First Call: Pro Football Hall of Fame expanding next class; T.J. McConnell could stay with 76ers |
U.S./World Sports

First Call: Pro Football Hall of Fame expanding next class; T.J. McConnell could stay with 76ers

Tim Benz
Former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu is in his first year of eligibility for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In “First Call” Tuesday, T.J. McConnell may be staying with the Philadelphia 76ers. The NFL could expand its next Hall of Fame class. And we keep an eye on Long Island.

Staying put in Philly?

T.J. McConnell may stay in Philadelphia after all.

At the end of the NBA season, the Chartiers Valley product appeared to be on the way out of the 76ers locker room. But now it looks like the Sixers may figure out a way to keep him.

As reported by Michael Kaskey-Blomain at ESPN 97.3 in South Jersey, “According to a league source, the Sixers are interested in bringing back McConnell, who is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Several other teams — including the Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers — are also interested in McConnell.

Philadelphia’s interest in McConnell obviously stems from the scrappy guard’s familiarity with the franchise and the team’s style of play, along with Brett Brown’s affinity for the Pittsburgh product.”

The former Arizona Wildcat averaged 6.4 points per game last year while shooting a career-best 52% from the floor.

Mixed bag on the Island

After sweeping the Penguins out of the postseason, it’s worth keeping an eye on the Islanders in free agency.

The team lost goaltender Robin Lehner. He was excellent against the Penguins in that playoff series, allowing just five goals in four games. Lehner went to the Blackhawks on a one-year contract. He got $5 million after being a Vezina finalist a year ago. Lehner had 25 wins and six shutouts last year.

To replace Lehner, the Isles signed Semyon Varlamov to a four-year contract Monday. Thomas Greiss is under contract for one more year, too.

Then there is Anders Lee. The big power forward signed a seven-year, $49 million deal on Monday to remain as team captain. Lee made the adjustment to coach Barry Trotz’s defensive style last season. He had 28 goals and 51 points. The year before, he had 40 goals and 62 points.

Fellow forwards Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle re-signed earlier in the offseason.

One hope for the Isles was that they could land Columbus free agent Artemi Panarin. But he went to the Rangers. Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello also brought back veteran Tom Kuhnhackl on a one-year, $850,000 deal. But center Valtteri Filppula left for Detroit.

Special Hall of Fame expansion

With the NFL celebrating its 100th anniversary, the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, may have a special expanded induction class.

It won’t necessarily expand more recently nominated players getting into the Hall. The goal is to perhaps honor those may have been overlooked in the past.

According to ProFootballTalk, the operating board has approved five modern-era candidates — the same as normal — plus 10 seniors, three contributors and two coaches for the Class of 2020. The full board still must approve the plan during their meeting August 2.

Steelers safety Troy Polamalu is a first-time nominee in 2020.

Keeping Bell at bay

Pirates slugger Josh Bell closed in on the National League home run lead by hitting three at PNC Park as part of a 18-5 blowout of the Cubs.

However, Bell didn’t make up as much ground as you would think because Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich hit another big fly in Cincinnati.

That’s Yelich’s 30th home run of the season to lead the NL. The only two players between Yelich and Bell are Pete Alonso (28) and Cody Bellinger (27).

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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