Tim Te­bow head­ing to Mets mi­nor league team

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - SPORTS - The As­so­ci­ated Press MIKE GANTER POST­MEDIA NET­WORK mike.ganter@sun­media.ca

Play­ers across the Na­tional Hockey League have been mak­ing it clear for awhile that they want to par­tic­i­pate in the 2018 Win­ter Olympics in South Korea.

You can add Maple Leafs rookie Aus­ton Matthews and Bos­ton Bru­ins star Brad Marchand to that list.

“I think it’s im­por­tant,” Matthews said of NHL play­ers tak­ing part.

“I think ev­ery­body likes the idea of the Olympics for sure. I re­mem­ber al­ways watch­ing them grow­ing up and to play in it would be a huge hon­our. I’ve rep­re­sented my coun­try at the NTDP (U.S. na­tional team devel­op­ment pro­gram), world cham­pi­onship and world ju­nior and it is al­ways pretty spe­cial to put on your coun­try’s jer­sey.”

Marchand was asked whether he would be dis­ap­pointed if it’s de­ter­mined NHL play­ers won’t be go­ing to South Korea.

“I think any­one would be,” Marchand said. “For ath­letes to get them­selves to that level where they can have the op­por­tu­nity to play in the Olympics, and then for some­one to take it away from them, I don’t think it’s re­ally fair, but that is a long ways away.”

Marchand has rep­re­sented Canada four times, but not in the

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Tim Te­bow is join­ing the Columbia Fire­flies.

The for­mer two-time Heis­man Tro­phy win­ner and NFL quar­ter­back will start his pro base­ball sea­son with the Mets Class A fran­chise in Columbia.

New York Mets man­ager Terry Collins an­nounced the move Mon­day.

The 29-year-old Te­bow has been in spring train­ing with the Mets and is hit­ting .235 with four hits in 17 at-bats. He’ll break camp the first week in April and join Olympic games. He would be a shoo-in to go if the NHL sends its play­ers.

And it would be dif­fi­cult for the United States to leave Matthews at home.

Leafs coach Mike Bab­cock never shies away from telling those who will lis­ten that NHL play­ers should be in the Olympics.

“I think get­ting your name on the Stan­ley Cup is some­thing you dream about, but play­ing for your coun­try in the Olympics and best on best, there is no bet­ter event, there is none,” said Bab­cock, who has coached Canada to back-to­back Olympic gold medals. the Fire­flies when they open play on April 6 in a four-game se­ries with Au­gusta.

Fire­flies Pres­i­dent John Katz ex­pects Te­bow to add ex­tra buzz to the team and the city. The club says Te­bow will wear his foot­ball num­ber, No. 15, with the Fire­flies.

Te­bow signed with the Mets on Sept. 8 and par­tic­i­pated in three Florida In­struc­tional League games. He played in 19 con­tests in the Ari­zona Fall League.

Through the ab­sence of Kyle Lowry and the angst be­hind a team that was floun­der­ing there for a while, there was an area of re­cent progress on the Rap­tors ros­ter that kind of got over­looked.

Jakob Poeltl is in his rookie sea­son, is the first Aus­trian ever drafted into the NBA and for the most part this sea­son, a quiet pres­ence on the end of the Rap­tors’ bench.

But lately Poeltl’s seat at the end of he Rap­tors bench has been un­oc­cu­pied be­cause the 7-foot prod­uct of Larry Krys­towiak’s Utah pro­gram has earned him­self some sig­nif­i­cant min­utes.

Poeltl had a strong pre-sea­son and with Jared Sullinger sud­denly no longer in the mix found him­self with some con­sis­tent min­utes in the early part of the reg­u­lar sea­son be­fore Dwane Casey and his staff set­tled on Pas­cal Siakam as the start­ing power for­ward.

The min­utes dried up, but Poeltl con­tin­ued to learn whether it was watch­ing from the end of the bench, in prac­tice, play­ing with the D-League 905s in Mis­sis­sauga or the spot min­utes he got in games with the par­ent club.

For most of that pe­riod Lu­cas Nogueira was eat­ing up most of those back-up cen­tre min­utes and do­ing a solid job. Lately though it has been Nogueira on the end of the bench and Poeltl com­ing in. Through March he is av­er­ag­ing 12.8 min­utes a night, the most play­ing time he has seen since Novem­ber way back at the be­gin­ning.

“For me, just every time you put him in, he does some­thing pos­i­tive,” Casey said. “There’s that trust, not only with my­self but with his team­mates. He’s do­ing pos­i­tive things, he plays with phys­i­cal­ity. The only thing — and it’s not his fault — is cheap fouls, he gets a lot of cheap calls.”

Those calls will even­tu­ally even out as Poeltl earns some cred­i­bil­ity with the league’s of­fi­cials.

But make no mis­take, it has been Poeltl’s eager­ness en­gag­ing op­pos­ing play­ers phys­i­cally that has made his jump up the depth chart pos­si­ble.

“He’s al­ways in the right place, very few mis­takes, he’s very phys­i­cal, he’s not afraid, he loves con­tact,” Casey said. “All those things add up, this is a phys­i­cal game ... and he meets all those cri­te­ria.”

Iron­i­cally it was the phys­i­cal na­ture of the NBA game that Poeltl’s counts as the tough­est ad­just­ment he has made.

“Not now, not any­more be­cause I feel like I’m used to it al­ready,” Poeltl said. “I’m still not the most phys­i­cal player but at least I’ve got ad­justed to the new level of phys­i­cal­ity in the NBA. But that was def­i­nitely a chal­lenge to start the sea­son, get­ting used to play­ing against big­ger bod­ies and stronger guys.”

There’s also a nat­u­ral feel for the game that, when you think about it, should be un­nat­u­ral for a young man raised in Aus­tria far away from any bas­ket­ball hot­bed.

Even Poeltl is a lit­tle un­sure where his nat­u­ral bas­ket­ball in­stincts come from, but he is very much aware that he has them

“I don’t know,” Poeltl said fol­low­ing a lengthy prac­tice on Mon­day. “I mean, I guess both my par­ents were ath­letes, I was al­ways in love with sports in gen­eral, I was like play­ing around, play­ing bas­ket­ball as a lit­tle kid. But it’s re­ally just in­stincts. I don’t know where it’s com­ing from, I just feel com­fort­able out there and I feel like I know where I’m sup­posed to go.”

Poeltl has sur­passed Nogueira on the depth chart which leaves just start­ing cen­tre Jonas Valan­ci­u­nas ahead of him in terms of min­utes.

Valan­ci­u­nas is more of an old school cen­tre among to­day’s ver­sa­tile big men. Of­fen­sively he’s one of the bet­ter shoot­ers on the team and has expanded his range even from last year. He’s still very ef­fec­tive bang­ing with the other tra­di­tional bigs but strug­gles when he has to go out­side to cover a big with shoot­ing range and then re­cover back to the bas­ket.

But Poeltl, even at this early stage in his ca­reer and the ten­der age of 21, is bet­ter equipped for that type of game and will even­tu­ally de­velop him­self into that type of cen­tre that can pull op­pos­ing cov­ers out to the three point line.

At some point the Rap­tors are go­ing to have to make a de­ci­sion on whether they can live with the de­fen­sive lim­i­ta­tions Valan­ci­u­nas comes with. His slow re­ac­tion time and slow re­cov­ery time are not traits Poeltl shares. The Aus­trian is ath­letic and con­sid­er­ably quicker than his Lithua­nian coun­ter­part.

Hav­ing said that, Rap­tors fans would be wise to re­call that last year in the play­offs it was Valan­ci­u­nas, un­til he got hurt in the Mi­ami se­ries, that was putting this team on his back and car­ry­ing them.

Poeltl is still at least a cou­ple of years away from be­ing able to do that.

But down the road, and not too far down the road, it’s not hard to imag­ine Poeltl get­ting that in­tro­duc­tion as the Rap­tors’ start­ing cen­tre.

Jakob Poeltl

Aus­ton Matthews

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