Injury roundup: Tom Brady (illness) active
Written by admin on October 28, 2016
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who missed practice on Friday and was listed as questionable with an illness, is active for Sunday against the Titans.
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Brady has passed for over 4,100 yards and 33 touchdowns in 13 games so far this season. Tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee) is also active for the Pats.
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In other injury news:
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1. Cardinals running back seahawks jersey cheap Andre Ellington Jerseys (toe) is not expected to play against the Eagles, a source told Rapoport. Ellington likely will be back next week. Defensive backs Patrick Peterson Jerseys (ankle) and Jerraud Powers Jerseys (calf) are both expected to play at Philadelphia, according to Rapoport.
2. Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (calf, illness) is active.
3. Broncos running back C.J. Anderson (ankle) should receive a full workload against the Steelers after not registering a carry last week, according to Rapoport.
4. Bills running back Karlos Williams (shoulder) is active. Defensive end Mario Williams Jerseys (illness) and safety Bacarri Rambo (knee) are both active wholesale jerseys.
5. Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (ankle) was upgraded to probable from questionable, and he’ll play against the Raiders, according to Rapoport.
6. Chiefs running back Spencer Ware is battling separated cartilage in his ribs but is active.
7. The Redskins have defensive lineman Jason Hatcher (shoulder) listed as active, while running back Chris Thompson (shoulder) is inactive.
8. Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor (tailbone) will be a game-time decision against the Browns today, according to Rapoport.
9. Vikings defensive lineman Linval Joseph (foot) is inactive. Everson Griffen (shoulder) is active.
10. Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart (foot) is inactive. Tight end Greg Olsen Jerseys (knee) is active.
11. Giants wideout Dwayne Harris (shoulder) and offensive cheap jerseys lineman Ereck Flowers (ankle) are both active.
12. Ravens quarterback Matt Schaub (chest) is active.
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Series Preview: Thunder’s duo faces Spurs’ depth, firepower
Written by admin on October 13, 2016
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While everybody in the NBA and all the ships at sea have been looking forward for months to a Spurs-Warriors clash of the titans in the Western Conference finals, this gem of a preceding series has been lurking under the radar and could be a humdinger.
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Spurs arrive off a 4-0 sweep of Memphis and the Thunder took care of Dallas 4-1. First of all, there’s history between the two teams in the playoffs. Since the move to Oklahoma City, the Spurs and Thunder have met twice before, both times in the WCF. Both times the winner went on to face Miami in the NBA Finals. The Thunder lost in 2012. The Spurs won in 2014.
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Second, there are big names aplenty on both rosters, from the venerable Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker in San Antonio to the suddenly edgy Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka in OKC. Then there is the matter of a cumulative bundle of wins. San Antonio has already won 71 times this season and the Thunder 59, counting their first-round victories.
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They split the season series with each team defending their home floor. Toss in the fact that the Warriors could suddenly be vulnerable with Steph Curry on the shelf with a bum right knee and the doorway that leads to the championship may have just swung wide open for these two elite teams.
The pot is boiling.
The Spurs will win if…
They can continue to apply the squeeze that made them the No. 1 rated defensive team in the NBA all through the regular season and now through the first round of the playoffs. Of course, it’s one thing to stifle the wounded, undermanned Grizzlies cheap motels in jersey city nj and quite another to take the pop out of the OKC big guns.
But the Spurs don’t have to shut off Durant and Westbrook completely, just get them to take tough shots that result in low shooting percentages and force the supporting cast of OKC to produce more. The Spurs have been able to have success against the Thunder when having to deal with only the Big Two. It’s keeping a lid on Ibaka that can be a make-or-break difference in a game and a series.
The Spurs were expecting big production from the addition of power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and he’s delivered more and more as he’s grown increasingly comfortable with his role in the offense. What’s been a surprise is his level of contribution to the defense. Kawhi Leonard has been named Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season and still managed to be even more impressive at the offensive end, where he’s turned into a bonafide star capable of pouring in 25 points a night. In this series, that could be a necessity.
The venerable Big Three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are all playing fewer minutes, but each is capable of taking over a game. So is most of San Antonio’s roster. It’s the fact that coach Gregg Popovich can legitimately go 12 deep that makes the Spurs so formidable.
The Thunder will win if…
They hold things together at both ends of the floor when the games get late and everything is on the line.
For so many years with Scott Brooks calling the shots from the bench, a criticism of the Thunder was that they played too much “hero ball” and relied on Durant or Westbrook 鈥?usually the former 鈥?to bail them out with a clutch bucket at the end. Well, the change from Brooks to first year NBA coach Billy Donovan has changed much, except that OKC has actually gotten worse at crunch time. The Thunder have blown 19 fourth quarter leads this season, including that stunning Game 2 loss to the Mavericks in the first round.
Part of the problem is that Durant and Westbrook just don’t trust their teammates to make a clutch shot and you really can’t blame them because there’s good reason for that. There is a shocking lack of versatility in the makeup of the OKC roster. In order to get the most out of their defense, the Thunder give up too much offense with Steven Adams and Andre Roberson. When they go for offense with Enes Kanter and Anthony Morrow, the defense suffers.
For all the hits that the stand-around-and-watch offense takes from critics, it’s the Thunder defense that has let them down far more often and led to all those late-game collapses. They had the Warriors on the ropes twice in the fourth quarter this season and both times let them off the hook. Donovan has tended to go with a more offensive punch late in games by using Dion Waiters as shooting guard, but might have to consider using Robertson to keep the very capable Spurs from finding a way to score.
The alternative, of course, is to build big enough leads to hold off any kind of a fourth quarter charge. But in a series between the No. 2 and 3 seeds in the Western Conference, many lopsided games are not to be expected. The Thunder will have to raise their game in the clutch.
3 quick questions and answers
1. Who is the third man?
The Thunder know they can count on Durant and Westbrook to pile up points even against a defense as stout as San Antonio’s. So the key will be to find another scoring option or two to step up when the Spurs tighten the defensive vise in the fourth quarter. Somebody has to stop star-gazing and come to the ball and the moment in order to survive a seven-game series against the best defense in the NBA.
2. Can 40-year-old Tim Duncan keep up?
He’s played the fewest minutes per game of his 19-year career and averaged just 20 minutes in a quick four-game sweep of the Grizzlies in the first round. Yes, he’s still a solid, even formidable defender, probably even remains the best in the game at protecting the paint. The Spurs have been saving up Old Man River Walk for this playoff run and there’s no reason to think he’s not still up to the task.
3. Donovan or Popovich?
Nobody is ready to suggest that Billy the Kid is in over his head in his first NBA playoff experience. But this is like moving from freshman algebra to a graduate course in quantum physics. As the best coach in the game today, Popovich probably has his deepest roster ever at his disposal and so many different ways to deploy a lineup filled with versatile talent. If the games get down to the final minute or a final play, you’ve got to give the edge to the master.
Making the pick
Any team bringing the 1-2 punch of Durant and Westbrook into the ring is capable of delivering a knockout, so there is reason for the Spurs to be on high alert at all times. It’s an OKC team hungry and overdue to get back to The Finals. But the Spurs have the depth and their own firepower in Aldridge and Leonard to survive a rollicking classic. Spurs in 7. Trending
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Sakic, Hull highlight all-time 3-on-3 team of 1990s
Written by admin on September 26, 2016
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The NHL truly went global in the 1990s.
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The end of the Cold War opened up a new well of talent for the League, with players most notably from Russia and the former Czechoslovakia suddenly free to come to North America and test their skills against the best in the world.
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The decade began with the Pittsburgh Penguins Jerseys welcoming Jaromir Jagr Jerseys, an 18-year-old Czech, in 1990-91. He would go on to become the top scorer of the 1990s and one of the greatest players of all time.
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In that same season, Sergei Fedorov began his career with the Detroit Red Wings Jerseys and Dominik Hasek became the backup goaltender for the Chicago Blackhawks, part of a wave of Eastern Bloc players who joined those who defected in prior years, setting off a period of drastic demographic change in the NHL.
The influx of new talent also coincided with a shift in the game. If the 1980s was a golden age for scorers, the 1990s was a decade of transition.
Toward the midpoint of the decade hockey began to change from a free-wheeling game where goaltenders were fallible to one dominated by defensive systems and near-perfect goaltending.
When the decade began in 1990-91, NHL games had an average of 6.92 goals scored and the average goaltender had an .886 save percentage. By the time it ended in 1999-2000, goals per game were down to 5.5 per game and goaltenders were averaging a .904 save percentage.
Wayne Gretzky still managed to dominate the decade as he wound down his career with 878 points in 640 games before retiring after the 1998-99 season. Despite not playing the 1999-00 season, Gretzky was the 1990s fourth-highest scorer with 217 goals and 661 assists in 640 games. He tied for the League-lead with 67 assists in 1997-98 playing for the New York Rangers Jerseys at age 37.
But the timing of Gretzky’s retirement was a perfect way to mark the transition from the highly offensive era he dominated to a new, defensive-minded and international era he left behind, one that had already begun to take hold over his final few seasons.
The changing demographics of the game over the 1990s are reflected in NHL.com’s attempt to imagine what www cheap jersey us an all-decade team would look like if there was a 3-on-3 All-Star format back then, with more than one third of the team made up of players from former Eastern Bloc countries.
Line 1: Joe Sakic, Brett Hull, Brian Leetch
Imagine Sakic, who had the best wrist shot of the decade, and Hull, who had probably the best one-timer of all time, being fed by one of the best playmaking defensemen ever in Leetch. Hull scored 464 of his 741 career NHL goals in the 1990s, the most in the decade by a margin of 77, or about two seasons worth of goals. In a 3-on-3 format, Hull would have loads of space to shoot while Sakic and Leetch would do most of the puck handling. Sakic was tied with Adam Oates for the second-most points in the decade with 896 and his all-around offensive arsenal would be difficult to contain in open ice. Leetch had 640 points in 700 games in the 1990s, a hair behind Ray Bourque of the 1980s team, to sit second in points per game by a defenseman in the decade.
Line 2: Eric Lindros, Jaromir Jagr Jerseys, Al MacInnis
This line would have a ridiculous combination of size and skill with Lindros and Jagr, and MacInnis, who had the most feared slap shot of his generation. Though size is not necessarily an advantage in 3-on-3 hockey, it doesn’t hurt, especially when the large men we are talking about were able to move and score as well as Jagr and Lindros. Jagr was the top scorer of the 1990s with 958 points in 725 games, 62 points ahead of Sakic and Oates. Lindros was a highly skilled scorer and vicious hitter the likes of which the NHL had never seen, before injuries derailed his career. His 0.60 goals per game in the 1990s was second only to Mario Lemieux, who had a ridiculous 0.84, among centers. Coverage in 3-on-3 hockey is generally man-to-man, so good luck stopping these two forwards from getting to the net. If ever Jagr and Lindros required an outlet, they would have MacInnis, who led defensemen in the decade with 175 goals, two more than Ray Bourque, but in 63 fewer games played.
Line 3: Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Bure, Chris Chelios
Just try matching up with the speed on this line up front. From a purely statistical standpoint, there are probably better candidates to make this team than Fedorov and Bure. But looking at it from the viewpoint of who would be best suited to 3-on-3 hockey, they are tough to beat. Fedorov was 18th in points in the 1990s with 734, but his game was about so much more than points. He might have been the smoothest skater in the game and was just as proficient in his own end as he was dangerous at the opposite end. Bure was a pure scorer with breakaway speed and magic hands that were seemingly made for 3-on-3 hockey. Only Lemieux and Hull had more than Bure’s 0.63 goals per game in the decade. On the back end, this was the best decade of Chelios’ NHL career, one that saw him win the Norris Trophy for the second and third time and finish seventh among defensemen with 523 points.
Goalies: Dominik Hasek and Ed Belfour
From 1993-94 to 1998-99, Hasek had the most dominant stretch ever for a goaltender. He led the NHL in save percentage in each of those six seasons, won the Hart Trophy twice and the Vezina Trophy five times. His 41 shutouts in those six seasons alone would have him in a tie for 33rd in NHL history. Belfour had the misfortune of having his career overlap with Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur Jerseys and Hasek. But he won only seven fewer games than Roy in 11 fewer tries to sit second on the decade wins list with 304 and raised his game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a .920 career playoff save percentage, considerably higher than his career regular season average of .906.
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Robert Griffin III signs with Cleveland Browns
Written by admin on September 18, 2016
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Robert Griffin III is heading to Cleveland.
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In a move that pairs the former offensive rookie of the year with a dynamic, offensive-minded head coach in Hue Jackson, the Browns have acquired one of the most perplexing talents of the last decade in an effort to end years of tumult at the position. Griffin, who did not play a single snap in 2015 after being ousted by Kirk Cousins in Washington, will gamble on his future in a place known for their laundry list of swings and misses at the position.
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The Browns confirmed the news in an official release on Thursday afternoon. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports Griffin’s deal is for two year and is worth a total of $15 million with $6.75 million guaranteed. Rapoport adds that RGII is set to make $7.5 million in 2016 with $3.5 million coming in the form of a signing bonus.
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“We are excited about Robert joining the Cleveland Browns,” Jackson said. “He brings starting experience to our team and organization. He’s a young, athletic, talented passer and he’s really just starting out in this league. Just like every player on our team, Robert will have to earn every cheap seahawks jerseys opportunity he gets. He will compete with the rest of the quarterbacks on our roster and he helps improve our QB room, which was one of my goals upon taking the job. It’s a special room and we want to put special people and players in that room.”
Added Griffin: “I’m excited about the opportunity to join the Dawg Pound and help build something here in Cleveland,” Griffin said. “Coach Hue and Pep, I had a great meeting with them. I really believe in what they preach and how they can help not only me as a player but this team win games and that’s what we’re all about.
“I’m just excited to come in and compete. Nothing’s ever been given to me in my life, so I just want to go out and compete with the guys and grow with this team. I feel like that’s all I’m really focused on.”
Griffin, the No. 2 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, led Washington to the playoffs in his first NFL season. Over 15 starts that year, he won nine games, threw for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns and ran for more than 800 yards.
The departure of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and a significant knee injury complicated the rest of Griffin’s career to this point. A coaching change to Jay Gruden only made his chances of reclaiming a starting job in Washington worse. Between 2013 and 2014, Griffin threw for 4,897 yards, 20 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
Griffin was barely active on game day in 2015.
Acquiring Griffin could scatter mock draft boards at this point, many of which expected Cleveland to acquire one of the NCAA’s premiere talents – Jared Goff, Carson Wentz or Paxton Lynch with the No. 2 overall pick. The Browns were a heavy presence at both Goff and Wentz’s Pro Days and figure to be active during Lynch’s as well. However, Griffin wanted to go to a place where he could start. Should the Browns take a passer high up in the draft they would run the risk of exposing Griffin to the same confidence-shattering competition that aided his downfall in D.C.
The team’s new brain trust, led by executive vice president Sashi Brown and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta may have preferred a veteran option in order to build the rest of the roster around their quarterback first.
Based on the length of the deal and comments by those in decision-making positions, this is Griffin’s team now.
“We are excited to add Robert to our team,” Brown said. “Robert possesses a unique skill set at the quarterback position. He has played at a high level in this league and is intent on doing everything in his power to return to that level on a consistent basis. After meeting with him, having him work out for us and doing our diligent research, we felt it was right to grant him an opportunity with our organization. We were able to see and feel his passion and commitment to re-establishing himself as a starting quarterback in this league and his embrace of the hard work that will be is essential to his development.
“We’ve been clear on the importance of improving and stabilizing the quarterback position for our franchise. We have said that the draft is and will be our primary focus, but we will always look to complement the draft through free agency, and this is one of those examples. We look forward to working with Robert and getting him in the building with his teammates at the start of the offseason program on April 4.”
The move will be applauded by Browns fans tempted by the endless carousel of promising quarterbacks that have marched in and out of the doors of the team’s facility since 1999. Since that year, the team has started 24 different quarterbacks: Tim Couch, Ty Detmer, Doug Pederson, Spergon Wynn, Kelly Holcomb, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson Jerseys, Ken Dorsey, Brady Quinn, Bruce Gradkowski, Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Brandon Weeden, Thaddeus Lewis, Jason Campbell Jerseys, Brian Hoyer Jerseys, Johnny Manziel Jerseys, Connor Shaw, Josh McCown and Austin Davis.
Griffin’s debut, though, may be the most anticipated since Couch’s in 1999 – or Manziel’s in Cleveland two years ago.
Manziel’s flame-out in Cleveland served as a catalyst for the team’s massive shift in organizational philosophy, which makes the Griffin acquisition so fascinating. Coaches and executives are defined by the quarterbacks they select to head the franchise, and Cleveland just picked a player pocked by question marks.
On one hand, Griffin is a victim of circumstance. His greatest asset — speed — was compromised by two serious injuries. He was pigeon-holed into an offense he wasn’t suited for, and in the white-knuckle spin cycle that is the NFL, he emerged as a supposed malcontent. The Redskins were a lightning rod of rumor and inference during the Griffin era, from favored treatment to strife in the locker room.
How much of that was actually true? That is part of what the Browns worked to find out over the past few weeks. Griffin visited with club higher-ups last weekend and also took a visit to the Jets earlier in March. Starting over gives him the chance to erase all doubts. Jackson is widely considered as one of the most innovative offensive minds in football. Even with the plodding Andy Dalton Jerseys in the Bengals’ backfield, he was able to incorporate read-option and triple-option elements into Cincinnati’s offense. Assuming Griffin is healthy, this is the skillset Jackson could have only dreamed of a few years ago.
Griffin was good enough to warrant a treasure trove of picks from the Rams back in 2012, a haul that netted Los Angeles eight players over three years: Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins, Isaiah Pead, Rokevious Watkins, Alec Ogletree, Stedman Bailey, Zac Stacy and Greg Robinson.
During that first season, he seemed 100 percent worth it. Griffin made mind-boggling plays that separated him from the traditional mobile-quarterback moniker. Alongside Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, it looked as though the NFL was riding the new wave of positional athleticism, leaving drop back passers in the dust.
Griffin has been waiting for a chance to show this was not an aberration ever since.
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Now healthy, Houston Rockets’ Sam Dekker glad for dog days last year
Written by admin on September 7, 2016
LAS VEGAS — Away from the game, Sam Dekker needed to do something. Anything, really. He was recovering from herniated disc surgery, which ended the small forward’s season with the Houston Rockets Jerseys after three games.
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Dekker, a first-round draft pick by the Rockets, couldn’t participate in summer league games last season ,and once the regular season started, before the surgery, he sat the bench and rehabbed while learning the NBA game.
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Sam Dekker has been showing his athleticism in summer league games after recovering from back surgery. Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
Dekker couldn’t even get out of bed without being sore, which is a hard thing to digest for a 22-year-old. So just two weeks after surgery in mid-December, Dekker said he made one of his best life decisions: He bought a dog.
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Dekker purchased a puppy with a husky mix, naming him Riggins, after the fictional running back Tim Riggins on the TV show “Friday Night Lights.”
Dekker needed the dog to calm his nerves because he’d played basketball since he was a kid, and now, living his dream as a professional, he was unable to play.
“He actually kept me sane,” Dekker said of his dog. “He kept my mind off the game when the guys were on the road. I would kick it with him and the strict thing was, ‘Sam, you got to keep walking, you can’t be sitting down.’ Having a puppy, you’re going to be doing a lot of walking and not watching. That was the best decision I made: Something to take my mind off being hurt and the game, just get away. It still ate at me not being able to play, knowing I could have made an impact.”
Dekker has returned to the game he loves, fully recovered from back surgery, and in the first three games of the Las Vegas Summer League he has showed the athletic ability the Rockets love about him. Dekker has scored on dunks, drives to the basket, and, of course, a few outside shots.
He needs a well-rounded game to break new coach Mike D’Antoni’s playing rotation this season, if he doesn’t spend time in the D-League.
“It’s very refreshing to be on the court again and play the game,” Dekker said. “One thing I got to realize, there will be some kinks in the road just getting back to the form I want to be in, and I’m very hard on myself and I got to realize I got to relax a little bit. I’m just playing basketball and it will all come back. I’m feeling good and I’m feeling confident and just happy to be on the court and doing what I love.”
After missing the majority of last season, Dekker is understanding the simple things in life, like getting out of bed and playing basketball pain-free.
“Probably getting out of bed without being hobbled,” Dekker said of what he cherishes most. “That’s one thing, waking up, ‘Oh, I can bend my legs.’ That’s a good way to start your day. The most gratifying thing is waking up and not having any soreness and rolling out of bed and just being ready to go — we kinda take that for granted. But when you have an issue like that and you’re hobbled and trying to mask everything, it sucks. Being able to get up and feel good and take on the day is pretty gratifying.”
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MLB roundup: Yankees, Indians could make good trade partners
Written by admin on September 1, 2016
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As of this morning, Baseball Prospectus pLa Jerseysces the New York Yankees Jerseys Jerseys’ chances for winning the division at 2.1 percent and their odds of reaching the wild-card game at 5.1 percent. So unless their situation changes dramatically between now and Aug. 1, logic screams that they should be Sellers Jerseys, to take adVan Jerseystage of the extraordinary market value attached to AnDrew Jerseys Miller Jerseys Jerseys, Aroldis Chapman Jerseys Jerseys and others right now — value that will either dissipate or disappear one second after the Aug. 1 traDe Jerseys De Jerseysadline.
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Canucks acquire Etem from Rangers for Jensen
Written by admin on August 25, 2016
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The New York Rangers Jerseys traded right wing Emerson Etem Jerseys to the Vancouver Canucks on Friday for right wing Niklas Jensen and a sixth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.
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Etem, 23, acquired by the Rangers from the Anaheim Ducks for cheap bike jerseys Carl Hagelin Jerseys at the 2015 NHL Draft, had three assists in 19 games with New York and was a healthy scratch 14 times.
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Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Friday before the trade that Etem would be sent on a minor league conditioning stint this weekend. Etem was a healthy scratch in the Rangers’ last game Tuesday against the Dallas Stars Jerseys and was not going to be in the lineup against the Washington Capitals Jerseys on Saturday.
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Etem has 15 goals and 34 points in 131 career NHL games.
Jensen, 22, selected in the first round of the 2011 NHL Draft (No. 29), has three goals and six points in 24 NHL games. He played five games last season for the Canucks and didn’t have a point.
Jensen had four goals and 12 points in 27 games for the Canucks’ American Hockey League affiliate in Utica.
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Patriots owner reiterates support for Tom Brady
Written by admin on August 23, 2016
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With Tom Brady Jerseys’s four-game suspension recently reinstated, New England Patriots Jerseys owner Robert Kraft reiterated his support for the future Hall of Fame quarterback at a draft party Friday night at Gillette Stadium.
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“He’s a young man who is an exceptional person with the highest level of integrity,” Kraft said, via the team’s official website. “I feel so privileged to have Tom in my life and I truly view him as a son. With that in mind, I want to make two things crystal clear about the ongoing situation with the NFL.
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“Number one, there is no finer ambassador for the game of football, and the New England Patriots Jerseys, than Tom Brady Jerseys. We always have had, and will continue to have, Tom’s back. Especially when he’s being treated unfairly. He knows that. All the decisions that this organization and I personally have made throughout this ordeal have been focused on putting Tom in the best possible position for success.
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“Number two, I have been in constant communication with Tom over the past 16 months and we’ve had numerous conversations this past week. We are both on the same page and he knows exactly where my allegiances, and the total team’s (allegiances) are, relative to the extremely unfair discipline that he has been subjected to.
“I share in our fans’ anger and frustration with the penalties the league has levied, and the entire process and how it was conducted. But please trust that I am always trying to do what I believe is best for this franchise, and pledge that I will always continue to do that.”
Kraft accepted league-levied punishment prior to Brady’s suspension being announced last offseason. Part of that punishment was the loss of a first-round draft pick in 2016.
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Marlins spoil Nationals’ 2016 home opener
Written by admin on August 11, 2016
WASHINGTON — The Marlins had five players finish with multihit games as they bombarded the Nationals with 13 hits en route to a 6-4 victory Thursday, giving Don Mattingly his first win as Miami’s manager and spoiling Washington’s home opener at Nationals Park.
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Miami was all over right-hander Tanner Roark from the start, beginning with a three-run first inning and continuing after a one-hour, 25-minute rain delay. Martin Prado and Adeiny Hechavarria each drove in two runs. The Nationals chose to send Roark back out onto the mound after the delay, but he struggled through four innings and was tagged for nine hits, all of them singles, and allowed four runs.
Daniel Murphy hit a three-run triple in the first inning off Marlins starter Adam Conley Jerseys and Bryce Harper added a solo shot in the seventh, the 99th homer of his career, to provide the scoring for the Nationals. Harper’s solo homer MIA@WSH: Harper smashes a towering shot to rightBryce Harper crushes a deep solo shot off the panel of the second deck in right field for his second home run of the season
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MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Phelps weathers the storm: The long rain delay meant a quick outing for Conley. So, after the rain delay, David Phelps Jerseys got the assignment, and logged four important scoreless innings. The right-hander, who threw a scoreless inning Tuesday on Opening Night, wiggled out of some jams, but got through the fifth on 59 pitches, with 36 strikes, plus three strikeouts. In the fifth, he scratched through a first-and-second, one-out situation by retiring Ryan Zimmerman on a fly ball to right. The quick out came immediately after Mattingly made a mound visit, and opted to remain with Phelps. The threat ended on Jayson Werth’s groundout to second, a play the Nationals challenged wether first baseman Justin Bour Jerseys applied the tag.
Too many pitches for Roark: Roark arrived at Spring Training determined to win a job in the rotation and his confidence impressed the Nationals. But he labored through four innings, throwing 99 pitches. Thirty-one of those pitches came in the first, when he allowed three runs. Prado’s two-run single MIA@WSH: Prado plates two runs in the 1st inningWith the bases loaded, Martin Prado smacks a single up the middle to center field, scoring Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich
One and done for Conley: Conley, arguably the most impressive Marlins’ pitcher in Spring Training, had his 2016 debut limited to one inning due to the rain. The lefty was unable to protect a three-run lead, as he surrendered the two-out, three-run triple to Murphy. Conley struggled with his command, throwing 31 pitches with just 15 strikes. He walked two and struck out two, including Wilson Ramos to strand Murphy at third. Murphy’s bases-clearing triple MIA@WSH: Murphy clears bases on triple to rightDaniel Murphy hammers a triple off the right-field wall, plating Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman in the 1st
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Phelps gave himself a boost, delivering a two-out, run-scoring single that put Miami up, 5-3, in the fifth. The RBI was the first in Phelps’ career. He had been 4-for-40 (.100) entering the game. Phelps’ RBI single MIA@WSH: Phelps’ line-drive single extends the leadDavid Phelps Jerseys cracks a line drive to the center-field gap, driving home Justin Bour Jerseys from third base to extend the Marlins’ lead
REPLAY REVIEW The Nationals crafted a small rally in the fifth, putting runners on first and second with two outs to give Werth a chance to cut into the deficit. Werth bounced into a grounder to second baseman Dee Gordon Jerseys, whose throw to first took Bour off the bag and forced Bour to tag Werth running down the line.
Werth was convinced he avoided the tag, however, prompting the Nationals to challenge the ruling. After a two-minute, 20-second review, the umpires ruled the call on the field stood and the Nationals had squandered another scoring chance. Washington batted 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Bour tags out Werth MIA@WSH: Bour gets Werth in 5th, call standsJustin Bour Jerseys tags out Jason Werth running to first after he is pulled off the base, and after the Nationals challenge, the call stands
WHAT’S NEXT Marlins: Righty Tom Koehler Jerseys, who paced the Marlins in innings (187 1/3) and starts (31) last year, takes the mound for the first time Saturday at 4:05 p.m. ET. In his career, Koehler is 3-6 (4.64) against Washington.
Nationals: The Nationals have the day off Friday, then return to Nationals Park to play the Marlins on Saturday. Righty Joe Ross begins his first full season in Washington trying to build off an impressive rookie campaign. After being called up from Double-A for a spot start, Ross eventually earned a spot in the rotation.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.
Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. Share This Email Print + Hide Comments
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Guard combo turns rebuild into playoff run in Portland
Written by admin on July 26, 2016
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PORTLAND, Ore. — In his small office near the locker room, an hour before one of his team’s latest surprise victories, Portland Trail Blazers Jerseys GM Neil Olshey was explaining how a season of rebuilding had turned into a run at the playoffs. Essentially he was talking about C.J. McCollum.
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“The one area we knew we were 100 percent confident was the backcourt,” Olshey was saying. “It’s not like this came out of nowhere.”
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Just seven months ago, Olshey had been trying in vain to re-sign his best player: LaMarcus Aldridge. When Aldridge left the 51-win Blazers to sign with the 55-win San Antonio Spurs Jerseys, an unforeseen line of dominoes began to fall. Portland’s old rotation was knocked down and replaced by something new. Veterans Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez were let go; prospects Mason Plumlee, Al-Farouq Aminu, Noah Vonleigh and others were brought in.
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A familiar cast with dreams of reaching the NBA Finals around Aldridge has now been replaced by a lineup of four new starters in which no one, including team leader Damian Lillard, is older than 25. Normally, in such extreme circumstances, the acquisition of a high lottery pick becomes the urgent goal.
“I don’t blame the prognosticators for looking at us and saying, `They’re not going to win this many games,’ ” Olshey said. “The only known was Damian. Nobody else knew what C.J. could do.”
After a 15-24 start that itself was better than predicted, the Blazers have won 14 of 17 games while rising to No. 7 in the Western Conference. Lillard and McCollum (45.9 points together) have emerged as the third highest-scoring pair in the NBA, behind the Thunder’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (51.7) and the Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (51.2)
The career-highs of 25.0 points and 7.3 assists by Lillard have surprised no one. His per-minute stats are comparable to the 2010-11 MVP numbers of Derrick Rose, as noted by Olshey, but Lillard — a two-time All-Star — had already been trending this way over his three previous NBA seasons.
I don’t blame the prognosticators for looking at us and saying, `They’re not going to win this many games.’ The only known was Damian. Nobody else knew what C.J. could do.
– Portland Trail Blazers Jerseys GM Neil Olshey
The career-highs of McCollum — 20.9 points, 4.3 assists, 40.1 percent from the 3-point line — have been franchise-changers. The anticipated failure for this season has given way to renewal, instantly, with thanks to a skinny 6-foot-3 combo guard who had averaged 6.3 ppg over his preceding two seasons.
The impact has been stunning everywhere … except in this small office, and in the adjacent rooms down the hall.
“Damian and C.J. are our two best players,” said Olshey. “They are our two best passers, our two best shooters and our two best scorers. The irony is, if C.J. doesn’t get hurt in camp as a rookie, then we were having this conversation two years ago. He was that good.”
McCollum sets own career path
“Speak up,” McCollum politely urged the journalism students seated before him in the library at Madison High School. “If you’re going to be journalists, be proud of what you’re saying.”
There were more than 30 of them, aged 14 to 18. At his invitation, they each stood up, introduced themselves and explained why they were interested in journalism: to educate people, to write or speak out, to imagine or express opinions or change the world. McCollum’s mother, Kathy Andrews, who lives with him in Portland, was watching her son run the after-school meeting.
“He would probably be writing or speaking about sports,” she said, when asked what her son would be doing if he hadn’t become an NBA player. “He would be encouraging people.”
McCollum believed nonetheless that he was always going to become an NBA player, even when he was a 5-foot-2 freshman at Glenoak High School in Canton, Ohio. “He really had to be crafty and clever,” said Olshey. “He doesn’t look at himself as being undersized at 2 guard. He has been undersized his whole career.”
Inside Stuff: C.J. McCollum
C.J. McCollum of the Trail Blazers is in consideration for most improved player, but not only is CJ smooth on the court, he’s butter behind the mic as the host of his own radio show.
In his four years at Lehigh he pursued his ambitions without regard for the normal path. He was insistent on becoming an NBA player even though no one from his school had ever been drafted. He was going to write for — and edit — the student newspaper even though he was more famous than virtually all of the subjects of his stories. Here was the big man on campus chasing down the players on the soccer or lacrosse or women’s basketball teams to profile their lives and dreams. He was independent. He was unique.
“It was a fun process and it was challenging,” McCollum said. “Maybe it was ironic that people were reading stories that were written by me, and me having to reach out to other athletes and other sports. I don’t mind things not being about me. I’m totally comfortable with that, and I actually enjoyed seeing other people succeed, and writing about other peoples’ success.”
It was because of his independent point of view, maybe, that McCollum was not especially popular with some of his older Blazer teammates after he was picked No. 10 overall in the 2013 draft by Portland. McCollum did not appear to notice. And that has emerged as one of his strengths.
The Blazers can look back over these last three years and see that he was carrying himself with the same even-keeled enthusiasm and confidence even when he suffered a fractured left foot that sidelined him from the first 34 games of his rookie year. When the 2013-14 Blazers were revealed to be a startling 54-win contender in his absence, leaving little playing time for him, his behavior didn’t change. He was the same person when he played sporadically for the first four months of last season, and he was no different when injuries gave him the opportunity to average 18 ppg over a six-game stretch at the end of the regular season, and 25.7 points over the final three playoff games.
McCollum On Fire vs. Pelicans
C.J. McCollum explodes for a career-high 37 points with six rebounds and Damian Lillard adds 21 as Portland wins it 112-94.
The consistency of his approach, which was based in his oblivious self-confidence, created faith around him. Olshey resisted acquiring a veteran point guard so that all of Lillard’s backup minutes would be devoted to McCollum. The spot-up offensive system that had suited the postup game of Aldridge was redesigned by coach Terry Stotts to revolve around the pick-and-rolls of Lillard and McCollum.
Instead of accepting the departure of Aldridge as an excuse to rebuild slowly, the Blazers were in a hurry to find out what McCollum could do alongside Lillard. What they had going for them, most of all, was the blessing of Lillard himself.
Shared backcourt, shared respect
“This is where the game is headed,” Lillard was saying as he sat on his team’s bench before a recent game. “The league is getting smaller, quicker. And you have two guys out there like myself and him that have similar skill-sets and can make plays for everybody else. I can play the 1 and he can play the 1. I can play the 2 and he can play the 2. We can both do a lot. With the league going in the direction it’s going, we can be dominant having us both out there.”
It’s coming together quicker than everybody expected — except for us two. We are friends. I want to see him do well, he wants to see me do well.
– Portland Trail Blazers Jerseys guard Damian Lillard
Lillard, who had spent four years at Weber State, respected and related instantly to McCollum’s cultural independence. They were both from smaller programs with no NBA pedigree. “They were both used to being the guy who has to go get their own shots,” said Stotts. “In the NBA this is a little different, because you need everybody involved. But they were so much better at the collegiate level that their teammates wanted them and needed them to shoot.”
“We had to score a bunch in college,” Lillard said of himself and McCollum. “We had to do it the hard way. Through that work we gained confidence, so now we are sure of ourselves. So I can relate to why he is the way he is, his attitude towards things. He has an opinion about a lot of things, and usually he has looked into it and he is able to back up why he is doing it that way. He is confident. He is strong in what he believes. I think that is a huge part of why we get along so well.”
GameTime: Portland’s Star Duo
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann talks about the effectiveness of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum when they’re on the court together for the Trail Blazers.
The Blazers ranked No. 8 in offensive efficiency last season, and after all of the fearful changes they are No. 7 now — behind the best teams in the league (Golden State, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Cleveland, the Clippers and Toronto). Lillard and McCollum are averaging 1.4 ppg more than Aldridge and Lillard managed last year. On their first night after the All-Star break, Lillard scored 51 points and McCollum added 21 in a 137-105 blowout of the champion Golden State Warriors Jerseys. Next came 31 from McCollum and 30 by Lillard in a 115-111 playoff-race win over the visiting Utah Jazz Jerseys.
They are making things easier for each other. “Our turnovers are lower when we are on the court together, the percentages are higher when we are on the court together,” McCollum said. “We have good chemistry and we know where each other is going to be.”
McCollum’s improved ballhandling and confident decision-making enables him to make the spectacular plays look simple, and vice-versa. In transition he may pivot right and left and right again while continuing his dribble-drive to the basket. From the 3-point line he may step inside to draw the defense before finding a teammate in the corner.
Lillard Drops 51 On Warriors
Damian Lillard scores a career-high 51 points with seven assists and six steals to beat the Warriors on Friday night.
“He is one of the better ballhandlers in the league — he gets anywhere he wants to go — and he’s got more scoring areas than a lot of guys in his position,” Olshey said. “For a lot of 2s it’s either the 3 or at the rim. But he’s got runners, a floater, step-backs, midrange, fallaways. He can score in a lot of different ways, and with all of these pick-and-rolls he’s just so patient.”
“It’s coming together quicker than everybody expected — except for us two,” Lillard said. “We are friends. I want to see him do well, he wants to see me do well. I think it’s the fact that we spend so much time around each other; whereas you play with a guy and he might be in competition with you, trying to one-up and all of that stuff. We spend so much time around each other that that makes it even more easy. So it has been fun.”
Defense must pave Blazers’ playoff path
“Where we have to make the jump is defensively,” Olshey said.
The Blazers have fallen to No. 18 in defensive efficiency, but much of that has to do with the loss of Aldridge. At 6-foot-11, he had the size, strength and athleticism to defend the paint while dealing with the best bigs and switching effectively in pick-and-rolls, and so the Blazers’ interior defense continues to struggle and evolve in his absence.
“Most of the better defensive teams are the experienced teams or the teams that have been together longer,” Olshey said. “That’s going to come with time, and it’s my job to find where are the holes in what we are doing and try and replace them.”
Lillard does not believe that he and McCollum, each 6-foot-3, are too small to defend the backcourt. “When you talk about size, I don’t think that really means a whole lot,” Lillard said. “You look at the league and there are not a lot of guys who post up. It’s not like there’s a lot of guys that are going to take us to the block. It’s not like we’re guarding Michael Jordan down there at the 2. You’re not guarding those guys anymore.
“We will continue to get better at pick-and-roll defense, and isolation defense. But I think it’s weird that people mention us as a small backcourt, because nobody takes us to the block and just scores on us. That doesn’t even make sense to me.”
Olshey’s goal is to make the playoffs. “I would love it,” he said. The Blazers will lose their protected first-round pick to Denver if it falls outside the lottery, but the experience of a playoff race and a first-round series against the Warriors or Spurs can only help a team that is already ahead of the curve.
In the meantime McCollum continues to pursue his first and second careers in the same harmonic way that he coexists with Lillard. He hosts two radio shows per week in Portland. He plans to add to the “Press Pass” high school journalism program he has launched with the students at Madison. He has interviewed commissioner Adam Silver for the Players Tribune and written for other sites and publications. During NBA All-Star 2016 in Toronto, he could be seen doing standups and interviews at Basketball Without Borders for NBA TV’s “Inside Stuff”.
Amid Portland’s games, you might see McCollum conducting interviews with his opponents. He has asked LeBron James, J.J. Redick and others for tips on how they have improved.
“There’ll be a timeout and we will be walking and I will be like, `Is this play for you?’ ” McCollum said of a recent conversation with Redick. “And he’ll go, ‘Yeah, in my mind every play is for me.’ Some people get mad that we are having conversations. Hey, I’m trying to help my game.”
It’s all about asking the hard questions.
Ian Thomsen has covered the NBA since 2000. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.
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