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Bill aims to help Missouri school districts with fees in mask lawsuits

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Bill aims to help Missouri school districts with fees in mask lawsuits

ST. LOUIS – As 36 school districts in Missouri are being sued by the attorney governor for having mask mandates, a Senate bill was recently filed that would help districts with expenses if they win.

More than 70 parents have joined Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, claiming schools do not have the authority to enforce mask mandates. In a recent interview with Fox 2, Schmitt referred to the mandates as “Illegal masking of kids.”

In the St. Louis area, 20 school districts are being sued, including St. Louis Public Schools, Parkway, Francis Howell, Fort Zumalt, St. Charles, Clayton, Mehlville, Ladue, and more.

SB 992, sponsored by Sen. Doug Beck, D-St. Louis, states that if a school district wins the lawsuit, then Schmitt would have to pay for the school district’s attorney’s fees and other expenses they may incur.

“In a civil action brought by the Attorney General against a political subdivision, including school districts, the court shall award attorney’s fees, court costs, and all other expenses incurred by the political subdivision or school district in defense of any such action brought if the action is terminated in favor of the political subdivision or school district,” the bill summary states.

“Additionally, any award of attorney’s fees or other expenses incurred by the political subdivision or school district shall be paid by funds appropriated to the Attorney General by the General Assembly on an annual basis for the expenses relating to the operation, personal costs, and equipment of the Attorney General’s office, and shall not be paid from any other designated, statutory, or administrative fund.”

On Saturday, Beck posted to his Facebook page about his bill saying, “Are you tired of our Attorney General’s frivolous lawsuits against our schools, our teachers, and our kids? Shouldn’t the AG protect our citizens and not try to harm them? Senate Bill 992 will help our schools to fight back and keep our kids safe.”

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Za’Darius Smith fired up about Vikings opening season against former team Green Bay

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Za’Darius Smith fired up about Vikings opening season against former team Green Bay

When the Vikings announced last week that they will open the season against Green Bay, Za’Darius Smith tweeted an emoji of a pair of eyes.

The outside linebacker spent the last three seasons with the Packers before they released him in March in a salary-related move. So you better believe Smith, who signed with Minnesota shortly thereafter, is looking forward to the Sept. 11 opener at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“I’m just happy, excited,’’ Smith said after Tuesday’s second day of organized team activities at the TCO Performance Center. “You know, things didn’t work out there, but it’s still good. I get to face them twice a year, man, and I just can’t wait. Get a chance to see a lot of my old teammates. But, man it’s going to be a big one.’’

As the game gets closer, Smith said he’ll brief the Vikings on what he knows about the Packers.

For now, Smith likes how he fits in with new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell’s 3-4 scheme. He played in a 3-4 with Green Bay, including two seasons when Vikings assistant head coach Mike Pettine was the Packers’ defensive coordinator and three when Minnesota outside linebackers coach/pass rush specialist Mike Smith was previously his position coach.

“I’m familiar with everything, the 3-4 defense, and just being able to drop in coverage and move around under front,’’ Smith said.

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is happy to now have Smith on his side.

“He’s crazy,’’ Cook said with a laugh. “Practices are literally fun. He’s going to be one of those players that gets our whole team better, just bringing that energy. Having Z over there on the other side of (edge rusher) Danielle (Hunter) is just a scary look.’’

DEEP BACKFIELD

Cook is excited about the depth Minnesota has in the backfield.

The Vikings selected North Carolina running back Ty Chandler in the fifth round of last month’s draft. He will provide additional depth behind Cook alongside Alexander Mattison, the team’s primary backup the past three years, and Kene Nwangwu.

“We’re in the NFL, things happen, guys go down,’’ Cook said.

Cook missed four games last season, and Mattison rushed for 90 or more yards in three of them. And Cook is expecting bigger things from Nwangwu, entering his second season.

“He doesn’t have a ceiling,’’ Cook said. “He’s got it all. We see it on special teams. … The thing I haven’t seen is him run the ball more consistently and get the ball more. I think that’s going to happen coming up … He’s special with the ball in his hands, and I want to see him make more plays.”

FUN WITH O’CONNELL

Cook played his first five seasons under head coach Mike Zimmer, who was fired in January and replaced by Kevin O’Connell.

“Being around (O’Connell) and our whole staffing, being around (running backs coach Curtis) Modkins, it’s just fun being around this group and going through the process with the guys we got here,” Cook said. “I can feel the vibes. it’s just fun.”

So how does Cook compare playing for O’Connell to being under Zimmer?

“I’m not going to get into comparing last year and this year,” he said. “This year is a clean start for us, and we just want to look forward to what we have ahead and that’s us chasing a world championship.”

BRIEFLY

–Smith said he’s excited to play alongside Vikings defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, whom he has been watching since the latter entered the NFL in 2017. “Watching him grow, man, he’s been one of the best interior guys in this league,” Smith said.

–Cook, who wore No. 33 his first five seasons before switching to No. 4, said it’s strange to see rookie linebacker Brian Asamoah with his old number. “It was kind of weird when I saw him in (last weekend’s) rookie minicamp,’’ Cook said. “I kind of had to double take, like ‘Hold up, wait.”’

–The Vikings conclude their first week of OTAs on Thursday. Their second week features practices next Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

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After Magic win NBA draft lottery, could former Minnehaha Academy teammates Jalen Suggs and Chet Holmgren reunite in Orlando?

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The Magic contingent, from left to right, Cole DeVos, Joel Glass, Alex Martins, Jamahl Mosley, Jeff Weltman and John Hammond, are all smiles after winning the No. 1 pick Tuesday night in Chicago (Khobi Price)

Chet Holmgren sat in a packed Minnehaha Academy gym 13 months ago and announced his commitment to Gonzaga. That was where his good friend and longtime teammate Jalen Suggs had just wrapped his freshman year of college. Yet Holmgren knew the two players would not be teammates in Spokane, Wash.

Because hours later, Suggs announced his decision to turn pro.

“As much as I’ve enjoyed playing with him in the past and want to in the future, he has a really big opportunity in front of him, and I don’t think I would let him turn that down,” Holmgren said. “I’d love to play with him again, but maybe that ends up being in the NBA in a couple years. Who knows? That’s the plan.”

And, after Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery results, that plan could soon become reality.

Orlando selected Suggs with the No. 5 pick in the 2021 draft. On Tuesday, the ping pong balls bounced the Magic’s way, giving Orlando the No. 1 pick in this summer’s draft.

After a standout freshman season at Gonzaga, Holmgren is considered perhaps the favorite to be selected No. 1 overall. Orlando could reunite the Minnehaha Academy teammates.

The Magic contingent, from left to right, Cole DeVos, Joel Glass, Alex Martins, Jamahl Mosley, Jeff Weltman and John Hammond, are all smiles after winning the No. 1 pick Tuesday night in Chicago (Khobi Price)

Holmgren and Suggs are good friends who have played together since they were in middle school. They competed together not only for the Redhawks, but for their Grassroots Sizzle AAU team.

They paired together for three Minnesota high school state titles, and could soon be chasing similar success at the NBA level, with Suggs again tossing alley oops up to the 7-foot center.

The ball is in the Magic’s court.

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Luck not on Knicks’ side – again – as they fail to move up in NBA draft lottery, will pick 11th

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Luck not on Knicks’ side – again – as they fail to move up in NBA draft lottery, will pick 11th

Lottery luck still alludes the Knicks.

The franchise will pick 11th, the spot they were slotted before Tuesday’s draft lottery drawing, failing to move up for a depressing 18th consecutive time in the lottery. It’s a streak that started after the Knicks won the Patrick Ewing sweepstakes in 1985.

The Orlando Magic won the lottery. The Knicks entered the drawing with a 9.4% chance of cracking the top-4.

The 2022 draft class is considered top heavy with four top prospects – Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr., Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Purdue’s Jaden Ivey – now out of Leon Rose’s range. At No. 11, the Knicks’ options are difficult to predict five weeks before the draft (although we take a stab below). They could also trade the pick and have been linked to Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, who would cost Rose’s entire asset chest to get out of Utah.

The Knicks were represented at the lottery dais by team executive William Wesley, AKA ‘Worldwide Wes,’ who took a front-and-center role in Chicago after a career out of the spotlight as a backroom operator.

Developing a mythical status as a power broker and even referenced in songs by Drake and Jay-Z, Wesley has never spoken publicly on camera. Whether intended or not, Wesley’s presence served as a reminder (or introduction) of his connection to the Knicks, even though people around the league doubt the 57-year-old carries much sway with today’s players.

Wesley, whose official role is Executive Vice President, nodded in approval when NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum announced the Knicks at No. 11.

Wesley’s rise as a networker spanned relationships with Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson and the 2004 champion Detroit Pistons, but that was many years ago – before Wesley’s falling out with LeBron James over a decade ago — and he has yet to transfer his connections into a star arriving at MSG.

In the secret and enclosed drawing room Tuesday, where the Ping Pong balls were pulled, the Knicks were represented by executive Brock Aller, the team’s number cruncher and asset manager.

It wasn’t a lucky combination. Tuesday represented the 11th time the Knicks stayed in their lottery slot. They’ve fallen back 10 times.

The Knicks’ participation in the lottery Tuesday, a year after they climbed to the fourth seed in the East, was the result of a disappointing campaign stoked by the regression of Julius Randle.

They fell to 11th in the East with a 37-45 record, one spot of out of the play-in tournament, but the progression of the youngsters, especially RJ Barrett, provided hope about the direction.

The draft has thus far been the highlight of Leon Rose’s tenure. They’ve used first-round picks on Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes.

FOUR PLAYERS THE KNICKS COULD DRAFT AT NO. 11

Jaden Duren

SCHOOL: Memphis

AGE: 18

HEIGHT: 6-10

STATS LAST SEASON: 11.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 blocks

With Mitchell Robinson entering unrestricted free agency and Nerlens Noel proving unreliable, the Knicks could use another rim-protecting presence to develop alongside Jericho Sims. Duren is young with the upside of an premier athlete. He just can’t shoot.

Dyson Daniels

LAST TEAM: G-League Ignite

AGE: 19

HEIGHT: 6-6

STATS LAST SEASON: 11.3 points, 4.4 assists, 25.5% shooting

Projected as a two-guard in the NBA, Daniels draft position will rely heavily on the pre-draft process and workouts. He’s a well-rounded player with a high IQ but those shooting numbers were unimpressive last season in the G League.

Bennedict Mathurin

COLLEGE: Arizona

AGE: 20

HEIGHT: 6-6

STATS LAST SEASON: 17.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 36.9% shooting

A scorer and strong shooter who can create for himself off the dribble, which the Knicks are missing in their backcourt. He’ll run with the athletic second unit but requires improvement defensively.

Johnny Davis

COLLEGE: Wisconsin

AGE: 20

HEIGHT: 6-5

STATS LAST SEASON: 20 points, 8.1 rebounds, 30.9% 3-point shooting

Another off-ball guard option who is a two-way threat and would be a Tom Thibodeau favorite because of his defensive intensity. The negatives are Davis’ athleticism and sporadic outside shot. But he’ll figure out ways to score.

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