Ranking the 20 best free-agent starting pitchers, with potential landing spots

So your favorite team needs pitching? Join the club. To quote Yankees GM Brian Cashman at the GM meetings earlier this week: “Pitching, pitching, pitching.”

There’s something for every team in this year’s market. There are veterans looking for short-term, high-dollar deals, starters around 30 years old looking for lengthy, lucrative deals and plenty of potential bounce-back candidates looking for a chance to reestablish value on one-year deals (maybe with an option or two).
If your favorite team doesn’t add a starter, it’s not because it didn’t have options.

Let’s take a look at the top 20 on the market.

  1. Robbie Ray, LHP
    Opening Day age: 30

Why he’s here: The Blue Jays traded for free-agent-to-be Ray at the 2020 trade deadline and he liked his time in Toronto, so he bet on himself with a one-year deal to stay with the Jays in 2021. Turns out, that was a brilliant idea. He finally solved the control issues that had long kept him from joining the elite circle of starters; his 2.4 walks per inning in 2021 was light years better than his career average of 4.3 heading into the season. Ray led the AL in ERA, innings, strikeouts and WHIP, just to name a few stats and is a Cy Young finalist (expected to win).

Potential landing spot: The Blue Jays are primed to compete for AL East and World Series titles for years to come, and having a strikeout pitcher such as Ray atop the rotation feels like a pretty good fit.

  1. Max Scherzer, RHP
    Opening Day age: 37

Why he’s here: Scherzer is 37 going on 29, still an effective and often dominant starting pitcher in the big leagues. The right-hander with three Cy Young wins had a 1.98 ERA in 11 starts with the Dodgers after arriving in a trade with the Nationals. He’ll have lots of teams bidding for his services, offering two or three-year deals with crazy-high annual salaries.

Possible landing spot: Padres. Even though, on paper, San Diego has the five rotation spots filled — Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, Chris Paddack and Mike Clevinger returning from Tommy John surgery — you know after last year’s disaster the Pads are going to be aggressive. And adding Scherzer would be very aggressive.

  1. Marcus Stroman, RHP
    Opening Day age: 30

Why he’s here: The Mets had dozens of issues in 2020, but Stroman was not one of them. He made 33 starts for the club, posting a 3.02 ERA and 3.49 FIP, with only 2.2 walks per nine. Some have criticized Stroman for only throwing 179 innings in those 33 starts, but that total is impacted by a couple of short outings that were not performance-related, such as April 11, when umpires started the game and then pulled Stroman off the mound for a rain delay after he’d faced just two batters. Or June 22, when he left after an inning because of a hip issue. Here’s a more relevant stat: Stroman pitched at least five full innings in 29 of his 33 starts — including every July, August and September outing — and only three pitchers topped that number: Zack Wheeler, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias.

Potential landing spot: Stroman’s more of a contact pitcher (career 7.5 K/9) than many of today’s starters, so pitching in front of a Cardinals team that had five Gold Glove winners makes sense. The Cardinals would like a reliable rotation addition after last year’s cavalcade of rotation injuries and scrap-heap replacements (many of whom did very well, we should add).

  1. Kevin Gausman, RHP
    Opening Day age: 31

Why he’s here: Gausman was outstanding in 2021 for the Giants, posting the best season of his career. He had a 2.81 ERA/3.00 FIP in 33 starts, with a 10.6 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. Plus, he played last year after accepting San Francisco’s qualifying offer, so he has no draft-pick compensation attached, which is nice for him.

Potential landing spot: The lack of compensation is nice, no doubt, but Gausman had pitched in Baltimore, Atlanta and Cincinnati and never experienced nearly the success he had in San Francisco. The Giants have a lot of money to spend, and a reunion makes all the sense in the world for both sides.

  1. Carlos Rodon, LHP
    Opening Day age: 29

Why he’s here: Just a stellar bounce-back year, a great comeback story for a guy who has basically been an afterthought for a few years. Shoulder concerns might limit teams’ willingness to offer tons of money and lots of years, at least theoretically, but agent Scott Boras has gone on the record that Rodon isn’t signing a one-year deal.

Potential landing spot: The Mariners could use another lefty starter with Yusei Kikuchi opting out of his deal.

  1. Noah Syndergaard, RHP
    Opening Day age: 29

Why he’s here: Yeah, this might be a bit high for him, considering how much time he’s missed. But his upside is huge, he’s only 29 and you can bet the two innings he threw at the end of the season helped ease concerns teams might have had about his return from Tommy John surgery. And the track record of players coming back from TJ is pretty solid. Does he take a one-year deal to reestablish value or will some team sign him longer term, maybe a few years guaranteed with lucrative mutual options?

Potential landing spot: Most seem to think Syndergaard will wind up back with the Mets, either accepting the qualifying offer or on another shorter-term deal. But the taste of free agency is a funny thing. I could absolutely see him winding up with a team looking to make a playoff push in 2022. Think Seattle.

  1. Clayton Kershaw, LHP
    Opening Day age: 34

Why he’s here: Kershaw, who turns 34 next March, might not be a perennial Cy Young favorite at this point in his career, but he’s still a damn good pitcher when healthy. He had a 2.16 ERA in 10 starts during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and a 2.93 ERA in five postseason starts (2.31 in two World Series outings). Kershaw’s 3.00 FIP in his 22 starts in 2021 was his lowest since 2016 and his 10.7 K/9 ratio was the third-best mark of his career — better than two of his three Cy Young seasons.

Possible landing spot: Dodgers. Truth is, Kershaw’s probably going to spend time on the IL every year from here on out. He hasn’t made more than 28 starts since the 2015 season, with a wide variety of issues causing him to miss time. For the Dodgers, Kershaw brings value as a franchise ambassador even when he’s hurt, and they have the resources to build back-up rotation options into the roster. It makes sense that they’d keep the fan favorite around and just do everything in their power to make sure he’s healthy for the stretch run and into October.

  1. Justin Verlander, RHP
    Opening Day age: 39

Why he’s here: It’s hard to know where to rank a pitcher closing in on “40-year-old future Hall of Famer who has only made one start since 2019.” Here’s much more on Verlander’s situation and his potential landing spots.

  1. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
    Opening Day age: 29

Why he’s here: That 4.74 ERA in 32 games (31 starts) wasn’t pretty on the surface, but that 3.32 FIP sure looks nice. As does the career-best 10.6 K/9 and 3.94 K/BB rate, especially coming off a 2020 season where he was as impacted by COVID as any MLB player. E-Rod will generate plenty of interest.

Potential landing spots: Wouldn’t be at all surprised if he wound up back in Boston, where he has a career 4.16 ERA in 856 2/3 innings.

  1. Jon Gray, RHP
    Opening Day age: 30

Why he’s here: Gray has reportedly expressed interesting in staying with Colorado, but the Rockies didn’t extend a qualifying offer, which means Gray doesn’t come with draft-pick compensation and that’s good news for any teams that might be interested in seeing what he can do away from Colorado’s thin air. His career ERA at home (4.54) is actually a tick better than his ERA on the road (4.65), but what happens when he’s not switching between the thin air and “regular” air if he’s in a different home atmosphere? It’s an intriguing question. He’s coming off a solid year, with a 4.22 FIP and 9.5 K/9.

Potential landing spots: Look, we could put the Angels as a “potential landing spot” for every pitcher on this list. But Gray makes a lot of sense in Anaheim. If nothing else, he’s been pretty durable, with at least 20 starts each of the past five full seasons and at least 149 innings in four of those five.

  1. Steven Matz, LHP (30)

Why he’s here: After a 9.68 ERA in 30 2/3 innings with the Mets in 2020, the lefty had a nice bounce-back season with the Blue Jays, posting a 3.82 ERA and 3.79 FIP in 29 starts. Matz would make for a good secondary starter acquisition for the Angels.

  1. Anthony DeSclafani, RHP (31)

Why he’s here: Like Matz, DeSclafani was pretty awful in 2020 (7.22 ERA) and pretty great in 2021 (3.17 ERA) in a new location, with the Giants. He’d make sense with Matz’s original team, the Mets.

  1. Alex Wood, LHP (31)

Why he’s here: Yep, another starting pitcher who was key to the Giants’ success in 2021. Makes sense that they’ll bring at least one back; of the three, Wood seems likely to command the smallest deal of the three. He’d fit in Washington with the Nationals.

  1. Yusei Kikuchi, LHP (30)

Why he’s here: The lefty didn’t live up to his billing in Seattle, posting a 4.97 ERA in 70 starts in his three years with the M’s. But he has a durable arm and posted a solid 9.3 K/9 ratio last year, making his first All-Star team in 2021 before struggling in the second half (5.98 ERA). He’ll make sense for teams — not necessarily just contenders — looking to add multiple starters, teams like the Giants, Angels, Cubs, Rangers or Twins

  1. Dylan Bundy, RHP (29)

Why he’s here: The former bright hope of the Orioles was great in the shortened 2020 campaign for the Angels, posting a 3.29 ERA in 11 starts, but 2021 was a disaster. Bundy posted a 6.08 ERA and 5.51 FIP, while his K/9 dropped from 9.9 in 2020 to 8.3 in 2021. At this point, he’s probably looking for somewhere to reestablish value with a team that is not counting on him every fifth day to fuel a playoff push. Look for him to land somewhere like Pittsburgh or Texas.

  1. Zach Davies, RHP (29)

Why he’s here: Yeah, he was pretty bad for the Cubs in 2021 (5.78 ERA in 32 starts), but he’s not the first pitcher to blow up in Wrigley Field. Don’t forget, Davies compiled a 3.30 ERA in 43 starts pitching for the contending Brewers and Padres in 2019-20. He’s the perfect candidate to sign with a non-contender, work out the issues that caused his BB/9 to spike from 2.5 in 2020 to 4.6 in 2021, then get traded at the deadline and generate more interest as a free agent next year.

  1. Danny Duffy, LHP (33)

Why he’s here: He belongs in Kansas City. He’s family there. Here’s hoping he goes back home.

  1. Michael Pineda, RHP (33)

Why he’s here: In what was a disaster of a season for Minnesota, Pineda was actually pretty good when he was on the mound, posting a 3.62 ERA in 22 starts, and the Twins (who finished 16 games under .500) were .500 when he started. He’s pretty much a five-inning starter now — he got more than 18 outs only once all year — but he’s good in that role, and finished with a 1.85 ERA in 24 1/3 September innings.

  1. Zack Greinke, RHP

Why he’s here: His All-Star days are likely behind him, but the future Hall of Famer knows how to make the most of his stuff, and he could be an outstanding No. 4 starter for a contender. It’s hard to imagine he’d sign with a team like the Twins or Marlins; maybe the Cardinals — that stellar defense would be appealing — or maybe even a return to the Dodgers?

  1. Alex Cobb, RHP (34)

Why he’s here: Cobb was solid when he was healthy, posting a 3.82 ERA in 15 starts before landing on the IL and missing almost nine weeks with wrist issues. He returned to make three five-inning September starts; two were good, one was not.

Don't expect Carlos Correa's take on Derek Jeter to be a deal-breaker for Yankees

Carlos Correa's statement last week that Yankees legend Derek Jeter "did not deserve" any of his five Gold Gloves wouldn't be as controversial if Correa wasn't one of the hottest free agents on the market this offseason and would solve the Yankees' current shortstop problems. Goodness knows, he isn't the only person who has said such a thing.

Correa, 27, won a Rawlings Platinum Glove this year as the best fielder, regardless of position, in the American League. He also collected a Gold Glove (his first). He racked up 21 defensive runs saved, most in MLB among shortstops and seven more than runner-up Andrelton Simmons. He's no slouch in the field.

In fact, DRS was a large part of Correa's seeming diss of Jeter on an episode of "Me Gustan Los Deportes" ("I Like Sports"), a Facebook Live show hosted by former MLB star Carlos Baerga. Correa used Jeter's career numbers to illustrate the point that evaluation of defense has changed over the years because of the rise of advanced stats such as DRS.

"Derek Jeter. How many Gold Gloves did he win? Five. I think he won five. Derek Jeter did not deserve any of them," Correa, who has been an admirer of Jeter's, said in Spanish. "You know how much Derek Jeter's [DRS was] in his career? Negative 160 [actually, negative 162, per Fangraphs]. In his career. But your eyes can lie to you. Your eyes can lie to you. His fame . . ."
Heard in isolation, that snippet was a shot at "The Captain." And it came out during a period when the Yankees can bid on Correa, who reportedly turned down an offer recently of five years and $160 million from his old club, the Astros.
Jeter's fame served him well over his two decades with the Bronx Bombers, but it's not why AL managers and coaches voted him a Gold Glove winner in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010 when he was roaring through his 30s. (Critics might say his jump throws and solid hitting were why.) He had one positive DRS figure his entire career, a plus-3 in 2009. Sabermetrics didn't help to decide fielding awards then, however; the eye test was still king.

Jeter passed the test. Correa noted that the eyes can lie.

Jeter's enduring popularity led some Yankees fans to rush to his defense Monday against Correa, who is a sworn enemy in parts of New York because he played for the cheating Astros in 2017, when they beat the Yankees in the ALCS.
But other fans — and, most importantly, Yankees management — know that Correa would be a massive upgrade over Gleyber Torres, Tyler Wade or any other internal candidate. Yankees shortstops tied for 25th in the majors this year with minus-14 DRS. Adding a top-notch player at the position is an offseason priority.

And Correa is top-notch. He heads a loaded free-agent shortstop class that also includes Corey Seager, Javier Baez, Marcus Semien and Trevor Story. The Yankees won't reject him because of a quote that may have been taken out of context. They would be glad to have him play Jeter's position — and very happy if he plays it better than Jeter did.

Why isn't Trey Lance starting? 49ers' commitment to Jimmy Garoppolo makes messy QB situation

49ers fans waiting for the return of the "Trey Area" may have to wait a little longer.

The 49ers sending away two future first-round picks for the No. 3 overall pick for, what turned out to be, Trey Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft meant that the future was now. Or later. Or, apparently, eventually.
Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers have maintained that the best way to develop their prized QB prospect is to keep him on the bench, a strategy that may or may not work out long-term for them.

With Jimmy Garoppolo still a serviceable starter for San Francisco, the 3-5 start has fans calling for a change at the quarterback spot, leading to many wondering why Lance isn't starting. While draft philosophies differ, one thing is certain: The 49ers spent a lot of future draft capital for a guy who's gotten a very small sample size of work so far this season.

Shanahan's comments haven't painted a pretty picture for Lance's starting prospects in 2021, either.

Why isn't Trey Lance starting?
The answer: Anyone's guess.

While Lance got an opportunity to fill in for Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 5 vs. the Cardinals, he's been on the sidelines since then. Through a bye week, a knee injury and Garoppolo getting the opportunity to start once again, the 49ers have resisted the urge to let Lance see the field. Lance last got a snap in Week 5.

While Lance came out of college as something of a project, it seems like the 49ers' direction is to do more to try and develop Lance for the future than to shoehorn him into situations now after attempting to earlier in the season.

In late October, head coach Kyle Shanahan explained why Lance hasn't been given a longer leash to start:

“We didn’t draft Trey to just fix this year," Shanahan said. "We drafted him so he could be the quarterback of the future and that’s a matter of time. We are not playing him just because what our record is, or just because."

There's also the matter of Jimmy Garoppolo, who has played "all right" (Shanahan's words) despite missing a game with an injury. ESPN's Dan Graziano reported that he doesn't feel that Shanahan will make the change to Garoppolo anytime soon — not as long as Garoppolo is playing, well, all right.

On Halloween, Lance was seemingly healthy and ready to go. Shanahan, though, didn't want to risk putting Lance on the field in the event that Garoppolo was injured.

To that end, the question remains: Not that Lance's usage rate was out of this world, but why were the 49ers more willing to use Lance early on in the season (129 snaps in total through Week 5) and not now?

The resistance to want to use Lance continued in this past weekend: Following the rough Week 9 loss to an undermanned Cardinals team, Shanahan was asked if he'd consider making a QB change for the Niners' Week 10 game vs. the Rams.

"Probably not, but definitely not thinking about those things right now. I’m thinking about this game and the rest of our team," Shanahan said post-game.

Defenses have been playing the 49ers passing game tighter, with Garoppolo's propensity to work short throws and the middle of the field (as the Shanahan system accounts for). Garoppolo's ability to stretch the field has always been something of a question, something that Lance's physical traits would allow him to do.

But, come hell or high water, it sounds like it's going to be Garoppolo — for now.

'Space Jam' turns 25 (sorry Sporting News wasn't there for the birth)

Twenty-five years later, this much is clear: “Space Jam” was not our jam.

But since its debut on Nov. 15, 1996, the iconic movie to kids of the ’90s (looking at you, Ken Griffey III) has found its way into Sporting News’ world.
Back in the day? Not so much.

In fact, the first and only mention of the movie in ’96 was in The Sporting News’ annual 100 Most Powerful (cover headline: “Mouse madness: Disney’s growing sports kingdom,” so at least, y’know, some things aged reasonably well).

Ranked No. 17 on the TSN 100 — sandwiched between a pair of commissioners, No. 16 Paul Tagliabue and No. 18 Gary Bettman, David Falk, agent for a certain Tune squad team captain, was described in capsule form:

“Michael Jordan’s $30 million, one-year deal was only a part of the $400 million in player contracts Falk’s (agency F.A.M.E.) negotiated last summer. Falk also was executive producer of ‘Space Jam.’”
Next time “Space Jam” popped up in TSN’s pages was almost a year after its premiere, in the Sept. 1, 1997 issue in, of course, a baseball story.

The headline: How to survive a pennant race.

Nobody can live baseball 24 hours a day … Players, coaches and managers strongly advise leaving the game at the park. Those with young children have an advantage: They go home to a first job. Ken Griffey Jr. watches movies with his son, Trey. "We watch 'Space Jam,'" Griffey says. "My son asks me, 'Daddy, how come you can't disappear into the ground like Michael Jordan?’”

Now, in fairness to TSN, other sports flicks got scant mention if at all — even, for God’s sake, when The Sporting News its own self got a mention (shoutout to Susan Sarandon and “Bull Durham”!).

Also, in fairness, we eventually came around and the original “Space Jam” dotted Sporting News, to readers’ good fortune.

So on the 25th anniversary of The Sporting News ignoring “Space Jam,” here are five times SN didn’t:

  1. Michael Jordan trash-talked extras on the set of 'Space Jam’
  2. This 'Space Jam' honest trailer is here to destroy your childhood memories
  3. Michael Jordan got ready for the Bulls' '95-96 season on the set of 'Space Jam'
  4. Bill Murray wants some credit for setting up Michael Jordan's game-winning shot in 'Space Jam'
  5. DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin read 'Space Jam' (VIDEO

NBA after Kenosha: A timeline of basketball's response to protests through Kyle Rittenhouse trial

As the NBA has grown in popularity, so has the influence of its players. In recent years, members of the basketball community have raised their voices and stepped up their efforts in advancing social justice.

One particular date served as a major turning point in the NBA's movement. On Aug. 23, 2020, Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot multiple times in the back by Rusten Sheskey, a white police officer, in Kenosha, Wisc. The shooting left Blake paralyzed from the waist down and sparked several protests against police brutality and systemic racism in the United States.
At the same time, the NBA season was playing out inside the Florida "bubble" as the news emerged about the shooting, leaving the entire NBA community with the difficult task of staying engaged as the 2019-20 season resumed amid a global pandemic while also speaking to events happening in the real world.

Then, basketball suddenly stopped.

Bucks lead response in NBA 'bubble'
On Aug. 26, 2020, the Bucks were scheduled to face the Magic in Game 5 of their first-round series. Milwaukee players never took the floor for pregame warmups, though, and Orlando players returned to their locker room once it became clear that the Bucks did not intend to play.

Hours after the game was supposed to tip off, Bucks guards Sterling Brown and George Hill delivered a team statement calling for the Wisconsin State Legislature to "take up meaningful measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform" in the wake of the Blake shooting. Milwaukee players also attempted to reach Josh Kaul, the attorney general of Wisconsin, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania.
The NBA then announced that the three playoff games scheduled to be played that day had been postponed.

"The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association today announced that in light of the Milwaukee Bucks' decision to not take the floor today for Game 5 against the Orlando Magic, today's three games — Bucks vs. Magic, Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers — have been postponed," the league said in its statement. Game 5 of each series will be rescheduled."

Milwaukee's decision reportedly caught the rest of the NBA off-guard, including the team's front office, but Bucks ownership offered full support to the players.

"Although we did not know beforehand, we would have wholeheartedly agreed with them," Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan said in a joint statement. "The only way to bring about change is to shine a light on the racial injustices that are happening in front of us. Our players have done that and we will continue to stand alongside them and demand accountability and change."

Tense meeting after 'bubble' boycott
Once games were postponed, multiple reports emerged indicating players would hold a meeting that evening to discuss the state of the season. Coaches were in attendance as well, but they were asked to leave at one point, according to ESPN's Zach Lowe.

A few key items from that meeting:

Players talked about voting and police reform and what team owners must do in order for the season to proceed, according to Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, who also noted members of the Bucks and Raptors were particularly outspoken during the meeting.
The Clippers and Lakers voted to boycott the season, per multiple reports, though ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski clarified those votes were part of an informal poll. Every other team voted to continue play, according to Charania.
There was reportedly frustration with how the Bucks handled the boycott, and some players wanted an explanation for why they didn't alert other teams of their decision. Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, however, supported the Bucks and said they didn't need to explain anything.
Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James were "adamant" about not finishing the playoffs, according to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times. James reportedly left the meeting early and was followed by the rest of the Lakers and Clippers.
Michele Roberts, the executive director of the NBPA, laid out the financial ramifications of boycotting the season, including the possibility of owners terminating the collective bargaining agreement and a future lockout, per Wojnarowski.
A source told The Athletic's David Aldridge the meeting ended "ugly" and there was uncertainty about what would happen the next day.

2020 NBA playoffs resume
The league's Board of Governors conducted an emergency call with NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Aug. 27, 2020, per multiple reports. NBA players also had a meeting scheduled at that time. Players eventually decided to resume the 2020 NBA playoffs.

James and other players reportedly changed positions after initially supporting a boycott of the season, saying it was in the best interest of the players' movement to resume the season. A major source of frustration in the previous meeting "stemmed from players not being on the same page," according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

The NBA and the NBPA then announced three new initiatives after discussing what steps needed to be taken in support of social justice and racial equality:

Creating a social justice coalition, which includes players, coaches and owners and focuses on increased access to voting, civic engagement and police and criminal justice reform
Working with local officials to turn NBA arenas into voting centers for the November general election
Airing public service ads during playoff games to increase engagement in elections and raise awareness of voter access
All parties agreed to resume playoff games on Aug. 29, 2020.

NBA reaction to Jacob Blake ruling
On Jan. 5, 2021, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced that no charges would be brought against Sheskey in the shooting of Blake. The Wisconsin Department of Justice said that Blake had a knife in his possession.

"Jacob Blake, while actively resisting, arms himself with a knife," Graveley said (via CNN). "It's absolutely incontrovertible that Jacob Blake was armed with a knife during this encounter. … All the discussion that he's unarmed contradicts even what he himself has said multiple times."

However, an attorney for Blake's family didn't believe that Blake ever posed a threat to officers.

"I think that's completely bogus and I think that is just a rationalization to try to show what is really, essentially, an intentional act," B'Ivory LaMarr said after Graveley's announcement. "It's not against the law to have a knife. People have knives for a variety of different reasons. Jacob Blake is privy to having a knife."

Graveley added that Blake would also not face charges.

Blake's legal team shared their disappointment in the decision, as did NBA players upon hearing the news. James called the results of the investigation a "blow to the heart and to the gut." Wesley Matthews, who was part of the Bucks team that led the "bubble" boycott, described the development as "disheartening."

"It's upsetting as a human being that justice isn't justice. It's tough," Matthews said. "But it can't knock us off our path that we're trying to get to, which is equality and just simply right and wrong."

The U.S. Justice Department announced on Oct. 8, 2021, that it would not pursue charges against Sheskey.

Kyle Rittenhouse shooting
In the aftermath of the Blake shooting, one of the protests in Kenosha turned violent. On Aug. 25, 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse, then a 17-year-old from Antioch, Ill., shot and killed two men and wounded another man.

Rittenhouse, who claims that he acted in self-defense, faces the following charges:

First-degree reckless homicide, use of a dangerous weapon
First-degree recklessly endangering safety, use of a dangerous weapon
First-degree intentional homicide, use of a dangerous weapon
Attempted first-degree intentional homicide, use of a dangerous weapon
First-degree recklessly endangering safety, use of a dangerous weapon
Possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18
First-degree intentional homicide carries a mandatory life sentence.

A jury for the Rittenhouse trial was selected on Nov. 1, and the trial began on Nov. 2.

LeBron James reaction to Kyle Rittenhouse trial
Rittenhouse took the stand on Nov. 10 and told jurors that he shot the men because he had to "stop the people who were attacking me." He also claimed that he was in Kenosha to protect private property and provide first aid.

At one point while he was on the stand, Rittenhouse broke down in tears, leading to a brief break. James posted on Twitter in response to a video of the moment captured by USA Today.

"Man knock it off!" James tweeted. "That boy ate some lemon heads before walking into court."
What happens next in Kyle Rittenhouse trial?
Testimony in the trial concluded on Nov. 11 after jurors heard from more than 30 witnesses. Closing arguments are expected to begin on Nov. 15, and each side will have two and half hours for their closing arguments. The judge will also give the jury instructions before final deliberations.

Regardless of where the jury lands on the charges, there will be a strong reaction to the ruling in the Rittenhouse trial, and it is expected that NBA players will once again let their voices be heard.

Can Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks kickstart season after big win over Milwaukee Bucks?

It might not erase memories of last year's Eastern Conference Finals, but it could kickstart a sputtering start to the season.

The Atlanta Hawks snapped a six-game losing streak in emphatic style, blowing out the Milwaukee Bucks 120-100 at State Farm Arena.

The win was a continuation of a gauntlet schedule for the Hawks, with Trae Young exploding for a season-high 42 points to end the skid.

"He came out very aggressive. He felt the rhythm and stayed with it," head coach Nate McMillan said. "I thought he established a tempo on both ends of the floor. I loved the pace that we played with tonight."

The win over Milwaukee ends a stretch of games that has seen the Hawks face Brooklyn, Utah, Phoenix, Golden State, Utah again and then Denver in succession.

Forget the fact that those squads are all hoping to contend for a title, the Hawks are also battling their own expectations after a spectacular run to the Conference Finals.

"That's something that these guys are going through for the first time. Being a team that other opponents respect," McMillan said.

"We played some really good teams to start this season off. I thought last year we played good basketball and I don't think people were writing us off but this year they are coming in ready to play. This is something we are going through for the first time and guys are learning what it's like when expectations are higher."

"It's very similar to postseason play. You can tell them how physical it's going to be but until you go through it and experience it they really won't know."

The win improves Atlanta to 5-9 on the season, with the next four games all at home.

More than anything, Atlanta fans will be pleased to see the return of Young at his best, with the explosive scorer pouring in seven first-half triples on his way to 27 points through two quarters. He finished the night 8-for-13 from long range, with the eight makes his most in a game since January.

Prior to tonight, Young was just 34.4 percent from long range, with his ten assists giving him his sixth double-double of the season.

The Hawks offense found it's mojo against Milwaukee, with John Collins once again becoming an above-the-rim threat in pick-and-roll situations with Young.

Collins finished with 19 points and six rebounds, while also drawing two offensive fouls on Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It's only one win, and it came against an injury hit Bucks team at the end of a five-game road trip, but for the first time in a while the Hawks looked like last year's version.

Charlotte Hornets showing signs of growth on the defensive end as they continue Eastern Conference rise

The Charlotte Hornets were clinging to a 99-98 lead with five minutes to play against Golden State. The easily excitable Hornets play-by-play caller Eric Collins was crackling with anticipation on every dribble in what was looming as a memorable early season win.
Despite the hope in the building from the home crowd, you looked at the Warriors lineup and saw the players on the floor.

Stephen Curry. Draymond Green. Andre Iguodala.

To that point, Curry had been decently held, tallying just 24 points. But surely he would break loose…

Charlotte, who were 7-7 coming into the night needed a big win. A highlight machine team, the Hornets play has been inconsistent through the early part of the season.

Rather than crumble under the pressure, the Hornets locked in on the defensive end, stifling the Warriors and inparticular Curry. Golden State would manage just four points the rest of the way, with Curry going scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting from the floor.

Try as he might, Curry couldn't shake loose from multiple Charlotte defenders and on this night at least, he failed to knock down the miraculous attempts.

The 106-102 win is big, but the way they executed defensively feels like something head coach James Borrego can lean on moving forward.

"We're trying to become a more consistent team in our effort, our execution. I think tonight was a good example of that," Borrego said.

"I think we were just locked in defensively. Our ball pressure, our hands, our activity. I thought our group was fantastic on Steph. He banks one in, you move on, he's going to make some of those shots. I thought in general we made it very tough on him tonight. The guys in that locker room deserve the credit, they were locked in from minute one."

An explosive offensive team, the Hornets have quickly become the darlings of NBA League Pass, with the LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges pairing providing as many highlight reel plays as any duo since the beginning of last season.

Aside from the jaw dropping passes and dunks, Ball and Bridges possess serious size, length and versatility that should bode well for a modern defense to have success.

In a positive sign, the Hornets have a defensive rating of 105.3 across 268 minutes when on the floor with big man Mason Plumlee.

As with all young teams, the defensive side of the ball usually develops after the offense, but for tonight at least, the Hornets flashed an ability to lock an opposition team down when they needed it most.

"To be a good team you've got to be able to close. I think we closed out tonight and it was more on the defensive end."

Now it's about consistency.