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Miami Heat player-by-player report card: See grades for Adebayo, Herro, Lowry, Robinson and 13 others

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Miami Heat Player-By-Player Report Card: See Grades For Adebayo, Herro, Lowry, Robinson And 13 Others
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It was back to a marathon for the Miami Heat, 106 games when counting preseason, regular season and postseason.

There were the high-water marks of pushing past the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers in the playoffs, and the low ebbs of four losses of 20 or more during the regular season and then the final buzzer that ended it all on Sunday night at FTX Arena, with the Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics.

The uniforms first went on Oct. 4, didn’t come off until May 29.

Along the way there was COVID, injuries, and Erik Spoelstra vs. Jimmy Butler vs. Udonis Haslem on that ugly night in March.

But, in the end, one of the final four teams standing in the NBA, back in the Eastern Conference finals, no longer able to be overlooked nationally.

It graded out as a unique and special season.

So a look back, a look ahead and summing up the contributions by the letter of the 2020-21 ledger.

* * *

Bam Adebayo

Grade: A-.

Age: Turns 25 on July 18.

2022-23 salary: $30.4 million, with three additional seasons on contract.

What we learned: One of the NBA most versatile defenders became even more versatile, up to any challenge created by Spoelstra or opposing coaches. Few, if any, in the NBA are as deft in switches or one-on-one challenges.

What we need to know: That there is a more reliable offensive game. It is what separates Adebayo from the next level. It is almost a riddle at this point, how there can be so much passion, aggression, decisiveness on one end of the court and yet extended passivity on the other.

* * *

Jimmy Butler

Grade: A.

Age: Turns 33 on Sept. 14

2022-23 salary: $37.7 million, with three additional seasons on contract, the last a player option.

What we learned: That when Jimmy Butler wants to be the best player on the court he still has that ability, as his breakthrough playoff moments proved. When healthy and engaged, there are few better two-way players, even at his age.

What we need to know: Can such efforts be sustained as the odometer continues to add wear and tear? The concern is whether all-of-the-time Jimmy Butler is a thing of the past, with it to be more of a case of picking his moments, as he showed in the playoffs.

* * *

Dewayne Dedmon:

Grade: C.

Age: Turns 33 on Aug. 12.

2022-23 salary: Free agent, after earning NBA minimum this season. Heat hold Bird Rights, able to exceed salary-cap to re-sign.

What we learned: When a big body is needed, Dedmon still has the ability to bang, rebound and dunk. In many ways, he still stands as the quintessential old-school back-up big man.

What we need to know: Is such a role still essential in today’s NBA, with Dedmon shuffled out of the mix by the closing stages of the Celtics series? How the Heat choose to play going forward could go a long way toward determining Dedmon’s Miami future.

* * *

Udonis Haslem

Grade: 83 (Haslem’s total minutes this season, including none in the playoffs.)

Age: Turns 42 on June 9.

2022-23 salary: Free agent, after earning NBA minimum this season. Heat hold Bird Rights, able to exceed salary-cap to re-sign.

What we learned: Teammates and the coaching staff still swear by his presence.

What we need to know: If there remains room on the roster to carry Haslem, as opposed to a contributor or developmental project.

* * *

Tyler Herro

Grade: B+.

Age: Turned 22 on Jan. 20.

2022-23 salary: $5.7 million, with extension window ahead of start of next season, otherwise restricted free agent in 2023 offseason.

What we learned: Herro excelled in his sixth-man role, while showing potential for something more. Yes, there are defensive issues, but scoring has, does and will continue to trump such concerns. Always has, especially for sixth men.

What we need to know: Is the next step there, the ability to emerge as an All-Star-level starter? That is an answer that might have to be determined quickly, with Herro’s extension window opening this offseason.

* * *

Haywood Highsmith

Grade: Incomplete.

Age: Turns 26 on Dec. 9.

2022-23 salary: $1.7 million team option.

What we learned: Highsmith had his moments when the Heat roster was ravaged by COVID at midseason. The Heat saw enough to convert KZ Okpala’s roster spot to a developmental spot for Highsmith.

What we need to know: There has been talk of creating an undersized stretch-four role for Highsmith similar to how the Heat this season utilized P.J. Tucker. That could make summer league a laboratory.

* * *

Kyle Lowry

Grade: B.

Age: Turned 36 on March 25.

2022-23 salary: $28.3 million, with one additional season on contract.

What we learned: Lowry largely filled his mandate as a floor general, the Heat more cohesive when he was on the court. But the missed time limited the contribution, most of it time away for family reasons.

What we need to know: How will Lowry, at 36, hold up for the final two seasons of his contract? Will the Heat mandate stricter conditioning standards? The playoffs raised significant concerns in that regard.

* * *

Caleb Martin

Grade: B.

Age: Turns 27 on Sept. 28.

2022-23 salary: Free agent, with Heat able to match outside offers up to mid-level exception by extending a $2.1 million qualifying offer.

What we learned: There were times when Martin was a revelation with his energetic play on both ends, as well as his ability to space the floor with his 3-point shot. Then the injuries hit and the breakthrough turned into a slowdown. It largely was a tale of two Martins.

What we need to know: Can there be a comfortable compromise when it comes to free agency? And for that decision to be made, it could come down to the role forecast for next season.

* * *

Markieff Morris

Grade: D.

Age: Turns 33 on Sept 2.

2022-23 salary: Free agent, after earning NBA minimum this season.

What we learned: That it is better to allow time to expire in a blowout loss in Denver rather than engage Nikola Jokic with a flagrant foul. The ensuing 58 games lost to whiplash never allowed Morris to regain a Heat foothold.

What we need to know: Whether the Heat will again go with such a veteran presence in the reserve power rotation or turn toward a more youthful approach. Morris was a good teammate, but rarely got to show more.

* * *

Mychal Mulder

Grade: Incomplete.

Age: Turns 28 on June 12.

2022-23 salary: Team option for two-way contract.

What we learned: That Mulder showed enough in his second stint with the Heat’s G League affiliate to earn a two-way contract at midseason and further inspection in summer league.

What we need to know: Whether the Heat will have an opening for another 3-point specialist. And that could come down to what happens with Duncan Robinson in the offseason.

* * *

Victor Oladipo

Grade: B-.

Age: Turned 30 on May 4.

2022-23 salary: Free agent, after earning NBA minimum this season. Heat hold Bird Rights, able to exceed salary-cap to re-sign.

What we learned: That Oladipo had the perseverance to work back from May 2021 quadriceps surgery and the willingness to play when less than 100 percent. The contributions were ample enough to provide value for the Heat.

What we need to know: Whether Oladipo would be willing to again accept a complementary role, possibly only at a complementary salary.

* * *

Duncan Robinson

Grade: D.

Age: Turned 26 on April 4.

2022-23 salary: $16.9 million, with three additional seasons on contract, the last not fully guaranteed.

What we learned: That a 3-point specialist who is erratic with his 3-point shooting can only have so much value. When the shots weren’t dropping, justifying playing time became difficult. It wasn’t necessarily the percentage, but rather the wild shooting swings.

What we need to know: Whether the Heat can justify carrying a role player on the salary of a starter, or whether there is a trade to be made in the wake of the emergence of Max Strus.

* * *

Javonte Smart

Grade: Incomplete.

Age: Turns 25 on June 3.

2022-23 salary: Team option for two-way contract.

What we learned: That the scoring prowess in the G League was enough to merit a two-way contract at midseason.

What we need to know: Whether another summer league with the Heat can provide a definitive answer on whether it makes sense to move forward. What happens with Victor Oladipo could have an impact here.

* * *

Max Strus

Grade: B+.

Age: Turned 26 on March 28.

2022-23 salary: $1.8 million team option.

What we learned: That Strus is more than just a 3-point specialist, also athletic enough to attack the rim, as well as provide resistance on the defensive end. Ultimately, he turned himself into another Heat success story.

What we need to know: Whether such play can be sustained and upgraded. If Strus can sustain as a starter, it provides the Heat with yet another value prospect.

* * *

P.J. Tucker

Grade: B+.

Age: Turned 37 on May 5.

2022-23 salary: $7.4 million player option.

What we learned: That it is about more than statistics or a player’s age. In the end, the Heat actually found an upgrade on what Jae Crowder provided at the end of 2019-20.

What we need to know: Whether Tucker will be willing to return for another season on a nominal salary for a starter. There currently are not many appetizing replacement options.

* * *

Gabe Vincent

Grade: B.

Age: Turns 26 on June 14.

2022-23 salary: $1.8 million team option.

What we learned: That the Heat already had a quality backup point guard in house, one who could contribute on both ends. Like Max Strus, Vincent emerged as one of the biggest roster success stories of the season.

What we need to know: Whether there can be more. As Kyle Lowry gets up in years, the reliance on Vincent or another backup point guard only figures to increase.

* * *

Omer Yurtseven

Grade: C+.

Age: Turns 24 on June 19.

2022-23 salary: $1.8 million team option.

What we learned: That when given minutes, Yurtseven proved he can score and rebound on an NBA level. His play helped sustain the Heat when Bam Adebayo was sidelined by thumb surgery.

What we need to know: Whether enough of a defensive component can be developed to create trust for a rotation role. Yurtseven well could return for a second consecutive season as the Heat’s most intriguing prospect.


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How high prices could impact reconstruction costs after Hurricane Ian

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How High Prices Could Impact Reconstruction Costs After Hurricane Ian
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If there’s any consolation for Hurricane Ian survivors, it’s that the rising cost of building materials has begun to slow — and in some cases even reverse.

Thanks to a global economic downturn, what seemed like a relentless rise in material prices over the past two years had begun to fade as Ian hit Southwest Florida on Wednesday in the form of a category 4 storm.

The price of timber, which surged during the Covid-19 pandemic and peaked in January, has returned to pre-pandemic levels, data from CME Group, a global markets firm, shows. This is partly due to a marked slowdown in construction as mortgage rates and house prices rise.

Meanwhile, global shipping bottlenecks have eased, containers available and reducing the cost of freight. Data from the Drewry Index, a global shipping tracking company, shows costs have fallen for 31 straight weeks and are down 61% in the past 12 months.

“You won’t have to spend so much on flooring or kitchen supplies – right now [prices] are falling apart as we speak,” said Michelangelo Cocchiola, co-owner of Imeca Lumber & Hardware in Florida. “If the hurricane had hit two or three months earlier, it would have been much worse than now. .”

National demand for homes has stalled, said Brendan Lowney, director of Forest Economic Advisors, a firm that studies construction costs. The price spike also pushed producers of key commodities like lumber to expand production capacity, which helped cool those price gains, Lowney said.

In addition to lumber, prices of other key home building products like PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and copper are also reversing, according to market data.

The cost of materials “has come down significantly,” Lowney said.

But they are still high. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this month that prices for building materials have climbed 4.9% year-to-date and are up 14.3% over the past year.

The sheer scale of the rebuilding to be done could also lead to higher demand and prices from here. According to property information group CoreLogic, early estimates suggest Hurricane Ian will prove the costliest storm in Florida since Hurricane Andrew hit the state in 1992, with a record number of homes and lost properties.

“Hurricane Ian will forever change the real estate industry and the city’s infrastructure,” said Tom Larsen, CoreLogic associate vice president of hazard and risk management. “Insurers will go bankrupt, homeowners will be forced into delinquency, and insurance will become less accessible in places like Florida.”

Hurricane Ian victims and disaster responders are likely to face other rising costs amid an annual headline inflation rate that continues to hover above 8%.

Food price increases continue to reach multi-decade highs. Stephanie Ink-Edwards, CEO of Community Cooperative, an organization that fights hunger and homelessness in Lee County, said among the losses suffered by Ian’s victims is the lack of perishables.. She said food costs were already triple what they were last year in some cases, even before the storm hit.

“The outflow of people in need who we need to serve is now much higher, but the cost of supply is also higher, so we are feeling the pinch on both sides,” she said.

And while gasoline prices have fallen from their summer highs, with a Florida gas tax holiday scheduled for Oct. 1, they remain well above their levels of a year ago. year. On Friday, the average price for regular unleaded gasoline in Florida was $3.39, according to AAA. That’s about $0.33 more than last September.

This week, Costco executives warned they are seeing higher wages at suppliers — costs that will ultimately be passed on to consumers, in some cases.

“Salaries are always the culprit,” said chief financial officer Richard Galanti, adding: “We’ll try to get them off the ground, but I’m sure some of them will stay and some won’t.”

Experts say it will also likely be more difficult – and more expensive – to find skilled labor to help with the rebuilding process. While the global economic downturn may dampen the cost of materials, Florida remains in the midst of a construction boom, said Rusty Payton, CEO of the Florida Homebuilders Association.

“They already have a lot of projects to do,” Payton said. “You’re not going to see a massive migration of people” to southwest Florida.

Lowney predicted that labor costs could rise in the short term as construction contractors ration their services.

“In other words, they will raise their rates as high as the market will support it,” he said.

On the other hand, with demand for jobs in Florida at an all-time high, those displaced from their occupations by the storm are likely to find work faster than in other post-disaster times, said Lowney.

“It will be less stressful if people don’t have to worry about being unemployed,” Lowney said.

At least one local state official estimated Thursday that it would take a decade to rebuild the areas hardest hit by the storm.

“It’s more like Katrina than the Florida storms we know,” State Rep. Spencer Roach, who lost his home in the storm, told “There’s a different level of devastation and recovery, and it’s going to affect a lot of people.”


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Wild’s Jesper Wallstedt patiently waits for his turn in net

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Wild’s Jesper Wallstedt Patiently Waits For His Turn In Net
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Jesper Wallstedt is undoubtedly the goaltender of the future for the Wild. Even if he doesn’t want to acknowledge it.

“I’m just trying to focus on me right now,” Wallstedt said earlier this week before going out and posting 33 saves in an exhibition win over the Dallas Stars.

The lofty expectations are understandable considering Wallstedt was the No. 20 overall pick in the 2021 draft. His massive 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame makes him an imposing force between the pipes as does his stellar skill set.

Still, the Wild have no plans to rush Wallstedt’s development. He will play this season for the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League, and there’s no indication that he will sniff the NHL at any point.

Not with the legendary Marc-Andre Fleury as the unquestioned starter for the Wild this season.

Asked about Fleury’s guidance through training camp to this point, Wallstedt sang his praises.

“He has been great,” Wallstedt said. “He’s been very easy to talk to. I’ve had a lot of questions, and he’s given me some great answers to things I’ve needed to ask.”

All the while, Wallstedt has been a sponge trying soak up as much knowledge as possible.

“Just keep my ears open,” Wallstedt said. “You learn a lot of things around him.”

The biggest thing Wallstedt is trying to adjust to right now is the North American rink. He’s used to playing on a bigger sheet of ice in Sweden and has already gotten beaten a few times because of the different angles.

“I think it’s going to come pretty fast,” Wallstedt said. “Just adjusting to it and being here on a daily basis or back in Iowa if I get sent down there. Just playing on the smaller ice on a daily basis is going to help me adjust faster. Then in no time it’s going to be the new normal for me. I’m looking forward to that.”

It’s only a matter of time before Wallstedt gets sent to the minors for further seasoning. Until then, he’s enjoying his time in the Twin Cities.

“It’s been great,” Wallstedt said. “All the guys here have been very nice to me and good to me. It’s been very easy to be in this group, because they’ve been very open and taken good care of us.”

It has helped that the Twin Cities has reminded Wallstedt of his native Sweden.

“It feels like home in some ways,” Wallstedt said. “That’s been very nice. All the people here are very hockey interested. You go around and be in restaurant, and I’ve been recognized a couple of times. I’m not used to that back home. That’s been very fun. It’s been great. I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to trying to see more things around here.”

It’s safe to say Wallstedt will get quite familiar with the Twin Cities in the future. In the meantime, though, he’s focused on getting better each and every day.

“I know it’s going to be a long way if I expect things to happen,” Wallstedt said. “You’ve got to work for it and earn it. The opportunities are going to come. You’ve got to work for it to come. I’m just trying to stay here and now and focus on every day and kind of take it day by day and see where it leads.”

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As rookie season winds down, Twins’ Jose Miranda makes plans for improvement in offseason

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As Rookie Season Winds Down, Twins’ Jose Miranda Makes Plans For Improvement In Offseason
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DETROIT — The details haven’t been fully ironed out yet, but at some point this offseason, Jose Miranda is planning on traveling from his home in Puerto Rico to Carlos Correa’s home in Houston to spend a week with the shortstop.

Correa, it turns out, didn’t leave him with much of a choice in the matter.

“He was like, ‘Hey, you’ve got no options. You’re going to Houston,’ ” Miranda said of Correa.

Not that he’s complaining about that.

“I feel like it’s a great opportunity to get better, and obviously I’ve got to take advantage of it,” Miranda said.

As he heads into what will be his first offseason as a major leaguer, the infielder has many things he’s planning on focusing on as he works toward improvement: He wants to get faster. He wants to get in better shape, focusing in on his nutrition. And he wants to work on his agility.

His work with Correa will have a heavy focus on improving his defense — Miranda has spent his rookie season both at third base, his natural position, and at first, a new spot for him.

“(I) want to work with him on some defensive drills,” Correa said. “I feel like he can be a four, five, six WAR (Wins Above Replacement) player if his defense matches his offense. He will be one of the best players in the league if he can master that. I just want the best for him.”

Correa’s offseason days usually start around 9 a.m. He’s home by 1:30 p.m. after going to the gym, eating, spending time in the batting cage and taking some ground balls. He repeats this routine five days a week.

In welcoming Miranda to town to shadow him, he hopes to show him exactly what type of work goes into sustaining success at the major league level.

“I told him, ‘Come for a week. Stay at my house. We’re going to work out together. We’re going to diet together. We’re going to do everything I do in an offseason so you can see how I do it and how (Jose) Altuve does and how (Justin) Verlander does it and guys that I know,” Correa said. “I just want him to see that firsthand and show up next year ready.”

Miranda, 24, is near ready to conclude a rookie season that began in early May. After taking a month to adapt to the major league level, he has turned into one of the most productive hitters in the Twins’ lineup. Miranda entered Saturday’s game hitting .272 with 15 home runs and a team-leading 66 runs batted in. His .759 OPS was fifth on the team, and his 117 OPS+ is 17 percent better than league average.

In addition to wanting to get quicker, which he mentioned multiple times, Miranda said he wanted to challenge himself to take more walks next year. He headed into Saturday’s game having drawn 27 walks in 120 games.

“I was hoping it was going to be a good season,” he said. “I was hoping to have some good numbers. So far, I think it’s been a decent one, a good one. But obviously, I want to get better at more things, and I want to improve for next year.”


Michael Fulmer couldn’t help but notice a trip to Comerica Park on the Twins’ schedule after he was traded. The reliever debuted as a Tiger in 2016 and played in Detroit up until the trade deadline this season, when he was dealt for a prospect.

Friday, the Tigers honored him with a pregame video, after which he tipped his hat to the crowd.

“They did an awesome job with it,” Fulmer said. “I’m grateful that they took the time out of their day to come up with a video like that. Obviously the crowd, it was special. …I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done for me over my seven years here.”

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Gophers coach P.J. Fleck on early fourth-down decision: ‘I would do it again’

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Gophers Coach P.j. Fleck On Early Fourth-Down Decision: ‘I Would Do It Again’
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Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck made a puzzling decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from inside his team’s own 30-yard line during the first quarter against Purdue on Saturday at Huntington Bank Stadium.

Minnesota had run the ball five times for five total yards and had the ball at its own 29-yard line. Trailing 7-0, the U went to its wildcat package for the first time this season. Quarterback Cole Kramer did not find a hole and was stuffed for no gain.

With great field position, Purdue tacked on a 42-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead en route to a 20-10 win during the U’s Homecoming. Those three points looked as if they would decide the game until Purdue was able to tack on the late touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.

“Felt like we needed to do something,” Fleck explained. “It only cost us three points, but it was worth it. I would do it again. We got to be able to get fourth-and-1.”

Fleck said he was OK with the play call using one of their short-yardage packages.

“We do that in spring ball and trust the people that are going to be able to do it and trust the call,” Fleck added. “We didn’t execute. We got blown back. It didn’t matter what call we were going to call there.”

Fleck said he was looking for a spark. The U went three-and-out on the opening drive, and Tanner Morgan had a tipped pass intercepted on the second series.

“We got to get something moving,” Fleck said. “You can’t sit there and say, ‘If you backtrack now, in hindsight, should you have done that?’ You don’t know the game is going to go that way.”

Fleck said his rationale was: If the Gophers don’t convert on fourth down, they would have to hold Purdue to a field goal.

“Is that worth it?,” Fleck added. “And I said ‘yes.’ ”


Fleck said there were no indicators this week to tip off the Gophers’ slow slow on Saturday.

“Not at all,” he said. “They had a tremendous practice on Tuesday, really good practice on Wednesday. You can always dissect something. Ah, there’s the reason. No.”

Morgan went to his offense during the first quarter and told them they were not playing hard enough, according to KFXN-FM. Morgan then connected with Daniel Jackson for a 66-yard completion, but Matthew Trickett missed a 28-yard field goal.

“We just didn’t execute,” Fleck said.


Fleck fell to 2-19 when trailing at the half. He was 0-17 until he beat Purdue last October. The Gophers also came back to beat Wisconsin last November. … Gophers defensive players Terell Smith, Braelen Oliver, Jah Joyner and guard Chuck Filliaga were three additional players spotted Saturday dealing with injuries. … Quintin Redding had a 20-yard punt return to set up the U’s third-quarter touchdown. He had a 64-yard punt return in the fourth quarter called back due to a holding call on Derik LeCaptain. … Trickett was 5 for 5 on field goals this season before his short-distance miss in the second quarter. He later connected from 45 yards out, just before the half. … The U announced an attendance of 48,288 for its “stripe out” Saturday.

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Magic aim to start building Sports + Entertainment District by early 2023

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Magic Aim To Start Building Sports + Entertainment District By Early 2023
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For the Orlando Magic, the last month — and especially since training camp started last week — has been about breaking in the team’s new state-of-the-art 130,000-square-foot AdventHealth Training Center.

Although the Magic are getting settled in their new training facility, they’re still keeping their attention on a bigger project that’s been in the works for nearly a decade.

Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins recently told the Orlando Sentinel that the organization is planning to start construction on the long-awaited $500-million-plus downtown Sports + Entertainment District by the end of March 2023.

He added that the project is expected to be a “two-year build process” and be completed “sometime in 2025″ but wasn’t sure when exactly it’d be done.

Pat Gallagher, director of the Sports + Entertainment District, told GrowthSpotter in early September that the team would be releasing more information about the project within the next few months.

“We’re still very much on track and certainly believe that we should be in the ground by the end of the first quarter next year, starting some construction,” Martins said. “Our development partner is working on finalizing all the financing as we speak. They hope to get through that this calendar year. Provided the market stays and doesn’t get much worse, hopefully, we’ll be able to get into the ground by the end of the first quarter [of 2023].”

The Sports + Entertainment District will be a mixed-use district on the 8.4 acres north of Amway Center and east of the team’s training facility, which also has an orthopedic and sports medicine clinic run by AdventHealth.

The project will include several amenities, including a hotel tower, restaurants, meeting and retail space, a parking garage and 420,000 square feet of office space.

The team’s business staff, which has been working out of leased 23,000-square-foot space in downtown’s CNL Building II next to City Hall after leaving their longtime offices in Maitland’s RDV Sportsplex last year, will move into the Sports + Entertainment District office space once completed.

The Magic are bringing on a yet-to-be-announced development partner for the Sports + Entertainment District.

“The pandemic actually caused us to have the need to change development partners, so we went through that process over the course of the last year,” Martins said. “They’re very excited about it and believe in the vision the development will come together and the pieces within it.

“It’s very much the same we’ve talked about: the hotel, office, music venue and sports and entertainment-related retail. The vision and plan very much remain the same. We’ve got a development partner that believes in that vision and that it can be very successful.”

This article first appeared on Email Khobi Price at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.


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Column: As Wrigley Field prepares to close its doors for the season, the Chicago Cubs look ahead to better days — again

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Column: As Wrigley Field Prepares To Close Its Doors For The Season, The Chicago Cubs Look Ahead To Better Days — Again
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After the end of the 2014 Chicago Cubs season, Theo Epstein spoke optimistically about the upcoming offseason.

It was time to get serious.

“Knowing the money will be there changes the lens in which you view every transaction,” said Epstein, then the president of baseball operations.

The Cubs had cleared about $41 million off the payroll after their third straight last-place finish in the National League Central, and Epstein and business operations president Crane Kenney were addressing a group of season ticket holders at the Oriental Theater.

The Cubs wound up spending smartly that offseason, bringing in starter Jon Lester on a six-year, $155 million deal that turned out to be arguably the best signing in team history. They turned the corner in the rebuild in 2015, making it to the National League Championship Series and winning the World Series one year later.

Once again the Cubs are voicing optimism and promising to spend money in the offseason, though this time it’s Jed Hoyer making the big decisions. Whether the Cubs are close to turning the corner in the rebuild that can’t be called a rebuild is a question that can’t be answered until we see what moves Hoyer makes and whether the current group can build on its strong finish in 2022.

Manager David Ross said before Saturday’s 2-1 win against the Cincinnati Reds that he was excited about the team’s growth and work ethic, though he cautioned they’re still a ways off from where they need to be.

“Those are good signs,” he said. “We’ll continue to grow. We’ve got a long way to go to get better, to competing for a World Series, but these guys are on a mission to do that.”

The Cubs extended their winning streak to six games and have taken 10 of their last 11. Seiya Suzuki’s solo home run in the seventh was the winning blast, and Adbert Alzolay and Wade Miley combined for five hitless innings of relief.

The Cubs end their home schedule Sunday at Wrigley Field, which likely will be the last chance for fans to say one final goodbye to catcher Willson Contreras, the only remaining active player from the 2016 champions.

The Cubs held a tribute during Saturday’s game for Jason Heyward, another member of the ‘16 champs who was told last month that he’ll be let go after the season. After a highlight package of Heyward aired on the video boards, the outfielder stepped out of the dugout to a standing ovation and flashed his World Series ring.

Most of the 2016 Cubs have had their farewells, and after this season the only one left will be pitcher Kyle Hendricks. Heyward said Thursday that when he signed in 2015, some former teammates told him: “It’s the goat, brother. You ain’t gonna beat the goat.”

But that team ended the Billy Goat curse, and now there are no more mythical obstacles preventing the Cubs from replicating that success. It’s all on Hoyer and Chairman Tom Ricketts.

This has not been a season to celebrate on the North Side despite the uplifting ending. The Cubs’ play at Wrigley has been particularly uninspiring with a 36-44 home record.

A few moments in 2022 will be remembered years from now, though for some in the left-field bleachers the season’s biggest highlight was watching Epstein posing for pictures while sprawled out in the basket, a final goodbye to Chicago before he packed up and moved his family out East.

The Cubs are 1-70 when trailing entering the ninth inning, a tragic number that needs no analysis. Their one comeback win came on Aug. 20 at Wrigley, when Nick Madrigal singled home the tying run in the ninth and Contreras had a walk-off RBI single in the 11th. Maybe Marquee Sports Network can play it on a loop all winter.

In truth, this was the kind of season most Cubs fans were accustomed to before Epstein signed Lester eight years ago, thus raising the hopes for a championship and sustained success. They got it right — except for the sustained part.

Hoyer and Ricketts have said the money will be there for future success, and for the sake of Cubs fans, let’s hope they spend it wisely.

And the Cubs aren’t done hyping the future. They brought some of their top prospects to Chicago this weekend to get acclimated to the organization, including Class-A outfielder Owen Caissie, acquired in the Yu Darvish deal with the San Diego Padres that signaled the beginning of the end of the winning era.

“My biggest takeaway is everyone seems happy here,” Caissie, 20, said. “Like when I’m walking down the street, everyone has a smile on their face. It’s pretty cool.”

Heyward basically said the same thing about Chicago on his way out.

“The sports city here, obviously I know it’s been tough on the winning side those last few years, “ he said. “But either way, Chicago doesn’t take that stuff for granted, and to me that’s been something that has been awesome to be a part of. Just taking walks, going around the city. As a professional, as someone who is a ballplayer in the city, people embrace that, they respect that and they respect their space.

“They want you to enjoy what they’re enjoying, and that is something that’s really cool and unique about the city.”

One more game at Wrigley, with Marcus Stroman taking the ball Sunday in his final start before the three-game, season-ending series in Cincinnati.

The ballpark will close for the winter, and the neighborhood bars and restaurants will try to find ways to make some money until opening day returns in April.

It’s going to be a long winter for Cubs fans, but they’ll keep on keeping on.

They know the drill.


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