What a wild week that was. The Phoenix Suns dreams of an NBA championship came to a crushing end, DeAndre Hopkins briefly hinted at ending his NFL career and Chandler Jones reportedly wants out. Let’s dive into our five biggest takeaways from the weekend in sports.
1. The Cardinals should give Chandler Jones what he wants: a trade.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported Sunday that Arizona Cardinals pass rusher Chandler Jones requested a trade during the offseason. Jones is apparently upset with his current contract, which expires at the end of this season. Fowler reports the Cardinals don’t want to trade him and expect the All-Pro defensive end to show up to training camp, which begins Tuesday.
Big Takeaway: The Cardinals would be foolish to fight this trade request because they could land a big return for a player who’s seen better days. Since joining the Cardinals via trade in 2016, Jones has stacked up empty stats while the Cards defense progressively got worse. Jones’ 61 sacks in 69 games (one sack in five games in 2020 due to season-ending injury) have had little impact on a team that boasted the second–ranked defense in the league in 2016. Each consecutive year the defense declined, culminating in the league’s worst–ranked unit in 2019. When Jones went down with a season-ending bicep injury in 2020, the defense was statistically better, recording 48 total team sacks (compared to 40 in 2019). The Cardinals added defensive lineman J.J. Watt in the offseason and drafted linebacker Zaven Collins in the first round to bolster the defense. There’s no need to keep an unhappy Chandler Jones in the mix anymore, especially if general manager Steve Keim can get a star player in return.
2. NFL players hit back at new COVID memo.
The National Football League is threatening teams with forfeit and players with loss of game checks if any game in the 2021 season gets cancelled due to a COVID outbreak of unvaccinated players. This led to a bit of a backlash from players such as Leonard Fournette, Cole Beasley and Cardinals star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who voiced his distrust of the vaccine in a now deleted tweet.
Big Takeaway: The NFL will have a big problem if it forces forfeits this year because fully vaccinated players and staff are still testing positive for COVID-19. Earlier today, the Colts announced head coach Frank Reich tested positive and must quarantine, despite already getting the vax. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the 13 staffers and four players tested positive in July after vaccinations. How will the league determine who has to forfeit when outbreaks occur among the fully vaccinated? The league had no issues adjusting schedules (for COVID postponed games) last season because there were (mostly) no fans in the stadium which made logistics easier. This year, the NFL wants to see full stadiums again and the revenue that comes with it. That last sentence alone makes it seem implausible there will be a single cancelled and forfeited game in 2021.
3. Suns future contingent on a big free agency decision.
This Sunday, August 1 may be the biggest day for the future of the Phoenix Suns. Point guard Chris Paul has until then to decide on his $44 million player option for next season. Reports several weeks ago indicated Paul would opt out and hit the market when NBA free agency begins August 6. We’re praying he doesn’t have the Lakers on his wish list.
Big Takeaway: There’s still a good chance Paul keeps his option and remains with the Suns for another year. It’s also plausible he enters free agency only to sign a longer deal to stay here in Phoenix, where he was two wins away from an NBA championship. The 15-year veteran star has never been closer to a ring than he was this season. His return to the Suns would benefit himself as much as it would the team and the fans.
4. Will Diamondbacks unload at trading deadline?
The Major League Baseball trade deadline hits later this week (Saturday, July 31) and the Arizona Diamondbacks are expected to be sellers. Infielder Eduardo Escobar (the D-Backs’ lone All-Star representative) has been a rumored trade candidate for weeks. Names such as Asdrubal Cabrera, Tyler Clippard and Merrill Kelly have recently surfaced and would be something to keep an eye on.
Big Takeaway: Besides starting pitcher Merrill Kelly, who wants any of these underperforming players? I could see a contending team having interest in Escobar to hit lower in the lineup – but probably not a No. 2, 3 or 4 hitter the way the D-Backs use him. Beyond those two, Arizona’s front office has its work cut out for them to get a return of prospects.
5. Coyotes overhaul roster and draft Shane Doan’s son.
The Arizona Coyotes will look very different when they take the ice next season. Late last week, General Manager Bill Armstrong traded away defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and forward Conor Garland; defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson retired; and the team acquired defenseman Shayne Gostibehere from Philadelphia. The Garland trade to Vancouver allowed the Coyotes to get back into the first round of Friday’s NHL draft, where they selected forward Dylan Guenther ninth overall. Arizona also won the weekend by selecting Josh Doan in the second round. Yes, he’s the 19-year-old son of Coyotes legend Shane Doan and is set to play in college at Arizona State University.
Big Takeaway: The Coyotes have been a bad or mediocre hockey team for a long time, with poorly managed or developed draft picks. The early reactions seem to indicate these are all positive moves in the right direction. Will these moves make the team relevant one day? Only time will tell.