NHL TV ratings, Ryan Kesler and Phil Kessel (Puck Daddy Countdown)

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One of the things that has been pervasive in hockey over the past few weeks has been the smug chortling from Canadians like, “Oh ho, the ratings for NBC will be really bad if it’s a Ducks/Senators final, haha,” as though: a) anyone outside of an NHL or NBC boardroom should give a rat’s ass, and b) the real loser wouldn’t be the hockey fans who have to sit through up to seven games of the stultifying, ugly hockey both teams are capable of playing.

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Like honestly, this is one of those things I cared about when I was 14 and wrestling ratings were a thing. The Monday Night Wars. I was a WWF guy, myself (though I also watched Nitro!) and so to see my preferred brand of pro wrestling pull ahead was something of a personal vindication. In retrospect, it was dumb to feel this way.

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Again, I was 14. So why does Canada care? As though they have some sort of provenance over Hockey Caring, after the Senators didn’t sell out a home playoff game, and after ratings for Sportsnet’s coverage are repeatedly abysmal. (Apparently they’re just fine from these playoffs, but guess what: It’s because the Leafs and Oilers made it for the first time in a million years.)
cheap jerseys authentic Point being: Who cares however many million people? If you’re the only one in the United States watching a game, what’s the big deal? Go back to worrying about whether the Senators are Hashtag Canada’s Team. (They’re not, by the way.) 6 – Battle of the Ryans Not that I’m choosing sides here because their names are both so so good, but Ryans Johansen and Kesler are in a bit of a feud. It’s not hard to see who has the moral high ground, though. Kesler chicken-wing elbowed Johansen right in the chin — and shocker: he didn’t get a call from DOPS about it — and Johansen was steamed. Understandably so.
Wholesale Scott Mayfield jersey Of course, Johansen did a dumbass thing by complaining about it, because when you tell a goalie “cut it outttttt!” and there’s no discipline forthcoming from someone in a position of authority, the bully is only gonna turn up the heat on you. Perhaps Kesler will resort to the “I’m not touching you” trick in future meetings. I hope so.
To be clear: Kesler should have been suspended for last night’s Game 3. Johansen is right that the stuff Kesler gets away with — and in fact, gets praised for on every broadcast and every article from a non-Nashville outlet about this series — is beyond the pale. There’s no way it should happen in today’s game.
But it’s the playoffs so it’s going to. Peter Laviolette would be wise to use last change to free Johansen from his tormentor as much as possible, not just because Kesler might try to pants him during the national anthem, but also because he’s very clearly leasing space in Johansen’s head at this point. Which is, of course, the plan.
Why play into it? 5 – The Stars goaltending situation “Hmm,” thought Jim Nill as his team’s season prematurely smoldered, “I have two goalies who are very bad and over-30 and quite expensive. It’s a real problem. What to do, what to do?
“Ah, I know. As a GM who people used to think was very smart but who let two middle-pairing UFA defensemen walk for nothing in the offseason because of how expensive my two bad, old goalies are, I will sign a bad, old goalie for a lot of money. And a lot of years. And I will be sure to give up an asset to do it!
“And sure, I could wait until the playoffs are over and see if I can get, say, Marc-Andre Fleury Jersey, or maybe one of Detroit’s goalies. But what’s the fun in that?
“So who can I get who fits the bill? Has to be a UFA. And preferably he’d already be pretty close to 31. And he’d have to be coming off a career-worst season. And if possible, it would be ideal to get someone who was also plagued by lower-body injuries, which are particularly bad for goalies because they aren’t easy to recover from. Especially if they’re really tall!
“And what, if — and maybe I’m being crazy here — what if we also didn’t really have a good plan for how to deal with the two other old, bad goalies I still have on the roster?
“Jimmy, that just might work!”
Ben Bishop Jersey. Who will be 31 in November. Got six years and a little less than $5 million per. And all for the low, low price a fourth-round pick and a goaltending logjam that will be almost impossible to work out without dead cap space.
Read MoreBeautiful.
4 – The Penguins goaltending situation
The good news for the Penguins, though, is that Marc-Andre Fleury Jersey continues to play some very good hockey in Matt Murray’s stead. That gives them approximately a million options for the next two seasons.
The question is whether teams will be willing to accommodate a team that has gone to two straight Conference Finals (and perhaps more before this postseason is all over) that might need some cap wiggle room. As I said in the mailbag yesterday, there really aren’t a lot of teams that need goaltending help, and a $5.75 million backup probably isn’t ideal as part of a going concern.
But if Dallas is willing to give up all that to get Ben Bishop Jersey, imagine what a desperate team would give up for a goalie who only has two more years left and is coming off what will probably be, at worst, a .925 postseason save percentage.
Not ideal, but not terrible.
3 – Jason Botterill
First of all, you don’t get to all of a sudden decide to say, “My name is pronounced this other way,” after decades in hockey. This is Jason “It’s pronounced Kroag now” Krog and Brad “Marsh-AND” Marchand all over again. This isn’t on us, Jason!
But second of all, shoutout to a college hockey guy finally getting his shot to run a team. Of course, that team happens to be the Buffalo Sabres Jersey, at a time when their blue line is made up of a bunch of guys I wouldn’t trust to protect my computer at Starbucks while I went to the bathroom for a second. And also their owner is a huge fanboy who thinks he knows anything about hockey, when in fact he does not.
So congrats on the job and everything, but uhhh, good luck.
View photosPhil Kessel Jersey of the Pittsburgh Penguins Jersey.More2 – Angry Phil Kessel Jersey
A million individual blessings to America’s most beautiful and kind hockey boy, Phil Kessel Jersey, who loves to shout at his teammates and score goals and be perfect in all ways.
Kessel’s goal on Monday night to win that horrid 1-0 game and even the series was his 29th in his playoff career. And despite playing in Toronto for a bunch of years, that puts him in fairly exclusive company.
Since Kessel’s career began, he’s one of only 20 guys to score at least 29 playoff goals. But again, because his teams were so bad, you have to keep in mind he’s only played 60 playoff games, compared to the 85-plus for literally everyone in front of or behind him.
So how’s this one for a stat: Out of the 231 players to appear in at least 50 playoff games since 2006-07, Phil Kessel Jersey — who plenty of people hated and called an out-of-shape loser right up until he won a Cup — is first in goals per game, at 0.48.
That’s ahead of playoff choker Alex Ovechkin Jersey, but also playoff Clutch Performer Daniel Briere Jersey.
So, y’know, stay angry, Phil. It’s working!
1 – Watching paint dry
Okay so an interesting lesson anyone on Twitter has learned in recent weeks is that you should not under any circumstances express your extremely correct opinion that the Ottawa Senators Jersey play boring-ass, defense-only-ass, Ambien-ass hockey.
They do. Everyone knows that it is boring and no one besides Senators fans should enjoy it. In general, you want to be scoring about one goal per period. Ottawa’s offense is well below that number, and it should come as no surprise that they’re last in the playoffs in goals for per 60.
This isn’t a value judgment, by the way. To say they are boring is not to say they don’t deserve to be in a conference final. When you have a minimally talented team and you’re trying to get wins, you use whatever tactics work. Obviously. Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference Final are a great example: Ottawa scored three goals in six-plus periods and held the Penguins to two. Now, this is a badly banged-up Penguins team. And they’re still only 1-1 in the series.
But the best Ottawa can do is hope to make every game a coin flip, especially at this point of the postseason. The idea that you’re going to get reliable results in the form of really close games that go one way or the other is preferable to playing run-and-gun, because everyone on earth knows the Penguins would shred them playing run-and-gun.
Point is, of course Ottawa fans don’t think this is boring. Either playing to come back from a 2-1 deficit or protect a 1-0 lead is going to make you really goddamn nervous. That gets the adrenaline pumping, and if your heart is racing for the last 20 minutes of every game, you’re going to feel like, “Wow I just sweated my way through a really intense hockey game.”
But believe me when I say, if you don’t have skin in the game, you’re gonna find this hockey boring as hell. It’s by design and everything, but that doesn’t make it aesthetically pleasing. Try not to equate “unimaginably tense for you” with “enjoyable for everyone.”
(Not ranked this week: The Nashville anthem guy.
My man, this is like Harry Zolnierczyk complaining to the media that Filip Forsberg Jersey is getting the big minutes. Figure it out.)
 Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)

Take it from a former Mr. Met: It ain’t easy being a mascot

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A little before 11 p.m. on Wednesday, I received a text from a friend of mine who used to be the mascot for the Baltimore Orioles jersey. It was a heads-up that my Twitter feed was about to explode, thanks to the now-infamous video snippet of Mr. Met giving the middle to finger to fans. He knew. You see, Mr. Met used to be me — or I used to be Mr. Met. For those who have been a professional mascot, the lines sometimes get a bit blurry. But the key word is professional.

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A mascot is the most visible PR tool at a team’s disposal, which is why you can’t just stick anybody into the costume and hope for the best. You can’t do what some minor league teams do each night, which is have all the interns essentially draw straws, with the loser getting stuck with the suit. As we saw in vivid detail Wednesday, all it takes is one moment for that to fall apart.

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Editor’s PicksMets apologize after Mr. Met’s obscene gestureMr. Met made an obscene gesture at fans during Wednesday night’s contest, and the Mets said the person in that role during Wednesday’s game will not work in that costume again.
mlb teams changing uniforms in 2016 Here’s the thing: You’re inside an oversized costume built to grab the attention of every fan in the stadium — especially children. You need to assume all eyes are on you from the moment you emerge from your dressing room until you shut the door behind you again.
cheap sports jerseys I’ve been there. I’ve had beers poured on me. I’ve had drunken fans attack me from behind in an attempt to knock me to the ground. And yes, when the Mets were losing big — which happened quite a bit during my tenure in the suit, from 1994 to 1997 — I was on the receiving end of many four-letter words that weren’t “M-E-T-S.”
nike baseball shirts cheap Heck, my head was shaped like a giant baseball and cheap jersey the Mets actually sent me to the upper deck on bat day after having armed the children with weapons of (literally, in my case) Mass destruction. Was I ever tempted to respond in kind? Sure, I’m human. But I never did, because I recognized the responsibility attached to being Mr. Met. I enjoyed my job, and I took it seriously.
As I detailed in my book, “Yes, It’s Hot in Here,” people can forget there’s an actual Mr. (or Ms.) inside the Mr. Met costume. Some fans treat mascots as if they’re less than human. Inside the suit, you’re tired, drenched in sweat and in physical pain from carrying the weight of the costume on your shoulders. It’s understandable why someone might snap, even for just a moment. It could happen to the most experienced performer, never mind someone thrust into the job at a moment’s notice.
There are also pitfalls you might not consider. When I was Mr. Met, I made it a policy never to hold infants for photos or video. I was always terrified that as soon as parents placed their most precious cargo in my oversized, four-fingered hands, that would be the moment some inebriated fan would decide to tackle me from behind. If you think there’s outrage from Mr. Met’s hand gesture, imagine what would ensue from a viral video of a mascot dropping a baby.
As a mascot, you simply don’t put yourself in those situations. And as an organization, it behooves you to avoid headaches — like the one the Mets are currently suffering — by making sure your hiring practices are thorough. After all, you never want anyone pointing the finger at you.

The Lake Show Hits Vegas, Plus Five Other Summer League Storylines To Watch

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In the post-Kobe Bryant era, the four seasons for Lakers fans have gone something like this. Fall = Cautious hope about a young, directionless team. Winter = pure, unyielding pain. Spring = More pain coupled with anxiety over lottery ping pong balls. Summer = unbridled optimism over the new lottery pick and the dawn of the franchise’s next dynasty mixed with absolute denial over another strikeout in free agency.

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In that vein, welcome back to Las Vegas Summer League, the peak of the Lakers’ calendar. Sin City’s annual showcase for rookies, second-year players, undrafted contract-seekers and other assorted journeyman is set to tip off on Friday, when 2016 No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram and 2017 No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball lead the Lakers into a nationally-televised game against the Clippers.

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Recent iterations of the Baby Lakers stumbled because their collection of individual talents never quite molded into a true young core. With the uber-talented Ingram approaching his 20th birthday and Ball, a natural playmaker for others, stepping in for D’Angelo Russell, this group has a chance to be more functional, more entertaining and more hope-inspiring than previous renditions. While Ball might be entering with more buzz thanks to his father’s… uh… online marketing savvy, Ingram really should be regarded as this year’s headliner.
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Knocked for his slight frame and his inefficient play as a rookie following a one-and-done year at Duke, Ingram will have the opportunity to explore his multi-dimensional scoring game against less seasoned defenders. With 2016 No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons siting out, Ingram has the stage to himself and has a point guard whose NBA debut will be judged primarily by how well he gets his teammates involved. He can’t ask for much more than that.
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Under new executives Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, the Lakers have pursued a patient approach this summer, dumping Russell to offload salary and biding their time for 2018 free agency and a shot at Paul George and the dream of LeBron James. Although skeptics will always say “It’s just Summer League,” demonstrated progress from Ingram is a key step for the organization’s long-term vision. As L.A. has learned in recent years, attracting top talent is difficult when the cupboards are bare.
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Of course, the Lakers are just one of 24 teams headed to Las Vegas for the 11-day, 67-game event that will culminate with a championship game on Monday, July 17. And even without Simmons, this year’s field is fairly loaded: 10 of this year’s lottery picks—including the top five—and 10 lottery picks from 2016 are slated to compete.

In one of the boldest moves in an NBA summer full of them, Boston’s Danny Ainge elected to trade the No. 1 pick, and the rights to Markelle Fultz, to Philadelphia for the No. 3 pick and another pick next year. The trade looked like a win/win/win for the Celtics, Sixers and Fultz at the time, as it delivered this year’s consensus top prospect to a rebuilding team on the upswing with a need for a ball-handling scorer rather than a conference finalist that’s keen to win now with a backcourt that’s already loaded.

Summer League is the perfect forum to rush to judgment, and Fultz’s Sixers will face off against No. 3 pick Jayson Tatum and the Celtics on July 11. As if this wasn’t a must-see showdown already, the two teams met for a pre-Vegas appetizer at this week’s Utah Summer League, with Tatum delivering a game-winner in an 89-88 Boston win that saw both players turn in strong performances. Round 2 should be considered appointment viewing for basketball nerds everywhere.

No hyperbole: Sacramento might have the most legendary Summer League roster in NBA history. Thanks to the midseason trade of franchise center DeMarcus Cousins and years of being really bad, the Kings have accumulated a stunning number of first-round picks heading into the 2017-18 season: 2016 first-rounders Buddy Hield, Georgios Papagiannis, Malachi Richardson, and Skal Labissiere plus 2017 first-rounders De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles. This year’s rookies also include Frank Mason III, the No. 34 pick in June’s draft.

That group of seven players has basically every flavor of intrigue imaginable. There’s Papagiannis, the giant Greek question mark. There’s Labissiere and Giles, two super-highly-ranked prep stars who fell down draft boards. There’s Hield, the older-than-most-people-realize centerpiece of the Cousins return package who was underwhelming as a rookie and really needs to prove he’s capable of being an impact player in year two. But most importantly there’s the freakishly athletic Fox, who was the fifth pick in June after one season at Kentucky. What’s the best way for Kings fans to move on from the Cousins era? To fall head over heels for a 19-year-old point guard with franchise-player potential and a franchise-player personality.

Ingram isn’t the only rising sophomore looking to take the next step, as he is joined on Summer League rosters by fellow 2016 lottery picks Jaylen Brown, Dragan Bender, Kris Dunn, Hield, Marquese Chriss, Jakob Poeltl, Thon Maker, Papagiannis and Denzel Valentine.?

That’s a wide-ranging group that provides varying reasons to watch. The 7’1″ Bender struggled in Las Vegas last year and logged less than 600 minutes while undergoing ankle surgery as a rookie. The rebuilding Suns could desperately use a Bender breakthrough. Maker, meanwhile, was one of the biggest pleasant surprises from his class, delivering quality minutes in Milwaukee’s exciting first-round series loss to Toronto. His activity and versatility should allow him to shine against Las Vegas competition. As for Poeltl, he may be in line for an increased role next season as the expensive returns of Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka cost the Raptors both Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker. The 7’1″?Poeltl will be joined in Las Vegas by Pascal Siakam, another 2016 first-rounder who should see meaningful frontcourt minutes for Toronto coach Dwane Casey in 2017-18.

Even though a few weeks have passed, Chicago’s decision to trade All-Star Jimmy Butler to Minnesota on draft night still looks like one of the worst moves – if not the single worst – of the summer. What exactly were Gar Forman and John Paxson thinking?

Las Vegas will represent the first time for Bulls fans to get some answers, as Kris Dunn (a 2016 lottery pick sent over by Minnesota) and Lauri Markkanen (a 2017 lottery pick drafted with Minnesota’s pick) will both suit up. Dunn impressed with his physical, tenacious play before sustaining a concussion at last year’s Summer League, and his development after a forgettable rookie season will be central to the Bulls’ rebuilding effort. The 7-foot Markkanen, who hails from Finland, will look to showcase his shooting ability after connecting on 42% of his threes during his one year at Arizona. That pair will be joined by 2016 Summer League standout Denzel Valentine, 2016 second-round pick Paul Zipser, and point guard Cameron Payne, a 2015 lottery pick who was acquired in a midseason trade from Oklahoma City. With so many questions swirling around the franchise’s zig-zagging path in recent years, Chicago needs all the help it can get from anyone capable of providing it.??? ?????

Remarkably, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell is entering Las Vegas with buzz comparable to top picks like Fultz, Ball and Tatum. The No. 13 pick in June’s has put on show after show in front of the home crowd at this week’s Utah Summer League, following up a 23-point debut against San Antonio with 15 points against Philadelphia and a memorable steal/staredown sequence against Boston’s Tatum.

Mitchell’s high-motor, highlight-reel showings couldn’t come at a better time for a Jazz franchise and fanbase sent reeling by All-Star forward Gordon Hayward’s departure for the Celtics. Next season, coach Quin Snyder will need to fill the big playing-time holes left by Hayward and George Hill, and he’ll need all the offensive punch he can get to keep the Jazz in the West’s playoff picture. Additional promising showings from Mitchell at Las Vegas would go a long way to helping the post-Hayward transition feel a little less demoralizing and a little more manageable.?

2017 NBA Free Agency: Best Bargains On The Market

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The first run of free agency has emptied out the cupboard. The best available talents are long gone, as are most of the top supporting stars and role players. What remains are largely contributors with more particular games. Therein lies the potential for value. What makes players like Gordon Hayward so expensive to begin with is that their games are broad and inarguably productive. They attract enough interest that their contract price is driven to its maximum value. Not so for specialists, prospects, and spot contributors, all of which have enough gaps in their skill sets as to narrow the market significantly.?

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What makes bargain hunting worthwhile is that a player doesn’t need to be valuable to every team (or even most teams) in order to be a sound investment. He needs only to be valuable to one—a single context that aligns perfectly with what he can and cannot do. The right low-cost signing can free up money and cap room to be spent elsewhere, all while contributing well beyond their price point. With that in mind, let’s dig through some of the better budget options still available in search of those situational fits:

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There are still plenty of quality players without deals in place, but Miles’s persistent availability is a bit confusing. He might be best known at this point for taking a buzzer-beating shot in the playoffs that Paul George wanted for himself. Beyond that confidence in his shooting stroke, Miles is a team-first role player who can contribute defensively and space the floor from either forward spot. Miles, at 6’6″, guarded opposing power forwards because George didn’t want to. He shot a career-best 41.3% from three last season. What team couldn’t use that sort of player? Miles plays confidently without being pushy. He should have more of a market than he appears to, even if he’s good enough to be in a different level of “bargain” than many of the other players on this list.
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A stealthy part of the framework behind the best defense in the league last season,?Dedmon, a seven-footer in the prime of his career, can change the look of the defensive interior. His hands have also improved to the point where he can be a reasonable finisher. There seems to be little question that Dedmon is worth more than the $2.9 million the Spurs paid him last season. The question is whether a league flush with centers (and starting-quality ones, in particular) really has room to make a substantially more lucrative offer.
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A persistently helpful wing player, even at 40 years old. Any player that age is going to look (and move) better on some nights than others, but Carter’s range of offerings—from perimeter shooting to heads-up passing to leveraging his strength on defense—is impressive for his age. Teams can pay for his game and be happy with the returns. Carter’s experience, influence, and easy personality come as a bonus.
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Ilyasova always seems better than he’s given credit for—especially since he was dumped via trade twice last season. Along the way, Ilyasova averaged 15.4 points (including 34.8% from three), 8.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.3 steals per 36 minutes. There’s just enough peskiness to his defense and self-awareness to his offense to make his complete game kind of work.

Every layup attempt with Pachulia is an adventure, full with twists and turns, booby traps and found treasure. You live with that for the sake of his smart defensive positioning. You put him on the floor anyway because of how much a single screen or box-out can change a possession. Pachulia will bend the rules governing basketball physicality as much as an officiating crew allows. The final product is a center who, in controlled minutes, can contribute beyond what his box score contributions suggest.

A subtle team defender with enough wiry strength to guard across multiple positions, Sefolosha is somewhat smoother on offense than other stopper types, though he’s never going to score all that much—or all that efficiently. What makes Sefolosha’s game work is its underlining feel. He knows how (and when) to get out of the way, where to cut, and how to funnel a scorer into the help. There will always be a ceiling on players who don’t project as a scoring threat, but Sefolosha picks up the slack in so many other regards as to ease his team’s execution.

Clark’s play with the Warriors likely bumped him out of minimum salary range, which is part of the reason Golden State went searching for alternatives. As franchises pull as many stars together as they can find, the responsibility for bench scoring has increasingly fallen to cost-effective players like Clark. The shooting and cutting Clark offered last season was good for an efficient 16.7 points per 36 minutes—enough to help spell Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson during rest and injury. Clark’s streak scoring is still a bit too inconsistent for a big deal, but his market should fit comfortably into the various (and moderate) salary cap exceptions available.

Reed is a great candidate to sop up spare center minutes, just as he’s done for the Nets and Heat over the last two seasons. There isn’t all that much upside to the 27-year-old; what you see is essentially what you’ll get. But what you’ll get is a strong rebounder, an effort defender standing 6’10”, and a big man comfortable with limited touches. Filling a reserve slot with that kind of contributor—especially if Reed can be signed on another discount deal—can help bring a rotation to balance.

The fact that Mbah a Moute could never be quite as dynamic as the Clippers needed obscured the progress he had already made. A strong, versatile defender made the jump from sub-par perimeter shooter to 39.1% from beyond the arc last season. Taking wide-open looks in the corner courtesy of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin can have that effect. But other teams have star playmakers, too, and could cheap jersey position Mbah a Moute to fill a similar role role on many rosters. There is an increasing need for wings and bigs who can compete in the chaos of switches and cross-matches. Mbah a Moute isn’t ideal in that regard, though he’s cagey enough to hang in those matchups and prevent defensive collapse.

McGee is the most conditional player on this list. What he needs most—and more than even other players in this range—is a team that can disguise his defensive liability as much as possible. Do that and his rolls to the rim can force changes to an opponent’s approach. Defenses aren’t used to dealing with players quite this big and quite this mobile, which in itself makes McGee interesting as a change-of-pace alternative. Franchises simply need to understand that what they saw of McGee in Golden State was a best-case scenario on both sides of the ball: a spread offense that gave him room to dive and a defense that switched so often as to limit his need to show and rotate.

Edinson Volquez the surprise author of 2017’s first no-hitter

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Was this no-hitter Edinson Volquez jersey’s biggest game ever? It might be hard to call it that when his start in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series helped the Royals win the title at Citi Field that night, and he did that in the shadow of having just buried his father, who died on the day Volquez started Game 1.

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Everyone is going to point out that Volquez doing this is directly related to his connection to two tragic deaths. Today would have been Yordano Ventura jersey’s 26th birthday. Volquez was close to the Kansas City Royals jersey flame-thrower, a teammate on those World Series champion Royals. Volquez left that team this offseason to sign with the Miami Marlins jersey, a franchise haunted by Jose Fernandez jersey’s death in a boating accident just before the end of the 2016 season. After the game, Volquez pointedly dedicated the game to both men.

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The closest Volquez has ever come to doing something like this before wasn’t even close — he one-hit the Astros over eight cheap jersey innings back in 2009. But the timing of that hit, a first-inning double allowed to Miguel Tejada, pretty much makes that line score nothing more than a nice memory, or an excuse to mention how long ago that game was, considering that Tejada played in it. For Volquez, that was five teams, eight years, 209 starts and a Tommy John surgery ago.
new mlb uniforms for 2014 and after Even more remarkably, he collided with Diamondbacks leadoff hitter Reymond Fuentes jersey on a play at first base to start the game and stumbled to the ground, twisting his ankle. After the game, he said he thought he “broke his ankle.” After a visit from the trainer, he remained in the game and later taped up the ankle.
cheap jerseys from china He also said he almost came out in the fourth inning. “In the fourth, [I said] ‘I don’t feel too good right now,'” Volquez said. A quick 11-pitch inning helped. “I told [the manager], ‘Just let me go. I’m feeling better now,'” he said. Almost as remarkably, the pitcher who has battled control issues all season — he entered with 31 walks in 52 2/3 innings — was efficient with his pitches and finished with a flourish, striking out Nick Ahmed jersey, Daniel Descalso jersey and Chris Owings jersey, all on changeups. He fanned 10 but threw just 98 pitches, a rare feat for a no-hitter. Volquez’s no-hitter was the 46th since David Cone’s perfect game in 1999 — but just the fourth with fewer than 100 pitches:
baseball team shirts cheap Edinson Volquez jersey, Marlins, June 3, 2017: 98 pitches (two walks, 10 K’s)Henderson Alvarez jersey, Marlins, Sept. 29, 2013: 99 pitches (one walks, four K’s)Philip Humber, Chicago White Sox jersey, April 21, 2012: 96 pitches (no walks, nine Ks, perfect game)Derek Lowe, Boston Red Sox jersey, April 27, 2002: 97 pitches (one walk, six K’s)David Cone, New York Yankees jersey, July 19, 1999: 88 pitches (no walks, 10 K’s, perfect game)Volquez hadn’t pitched more than six innings all season and becomes the seventh pitcher from the Dominican Republic to throw a no-hitter, the first since Ervin Santana jersey in 2011. Since joining the majors in 1993, the Marlins have also thrown the most no-hitters, with six (the Phillies and Giants have five).
It’s been a frustrating season for Volquez and the Marlins. Even though a lot has gone right — Giancarlo Stanton jersey has remained healthy and played well, Marcell Ozuna jersey is having an All-Star season, Justin Bour jersey entered Saturday tied for the NL lead with 16 home runs — a lot more has gone wrong, as this win pushed the team’s record to just 23-31. And it’s only that good due to a recent surge; the Marlins have now won six of their past eight games.
Without Fernandez, they knew the rotation was going to be a big question mark. It has been, with a 4.73 ERA that ranks 23rd in the majors. So the front office loaded up on relievers, but the bullpen has been mediocre rather than dominant, with a 4.02 ERA that ranks 15th in the majors.
To turn it around, the Marlins will need better starting pitching and the bullpen to be lights out. Their playoff hopes are slim — FanGraphs estimated them at 8 percent heading into Saturday — although one advantage they have is a weak division other than the Washington Nationals jersey. They’ve played the New York Mets jersey 10 times already, but still have 14 games each remaining against the Atlanta Braves jersey and Philadelphia Phillies jersey (also 16 against the Nationals).
If they can clean up on the weaklings of the NL East, you never know. As Volquez showed on Saturday, there’s enough talent to suggest the Marlins can play better.

Willie Taggart’s ‘recruiting’ visit to Royce Freeman paid off

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When Oregon running back Royce Freeman left Eugene last winter after finishing up exams, he knew he wanted to spend some time consulting people in his life about his NFL decision. He expected to talk with his family and friends, former Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell and some others who had coached him over the years.

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But he didn’t expect to hear from new Oregon coach Willie Taggart, who got to campus after most players had already left for winter break. And he certainly didn’t expect to hear from him in the form of a home visit, not unlike the ones Taggart was conducting with 2017 recruits last December.

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“It was a surprise to me,” Freeman said. “Not a lot of coaches would do that with me being a cheap jersey part of the team already, but he went out of his way to show much he cares about his players.”
wholesale sports jerseys Willie Taggart keeps a watchful eye on Royce Freeman during a spring practice. Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via APTaggart wanted to let Freeman know — in the running back’s living room in Imperial, California — that he saw him not only as a talented back who had plenty of options but as a player who could continue to be important to the program — so much so that Taggart would come off the recruiting trail when he already had a condensed amount of time to sign a class.
Wholesale Josh Martin jersey “It was good to get him around my family and hear what he had to say,” Freeman said. “Hearing all the little details and what he had planned for the future — and he has followed up on all that. He didn’t make any promises that I didn’t feel like he’d be able to keep.”
One of those promises was likely about how much Taggart expected to rely on Freeman — FBS’ leading active rusher coming into next season (4,146 yards) — during the 2017 season.
“It’s not fitting [him] into what I do, it’s fitting into what Royce does,” Taggart said. “We’re not going to complicate it or reinvent anything. We’re going to let Royce be Royce and play ball.”
And Freeman didn’t have to look too deep into the past of Taggart, a former triple-option quarterback himself, to get an idea of how run-heavy his final season at Oregon could be under Taggart.
At USF, after transitioning into his “Gulf Coast offense,” Taggart’s team went from finishing near the bottom of the FBS in rushing yards in 2013 and 2014 to finishing 11th in 2015 (3,205 yards) and fifth in 2016 (3,709 yards). A lot of those rushing yards were thanks to mobile quarterback Quinton Flowers, who led the Bulls in rushing last season with 1,530 yards.
With Flowers complemented by running back Marlon Mack, the Bulls leaned heavily on the run in offensive playcalling. They rushed the ball on 61 percent of offensive plays in 2016 and 66 percent of plays in 2015. During Freeman’s career, the most the Ducks have ever utilized the rush was 62 percent during his sophomore season in 2015.
Those kinds of numbers certainly weren’t lost on Freeman. And better yet, one of Taggart’s holdovers from his USF staff now in Eugene was Donte Pimpleton, who coached the Bulls’ running backs the past two seasons.
“Having Coach Taggart here adds to the comfort level,” Freeman said. “And the staff, seeing who he brought in, makes me feel as if we can do big things.”
One main difference when translating Taggart’s Gulf Coast offense to Oregon is that quarterback Justin Herbert, who’s expected to retain his role as the starter, isn’t nearly as mobile as Flowers.
In that regard, this team is far more like Stanford in the late 2000s, when Taggart coached running backs for the Cardinal. He has already said that Freeman reminds him a bit of former Stanford back Toby Gerhart, who combined for more than 3,000 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns in his final two seasons in Palo Alto. During his senior season, Gerhart led the FBS in rushing and won the Doak Walker Award.
Taggart saw that kind of potential in Freeman and hoped he would return for a final go-round. But in order to do that, Taggart knew that just as he was out recruiting high schoolers for the future of the Ducks’ program, he also would need to recruit Freeman, who would be more important to the 2017 future of this team than any other piece.

What’s wrong with Manny Machado?

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Last cheap jersey season around this time, Manny Machado jersey looked like one of the best players in baseball, and Bryce Harper jersey looked lost. A year later, it’s as if Machado and Harper are starring in another reboot of Disney’s “Freaky Friday.”

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Through the end of May, Harper, the Washington Nationals jersey slugger, is one off the National League lead in homers and is among the top six in RBIs, runs, walks, slugging percentage and OPS. He’s looking a whole lot like the guy who in 2015 became the youngest unanimous MVP ever. Meanwhile, just up the road in Baltimore, Machado’s scuffling like he has never scuffled before.

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Through the first two months of the season, Machado’s .205 batting average ranked 80th out of 86 qualified American League hitters. His .286 on-base percentage was in the bottom 10, and his .691 OPS was just outside the bottom 20. On Tuesday against the Yankees, he struck out four times, just his second golden sombrero ever and his first since the 2014 season. After walking 16 times in April, he drew just six walks in May and struck out 31 times, which is seven more than any other month in his career. All this comes on the heels of a standout 2016 campaign in which he hit .294 with 37 homers and finished inside the top five in the AL MVP voting for the second consecutive season.
mlb teams with no names on uniforms All of which raises the “Freaky Friday” question: What in the world is going on? “Right now, he’s pressing,” said an American League scout who watches Machado on a regular basis. “He’s trying to do a little bit too much.” It doesn’t help that the O’s offense is underachieving, scoring 4.5 runs per game, and the team is losing, posting a 5-14 record since May 10. Nor does it help that the guys hitting behind him aren’t producing as they have in the past: Chris Davis jersey is on pace for 250-plus K’s, and Mark Trumbo jersey is on pace for half as many homers as last season, when he hit 47. It also doesn’t help that the guy in front of him has been banged up; Adam Jones jersey just missed four games with hip and shoulder issues. And it doesn’t help that Machado himself isn’t accustomed to prolonged slumps out of the gate.
wholesale jerseys authentic A three-time All-Star and former first-round pick, Machado came out white hot last season when he hit .344 in April and won AL Player of the Month honors. The year before that, he started off cold before going on an absolute tear in late April, during which he raised his average 120 points in three weeks. This year? Not so much.
official mlb jerseys cheap “He’s never dealt with this before,” the scout said. “It can get in your head.” Machado’s struggles are also at the forefront of opposing hurlers’ minds. “These are the best pitchers in the world,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday when asked about Machado’s slump. “They’re going to step on your neck when you’re down, because they know that you have done and will do damage again.”
In Machado’s case, stepping on his neck means upping the dosage of the pitch that has been giving him fits. A career .253 hitter against sliders, he’s batting just .171 against that pitch this season. In related news, he’s seeing more sliders than ever before: 22 percent, up from 17 percent each of the past two seasons. The only problem is that he’s not really seeing them.
“He’s not picking up the spin on the ball,” the scout said of Machado, whose swing-and-miss rate on sliders this season is 46 percent, way up from his 33 percent career mark coming into 2017.
The slider isn’t the only pitch he’s having trouble seeing. After hitting .345 against fastballs last year, Machado is down to .179 this season, the third-worst mark in the majors.
Despite the problems, he still has been able to produce. Machado has 25 RBIs and 10 home runs, one off the team lead in both categories. Perhaps most important for Baltimore, Machado, the former Platinum Glove winner, has been his usual stellar self at third base, something that’s hardly lost on his skipper.
“I’m really impressed with the way he’s handling some of his challenges this year,” Showalter said of Machado, who was accused of a dirty slide against the Red Sox at Camden Yards in late April and then became the focus of an intense beanball saga that followed him to Fenway in early May.
During that four-game series, Machado homered three times and looked as though he was on the verge of turning the corner. But he has struggled since and has also been dealing with a sore finger that kept him out of the lineup for a recent game against the Tigers. With Boston returning to Charm City on Thursday for a four-game series with major AL East implications, the odds of Machado finding himself on the bench again are roughly equivalent to the odds of broccoli retaining heat — which are roughly equivalent to the odds of Machado’s funk lasting much longer.
“We all know he’s a better hitter than that,” the scout said. “He’ll get back to it.”
Given Machado’s recent success against Boston, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him snap out of it this weekend.
Maybe even on Freaky Friday.

Major Applewhite looks to make his mark at Houston

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Major Applewhite wants your attention. When he’s speaking to you, he expects you to listen. If not, you might as well be absent. One Houston walk-on learned this the hard way recently. Applewhite, the Cougars’ first-year head coach, addressed his team after a recent scrimmage. In the middle of his speech, he stopped mid-sentence when he noticed a player’s eyes were aimed toward the ground instead of on the coach.

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“Eyes up!” Applewhite yelled. “Who are you? Get out….I don’t even know who you are. Get out. GET OUT!” The player reluctantly rose and exited the practice field. As he walked away, Applewhite emphasized the basic attention he expects. “It’s real simple, you come sit in my office, I’m going to look you dead in the eyes, show you respect,” Applewhite told the team. “I’m going to listen to you. Make sense? It goes both f—ing ways. Get your eyes up.”

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Following in the footsteps of Tom Herman won’t be easy, but Major Applewhite plans on doing things his way. Thomas B. Shea/Houston Chronicle via APFew things get past Applewhite, the former University of Texas quarterback and longtime college assistant. Letting details slide is a no-no. This is life for the rookie head coach trying to keep his Group of 5 program nationally relevant.
wholesale jerseys His task? Succeed one of the hottest coaches in college football the last two years, Tom Herman, who went 22-4 and brought the Cougars into the national consciousness. Satisfy an administration that expects regular double-digit win seasons, regardless of Houston’s place in the college football landscape. Juggle the emotions of a fan base that feels snake-bitten after being jilted by another winning coach who left for an in-state Power 5 program (three have made the move in the last 10 years) and left at the altar by the Big 12 non-expansion, forcing the Cougars to continue making lemonade with fewer lemons than the sport’s privileged programs.
Cheap Jonathan Babineaux jersey Did we mention win? Publicly and privately, Houston’s leadership made no secret of its expectations. In an e-mail response to a former faculty member during Houston’s coaching search obtained by ESPN.com via an open records request, school president Renu Khator said “in order to be relevant we need to have a 10-2 season every year.” Board of regents chairman and Houston megabooster Tilman Fertitta told the Houston Chronicle in December that Applewhite “better win nine, 10, 11 games a year.”
So far, none of it fazes the 38-year-old Applewhite. Ask him about the demands and he has the same expectations. “I said it in the interview,” Applewhite said. “I think 8-4, 9-3, 10-2, 11-1 should be a minimum every year. I think that’s what we need to hold ourselves to. … I don’t think that’s unrealistic, I don’t think that’s a pie-in-the-sky thought.”
So far, Applewhite appears up to the challenge. He’s an intelligent, organized, driven, demanding leader who is keeping a culture consistent to the one developed under Herman the last two years, while strategically putting his own touch on the program. He has been groomed for this role from the time his playing career concluded.
While maintaining a big-picture approach, Applewhite also sweats the small stuff. Whether it’s something as simple as ensuring nobody is slouching during a team meeting or as important as how quickly players line up during no-huddle, he’s locked in. Applewhite keeps a pen and paper handy at all times to jot down notes and reminders that he later enters into a file on his computer.
His personality is different from his predecessors’ and it shows in various ways. While Herman routinely started practices with long, emotional speeches about the importance of that particular practice, Applewhite favors efficiency, briefly giving out instructions and quickly getting things started. Those in the program notice that practices, while still intense and similar in format, aren’t necessarily an emotional roller coaster. Applewhite is passionate and will raise his voice occasionally, but doesn’t yell 24/7.
“It’s probably because the way I’ve been coached and the coaches I’ve been around,” Applewhite said. “When Greg Davis raised his voice, it meant something. When Mack [Brown] raised his voice, it meant something. Believe it or not, when you watch Nick Saban on the sideline, he’s not constantly raising his voice. I just think that there’s a reason, a time and a place to do that.”
Players notice. All-American defensive end Ed Oliver said this spring has been “a lot less yelling and a lot more coaching.” Said cornerback Isaiah Johnson, who played receiver the last two years while Applewhite was the offensive coordinator: “Coach Applewhite has done a great job of stepping back and letting the coaches coach.”
Applewhite’s coaching apprenticeship was diverse and extensive. It included time at traditional powers flush with funds (Texas, Alabama). A stop at Syracuse exposed him to a drastic geographic change and new recruiting base. He worked at a Group of 5 school with minimal resources (Rice). The head coaches whom he worked for — Brown, Todd Graham, Herman, Saban and Greg Robinson — have a combined career record of 568-274-2.
Davis, the former Texas offensive coordinator who both coached Applewhite as a player and coached with him, said Applewhite’s experience prepared him for this opportunity.
“He had seen other organizational ways of doing things,” Davis said. “The way he attacks recruiting and understood the importance of it, I think you would have to be blind not to think [he would be a head coach] … I thought it was just a matter of time.”
After his six-season stint at Texas coincided with the end of the Mack Brown era, Applewhite took a year off from football. He spent more time with his wife, Julie, and took his daughter, Lila, to school. He visited various programs to stay involved in the game and prepare for his next move. When Herman was hired at Houston, he tabbed Applewhite as the offensive coordinator.
After two years as the team’s offensive coordinator, Major Applewhite gets his chance as Houston’s head coach. AP Photos/Phelan M. EbenhackIn his bedroom closet, there was a sheet of paper with a list of goals he jotted down during his year off. It had a starting point (“be a position coach, because that’s probably how you’re going to have to get back into it”) and timelines for when he wanted to be an offensive coordinator and head coach. All of it happened faster than anticipated. After two years running Houston’s offense, he succeeded Herman in December.
“Very rarely does it go the way you plan it,” Applewhite said.
While Applewhite had a solid resume — his only blemish being an inappropriate relationship that he acknowleged in 2013 — he was hardly considered the favorite to land the Houston job. Lane Kiffin and Lincoln Riley were among the top candidates and former Baylor coach Art Briles lobbied for the job. Applewhite didn’t even appear to be the favorite of the in-house candidates (former defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, who is now at Texas with Herman, was named interim coach when Herman left).
But Houston’s desire to secure a coach for the long haul (via a sizable buyout clause at the insistence of Fertitta and other alumni who were tired of being a stepping-stone for Power 5 programs) eventually created an opportunity for Applewhite. He also had the backing of several Texas high school coaches, who wield significant influence considering how fertile a recruiting ground Texas is. Several reached out to athletic director Hunter Yurachek to endorse Applewhite.
The players he currently recruits must cue up his highlights on YouTube since they’re too young to have seen him play, but his name still carries heft in the Lone Star State. What he accomplished as a quarterback at Texas — setting eight school records, going to four consecutive bowls and going 22-8 as a starter — is still remembered well enough within the state’s borders that his moniker means something.
“When you go in those homes and you sit in those living rooms, you have to win momma and daddy over, and momma and daddy know who he is,” said longtime Houston-area high school coach Richard Carson. “They’re starting to figure out who he is as a coach.”
So far, Applewhite appears to be juggling his new duties well. He makes sure to glad-hand boosters when they show cheap jersey up and if he happens to miss one or two before they leave, he makes sure to call them after practice to thank them for coming out. He preaches his desire for action rather than talk (“Love is spelled T-I-M-E,” he told his staff at a recent meeting. “Spending time with your guys, that’s what other staffs don’t do.”).
Whether that translates into the win totals alumni and administration desire is unknown. This spring brought its challenges, with the Cougars fielding only 44 healthy scholarship players. Injuries impact that number but roster attrition — in the form of 25 scholarship players from the 2015-16 rosters who would still have eligibility now that are gone for myriad reasons — left Applewhite with less than a full deck.
Still, he has a bonafide star on one side of the ball with Oliver, a freshman All-American in 2016, and a potential one in quarterback Kyle Allen, the transfer from Texas A&M who is the favorite to start. Regardless, Houston is betting on Applewhite as its long-term answer, hoping to follow what Yurachek calls “the Boise State model.” In short: Find a winning culture that works (check). If a coach leaves, hire from within that staff to maintain the culture (check). Continue to win (we’ll see).
Applewhite’s buyout is prohibitive (If he leaves for another program, he’ll owe Houston the entirety of his remaining deal — he’s being paid $1.5 million per season through the 2021 season — plus the cover the school’s buyouts of any assistant coaches that he doesn’t take with him and aren’t retained by his successor; if he leaves for a school in the state of Texas, the buyout increases by 50 percent), so he should probably get comfortable.
He says that’s the plan.
“I want to be here,” Applewhite said. “There’s a commitment level here. You love to win. It’s a great city. Just win. Just stay here and win. You’ve moved around enough, you have young children, let’s just win and let’s keep the same zip code and win and make sure your family has a stable place to thrive.”
“I think this place is a gold mine. If you do it right, you recruit well, you get the right guys to recruit this state the way it can and should be recruited then you can build a great program in this city.”

2017 NBA Free Agency: The Early Winners And Losers

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The NBA draft was just two weeks ago and the free agency period hasn’t even been open for a full week, and yet the league’s competitive landscape has already been reworked in major ways. Chris Paul, Paul George and Jimmy Butler were all traded. Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague are the latest fresh faces in a loaded Western Conference. Gordon Hayward is ready to help the Celtics threaten the Cavaliers. Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka are back for more in Toronto. Blake Griffin is finally The Man for the Clippers, surrounded by an all-new supporting cast. And the Warriors have still somehow managed to have a better summer than anybody. ?

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Who’s fared the best and worst amidst this tornado of activity? Great question. Here’s a rundown of the winners and losers from this week’s free agency period. Golden State has followed up a 16-1 postseason with an undefeated first week of free agency. Stephen Curry? Maxed out immediately. Kevin Durant? Re-signed to a preposterous discount. Andre Iguodala? Re-signed to a generous three-year deal that should solidify the “Hamptons 5” for at least two more deep postseason runs. Shaun Livingston and David West? Back on the cheap. Nick Young and Omri Casspi? Added to the bench for relative peanuts. Owner Joe Lacob, GM Bob Myers and company are just showing off.?

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So much of this summer’s movement, from superstar trades to high-profile free-agent signings, has been driven by second-tier contenders like Houston, Boston and Oklahoma City trying to close the gap with Golden State and Cleveland. And yet the Warriors have pushed out further than ever before, leaving the directionless and GM-less Cavaliers in their wake as they assemble a glitzy roster that may one day be composed entirely of future Hall of Famers and comical reclamation projects.
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Could this latest incarnation of the Warriors, armed with another year of cohesiveness plus perfectly-fitting second-unit additions, win 74 games? Yes. Yes. Yes. Every major historical marker—wins, point differential, offensive rating, etc.—will be under siege. Once again, the operative questions will be, “Can they stay healthy?” and “Will they get bored?” rather than, “Can anyone stop them?”
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The most intimidating part of Golden State’s off-season has been its orderliness. Lacob, Myers and company have methodically cranked out signing after signing with little to no drama, as if unfurling the front-office equivalent of the Warriors’ signature ball movement around the perimeter. On the court, Golden State leaves defenses scrambling with its quick decisions, breaking schemes by accumulating small timing advantages with pass after pass. It’s a similar phenomenon off the court, with the roster pieces taking their places right on cue, together towering over rivals. What good is a star duo like Chris Paul and James Harden, or Russell Westbrook and Paul George, when pitted against an assembly line of long, versatile shooters with unlimited range and freakishly athletic, multi-positional defenders?
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Better start bracing now for another May and June featuring opposing players and coaches admitting that the Warriors are, yet again, “Better than last year.” Both Durant and Paul maneuvered themselves into more favorable situations by choosing to sacrifice or delay their individual earnings this summer. In Durant’s case, he signed a two-year, $53 million contract that actually amounts to a pay cut from his previous salary while also roughly $9 million shy of his max contract starting number. Paul, meanwhile, opted in to a $24 million option rather than electing to sign a five-year contract with the Clippers or a four-year contract with the Rockets or another outside suitor. By opting in, Paul facilitated an early trade to Houston that paired him with Harden and allowed Rockets GM Daryl Morey greater flexibility and extra time to fill out the rotation with the likes of P.J. Tucker and Nene Jersey.

Paul’s decision was a bet that the Clippers had run their course, that the Rockets represented greener pastures, and that his earning power will remain strong next summer. Durant’s giveback was essentially pure generosity, aiding Golden State’s ownership in its efforts to retain Iguodala and Livingston while also splurging on Young.

Predictably, there was some pushback to Durant’s decision, both from pro-labor and anti-Superteam voices. As if the Warriors’ owners weren’t rich enough, now they get the world’s second-best player at roughly 25% off? And, as if the Warriors weren’t unbeatable enough, now they get to fill out their bench because Durant decided to spread the love around?

Durant must answer only to his own conscience and wallet, and his giveback has at least two critical effects: 1) It preemptively inoculates him from guilt and criticism that might come his way if the Warriors eventually become too expensive to keep together, and 2) it applies subtle pressure to ownership to keep writing the monster luxury tax checks that are bound to pile up over the next few years.

If, let’s say, Golden State eventually decides to trade Klay Thompson, Durant can point back to this decision and persuasively argue that he did more than his fair share to avoid the realignment of the star core. And if, let’s say, Lacob eventually hesitates at sending as much as $200 million to the league in luxury taxes, Durant can reasonably counter with, “I sacrificed for the good of the organization, now it’s your turn.” In both scenarios, Durant’s pay cut could have repercussions, real and symbolic, that extend years into the future, helping Golden State maximize its title window.

“The Diff” between the Warriors and Cavaliers has noticeably increased because the champs have improved their lot, as discussed above, and because the runners-up have bungled their off-season to date. In short, Gilbert’s Cavaliers sat out the draft, parted ways with respected GM David Griffin, failed to hire and allegedly low-balled top executive target Chauncey Billups, shopped guard Iman Shumpert in a potential cap-saving move, handed out a career pay day to 36-year-old forward Kyle Korver, signed 35-year-old point guard Jose Calderon, and agreed to bring back 37-year-old forward Richard Jefferson.

Don’t forget: Cleveland also missed out on its opportunity to add Paul George or Jimmy Butler, two complete wings who were available in trade and who would have aided Cleveland’s ability to match-up with Golden State in the 2018 Finals. So, aside from no GM, no refashioned “Big 3,” an aging bench and no big impact additions, everything has gone swell.

Even though free agency is just fairly young, Cleveland’s best realistic shot at this point is to pray that Carmelo Anthony gets bought out by New York, as the major available impact-makers have seemingly already moved. Adding Anthony on the cheap would generate loads of buzz, but it would do little to slow down the Warriors. Barring major injuries or other movements, the 2018 Finals is now looking bleaker than the entertaining but often one-sided 2017 Finals.

Gilbert’s gamble to move on from Griffin and the subsequent stalling have handed LeBron James the perfect cover story should he decide to leave in 2018. July should have been the time for Gilbert to pull out all the stops to appease James, not do everything in his power to push him away.

That long, slow sigh of relief you hear from New England belongs to Celtics president Danny Ainge, who was dangling over a cliff and staring at life as the NBA’s biggest punchline while Gordon Hayward went through his free agency decision on July 4. Remember, Ainge sat out at the trade deadline back in February, a move that didn’t impede Boston from making the East finals but did undercut the Celtics’ chances at truly pushing the Cavaliers. Then, he traded away the rights to consensus top pick Markelle Fultz, missed out on trades for Paul George and Jimmy Butler, and then watched as the Clippers quickly re-signed Blake Griffin.

That series of events put all of Ainge’s summer eggs in the Hayward basket. If the All-Star forward had remained in Utah, Ainge would have been left to sell the virtues of No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum and to play the patience card yet again. That would have been a tough sell given that electric All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas is due a gigantic new contract next summer. Boston’s deep cache of future picks would have kept that from being a ruinous turn of events, but being left without a new star or Fultz to show for his years of meticulous planning and flexibility would have made Ainge an easy punching bag.

Instead, Ainge gets to chuckle at the excellent addition of Hayward and plot his next round of moves while surveying a shredded Eastern Conference landscape in which Cleveland, Toronto and Washington are all treading water and both Chicago and Indiana have taken big steps back. Who knows? If James really does bolt Cleveland next summer, the Thomas/Hayward Celtics could own the East as early as 2018–19.???

Let’s get this straight up front: Hayward made the correct decision. In Boston, he will enjoy the tutelage of his trusted college coach Brad Stevens, he will enter an offensive scheme that should make the most of his talents without over-relying on him, he sheds Utah’s laundry list of injury issues, he has a much easier shot at All-Star and All-NBA recognition, he has a clearer path to the Finals, he’s playing in a larger city, and he should be significantly more famous next year than at any previous point during his career. No one should expect Hayward to turn down all of that in favor of slightly more money from the Jazz, loyalty to the team that drafted and groomed him, and the very real possibility of getting wiped out of the playoffs every year by the Warriors.

At the same time, this can’t be left unsaid: Hayward badly botched the announcement of his decision, completely undermining his clear desire to part with Jazz fans on good terms. July 4th was easily the biggest moment of Hayward’s NBA career, revolving around a decision that he had months, if not years, to think through. His plan, it seems, was to publish a detailed letter to Jazz fans on The Players’ Tribune in which he recounted his favorite memories and tried to let them down easily. That plan failed because his camp couldn’t keep a secret and because his agent responded to the leaked reports of his decision with a forceful pushback aimed at preserving the long-lost scoop.

After tortured Jazz fans waited for hours on a holiday, Hayward finally posted his announcement in a long-winded story entitled “Thank you, Utah.” That story buried the lede—his decision to leave for Boston—and did little to assuage the anger of those he had left behind. That’s how an All-Star chose to express his gratitude? Really? Instead of coming off like a conflicted man with good intentions, which he likely is, Hayward departs the Jazz after seven seasons looking like a jerk.

It didn’t have to be that way. In all seriousness, he should have known better after DeAndre Jordan’s Twitter fiasco two years ago and Kevin Durant’s brief, tone-deaf letter to Oklahoma City fans on the Players’ Tribune last year. Instead of learning from those mistakes, though, Hayward somehow managed to surpass them.??

Nevertheless, Hayward made the right choice for all of the reasons stated in the previous section. He also smartly swam against the current that saw Butler, George, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague and other notable players go from the East to the West.

It’s reasonable to imagine Hayward and the Celtics making the 2019 Finals. For all of their sound roster-building, clear identity and impressive collection of talent, the Jazz had a nearly-zero chance to make the Finals at any point during Hayward’s new four-year deal. In this case, he got lucky that his best shot at winning overlapped cleanly with a very strong pay day and a perfect relationship fit with Stevens. In the end, Hayward had to sacrifice very little to greatly improve his lot in NBA life.

Almost as soon as free agency opened, it became clear that the market was heading for some major corrections compared to 2016: money was tighter, deals were shorter and the head-slapping early contracts that set the tone for last summer didn’t really materialize. Now that we’re almost a week in, the contractual landscape looks like this: Five-year deal have been very rare, max deals have been given to a select few high-demand guys, and even proven All-Stars have had to settle for deals that run only two or three years in length.

There was one obvious outlier to these trends: Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday, who inked a five-year, $125 million contract that could be worth even more with incentives. As of Wednesday night, the only other players to receive five-year deals this summer are two-time MVP Stephen Curry and five-time All-Star Blake Griffin. Holiday, meanwhile, hasn’t made an All-Star Game since 2013 and has missed at least 15 games in each of the past four seasons. Yet he still pulled down a nine-figure deal that will run through 2021–22.

The terms on this deal represent years of poor decisions, bad evaluations and risky calls all coming home to roost for Pelicans executive Dell Demps, who clearly felt pressure to add another certified talent alongside Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. What happens if one of those three misses time early next season? New Orleans will almost certainly fall out of the West’s tightly-packed playoff chase, forcing Demps to weigh the possibility of trading Cousins at the deadline. What happens if Holiday’s recurring leg injuries resurface? New Orleans will be stuck with Holiday’s huge contract number on the books and G-League caliber guards on the court. That’s a tough spot to be in as Davis’s contract slowly ticks towards its end date.

This type of signing should have provided some level of relief given fears that Holiday might leave for nothing, but instead his return only crystallizes New Orleans’s dim long-term outlook.

Let’s be blunt: Besides a few intriguing draft choices, Nuggets president Tim Connelly entered free agency having done very little of consequence during his four years on the job. He had won a few minor victories with pick-related trades, re-signed a few vets to creative extensions, and made the right call to quickly ditch coach Brian Shaw in favor of Michael Malone. Otherwise, his free-agency track record was thin and headlined by his mystifying chase of Dwyane Wade last year.

Well, to borrow a CNN line, Monday was the day that Connelly finally became (Nuggets) president. The timing and circumstances were right for a big Denver strike: Connelly had carved out some flexibility, he had a nice young core of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris to pitch to free agents, and he could sell last season’s upward momentum and a shot at playoff contention. The 2017 Nuggets are in a much better place than, say, the 2015 Nuggets, and it was Connelly’s job to make that case and seal a deal.

By landing Paul Millsap on a three-year, $90 million contract (with a team option on the third year), Connelly acquired a perfect fit alongside Jokic, he didn’t have to part with Harris (as he might have in a possible trade for Kevin Love), and he didn’t have to pay the “small-market tax” by shelling out insane dollars or extra guaranteed years. Instead, he landed a nice bridge solution at a position of need, allowing him to move on from ill-fitting holdovers and plunge ahead with a playoff push. Well done.?

The most charitable view of Indiana’s return trade package for Paul George goes something like this: 1) Victor Oladipo is a hard-working and well-liked former Hoosier with untapped star potential, 2) Domantas Sabonis can become a starting-quality stretch four to pair with center Myles Turner, and 3) Both players are under team control for years into the future, helping to reshape an organizational culture that’s in transition following a bunch of roster turnover in recent years. Even that rosy-eyed pitch doesn’t sound good enough for a George rental, does it?

Looking ahead, there are a few possible reckonings to consider. First, there will be plenty of second-guessing squawks if George hits the ground running in Oklahoma City. Second, there could be an even more intriguing moment of truth if the Russell Westbrook/George pairing just doesn’t work. In a worst-case scenario from Indiana’s perspective, Oklahoma City executive Sam Presti could find himself putting George back on the market as a late-season rental, providing another data point for the All-Star forward’s trade value by which to judge Pritchard’s return.
Houston and Boston would both still be interested in George come February, right? Is it inconceivable that Oklahoma City gets a better return for George at the deadline than Indiana did in July? That’s one more thing for Pacers fans to look forward to as they grimace through a 30-something win campaign. ??
Winner: Banana Boat truthers

The biggest hurdle standing in the way of a 2018 “Banana Boat” reunion for LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony was always Paul’s contract situation. If Paul had taken the traditional route of exercising his option this summer and cashing in for a massive new contract, that would have essentially forced his three amigos to join him on whichever team signed him. Otherwise, their reunion would have required Paul to be traded at age 33 just one year into a long-term, max-level contract, which would qualify as a serious complication. What would Paul’s incumbent team want back in a trade? How complicated would the the salary matching have gotten? How much cap space would the reunion team need to clear to facilitate the proper series of moves?

That hurdle has now been avoided entirely thanks to Paul’s decision to opt-in. He is now free to sign anywhere next summer after playing out 2017–18 as a test season in Houston. So is James. So is Dwyane Wade. Anthony is the only wild card now because he holds a $27.9 million option for 2018–19. If Anthony wants to get in on the fun, he can either decline that option, be bought out of his current deal, or (in the most complicated scenario) be traded to the reunion team after picking up that option. Instead of rallying to play on Paul’s team or trying to force Paul to be traded, the quartet can simply put their heads together and try to decide on an ideal destination that can welcome them all next July.

For Banana Boat truthers, it can’t get much simpler than this. If Wade and Anthony are willing to accept playing at a discount, the four friends should have every opportunity to join forces next summer. The dream has never been this realistic, even if their outlook to win a title in 2019 is far, far murkier than it would have been in the early 2010s.
Losers: Jazz, Blazers and Grizzlies

One of the biggest trends over the past two weeks has been West lottery teams making moves to crack the playoff picture. Minnesota traded for Jimmy Butler, signed Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson, and traded away Ricky Rubio. Denver added Millsap. New Orleans paid up to keep Holiday. The rebuilding Kings even invested in vets like George Hill and Zach Randolph. Throw in Oklahoma City’s addition of George, and the race for the bottom four spots in the West’s playoff bracket is going to be as fierce as ever.
In the face of all these upgrades, there are three clear losers among last year’s playoff teams: Utah (down Hayward), Portland (capped out beyond all recognition), and Memphis (aging and stuck in the muck). All hope is not lost. Utah could swing a sign-and-trade around Hayward, or look to reinvest the money it was going to pay their star on other free agents. The Blazers will welcome back a healthy Jusuf Nurkic next season and could still try to dump salary, which really should remain their top priority. The Grizzlies still have two All-Star caliber starters in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, and together they have proven to be ultra-resilient over the last six years or so.
Still, all those extra horses being added to the race will come at someone’s expense. That old “If you’re standing still, you’re falling behind” adage certainly applies to the West’s playoff picture.

It’s hard to keep Raptors president Masai Ujiri off these “Winners” lists. His ultimate outcome—re-signing Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka and parting with role players P.J. Tucker and Patrick Person—winds up falling in the “Unsurprising” category. Ujiri has a long track record of taking care of his main guys, he correctly concluded that he shouldn’t be in a rush to break up his organization’s golden era, and he appeared to face light outside competition in his two major negotiations.
Ujiri walks away a winner here because he kept both Lowry and Ibaka to three-year contracts, rather than overcommitting to players whose play may very well fade over the next few years. By keeping these deals shorter, Ujiri will have more flexibility whenever his core group of Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Ibaka is no longer capable of consistently producing 50-win seasons.
Losers: Phoenix Suns Jersey

While the Suns still haven’t been relegated to the G-League and are still in desperate need of a serious talent infusion, you never would have guessed it given their radio silence. The sad part is that it’s easy to talk yourself into Phoenix’s inaction given GM Ryan McDonough’s track record of trade and free agency misses.
Regardless, the Suns’ deep cache of recent lottery picks—Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender—all deserve as many minutes as they can handle in 2017–18. But the youngsters—and Suns fans—also deserve some degree of hope that this rebuilding project is leading somewhere. Right now, that doesn’t exist.

Penguins fans name newborn son after Phil Kessel

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Phil Kessel Jersey is a Stanley Cup champion, and now he’s the inspiration for the name of one of the hockey’s worlds newest Pittsburgh Penguins Jersey fans. Kessel Ryan Hillman was born on Mother’s Day at Butler Memorial Hospital in Pennsylvania. His parents, Nicole and Adam, told WTAE that they didn’t know the baby’s sex beforehand, but had already decided if they were having a boy they would name him after the Penguins’ forward.

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From WTAE: “The perfect name for our son,” Adam Hillman said. Little Kessel was born while his father played “Let’s Go Pens” in the delivery room, mother Nicole said. Nicole said after baby Kessel was born, they realized, it was meant to be. “Sure enough, they put me in bed No. 81,” Nicole said, referring to Phil Kessel Jersey’s jersey number.

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And while Phil Kessel Jersey probably wasn’t aware of little Kessel’s birth earlier this week, he certainly made the Hillman’s great week even greater by scoring the late game winning goal against the Ottawa Senators Jersey in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final on Monday night.
wholesale jerseys authentic Little Kessel Ryan doesn’t have a No. 81 jersey yet, but that’s on the Hillman’s to-do list before Game 4 on Friday night. The Hillman’s are the latest Penguins fan couple to use the team’s roster for inspiration while coming up with their baby’s name. Two years ago, the Longs named their newborn after Sidney Crosby Jersey and Evgeni Malkin Jersey. We’re now imagining in 20 years a line featuring Malkin Crosby centering Kessel Ryan and Guentzel Sheary. Hopefully they’ll be able to fit it under the salary cap.
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