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The Thunder shook up the 2016 NBA draft when, just days before Durant’s free agency

On one hand, we probably shouldn’t make too much of this because A) Cleveland won’t see any ?back-to-backs in the playoffs, and B) Kevin Love is suddenly dealing with knee trouble (if you’re really looking for something Cavs-related to fret about). On the other hand …

Cleveland’s loss Thursday night at Oklahoma City dropped the reigning champs to 0-7 on the second night of a back-to-back on the road this season. Given how talented they are, that stat has to be at least somewhat troubling. Especially so when that defeat left the Cavs as one of only four winless teams league-wide in that situation along with Brooklyn, Indiana and Dallas (all of whom are also 0-7). Interesting bit of trivia on the side: Derrick Williams’ arrival on a 10-day deal means the Cavs now have three of the top four picks (No. 1 Kyrie Irving, No. 2 Williams and No. 4 Tristan Thompson) from the draft that followed LeBron James’ first full season in Miami.

Limited Kids Ricardo Louis Jersey There’s a growing sense around the league ?that Ibaka could be on the move again as the league’s Feb. 23 trade deadline draws near.

The Thunder shook up the 2016 NBA draft when, just days before Durant’s free agency, they dealt Ibaka to the Magic. Orlando was willing to part with Victor Oladipo and the rights to No. 11 pick Domantas Sabonis to make the swap, confident that Ibaka could be sold on a long-term future in the Magic Kingdom.
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Seven months and change later, Orlando is exploring all of its options anew. League sources say the Magic are fielding calls from a handful of teams on Ibaka as the deadline approaches, amid undeniable concern that retaining the Congo native in free agency come July will prove much trickier than initially anticipated.

Boston Bruins fire head coach Claude Julien

The longest-tenured coaching relationship in the NHL is no more.

The Boston Bruins moved on from Claude Julien on Monday, firing the 56-year-old head coach early in the morning just days after a 6-5 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Julien had coached the Bruins for the last 10 seasons.

Assistant coach Bruce Cassidy will replace Julien behind the bench on an interim basis.

Julien¡¯s Bruins have made the playoffs in all but two seasons under his reign, but those two seasons happen to be the most recent ones. Boston doesn¡¯t look like a surefire playoff contender again this year, either ¡ª they sit a point back of the Flyers for the final Wild Card berth in the Eastern Conference.
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None of this matters if they don’t make it out of the first round again. But if they don’t, in this year of all years … maybe it was never meant to be. Because this last month was a statement of intent.
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Coyotes president Anthony LeBlanc came out with a strong denial on Thursday.

It¡¯s probably best to keep in mind that this news broke just six days after the Coyotes announced the joint arena deal with Arizona State fell through. It¡¯s also not the first time the Coyotes have been linked to the northwest, and it¡¯s likely not the last until an arena deal has been hammered out. Even so, speculation of a relocation likely won¡¯t die down until Seattle itself has a team.

Whether the Coyotes were just checking their options as they deal with their arena situation in Glendale or are legitimately looking into other cities in the northwest is anyone¡¯s guess. Either way, it¡¯s just another off-ice situation for fans to worry over while the team struggles on the ice.

Ravens owner gives 2014 season high marks despite his ‘absolute crappy year’

Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti called 2014 his “worst year as an owner,” but said the 10-6 season was a success for the franchise, in a season-review press conference held Tuesday.

Just one day after a loss in Week 1 to the Cincinnati Bengals, a video surfaced showing Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancee unconscious. Rice, who had served half of his two-game suspension, was released by the team later in the day and Bisciotti was criticized, along with the NFL, for the small punishment originally given to the running back.

Jackson put up eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the St. Louis Rams between 2005 and 2012, including 1,045 yards (4.1 yards per carry) and four touchdowns in 2012. That was his final year with the team that drafted him all the way back in 2004. But it wasn’t just injuries that limited Jackson with the Falcons. He also struggled when he was actually on the field, posting per carry averages of 3.5 and 3.7 yards in 2013 and 2014. In all, he ran for 1,250 yards and 12 touchdowns in two seasons with the Falcons.

It’s unclear if Jackson is considering retirement or if he’ll see if he can catch on with a team in 2015. There’s no shortage of teams looking for a starting running back, but there’s also no shortage of big-name backs on the open market. Even in the aging veteran space, there are better options, such as San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore. On top of that, this NFL Draft class is strongest at running back. It could be tough for Jackson to find a team in 2015.

Coming off an embarrassing NBA Finals collapse, but with Kevin Durant in tow, the Warriors remained as talked-about as ever

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When scouts informed him he was an unlikely first-round candidate, he put his hoop dreams on hold to fulfill his destiny as the nation¡¯s No. 1 tight end prospect. He¡¯d have a familiar face to help him acclimate to his new environment, too ¡ª older brother (and future Super Bowl winner) Michael was waiting for him in College Station.

While the duo hasn¡¯t shared a locker room since their days at A&M, they¡¯ll have a big reunion on tap in their hometown for the Super Bowl.

Marty Bennett to call his brother: “I¡¯m about to Facetime him saying, ¡®Now, I¡¯m going to the Super Bowl mother——, meet me in Houston.¡¯”

Just last winter he was redefining everything. His pregame rituals were events, in part because they seemed like windows into a laboratory for a wholly new way of doing basketball. “He’s this generation’s Jordan,” said Jason Kidd. “We all wanted to be like Mike, and children today will grow up seeing Steph.” Kevin Garnett declared, “Like Michael Jordan was a whole other thing, this guy is his own thing. It’s beautiful for basketball.”

Coming off an embarrassing NBA Finals collapse, but with Kevin Durant in tow, the Warriors remained as talked-about as ever, just not because of the guy who drove 90 percent of the interest in their ascent. A man who drew Jordan comparisons from future Hall of Famers suddenly found himself in the backseat of a car he built.
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Early in the season, the Warriors obsessed over making Durant comfortable. Curry participated in that project, starting with the free-agency recruitment meeting, after which Curry texted Durant that he couldn’t care less who was the face of the franchise, who got the most recognition or who sold the most shoes.

Black started planning on being more than just a basketball player when he was a blue-chip prospect in high school

Many of the principles at play in the Golden 1 Center are laid out in Ranadive’s book, The Two-Second Advantage: How We Succeed by Anticipating the Future — Just Enough, which preaches that the key edge comes from anticipating a client’s needs. Three years after Ranadive bought the team, and just three months into the Kings’ first season at Golden 1 Center, the arena’s intelligence has already learned how to optimize temperature control in the building and traffic patterns on the streets in an instant. The facility’s game-night operation is a portrait of how the NBA loves to imagine itself as sports’ most innovative league.

There’s more going on there than just sleek concourses and crafty real estate plays — the business has boomed. Two business executives from rival teams used the same term to describe it, saying the Kings are “killing it” with ticket sales and sponsorship deals; revenue growth, league sources say, is among the very best of any team.

Somehow, despite all the losing, this lottery team in a tiny market has more than 11,000 season-ticket holders. For the moment, the new building is filled by locals motivated in no small part by civic pride (the team’s preferred hashtag is #SACRAMENTOPROUD). In other words, the Kings are enjoying a grace period.

“VIVEK TRIES TO portray himself as one thing, but he’s meddlesome and it’s hurting the basketball,” says a high-level source who knows the Kings operation. “It was a mess [under the Maloofs], and it’s still a mess.”
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“So when I open my mouth and talk to them it goes from, ‘Oh, athlete. We just want to take a picture and get an autograph,’ to a well-spoken young man, great young man, great mind, great heart and he just happens to play basketball …’ There’s a switch. I don’t get titled. I don’t get stuck under the stigma of athlete once the conversation starts and once you leave the elevator, leave the event, leave the conversation.”
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Black started planning on being more than just a basketball player when he was a blue-chip prospect in high school.

Lynch made two starts and flashed the athleticism and arm that convinced the Broncos to pick him in the first round

“I think he can be really good. This will be a big year for him because now he’s got games under his belt,” Kubiak said. “We all know he can play. He played well against some good teams. He’s very bright. Can Trevor stay healthy? He’s got to learn to do that. He and I have talked about that. We basically lost him three times last year, and if you’re going to play in this league, you look at the great ones, they’re there 16 times a year. But he’s got the arm, he’s got the brain, he’s got all those type of things.”

Elite Youth Tedy Bruschi Jersey Lynch made two starts and flashed the athleticism and arm that convinced the Broncos to pick him in the first round. But he also showed that he’ll need time to continue his growth into a potential starter.

Kubiak said that was expected when the Broncos selected Lynch and said he believes offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave will help Lynch’s growth.

“I’m really excited to see what Paxton does,” Kubiak said. “We knew it would take some time, John and I both knew … but he’ll be so much more comfortable. He was growing leaps and bounds toward the end of the year, and he’s with some guys who’ve done wonders for some young quarterbacks.”

Long called this Sunday¡¯s game a special family affair. Howie will be part of the national TV broadcast, and Chris’ brothers, Howie Jr. and Kyle, a guard for the Chicago Bears, will be in attendance. Howie won Super Bowl XVIII with the Raiders, and Chris said he appreciated the advice his dad provided when they spoke in the past week.
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¡°My dad¡¯s done a great job of kind of allowing me to slow down and appreciate the moment. I think a lot of times with football players, we¡¯re just head down, grinding away, maybe not enjoying it as much as we should,¡± Long said.

¡°He¡¯s just told me to keep things in perspective, enjoy it and don¡¯t let the moment just fly by and be so into your work that you can¡¯t just take a step back and be like, ¡®Hey, it¡¯s pretty cool that we¡¯re all here. We¡¯ve earned it,’ and go have fun.”

Are the Steelers concerned that their subsequent attempts won’t be as likely to succeed?

It’s more the fake punts when there doesn’t really seem to be any rhyme or reason for one. And Tomlin’s two-point logic remains confoundingly weird. He’s right to think the Steelers have a great offense, and blessed with Le’veon Bell and a dominant offensive line, Pittsburgh should be going for two more often than just about any other team in the league.

And over the past two years, they have. During the first three quarters of games — before most teams are willing to consider going for two — the Steelers have gone for two 15 times, converting on 10 of those tries. No other team has attempted more than five.

The weird part is that the Steelers don’t really push the envelope. They go for two once in the first half, succeed, and then stop. Pittsburgh has gone for two more than once before the fourth quarter in a game on only two occasions; it tried (and succeeded) twice against the 49ers last season, and then failed on consecutive attempts against the Cowboys earlier this season.

Are the Steelers concerned that their subsequent attempts won’t be as likely to succeed? Do they only go for it in the hopes of gaining an advantage and not want to press their luck? It’s hard to find the logic in why the Steelers would think they should go for two once but never again.

The weird part is that the Steelers don’t really push the envelope. They go for two once in the first half, succeed, and then stop. Pittsburgh has gone for two more than once before the fourth quarter in a game on only two occasions; it tried (and succeeded) twice against the 49ers last season, and then failed on consecutive attempts against the Cowboys earlier this season.

Even if the process is opaque and inconsistent, on the whole, Tomlin is more aggressive than a typical coach in a way that plays to his team’s strengths. He should stay that course on Sunday.

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Joining the Raiders in the basement are the Cleveland Browns (31st) and Miami Dolphins (32nd)

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Quirks of an imperfect study aside, there was some genuinely useful information to be gleamed. Among the three teams most-often discussed as likely to relocate to Los Angeles in 2016, the Chargers appear to be the healthiest from a fan support perspective. They ranked a respectably middling 17th on this list — pretty good, considering San Diego has just four playoff wins in its six appearances in the last 15 years.

The Rams are 23rd despite winning a Super Bowl within the scope of the study (albeit at outer boundary) and the Raiders are way down at 30th, despite having one of the rowdiest end zone sections in the league.

Joining the Raiders in the basement are the Cleveland Browns (31st) and Miami Dolphins (32nd). Being good once upon time apparently doesn’t give teams that much cachet with fans. In the Browns’ case, it probably also doesn’t help that the team was deactivated for three seasons after Art Modell moved the original franchise to Baltimore.

The Dolphins don’t have that excuse. The study notes that Florida teams tend to do poorly in studies like this, but Miami fans still fall well short of the Jaguars (29th) and Buccaneers (21st).

Game Kids Wallace Gilberry Jersey After the signing was announced, Chiefs GM John Dorsey spoke about how much Houston means to the team. “He¡¯s one of the top players in the National Football League and a premier pass rusher,” Dorsey said. “As we¡¯ve said from the beginning, Justin the football player, and the person, is someone we wanted to be a part of our organization. We are very happy that he will remain a member of the Chiefs.”

The Hawks and the Celtics were the East’s two hottest teams

The Thunder had won 12 consecutive road games in which Russell Westbrook recorded a triple-double before Friday’s loss at Minnesota. But when Westbrook did it again Sunday night in Sacramento, OKC moved to 16-4 overall in his triple-double games this season, compared to 9-13 when he doesn’t get all the way there. So please tell me, when it comes to the Thunder, how we can be talking about triple-doubles too much. The bigger question, to us, is how much OKC’s 2-5 record in games decided by a margin of one or two points will come ?back to haunt the Thunder in terms of playoff position. Only Minnesota (0-5) and Denver (1-5) are worse in that situation.

ESPN college basketball analyst and international draft expert Fran Fraschilla runs down his list of the 12 best international basketball leagues, with NBA prospects to watch.
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Case in point: Former New York Knicks star Stephon Marbury, who earned more than $150 million in 13 NBA seasons. He jumped to the CBA in 2010, won three championships and became beloved in China. The erstwhile lottery pick now has a small museum and a statue dedicated to him in Beijing, and a postage stamp in his honor. He also appeared in a theatrical production that portrayed his life story, and a movie is in production.

Authentic Youth Logan Thomas Jersey In the meantime, the Niners could at least begin working toward striking a deal with Shanahan. Nothing could be officially announced, but the Niners could line up a deal and allow Shanahan to start working behind the scenes to assemble a staff. While that could be considered a distraction for Shanahan in the runup to a possible Super Bowl appearance, if anyone would understand, it would be Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, who did something similar a couple years ago when he was with Seattle and Atlanta was set to hire him.

Former NFL player Ben Utecht writing memoir about his battle with brain injuries

The Howard Books Division of Simon & Schuster, according to Deadline.com, have purchased the publishing rights to former NFL tight end Ben Utecht’s memoir, Counting the Days Until My Mind Slips Away: A Love Letter To My Family. The story details the 34-year-old’s battle with memory loss and long-term neurological damage following a concussion-laden football career.

Utecht played five seasons in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007 before retiring in 2009 at the age of 28. He left the game after sustaining his fifth documented concussion. He says that he has been experiencing memory loss since the age of 30.

After retiring, Utecht began to pursue a career in music. His story became a national one in the summer of 2014 when his song, “You Will Always Be My Girl,” a love letter to his wife and girls from the perspective an aging football player who may not remember who they are one day to brain injuries, went viral.

Limited Kids Omar Infante Jersey X factor: Packers tight end Jared Cook made the catch of the season to set up the winning field goal in Dallas. His impact on the Packers’ season has been nothing short of transcendent since returning from an ankle injury.

The best way to illustrate it: When Cook is on the field, Rodgers has thrown touchdown passes at about twice the rate that he did when Cook was injured. The Falcons had trouble against tight ends during the regular season, giving up 86 receptions for 988 yards and eight touchdowns to them. Those numbers ranked No. 23, 24 and 26 in the NFL, respectively.
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Bottom line: There isn’t going to be much defense in this game. Las Vegas gets it and has established a huge over/under of 60. The Falcons are the early favorite, but after watching Rodgers the past two months, are you ready to bet against him?