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Player Safety Has to Come First in the NHL Right Now

Jacob Scott

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Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

As we get closer to Christmas, the NHL is having another serious run-in with the COVID-19 virus.

And this new strain of the virus is probably going to result in NHL players choosing not to participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games. But don’t place any blame on the players for this. For some two years now, they’ve been asked to accept extreme measures to continue their livelihoods, and now they could have to do the same thing for the next six months. Being isolated from family members has been tough enough; asking them to endure the mental and physical anguish for another year just seems cruel.

Who is at fault for this extended bout of COVID-19? Our leaders, not our players. Our players are entertainers when it all comes down to it. Yes, they make a lot of money, but that shouldn’t mean governments can use them like puppets to keep the masses from going stir-crazy. Players (and coaches, and staff, and everyone who works at an NHL arena) have already done a lot for the good of the product. Now the product has to be good to them.

It doesn’t matter that Olympics participation would help to grow the game globally. The Chinese government wants best-on-best hockey, but they’re going to have to settle for the second-best-on-second-best. Now, if they come up with some protocols that ease the minds of NHLers, there’s still an outside chance we can get that best-on-best. But given how quickly the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 is sweeping around the world, it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which any government could assure NHLers they’ll be 100 percent safe.

The NHL has a Department of Player Safety, and under that banner, you’d think there was a way the league/team owners could justify barring players from attending the Beijing Games. However, league commissioner Gary Bettman has said publicly the NHL Players’ Association made it clear players wanted to play on a global stage like the Olympics. But that agreement was made well before this worldwide nightmare began. Things are different now. And we should be doing everything in our power to ensure all Olympic athletes are safe.

Hockey gods forbid any player contracts COVID-19 and winds up passing away from the virus. Can you imagine the outcry that would happen? No one life is more valuable than any other, but many people have not been personally affected by this virus; if they recognize a famous person who has succumbed to COVID-19, they may be more willing to get vaccinated and follow direction from public health officials.

Certainly, that’s a worst-case scenario for the NHL and team owners. But this is what the NHL Players’ Association is here for; NHLPA head Donald Fehr should and more than likely will be advising players to steer clear of a momentarily (hopefully) toxic workplace, and nobody will fault them for doing so.

Again, there’s blame to go around here, but none of it should be directed at the league or its players. Both have high stakes to worry about, and Olympic participation may only wind up hurting players and derailing any hope of having a complete regular season and Stanley Cup playoff tournament.

No, the blame for this falls squarely on state and provincial politicians who have not properly handled this international emergency. The NHL and professional hockey are but two of many victims of this ongoing tragedy. We’re all in this pandemic together, and no high-salaried athlete can pay for guaranteed protection from COVID-19. This is a fluid situation now.

By now, we should all have been getting excited at the prospect of Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and a slew of other NHL top talents representing their respective countries. The fact we’re now so skeptical it can happen is an indictment of our public officials, and one that will leave lasting bitterness even once we decide to all work together for the same cause.

It didn’t have to be this way. We could’ve been smarter and more judicious than we’ve been. There are real-world consequences for our actions, and the probable loss of players from the Olympics is hardly the most serious issue to address. This is uncharted territory for everyone. But the players have to do what’s best for them – really, they need to do what’s best for their physical survival – and none of us have any justification for criticizing them if they choose to stay home.

Entertainment is great when it can be provided. But we should not be demanding it when performers’ lives are jeopardized. If we claim to be fans of NHLers, we should understand when they do something to protect themselves from an airborne monster that doesn’t care whether you’re rich and famous, or just playing around on an ice rink in some random city.

We’re at the breaking point now, and the next few days should help provide clarity as to the right direction for the NHL and the Beijing Games. But it doesn’t look promising – and none of us have the right to get all huffy because we’re spoiled hockey fans. We’re better than that, and understanding where our athletes are coming from is what we owe players for all the years of fun.

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‘Moon Knight’ Took Marvel in a Different Orbit, but It Didn’t Rise to the Occasion

Jacob Scott

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Before anyone writes that off as an anomaly, “Eternals” tackled a similar introduction of a dense mythology on the bigger screen, with equally mixed results. It’s a reminder that while film-goers have had more than a decade to get to know characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, introducing some of these lesser-known heroes can pose a more formidable challenge beyond catering to the most ardent fans.
For Marvel, there are warning signs in that, since “Moon Knight” will be followed by several series based on second-tier characters, although the next two on the horizon, “Ms. Marvel” (which is due in June) and “She-Hulk,” at least have the benefit of sharing franchises and name recognition with existing Avengers.
Ultimately, “Moon Knight’s” murky storytelling appeared to squander its principal assets, which included the cool look of the character — a costume that was too seldom used — and the presence of Isaac, who possesses additional genre credentials via the “Star Wars” sequels.

Taking its time in peeling back the layers of the character’s complicated backstory, “Moon Knight” took a weird plunge into the Egyptian mythology behind it, in ways that became increasingly confounding and surreal.

By the time the protagonist’s two halves, Steven Grant and Marc Spector, wound up in a psychiatric hospital talking to an anthropomorphic hippo in the penultimate chapter, the question wasn’t so much being able to keep up with the story as whether bothering to do so was worth the effort.

The sixth and final episode brought the plot to a messy close, seeking to stop the goddess Ammit from proceeding to “purify the souls of Cairo, and then the world.” In the customary credit sequence, the producers capped that off by introducing a third personality, Jake Lockley, also rooted in the comics. While that seemingly spelled the end for the show’s villain (Ethan Hawke), the finish — giving the god Khonshu the protégé he sought — paved the way for further adventures should Marvel so choose.

That last twist might be cause for celebration in narrower confines of the Marvel fan universe, but “Moon Knight” too often felt like it was one long Easter-egg sequence, conspicuously preaching to that choir.

Granted, Marvel has made clear that Disney+ offers the chance to explore different kinds of stories, but “Moon Knight” feels at best like a quirky showcase for Isaac and at worst a failed experiment in terms of execution and tone.

That doesn’t mean this “Moon” won’t somehow rise again, if the closely held streaming data justifies it. But the promise that surrounded this property has faded, providing further evidence that even Marvel isn’t immune from setbacks as it moves into its next phase.

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Start-up Pony.ai says it’s the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China

Jacob Scott

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Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai can collect fares for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities as of Sunday.

Pony.ai handout

BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.

The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.

The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.

Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.

The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California. 

Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.

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How to watch Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies: TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

Jacob Scott

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Who’s Playing

Memphis @ Minnesota

Current Records: Memphis 2-1; Minnesota 1-2

What to Know

The Memphis Grizzlies’ road trip will continue as they head to Target Center at 10 p.m. ET this past Saturday to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis will be strutting in after a win while Minnesota will be stumbling in from a loss.

The Grizzlies are hoping for another victory. They beat the Timberwolves 104-95 this past Thursday. The victory came about thanks to a strong surge after the first quarter to overcome a 39-21 deficit. Memphis’ success was spearheaded by the efforts of power forward Brandon Clarke, who had 20 points in addition to eight rebounds, and shooting guard Desmond Bane, who shot 7-for-15 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points and six boards.

Barring any buzzer beaters, Memphis is expected to win a tight contest. They might be worth taking a chance on against the spread as they are currently on a two-game streak of ATS wins.

Memphis’ win brought them up to 2-1 while the Timberwolves’ defeat pulled them down to a reciprocal 1-2. A couple offensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: The Grizzlies come into the game boasting the second most points per game in the league at 115.6. But Minnesota is even better: they rank first in the league when it comes to points per game, with 115.9 on average. Tune in for what’s sure to be a high-scoring contest.

How To Watch

When: Saturday at 10 p.m. ET Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota TV: ESPN Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.) Follow: CBS Sports App Ticket Cost: $76.96

Odds

The Grizzlies are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Timberwolves, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Grizzlies as a 3-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Memphis have won 19 out of their last 28 games against Minnesota.

Apr 21, 2022 – Memphis 104 vs. Minnesota 95 Apr 19, 2022 – Memphis 124 vs. Minnesota 96 Apr 16, 2022 – Minnesota 130 vs. Memphis 117 Feb 24, 2022 – Minnesota 119 vs. Memphis 114 Jan 13, 2022 – Memphis 116 vs. Minnesota 108 Nov 20, 2021 – Minnesota 138 vs. Memphis 95 Nov 08, 2021 – Memphis 125 vs. Minnesota 118 May 05, 2021 – Memphis 139 vs. Minnesota 135 Apr 02, 2021 – Memphis 120 vs. Minnesota 108 Jan 13, 2021 – Memphis 118 vs. Minnesota 107 Jan 07, 2020 – Memphis 119 vs. Minnesota 112 Dec 01, 2019 – Memphis 115 vs. Minnesota 107 Nov 06, 2019 – Memphis 137 vs. Minnesota 121 Mar 23, 2019 – Minnesota 112 vs. Memphis 99 Feb 05, 2019 – Memphis 108 vs. Minnesota 106 Jan 30, 2019 – Minnesota 99 vs. Memphis 97 Nov 18, 2018 – Memphis 100 vs. Minnesota 87 Apr 09, 2018 – Minnesota 113 vs. Memphis 94 Mar 26, 2018 – Memphis 101 vs. Minnesota 93 Dec 04, 2017 – Memphis 95 vs. Minnesota 92 Feb 04, 2017 – Memphis 107 vs. Minnesota 99 Nov 19, 2016 – Memphis 93 vs. Minnesota 71 Nov 01, 2016 – Minnesota 116 vs. Memphis 80 Oct 26, 2016 – Memphis 102 vs. Minnesota 98 Mar 16, 2016 – Minnesota 114 vs. Memphis 108 Feb 19, 2016 – Memphis 109 vs. Minnesota 104 Jan 23, 2016 – Minnesota 106 vs. Memphis 101 Nov 15, 2015 – Memphis 114 vs. Minnesota 106

Injury Report for Minnesota

No Injury Information

Injury Report for Memphis

Dillon Brooks: Game-Time Decision (Foot) Santi Aldama: Out (Knee) Killian Tillie: Out (Knee)

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