to meet coach Dwane Casey for the first time and attend the team’s pregame walk-through.The Congo-born Ibaka arrived in the most intriguing deal the Raptors had made in years. He agreed that playing with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan will be a lot like teaming with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.“A team like this, I’m just going to try to bring my experience and my defensive game, my toughness, my energy,” said Ibaka, who has three times been chosen for the NBA’s all-defensive first team. There, Ibaka played for a team that ran everything through an all-star backcourt. It’s everybody, collectively, pulling together.” “He loves it here.”It was Toronto’s final game before the all-star break, and the players don’t return to the court until Feb. “It’s a huge help, don’t get me wrong, but he’s not a lone saviour.

Bouchard follows through on Super Bowl bet, goes on date with Patriots fan

Earlier on Wednesday she announced that she would be included in Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit edition. Never bet against Tom Brady.”On Wednesday, Bouchard followed through on the bet and tweeted a photo of the two of them in the backseat of a car with the caption “Just met my ‘Super Bowl Twitter Date’ John. Eugenie Bouchard is not one to welch on a bet.Bouchard, from Westmount, Que., went on a date with a New England Patriots fan on Wednesday night after the two agreed to a bet over Twitter during Super Bowl 51.Bouchard had tweeted that she “knew Atlanta would win” with the Falcons holding a big lead over the Patriots during the NFL’s championship game. On our way to the BrooklynNets game!”Bouchard later posted a video of her and her date sitting courtside as the Nets hosted the Milwaukee Bucks.She is ranked 42nd in the world. The fan then asked her to go on a date if the Patriots somehow ended up winning and in what must have seemed like a low-risk reply, Bouchard said, “sure.”

After New England came back to win 34-28 in overtime she tweeted: “Lesson learned.

Foligno, Jenner lead Blue Jackets in win over Maple Leafs

It was Anderson’s 11th goal of the season and his first in 15 games.Later in the first period, Jenner scored by pushing in the rebound from a shot by Werenski.Bjorkstrand got a breakaway from just inside the blue line after a steal by Brandon Saad and scored 1:32 into the second. … … “Every line contributed.”Nazem Kadri scored both goals for Toronto, and Curtis McElhinney blocked 30 shots. “(We) kind of pulled our foot off the gas there in the third, but they’re a good team and they made their push. Toronto F Nikita Soshnikov missed his fourth straight game due to an upper-body injury. … Columbus hasn’t been outshot since Feb. Kadri has five goals and 10 assists in his past 13 games.UP NEXT:Toronto: Hosts Ottawa on Saturday night.Columbus: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday night. “I think we dominated the second half of the game, but by then it was too late.”Anderson started the scoring by poking in a rebound from the blue paint 4:30 into the game. Columbus moved into a tie for second place with Pittsburgh in the Metropolitan Division. Werenski launched a wrist shot from the high slot that glanced off Foligno’s thigh on the way in. The call was delayed while officials looked at the video replay to make sure McElhinney wasn’t pushed out of the way by a Columbus player. The Blue Jackets are 9-10-1 since a franchise-record 16-game winning streak earlier this season. Kadri got another 6:19 into the third when he tipped in Leivo’s pass.Calvert capped the scoring with an empty-net goal with 2:21 left.“I think our first two periods were really good,” Werenski said. Bjorkstrand was called up from Cleveland on Tuesday to replace Scott Hartnell, who was injured in Monday’s game against the New York Rangers.Foligno scored on a power play midway through the second. Joonas Korpisalo has been shuttled between Columbus and the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate in Cleveland quite a bit this season. The Penguins visit on Friday night in what is likely to be a playoff atmosphere at Nationwide Arena.Josh Anderson, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Matt Calvert also scored, and Alexander Wennberg, Zach Werenski and Seth Jones each had a pair of assists for the Blue Jackets.“I thought the lines had more balance tonight right on through,” Tortorella said. 3 against Pittsburgh. I think we did a good job of weathering the storm there, so I thought it was a good 60 minutes for us.”NOTES: McElhinney was in the net for the Maple Leafs after starting goaltender Frederik Andersen made 33 saves in a 7-1 win over the New York Islanders on Tuesday. … Maybe now, coach John Tortorella will let him stick around.The backup goalie made 31 saves, Nick Foligno and Boone Jenner had a goal each and the Blue Jackets beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 on Wednesday night. It was a homecoming for McElhinney, who was waived by the Blue Jackets earlier this season after backing up Sergei Bobrovsky the past few years.Josh Leivo assisted on both goals for the Maple Leafs, who squandered a chance to move ahead of Ottawa and Boston for second place in the Atlantic Division.The Blue Jackets led 2-0 after the first period and took a 4-1 advantage into the third.“Tough start,” Kadri said. Foligno got credit for the goal, and Werenski his second assist of the game.The Blue Jackets, who led the NHL in power-play percentage for much of the season, scored with a man advantage for the first time in 10 games, ending an 0-for-16 drought.Toronto got on the board with 2:32 left in the second when Kadri put back a rebound from just outside the blue paint.

Lowry scores 21 to lift Raptors over the Hornets

So I said Delon, just stay aggressive. “Those guys just did a great job of playing basketball, scrambling and just being aggressive.”The players joked in the post-game locker-room about the oddball fourth-quarter lineup that saw Lowry playing small forward at times.“I’m the oldest one (of the three point guards), so I just took the highest role, the 3 position,” Lowry said. especially for me, I’ve known him since he was a kid, since he was a baby, so it’s cool to actually see it.”Nicolas Batum drilled a three with 29 seconds left, but Carroll squelched any Charlotte comeback with a three of his own with seven seconds left.“I think Delon and Jak and DeMarre and Cory came in and just said ‘Forget it, we’re down and all we can do is go play basketball,“’ Lowry said. He did a good job tonight.”Lowry and DeRozan now head to New Orleans to represent the East in the NBA all-star game. The Toronto Raptors didn’t have the help of newcomer Serge Ibaka on Wednesday night. They were presented with their all-star jerseys prior to tip-off. “The older you get, you go from point to a 2, I guess I’m a 3 now. But Ibaka wasn’t ready to play Wednesday.Playing its last game before a nine-day break, Toronto came out with plenty of energy to take an early 14-point lead, but then things quickly went south. The Raptors took a narrow 44-41 lead into the halftime break.The Raptors’ pitiful performance continued in the third as the Raptors were outscored 34-14. “We were searching and we were searching and went to the Fountain of Youth and those guys came through and played their behinds off,” coach Dwane Casey said.Lowry had 21 points to top the Raptors (33-24), who snapped a three-game losing skid and own for just the fifth time in 16 games.“Tonight we needed that, just emotionally,” Lowry said. Turned out, they didn’t need him.Instead, an unlikely lineup of three point guards — Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph and Delon Wright — plus DeMarre Carroll and rookie Jakob Poeltl powered the Raptors to a fierce fourth-quarter comeback, and the Raptors beat the Charlotte Hornets 90-85 on a roller-coaster night at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors came to life in the fourth, and when Lowry drilled a three-pointer with 7:11 left to play, it capped a 20-2 run that gave Toronto a one-point lead and had the fans out of their seats.A basket by Poeltl made it a five-point Raptors lead before Walker scored Charlotte’s first field goal of the quarter with 3:13 to play to make a three-point game.With 1:26 to play, Wright — wearing glaring tangerine sneakers — stole the ball and finished with a basket to put the Raptors back up by five, part of an impressive performance by the young Raptor who’s missed most of the season with a shoulder injury.“Came through big,” DeRozan said of Wright, whose name was trending on Twitter in Toronto. The rest of the team will enjoy a much-needed break before returning to practice next Wednesday.Ibaka, wearing the team’s blue and white throwback Husky warmup sweats, appeared briefly on the court prior to the team introductions. And when Walker hit his second of back-to-back three-pointers with just under two minutes left in the half, it capped a 19-6 Hornets run and pulled Charlotte to within a point. He received cheers and the a few high fives before disappearing again.It was a team decision not to play the newest Raptor, because of his late-night flight to Toronto, and a hectic day of required medical tests and getting his bearings.Because of the NBA all-star break, Raptors fans won’t get to see him play until Feb. Delon was doing a great job of handling the ball… The Raptors imploded in the second and third quarters and the Hornets turned their double-digit deficit into a 75-58 lead to start the fourth quarter. 24 when Toronto hosts the Boston Celtics.The Raptors raced out of the gate, shooting 53 per cent in the first quarter and leading 31-20 heading into the second.But they couldn’t buy a basket in the second, making just one of seven three-point attempts in the quarter. “I always loved Delon’s game, he’s got a poise to his game, and for him to go out and handle the ball for the majority of the fourth quarter, that’s big. I’m happy for him. “ We emotionally needed that type of game.”Norm Powell added 17 points, Carroll added 13, Wright had 11, Jonas Valanciunas finished with 11 rebounds and 10 points, and DeMar DeRozan chipped in with 10 points.Frank Kaminsky led Charlotte (24-32) with 27 points, while Kemba Walker added 24.The slumping Raptors received reinforcement Tuesday in the trade with Orlando that brought Ibaka to town in exchange Terrence Ross and a first-round pick in the upcoming draft. The disgruntled crowd ushered the Raptors off the floor with a smattering of boos.Perhaps it was the push they needed. It just shows the hard work he put in…

Red Wings forward Nyquist suspended six games for high-sticking

A suspension was warranted regardless of his intentions, the league said, because he was attempting to use his stick in a retaliatory fashion and he is “completely responsible” for using his stick to deliver a dangerous blow that could have resulted in a severe injury.Nyquist will forfeit $158,333.34 in salary. “They didn’t think it was that bad. I said, ‘Well watch the replay. You’ll see it deserved more than a double minor.“’ Nyquist said the play wasn’t intentional, but the NHL’s Department of Player Safety disagreed.“This is not an accidental or inadvertent high-stick delivered by a player who is swatting at a puck in mid-air or who simply fails to control his stick in traffic,” the league said in a video explaining the suspension. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund. Nyquist got a double-minor, which irked Wild coach Bruce Boudreau.“They didn’t see it from the same angle I did,” Boudreau said of the game officials. Spurgeon missed a few shifts while getting stitches in his cheek but returned before the end of the period. “Rather, as Nyquist stated in a hearing regarding this incident, he acts in retaliation for being cross-checked from behind.”According to the league, Nyquist didn’t intend to high-stick Spurgeon but wanted to respond with a cross-check of his own. Detroit Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist has been suspended for six games for high-sticking Minnesota Wild defenceman Jared Spurgeon during a game last weekend.The incident occurred at 14:13 of the first period in Sunday’s game between the clubs, a 6-3 Wild win.Spurgeon had cross-checked Nyquist to the ice from behind near the side boards, and Nyquist came up swinging, using the blade of his stick to spear Spurgeon just below his left eye.

Toronto Blue Jays sign veteran pitcher Mat Latos to minor-league deal

He posted a 7-3 record with a 4.89 earned-run average and 42 strikeouts.The 29-year-old has also spent time with the Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins, Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres over his eight-year career. The Toronto Blue Jays signed right-hander Mat Latos to a minor-league deal Thursday with an invitation to major-league camp.Latos spent last season with the Chicago White Sox and Washington Nationals.