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Packers-Aaron Rodgers divide grows, and 2021 NFL Draft won’t narrow it

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Packers-Aaron Rodgers divide grows, and 2021 NFL Draft won't narrow it

Aaron Rodgers is still the Packers’ quarterback.  

For now, anyway. Did Green Bay do enough with its first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to squash a predraft social media storm involving the three-time NFL MVP? That’s the big question after the Packers selected Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes with the 29th pick of the first round Thursday night. 

MORE: Why does Aaron Rodgers want out?  

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday that Rodgers’ desire to part ways with the franchise after 16 seasons is real, and several factors are at work. Rodgers and the Packers are at odds over whether the veteran’s contract should be extended or restructured. Green Bay is in a salary-cap crunch. There is a “Last Dance” feel after back-to-back NFC championship failures with coach Matt LaFleur.  

And, of course, there is Jordan Love — the first-round quarterback the Packers traded up to get in 2020.

MORE: Love pick wasn’t motivation for Rodgers’ MVP season, Adams says

The stage was set for a potential draft-day shocker that would have made Brett Favre to the Jets seem like a second-rate sitcom.

Did Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst delay the drama? The Packers reportedly turned down an offer from the 49ers, who selected quarterback Trey Lance with the No. 3 pick. Two other suitors did not take a quarterback.  

The Broncos, who had the No. 9 pick, passed on Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Alabama’s Mac Jones to grab Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr. The Raiders drafted Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, and Las Vegas coach Jon Gruden has gushed about Rodgers dating to his days in the “Monday Night Football” booth. Rodgers would fill both franchises’ need for a QB. 

Was the Packers’ first-day response enough? Stokes is not a splashy pick but he addresses an area of need that surfaced in the NFC championship game loss to the Buccaneers. The Packers needed an upgrade at cornerback opposite Jaire Alexander despite them re-signing Kevin King. Stokes is an athletic player who ran a 4.25 40-yard dash at his pro day.  

But he isn’t a receiver. The Ravens drafted Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman at No. 27 and Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore is still on the board heading into Day 2. The Stokes pick checks a box and is nowhere near as nuclear as the Love pick, but it still was a tepid decision that doesn’t answer a burning question. 

Will Rodgers really leave Green Bay before the season starts? That response won’t be determined by the draft. 

The Broncos and Raiders are still worth watching, given Rodgers’ Bay Area roots, and the Seahawks are also worth monitoring. A blockbuster swap involving Russell Wilson would be more logical than grabbing a fistful of future picks from another trade partner.

The uncertainty with Rodgers is anything but a “beautiful mystery.” It’s increasingly likely that he will not end his career in Green Bay, and the timetable for his departure has been pushed up to an uncomfortable point. The lack of free-agent activity this offseason, the contract stalemate and the public disconnect between Rodgers and the Packers have made the situation ugly. The deadline for a move appears to be the end of the 2021 season, especially if Green Bay does not reach the Super Bowl.  

Drafting Stokes is not going to change that sentiment, but honestly, which player would have? Bateman? Moore? No, the damage from the Love pick is done. Remember when Mike McCarthy said, “The train has left the station” in 2008?   

It feels that way again with Rodgers.

That feeling isn’t going away anytime soon, either.

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Twitter reacts to Russell Westbrook’s NBA-record 182nd career triple-double

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Twitter reacts to Russell Westbrook's NBA-record 182nd career triple-double

Russell Westbrook made history Monday night, notching his 182nd career triple-double — and moving past Oscar Robertson for the all-time NBA record.

Robertson’s record lasted 47 years, from 1974 through Monday night when a fourth-quarter rebound in front of a reduced-capacity crowd in Atlanta gave Westbrook sole possession of the record. It took him 12 years to surpass Robertson’s record after he achieved his first triple-double (17 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds) in 2009 as a rookie with the Thunder.

MORE: Jaylen Brown injury update: Celtics star out for rest of season with torn wrist ligament

Monday’s triple-double was Westbrook’s 36th of the year. That insane output is helping him average, for the fourth time in his career, a triple-double over the course of the season. The previous such campaigns came in 2016-17 through 2018-19.

Westbrook finished with 28 points, 21 assists and 13 rebounds in the Wizards’ 125-124 loss to the Hawks; the loss dropped Washington to 32-37 on the season, but the team still ranks 10th in the Eastern Conference standings. The Wizards’ playoff hopes pale in comparison to the history Westbrook made, however.

He even made sure to get the game ball from officials so he could be certain to commemorate the historic achievement.

Here are some of the best reactions to Westbrook’s history-making feat:

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Kenny Mayne’s ESPN cover letter was perfect precursor to his incredible career

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Kenny Mayne's ESPN cover letter was perfect precursor to his incredible career

ESPN’s Kenny Mayne, one of the most recognizable talents in sports broadcasting, is leaving the network, he announced on Monday.

The 27-year ESPN anchor broke the news on Twitter, describing his exit from the worldwide leader in sports as a “salary cap casualty.” Naturally, he could only include some of the dry humor that helped him become a beloved presence in the studio and on millions of sports fans’ TVs.

MORE: ESPN anchors get emotional over laid-off co-workers: ‘We are all hurting’

The longtime “SportsCenter” host’s final day will be on May 24, bringing to an end a 27-year stint at ESPN that began in 1994. His absence will undoubtedly be noted among fans who appreciated his humor and presence in ESPN’s studios — but his Monday announcement is as good a reason as any to remember the incredible cover letter that first landed him the gig in 1994.

Mayne sent a short and sweet cover letter to ESPN’s John Walsh in 1994, offering him three checkboxes in the former’s bid to land a job with ESPN:

Unsurprisingly, Mayne made Walsh smile. Walsh wouldn’t be the last person to smile at Mayne’s humor and creativity.

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Jaylen Brown injury update: Celtics star out for rest of season with torn wrist ligament

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Jaylen Brown injury update: Celtics star out for rest of season with torn wrist ligament

The Celtics will have to fight for a playoff spot without one of their most important players.

Boston announced Monday night that All-Star forward Jaylen Brown has suffered a torn scapholunate ligament in his left wrist and will miss the rest of the 2020-21 season. He is expected to undergo surgery later this week.

MORE: Will LeBron James return vs. Knicks?

The Celtics offered no specific timetable for Brown’s return to the court, but as The Athletic’s Jared Weiss noted, Boston guard Romeo Langford suffered the same injury last year and took about six months to recover. If Brown stays roughly on that timeline, he should be available to rejoin the lineup for the start of the 2021-22 campaign.

Brown dealt with injury and COVID-19 issues throughout the season, but the 24-year-old still managed to earn his first All-Star selection with some of the best individual numbers of his career. He averaged a career-high 24.7 points per game while shooting 48.4 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from 3-point range.

Without Brown available, Boston will rely heavily on Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker to produce offensively. The Celtics will also need more from trade deadline acquisition Evan Fournier, who most recently scored 30 points in a loss to the Heat on Sunday — his highest scoring output since joining the team.

Even if other players step up in Brown’s absence, the Celtics, currently the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference standings, are unlikely to make a deep run in the 2021 NBA playoffs. They would face an uphill battle in a potential first-round series against the 76ers, Nets or Bucks, the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference.

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