Month: January 2018

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Hurts relented and began the act of brushing off the front of his jersey after rushing touchdowns.

It wasn’t a new critique. When Hurts played for Averion at Channelview High School in Houston, a rival coach once told his father, Your son is the real deal, but he’s got to show other kids emotion so they play harder.

Nothing outlandish. Just a quiet show of confidence. He stared straight ahead, wiped himself down and moved along.

Averion laughed and thought of a different conversation he had with Saban about getting Hurts to show his emotions. Ultimately, he had to convince Saban to meet them halfway. You’re going to have to let him be him, Averion said.

Another example: James made a habit of referring to Irving as the kid. You can see Irving’s visible frustration here when a pool reporter asks what kind of father figure James has been to him.

According to MacMullan, some of his Cavaliers teammates said Irving took being referred to as the kid as a subtle lack of respect, though it’s unclear whether that is the reason he requested a trade.

When the Cavaliers lost to the Warriors in last year’s NBA Finals, Irving was the one who pushed for an exit interview first, according to MacMullan. But Griffin’s contract expired June 19, leaving the Cavaliers GM-less for 36 days — including two weeks of wining and dining Chauncey Billups — before naming Koby Altman the new GM.

For over a month, Irving had no one to talk to.

James and Irving didn’t see eye-to-eye on some things, but it doesn’t seem all the parties involved had a chance to sit down and discuss their grievances with one another. Had that happened, the ending to this story could have been a bit different.

But that game … well, at least the Bruins got a participation ribbon. The Canadiens, with backup goalie and Massachusetts native Mike Condon in net, built a 3-0 lead by the 17:20 mark of the second period, and that was that. At an unremarkable venue with unremarkable weather, and with a Canadian market in an unremarkable game, this was the lowest-rated Winter Classic to date in the U.S.

He seems unperturbed by the latest brouhaha. He said (pretty close to) the right things when asked about it on Sunday. As noted, the Lakers are refusing to comment. This is the perfect tone to take. If the Lakers commented on this or any other LaVar broadside, they’d have to comment on all of them. Better to ignore the nonsense from the start.

Walton is smart and chill. He too said all the right things before L.A.’s Sunday game against the Hawks, a win that snapped a nine-game losing streak. He focused his concern not on LaVar’s black hole ego, but on the impact on Lonzo. Walton’s concern wasn’t with how this kerfuffle affects him or his status, but how it affects his star rookie.

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We would probably all be surprised to find out what history will remember about our era.

I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head who won the 1945 World Series, but I could tell you that a goat got kicked out of it. I couldn’t tell you who the best pitcher in baseball was in 1956, but I could tell you who threw a perfect game in that year’s World Series. I don’t remember who hit the most home runs in 1990, but I do remember that the Mariners’ No. 2 and 3 hitters — both of them named Griffey — hit back-to-back dingers one day that year. Most of us remember these things like we remember our first phone number.

Throw in the fact that Green’s hometown is Houston, and this is simply poetic.

Mande said a Jags official told him Bortles is aware of the jokes about him.

The Jaguars have had a great sense of humor about it, Mande said, and the team invited Mande and Jacinto to last week’s game against the Bills. Jacinto — decked out in Jaguars gear — got into character by bouncing around the sideline.

(Jacinto) was running around like a dumbass, Mande said. It was cool seeing how many people at the game recognized (Jacinto), because his optimism is very representative of their fanbase.

Said Averion: With him, you can tell him something and you’ll never know if you pissed him off. So Coach Saban had his hands full at first. He’s a great amateur psychologist, but he’s never had a kid like him. He’s never had a quarterback that is so mellow. Sometimes people think he’s acting like he’s cool. He’s just a laid-back dude.

As Averion explains, it was hard to pry words out of Hurts when he was young. When he got braces, he became self-conscious about the way it caused him to mumble. The braces and the mumble are long gone, but it’s rare to hear him speak above a whisper.

But it was still super fun to watch. The Hawks were up on the Suns by 12 points with five minutes to go and had a 101-96 lead with 42 seconds left on the clock.

I don’t remember scoring any points or getting any rebounds. I certainly would not pass the ball. So I’ve got no idea, Popovich said.

Well played, Pop. Pat Riley is up next on the list with 1,210 wins. Popovich will need 35 more to pass him and move to fourth all-time. But, much like tonight, I’m sure it won’t matter for him.

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Remember when the Winter Classic was novel and cool?

When you’d turn on the game and geek out over the jerseys — the Red Wings wearing that giant D on the front — and the aesthetics, like hockey fans cramming the rooftops across from the stadium? Remember when even the hokey stuff was charming, like Ryne Sandberg singing Take Me Out to the Ball Game with Stan Mikita?

Also: scoring! The Blackhawks built a 3-1 lead by the end of the first period, and the Red Wings roared back with five straight goals to build a 6-3 lead by 3:24 of the third. OK, maybe too much scoring, as the game was basically done after that, but scoring nonetheless.

This story appears to corroborate an anecdote Griffin mentioned in an exclusive interview with Fear the Sword last April.

He doesn’t like to push the ball, it’s just not his nature. He’s gotten by in the halfcourt his whole life because his handle is so good, he never felt the urgency to press the ball, whereas most guys develop their game as to what they need to do to succeed. Ky never had to do that. So when you’re explaining to him why it’s important to push the pace and I think he was reluctant to do that, because, well, ‘because I can get mine regardless’. Well, it’s not necessarily about you. So I think where he’s grown and evolved is he’s starting to figure that out.

The Chargers go three-and-out on their second possession of the game. Kansas avoids a disaster on the punt as the ball bounces off a blocker and is free. But, the Chiefs recover it and they’ll start their drive at their 6.

Alex Smith throws an incomplete pass and the Chiefs follow with two short runs as they go three-and-out on their opening drive.

The Chargers pick up a pair of first downs but their drive stalls when Philip Rivers is sacked on third down. They punt and Kansas City will take over at its 18.

We’re underway in Kansas City. The Chiefs win the toss and defer. The Chargers will start the game’s opening drive on their 25 following a touchback.

The Chiefs and Chargers have both announced their inactives.

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The Raiders finish the first quarter with 7 total yards and no first downs.

Same guys. My mentality hasn’t changed, Ajayi said. My mindset is always downhill, attacking, try to punish guys. One-on-one, it’s all about not being tackled.

Ajayi was the main man in Miami, averaging 20 carries per game. He had 465 yards rushing, an average of 3.4 yards and no touchdowns. Last year, Ajayi went to the Pro Bowl after running for 1,272 yards, including three 200-yard games.

After coming to Philly, he adjusted to being part of a rotation. Ajayi shared the backfield with LeGarrette Blount and Corey Cement and didn’t get more than 15 carries in any game following the trade.

Bell, too, is on a tear as the league leader in rushing yards (1,105) and yards from scrimmage (1,684).

They have great skill players, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said during a Wednesday news conference. They can run the ball. They can throw it — throw it long, throw it short, run after the catch, extend plays. Everybody is involved.

That’s great for the Steelers but could cause MVP voters who want to recognize Pittsburgh’s overall success to split ballots between Brown, Roethlisberger and Bell. Such a scenario would lessen everybody’s chances of winning.

For what it’s worth, this is reflected in his RPM, which shows him somewhat worse on offense this year, but significantly better on defense. (Overall he ranks 33rd among small forwards in RPM, after sitting 46th largely on the strength of awful defense last season.) His component BPM shows similar defensive improvement and offensive regression.

Turnover, Raiders. Carr attempts to scramble into the end zone for a go-ahead score. He gets to the sideline, dives for the end zone but comes up short and then fumbles the ball. It rolls out of the end zone for a touchback, giving the ball back to Dallas with 31 seconds left.

Facing a fourth-and-10, Derek Carr lobs a pass deep down field to Michael Crabtree. He doesn’t come down with the football but Dallas is called for pass interference. Oakland now has it at the Cowboys’ 15 with 50 seconds to play.

Field goal, Cowboys. Dallas chews up 4:46 of game time and moves all the way to the Raiders’ 5 after Prescott’s pass to Bryant. But the Cowboys are kept out of the end zone after three short runs and settle for a field goal. They now lead 20-17 with 1:44 to play.

Prescott connects with Dez Bryant down the sideline for a 40-yard gain, moving Dallas to the Oakland 5 with two minutes remaining.

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the Chargers have a chance to make the postseason this week.

Having won five of their last six, the Chargers need to beat the Raiders, have the Titans lose and then watch either the Bills lose or the Ravens win to earn a playoff spot.

It would be much easier for everyone in the AFC if the Chargers just lost, but they are playing a hapless Raiders team entering the week just 2-5 on the road this season.

The Chargers have nine games with multiple takeaways this season, tied for the most in the NFL and the most for the team since tying the franchise record with 14 such games in 2007. They have a great chance to win this week and potentially sneak into the playoffs

After losing to the Patriots last week, Tyrod Taylor and the Bills are in a world of trouble to save their season. The Bills’ quarterback experiments during the middle of the season could come back to haunt them because they need some help from other teams this week.

But for every Kirby Smart, there’s a Jeremy Pruitt, the Alabama defensive coordinator who held that same job at Georgia in 2014 and 2015. Asked after the game Monday night how many Bulldogs players he had a hand in recruiting, Pruitt said, All of ’em.

To recap, the Georgia head coach recruited the Alabama players to Alabama, and the Alabama defensive coordinator recruited the Georgia players to Georgia. Take the case of Alabama sophomore linebacker Terrell Lewis, who came off the bench to make two tackles against Clemson.

Coach Smart recruited me at first when I was coming to Bama, Lewis said. And then when he left, he was trying to get me to come to Georgia. … I knew of Pruitt and he was recruiting me to Georgia, so once he finally got to Bama, he was recruiting me, too. They went from telling to come here for this reason to [telling me to] come there for this reason.

Because this is the College Football Playoff National Championship, it is difficult to imagine that Smart will fare as badly as the five former assistants who have coached against Saban. Only one, former Florida head coach Jim McElwain, came within 14 points of beating his former boss. The average margin among McElwain, former Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley, South Carolina’s Will Muschamp (0-2 while at Florida) and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio is nearly 29 points.

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The reason McSorley is not high on lists can be nailed down to a couple of things.

Saquon Barkley is a no-doubt first-round pick for Penn State this year, but as good as he may be, the argument can be made that quarterback Trace McSorley was the most important part of the Nittany Lions’ offense.

But McSorley will not be found high on many NFL prospects lists this year despite the fact he has back-to-back 3,000-yard seasons, has thrown for 55 touchdowns and accounted for 73 in the last two years, and he has gone 22-5 as Penn State’s starter over their last 27 games.

For one, he is small. While he is listed at 6-foot, 195-pounds, many would say he is smaller. In fact, anyone who knows McSorley would probably be surprised that is what he is listed at.

He also plays in an offense with talent all over the place as well as one that is pretty QB-friendly. In addition, he makes some bad mistakes and doesn’t have a great arm.

McSorley, though, may have an argument as a good NFL prospect. For one, he is an accurate passer completing 63.7 percent of his throws this year, he has a quick release, he has good timing on deep throws that makes him a dangerous guy throwing down the field, and he had possibly one of the most impressive lines of the year in the Fiesta Bowl Saturday.

Biyombo (available in 83.5 percent of leagues) turned in his fourth straight game with double-figure rebounds and his third straight double-double on Monday. All told, he is averaging 9.5 points, 13 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in those four games and has the game to maintain those numbers for as long as Nikola Vucevic is sidelined.

Caris LeVert (available in 65 percent of leagues) scored 15 points with 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and a 3-pointer on Monday. This is right in line with his recent play, as over his last five games, he is averaging 16.6 points (49.2 FG%, 72.2 FT%), 7.6 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.6 3-pointers in 28 minutes off the bench.

Thon Maker popped for 16 points (4-8 FG, 5-5 FT), 4 rebounds, 3 3-pointers, an assist, a block and a steal in 18 minutes off the bench. The scoring came from nowhere, as he had combined for only 12 points in his four previous games combined, but the peripheral numbers are becoming more of a norm, as the Bucks continue to give him a consistent 15-20 minutes a night of action.

Andrew Wiggins turned in one of his best all-around performances of the season on Monday, posting a season-high nine rebounds to go with his 21 points, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block and 1 3-pointer against the Lakers. Butler still had a bigger line, but if Wiggins can find some consistency on the glass, he could start to move back up in my rest-of-season rankings.

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