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The Super Bowl’s two matchups to watch, plus an NBA trade deadline primer


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Good morning! Stay in touch with your agent today. You might get traded.

Trades? Only 8 hours to go

The NBA trade deadline arrives at 3 p.m. ET today and, unlike some previous years, we don’t have many big names that could be moving (mostly because they’ve already been traded). But that doesn’t mean the day won’t be dramatic. 

In honor of the time slot, three guys who could be on the move — and could make a big impact: 

  • Atlanta’s Dejounte Murray is the biggest name, largely because of the potential trade partner: the Lakers. Murray averages over 21 points per game and would fit well on L.A.’s roster, but any trade involving these two probably means D’Angelo Russell — who’s played well lately — is in the deal.
  • Toronto’s Bruce Brown was crucial to the Nuggets’ title run last year and is an odd fit timeline-wise for an 18-33 Raptors team heading for a teardown. He should garner plenty of interest from anyone needing to shore up defense.
  • Washington’s Tyus Jones is in a similar spot: a valuable point guard on a bad team that probably should cash in on his expiring contract while it has the chance. The 9-41 Wizards need any asset they can get. 

Keep tabs on everything with our live blog here. If you want to go deeper, John Hollinger’s thorough breakdown of all possible moves was instructive.

Super X’s and O’s: It’s all about the run

Super Bowl week can be exhausting for players, coaches, media and fans alike. The dizzying barrage of soundbites takes away from the game itself, at least for a few days. 

But today is Thursday of Super Bowl week, which means the game is close. So let’s talk about it. 

The Athletic will have plenty of coverage for you over the next three days, but I want to hone in on two specific aspects of Sunday’s game, as laid out by Ted Nguyen in two excellent articles this week: 

1. When the Chiefs have the ball, watch out for the run — and where the run goes.
In Ted’s breakdown, he mentions that, for all the 49ers defense’s hype, it’s been awful against the run this year. Both the Packers and Lions exploited this while jumping out to big leads in the playoffs. San Francisco’s defense is focused on getting upfield and rushing the passer, so watch for outside runs, which Kansas City has excelled at in the past two seasons. 

Even more specifically: Expect the Chiefs to run directly at Niners defensive end Chase Young, who has struggled this postseason. The 49ers’ best hope might be Nick Bosa, who is, as former Chiefs lineman Mitchell Schwartz says in the piece, “good at everything.” 

Read Ted’s full piece on how the Chiefs will attack

2. When the Niners have the ball, simply watch Brock Purdy.
This is no generalization. In Ted’s analysis, he surmises the Chiefs will try to mirror what the Patriots did to Jared Goff and the Rams in Super Bowl LIII — make the quarterback beat them. San Francisco has thrived by calling zone runs this year, then letting Purdy and the rest of the offense flow from that point. Against those Rams, Bill Belichick employed a 6-1 defensive formation — which puts six players on the line of scrimmage with one man in zone coverage behind it — and Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spanguolo has used the 6-1 multiple times this year.

They might not employ the formation on every down, but if they can use it often enough to reorient the 49ers offense around Purdy instead of the running game, they’ll probably find success.
For the rest of us, that means we’ll get the Brock Purdy Narrative Game we all dream of. Make sure to read Ted’s explanation of Purdy vs. Kansas City. It goes way deeper than just a formation.

News to Know

Saban’s new gig
Nick Saban is joining “College GameDay,” ESPN announced yesterday, about a month after he retired as Alabama coach. Saban, 72, is no stranger to “GameDay,” but will now serve as an official analyst on the set as well as across SEC Network. Still feels weird.

Sergachev stretchered off ice
Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev left last night’s loss to the Rangers on a stretcher after suffering a scary lower-body injury. Even worse: It was Sergachev’s first game back after a different lower-body injury on Dec. 19. See more details here.

More news

  • On college football’s post-December national signing day, Texas A&M landed five-star athlete Terry Bussey over LSU (sigh, there’s always the portal) and Georgia.
  • Candace Parker is back with the Las Vegas Aces on a one-year deal. Parker missed most of last season with a foot injury, and some wondered if the 37-year-old would retire.
  • Tiger Woods will make his 2024 debut next week in Los Angeles at the Genesis Invitational, which he hosts. It’ll be his first full-field event since the 2023 Masters.
  • AFCON has been really fun, never more so than yesterday’s thrilling semifinal win for Nigeria over South Africa. We’ll have more on the final next week.

Feedback Loop: The Pulse does not believe Phil

Maybe I spoiled the proverbial well with my ramble yesterday. Or maybe most of us are just understandable skeptics. 

The results of yesterday’s Pulse Poll, which asked whether we believed Phil Mickelson’s claim of 47 holes-in-one, were … lopsided, as you can see above. I expected a majority, but not that much. 

Mickelson has yet to comment on the uproar.

Watch This Game

NBA: Mavericks at Knicks
7:30 p.m. ET on TNT
An all-time “I told you so” moment brewing here. Dallas let Jalen Brunson walk in free agency two years ago. The Mavs beat Brunson’s Knicks last month, but that was essentially a different team. New York is 9-1 in its last 10 games, and Brunson looks like an MVP. The crowd should be feisty. 

NCAAW: Penn State at No. 2 Iowa
9 p.m. ET on Big Ten Network
Caitlin Clark is 66 points shy of owning the NCAA women’s basketball all-time scoring mark. Her career high is 46 points, so let’s see how close she can get.

Pulse Picks

For the first time this millennium, Gonzaga may not make the NCAA Tournament. Will they figure it out, like always? Brian Hamilton has a great story about the program “chasing its own ghost.” 

Read Tim Kawakami on A’s owner John Fisher, whose grand stadium plans once again look wobbly. The entire move to Las Vegas already feels like a trainwreck. 

The Clippers went on a seven-game road trip and came back atop the West. Law Murray was there to chronicle it. I’m still shocked at how good these guys are, even if they did lose to the Pelicans last night. 

Remember that great start for the Timberwolves? They’re still tied for first in the West, but cracks are showing, as Jon Krawczynski highlights. 

Speaking of other NBA surprises, Kyrie Irving has found peace in Dallas. And if you haven’t watched him this year, you’re missing out

Which Taylor Swift songs best describe the 2023 NFL season? Mike Smeltz has thoughts.

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