Wizards are nearing important decision involving Jordan McRae’s two-way contract – NBCSports.com

Wizards are nearing important decision involving Jordan McRae’s two-way contract – NBCSports.com

The 2019 NBA All-Star weekend is in the books. Now, where were we?

Ah, right, the Wizards in pursuit of an Eastern Conference playoff berth. Washington returns to practice Wednesday and to game action Friday at Charlotte. Before all that, a quick reset and look ahead. 

Yes, things were bumpy before the weeklong break – Washington lost its final two games and seven of 10 to match a season-worst record 10 games under .500. Fortunately, the Wizards (24-34) play in the Eastern Conference which means those postseason hopes remain within arm’s reach (though having Giannis Antetokounmpo’s cartoonish wingspan would help).

Sitting in 11th place, the Wizards must pass three teams to reach the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons. Five teams – Charlotte, Detroit, Miami, Orlando, and Washington – are effectively vying for the final two playoffs spots. The Wizards are 2.5 games back of the Magic, which entered the break winning five in a row, three behind eighth-seeded Pistons, and trail the Hornets by 3.5.

Based on projections from the research website Basketball-Reference, the Magic and Pistons seize the final two berths with 38 wins. For 39 wins, the Wizards must finish 15-9 over their last 24 games. That would become their best stretch of the season considering Washington’s longest winning streak of the season is only three.

Good news: The Wizards have the sixth easiest remaining strength of schedule.

Related news: The Magic has the third easiest, Pistons seventh.

Potentially uh-oh news: Washington, a dismal 7-23 on the road this season, returns with three of four games away from home. 

That’s a lot working against the Wizards. There is where it would be cool to show a stat that provides additional confidence. That’s not happening. There won’t be numbers reflecting downside either beyond the current slide. 

That’s because with John Wall undergoing season-ending Achilles heel surgery, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris playing elsewhere, and several new players on the roster, season-long statistics no longer apply.

Consider the Wizards’ current nine-man rotation based on recent usage. Of those nine, only two-time All-Star Bradley Beal remains in the same role as when the season began. 

Tomas Satoransky and Thomas Bryant moved up the depth chart because of injuries elsewhere. That’s somewhat the case with Jeff Green, though only Beal could rival the veteran’s forward consistency this season. Chasson Randle, now the primary backup point guard, bounced back and forth between the NBA and the G-League for chunks of the season.

The others – Trevor Ariza, Jabari Parker, Wesley Johnson, and Bobby Portis – were not on the team for the opening six weeks of the season. The non-Ariza’s arrived less than two weeks ago. This is effectively a new team, which adds additional challenges for Brooks. 

The unknown is perhaps also Washington’s best hope. 

We could assume plenty, namely that this core is less talented than the one that included Wall, Porter, and Morris. Of course, that group struggled significantly when the season tipped, losing six of seven. 

Meanwhile, the Wizards’ record since Dec. 28 is just a tick underwater (11-12), which isn’t bad when considering the overall record and recent stumbles. Yes, we just explained that many of the current players are new. The enhanced focus and consistency displayed during this stretch should remain with Beal, Ariza, and Green in primary roles. 

We can also note the Wizards are 2-2 in the four games since the pre-deadline deals that brought Portis, Parker, and Johnson to Washington. The last two games, both losses, were without Satoransky, who was away from the team for the birth of his first child. His absence led to several quirky lineups as Brooks tried making do without his lone proven point guard. 

There’s also the notion of the Wizards receiving a more extended look at Portis, a 2019 restricted free agent and possible starting power forward of the future. Portis is averaging 19 points per game while shooting 54.5 percent on 3-pointers. That accuracy isn’t sustainable, but it’s unclear his overall ceiling after only four games with his new team. 

Additional depth may come in the form of rookie Troy Brown. Washington’s 2018 first-round pick missed the prior six games after suffering a grade-2 sprained ankle against Milwaukee Feb. 2. Before the break, Brooks stated he anticipated Brown returning after the break, though without a specific timeline.  Whether the head coach uses the 6-foot-6 wing regularly as long as Washington remains in the playoff race is another story. 

Future thinking receives headliner status for the remainder of this season. We at least know big decisions lie ahead. Whether this new-ish group finds a playoff groove is part of the unknown.

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Cain Velasquez blames injury for loss; Ngannou disagrees – Yahoo Sports

Cain Velasquez blames injury for loss; Ngannou disagrees – Yahoo Sports

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Francis Ngannou celebrates his KO victory over Cain Velasquez in their heavyweight bout during UFC Fight Night at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Feb. 17, 2019 in Phoenix. (Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The finish of the main event in the UFC’s first full card on ESPN was eerily similar to its first bout on Fox more than seven years ago.

Cain Velasquez, who is regarded widely as one of the greatest heavyweights in mixed martial arts history, came out on the losing end of both. In 2011, he injured a knee and lost his heavyweight title to Junior dos Santos in just over a minute.

it ended with Velasquez stopped in just seconds.” data-reactid=”33″ type=”text”>On Sunday in the main event of UFC on ESPN 1 at the Talking Stick Resort Arena, Velasquez again had the mega-platform to vault himself to superstardom and again, it ended with Velasquez stopped in just seconds.

The difference this time, though, is with how the finish came.

In 2011, there was no question that Velasquez was injured when he was knocked out.

26-second KO victory.” data-reactid=”36″ type=”text”>On Sunday, Velasquez’s left knee clearly buckled and he went down awkwardly during an exchange with Francis Ngannou. He said he injured the inside of his left knee and was never hit. Ngannou pointed to a short uppercut he threw as the reason for the 26-second KO victory.

demolishing Travis Browne at UFC 200 on July 9, 2016, in Las Vegas in what was the last fight of the UFC’s ownership by brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta.” data-reactid=”39″ type=”text”>Regardless of how the finish came about, it was cruel as can be for Velasquez, who endured two back surgeries and missed more than 31 months after demolishing Travis Browne at UFC 200 on July 9, 2016, in Las Vegas in what was the last fight of the UFC’s ownership by brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta.

The company was sold for more than $4.2 billion the next day, but Sunday’s appearance was Velasquez’s first under WME’s stewardship.

He was downcast and appeared to fight back tears as he spoke about the finish. He insisted he was not punched.

“Taking that one step I did with my left foot, I just felt something pop,” Velasquez said. “When I tried to take another step, it just gave out. My knee gave out on me. I can’t believe that happened. Going in 100 percent healthy, 100 percent ready and just to have this freak accident, I can’t even believe it. It’s just hard, but that’s sports. It’s what happens sometimes.”

Asked if he felt a punch, Velasquez shook his head no and said, “It was just the knee, you know? He didn’t even touch me.”

Ngannou, the hardest puncher in the UFC, saw it vastly differently. Replays seem to support his view. Velasquez threw two high kicks and then an Ngannou punch seemed to graze the top of the former Arizona State All-American wrestler’s head. Velasquez took a step forward and replays show Ngannou throws an uppercut and Velasquez’s head snaps. That’s at the point where his knee seemed to give out.

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Francis Ngannou lands the finishing blows against Cain Velasquez on Sunday in Phoenix. (Getty Images)

UFC president Dana White said he hadn’t spoken to either Velasquez or Ngannou, but said his first thought was that Velasquez’s knee did buckle. But he said, “Francis Ngannou is a huge, strong powerful guy and when he’s throwing those kinds of punches, yeah.”

He didn’t finish the thought, but the implication was clear.

Ngannou had no question. He’s one of those power punchers who doesn’t need to take a massive swing to score a knockout. In his prime during the 1940s, former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis is reputed to have knocked opponents cold with a punch that traveled no more than six inches.

Ngannou’s vicious left-hook knockout of Alistair Overeem at UFC 218 on Dec. 2, 2017.” data-reactid=”68″ type=”text”>Ngannou has that kind of game-changing power. In the teaser previewing the fight that was shown in the arena, heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, Velasquez’s close friend and training partner, made light of Ngannou’s vicious left-hook knockout of Alistair Overeem at UFC 218 on Dec. 2, 2017.

“We’re still searching space for Overeem’s head,” Cormier said while doing a voiceover on the teaser.

he lost a five-round decision in a title fight with Stipe Miocic at UFC 220 and then stunk up the joint in a curious loss to Derrick Lewis at UFC 226.” data-reactid=”70″ type=”text”>It was only July when Ngannou’s career seemed to thud to a halt, after he lost a five-round decision in a title fight with Stipe Miocic at UFC 220 and then stunk up the joint in a curious loss to Derrick Lewis at UFC 226.

On Sunday, though, Ngannou did what he wanted to do, and if there was an injury, it was the result, he said, of his punches.

“The knee buckled after the uppercut on his chin,” Ngannou said. “There is video about it and you will see.”

There is no skill in professional sports that is more useful to an athlete than one-punch knockout power is to a fighter. A 100-mph fastball still has to get over the plate and a slugger still has to put the bat on the ball. A golfer who can drive it 40 yards further than everyone else has a huge advantage, if he keeps the ball in play. A great shooter in basketball means a team is never out of a game, but the shooter still needs to have teammates get him the ball in good positions. But a fighter who can knock you out with one shot can win any fight at any time.

If Ngannou ever straps that UFC heavyweight title belt around his waist, it will be solely because of that power.

On a scale of 1-10, Ngannou’s punching power is a 25. After Velasquez went down, Ngannou finished him violently, landing two massive hammer fists from the top after Velasquez collapsed and his knees fell awkwardly underneath him.

which is a light heavyweight title fight on March 2 between champion Jon Jones and Anthony Smith, but also to build the profile of several fighters on the undercard.” data-reactid=”80″ type=”text”>The UFC was expecting a huge audience on ESPN and wanted to use the interest in the Velasquez-Ngannou fight to help create interest in not only the next pay-per-view, which is a light heavyweight title fight on March 2 between champion Jon Jones and Anthony Smith, but also to build the profile of several fighters on the undercard.

Kron Gracie, the son of the legendary Rickson Gracie, one of the founders of the UFC, submitted Alex Caceres in just over two minutes with a rear naked choke earlier in the card, becoming the first member of his family to win in the UFC since Royce Gracie at UFC 4 in 1994.” data-reactid=”81″ type=”text”>Kron Gracie, the son of the legendary Rickson Gracie, one of the founders of the UFC, submitted Alex Caceres in just over two minutes with a rear naked choke earlier in the card, becoming the first member of his family to win in the UFC since Royce Gracie at UFC 4 in 1994.

There was a breathtakingly brutal welterweight bout between Vicente Luque and Bryan Barbarena that had the crowd roaring and ended with a perfect knee by Luque in the waning moments.

But the main event didn’t deliver when Velasquez’s body failed him again.

“He had so much talent and so much potential but those injuries, man, they just killed him,” a disappointed White said. “We had him teed up for that fight years ago with Junior dos Santos and then we had him teed up again tonight for this fight on ESPN with millions of people watching.”

Velasquez seemed to indicate he wants to go on, pending his health. If he can get back anywhere close to where he once was, the UFC will have an embarrassment of riches at heavyweight with Cormier, Miocic, Velasquez and Ngannou.

But given his history, there is reason to question whether he can make it back.

For Ngannou, he has his sights set firmly on the title. He took a shot at former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar for talking smack but never showing up to fight, and said his goal is to fight for the title.

until Cormier is healthy, everything is on hold.” data-reactid=”90″ type=”text”>Given that Cormier is injured, there’s no plan for his next fight. The UFC would love to make Cormier-Lesnar, but until Cormier is healthy, everything is on hold.

The only thing not on hold is Ngannou’s dreams.

“I want that title,” he said repeatedly during the post-fight news conference.

He learned his lessons from mistakes in the past, he said, and insisted he’s a changed man.

“I know how to do things the right way now,” Ngannou said.

As long as he has that kind of thunder in his hands, he’s out of no fight. And he remains a threat no matter how badly he’s behind or how good the opponent is in front of him.

Velasquez found that out the hard way Sunday.

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Adam Silver on Dirk Nowitzki: ‘I saw him painfully running up and down the court, and I think it was clear that this was going to be his last season’ – Yahoo Sports

Adam Silver on Dirk Nowitzki: ‘I saw him painfully running up and down the court, and I think it was clear that this was going to be his last season’ – Yahoo Sports

Don’t expect that to be a permanent change.

Don’t expect it never to happen again, either.

five starters chosen by fans, players and media and the seven reserves selected by coaches, NBA commissioner Adam Silver named Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki extra All-Stars.” data-reactid=”21″ type=”text”>In addition to the five starters chosen by fans, players and media and the seven reserves selected by coaches, NBA commissioner Adam Silver named Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki extra All-Stars.

“I didn’t think about it in terms of the next year or whether there will be other opportunities,” Silver said. “I think that, as a league, I like to think we have the flexibility, when there are special occasions.”

Except 1971-73, when they went a whopping 14 deep, All-Star rosters have had 10, 11 or 12 players. It’d been 12 the last 36 All-Star games.

Meanwhile, the league has grown larger than ever. There are now 30 teams.

It’s harder than ever for players to become All-Stars.” data-reactid=”25″ type=”text”>The result: It’s harder than ever for players to become All-Stars.

The NBA should use adding Wade and Nowitzki as a springboard to keeping All-Star rosters at 13 players. Going forward, the extra spot should go to someone deserving based on their current play, not used as a lifetime achievement award. Two players snubbed annually now usually deserve All-Star status based on historical standards.

Plus, 13-player All-Star rosters would match regular-season active rosters, which expanded to 13 in 2011. Most current players have spent their entire career with 13-player active rosters. It has become strange to have just 12 in the All-Star game.

supported expanding All-Star rosters – views this as a “special occasion.”” data-reactid=”28″ type=”text”>But Silver – who once said he supported expanding All-Star rosters – views this as a “special occasion.”

“I thought it was a very unique situation in which you had two NBA champions, two NBA players who had long, fantastic careers, both of whom had been All-Stars multiple times in their career,” Silver said, “and both of whom, in the case of Dwyane Wade, had already announced it was going to be his last season. In the case of Dirk Nowitzki, I saw him painfully running up and down the court, and I think it was clear that this was going to be his last season. And it just seemed like a wonderful opportunity to honor two greats.”

Whoa, that is harsh about Nowitzki. (Also accurate.)

This is a nice honor for Wade and Nowitzki. But it’s also an opportunity to normalize 13-player All-Star rosters.

Hopefully, the NBA isn’t slow to seize it.

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NBA All-Star Weekend 2019: Jayson Tatum edges Trae Young to win Skills Challenge in thrilling fashion – CBS Sports

NBA All-Star Weekend 2019: Jayson Tatum edges Trae Young to win Skills Challenge in thrilling fashion – CBS Sports

The first event of NBA All-Star Saturday Night is in the books, and it did not disappoint. Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics took down Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks to win the Skills Challenge in thrilling fashion.

Falling behind after the layup portion, Tatum launched a halfcourt shot that banked in off the glass to steal the trophy away from Young. 

The event started in creative fashion, as Karl-Anthony Towns — a former participant — and rapper Ludacris picked numbers from a big screen to match up the competitors. 

From there, the single-elimination bracket played out, with plenty of excitement in the first few rounds, especially from Young. The rookie snuck in a deep 3-pointer just ahead of the shot from Sacramento Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox in their first-round matchup. 

After beating Fox, Young then moved on to face fellow rookie Luka Doncic. Those two, of course, will always be connected after being traded for each other on draft night last summer. Most people feel the Mavericks won that trade, but Young won this matchup, getting past Doncic to get to the title. 

On the other side of the bracket, Tatum started out against veteran Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, and was well behind after struggling with the pass. Conley, however, couldn’t make the 3-pointer, and Tatum came from behind to win. Tatum’s second-round matchup with Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic followed in similar fashion, as he advanced to the championship round. 

Afterwards, defending champ Spencer Dinwiddie — unable to compete due to injury — called out Tatum and challenged him at next year’s All-Star Saturday Night. 

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NFL reaches financial settlement with Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid – Yahoo Sports

NFL reaches financial settlement with Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid – Yahoo Sports

In a stunning decision, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid have reached a financial settlement with the NFL in their joint collusion complaint against the league and will take no further action in the case. While sources declined to offer specifics for the decision, Yahoo Sports was told on prior occasions that Kaepernick and Reid would only settle the complaint if a lucrative financial agreement was reached between the players and the NFL.

The league and Kaepernick’s attorneys released a statement Friday saying the matter had been resolved confidentially. As part of that confidentiality, it is believed both sides signed a non-disclosure agreement agreeing not to speak publicly about details of the case or settlement.

“For the past several months, counsel for Mr. Kaepernick and Mr. Reid have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the NFL,” the statement said. “As a result of those discussions, the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances. The resolution of this matter is subject to a confidentiality agreement so there will be no further comment by any party.”

The agreement comes on the doorstep of the final hearing in the Kaepernick case, which was set to take place before arbitrator Stephen Burbank this month. Kaepernick had alleged the league conspired to keep him out after he began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016. Multiple NFL players adopted Kaepernick’s protest in 2017, hoping to draw attention to social justice and racial inequality issues. The actions sparked a political firestorm from President Donald Trump and the furor became such a central issue for the league for nearly one year that it instituted a rule that banned protests during the national anthem. That rule has since been shelved by the NFL and now appears to be dead, for all intents and purposes.

The NFLPA also released a statement Friday, supporting the settlement between the league and players.

“Today, we were informed by the NFL of the settlement of the Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid collusion cases,” the NFLPA said. “We are not privy to the details of the settlement, but support the decision by the players and their counsel. We continuously supported Colin and Eric from the start of their protests, participated with their lawyers throughout their legal proceedings and were prepared to participate in the upcoming trial in pursuit of both truth and justice for what we believe the NFL and its clubs did to them. We are glad that Eric has earned a job and a new contract [from the Carolina Panthers], and we continue to hope that Colin gets his opportunity as well.”

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