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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars

Griffin coming back to the lineup is a sign of hope.

Super Bowl aspirations in Pittsburgh a year after it lost the AFC title game in New England are warranted … even though the Patriots did more than the Steelers to improve during the offseason.

The offensive firepower, health permitting, remains intact, and Le’Veon Bell playing on the franchise tag apparently feels the need to produce even more. The key for the Steelers again will be the continued development of the relatively young defense that allowed 431 yards in that AFC championship loss.

It wasn’t his best performance. In his first game since Dec. 20, Griffin tallied 12 points on 3-for-11 shooting (6 for 10 from the free-throw line). He also added 11 rebounds, five assists and six turnovers.

Griffin coming back to the lineup is a sign of hope. He was able to play 30 minutes without any physical issues. During his recovery from surgery, the Clippers were 10-8. Having him back couldn’t come any sooner since the team is missing Chris Paul.

“It’s so good having him Blake back,” DeAndre Jordan told Sporting News. “It’s been so frustrating lately, we get off to a hot start then we have two of our big guys go down. At our best, we’re a championship contender. We just haven’t been at our best in awhile. But this is a good start to getting it right.”

Few teams have overcome as much adversity as the Clippers over the past few years. This team survived the ownership of Donald Sterling. Last season, the team lost its dynamic duo of Griffin and Paul within 36 hours. Thus killing the playoff hopes once again.rangers_094-115x115

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the first four months have shown the club is on the right track.

Holland said that the ritual took root while he was still with the Rangers, and though he brought that with him to the White Sox, he was quick to defer personal credit for its effect on the clubhouse.

“My goal is just to bring the team closer together. I have been on some really good teams, and that’s something they do,” Holland said. “And for a team that’s growing, a young team like this, that’s the whole objective.”

Braves (vs. Cubs)
Status heading into series: 45-45, 7 back in the NL Central, 8 out of a wild-card spot
The bright side: Nobody expected the Braves to be in position to have a decision to make at the trade deadline, and maybe they’re not really contenders. But at this point in the rebuilding process, maybe it’s more important to keep guys like Brandon Phillips, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia and push to finish the season strong, instead of trading them for prospects who won’t crack a strong farm system’s top-25 prospect list.

On the other hand: Regardless how this season finishes, the first four months have shown the club is on the right track. Can you ever have too many prospects? Veterans Phillips, Dickey, Garcia, Nick Markakis, Matt Kemp, Jim Johnson, Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki have done admirable jobs, but they’re not part of the franchise’s future, so why not move them now and add to the stable? And then there’s Matt Adams, the first baseman they picked up from the Cardinals as a fill-in when Freddy Freeman went down with an injury. He’s been pretty amazing — 14 homers, .944 OPS in 46 games — and they’d certainly get more by trading him now than they gave to the Cardinals to get him. But he’s quickly become a fan favorite, and maybe they use the offseason to make a full-time outfielder of him. Yet another good decision the Braves didn’t expect to have to make. broncos_047

Jacksonville Jaguars

LaVar Ball: Don’t compare us to the Kardashians

Don’t tell LaVar Ball and his family they are like the Kardashians.

Lonzo Ball’s father indicated he was over being compared to the reality TV moguls and said they were nothing alike.

“I ain’t no Kardashain, I ain’t Kris Jenner,” LaVar Ball told TMZ Sports. “We the Balls, welcome to the Ball era.”

The similarities between the families are striking: Kris Jenner and her children have made a lifestyle out of being on reality TV. LaVar Ball said he and his family are getting a reality TV show. Kris Jenner is known for managing her children’s careers and securing their signature brands. Lavar Ball has created Big Baller Brand and is trying to make an empire off his family’s name. Both clans are also based in southern California

However, LaVar Ball doesn’t even want his name associated with the Kardashians.

“I don’t like them, I don’t dislike them. Kardashians are Kardashians.” LaVar Ball said. “We’re separate. We’re ball players.”

On one hand, this is a backup point guard for a Cleveland team that has desperately needed one. He’ll help the team run offense when LeBron James and Kyrie Irving sit.

On the other, he took a big nose dive last season in Los Angeles and Atlanta. There’s not a lot of evidence he’s a better option than Deron Williams was last season, and Williams struggled in the playoffs. Also, Calderon’s defense has always been a sieve, and Cleveland’s biggest issue is its defense.

This doesn’t really fill any holes, and the true cost to Cleveland is in the area of $6-7 million given their luxury tax bill. Given that the team can simply stagger LeBron and Kyrie’s minutes, I’m not sure that a point like this at a relatively high cost to the organization makes a ton of sense.
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Kawhi Leonard shines as Spurs bounce back to even series

The Spurs are back in it.

Just watching the ball and watching where guys shoot, Thompson said. If a guy is shooting a shot in the corner, 70 percent of the missed shots usually come off that other side, and 30 percent hits off the front rim. So just playing the percentages and kind of studying your teammates’ shots throughout the course of the game.

For instance, a guy like Channing (Frye), if he misses a shot, he has a lot of arc on his shot, so if he misses it’s probably going to be close. J.R. (Smith), his shot is a little bit more, not as much arc as Channing, so if he misses, it might be a little bit more long rebound. Just understanding your teammates. But I’m hoping they make every shot. But if not, I tell them, ‘Don’t worry, there’s a good chance I will be able to get that offensive rebound.’

Thompson is below the trees at 6-9 but has a 7-1 wingspan, great lateral quickness for his size and an impressive second jump. (These are all traits that have also made him a force on the defensive end this postseason.) The biggest part of his offensive rebounding success, though, is his ability to read the ball. Thompson explained the process at Wednesday’s practice.

The Raptors were forced to play without All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, who is still nurisng an ankle injury. Cory Joseph started in his place, but scored just four points on 2 of 12 shooting. DeMar DeRozan scored 37 points to led Toronto, but he ultimately didn’t receive enough help down the stretch.

Cleveland has been pretty nonchalant about this series, which has caused Raptors players to feel disrespected. This series, which never looked all that competitive from the start, is now virtually over.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Chauncey Billups reportedly pulls out of running for Cavaliers GM job

Chauncey Billups apparently isn’t ready to leave television for an NBA front office job just yet.

The ESPN analyst pulled out of the running for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ president of basketball operations job, ESPN reported Monday.

The report came a day after Billups told reporters he was “still pondering” an offer to replace David Griffin as the man in charge in Cleveland.

It would be tempting to pair a 20-year-old Tracy McGrady with a 23-year-old Vince Carter from the 2000 Raptors, but instead we’re going with Lowry, DeRozan and Valanciunas, who have led the Raptors to 51, 56, 49 and 48 regular-season wins in the last four years, respectively, which are the four highest single-season win totals in Toronto’s history.

Anchored by two Hall-of-Famers in point guard John Stockton and power forward Karl Malone, with a career-40 percent three-point shooter on the wing in Jeff Hornacek, the Jazz could have assembled an absolute force of a 3-on-3 team in the 1990s.

All three players were members of the franchise during its Baltimore Bullets days in the 1960s and ’70s. Earl “The Pearl” Monroe was a star as soon as he entered the league, averaging more than 20 points and four assists per game in each of his first four seasons, while Gus Johnson and Wes Unseld were two of the league’s best rebounders. Unseld averaged 18.2 rebounds per game as a rookie and shot better than 50 percent from the field for his career.
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Bucks returning to historic MECCA for one game in 2017-18 season

Bucks fans can take a pilgrimage down memory lane during the 2017-18 NBA season.

That night, as the Cavaliers celebrated at Oracle Arena, Green sat in the parking lot and made two phone calls, he told ESPN.com: One to Warriors general manager Bob Myers, urging him to sign chargers_002 in free agency, and another to Durant himself, the likely Finals MVP this season if the Warriors can close the deal.

It was then when Green and the Warriors unofficially began recruiting Durant, who signed a max deal just two weeks later. Green was blamed in part for the Warriors’ collapse last year after getting suspended for Game 5 after getting tagged for his fourth flagrant-foul point of the playoffs.

“If we win the championship, I’m like 99 percent sure we don’t get (Durant),” Green told ESPN.com. “There are silver linings to everything.”

On the verge of sweeping the Cavaliers, there will be no silver for the Warriors, only gold.

So even though Green claims he would react that way again, we have to wonder if maybe he’s grown enough to the point where he realizes the type of impact his outbursts have. If not, expect the Cavs to try and get under his skin again in this current series.

After the draft lottery, LaVar said (via Lakers Nation), “That’s all we working out for is the Lakers. Just the Lakers. There’s nobody else that we need to work out for.”

Jacksonville Jaguars

Sporting News NFL awards 2016: Players of the year, All-Pro Team, more

Sporting News this week announced it’s annual NFL awards, voted upon by current players, coaches and executives throughout the league. SN’s 2016 All-Pro Team, voted upon by the league’s head coaches, also was announced.

SN has announced player awards since 1954, including Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year awards since 2012. SN’s Coach of the Year award has been announced since 1947.

Here are the award recipients and All-Pro Team for the 2016 NFL season.

(Editor’s note: SN’s Executive of the Year award will be announced and presented during the annual league meeting in March.)

Kaepernick was a second-round draft pick of the 49ers in 2011 and he’s just one example of Baalke’s failed picks. Others include Anthony Davis, LaMichael James, Tank Carradine, Marcus Martin, Brandon Thomas, A.J. Jenkins, Taylor Mays and Chris Culliver.

San Francisco’s roster is a mess, and, in the end, Baalke was the scapegoat for the team’s miserable 2016 season.

It didn’t surprise me, Baalke said. Weve done some awful good things. Some very successful seasons. Unfortunately regret we werent able to bring a championship to the Bay Area, which they so deserve. I think The Faithful has been great. Wish this organization nothing but the best moving forward. I do see a bright future for them.steelers_005

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Baseball dismissed Leo Mazzone and Johnny Sain — the Hall of Fame doesn’t have to

Sometime after the Braves hired Leo Mazzone in 1979 to be a pitching coach within their organization, he went to see Johnny Sain.

Sain won 20 games four times for the Boston Braves between 1946 and 1950, helping lead the team to the 1948 World Series. Later, Sain embarked on a successful second career as a pitching coach. So many of the best pitchers of the 1960s crossed paths with Sain, from Whitey Ford to Jim Kaat to Denny McLain.

Partially because his track record of wins and losses is pretty solid (three first-place finishes, two second-place finishes in his five full seasons), but also because Matheny checks so many of the boxes that owner Bill DeWitt Jr., believes are so very important to the well-being of the franchise as a whole.

Still …

This past road trip was a disaster, by any interpretation. And this season has been an up-and-down roller coaster nobody expected, swings of awful baseball and awesome baseball.

With a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a hard, upper-80s slider, scouts are split on whether Bukauskas will remain a starter at the next level or make a move toward the bullpen, likely in a closer role.

Whether he is taking the ball at the beginning of games or at the end, he has a very good chance to climb to the majors very quickly. Much like Wright, Bukauskas competed in a very tough conference for the past three years, giving scouts a good idea of where he will stack up against professional hitters.

If he remains a starter, look for the Ashburn, Va., native to spend a couple seasons in the minors and make his major league debut in either late 2019 or 2020. However, if the team that selects him makes him a closer immediately, his path to the top could be much shorter, with him getting the call up next summer.
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NFL stars fire back in newest edition of Mean Tweets on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’

Evans surprisingly declared early this year after just 14 college starts and one season at Virginia Tech. But Evans is set to be a 23-year-old rookie after bouncing around schools early in his career. Evans, who has a ways to go in terms of footwork and play progression development, has the same intrigue as Cardale Jones did a year ago, and he might go in the similar draft range. Evans is a dual-threat passer who improved in confidence and decisiveness as the 2016 season went along. He’s mentally equipped to develop after a year or two in the NFL, but he’ll be a project quarterback for an NFL team.

Jimmy Kimmel rolled out part two of his NFL “Mean Tweets” series late Thursday, just days before Super Bowl 51.

This year’s lineup includes Rob Gronkowski, Tony Romo, JJ Watt, Odell Beckham Jr., DeMarco Murray and Josh Norman, among others, who recite the brutal insults on camera.

Some of the stars’ responses are just as good as the tweets themselves. See for yourself.

Webb doesn’t have great velocity control or perimeter placement to be a plug-and-play starter in more than few systems, but he possesses the requisite size, arm talent and vertical accuracy to entice teams to spend a top-three round pick on him.

After his early-season struggles and midseason injury in 2016, Kelly went from over-hyped senior quarterback to forgotten in a draft class eventually dominated by underclassmen. He struggled mightily without Laremy Tunsil and Laquon Treadwell to start the year, and his reckless ball placement and inefficient play progression won’t help him win teams over. Combine all that with his off-field red flags, and Kelly will have to rely on his arm talent and athleticism to get him drafted.chargers_003-180x180

Jacksonville Jaguars

It shouldn’t be a surprise that McVay’s team was the one to draft Everett.

It might not have seemed like a flashy pick at the time, but the small-school prospect wasn’t flying under everyone’s radar.

“A couple other teams groaned when they saw him come off the board with the 44th pick, thinking he’d slip to them later in the second round,” MMQB’s Albert Breer reported.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that McVay’s team was the one to draft Everett. Before he was promoted to Washington’s offensive coordinator job in 2014, McVay was the team’s tight ends coach for three seasons. He helped coax career-best seasons out of Logan Paulsen and Fred Davis, and he also groomed Jordan Reed. In 2013, Reed set team records in catches (45) and receiving yards (499) for a rookie tight end. Two years later in McVay’s offense, Reed set two more team records for a tight end, with 87 receptions and 952 yards.

If McVay can bring along Everett like he did Reed, that only helps the development of Goff.

While Osweiler has been a starting quarterback, he hasn’t been a particularly good one. He’s lost jobs to the injury-riddled husk of Peyton Manning and unheralded backup Tom Savage. His performance in Denver and Houston, where he was surrounded by top-notch receivers like Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, DeAndre Hopkins, and Will Fuller, was at best underwhelming. Only the presence of two of the league’s most intimidating defenses could buoy him to a 13-8 record as a starter.yankees_1615_354b587543651dbe-180x180